These are in no particular order. I’m not a critic, or even a huge movie buff–just 10 of the most memorable (PG, PG-13, or R rated) movies I’ve seen. Add your favs in the comments section.
1. The Karate Kid– I was in 2nd grade when my parents rented the VHS tape for me. After watching it, I REALLY believed that if anyone ever tried anything on me, the crane kick could take them down. I have never and will never be able to wax a car or paint a fence without thinking about Mr. Miyagi. Ralph Macchio will turn 48 in 2009!
2. Malcolm X– The Russian Roulette scene….running from West Indian Archie during an Ella Fitzgerald Show….desperately rinsing his conk in the the toilet….an old lady telling a Muslim “Jesus will protect you” while Sam Cooke squalled in the background…”Get `cho hand outta my pocket!” It helped that Malcolm X happened to be one of the most influential and articulate people of the 20th century, but Spike Lee still gets respect for this magnum opus.
3. The Shawshank Redemption– An innocent man gets 2 consecutive life sentences. Inside, he gets beat, intimidated, sent to solitary, and you know what else, but they can’t break his spirit. With patience and persistence, he escapes to the tropics and even sends for Morgan Freeman to join him. Arguably one of the greatest movies of all time.
4. Don’t be a Menace in South Central while Drinking your Juice in the Hood– I remember being a senior in high school and rolling on the floor laughing in the theater. To willingly roll on the floor in a Detroit movie theater, it must have been hysterically funny. It was a parody of all the 1990s gang-bang movies. I had seen them all, so I got all the jokes. I will probably never sit all the way through it again, but the first impression was so powerful.
5. West Side Story– Yeah, it’s a musical, and I’m not ashamed. When we did it for our 8th grade play back at Grosse Pointe Academy. I had to watch it once. After that, I chose to watch it about 38 more times–just to get into my role. Romance, pride, patriotism, racially-motivated violence, and catchy song and dance numbers. What else can you ask for?
6. Devil in a Blue Dress– I love when movies peek into pre-Civil Rights Movement black America, and Denzel’s swagger is on a hundred, thousand, trillion as Ezekiel “E-Z” Rollins. The clothes and cars were cool, Don Cheadle stole the show, and Lisa Nicole Carson tells Denzel, “yeah, you’re hitting my spot” while her man is passed out drunk in the next room. Where is Lisa Nicole Carson these days?
7. Jackass 2– Never saw Jackass 1, but Jackass 2 was the most viscerally entertaining movie these eyes have seen. It was like “Tom & Jerry,” only the snake bites and manure eating and fishhooks through the face were happening to real people. I saw a Jackass 3 teaser on You Tube. A guy jumps out of a plane without a parachute!
8. Falling Down– Michael Douglass always plays the typical rich white guy, except in movies like this, when he just plays the typical white guy. In this classic, he’s stuck in traffic on an unbearably hot L.A. day. He suddenly snaps and proceeds to exact revenge on every Asian store owner, Latino gang-banger, lazy fast food cashier, road construction worker, and homeless beggar who gets in his way. When he finds another white guy who’s even more racist and disgruntled than he is, he shoots him dead! What? He just wants to get to his daughter’s birthday party.
9. Glory– In addition to highlighting the heroics of African-Americans in the Civil War, this was one of the first films to put all 4 black male archetypes in one picture: The heedless rebel (Denzel), the wise old man (Morgan Freeman), the loyal buffoon (doesn’t matter), and the spineless intellectual (the only black guy in the 1860s with glasses).
10. Life is Beautiful– A perfectly lovable guy meets a gorgeous woman. They get married, have a son, and enjoy picnics, dancing in the rain, and running their successful bookstore together. It’s too good to be true, so on the boy’s 4th birthday, they are shipped off to a Nazi concentration camp. The father hides the boy from the Nazi’s and spends the entire time persuading his son that the whole camp experience is just a game. Oh, this tattoo, they give those to everyone for fun….no, no, you eat my bread, I had a huge breakfast while you were asleep…look at this goofy officer with his gun to my head; silly, right?–*pop*. Definitely my favorite movie that’s not in English.
I have some honorable mentions, including Batman (1990), Coming to America, Face Off, Pulp Fiction, and The Great Debaters. How about you?