1. GoldenEye (1995)
This is the quintessential spy film. GoldenEye is complete and utter explosion based blasphemy from beginning to end and I just don’t care.
This take on James Bond represents an Agent Cody Banks for adults. The plot is a bit derivative with the Russia vs USA narrative, but Pierce Brosnan smashing through a brick wall in a stolen Russian tank makes up for all of that. Bond can be seen driving a sweet Aston Martin DB5 (now valued at 2.6 million dollars) while chasing down one of the antagonists, who’s driving a red Ferrari F355 GTS. Bond films always bring the heat in terms of car quality, but these two play off each other so well early in the film.
GoldenEye isn’t going to change your life, but it will take you back to a simpler time. A time of playing GoldenEye the video game on N64.
*Also, I would highly suggest watching Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery before or after viewing this film. The two pair together like Stockton & Malone.
2. Semi-Pro (2008)
This is a prime example of getting Will Ferrell in front of the camera and just letting the guy go.
Semi-Pro is the story of Jackie Moon. Owner, Coach, and starting power forward for the Flint Tropics. Moon is on a quest to keep the struggling Tropics afloat and have them be apart of the pending merger between the ABA & NBA.
The movie provides hearty laughs throughout and quietly boasts a stellar cast with co-star roles for Andre 3000, Woody Harrelson, Maura Tierney, and Will Arnett. This is also a testament to what I believe will go down as the golden era of Will Ferrell’s career. Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory, and this film were all released within ONE YEAR of each other.
Four dangerously quotable films within such a short time should be illegal.
3. GoodFellas (1990)
Legendary director Martin Scorsese had to make an appearance on this list at some point, right? It’s a classic mob story with the usual suspects in Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci.
I don’t know what it is about these mob flicks that’s so intriguing. Maybe its the amount of cash these guys throw around, the nice suits, the emphasis on family, the needless murdering, or the fact that it’s all based on a true story. But this film will have you locked in from Ray’s opening monologue.
The film also received six Oscar nods, with Joe Pesci winning the Academy Award for best supporting actor. Follow the true story of Henry Hill as he navigates mob life and the ever growing pressure of getting caught, or even worse, killed.
P.S. Ray Liotta’s laugh with stick with your days.
4. The Dark Knight (2008)
Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman will be undefeated for many years to come in my eyes. Morgan Freeman is such a nice presence as Lucius Fox and there couldn’t be a better Alfred than Michael Caine with that beautiful Cockney accent.
The wonderful thing about The Dark Knight is the villain is even more compelling than the superhero. Heath Ledger’s take on the Joker is hypnotizing from the jump, portraying Gotham’s most popular villain in a completely new light. His performance is completely deserving of his posthumous academy award, following his tragic death shortly before the film’s release.
The back and forth between Ledger and Christian Bale is incredible. The directing and writing portray a realist view of Bruce Wayne’s struggles. Ya’ know, other than fighting crime in a bat suit.
*If you’ve got the time, which we all do right now, go watch 10 Things I Hate About You in honor of Heath as well. “I hate it when you’re not around, and the fact that you didn’t call. But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.” ICONIC.
5. Rounders (1998)
Rounders is the story of law student, Mike McDermott, who dreams of winning the World Series of Poker someday. He quickly finds himself in trouble when he loses his entire life savings on a single hand of no limit texas hold em’ at an underground casino in New York City.
McDermott is played by a late 90’s blonde Matt Damon which is always entertaining. His not so wise best friend, Worm, is played by Edward Norton who rocks in almost anything he’s in.
McDermott must figure out how to get his cash back, while simultaneously protecting Worm from the streets after his release from prison.
The only problem with this film is we haven’t received a sequel yet. This movie ignited a poker renaissance in America from what I’m told. And I can recall watching this movie with my dad at a young age while he taught me the game.
A great tale of loving and losing mixed with a dash of redemption.
6. Her (2013)
I saw this film in theaters with my high school girlfriend and I remember how amazing it was to see someone going through all the stages of falling in love onscreen. But the catch is, it’s with an artificial intelligence system resembling everything a human being is, other than actual physical form.
