Yes I am a movie buff! However, I am not going to put up any pretensions and say that I understand the art and technique of film making, including camera angles, tone of the scenes, editing styles and the like. I am just a regular guy who loves watching movies and is only able to appreciate the plot / story, acting by the lead actors, the music, and the message that the movie is trying to convey. And it is from this limited perspective that I am going to talk about my favorite films; the films that have had a significant impact on me over the years. Here are my 10 favorite Hollywood movies:
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Usually movies based on bestselling books leave you with a tinge of disappointment. You end up with a feeling that the movie didn’t quite do justice to the brilliance of the book. The feeling of characters not being fleshed out properly, important parts of the book being ignored in the screen adaptation, failure of the screen adaptation to evoke the same emotions as the book. The feeling of the book’s soul getting lost somewhere in the lights, camera, and action. However, this is one movie that did complete justice to Harper Lee’s novel by the same name. The novel is one of my all time favories, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read it. I practically read it every three months or so. It was with some skepticism that I got the movie DVD home. I was unsure how the beauty and innocence of the book would translate onto the screen. However, the movie completely blew my mind. It was as if the characters from the book had actually come alive. Each and every one of them. Atticus, Scout, Jem, Dill, Tom Robinson, Bob Ewell, and Boo Radley. Gregory Peck did complete justice to the role of Atticus Finch. So much so, that whenever I read the book now, having watched the movie, I picture Peck while reading about Atticus. This movie, which deals with the tricky topic of racism seen through the eyes of a young girl is a must watch. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Go get the DVD and watch the movie! You won’t be disappointed.
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
I watched this movie at a friend’s house some six years back and fell in love with it and everything about it – the plot, the characters, the songs, the background music – everything. The movie is about a poor farmer trying to hold on to the beloved tradions of his community and village in a changing world. I have shown parts of this movie in ‘Change Management’ workshops. One can learn a lot from this film about the fact that the first step to managing change is to accept it. This is one of the best musicals I’ve ever watched, with some of the most memorable songs. “Matchmaker, matchmaker find me a match”, “If I were a rich man”, “Tradition” keep ringing in your ears, long after the last scene fades and the credits roll. Top class performances by Topol and Leonard Frey make this musical a must in your DVD collection.
The Godfather (1972)
Can a guy make a list of his favorite movies of all time and leave ‘The Godfather’ out? Nah! It is impossible! ‘ It makes you “an offer you cannot refuse.” The Godfather is a cult classic, the mother of all Hollywood movies. It is a movie you can watch on all days of the week, “Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday.” I earlier said that movies based on besteseller books leave you with a feeling of incompleteness. Well, not Godfather! Here’s a movie that actually enhances the novel further, takes it to a whole new level, and is plainly more fun than the novel itself. The genius Francis Ford Coppola created history with this film and redefined the crime genre, to an extent that, till today crime movies have not been able to break ‘The Godfather’ mould. Fantastic performances by Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall, a brilliant background score, and some of the best lines in the history of Hollywood cinema make ‘The Godfather’ the biggest blockbuster of all times. “Leave the gun, take the cannoli”, “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business”, “Don’t tell me you’re innocent, because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.” If you’ve not watched this, you are as yet uninitiated into Hollywood.
A Few Good Men (1992)
A courtroom drama based on a play by the same name, A Few Good Men, is about the journey of a young lawyer with a reputation for arranging plea bargains, to self discovery. Two young armymen are accused of murdering a young and physically weak Private who wanted to be transferred from Guantanamo Bay. Tom Cruise plays the lead role as the lawyer who gets immersed into the case to an extent that he risks his career to secure justice for his clients. Assisted by Demi Moore who pricks his conscience and Kevin Pollak, Tom Cruise finally manages to get the celebrated and decorated Colonel Nathan Jessep, played by the master, Jack Nicholson to appear in court. Cruise proceeds to grill Jack Nicholson and craftily hurts his ego prompting him to confess in court that he had given the order to ‘discipline’ the deceased Private. Excellent direction, masterful performances, especially from Jack Nicholson, and some amazing dialogues make this an all time great movie. That’s the truth and if “you can’t handle the truth”, there’s nothing I can do about it!
Forrest Gump (1994)
Tom Hanks is my favorite actor and a lot of that has to do with Forrest Gump. No other actor in my opinion could have pulled off this role. The movie is about the journey of a man with less than average intelligence who goes on to achieve extraordinary things in life. He goes on to become a soldier in the army and fights in Vietnam where he saves the lives of his colleagues. He wins a bravery medal for his feats in the war. From then on Forrest Gump lives one adventure after another as he goes on from becoming a ping pong champion to a shrimp boat owner, to a businessman successful enough to be featured in the Time magazine. Eventually, Jenny, the elusive woman he has loved all his life, resurfaces to reveal that she is the mother of his child and wants him to marry her. However, she also adds that she is suffering from a debilitating disease and will die soon. Forrest Gump marries Jenny and after her death takes on the responsibility of bringing their son up. The message of the movie is beautifully captured in a line that Forrest Gump utters, “My Momma always said that life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.”
