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100 Movies to Watch During The Pandemic (Part 4)

The world kind of sucks right now. There’s really no delicate way to put it. Many of us find ourselves self-quarantining in our homes, with a lot more time on our hands than ever before. To help you fill that spare time, Spencer has spent the last few weeks compiling a list of films that deserve to be seen. Before he knew it he had a list of 100 films, and he’s going to do his best to sell each and every one of them. 

Come by every Friday for a list of 10 recommendations to fill your time over the weekend.

Evil Dead II (1987)

While on vacation in a remote cabin in the woods, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda unwittingly awaken an ancient evil that soon possesses Linda, forcing Ash to once again fight for his life. Sam Raimi’s madcap horror-comedy acts as both a sequel to his 1981 horror film “The Evil Dead” and a remake of it at the same time. Many key plot points and locations in “Evil Dead II” are identical to the original, but presented in a much more heightened and comedic way. Genuinely terrifying imagery like geysers of blood and dismemberment mixed with one-liners, puns, and slapstick comedy make this one a must-see for any horror fan.

The Mummy (1999)

Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) enlist the help of dashing adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) to help them reach the ancient city of Hamunaptra, where they accidentally awaken a mummified high priest named Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo). A remake of the 1932 classic, “The Mummy” draws on swashbuckling adventure serials to turn a supernatural horror film into an exciting action-adventure. Brendan Fraser is a perfect fit as the cocky but capable O’Connell, with no shortage of charm and swagger. Fraser, a rousing score, and great practical effects make “The Mummy” feel like the unofficial fourth Indiana Jones movie.

Uncut Gems (2019)

Up to his neck in gambling debts and hounded by loan sharks, eccentric jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) must get back the priceless gem that he lent to Kevin Garnett (Kevin Garnett) for luck in the 2012 NBA Playoffs all while dealing with his failing marriage and his young girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox). Josh and Benny Safdie’s frantic New York slice-of-life drama features a career defining performance from Adam Sandler, who brings his loud and manic energy to a truly tragic character who cannot seem to stop making things worse for himself at every turn. “Uncut Gems” is an incredibly stressful film to watch, but is so well-crafted in its performances, score, and cinematography that it is more than worth your time.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando) reluctantly joins with bumbling pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to save the woman he loves (Keira Knightley) from the wicked Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). I’m sure most people reading this have seen this movie, but I highly recommend revisiting it if you haven’t done so. The action sequences are exciting and inventive, with plenty of practical stunts and effects. Depp’s performance still holds up despite his entire career since and Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa is one of the most gleefully hammy villains to ever grace the screen. Your mileage may vary on the film’s four sequels, but the original is still as joyously entertaining as ever.

Robocop (1987)

Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is murdered in the line of duty, and is resurrected by corporate scientists as a cyborg programmed only for law enforcement. Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent satire posits a grim future where corporations run nearly all aspects of society including law enforcement, which uses military-grade weapons and tactics in order to maintain control of the city’s comically violent streets. Over-the-top violence and some truly astonishing make-up work help make the film’s heavy subtext go down smooth, and Peter Weller’s incredible physical performance should put “Robocop” on the watchlist of any action movie fan.

Total Recall (1990)

In 2084, companies like Rekall can implant memories of exotic vacations and adventures. But when Douglas Quiad (Arnold Schwarzenegger) goes in to buy memories of being a secret agent on Mars, he suddenly recalls that he actually was a secret agent on Mars (or was he?). “Total Recall” is a delightfully bonkers film, combining Paul Verhoeven’s penchant for bloody violence with the heady science fiction of Philip K. Dick’s short story that it’s based on. Full of ridiculous kills, astounding practical effects, and countless classic Arnie one-liners, it provides plenty of insane action while making you wonder if any of it is actually happening.

Furious 7 (2015)

After securing pardons for their past crimes, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and the rest of the Fast Family are targeted by assassin Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) who is determined to avenge his comatose brother Owen. The “Fast & Furious” franchise has long been an expensive action-packed soap opera, and there is no better example of it than “Furious 7”. Family drama, amnesia, and love triangles meet speed, big guns, and skydiving cars. This movie makes room for all of that plus a moving tribute to franchise star Paul Walker, who died tragically two years before the film’s release.

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

A week in the life of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a struggling folk musician in 1961 New York who just can’t seem to keep his life in order following the death of his song-writing partner. Joel and Ethan Coen’s melancholy comedy-drama gave Oscar Isaac his breakout role and received much-deserved critical acclaim. The entire film rests on Isaac’s shoulders, and he threads a very difficult needle by being an abrasive self-sabotaging jerk to nearly every one of the film’s colorful characters while never quite being bad enough for you to root against him. He also lends his wonderful singing voice to some songs on the film’s terrific original soundtrack. “Inside Llewyn Davis”has a biting sense of humor, but never loses empathy for its complex title character.