I’m now a little more battered and beaten in the ways of love with it being seven years since the film’s release. And when I re-watched for the purpose of this list, the dark, lonely moments that Theodore encounters throughout the film are more harrowing now than ever.
Joaquin Phoenix is incredible and the film does such a good job of hitting home and moving one’s emotions. All while placing the viewer in a futuristic setting one doesn’t fully understand.
The constant reminder that nothing lasts forever reigns supreme, as well as the human struggle to feel accepted.
Scarlett Johansson is also riveting as the voice of Samantha.
7. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
This film is incredibly moving for people around my age (22) because it explores the struggles of finding yourself and the ever eluding idea of “happiness.”
Johnny Depp sends in one of the best performances of his career as Gilbert Grape. Grape is weighed down by how his life has turned out thus far, and the constant pressure of being the man of the household at such a young age. His mother is extremely obese and cannot move about, and his brother Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio) is mentally challenged and constantly getting into mischief that Gilbert must clean up after. But his love for his big brother is undying. Gilbert wants to get out of the small town, but deep down knows he can’t turn his back on family.
I love this flick because there is no huge conflict and obvious resolution. The mundane parts of growing up in a small town and being shackled to it shine throughout the picture.
One also gets a good idea of how talented Leo was/is, even at such a young age.
8. Get Him to the Greek (2010)
Jonah Hill and Russell Brand band together for a pretty entertaining raunchy comedy in Get Him to the Greek. Jonah Hill’s character is presented with the task of retrieving a drug abusing rockstar from London, and transporting him to the Greek Theater in California for an anniversary show.
Brand builds on his Aldous Snow rockstar character first introduced in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008). The film follows Snow and Aaron Green (Hill) as they bang heads, and eventually grow a lasting friendship on their drug and alcohol fueled quest that takes a number of twists and turns.
The live shots of Brand’s performances in the film are quite impressive. Russell also recorded an entire album of original songs from Snow’s make believe band “Infant Sorrow.” The album is actually worth listening to. It’s pretty good quality wise and makes the film sit nicely after finishing.
PDiddy also plays a vital role in the film. Which is honestly reason enough to tune in.
9. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Adapted from iconic writer Tennessee Williams’ play from 1947, A Streetcar Named Desire may be the creme de la creme of this list.
Blanche (Vivien Leigh) moves in with her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), and new brother in law Stanley (Marlon Brando) in New Orleans. Throughout the entire film, Blanche is desperately trying to hide her crumbling mental state and dark past. Stanley suspects the worst from the moment she walks in the door and berates her until all truths are revealed, for better or worse. All while risking his young relationship with his new wife.
A young Marlon Brando dominates the screen as Stanley, kicking off a huge career for the actor. This film also has one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history with the yelling of “STELLAAAAA” by Brando after an emotional fight, which I will definitely link.
Culture yourself a bit and travel back in time with this one. I promise it will not disappoint.
10. The Notebook (2004)
I figured what we needed to round off this list was a good old fashioned tear-jerking love story. Whether you’re quarantined in with your significant other, or by yourself dreaming of meeting “the one”, one of the most quoted movies of all time will provide you with that warm fuzzy feeling.
Ryan Gosling & Rachel McAdams star in this story of two star crossed lovers who fall in love in the 1940’s. Their differences in the social hierarchy of the time drive the two apart, only to have the world miraculously drive them back together.
Yes, it’s over the top. Yes, it’s dramatic as all get out. But what is life without love? It rages inside all of us without warning, it is instinctual. Buy in for two hours and three minutes and I can almost guarantee you’ll finish this film in tears.
The Notebook has become a cult classic and it is worth watching at least once. “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.”
If you watch all these films, I promise you’ll feel every emotion in the book. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll introspect about your own life and feelings. But most importantly, you’ll be able to ease your mind and burn a few hours in these trying times. I hope this list finds you all in good health and happy watching.