A long time ago, shortly after the Movie March first began, I did a list of Ten Films Every Self-Professed Movie Lover Should See. It was well-received, people seemed to enjoy it, and I told myself I would do it again. Well, it’s taken a while, but I’m back with another installment. As was the case with the original list, this is not an exhaustive inventory. It’s not the “top” ten. There are a whole lot of must-see films in the annals of movie history, and ranking them would be near-impossible. So, here are ten more, presented in alphabetical order. And many of you have discovered the March in the time since I posted the first list. So, if you missed that list, that’s an easy problem to fix! Just click here!
1. Jaws (1975)
Jaws was not Steven Spielberg’s first film, but it was the film that put him on the map. And what true-blue film lover hasn’t seen the movie that kickstarted Spielberg? The perfect blend of character, dialogue, suspense, and action, Jaws was a summer blockbuster before summer blockbusters were a given occurrence. Full of dry wit and pulse-pounding thrills, the film single-handedly made an entire generation of people afraid to go into the ocean and, even today, is still celebrated every year by Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. A trend-setting film that took the entire industry in a new direction and established perhaps the greatest director of all-time, Jaws should not be missed by anyone who wishes to obtain any sort of credibility within the film-lovers’ community.
2. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
If you’ve been reading me this whole time and still haven’t seen Kubo and the Two Strings, then I don’t know what to think, other than quality plays no part in your film-viewing choices. One of the greatest animated films . . . well . . . ever . . . and one of the best films, period, of the last several years, Kubo and the Two Strings is a movie that can be loved by anyone of any age, race, gender, height, weight, relationship status, medical background, education level, and maybe even voting history. The film is beautiful, unique, entertaining, funny, exciting, touching, and bafflingly artistic. How Laika Studios made this film through stop-motion animation, I may never fully understand. It’s everything a film should strive to be and, whereas many films struggle just to achieve the basic tenets of quality filmmaking, Kubo manages to overachieve on all levels.
3. Modern Times (1936)
In the late-1920s, the motion picture industry was changing in great leaps and bounds. “Talkies” were emerging, thanks to new technological revolutions, and film studios and audiences, everywhere, were ecstatic at the possibilities. But not everyone felt that way. Many silent film stars were terrified. A large number of them – for various reasons unique onto each one, individually – feared that they would be unable to make the transition. Many also saw the technological advances as an assault against the art form. Charlie Chaplin was one of these. Modern Times was Chaplin’s final silent film. By 1936, the writing was on the wall. In the film, Chaplin rails against machines, technology, and society’s reliance upon all of it. He mocks them and vents his frustration at his long-standing, legendary career apparently coming to an end. It’s all done through creative and genuinely funny slapstick comedy, but the sadness is palpable as Chaplin says what he assumes to be his goodbye to his audience and his career. Ironically, his next film The Great Dictator, complete with speech and sound, in which he lampoons Adolf Hitler, was his greatest success. But, following that, he fell off the radar and little was seen of Chaplin in the movies. Many – including myself – consider Modern Times to be his best work.
4. The Prestige (2006)
My second-favorite Christopher Nolan film, The Prestige is a master-class in storytelling. Centering around a pair of rival stage magicians, the film itself is one giant illusion, as Nolan manipulates, tricks, and toys with the audience from the beginning all the way through every reveal. And there are multiple reveals, making The Prestige one of the most unpredictable films I’ve ever seen. Throw in the best performance of Christian Bale’s career, top turns by Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, and Rebecca Hall, and the brain-breaking ethical implications tossed in towards the end without warning and The Prestige amounts to an immensely satisfying viewing experience, as well as an excellent example to follow for aspiring filmmakers.
5. Psycho (1960)
Frequently heralded as “The Master of Suspense”, Alfred Hitchcock established horror-suspense as a viable and respectable genre within the film community. He was responsible for many beloved films, and numerous discussions have been had regarding which of them are his true masterpiece. Psycho is very much in that discussion and it is unquestionably his best-known work. So, if you haven’t seen any Hitchcock, you might as well start here. Psycho has persisted throughout the decades with many sequels, a 1998 shot-for-shot remake by Gus Van Sant, and a very popular (and excellent) television show detailing Norman Bates’s origins called Bates Motel that recently concluded (and was ultimately revealed to be of an alternate continuity). Psycho was the first truly successful slasher film and is a must-see to fully understand the origins of the genre.
6. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Much in the same way that Jaws put Spielberg on the map even though it wasn’t his first film, the same can be said for Pulp Fiction and Quentin Tarantino. Though Tarantino’s previous film Reservoir Dogs was successful and highly-regarded (and still is), it was Pulp Fiction that demanded the attention of audiences from all walks of life. Nominated for seven Academy Awards – including Best Picture – Pulp Fiction threw all caution to the wind and captivated audiences with its refusal to play to anyone but itself. Hard-nosed, brutal, wild, and boundary-pushing, the film infected the popular zeitgeist, revived John Travolta’s career, and is still referenced with regularity, 23 years later. Unless you want to be the only one who doesn’t know about a Royale with cheese, you need to see Pulp Fiction.
7. Rocky (1976)
One of my favorite movies of all-time, John G. Avildsen’s Rocky provides the perfect blueprint for a rousing, inspirational sports movie (or movie of any genre, really). Loved Rudy? Thank Rocky. Big Mighty Ducks fan? Thank Rocky. Really, nobody did this kind of sports movie better. The film (for which you can find my #ThrowbackThursday review here) put forth the idea that victory is subjective and that we should all have our own individualized goals. Once those are attained, we can move on to the next. And, of course, Rocky inspires us to never give up. If you’re having a down day, or just need a little push to get you moving in life, make sure you’ve seen Rocky.
8. The Sound of Music (1965)
The Sound of Music is one of the most popular and beloved films in history. It’s the third-highest domestic grosser of all-time (adjusted for inflation, which I still argue makes no difference. That’s another column I’ve had in mind for a very long time. I’ll get to it, eventually.) and firmly established Julia Andrews as a worldwide sensation, following her success as Mary Poppins. The songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein are iconic and people who have never even seen the film know many of the lyrics. Andrews charms and dazzles for the entire three-hour runtime and the entire movie is one of love and hope. You aren’t too good or too macho for The Sound of Music. And no film-lover should be avoiding it!
9. Star Wars (1977)
1977’s George Lucas phenomenon Star Wars has obviously gone on to spawn what is probably the most popular intellectual property that has ever existed. This particular film is now more commonly referred to as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, but back in 1977, things were much simpler. This film, as you likely know, changed everything. A grand science-fiction epic, it captured the imagination of audiences and movie executives around the world and made all things seem possible. True escapism entertainment, the engrossing mythology and characters sucked the viewer in and everyone wanted more. Anyone avoiding Star Wars after all of this time needs to just get over themselves. It may or may not be your favorite movie (it’s not mine) and it may or may not convert you into a diehard Star Wars fan (which would say I’m not, though I’m a dedicated and above-average fan), but everyone needs to see this one in order to be a part of the conversation and to understand how everyone realized what big-budget summer filmmaking is capable of and why it became part of our yearly moviegoing routine.
10. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Groundbreaking in so many ways, Who Framed Roger Rabbit shocked the world in 1988 with its surprisingly adult themes (my grandmother was shocked at the use of the word “hell” in a cartoon!) and mind-blowing technological advances. Seamlessly combining live-action and animation, the film broke new ground that eventually led to the type of film that we take for granted, today, where a computerized Hulk or Caesar can wage war with on-set humans. The film also established that animation need not exclusively target children with Eddie Valiant’s (Bob Hoskins) drinking habits, Baby Herman’s (Lou Hirsch) foul mouth, and Jessica Rabbit’s (Kathleen Turner) vivacious figure and penchant for seductive games of Patty Cake. Throw in Christopher Lloyd’s terrifying Judge Doom and director Robert Zemeckis successfully thrust upon the industry a forward-thinking, masterpiece of a mystery (featuring Charles Fleischer’s now-iconic Roger Rabbit and an equally memorable supporting cast) to which we all owe our gratitude to this very day.
That’s a wrap on this second edition of 10 Films That Every Self-Professed Film Lover Should See! I hope you enjoyed it and will choose to see all of these films that you already haven’t (and re-watch the ones you have)! When I feel so inclined, I’ll be back with another installment! Thanks for reading!
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