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
I’m writing about my 10 favorite Hollywood movies and it is difficult to pick my most favorite from this list. However, if you hold a gun to my head with a lie detector in your possession, I would reveal that my all time favorite movie is ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. This is an extraordinary movie with an extraordinary story, extraordinary performances, and an extraordinary climax. This is the story of a man falsely accused of murdering his wife and her boyfriend and sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment. It is about a man not wanting to lose his feeling of self-worth, even in the most hopeless, dreadful situation. The horrors of prison life are brought alive in this movie filling the viewer with disgust with the system, the prison warden and the ruthless guards. I think that disgust is precisely the reason one enjoys the climax so much. Both Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins deliver once in a lifetime performances and elevate this movie to a level where it touches your soul. You just have to watch this one.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
This is a movie that people like us working in the corporate sector can relate to. We perceive unfairness, dishonesty, and a lack of ‘genuineness’ all around us, are disgusted by the same, and still continue to come to work each day and contribute to the madness around us. “The things we think and do not say” bother our conscience, nag us, but we continue to brush them aside, put up a brave face and keep doing what we are doing. Jerry Maguire challenges the status quo and gets himself fired. How he goes on from there to fulfilling his mission statement is what this movie beautifully depicts. More than anything else, what I love about this movie are its memorable quotes. “Show me the money”, “I’m still sort of moved by my word is stronger than oak thing”, “You like this jacket? You can have it, because I don’t need it, because I’m cloaked in failure”, “You are my ambassador of Kwan”, “You complete me”, “You had me at hello!” and many more. Delightful performances by Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr, and Renee Zelleweger, add to the magic and make it one of the best movies you would ever watch.
I love movies based on sports and Miracle, in my view, is the best movie ever made in that genre. The movie is about the United States men’s Ice Hockey team that won the Gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Kurt Russell plays the charismatic coach Herb Brooks, who brings together a bunch of young players and makes them a great team. One of the most compelling scenes of the movie is when Coach Brooks makes the team do endless exhausting drills till they say that they play for the United States of America and not their hometowns or their states. My Indian friends will be able to recall a similar scene in the Hindi film ‘Chak De India’, which was very clearly inspired from Miracle. Kurt Russell turns in a masterful performance as the tough gum chewing coach with a heart of gold. This movie broke my perception that Kurt Russell could only do action movies. I have used scenes from this movie in training programs, particularly in relation to topics such as Coaching, Communication Skills, and Leadership during crisis. I love the movie and have watched it at least a dozen times and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching it.
The Aviator (2004)
Based on the life of aviation pioneer and movie moghul Howard Hughes, The Aviator, is the best biographical drama I have ever watched. I didn’t know much about Howard Hughes prior to watching the movie. I was amused by his colorful ‘not so’ private life, constantly being in the news for stormy affairs with successful actresses such as Katherine Hepburn and Ava Gardner. I was amazed at his adventurous spirit as he test flies the H1-Racer, pushes it to a new speed record but then crashes in a field with severe injuries. I was inspired by his resilience as he successully defends himself against charges levelled by Senator Brewester and Juan Trippe, his competitor, despite suffering from a terrible OCD characterised by repetition of phrases and a fear of germs and diseases. Leonardo DiCaprio was unbelievably good and it is a shame he did not win an Oscar for his scintillating performance. He portrayed the complex character of Howard Hughes to perfection. Absolutely brilliant!
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Another brilliant biographical drama, this movie is about the rags to riches story of Chris Gardner, an unsuccessful salesman turned successful entrepreneur. Will Smith plays Chris Gardner who is struggling to make ends meet for his family. His wife cannot take it anymore and she leaves her family and goes away to settle in New York. Subsequently, Chris goes through terrible hardships, being evicted from his rented home and forced to spend the night in a public toilet with his son. He accepts an unpaid internship at Dean Witter which might potentially get him the job of a stockbroker if he manages to outperform the other 19 interns he is in competition with. Chris works very hard during the day and tries to repair and sell bone density scanners that he had earlier invested in, during weekends. Each evening he has to stand in a queue with his son so that he can get a room in the homeless shelter. Finally, due to his hard work and diligence, Chris manages to get the one position available at Dean Witter outprforming the other interns. Thereon, his life takes a turn for the better, and he becomes a successful stockbroker and finally an entrepreneur. I can guarantee that you cannot watch this movie without shedding tears. There are several heartrending scenes in the movie that make you cry like a baby, and then there are scenes that fill your heart with hope and and will to pursue the elusive happiness in your life.