In 1987, my wife and I were visiting college friends in San Francisco and decided to see a movie. We caught the midnight showing of Fatal Attraction, the thriller starring Glenn Close and Michael Douglas. The movie was both entertaining and terrifying but what made that particular show unique for us was that we saw it in an old theatre with 1200 other audience members. The screams, the gasps, and the laughs made it the most exciting movie-watching experience I’ve ever had.
Movies are a wonderful form of entertainment. They engage our eyes, ears, and minds while telling a story. And because it’s a multi-sensory experience we’re immersed in a world of imagination where we can lose ourselves for a couple of hours. Today, we don’t have many 1200-seat theaters left but we do have a variety of viewing options that make movies more accessible. Today, we can watch them on our televisions, our computers, and even our phones.
In my last blog, I shared some of my favorite books. I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite movies as well. It was tough to narrow the list down to a reasonable size but here are a few that I could see over and over:
Braveheart is my favorite movie. Regardless of your feelings about Mel Gibson’s off-screen antics, this epic film is a classic example of storytelling. It’s an adventure film about William Wallace’s battle against an oppressive government coupled with a touching love story. When I visited Scotland several years ago, my brother-in-law stood on the first tee of a golf course in Nairn and shouted, “Freeeee-dom!”. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time a few obnoxious Americans gave a shoutout to Braveheart.
Cool Hand Luke
Coming in a close second to Braveheart is one of Paul Newman’s greatest movies, Cool Hand Luke. Newman plays Luke, an incarcerated nonconformist, who is hated by the warden but worshipped by the other prisoners. Unwilling to adhere to the rules, Luke is always pushing the prison’s boundaries until those in charge finally defeat him. Newman is surrounded by a cast of amazing actors and just for the record, he’s also dang good looking.
Dead Poet’s Society
I just finished reading Robin Williams’ biography Robin and in it, I discovered that his dramatic performances were not universally appreciated by the film critics. I, on the other hand, thought he was a brilliant actor—especially when he was playing a serious role. Dead Poet’s Society is my favorite Robin Williams movie in which he plays an unconventional teacher who is trying to teach his students about life rather than just what’s in their textbooks. In memory of Williams’ performance, we should all stand on our desks occasionally so we can see our own world from a different perspective.
It’s a Wonderful Life
In 1979, during my first year in college, I heard about this movie being shown just before the holidays. I had never heard of it but a friend said it was good. We arrived for the 6:00 pm showing of It’s a Wonderful Life and the line stretched around the block. We stood outside in the cold for an hour or so and then after seeing the movie that night for the first time, I became a huge fan. Jimmy Stewart is wonderful as George Bailey, a man who wants to escape his sleepy little town of Bedford Falls to do something big in the world. It takes a visit from his guardian angel Clarence to show him that he had already done something big…and more. This movie is a true classic that will make grown men cry (according to a friend of mine).
This is Spinal Tap
I love quirky creative comedies and this is one of the best. When I first saw it, I remember having the same reaction I had when I saw Blazing Saddles for the first time—it was unlike any movie I had ever seen. Spinal Tap is a “mockumentary” that stars an unbelievable cast of talented actors who improvise most of the script. It’s an extraordinary piece of movie making. And for the record, every time I have a speaking engagement in the state of Ohio, I’m tempted to yell, “Hello Cleveland!” as I come onstage.
The Sixth Sense
I’ve always enjoyed a well-made horror movie, but sometimes the scary images I see onscreen haunt me later in my nightmares. What I loved about The Sixth Sense, though, was the surprise ending. The plot twist was so good, I immediately rewatched the entire movie. One of the characters may see dead people but I didn’t see that ending coming at all.
Wizard of Oz
Growing up, there were certain movies you had to see whenever they came on television. Unlike today, you couldn’t record them on a DVR. So if you missed one, you had to wait a year before it was shown again. I always tried to watch the Wizard of Oz each time it aired. A group of us even watched it in college and turned it into a drinking game. We took a drink every time the word “Oz” was mentioned. Needless to say, the trip back to Kansas was a little fuzzy that time.
The Game is one of those sleeper movies that really caught me by surprise. Michael Douglas plays a guy whose whole world is crumbling down around him. He can’t figure out why or who is behind all of the troubles he is experiencing. Sean Penn plays his brother and as the plot unfolds, you get an unexpected ending that makes the entire movie even more fantastic.
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
As a former social worker who worked in an inpatient psychiatric hospital for a couple of years, I truly appreciated One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. Jack Nicholson plays a petty criminal who refuses to follow the rules. After his arrest, he is committed to a psychiatric ward that is run by an over-controlling nurse. Louise Fletcher delivers an Academy Award-winning performance as Nurse Ratched who is despised by both the characters and the audience. And here’s a weird bit of trivia: Louise’s nephew Page was also employed in the same psychiatric hospital where I worked right after college.
Best in Show
Another brilliant mockumentary is Best in Show. It’s a film about the competitive world of dog show competitions. Similar to This is Spinal Tap, Christoper Guest and his talented colleagues create bark-out loud comedy that parodies the dogs and the owners (but mostly the owners). There are so many great moments in this movie and the comedic talents are practically unmatched.
Well that’s it. I hope this was a fun article to read. In the world of Do it Well, Make it Fun, we try to balance our serious world with some fun mental escapes now and again. All of these movies will provide such an escape. And if you’re wondering what movies didn’t make the list but are still favorites, here are a few more: The Sound of Music, Tommy Boy, Fargo, Animal House, Pulp Fiction, Philadelphia, Good Will Hunting, The Breakfast Club, Primal Fear, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Young Frankenstein, The Green Mile, and Ocean’s Eleven.