Ah, movies. I love them. I love them in the rain. I love them in the snow. I love them in my bed. I love them anywhere I go! I love to watch movies that inspire me to be a better person or to take tragedy and make it into something beautiful. The human spirit is capable of amazing things. There are so many movies out there and so little time to watch them all. If you do not see your favorite on this list please share in the comments which ones you would have chosen. I originally started with a top 10 and painfully cut it down to 6. They are in no particular order because it was too hard to choose.
1. The Whale Rider directed by Niki Caro in 2002 starring break out sensation Keisha Castle-Hughes, Cliff Curtis, and Rawiri Paratene. Decsription: On the east coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their presence there dates back a thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale. From then on, Whangara chiefs, always the first-born, always male, have been considered Paikea’s direct descendants. Pai, an 11-year-old girl in a patriarchal New Zealand tribe, believes she is destined to be the new chief. But her grandfather Koro is bound by tradition to pick a male leader. Pai loves Koro more than anyone in the world, but she must fight him and a thousand years of tradition to fulfill her destiny.
My Review: I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie. At least a dozen or so. I remember the first time I went to see it and I was just amazed and stunned at the emotions it evoked. This was the movie that launched Kiesha’s movie career although she’d been in Star Wars Episode I. Rich and beautifully stunning scenery in New Zealand. The whole cast was amazing. And the soundtrack from Lisa Gerrard was equally as fantastic. This is a book of kleenex movie.
2. Dead Poets Society directed by Peter Weir in 1989 starring Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, and Robert Sean Leonard. Description: Painfully shy Todd Anderson has been sent to the school where his popular older brother was valedictorian. His room-mate, Neil, although exceedingly bright and popular, is very much under the thumb of his overbearing father. The two, along with their other friends, meet Professor Keating, their new English teacher, who tells them of the Dead Poets Society, and encourages them to go against the status quo. Each, in their own way, does this, and are changed for life.
My Review: Since this movie came out there have been a lot of copy cat movies. They did not capture the same magic except for The Emperor’s Club. I was a sophomore in high school when this came out. I went to see if with my two of my best friends. After we saw this movie we wanted to start our own Dead Poets Society just like in the movie. I felt lucky because I had a Mr. Keating in high school. I just love love this movie. When I started college I did start our first literary magazine and our own poet society.
3. Miss Potter directed by Chris Noonan in 2006 starring Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, and Emily Watson. Description: In 1902, in London, the spinster Beatrix Potter lives with her bourgeois parents. Her snobbish mother Helen Potter had introduced several bachelors to Beatrix until she was twenty years old but she turned them all down. Beatrix Potter has been drawing animals and making up stories about them since she was a child but her parents has never recognized her as an artist. One day, Miss Potter offers her stories to a print house and the rookie publisher Norman Warne is delighted with her tales and publishes her first children’s book. The successful selling leads Norman to publish two other books and Miss Potter becomes the best friend of his single sister Millie Warne. Sooner they fall in love with each other but Helen does not accept that her daughter marries a “trader”. However, Beatrix’s father Rupert Potter proposes that his daughter spends the summer with his wife and him in their country house in Lake District and if she is still interested in Norman after the summertime, he would …
My Review: As a writer and a woman I found this movie amazing!! Beatrix never gave up on her dream in a world where society would have her do something else with her life. She was passionate about the lands in her country and her stories were amazing.
4. Braveheart directed by Mel Gibson in 1995 starring Mell Gibson, Sophie Marceau, and Catherine McCormack. Description: William Wallace is a Scottish rebel who leads an uprising against the cruel English ruler Edward the Longshanks, who wishes to inherit the crown of Scotland for himself. When he was a young boy, William Wallace’s father and brother, along with many others, lost their lives trying to free Scotland. Once he loses another of his loved ones, William Wallace begins his long quest to make Scotland free once and for all, along with the assistance of Robert the Bruce.
My Review: Wow! I remember the anticipation before the movie came out. I was working at a bookstore at the time. A coworker and I were counting down the days. Our families are from Scotland and we love all things celtic, etc. That moment in the movie where he screams “FREEDOM!” at the end will always stick with me. The soundtrack was amazing. I watch this at least once-a-year.
