There’s never a bad time to dive back into the archives and watch some good movies.
And if you have some time off at the end of the year this might be a good time to binge some modern-day classics.
With that in mind, I’ve come up with twenty essential titles from the last fifteen years that you should reexamine or, if you’ve never seen them, delve into so you can dazzle everyone at the holiday parties.
Jake Gyllenhaal was just started to get on everyone's radar when he scored one of his first lead roles as a troubled teen who is tormented by visions of the future and a disturbing looking bunny. 'Donnie Darko' has become a cult classic as it captured the angst of the youth who at the time when the movie was in theatres were coping with the confusion of a post-9/11 world.
Michael Moore's fourth feature film might possibly be his best. Winning Best Oscar for the film, the controversial director uses the events on the Columbine High School massacre to address our country's addiction to guns. Sadly, thirteen years later the issues explored in this movie are still relevant today.
This incredibly stylish look at the slums of Rio de Janeiro charts the lives of two boys as they grow up amongst guns and drugs. The cast is mostly made up on non-actors, which gives an authenticity to the movie. But what's most surprising about this extremely violent film is how much comedy is layered into it.
What do you get when you combine director Michel Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman? One of the most original love stories of the last 15 years. In one of Jim Carrey's best performances, he plays Joel, who after breaking up with his girlfriend (Kate Winslet) goes to a special doctor who specialises in erasing someone from your memory. What then unfolds thanks to the visuals of Gondry and words of Kaufman is near perfect.
Morgen Spurlock used his outgoing personality and a hot-button topic to create a film that has defined his career. Examining the country's issue with obesity, Spurlock turned his camera to McDonald's and in the process changed the way we look at fast food (in the movie he eats only from the McDonald's menu for one month). Yes, a big reason why you see more healthy choices and no more 'super size' option at McDonald's is because of this movie.
The Coen brothers create a classic modern-day western thanks to the adaptation of this Cormac McCarthy novel. Starring Josh Brolin as a man who stumbles upon a large suitcase of cash and Javier Bardem as a psychotic hitman, the movie gets better better every time you see it.
'Ratatouille' tells a compelling story through animation that isn't just for kids. Set in the posh Paris cooking world, 'Ratatouille' follows a rat who fancies himself a chef. The movie could have been a disaster but instead it proved that stories with lots of layers can be told well through cartoons and computer graphics.
Paul Thomas Anderson delivers a film that is epic in so many ways from its story to its music and photography. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a maniacal oil baron, he delivers a performance that withstands the test of time.
David Fincher, who is known for his attraction to dark material, was perfect for bringing the legend of the Zodiac Killer to the big screen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a cartoonist for a paper who becomes obsessed with the case and takes over the detective work when the cops dry up on leads. Perhaps the best trick Fincher pulls off is building constant suspense so, by the end, anyone could be the Zodiac.
Before 'The Walk' we got the story about the daring high-wire walk across the Twin Towers from the real people who did it in James Marsh's 'Man on Wire.' The Oscar-winning documentary is elevated thanks to the man who did the walking, Philippe Petit, as our narrator. Though the reenactments show viewers how incredible the feat was, it's Petit's masterful storytelling that keeps them riveted.
Arguably Pixar's greatest work, 'WALL-E' explores so many different issues you can watch it a dozen times and enjoy focusing on each one. From a love story to commentaries on obesity and climate change, the movie is much more than the mere travels of a loveable robot (but that part is great, too).
Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited Nazi-killing movie was worth the wait. Brad Pitt plays the leader of a group of Jewish US soldiers whose mission is to kill as many Nazis as possible in France. But along with great characters like 'The Bear Jew' and incredible action sequences, the films is also a love letter to cinema.
Christopher Nolan always likes to mess with us, but 'Inception' is one of his biggest mind tricks. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the leader of a group who uses dream-sharing to steal information. But for his latest job he's hired to plant a memory. This leads to an dizzying chase through the deepest subconscious that you can't turn away from.
Featuring some of the funniest women working today, 'Bridesmaids' proved that the girls can be as funny and raunchy as the guys. Along with finally giving Kristen Wiig the lead in a movie, it also turned Melissa McCarthy into a movie star and director Paul Feig into the official go-to for female comedies.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn takes his love of violence and combines it with Ryan Gosling and the music of Cliff Martinez to create a slick thriller that's in the vein of 80's movies like 'Thief' or 'To Live and Die In LA.'
Before Spike Lee looked at gun violence in Chicago with 'Chi-Raq,' documentary filmmaker Steve James showed the people who are trying to stop the violence in 'The Interrupters.' Following a group of former gang members who are trying to talk some sense into the current bangers, James' camera captures incredible interactions where words do much more than any gun can.
This is one of those docs that feels too horrific to be true. Documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer puts a spotlight on the genocide in Indonesia by befriending the Death Squad leaders who were responsible for mass killings. He had them reenact their murders by filming them in the movie genre of their choosing.
Some of the best acting you'll ever see are the exchanges between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master.' The move follows a Naval veteran who befriends the leader of an organisation. The mental gymnastic the two play with each other over the course of the film is thrilling to watch.
Made on a shoe-string budget and self-distributed, 'Upstream Colour' is a inspiring tale that shows us that there's more to life than our everyday existence. Seek out this movie.
Shot from 2002-2013, Richard Linklater's look at a young boy's life from adolescence to young adult is a special work that hare rarely been attempted. The dedication by everyone involved is commendable, but the story itself is so powerful it rivals some documentaries in how realistic it is.
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