1. Holy Motors (2012)
This critically acclaimed French film by Leos Carax is one of my all-time favorites. It is a unique cinematic experience: a day in the life of a man who waves goodbye to his family, gets into a limo, and is handed a mysterious folder of assignments — each assignment requiring him to change his entire appearance, so that each time he steps out of the limo, he’s a completely different person, one time a poor old beggar woman, the next a cold-blooded assassin. This results in a series of unique vignettes, each as captivating and surprising as the next, making this a ride rather than a conventional narrative. Surrender to it and you might be excited by the unpredictability, the imagination and brio of the director, and the thrilling performance of its star, Denis Lavant.
2. Roman Holiday (1953)
This charming romantic comedy stars Audrey Hepburn in the role that made her a star as a princess who runs away from her entourage during a diplomatic trip to Rome and meets an American journalist (Gregory Peck) with whom she shares a thrilling adventure and, you guessed it, sparks fly. It’s a fun and visually beautiful movie.
3. Pretty In Pink (1986)
This is a well-known 80s Molly Ringwald classic, but when I first got around to seeing it, in college, I was surprised just how much I liked it, and particularly Jon Cryer as Duckie, the hapless friend who pines after Ringwald’s character and delivers an incredibly memorable performance when he dances around a record store to the tune of “Try A Little Tenderness.”
4. The Hours (2002)
This sad, well-acted movie based on the Michael Cunningham novel stars Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore as three women in different time periods living parallel lives: one, the famous author Virginia Woolf; another, a 1950s housewife; the third, a modern-day book editor.
5. The Comedy (2012)
This movie, as they say, is definitely not for everyone. Tim Heidecker, of Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, stars alongside Eric Wareheim and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy in this very dark comedy about an aging, apathetic hipster who terrorizes his equally numb friends for fun. It’s pretty bleak but I see it as not nihilistic or indulgent so much as unflinchingly searching for a new, more challenging grammar for comedy. If that sounds pretentious, I feel you, and like I said, it’s not for everybody, and I need to be in the right mood myself.
6. His Girl Friday (1940)
This fun Howard Hawks romantic comedy classic, co-starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, typifies the fast-talking, wise-cracking, screwball comedy style for which Hawks is famous.
7. In The Mood For Love (2001)
This gorgeously shot romantic film, set in 1960s Hong Kong, tells the story of two married next-door neighbors who become close after discovering their spouses are having an affair but vow not to go down the same path. It’s directed by Wong Kar-Wai, one of my favorite directors, and is one of the most atmospheric and beautiful movies I’ve seen.
8. James and the Giant Peach (1996)
I don’t know about you but I have fond memories of both the original Roald Dahl book and this film adaptation, which stars Susan Sarandon and is directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas). The film skillfully combines stop-motion animation and live-action footage and is also a musical.
9. Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
I guess I’m an Audrey Hepburn fan. This classic film, based on the Truman Capote novel, is fun and romantic and features the memorable song “Moon River.” Oh, and, P.C. disclaimer: there’s a supporting character in this movie who is a very racist caricature of an Asian, and that is unfortunate, but it’s still a great movie.
10. Gosford Park (2001)
This absorbing comedy-drama from director Robert Altman is the perfect movie for a quiet evening: an upstairs/downstairs murder mystery set at an English country mansion in the 1930s. The many intertwining plotlines and Altman’s signature style of overlapping dialogue and actor-friendly direction lend itself to an ensemble piece that feels like a good four-course meal.