In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday that just passed, we Moviepilot staff writers took some time out to think about the films for which we're most thankful, the films that hold up over time, the ones we could watch again and again.
Join us, and feel free to chime in with the film you'd add to this list.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Imagine a film like The Princess Bride being made these days. You can't, because it wouldn't. This was director at his finest, with The Princess Bride cemented firmly in the middle of an unprecedented creative period that included This Is Spinal Tap, Stand By Me, When Harry Met Sally..., Misery, and A Few Good Men. That is not just impressive, that is "holy s#@t!" impressive, and the little fairy tale that could might just be the greatest of that bunch.
But beyond that, this film would not happen today because it's simply not how studios think now. Fantasies are risks. Light-hearted romps are risks. Comedies are risks. No-name actors are risks. And The Princess Bride combined all of those elements into something that became a classic masterpiece that was equal parts hilarious, thrilling and touching. It was the breakout role for both and and showcased possibly the best supporting cast in any film ever, including in his prime, along with , Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Fred Savage, Peter Falk (Peter freaking Falk!), and Carol Cane. Chris Sarandon as the dastardly Prince Humperdinck, and his sidekick, Count Rugen (as played by the incomparable ) are possibly the most deadpan hilarious villainous duo ever to grace the screen.
And is it ever quotable. My God, it is eminently quotable, with some of its more famous lines having worked its way into our lexicon and pop culture psyche in a way not many films do. The Princess Bride worked because it didn't take itself too seriously (look closely at the infamous sword-fighting scene when Westley drops down from the bar and you'll see the edge of the gym mat very obviously placed under him pop up in a puff of dust, not to mention the fact the giant R.O.U.S.es were very clearly people in rat costumes), but the enduring wit and warmth of the dialogue combined with the simplicity of the story worked to ensure that the prodigious talents of the cast would shine through. It's rare that a film holds up so well over time, but The Princess Bride does. It's the one film I can watch over and over and find something new to appreciate every time, and, some day when I'm showing this film to my own kids, I expect them to fall in love with it the same way I did.
I’m thankful for Fear, directed by James Foley. Why? It’s terrible. It’s a poor imitation of sexual thrillers with the likes of Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Demi Moore, and Sharon Stone of the 80s and 90s. Still, this movie has the ability to save you from your semi-racist uncle who wants to talk about muscle cars, fishing, and the military when all you want to do is see Reese Witherspoon get seduced by Marky Mark on a rollercoaster set to The Sunday’s remake of The Rolling Stone’s “Wild Horses.” The movie tries to highlight what Seattle was like in 1996 and it tastes as original as Starbucks. Still, there’s an unbelievable amount of charm in its raving, innocent, stupid leads. Sure, it’s a shameless thriller. It enters into Home Alone-booby trap territory. Nothing about it feels like it could happen. At the same time, the relationships, hormones, and angst are an all too real dream for people whose nostalgia for high school is more like a nightmare.
If there's one movie I feel intense gratitude for, and I mean bake-a-cake-for-Martin-Scorsese-kind-of-gratitude, it's gotta be the 1990 classic 'Goodfellas.' Man, I could watch that film on a loop for the rest of eternity. I would take it with me on a desert island (provided they have a Blu-Ray player over there). And I will definitely cherish the time when I sit my kids down to watch the exploits of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and that most endearing of sociopaths, Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci in his most iconic role). OK, maybe I'll wait until they're at least 14 or so.
It's hard to say what makes Goodfellas so compelling: the superb, memorable dialogue; the excellent cast, the groundbreaking directing (fast cuts, freeze frames, subjective narration etc.) or the perfectly-fitting soundtrack. Well, of course it's a combination of all of the above, and while some might consider Raging Bull or Taxi Driver to be Scorsese at his finest, I have to side with Roger Ebert when he called Goodfellas the best mob movie ever (and yeah, I love The Godfather too). So this Thanksgiving I'm thanking Marty S. for making one of the most quotable, f-bomb laden two-and-a-half hours of classic cinema while teaching us that murderers usually come with smiles, and that, for some, being a gangster can be better than being President of the United States. Unless you get 'made' the way Tommy was. Then you're just a schnook.
Children of Men (2006)
Let me start with an outrageously hyperbolic statement: Children of Men is perfect.
The dystopian thriller delivers a world in which humanity can no longer have children. Although this might seem a slightly fantastical idea, the concept is delivered in a stark and completely comprehensible manner. Set in London in 2027, director creates a world which isn't draped in the trappings of the future, but is instead immediately recognizable. It's a world we've been seeing broadcast on news networks for years. All the terrors of the modern age have come to fall on Britain — which is response, has convulsed into an anti-immigrant fascist state. Ultimately, it shows what the future could look like if we as a species continue down the our current path. And it's not very pretty, I can tell you that.
