A few days ago we went to see The Post, the new Spielberg movie with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. It’s fantastic. It got my wheels turning to try to define and highlight other movies of this caliber.
Here’s my poor attempt of explaining why these make my list: these movies are 1) great stories 2) beautifully set–many are period pieces and have worked crazy hard at capturing the dress, music, and cadence of speech of their time 3) well written 4) edited to perfection, in my humble opinion, and 5) full of endearing/memorable characters.
I’ll list these by their release year, they’re not in order of my favorites, that’s too hard for me.
- Calendar Girls (2003)
This is based on a true story of a women’s club in England raising funds by creating a topless calendar. It’s not dirty, its really sweet and moving and hilarious. I love Helen Mirren. Also stars Julie Walters, Ciarán Hinds, and Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley from Downton)
2. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
Filmed entirely in black and white, this George Clooney directed movie tells the story of Edward R. Murrow challenging Senator Joseph McCarthy during The Red Scare, continuing to broadcast on TV while being threatened and accused himself of being communist. Stars: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr., and Jeff Daniels. Crazy good team of actors.
3. The Queen (2006)
Another Helen Mirren, she’s fabulous. This movie follows the turmoil in England around the death of Princess Diana. Michael Sheen plays Prime Minister Tony Blair. I own this one. It’s tense and beautiful.
4. Leatherheads (2008)
This is another George Clooney movie. It tells the story of the beginning of professional football. It is perfectly cast, includes vintage looking photography throughout, and the music, uh. I can’t handle how good this movie is. Stars: George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, and my personal favorite Stephen Root (Jimmy James from News Radio).
5. Frost/Nixon (2008)
David Frost, famous British TV host, interviews President Nixon after Watergate and his resignation. This is history I did not live through and so I was educated while watching. Man, a lot happened during Nixon’s presidency. I should read a book, I know, but these movies make it so accessible. Michael Sheen is in this too, he’s up there with Helen Mirren when it comes to ability.
6. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)
This movie is set in London right before the beginning of WWII. It’s a great romantic story based on a book by Winifred Watson. The music in this movie is jazzy and the pace and cadence of the dialogue is dizzying. It’s my favorite Amy Adams movie. I own this one too. Also stars: Frances McDormand, Cirian Hinds, Mark Strong, and Lee Pace.
7. Argo (2012)
Okay, this you’ve heard of, and probably seen, but it’s history retold in a great way. Yes, it is fictionalized (there were two CIA agents, not one) but it’s pretty close. The intensity of this movie is almost overwhelming.
8. Philomena (2013)
This movie is painful, but full of grace. It’s a true story that will mark you. It won all sorts of film makers awards, but so few people I know have seen it. Stars: Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.
9. Chef (2014)
We rewatched this movie two days ago. We really need to own it. Jon Favreau wrote, directed, and stars in this, and he invited his friends too: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansen, Sophia Vegera, Oliver Platt. Seriously! It’s not a period piece or anything. It’s the story of a restaurant chef losing his job and starting over. It’s really a family movie (meaning it’s about family, not meaning you should watch it with your kids.) It has a lot of language, so if you don’t care for that then this is not the movie for you.
10. Trumbo (2015)
I knew nothing about this movie. I found it at the library and it had Helen Mirren in it, done and done. This is another history movie, but it’s all about Hollywood. It tells the story of screen writers who were blacklisted because of their political leanings. One of my favorite movies of all time is written by Dalton Trumbo, and I didn’t know until watching this. It stars Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, and Louis C.K..
There are a lot of repeats in the stars of these ten movies. If I were producing a movie I’d want George Clooney, Jon Favreau, and Ben Affleck directing and it would star Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, Bryan Cranston, Cirian Hinds, and Robert Downey Jr. Could you imagine!?!?
How about you? What would be in your list?