- Gone With The Wind: I’ve been watching this since I was about 7 years old (my sister is named Melanie, for pete’s sake.). Like Scarlett or not (and I do like her), the best picture of Hollywood’s Golden Age (1939) is worth seeing just for the history behind it, the 17 screen writers, different directors, and the hype surrounding Vivien Leigh’s casting. Yes, it gets a bit long at the end, but it redeems itself.
- The Sound of Music (1965): The hills are alive…in this improved version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical classic. Songs are added and set within the gorgeous setting of Salzburg. Julie Andrews is a wonder.
- A Man For All Seasons (1966): The story of Thomas More’s martyrdom. A brilliant ensemble cast makes the story come to life.
- Schindler’s List (1993): The Holocaust film. Liam Neeson, Embeth Davidtz, and Ralph Fiennes lead the stellar cast. An artistic and technical marvel.
- Braveheart (1995): OK, the history is suspect, but I like seeing Braveheart and Isabelle get together. J Exotic settings and believable characters make it more than another war film.
- The English Patient (1996): Kristin Scott Thomas, Ralph Fiennes (again), Colin Firth, Juliette Binoche and Willem Dafoe star in director Anthony Minghella’s World War II desert tale. Loyalty, love, and personal choices define the epic film.
- Shakespeare In Love (1998): Tom Stoppard and the Bard= a winning writing combination. The all-star cast takes on the (supposed) back story behind Romeo and Juliet. The cast alone makes this worth seeing: Gwyneth Paltrow (as Shakespeare’s muse, Viola—she won her Oscar for this role); Joseph Fiennes (yes, brother of Ralph, as Shakespeare); Colin Firth (as Viola’s fiancé) ; Judi Dench (in an Oscar-winning performance as Queen Elizabeth I); Geoffrey Rush (Shakespeare’s manager), and Ben Affleck (as an egotistical actor). Watch and try to catch all the Shakespearian allusions (English Major Drinking Game!)
- A Beautiful Mind (2001): Ron Howard’s tour de force direction leads the viewers down the same path of paranoia as John Nash—until all is revealed about an hour in. James Newton Howard’s delicate and haunting score provides a great thematic backdrop for Russell Crowe (Nash), Jennifer Connolly (as his wife, Alicia), Paul Betany (as Charles), Christopher Plummer, and Ed Harris.
- LOTR: The Return of the King (2003): My favorite of the three LOTR movies—a fitting end to an epic series.
- Million Dollar Baby (2004): A film about finding family. A bunch of loners (Hillary Swank, Clint Eastwood, and Morgan Freeman) come together to make each other whole, and face the devastating choices we must make in the name of love.
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