My husband and I love movies. We go to blockbusters at the theater and often buy them later. He’s a comic book fan and I am well versed in all things Marvel and DC etc. But there’s a special kind of movie that we both really enjoy, and it’s hard to define it. 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 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) endearing characters–this one’s hard to define, but none of these movies have just one memorable character, they are a team working together that lets everyone shine properly. I’ll make my list in order of release year.
- Calendar Girls (2003)
This first one makes the list while not being a period piece. It’s based on a true story of a British women’s club who decide to raise funds by creating a topless calendar. This movie is not dirty. It’s beautiful and moving and hilarious. Stars: Helen Mirren, Cirian Hinds, Penelope Wilton (Cousin Isobel Crawley in Downton), and tons more.
2. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
This might be the most similar subject matter to The Post. It takes place during The Red Scare and tells the brave story of Edward R. Murrow taking Senator Joseph McCarthy head on by continuing to broadcast even as he is accused. It is shot in black and white entirely. Stars: David Strathairn, Jeff Daniels, George Clooney (Directed and co-written by as well), Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr.
3. The Queen (2006)
Another starring Helen Mirren, she’s amazing. This movie tells the story of the turmoil in England around the death of Princess Diana. This film is beautiful to watch and superbly acted. Michael Sheen plays newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair. I own this one.
4. Leatherheads (2008)
Another directed by and starring George Clooney. The editing and acting in this movie is unreal. The whole movie is cut with vintage looking stills. I don’t skip the opening credits with this anytime that I watch it. (I own this one too.) The music is almost another character. Stars: George Clooney, Renée Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce, and Stephen Root (Jimmy James from News Radio)
5. Frost/Nixon (2008)
This is one of those movies that I didn’t know the history before watching it. Those who remember Nixon being impeached and Watergate, may have actually watched the actual interviews that this movie dramatically depicts. It’s a retelling of post-Watergate interviews by a British tv host David Frost played by Michael Sheen.
Fictional story set in pre-World War II London. The music is great. It’s my favorite Amy Adams movie. The costumes are beautiful. The story is wonderful. I love everything about this movie, and it’s so re-watchable. Stars: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Ciarán Hinds, Lee Pace, and Mark Strong.
7. Argo (2012)
Okay, this you’ve heard of, and probably seen, but it so meets the requirements mentioned above. The intensity of this movie is almost overwhelming. I barely studied the history of the hostage crisis in school, so this movie was educational too. Stars: Ben Affleck (directed too), Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, and John Goodman.
8. Philomena (2013)
Another true story. It was really well done, though painful, and very few people I know have seen it. It’s one of those movies that you watch and say, “This happened?!” It shows great bravery and grace. Stars: Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.
9. Chef (2014)
Writer, director and star Jon Favreau (Happy in Iron Man) made a movie with his friends: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofía Vergara, Oliver Platt. Seriously! It’s the story of a restaurant chef who basically loses his mind temporarily and his job and has to start again. I want to watch it again right now. It has a lot of language in it, so if that bothers you it may not be the film for you.
10. Trumbo (2015)
Picked this up at the library knowing nothing about it, but it had Helen Mirren in it. (Like I’ve said before, she’s amazing.) This tells the story of the screen writers who were blacklisted in Hollywood because of their membership in the communist party. I had no idea until this movie the story behind the writer of one of my all-time favorite movies. Stars: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, and Louis C.K.
The number of repeating actors in this short list is extraordinary. Apparently, if I were to make a movie, I would want it written and directed by George Clooney, Jon Favreau, and Ben Affleck and it needs to star Hellen Mirren, Michael Sheen, Robert Downey Jr., John Goodman and Bryan Cranston. It should be about something historical and yet almost unbelieveable. Great music and beautiful sets and costumes and done.
How about you? What movies would you add to this list?