On a first date
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Directed by Cameron Crowe
Jerry Maguire is more than a romantic comedy or a sports movie — it is proof that Tom Cruise was once a genuinely likeable Hollywood star. Laugh out loud funny (“Show me the money!”), romantic without being cheesy, the 1996 movie had stellar performances by Cuba Gooding Jr, and Tom Cruise and was replete with memorable one-liners: “You complete me” and, of course, “You had me at hello”.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Directed by Joel Coen
Not your typical first date movie, sure, but this movie isn’t meant for your typical boy/girlfriend. Sure, this wacky Coen Brothers’ tale of mistaken identity, Vietnam, bowling and the greatest character in comedy history, The Dude, will lead to an early termination of most first dates. But it’s a great litmus test of whether that initial date will lead to a lasting relationship. Once you find someone who loves The Big Lebowski, you’ve found someone with whom to share the rest of your life
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Directed by Wes Anderson
Want to convince your date that your crazy step-father, stalker ex-boyfriend and mad uncle really aren’t that bad? Just show them Bill Murray, Gene Hackman and the Wilson brothers. Your family will never seem particularly dysfunctional ever again.
Before Sunrise (1995)
Directed by Richard Linklater
How many times have you seen someone pass you by the on road and thought, “She could be one?” Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy show you what could have happened had you stopped and tried to make a connection.
Knocked Up (2007)
Directed by Judd Apatow
This is for all the ugly men out there who have scored dates with women way out of their league. Sure, she was intoxicated when she agreed to see you, but if Katherine Heigel can fall in love with Seth Rogen, then you have a shot too.
To entertainingly depict history
Directed by Mel Gibson
Breathtaking Scottish scenery, beautiful princesses, men in kilts — all are overshadowed by the cathartic violence of Braveheart. Grisly throat-slittings, beheadings and disembowelments abound in the movie which won Mel Gibson a Best Director Oscar, and though its historical accuracy is suspect, the entertainment factor is high.
Directed by Milos Forman
Antonio Salieri has but one wish: to serve God by making beautiful music — but God has bestowed His divine gift on the vulgar but prolific Mozart. A dark drama about the court composer’s consuming jealousy of Mozart, Amadeus vividly captures the ethos of 18 Century Vienna, the city of musicians, the atmosphere of professional jealousies and favour-currying. The soundtrack, based on Mozart’s original compositions, makes you revise your opinion of classical music.
The Last Emperor (1987)
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
For a sumptuous depiction of life in The Forbidden City, watch this epic biopic. Pu Yi became the monarch at the age of three as China turned into the People’s Republic and the old order crumbled. The first movie allowed by the Chinese authorities to be filmed in the Forbidden City, it showed the emperor’s tragic isolation from the change that was overtaking the rest of the country. While the imagery is breathtaking, it is the emotional complexity of the characters which makes this film truly unforgettable.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Directed by David Lean
David Lean is a master of epic films and his telling of TE Lawrence’s struggle in the deserts of Arabia, which comes with subtle homosexual references, stunning desert landscapes, and Peter O’Toole as the tortured protagonist, proves that history does not have to be that dry after all.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Directed by Michael Mann
In the 90s, when Daniel Day-Lewis was not seeing his father’s ghost while playing Hamlet on stage, he was looking darned sexy in history movies. Now, we don’t know much about American history, and the James Fennimore Cooper book always looked pretty boring. . . but Daniel Day-Lewis, with long hair, a machete and his proverbial intensity. Need we say more?
Directed by Michaelangelo Antonioni
Just pronouncing the name Michaelangelo Antonioni will get you free brownie points with the smart set. Expounding on the sexiness of Veruschka and the importance of personal involvement in an impersonal worldwill give you an intellectual heft you don’t deserve.
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
The only thing anyone knows about The Seventh Seal is the scene where the protagonist plays chess with the devil. Bring up anything else from the movie and you will be met with a combination of blank stares and, more importantly, admiration.
To make you appear more intellectual than you really are
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Everyone pretends they know what the New Wave of cinema is all about but few actually understand it. Consider this an idiot’s guide to the avant-garde. To truly understand the genius Breathless, which people of limited intellect never will, just check out its Wikipedia entry. Then, you too can expound on the use of the jump cut.
