1. Frances Ha
This is something a critic would call a “New York City Fever Dream,” and then use a bunch of words to ensure the reader that they are on the same intellectual plane as director Noah Baumbach.
Anyway — through a riveting performance by Greta Gerwig, the movie makes not having your shit together seem like a tryingly pleasurable experience.
2. American Beauty
Probably the best thing about this movie is that the stakes are set right away. In the classic opening monologue, Lester (Kevin Spacey) tells us he’ll be dead in a year — allowing us to view the rest of the film with the knowledge that everything he is doing is exactly what he wants to be doing. Moreover, we retroactively view all the regrets of a previously stagnant life. If anything, Lester’s story is a cautionary tale.
3. Dazed and Confused
Youth is infectious. Even better now watching the likes of mega-movie stars Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck strut their stuff.
4. Boogie Nights
Boogie Nights was the movie that really put once-in-a-generation filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood), on the map. It is a wild ride to say the least, and it’ll give you that weird sort of energy to go out and do something.
5. Silver Linings Playbook
2012’s Rom-Com that wasn’t really a Rom-Com has been praised for being a very poignant take on mental illness.
While I did just use the word “poignant” in a completely serious manner, Silver Linings is uplifting to the point where even the most bro-iest of dudes name Blake may shed a tear or two. My name isn’t Blake, but I tell you this from experience.
6. The Breakfast Club
People who have no business becoming friends end up becoming great friends. There’s a reason it’s still heavily referenced, nearly 30 years later.
Of all the Oscar contenders I’ve seen so far, this had the strongest “let me think about this for the next few days and ponder my life” pull.
If you need me to add further legitimacy to that last sentence, just remember that it was said by someone on the internet who you probably don’t know.
8. Fight Club
This mindfuck of a movie also has some pretty profound lines that have been floating around the internet ever since. In the words of the incomparable Tyler Durden, “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
9. My Left Foot
This was Daniel Day Lewis’ first Academy Award for Best Actor. My Left Foot tells the true story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy who could only control his left foot and proceeded to become a writer and an artist.
For as much as it is painful, it is exponentially more dazzling.
10. Dallas Buyer’s Club
Dallas Buyer’s Club proves that no matter your situation, you can always be doing something to improve yourself, and in turn the lives of others. It’s a powerful message from a very powerful movie.
11. Erin Brokovich
Julia Robert’s portrayal of Erin Brokovich has been considered one of the singlemost electrifying performances in not only her career, but in film in general. Erin Brokovich is another very inspiring case of what happens when you don’t take no for an answer.
12. The Shawshank Redemption
The first time I watched this I was certainly intrigued, but spent most of the movie wondering why people always said this was one of the greatest movies ever.
Then, it hits you. There are only a handful of movies capable of hitting you this way.
13. A Beautiful Mind
In order to achieve greatness, you oftentimes have to overcome unfathomable obstacles at the mercy of unfathomable odds. John Nash’s story is told very well, and it’ll make you want to do something with that life of yours — even if that something is gathering the courage to cook a healthy meal.
14. 8 Mile
I watched this one night in college. After it was done (2 am), I ran to the library and spent the next hour or so writing down a lengthy plot for this movie idea that was dancing around my head for awhile.
Of course, I was merely trying to be my own version of Eminem. Maybe chalk it up to being 19, but this one makes you feel stuff.
15. It’s A Wonderful Life
The ultimate rut-breaking movie. After watching It’s A Wonderful Life, it’s almost impossible to hate anything.