There are so many classic films people repeatedly quote (The Godfather, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”) and misquote (Wizard of Oz, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”), but most of them we might not have watched at all. It’d be nice to find enough time to watch the plethora of culturally influential films, but in case you’re not sure where to start, here are some films I (a non-movie buff) would like to suggest:
1. Sound of Music
It’s probably odd to start with a musical, but this is one of “A Few of My Favorite Things”. The story is set in the time leading to WW2, and revolves around a family composed of a retired naval officer, his 7 naughty children, and the governess who tames them with one subtle chiding and a string of charming songs. It’s really the songs that make this movie memorable, and the theatrics jolly good fun. When you feel like saying goodbye in a showy manner, or when you’re feeling sad, you’ll have a song running in your head for the occasion. Or when you’re feeling silly, there’s always do-re-mi to hum and gesture to.
2. Lord of the Rings
Back when a 2-hour movie was considered long, Peter Jackson decided it was time to stretch the limit and go for 3 (times 3, making that 9 hours). After LOTR, book-to-film adaptations became all the rage, and fantasy a popular genre that now required serious craft. The universe Tolkien created is astounding in terms of magnitude and intricacy. But ultimately, it is the story of good triumphing over evil through purity of mind, endurance, and friendship. How can anyone remain unmoved after seeing Sam carrying Frodo during that final stretch? What about Smeagol’s devastation after thinking that he’d been betrayed? This movie (series) allows for quite a range of emotions to surface…just make sure to watch it when you’re wide awake (not when you’re ready to pass out).
3. A Few Good Men
Jessup: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessup: You can’t handle the truth!
Obviously reading it doesn’t do much, but having Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson deliver those lines makes a difference. Though the premise is not too different from the usual courtroom drama/thriller, the idea that terrible things can be done “for the greater good” is always a compelling theme. The movie also talks about questioning/defying authority and pursuing justice at the expense of undermining a powerful system (in this case, national security). We often can’t quite handle the truth, but it’s always better to know, isn’t it?
4. The Breakfast Club
I watched this recently, and 10 minutes into the movie, I immediately picked Molly Ringwald’s character as the stereotype that I identify with, even though it’s been 10 years since I graduated from high school. Proof how this movie (and teenage angst) is timeless. For most part, it’s looks like a bunch of kids in detention engaging in verbal sparring, but with the superb screenplay and creative ad-libbing by the actors, this movie has so many lines that will easily resonate within you (“When you grow up, your heart dies” (just a little)).
5. Star Wars
I’ll admit, I’ve only watched the most recent one, before which I had to beg my friend to give me a crash course on the whole universe. Despite my ignorance, I still find Star Wars to be the most referenced movie of all time (in books, movies, or the occasional “May the Force be with you” greeting from people). It’s the classic quest story (influenced by Joseph Campbell’s concept of monomyth), in which the hero is called to adventures, advised by the wise guardian, thrown into the depths of trials, and resurfaces triumphant and transformed. No doubt that is one of the most significant reasons why it appeals to so many, and why it remains culturally influential and relevant.