Gone With the Wind
An all-time classic, with stunning cinematography and an involving plot. If you have the time and patience to read a thousand-page novel, try the book first; the movie is only a brief summary of the original, and lacks much of the depth despite its greatness.
To Kill a Mockingbird
One of the all-time classics about a man trying to raise his children in a hard world. Read the book first.
My Dad's #1 favorite movie of all time. Set in Roman/Biblical times, it is the story of Judah ben Hur and his former friend, now rival, Messala. Far from a simple feud, the story is epic; the chariot race is amazing (think Star Wars Ep I pod race, only real instead of CGI), and the ending is wonderful. So's the beginning, for that matter (we watch it every Christmas), and most of the stuff in between! Not for the kiddies, there is violence and it is 4 hours long, but this is one movie you really ought to see.
(used, prices vary)
Truly a classic, though not in the sense of Ben Hur! If you have to be told why, I'd like to know under which rock you've been living. "A New Hope," the original movie, was a milestone in the genre and the industry; the newer movies likewise blaze fresh trails in the effects category if not in the area of acting. The series includes Episodes I (1999), II (2002), III (2005), IV (1977), V (1980), and VI (1983). These last three are harder to find, at least in their pure form, and available only in VHS with the possible exception of IV. For DVDs in an easy-to-buy set, get the original trilogy boxed set ($69.98)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
A special classic staring Jimmy Stewart as a small-town guy who ends up a senator. When he decides not to go along with the corruption of the people who put him there, there's trouble. Another one like this is Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, where an ordinary guy inherits $20 mil. A third movie about an innocent guy swept up in something big, also a classic, is Meet John Doe. --
George Lucas in Love
A funny short film (around 10 minutes) depicting a popular scribe in search of his inspiration for the script that will make him famous.
My favorite Audrey Hepburn movie. The princess of a small European country, sick of all her diplomatic responsibilities, runs away one night while visiting Rome. She hooks up with a reporter who initially plants to exploit her but of course falls in love. I adore this movie, right through to the ending - I won't say how it ends, but I will say that if it were made today it would probably end wrong.
The Princess Bride
The classic of my generation, this is the comedy romance. A grandfather reads his sick grandson a book that pokes fun at all the genre expectations. Say it with me. "'Ello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." And "Inconceivable!"
George of the Jungle
An extremely funny film. Like "The Princess Bride," it pokes fun at all the formulas and usual plots in its genre. Not everyone's kind of movie - my dad hated it - but if you don't hate it, you'll love it!
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Anthony Andrews is a British noble who seems to be interested only in manners and fashion, but behind the appearance hides the Scarlet Pimpernel, who is whisking French nobility out of the clutches of Madame Guillotine. The double life he leads results in an engaging story that will keep you both on the edge of your seat and rolling in the aisles.
The Importance of Being Earnest
One of Oscar Wilde's wildly nonsensical plays, made into a movie with charming British actors (well, except Reese Witherspoon) and lovely scenery. See also Wilde's An Ideal Husband. Both are a barrel of laughs (as long as you don't start to feel sorry for the rest of England who has to work for a living and put up with these silly fops). --
Sense and Sensibility
My favorite Jane Austen movie, this well-produced movie manages to take her 350-page novel and fit it into two and a quarter hour movie that is not only coherent but involving and deeply emotional. I absolutely love Alan Rickman (here and elsewhere), Hugh Grant gives a touching performance as Edward (and him I usually don't love), and Emma Watson's performance in this film carries all the wonderful nuances of Austen's Elinor. Although my favorite Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, has been wonderfully adapted by A&E, the movie of Sense holds first place in my heart as I identify most closely with Elinor of all Austen's leading ladies. You can also find a Hollywood version of Emma on DVD, but avoid the adaptations of Mansfield Park - the BBC's is stuffy and flat, and the "Hollywood" version is completely untrue to the spirit of the book. Do check out the Indian version of Pride, though - Bride and Prejudice. It's a fun, colorful, surprisingly accurate musical!
William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
This intense adaptation of the Bard's most famous romance is extremely well done, and interesting from more than one perspective. Check out how much better you can understand Elizabethan English when it's spoken by guys in Hawiian shirts in modern America. Then enjoy the music and eye-candy. Then watch for Luhrmann's use of the proscenium arch, fortelling of the ending, and other devides to remind you that you're watching a show - then look for these in his other movies, Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge, or buy the set in The Red Curtain Trilogy. If you're in the mood for more Shakespeare, I can give a qualified recommendation to Ten Things I Hate About You (aka The Taming of the Shrew, very funny and also modern, but lots of inappropriate jokes) Hamlet (the 2000 version, again set in the modern world with the old fashioned English, somewhat violent), and Much Ado About Nothing (a colorful, fun period piece, a bit heavier on the sex than I'd like, but with a great closing shot that winds its way through a party without cuts). Avoid the modern A Midsummer Night's Dream. --
12 Angry Men
When a young latino boy goes to trial for killing his father, the jury is perfectly willing to send him to his death - the evidence seems to point that way. But one member forces them to give it some thought, and the resulting deliberations make for a challenging look at our judicial system and our predjudices.
Stand and Deliver
A would-be computer teacher finds himself teaching basic math to a class of kids who don't care. He challenges them, and they eventually take the AP Calculus test. Based on a true story, which makes it all the more impressive.
To End All Wars
A powerful movie about a Japanese POW camp during WWII. It is extremely violent, but not only is it based on a true story, the producers say that they actually had to cut out some of the violence to show it in theaters. I don't usually go in for violence, but in this movie it makes the story of forgiveness all that much more shocking. If you can handle the gore, see this movie. It may just change your life. --
Back by popular demand! This modern musical about paperboys ("newsies") on strike is charming and fun. It didn't do so well in the theaters, but just about everyone I know was thrilled when the soundtrack and video showed up again.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
One of the good old musicals, this was my favorite for many a year, and is still in my top ten. When Adam woos and weds Milly all in one day, she has no idea that he has six brothers waiting for them up at his cabin. She soon tames the boys, but getting brides for them in woman-starved Oregon is a much harder task - till Adam decides to kidnap some! A movie that used choreography, color, and music in wonderful ways that you don't get to see on the big screen any more.
A funny, touching, and all-around enjoyable musical about the creation and ratification of the Declaration of Independence in a hot and buggy Philadelphia. If you never thought that the founding fathers could make you laugh, you haven't heard the lines Peter Stone gives Franklin and the rest! --
This is an amazing feat of cinematography, a 96-minute tour of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia - and of Russian history - all in one unbroken shot. The plot's not the strong point, as the time period keeps changing, but the choreography (which includes hundreds of extras and a huge ball) and the technical accomplishment make it a must-see for any film buff, Russian scholar, or just fan of amazing sights.
The Bishop's Wife
One of my favorite Christmas classics, this old Carey Grant movie is pure and beautiful entertainment. "The Preacher's Wife," the more recent remake, can't compare. Rent, buy, or find it on TV during the Christmas season, but whatever you do, don't skip this one.
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