Here is a partial list of great movies that I have found to be much better than most. All have inspired me in one way or another. I noticed there are some common themes to the movie recommendations. Many have strong female roles, sci-fi themes, involve strong emotions, funny, and intelligent. Some are quite old but still manage to be relevant to our modern world. Updated November 2019
Mask (1985) Based on a true story about a boy (Eric Stoltz) with a facial deformity and his no-nonsense mother (Cher). A powerful portrait of love, contrasts, belief, and determination.
Escape from New York (1981) Kurt Russel plays Snake Plissken, a past military man turned against society. Set in a future where Manhattan is a maximum-security prison with 50-foot walls surrounding the prison (island). Great characters and creative story. Very entertaining action film. John Carpenter wrote, directed, and composed the main music title.
Moonstruck (1987) An Italian family drama with lots of humor. Starring Cher and Nicolas Cage. I sing along (not very well) during the opening and closing credits. Most memorable with a great cast and many funny lines.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) A young Clint Eastwood after the American Civil War. A touching story with powerful performances. The greatest gem is Chief Dan George. He is superb on many levels and very very funny. The scenes with him would be worth your time even without the excellent story.
Point Break (1991) The leader of a surfer group named Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), is accused of robbing banks with his surfer buddies. A young FBI agent Keanu Reeves is assigned to get into the group and find out if they are the robbers. Friendship, loyalty, understanding life, and other powerful themes are woven throughout this excellent film. Do NOT see the remake. This original is the only one I recommend.
O’Brother Where Art Thou (2000) Homer is credited as a writer and the story takes much inspiration from his book, The Odyssey. This is a Coen brothers film starring George Clooney and John Turturro. Also great performances from Holly Hunter and John Goodman. The soundtrack is excellent. Strange for sure, but great fun to sing along with.
A Little Chaos (2014) Kate Winslet plays the powerful lead set in France when Versailles was being built. King Louis XIV is played by Alan Rickman who also directed this wonderful movie. It was one of his last and a beautiful gift. So many touching scenes. My favorite took place in the King’s garden when the king and Kate Winslet’s character meet for the first time.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011) A future where creatures (possibly angels) are partially directing our lives based on a plan. But sometimes even the Chairman’s (God) plan can change. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt keep it real and fast-paced in this fun and interesting story. I appreciate the many great supporting roles with my favorite being Harry, the angel who lent his hat to Matt’s character. This is another great story from Philip K. Dick who also wrote the story used in the movies Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and Next.
The Martian (2015) Powerful performance from Matt Damon who conveys extreme control of his actions and great emotional reactions to what happens. I felt I have been to mars with him. I recently rewatched this movie and enjoyed it all over again.
Arrival (2016) For more than ten years I have mentioned to my students that sometimes I remember the future. Well, this is a movie about this exact theme. Honestly, I needed to see it three times to catch what was going on but loved it from the first viewing. Amy Adams puts in an amazing performance with wonderful support from Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker who has played in many special movies including Ghost Dog.
Mr. Church (2016) A warm, funny, and quirky story about friendship starring Eddie Murphy is a powerful and touching role. Also starring Britt Robertson who I enjoyed in Tomorrowland. It is an amazing story about the idea of what makes a family.
Tomorrowland (2015) I found this to be fun and inspiring. The central idea is that our thoughts do partially create the world to come. The central character played by Britt Robertson seems to be the one person in the world with such a positive outlook, the world can improve. She then meets up with a former person of influence played by George Clooney. I enjoy almost all movies with George including Monuments Men, Michael Clayton, Up in the Air, Gravity, The Men Who Stare at Goats, and all the Ocean’s movies. I recommend them all.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) I loved this movie that introduces new characters and carries the story further. I am not a big Star Wars fan and have not seen all the movies in the franchise, but I highly recommend this one. Again there is a strong female lead, a great supporting cast that includes some from the past movies. I found this to be an intelligent fun adventure with elements of a great story about our place in the world and who we are meant to become.
The Blues Brothers (1980) Yes, this is a 40-year-old movie, but it is still great. A wild ride, terrific music, many fun story plots, all done in over-the-top action. This movie is credited with creating a resurgence in Rhythm & Blues music and helping to rekindle some of the artists appearing in the film.
Thunderhawk (1992) Another old movie still packs a punch with great scenery, good acting, and lots of native Americans. The story is not great, but I love the development of the characters, especially Val Kilmer, who is an FBI agent slowly discovering the truth about his father, his heritage, and himself. It also stars one of my favorite actors, Graham Greene, who was in an equally wonderful role opposite Kevin Cosner in Dances With Wolves.
If you have not seen these movies, I give my strongest recommendation to give them a look. Have some fun, enjoy, and evolve. I mostly watch movies that inspire me. I like to see the individuals develop and become something greater than when they started. It makes watching movies an inspiring experience.