The true brilliance of Cuarón's masterpiece is that much of these issues are discussed in the movies background, not the main narrative. The music, the art direction, the hidden symbolism, all of it comes together to create a moving and, admittedly, rather terrifying experience. Cuarón, unlike many film makers, assumes the audience has the critical and analytic faculties required to figure it out for themselves. And in the current age of blockbuster movies, that's something I'm very thankful for.
No movie ever had a greater impact on its audience than Psycho. I always wished I could have been part of the premiere in 1960, when viewers were screaming from fright, running for the exit doors or just simply fainting in their seats. And honestly, where would the whole horror genre be without Psycho, and where would we be without the horror genre? I've recently had the good fortune to re-watch 's horror landmark on the big screen with a live orchestra. I don't even have to say that it was great; so the movie I am most thankful for is his masterpiece. It is still one the most frightening horrors today.
The film was full of surprises for the audience back then and even though we are familiar with them now, they still have an extremely powerful effect after more than 50 years. Hitchcock was bold enough to kill his protagonist at the first third of the film, with whom audiences had deeply connected by that time. With this shocking twist, he forced the viewer to identify with his antihero, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins' iconic performance), and the tremendous guilt he feels for his mother. The master of suspense gave real motivations to his characters and spent valuable time to introduce Marion (Janet Leigh) in a brilliant opening scene: we get to know her without noticing it in the witty dialogues. No viewer can sense that they will be cheated. Hitchcock also shot film history's most outstanding murder scene without actually showing graphic violence, but by making the audience experience the horror of the victim through the editing, the angle of the shots and Bernard Herrmann's deep cutting score.
I could go on about the extraordinary details of the film, like the amazing hype around the premiere ("no one... but no one... will be admitted to the theatre after the start of each performance" and "here we have the b-a-a-ah-th room"), but maybe we should simply just be grateful for Hitchcock for giving this horrifying masterpiece to us. Thanks to him, instead of killing each other in the Christmas shopping craze, we can just sit down in front of this movie and watch his characters going Psycho.
Carry On Camping (1969)
The Carry On movies are kind of hard to explain to anyone who's never seen one, but essentially, they are a series of comedy movies all starring the same rotating cast, predicated on rapid-fire smutty jokes and ridiculous puns.
By turns charming, crass and cartoonish, you either love them or you hate them, but you will never see a more talented comedic line-up working so well together in any other comedy. Ever. The Carry Ons are a British institution, and I've gotten myself into near-barfights more than once by suggesting that the Carry On movies are as vital to English cinema as Ealing.
I chose Carry On Camping because it distills most aptly what I love about the series, and just because it's a real personal favorite. I watched it over and over as a kid, and it's still one of those movies that makes me feel thankful. If I'm bored, sad, tired, or just having one of those hangovers that feel like malaria, I can always turn to Carry on Camping to make me feel better.
What's not to love about Dario Argento's Suspiria?
A 70's horror film about ballet dancers set in a beautiful gothic dance academy, is to me, cinematic heaven. The film bleeds a lucent palette of red, purple and yellows and is completely uncompromising in its portrayal of visceral blood, gore and absurd supernatural death scenes.
Not only is the film a visual deluge of intensity, but it possesses one of the most incredible soundtracks that I have ever heard, by the Italian band Goblin. It's this collage of gut-wrenching screams, operatic vocals, synths and general destruction combined with a stunning aesthetic that helps to make Suspiria one of the most exciting films I have ever seen. It never fails to blow my mind and for that, I am thankful.
It's been 37 years since Howard Beale, in one of the most famous scenes in the history of cinema, commanded us to open our windows and scream, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Network is a movie full of characters who don't give a crap anymore and have no niceties left to offer society. 's satirical 70s drama is about the rise and fall of 's deranged ex-television presenter who is exploited for profit, and a stark criticism of the shallow, obscene wasteland of the business.
Why am I thankful for Network? Well, aside from the scarily perfect performances, Finch's mad-as-hell, beautifully scripted speeches, and a meta level of self-awareness, I am thankful for this movie for it's insightful portrait of the cheap thrill of media - eerily farsighted even for now. It reminds us all of the (often unjust) business of TV, from the conflicts between news and entertainment, to who owns the networks, to the mantra of "ratings, ratings, ratings", which is all too evident today.
Watch Network today, and just see if you don’t find some tears welling up behind your laughter.
What films are you thankful for? What movies make you happy they exist? Let us hear it in the comments.