(Or should see in the near future).
When Busy Bee Lauren posted about the 10 Movies Required For Her Friendship, it reminded me of the tried-and-true litmus test my father used on one of my ex-boyfriends: The Princess Bride. When I learned that he had gone through 25 years of life without ever watching this amazing movie, I had to rectify it! Luckily, he loved the film (thus passing my dad’s test), and even though I’m no longer dating this guy, I like to remember that at least I made him expand his cinematic horizons and watch The Princess Bride.
Lauren’s post got me thinking… what other movies are so important, so vital to my very personality that they should be required viewing upon initial friendship? Maybe someday I’ll do a list of television shows all my friends should have seen by now, but for today movies are enough.
1) Surprise, surprise, The Princess Bride is the first movie on my list. I was essentially raised on this film, and to this day I can quote 99% of it. One of my favorite memories is quoting scenes after my best friend Elspeth‘s wedding–we started with the wedding scene (you know the one I’m talking about!) and it spiraled from there.
There is literally nothing I do not love about this movie. I love the fight choreography, the writing, the acting, the very existence of Cary Elwes (whose voice can soothe me to sleep), the storyline, the dry humor, everything. It’s a timeless story about true love and the lengths one man will go to save it.
2) The Sting is another film I was raised on, because it’s one of my father’s favorites. The Sting was released in 1973, set in 1936, and it’s a quintessential “caper” movie (not to be confused with a “heist” movie). It’s worth seeing for Robert Redford and Paul Newman alone (I should say that Butch Cassidy was a runner-up for inclusion on this list), but there are so many other aspects that make this movie wonderful–the humor, the Ragtime music, the way it portrays the 30s with equal parts grit and glamour…
My favorite part about The Sting is the ending, which comes 100% out of left field. I adore watching this movie with newbies, simply for the look on their faces when the film’s conclusion comes rolling around.
3) None of my friends will be surprised to find Harry Potter on this list. Like the rest of my generation, I grew up with Harry Potter. I inhaled the books, the films, the merchandise. I even got a Harry Potter tattoo with my sister, Megg. I know I’m counting eight movies in one slot, but I’m choosing to make an exception for Harry (after all, half of the series consists of people making exceptions for Harry. He probably should have been expelled from Hogwarts ten times before he turned fifteen).
However, if you’re only going to watch one movie… I’d make it Prisoner of Azkaban. It introduced my absolute favorite character (Remus Lupin), it’s directed by the ridiculously talented Alfonso Cuarón and it features the indomitable Gary Oldman. How could it get any better? (Maybe if it was Chamber of Secrets and featured Kenneth Branagh).
4) By this point I’m sure the entire world has heard the “Laura and her best friend bonded over Titanic when they were kids” story (I did include it in my toast at Elspeth’s wedding), so I won’t bore you with the details. What I will bore you with is how this movie is amazing because it’s actually kind of two different films. You have the star-crossed-lovers romantic drama for the first hour and a half, and then the remainder of the film is a classic disaster scenario. Back in the day, when Titanic was sold on VHS, the first tape ends right after the Titanic strikes the iceburg, making it entirely possible to simply pop in tape two and watch the disaster portion if you were feeling especially disastrous that day.
To say that I’m excited to see this movie (with my best friend) in theaters later this month is basically the greatest understatement ever. It will essentially be the highlight of 2012. Which, if you believe the Mayans, is a pretty good way to go.
5) The Truman Show was one of my favorite movies in high school, and I love it to this day. I’m the kind of girl who would choose drama over comedy any day of the week, so I wasn’t always a huge fan of Jim Carey–I don’t like The Mask or Ace Ventura (cue fruit thrown at my head). But I do love The Truman Show. I love the way it combines the ridiculousness of reality television with the ridiculousness of the 1950s. I love the way Truman’s character develops, I love the world around him and more than anything else I love the ending. If you haven’t seen the film I don’t want to spoil it, but trust me: this is a movie you need to see.
6) There are several movies that my mother is famous (in our family, anyway) for watching because of a single scene or line. In Pretty Woman it’s when Julia Roberts returns to the swanky Rodeo Drive boutique and asks “you work on commission, right?” In A Few Good Men it’s when we want Jack Nicholson on that wall. We need him on that wall. Always: “Nobody’s dancing with this dress until they wash their hands.” And Dirty Dancing is no exception. And I’m sure you can guess what scene my mother watches for–the scene that makes the entire movie worthwhile–is the final dance between Johnny and Baby.
That scene was such an integral part of my childhood that when I was a child I could recognize the sound of snippets of Dirty Dancing as my mother channel-surfed to kill time until she could watch Johnny and Baby dance.
7) My family is a baseball family (specifically Red Sox), so Field of Dreams is a movie I grew up watching at least once a year. I generally hate sports movies, but I make an exception for baseball films (and Friday Night Lights), because baseball films aren’t really about baseball–not really. They’re about family, or love, or dreams (both fulfilled and unfulfilled).
Field of Dreams is about a man and his family. It’s about his relationship with his dad, his relationship with the past, and yeah, it’s kind of about hearing voices in your cornfield and building a ballpark to appease them. It’s one of the most iconic baseball films in existence, because it captures the all-consuming, boundless effect that baseball has on the American mind and heart. After all, it is our national pastime.
8) Hard Candy is the only movie on this list that comes with a caveat, because it is a hella disturbing film. It’s essentially a two-man play between a pedophile and his intended victim… until everything gets turned on its head and suddenly it’s not about that at all. And then everything changes again and it’s about something completely different. I would forgive my friends for not wanting to watch it, but I’d ask them to at least give it 10 minutes. Well, 20. It doesn’t start getting really bad until 20 minutes in.
But the reason I’d even ask my friends to give a film about a pedophile a chance is because it is one of the best directed, best performed films I’ve seen in a really long time. It also has the dubious distinction of joining Watchman in the ranks of “movies where I am simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by Patrick Wilson.” Trust me. He’s so charming and attractive in the first 10 minutes, but you know what’s up and he knows what’s up and it’s enough to make you nauseous.
9) I was raised outside of Boston, in a suburb surrounded by middle class WASPs, so I don’t love The Town because I understand where the characters are coming from, because I don’t. I love The Town because even though I wasn’t raised in Charlestown, it reminds me of my city and it reminds me of home. I love The Town because it’s an essentially flawless piece of cinema. In my mind it joins The Departed and Gone Baby Gone in what I think of as the Boston Crime Trilogy.
I love the cat-and-mouse game played by the Feds and the bank robbers, I love the chilling nonchalance with which the crimes are committed and discussed, but most of all I love the relationship between Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall–a relationship built on one simple deception: Hall’s character has no idea that Affleck was a bank robber who took her hostage. In some ways, The Town is ridiculously high concept, and in other ways it’s so deep and complex it would take hours to unravel the intertwined characters.
10) I know I made my mother sound like some sort of woman who couldn’t finish a movie to save her life, but that’s not entirely true. She loves individual scenes, yes, but A League of Their Own is one of the films that she always loves to watch beginning to end. A League of Their Own, alongside Laura Ingalls Wilder, Dr. Quinn and Star Trek: Voyager (aka the one with the female captain), was part of a library of quietly feminist literature and media that my mother raised me and my sister with.
I adore every single shot of this film, from the scene at the dairy farm where Geena Davis hits a homer to the last scene at the Baseball Hall of Fame. I leave you with this: “This is our daughter Dottie. And this is our other daughter… Dottie’s sister.”