16. The Joy Luck Club – (directed by Wayne Wang, starring France Nuyen, Kieu Chinh, Tsai Chin, and Lisa Lu)
Okay, so I’ve been told by someone that this film demonizes Chinese men. I guess that is one way to view this movie. I don’t happen to agree. I don’t think it demonizes Chinese men any more than it anglicizes Chinese women. It’s a celebration of the strength and frailties of women in general and Chinese women in particular. Just because it shows the patriarchal nature that Chinese culture has displayed (hello bound feet!), doesn’t mean it bashes Chinese men. My point is, this a wonderful movie that plumbs the depths of the mother-daughter relationship as well as the strength and resiliency of the human spirit. What’s wrong with that?
17. Watership Down – (directed by Martin Rosen, starring John Hurt & Richard Briers)
This movie shocked me when I saw it as a child. I think it would have shocked anyone. Cute little bunnies tearing each other to bits? Can we say TRAUMA?! Still, its an unforgettable film based on a groundbreaking book.
18. The Incident – (directed by Larry Peerce, starring Martin Sheen & Beau Bridges)
Another traumatizing film, though for completely different reasons. The claustrophobic interior of a subway train provides the perfect backdrop for this gritty look at human nature. The film asks, “What would YOU do if witnessing the brutalization of others?” Beau Bridges’ character answers that question in a disturbing, not entirely triumphant, way. Seriously, this movie will stick with you for years and years.
19. The Shawshank Redemption – (directed by Frank Darabont, starring Tim Robbins & Morgan Freeman)
What a fantastic movie! I long ago realized that most of the movies based on books by Stephen King are great – even the scary ones. Tim Robbins really rose to the occasion on this one and gave the world a nuanced, balls-to-the-wall performance. I didn’t think he had it in him. I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong!
20. Whale Rider – (directed by Niki Caro, starring Keisha Castle-Hughes & Rawiri Paratene)
I’m a sucker for a modern fairytale/fable. Movies like Penelope, Stardust, and Coming to America are always on my feel-good list. Whale Rider is in a category by itself. I wouldn’t call it “dark” but it’s not a happy film. It has its own sort of rawness that manifests itself almost exclusively in Keisha Castle-Hughes’ eyes. The way she uses those peepers just kills me. She’s so earnest and lovely in this film that I can’t think of her as anyone else BUT the whale rider. And the peek into Maori culture was wonderful.
Well, that’s it, folks! 20 movie that blew my mind. There are many more I could have named, but I tried to pick the ones that had the most visceral effect on me. Let me know what movies have moved you in the comments section!