21. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This is one of the lesser-known Disney animated movies, and probably with good reason–this is not your typical happy ending. I mean, it’s a heck of a lot happier than the book, but still. My college roommate (the same one I freaked out with American Beauty) watched it with me once and declared at the end, “This is the worst Disney movie ever!” But no, it’s really lovely; it’s a great contrast in legalism vs. grace, surprising for something made by Disney. The score always, always gives me chills.
22. LA Confidential
Yes, yes, more Russell Crowe, but also James Cromwell, Guy Pearce, and Kevin freaking Spacey, in a labyrinthine film noir about corruption, murder, and the general state of affairs in 1950s LA. Apparently this is based on an even more complicated novel. I had to watch this for a class and was literally on the edge of my seat the whole time. Awesome. There’s some sex and violence and language in this one, so you’ve been warned.
23. The Lion King
So, when this first came out in 1994, I was 9. My parents and I went to go see it three times in the theaters and multiple times at home once it came out on video. I was young, and I could already tell there was some weird spirituality going on, but there was something about The Lion King that stirred my soul. Still does. Remember who you are…yes. Thanks for the reminder.
24. Little Women (the 1994 version)
I still want to be Jo March when I grow up, because of this movie. If someone can find me an intelligent German guy who looks like Gabriel Byrne, I’ll be really happy. It’s shot well, acted well, and you really fall in love with this family. The cast is stellar as well: Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale, Gabriel Byrne of course, Claire Danes, and a young Kirsten Dunst.
25. the Lord of the Rings trilogy
Peter Jackson, while he takes some liberties with the source text, shows that he really, really loves Tolkien’s work in these movies. I’ve watched the making-of docs on the DVDs, and there was so much detail and care that went into these that you can’t help but feel it. Hope amidst despair, fighting for the good of the world, a glimmer of the great Story–awesome. Plus, hobbits are cute, and Viggo Mortensen is hot.
26. Love Actually
A confession: I am a sucker for anything where a bunch of disparate storylines are connected and shoved into the same movie. Needless to say, I love this movie. It shows us all kinds of “love”–parental love, love for a sibling, infidelity, love that crosses cultural and social lines, love that crosses the physical, love that is only physical. Also one of those movies with a great cast: Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth…yes. Great. A caveat: One of the plot lines follows a couple who falls in love on the set of a porn film, and yes, there’s some nudity there. But isn’t this adorable?
Another one of those bunch-of-interconnected-stories movies, but totally different from Love Actually in mood. This is a movie about broken-down people in need of hope and real human contact; some of them get it, some of them don’t. Wait for the ending–another one of those “What the crap?!” moments. But it totally works. Magnolia also has the distinction of being of the few movies that can make me cry. Another great cast, too: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly (before Will Ferrell got hold of him)…
28. The Matrix
This movie blows my mind. Freaks me out. Not least of all because it’s the one Keanu Reeves movie I can watch without being snarky. 🙂 Besides, I am a big fan of blowing things up in the name of revolution, and long weird meditations on the nature of knowledge and the human will, so if you can combine the two, it’s a good thing as far as I can tell.
29. Minority Report
Speaking on meditations on knowledge and the human will (and explosions), this is another good one. What if you could catch murderers before they actually murdered anyone? Is that a good idea or not? That’s the question this movie tries to answer, and I think it comes to an interesting conclusion. Suspenseful, but also a film with some guts and heart to it. A little gross at times (eyeballs…), but still good.
30. Monsters, Inc.
I like Disney/Pixar movies, okay? I think I mostly love this one just because of Sulley and Boo, but you know. If you haven’t watched it, please do.