by Mackenzie P.
Despite some movie theaters being open for business once again, some, including myself, are hesitant to participate in an indoor activity at a public venue for an extended period of time with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging. However, not going to a theater is no excuse for missing out on great films.
Instead of the theater, I suggest you pick a sibling or parent (or get the entire family involved), saddle up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and package of M&Ms or other favorite theater snacks you purchased that morning, and watch a family classic. With so many platforms sharing movies with the public nowadays (Netflix, Hulu, OnDemand, etc.), finding your favorite flick is a breeze.
For some, the list of favorite movies is endless. For others, maybe only one or two come to mind. Whether you’re the former or the latter, below are some of my favorites for a little inspiration.
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Director Mike Newell
Stars Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal
An inspirational film starring an amazing cast led by Julia Roberts, “Mona Lisa Smile” tells the story of Katherine Watson, a progressive art history teacher just starting at the all-female Wellesley College. While Ms. Watson enlightens her students with new, profound ideas, the girls show their teacher different perspectives on aspects of life to educate her as well. Now, I always appreciate being told a good summary of a movie before watching, so I know exactly what I’m getting myself into. I am hesitant to give much more information on this one; just trust me. Any and all people are guaranteed to not only love this film, but learn valuable life lessons from it. Also— the movie’s setting in the 1950s makes it that much better! Last but not least, the movie timeline of one academic year includes Christmastime, so this is perfect to watch if you’re not necessarily ready for Rudolph, but could still use a little dose of holiday cheer.
The Untouchables (1987)
Director Brian De Palma
Stars Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, Robert De Niro, Charles Martin Smith
Equally as awe-inspiring as it is historical, this flick, which is based on a true story, follows Elliot Ness and his group of sidekicks as they take down the infamous Al Capone during the Prohibition age in 1930. If the action-packed plotline isn’t enough to convince you, Ennio Morricone composes an amazing score which, in all honesty, I listen to multiple times a week for studying or focusing on other work. Among my favorites of the score aside from the classic theme include “Ness and His Family” (a more serene, sentimental tune symbolizing the support Ness constantly receives from his wife and daughter in between time spent on the prowl for Capone), “Al Capone” (a perfect representation of Capone’s big shot attitude and arrogance, one can’t help but appreciate its musical mastery anyway), and “Four Friends” (equally beautiful as it is solemn; after watching to the end, it is sure to bring tears to the eyes). With so many awesome lines, I’ve come back to this movie probably about seven times in my sixteen years of life; it just keeps getting better.
The Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
PG/PG-13 | Running time: 2 hours and 10 minutes – 2 hours and 54 minutes | Watch on YouTube or record to watch on the television.
Director Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, David Yates
Stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis, Bonnie Wright, Evanna Lynch, Robert Pattison, James & Oliver Phelps, Maggie Smith
All eight of these movies were my favorites as a child. As a kid, my twin brother and I would run around the house in our Gryffindor robes, my brother carrying Harry’s wand, Hermione’s in my hand. Yelling spells like “Alohomora!” could keep us entertained for hours on end. At the very beginning of quarantine, my brother and I binge-watched the entire series all over again as teenagers, and loved them every bit as much as when we were nine. The plotlines are filled with twists and turns, and the last movie ties every loose string together. The characters are relatable personality wise, but also through the events they endure. Of course, my brother and I never needed to duel against a dark wizarding lord in our own lives; but the socially awkward teenage moments, lessons about friendship and perseverance, and the daily life events such as school and sports were certainly things we could relate to. The perfect series to watch with the family (and then relive all over again through J.K. Rowling’s seven novels, as I am now), the scores to these films are also absolutely fantastic (I have a five hour long playlist of my score favorites to prove it).
The Firm (1993)
Director Sydney Pollack
Stars Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Wilford Brimley
When Mitch McDeere lands a position at a prestigious law firm paying more than he could ever have imagined for a starting salary, he jumps at the chance to start making a name for himself. However, he and his wife, Abby, soon realize there is more to the firm than what meets the eye. Battling between saving his morals or his career, McDeere works to uncover the truth. This movie is a classic; it somehow finds a spot on my movie watch list about every three months and never disappoints. Wilford Brimley, who unfortunately passed away this past August (prompting my latest viewing of the film as a tribute and because I enjoy it so much), absolutely dominates with such a commanding performance.
Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
PG | Running time: 2 hours and 5 minutes| Watch on Disney+.
Director George Lucas
Stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels
Does it really need any explanation? This obvious classic is worth rewatching for a few reasons: number one, it’s simply awesome. Number two, the last movie of the Star Wars franchise (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) was released one year ago to the month. I for one am planning on binging the entirety of this classic series this holiday break, after being reminded of its decency when recently choosing to watch A New Hope. The first flick of this series is not as talked about, but is one of my all-time favorites from the bunch. Here, we see the lives of the original trio—Luke, Leia, and Han—before any of them met or knew each other. It is quite interesting to see the detailed character development when comparing the original movie to the last one of the series from a year ago. After the periodic release of a Star Wars from the last couple of years, I was hungry for a Star Wars fix; A New Hope delivered.
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
PG | Running time: 1 hour and 54 minutes| Watch on YouTube.
Director Les Mayfield
Stars Mara Wilson, Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott
In need of a little Christmas spirit? This is the best one to start with. Beginning with the Thanksgiving Day parade and ending on Christmas Day, “Miracle on 34th Street” follows the holiday season all the way from Turkey Day, making it the perfect transition flick between the two celebrations. A heart-warming, authentic story of a little girl’s journey from skepticism to genuine belief in Old Saint Nick, this film delivers the classic happy ending. However, its predictability does nothing to downplay the meaningful conclusion to a beautiful story. A perfect film for everyone in the family, this is the best flick to start the holiday season off right.