The weekend rolls around and you’re stuck with the big question: what am I going to do this weekend? Or maybe it’s a weeknight and you don’t have to work or study. What do you do with your free time? For many, the answer is “watch a movie.” But with so many movies to watch, which do you pick? You’ve seen all the new releases at the local Redbox, and you don’t want watch something you already have. You want a new experience.
When it comes to this situation, sometimes you have to scour your local video store (yes, they still have brick & mortar rental shops), check out Best Buy or Target, or see what Netflix has. But before heading out and making your final decision on what to watch, you need to ask yourself: horror or comedy? newer or classic? action or romance? Check out my list below of some great movies in various genres that you (probably) haven’t seen.. but should. Ready? Go!
500 DAYS OF SUMMER
In-home date night? Here’s one selection you can go with. 2009’s 500 Days of Summer launched stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) and Zooey Deschanel (TV’s New Girl) to stardom, and it’s no question why: this film is quirky, smart, and best of all, fun. Despite a jumping narrative structure, it’s easy for viewers to follow along with the story of a man who falls in love with a woman. But, as the beginning of the movie states, this isn’t a love story.
When it comes to pseudo-horror, there are so many options out there that it becomes impossible to pick one. An adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s book, American Psycho stars Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, a New York banking exec who hides his psychopathic alter-ego from all his friends and co-workers while spiraling into disturbingly sadistic fantasies. Besides being a horror movie, American Psycho is filled with dark and somewhat uproarious humor. You’ll be both cringing and laughing while watching this one.
DR. STRANGELOVE, OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB
This is easily one of Stanley Kubrick’s most notable films, but I have to believe that many in the younger crowd haven’t even heard of it. Dr. Strangelove stars Peter Sellers (who plays 3 different roles in this movie) in a film based on this premise: what would happen if the U.S. accidentally got itself into a nuclear war? Originally conceived as a tense war thriller, Kubrick realized after writing the script that many of the scenes he wrote were quite funny, and he ultimately rewrote it as such. Another movie filled with dark humor, but this one is a true classic and a must-see for any film fan. Or really, just anybody.
FANTASTIC MR. FOX
This animated flick gives Up a run for its money as the best animated movie of 2009. But while you have likely seen Up, there’s a chance you never got around to watching Fantastic Mr. Fox. Fantastic Mr. Fox is an animated movie done the old-fashioned way: stop-motion photography. The movie, based on a classic Roald Dahl children’s book, follows Mr. Fox, a creature who can’t seem to tame his old farm-raiding ways, which gets him into trouble throughout the movie. Fantastic Mr. Fox stars a superb cast of voice actors, including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. Fantastic Mr. Fox is quite possibly the most charming movie of the last 3 years.
You just don’t get a theater experience like this much anymore, and unless you caught Grindhouse in its brief theater stint in 2007, you may never have the chance to experience it again. But that doesn’t mean you can’t mimic the experience at home. Grindhouse is the 2007 B-movie double feature horrorfest from renowned filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Rodriguez’s half, Planet Terror, is about a group of survivors who must stop infected zombie-like creatures after an experimental bio-weapon is released; Death Proof, Tarantino’s half, is about a stuntman who stalks two different sets of women at two different times (Tarantino’s usual multiple storylines) while using his “death proof” stunt car to execute his plans. This back-to-back shlockfest is pure horror fun, and Grindhouse makes for a great movie night double feature.
For those of you who don’t mind movies made about depressingly true stories, this one’s for you. And if you want to see or have seen director Steve McQueen’s Shame, then I must recommend this one as well. McQueen teams up with Michael Fassbender to tell the story of Bobby Sands, the man who led the 1981 prison hunger strike in Northern Ireland during British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s rule. Hunger is real, it’s affecting, and ultimately, it’s an all-around great movie that really makes you consider the world.
When it comes to Tarantino, so many people are drawn to either his first two films, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, or his more recent work, the Kill Bills and Inglourious Basterds. Oft-forgotten is his middle work, Jackie Brown, as many consider it to be lesser than Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction or his newer, more action-driven work, but it’s hard to see why exactly. Jackie Brown has the feel of Pulp Fiction but moves along in a more straightforward story arc, and it works to great lengths if you give it the chance. Here’s the setup: there are six different people hot on the trail of a half-million dollars in cash. But, who’s playing who? It’s an excellent story of crime and deceit, and it’s all neatly wrapped up in a Tarantino-esque bow.