Waking Life (2001)
Directed by Richard Linklater
For those of you who didn’t take the Existentialism course in sophomore year because, while cool, the Being and Nothingness reading in the Intro to Philo pack didn’t really seem to make much sense. This partly animated movie has all the posturing and none of the rigour of true philosophical engagement and talking about it is a great way to drive people up the wall with your pretentiousness.
Annie Hall (1977)
Directed by Woody Allen
If you’ve ever been stuck for conversation, Annie Hall will give you a simple solution. Just learn up Woody Allen’s rapid-fire and start random conversations about love, tennis and right-wing magazines. You can pass off as an intellectual, as Woody Allen has done for nearly 40 years.
If you’ve just been dumped
Kill Bill (Vol 1 &2) 2003, 2004
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
The ultimate revenge movie. Played to perfection by Uma Thurman, former assassin ‘the Bride’ gets back at her scheming lover in the most satisfying way possible — by poetically killing him after having slaughtered and dismembered his world-wide network of thugs and goons. The blood, the gore, the cornered, fearful ex-boyfriend… will leave you feeling immensely empowered. Just stay away from the kitchen knife for a while, in case you’re actually tempted to use it.
He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)
Directed by Ken Kwapis
So you don’t hate your ex, even though he dumped you. You think there may be a slight, minute possibility that you may get back together. After all, you still love him. But five days later, he still hasn’t called. What’s going on? You should watch this movie to find out. Hopefully, you’ll get what you need — a realisation that sometimes… he’s just not that into you.
Legally Blonde (2001)
Directed by Robert Luketic
If you’re looking to reaffirm your strength as a woman without wading through a sea of severed limbs ala Kill Bill, watch this movie. It is a moving ode to empowered women packaged in shiny pink satin ribbon. Bubbly Barbie look-alike Elle is tragically dumped by her boyfriend, who leaves her for a bookish law student and a Harvard law degree. Does Elle acquiesce? No. She takes on Harvard with Chihuahua in tow and proves that blondes know about a lot more than just fun.
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Directed by Adrian Lyne
This is the one to watch before you decide to send threatening letters to your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend’s home. You see, revenge is good, but only in small doses. When you begin to experience the desire to drown your former flame’s pet rabbit in boiling water, like Glenn Close does in Fatal Attraction, you know its time to seek professional help.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Getting dumped is hard for a guy. You mope endlessly and indulge in self-destructive behaviour. This movie shows you there is light at the end of the tunnel; only, you have to go to Hawaii to see it. So pack those bags boys, and join Peter on his quest to forget the love of his life, Sarah Marshall.
With your family this Eid
My Fair Lady (1964)
Directed by George Cukor
You can sing along to “The Rain in Spain”, laugh yourself silly over “Did you tell ’im I come in a taxi?” and “Them as pinched it, done her in” or swoon over Audrey Hepburn’s ball gown. GB Shaw was exposing some pretty serious class issues in Pygmalion but this is a beloved childhood movie which is a blast from start to finish.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Before 3D and CGI, there was Disney animation and Beauty and the Beast which was its pinnacle. The nerdy heroine, the creepy castle, and the very blonde prince which emerges from the beast made this one a true classic.
Wizard of Oz (1939)
Directed by Victor Fleming
A family movie so good Salman Rushdie even wrote a critical essay on it that read like a fanboy’s love letter. Ignore the fact that Judy Garland is now a gay icon, and just revel in the songs, be moved to tears by the plot and have a great evening in with mum and dad. In fact, invite your whole extended family.
Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Sometimes even an evening in with the family should involve escapist violence. Johnny Depp’s best Keith Richards meets Captain Hook impression is good only in small doses. So watch the superior first Pirates movie and skip the turgid sequels.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Directed by Ken Hughes
Just the “written by Roald Dahl” credit should be enough to hook the entire family in and kick out all those unwanted guests who invariably turn up every Eid. Add Dick Van Dyke and the delicious song “Truly Scrumptious” and you have an all-time family favourite.
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Directed by Lars von Trier
Lars von Tiers is definetely a sadist and possibly a misogynist. He seeks only to extinguish the final spark of hope that sustains humanity. Starring singer Bjork as a kind, vulnerable woman met only with cruelty, Dancer in the Dark will gladden the heart of every serial pessimist.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Films with explicit rape scenes rarely need to reach further into their bag of tricks to depress viewers. But Boys Don’t Cry, by constantly comparing the quiet dignity of the transgendered lead character, played by Hilary Swank, with the brutal bigotry of small-town America, forces you to avert your eyes, open your heart and wipe away those tears.
