Growing up, I was always the kid who watched a lot of movies. And that trend has only continued with time. I’ve grown to really appreciate and love film as I’ve gotten older. I’ve compiled a list of what I believe are five movies (some well-known, others not so much) that I think everyone should watch at some point in their lives. For some of these, it’s the message of the movie. For others, it’s the way it’s shot and the acting within it.
These are in no particular order, but if you are interested in film and are a bit of a movie buff like me I highly recommend checking them out! Warning: spoiler alert in some of these!
1. The Piano Teacher
A foreign film, it discusses the life of a 40-year-old piano teacher who has been both sexually and emotionally repressed her whole life thanks to her controlling and demeaning mother, who she still lives with. Due to her growing up in such a harrowing environment, she comes to associate control and humiliation with love and therefore sex. She develops severe sado-masochistic tendencies and believes suffering at the hands of others and pain are the only way love can be truly demonstrated. When she meets and begins an affair with a much younger student, Walter, she/we learn the true consequences of what emotional abuse can do to a person and how others can tend to take advantage of people in that situation. It is a truly harrowing and emotional movie that is difficult to watch in places but is truly a masterpiece in exploring the psychology of those who have been sheltered and abused for their whole life.
2. A Clockwork Orange
What I consider Stanley Kubrick’s magnum opus, this movie is a dystopian satire of the best kind. Set in a futuristic Britain, it explores the life of Alex, a sociopathic teenager who is the leader of a gang of friends who do drugs and commit violent crimes on an almost nightly basis. On one of their nightly outings, Alex is captured by the police while the rest of his men escape. He is convicted and sent to prison for murder. In order to reduce his time he agrees to be subjected to new and controversial behavioral therapy which is supposed to “cure” him of his desire to harm others. What follows can be described as nothing more than horrifying. The film comments on not only violence among young people but also the psychology and techniques used throughout the years by professionals attempting to “fix them.” It begs the important question: is it worth it to be turned into something else better through experimentation even if it hurts you, or is it better to remain the way one is with their own free will?”
One of the greatest crime thrillers of all time and loaded with an all-star cast of Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Val Kilmer, this is a must-watch for anyone who appreciates cop movies. Exploring the relationship and chase between an LAPD detective and the leader of a gang of men who perform extensive robberies and heist. DeNiro’s character Neil is the head of the group of men and lives his life by one rule: don’t get attached to anything you can’t walk away from in 30 seconds. For him, it’s how he’s able to continue being successful at what he does. He leaves emotion out of it. When he meets a woman named Eady however, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to do this and in the end, his breaking of the one rule he’s followed his whole life, ultimately leads to his downfall. The dialogue as well as the amazingly coordinated heist scene in this movie make it a classic, and the emotionally charged ending shows the true importance of sticking to one’s values.
4. American History X
Starring Ed Norton, the movie explores the incredibly difficult subject matter of racism and Neo-Nazism in modern day America. Norton plays Derek Vinyard, who lives in Los Angeles and is a member of a white power group which targets minorities groups, specifically blacks, in the area. One night after realizing two black guys were trying to steal his car, he comes outside and shoots one and brutally murders the other by curb-stomping him. His younger brother Danny watched the entire thing unfold. Derek is hauled off to prison for murder and while he is gone Danny also becomes involved with the white power movement. In prison, Derek befriends a black man and comes to realize that the lifestyle he’s been living and perpetuating is wrong and harmful. When he’s released he attempts to show Danny this and make sure he doesn’t follow down the same path he did just years before. Although incredibly difficult to watch in some places, this movie is a true masterpiece in showing the harsh reality of racism and also in its portrayal of attempted redemption. It follows the story of a man who comes back trying to save his family from the path his very actions, years before, set them on.
5. When Harry Met Sally
My all-time favorite movie, I had to save the best for last. Starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, the film explores the relationship between two strangers who drive to New York together after college and their budding friendship throughout the years. It’s a classic romantic comedy with the universal story of two people who don’t realize they are meant to be together until much later than they should. What makes this version so different however is its innocence and its honesty. With the most realistic and relatable dialogue I have ever heard in a chick flick, it’s impossible not to fall in love with both Harry and Sally and root for their love from the very beginning. I always describe the movie by telling people that it’s how I think the perfect relationship would form. It’s love in its purest form.