Saving Private Ryan (1998)
If you’re a movie-watcher, it’s probably not hard for you to pick out an all-time favorite – a film that has affected you, and still affects you, in a uniquely powerful way. For me, that special film is Saving Private Ryan. Nothing else I’ve seen has quite matched it in terms of sheer magnificence. It’s brutal. It’s heartbreaking. It’s inspiring. And there’s a reason it’s often considered the greatest war film ever made.
Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors, and science fiction is one of my favorite genres. Put the two together, and what do you get? Inception – a thoughtful, stimulating, and utterly gripping Sci-Fi film that ranks among the best of this decade or any decade. To borrow the words of another critic, “Inception is proof that people are not stupid, that cinema is not trash, and that it is possible for blockbusters and art to be the same thing.”
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2000-2003)
Rich, captivating, epic, and breathtaking – just like Tolkien’s books. With a perfect cast, brilliant special effects, and energetic storytelling, this is a masterful fantasy film trilogy. Director Peter Jackson’s book-to-screen adaption is one of the best I’ve ever encountered, and he is to be highly commended for staying so faithful to Tolkien’s vision.
I love movies. And I’m a guy. Which means the films that reach the top of my favorites list are probably quite different from those on a gal’s list. The movies listed below are varied in genre, but they all have something in common: the protagonists are manly men. No sissies allowed.
Saving Private Ryan (1997), [R]
A masterpiece, in nearly every sense of the word. The directing, acting, script, and cinematography are all absolutely phenomenal; and the depiction of modern combat – including a gut-wrenching 20-minute recreation of Omaha beach – is the most realistic you will ever see on the silver screen. Period. Battles are chaotic, savage affairs of ultraviolence, full of rolling smoke, whizzing bullets, and mangled flesh. Combining such visceral imagery with an incredibly powerful story of sacrifice and heroism, Spielberg pulls together a war epic that surpasses all others. It’s a sincere and heartfelt homage to the courageous U.S. soldiers of World War II.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992), [R]
Based on the book by James Fenimore Cooper. Although it takes some liberties with the original story, Michael Mann’s frontier epic is nevertheless a magnificent piece of filmmaking, with a perfectly balanced mixture of action, adventure, and romance that paves the way for a breathtaking finale. The performances are uniformly good, the cinematography is jaw-dropping, and the vicious brutality of hand-to-hand combat is captured to stunning effect in the film’s impressive battle sequences. Definitely a must-see.
Master & Commander (2004), [PG-13]
Based on the novels by Patrick O’Brian. Sea adventures don’t get any better than this. The cinematography is amazing, the acting is superb, and the historical accuracy is spot-on. Really a spectacular film, and a must-see for anyone interested in naval history and warfare.
Gladiator (2000), [R]
There are some historical inaccuracies, but overall, Gladiator is a superb historical epic and a real eye-opener to the glory, brutality, and corruptness of Rome. As for Crowe… well, it’s not hard to see why he garnered an Oscar for his role. He plays the heroic protagonist with absolute perfection: his Maximus is a manly man, a man of honor and unflinching resolve, a man who loves his country, loves his family, and who never backs down from fighting for what is right.
The Patriot (2000), [R]
The Patriot is not a definitive drama about the Revolutionary War, but it succeeds admirably on its own terms. There’s great cinematography, and the story, while nothing new, is smart and engrossing. Gibson gives a superb, brooding performance as the troubled but determined war hero, and the supporting cast (especially Ledger and Isaacs) is equally good. And while the historical accuracy isn’t always perfect, overall this film offers a pretty solid depiction of some of the most important years in America’s history.
Cinderella Man (2005), [PG-13]
After watching this, I immediately put it down on my list of favorites. It truly is a wholesome, inspiring piece of filmmaking of the type seldom produced by Hollywood these days, and by the time I got to the end credits, I wanted to stand up and cheer. Because Cinderella Man isn’t merely the story of a great boxer: it’s the story of a man fighting for his family. Zellweger is excellent, Giamati is steller as manager Joe Gould, and Russell Crowe gives one of the most moving, tenacious performances of his entire career.
The Road (2009), [R]
Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy. The Road is a disturbing yet poignant post-apocalyptic tale that’s genuinely hard to watch sometimes, even if you have a strong stomach. On the one hand, it presents with gritty realism the wickedness that the depraved man is naturally inclined to – the scenario with the cannibals is more realistic than one might think at first. On the other hand, it is also an incredibly powerful story of sacrifice and of the fierce love that burns between a father and his son.
The Matrix (1999), [R]
As one critic noted, “… [The Matrix] is much more than an out-and-out action yarn; it’s a thinking man’s journey into the realm of futuristic fantasy.” Fusing a one-of-a-kind premise with mind-blowing special effects (most notably “bullet-time”), this is a classic film that sci-fi fans (especially guys) will not want to miss. And there’s plenty to think about long after the credits have finished rolling. Biblical themes – such as Original Sin – are easily found beneath the enthralling storyline.
The Bourne Trilogy (2002-2007), [PG-13]
Based on the books by Robert Ludlum. Top notch action thrillers that bring a superb sense of gritty reality to a genre that’s too often over-produced. The story is intelligent and believable, the characters are well conceived, and the action sequences are absolutely stunning to watch.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003), [PG-13]
Based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien. Told with epic energy and passion, and chock full of biblical themes, The Lord of the Rings is a masterful fantasy film trilogy that is certain to stand as an adventure for all time. Director Peter Jackson’s book-to-screen adaption is one of the best I’ve ever encountered, and he is to be highly commended for staying so faithful to Tolkien’s vision.
Got any favorites of your own? Be my guest and share ’em down in the comments section If you’re a guy, I, personally, will benefit from your recommendations; if you’re a gal, my Mom will.