To revel in your depression
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Some movies are too painful to watch twice. Only a true masochist would make it through Requiem for a Dream once. Many movies have been made about the dangers of addiction but most tend to glamourise the vice in question. Aronofsky takes great pleasure in trawling the depths of human misery; you will too if you want to sink deeper into depression.
Directed by Gaspar Noe
“Time destroys everything,” says one of the characters in the movie. We beg to differ — this movie destroys time. And it doesn’t just wreck the time you’ve spent watching it. Long after the movie ends you will experience flashbacks from the film’s more disturbing scenes: a brutal rape, a graphic beating and other such instances that warm the heart. Enjoy.
Perfume: Story of a Murderer (2006)
Directed by Tom Tykwer
That Perfume was roundly denounced upon its release shows that even cynical hacks have feelings. The adaption of the German novel, which itself was so brutal it inspired a Nirvana dirge, is certainly painful but its critical reputation needs to be overturned. The story of a man who takes to murder because he lacks the ability to smell may be over-the-top but it leaves a potent impression that no amount of cologne will ever wash away.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Directed by Judd Apatow
There are two kinds of middle-aged men who should watch this Steve Carrel comic masterpiece: those who were lucky enough to find a companion for life with whom they produced cute and adorable offspring. They will see this movie as a cautionary tale of how it could have all gone wrong. Then there are those who embody the middle-aged virgin character. These men should see the movie as a depressing documentary of their lives but they are so geeky that they will still fall in love with this typical Apatow comedy.
Directed by Greg Mottola
Remember when you were young? Not the lies you tell your drinking buddies about how easily you scored. No, we mean the reality. How awkward you were around girls and how you bonded with your geeky friends.
Superbad will romantacise your past without letting you forget what a loser you truly were.
On your fortieth birthday
The Graduate (1967)
Directed by Mike Nichols
The Graduate was made in an era when older women with sex appeal didn’t have an official title, but Anne Bancroft was the original MILF. This is a movie to give hope to women who have passed menopause that they too can relive their youth. Hollywood usually caters to the escapist fantasies of men. Here is the exception.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
If you haven’t hit you mid-life crisis yet this is a perfect way kick-start your angst. Shocked by his wife’s fantasies of infidelity, the protagonist Bill embarks on a night-long quest for fulfilment. He is exposed to criminals, underage prostitutes and an extremely powerful secret society. This movie doesn’t offer much in the way of hope, but it may just convince you to deal with your mid-life crisis by buying a new car instead of hankering after pretty young things.
As Good as it Gets (1997)
Directed by James L Brooks
Hollywood sells old men the dream that even in their dotage they can still get with whoever they want. And they can do that without sacrificing their crabbiness and ADD. Sure, not all of us have the raw appeal of Jack Nicholson. But then most of us don’t have the waistline or wrinkles either.
Before you consider having children
Home Alone (1990)
Directed by Chris Columbus
How much fun can an eight-year old forgotten at home by his family have? Macaulay Culkin lived every child’s fantasy — gorging on plain cheese pizza, watching all kinds of movies, and enjoying the
absence of parental supervision. And he beat two robbers while doing it.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Every parent’s worst nightmare. Influenced by her peers, 13-year-old Tracy gets sucked into a world of drugs, sex and petty crime. Some self-mutilation is also involved. Watching this may cause you to rethink your desire for cuddly little babies — you’ll realise that after the age of 11, you have as much control over them as you do over the weather.
Directed by Barbara Kopple
This movie reveals the danger of under-parenting your kids. Moral of the story is, if you’re not there for them in times of need, they’ll get involved with seedy gangs that destroy their lives. So before you consider having children, you should make sure you’re committed to be being a full-time parent.
Lorenzo’s Oil (1992)
Directed by George Miller
Think you want a baby? Think again. Lorenzo’s Oil gives you an all-access guided tour to the pain and misery that can accompany parenthood. Nick Nolte’s son has a rare disease for which there is no cure. And that may be the most uplifting thing about this movie.
Raising Arizona (1987)
Directed by Joel Coen
There are plenty of couples out there who can’t conceive but desperately want to start a family. Sure, adopting a baby is an option but who wants to take the easy way out? Let Nicholas Cage teach you how to steal a baby.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2010.