My girlfriend will hate me for putting this one on the list, but what does she know, right? Well, quite a bit, to be fair, but she’s wrong about this one. Kick-Ass is likely the most underrated movie of 2010, a film about a teenage comic-book fan who decides to become a superhero, despite having no discernable superpowers or strengths of any kind. After a viral video makes Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) a household name, he is joined by Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), a super duo better than Batman & Robin, in fighting crime. Kick-Ass has loads of funny moments, lots of action, and even some heartfelt dramatic sequences (ruined, of course, by Hit Girl’s hilarious sailor mouth). It’s a superhero spoof movie that outdoes its genre, one that is too good to pass up when you’ve got a chance to see it. Maybe now my girlfriend will watch it with me.
LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL
The movie that essentially started the now-hot film career of actress Natalie Portman, who stars, at age 12, alongside renowned French actor Jean Reno and 2011 Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman. Mathilda (Portman) seeks the help of professional assassin Léon (Reno) (Portman) to avenge the deaths of her family members after her parents and brother are killed by a two-faced cop (Oldman). Léon is the story of a professional killer who takes in a young girl and, while teaching her how to seek revenge for the family she has lost, learns anew how to live, feel, and love. It is one action-drama movie that you must see, and by that, I mean see it now.
LET ME IN
I’ll preface my opinion with this: I don’t like vampire movies. Horror itself can be hard for me to get into. Yet, I loved Let Me In, which is both a vampire horror flick. A bullied young boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriends a young female vampire (Chloë Grace Moretz) who moves in next door and lives in secrecy with her “guardian.” The story is simple, but it works so well and goes down so easily. The 2010 remake of a highly successful Swedish film, Let Me In is a story of revenge and, ultimately, love that is so deep and inspiring that you can’t help but get involved in it.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Midnight in Paris is writer/director Woody Allen’s highest grossing movie ever, but at $56 million, that means you likely didn’t see this 2011 romantic comedy. An engaged couple, played by Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, travels to Paris with family and must confront the illusion (or is it?) that a life different from their own is better. Gil Pender (Wilson) is a Hollywood writer-turned-novelist who believes he should have lived in the 1920s, and in Paris at midnight, he gets his chance, meeting a multitude of famous Parisians that will have you marveling and trying to figure out which ones you know. Midnight in Paris is an excellent film and is perfect for date night, but even if you’re alone or just with family and friends, check out Woody Allen’s latest and see just how magical it is. There’s a reason that this is one of my favorite films of 2011.
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Alfred Hitchcock is a well-known name in film., but have you ever seen one of his movies? Maybe you saw Psycho once and are in the mood to check out more Hitchcock fare, or maybe you’ve never seen a Hitchcock and want to know what it’s all about. Or perhaps you just want to see a good classic film. Either way, North by Northwest is for you. A New York ad exec (Cary Grant) gets caught in a mistaken-identity situation, and is chased across the country by government agents and foreign spies. The crop dusting scene is iconic, but North by Northwest is great in so many other ways that it warrants a view or two when you’ve got the chance.
Director Martin Scorsese struck it big this year as Hugo nabbed 11 Oscar nominations, and while many know him for GoodFellas or Raging Bull, I think Taxi Driver is one film of his that you really must see. Taxi Driver revolves around Travis (Robert De Niro), a mentally unstable Vietnam veteran who takes up work as a part-time taxi driver in a city of sleaze and decadence (yeah, I’m talking about you, NYC). Travis begins to feel the need to lash out as he becomes more and more disturbed by the decaying world around him. This is Scorsese at his best, and when he teams up with Robert De Niro, you can never go wrong.
Of course, there are many other great movies besides these that you could pick. Want sci-fi? Check out Blade Runner or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Other great comedies? Try O Brother Where Art Thou? or Dogma. A good shoot-em-up with some dark humor? Go for In Bruges. Or you could go for a war film like The Thin Red Line, or a mystery-thriller such as Zodiac.
But no matter what you do, be sure to expand your horizons a bit. Step outside of your typical comfort zone. See something you might not have normally watched. After all, there is a reason that this is a list is of the best movies you haven’t seen.
Got some other suggestions? Let us know in the comments section about some movies that you love but that people have maybe never seen!