5. Rocky directed by John G. Avildsen in 1976 starring Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, and Burgess Meredith. Description: Rocky Balboa is a struggling boxer trying to make the big time, working as a debt collector for a pittance. When heavyweight champion Apollo Creed visits Philadelphia, his managers want to set up an exhibition match between Creed and a struggling boxer, touting the fight as a chance for a “nobody” to become a “somebody”. The match is supposed to be easily won by Creed, but someone forgot to tell Rocky, who sees this as his only shot at the big time.
My Review: The original inspirational movie! I saw this movie in the theater with my dad and older sister. It’s a family favorite. My dad can quote this movie all day long. And the anthem from this movie is used so much today to pump us up to victory at sporting events. The human spirit can do anything.
6. Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson in 2001, 2002 and 2003 starring Ellijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, and Ian McKellen.
Description Fellowship: An ancient Ring thought lost for centuries has been found, and through a strange twist in fate has been given to a small Hobbit named Frodo. When Gandalf discovers the Ring is in fact the One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron, Frodo must make an epic quest to the Cracks of Doom in order to destroy it! However he does not go alone. He is joined by Gandalf, Legolas the elf, Gimli the Dwarf, Aragorn, Boromir and his three Hobbit friends Merry, Pippin and Samwise. Through mountains, snow, darkness, forests, rivers and plains, facing evil and danger at every corner the Fellowship of the Ring must go. Their quest to destroy the One Ring is the only hope for the end of the Dark Lords reign!
My review: I remember when they first announced the trilogy was to be filmed. I was stoked. I kept a healthy vigil online as the casting decisions were announced. I was there for every photo that was published. I went to the midnight movie and joined The One Party in SLC. It was awesome! I cried. I laughed. I was frightened. I was in awe! Peter Jackson created the Middle-earth I had dreamed about. And this story of Frodo and the ring is the best journey story since Star Wars (the original episodes). To date I think I have seen this movie over 70 times. In fact when I had my second baby I brought the trilogy and watched it while I was in the hospital. And the music! I love you Howard Shore.
Description Two Towers: Sauron’s forces increase. His allies grow. The Ringwraiths return in an even more frightening form. Saruman’s army of Uruk Hai is ready to launch an assault against Aragorn and the people of Rohan. Yet, the Fellowship is broken and Boromir is dead. For the little hope that is left, Frodo and Sam march on into Mordor, unprotected. A number of new allies join with Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Pippin and Merry. And they must defend Rohan and attack Isengard. Yet, while all this is going on, Sauron’s troops mass toward the City of Gondor, for the War of the Ring is about to begin.
My review: Another win in my book. I loved seeing the Ents, and meeting the men of Rohan. The action shots were amazing. Another midnight movie and again tears and inspiration. Epic pure and simple on every level. Friendships are forged and no one is left untouched by Sauron’s evil ways and Gollum finally appears.
Description Return of the King: While Frodo & Sam continue to approach Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, unaware of the path Gollum is leading them, the former Fellowship aid Rohan & Gondor in a great battle in the Pelennor Fields, Minas Tirith and the Black Gates as Sauron wages his last war against Middle-earth.
My Review: They saved the best for last indeed! Heroics were in abundance. The great battle was fought several times and the ring and Sauron were destroyed by one little Hobbit from The Shire. My favorite part was at King Aragorn’s coronation. The four Hobbits bow to the King of Gondor and Aragorn says, “You bow for no one.” And then everyone bows to them. I cried hard. And the ending where Frodo says goodbye and Annie Lennox sings the best song ever!!! I was in Toronto, Canada for this movie to come out with a few of my friends at a convention for Lord of the Rings. So magical.
Amazing Honorable Mentions: Hoosiers, Gladiators, Life is Beautiful, The Shawshank Redemption, Schindler’s List, The Green Mile, Amadeus, Big Fish, On Golden Pond, A Walk to Remember, What Dreams May Come, Field of Dreams, In America, Chocolat, October Sky, and Finding Neverland.