“Cinema is a writing in images with movement and with sounds.”

-Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematographer

As a life long aficionado of flickering image, I will be offering here some recommendations for people to consider as part of their cinema viewing.  Some of the titles suggested here will be geared towards children, others towards adults, and yet even others for the entire family.  I will do my best not to offer any spoilers (though, truth be told–a good film cannot be spoiled!), but will include in my recommendations some thoughts on why the particular film has been recommended.

I hope everyone enjoys delving into the wonders of cinema!

Black Hawk Down (2001; dir. Ridley Scott)

The true story of Army Rangers and Delta Force during the Mogadishu incident of 1993 is told with great skill by director Ridley Scott.  Very few war films capture the sense of heroism and bravery as well as Black Hawk Down, which brings the audience right into the thick of a mission gone awry.  A film of strong conviction, it helps us to appreciate the valor of our military members.

Available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime or iTunes.

The Thin Red Line (1998; dir. Terrence Malick)

One of the most original and impressive war films ever made, The Thin Red Line follows the U.S. Army during the campaign for Guadalcanal in 1942.  The unique narrative structure opens up the film to become a reflection on life and humanity as we follow several men and learn their perspectives on the world.  Featuring some of the most beautiful cinematography in the history of cinema and a majestic score, The Thin Red Line is a testament to the power of cinema.

Available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime or iTunes.

Rango (2011; dir. Gore Verbinski)

I have always enjoyed westerns and this animated movie, featuring the voice of Johnny Depp as a chameleon named Rango, is a delightful and inventive take on the genre full of visual splendor and exciting adventure the whole family can enjoy.  Behind the impressive animation and humor is a story that fundamentally is about discovering one’s true identity and becoming a hero.  Rally the troops for an enjoyable movie.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime or to buy or rent on iTunes.

The Artist (2011; dir. Michel Hazanavicius)

The Academy Award-winning movie is a charming story that celebrates the cinema and overcoming adversity in order to adapt to major changes.  While made in 2011, the film is entirely in black-and-white and a silent movie, but it also is one of the most clever and witty films of last decade.  The direction is delightful and the performances, including a Best Actor-winning performance by star Jean Dujardin, are energetic and spirited.  As someone with a great fondness for silent films, I highly encourage people to use this movie to introduce themselves and their families to the exciting world of silent film.

Available to stream on Netflix or to buy or rent on Amazon Prime or iTunes.

Apocalypto (2006; dir. Mel Gibson)

By no means for the faint-of-heart or for children, Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto is a breath-taking chase film that chronicles a story of survival as our hero, Jaguar Paw, is abducted after his Mayan village is raided and now must find his way home through the jungles of Mexico to find his pregnant wife and son.  Shockingly violent at times, the film is also an exploration of civilization and humanity in addition to being an excellent action movie.  For those who are able to handle its visceral force, the film’s themes will be thought provoking.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Peter Pan (2003; dir. P.J. Hogan)

I readily admit that I am a major fan of J.M. Barrie’s classic stories of Peter Pan, but this particularly movie should appeal to anyone whether they are familiar with the original stories or not.  While not a major success commercially upon its release, P.J. Hogan’s adaptation of Peter Pan deserves a look from audiences as it combines spectacular special effects and adventure with heartfelt emotion and a beautiful examination of what it means to be a boy who never grows up.

Parents and children can both enjoy this delightful treat from Neverland.  I highly recommend Peter Pan to anyone looking for a joyful and rousing story.

Available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime or iTunes.

On the Waterfront (1954; dir. Elia Kazan)

My inaugural recommendation is the classic 1954 film, On the Waterfront.  The winner of eight Oscars and voted one of the ten best films of all-time by the American Film Institute, director Elia Kazan and star Marlon Brando bring to life a vivid portrait of a regular man rising to extraordinary heights as he taps into his own humanity and greatness.  As dockworker Terry Malloy, Brando redefined screen acting in a film with excellent cinematography, writing, and terrific music.

I first saw this film when I was in middle school and immediately fell in love with it.  My appreciation has only grown with each viewing.  I definitely recommend parents introduce their adolescent and teenage children to this film–take away their smartphones for its 108 minute runtime and have them see a world of real people with real dilemmas.

Available to buy or rent on YouTube, Amazon Prime, or iTunes.

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