Annihilation (2018)

Cellular biologist and former soldier Lena (Natalie Portman) and four other specialists explore a mysterious energy field known as “the Shimmer”, where Lena’s husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) disappeared months ago. ‘Ex Machina’ writer/director Alex Garland’s use of Lovecraftian cosmic horror tropes and intense thrills made for one of the most memorable films of 2018. Portman gives an incredibly chilling performance alongside a ridiculously stacked ensemble that includes Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez and Tessa Thompson. If nothing else, “Annihilation” serves up some of the most mesmerizing and terrifying imagery of any film in recent memory.

The Iron Giant (1999)

In 1957, a huge metallic being (Vin Diesel) falls to Earth from outer space. He is soon discovered by a young boy named Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) and the two become fast friends, avoiding federal agents sent to investigate the giant’s landing. “The Iron Giant” uses its Cold War setting to emphasize its core critique of xenophobia and lashing out at the unknown instead of seeking to understand it, things that are rarely articulated this elegantly in films made for children. The principal voice cast of Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., and Christopher McDonald is excellent; each of them imbuing their characters with performances playing off different stereotypes of 1950’s America. Vin Diesel creates one of the most endearing and memorable animated characters of the last fifty years, making the film’s resolution all the more effective.

The Terminator (1984)

Okay, so this robot isn’t quite as nice. A cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from the year 2029 is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose future son will become the leader of the human resistance after machines wipe out human civilization. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a human soldier, is sent back to protect her. Though the franchise has since pivoted into action blockbuster territory, James Cameron’s “The Terminator” is very much a sci-fi slasher movie. Arnie’s unstoppable, lumbering killing machine is akin to Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers, destroying everyone who gets in his way with cold, mechanical efficiency. Linda Hamilton gives Sarah Connor a kind of tenacious courage without seeming completely unphased by the seemingly impossible things happening around her. James Cameron’s films only got bigger and more expensive, but “The Terminator” is low-budget, inventive filmmaking at its best.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1992)

Another Terminator (Robert Patrick) is sent back in time to kill young John Connor (Edward Furlong). But this time, a second cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent back to protect him and his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton). James Cameron upped the ante with his sequel and then some. “Terminator 2” shares some slasher DNA with the original, but is a straight-up action blockbuster first and foremost. Its incredible stunts along with amazing practical effects (and even some unbelievably good early CGI) make it stand head-and-shoulders above other effects-driven blockbusters of the time. Arnold Schwarzenegger gives one of the most quoted performances of all time, and Linda Hamilton cements Sarah Connor as one of cinema’s most iconic action heroes. The four sequels made since have been a mixed bag, but “Terminator 2” still stands as one of the most entertaining and impressive action movies ever made.

Titanic (1997)

Stowaway artist Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), and engaged first-class passenger Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) meet and fall in love during the legendary ship’s fateful maiden voyage. I’m going to be honest, I used to be such a boy about this movie; turning up my nose at its length and melodramatic central romance. After revisiting it for the first time in over ten years, I was surprised at just how hard I fell for this movie. The film’s melodramatic love story matches and highlights the tragically romantic spectacle of the actual event, painting a loving and moving (if largely fictionalized) picture of the different kinds of people who lost their lives. When the Titanic finally begins to sink, it’s so effective not only because of James Cameron’s aptitude for on-screen spectacle, but because you have spent so much time with Jack and Rose and all of the film’s colorful cast of characters.

See Also

Avatar (2009)

A former Marine (Sam Worthington) travels to the planet Pandora to take part in an experiment that projects his mind into a synthetic body of one of the planet’s native inhabitants, the Na’vi, in order to form better relations with the local population. James Cameron’s passion project may not come up too often these days (except in jokes about its plot), but was until recently the highest-grossing film of all-time worldwide. Though it’s often mocked for its lack of cultural impact, many films have tried and failed to recapture its unique and ultra-ambitious spectacle ever since, including Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and 2016’s “Warcraft”. While CGI and motion capture technology have certainly improved since 2009, no film has quite been able to match the strange integrity of Cameron’s epic. The amount of love and sincerity that went into crafting the world of Pandora and its inhabitants makes it stand out even today. There are some elements that really don’t hold up at all (the core concept of a white soldier quite literally wearing the skin of an indigeneous people to infiltrate and deceive them raises more than a few eyebrows in 2020) but you might just find “Avatar” worth revisiting.

Jaws (1975)

When the quiet community of Amity Island is plagued by a series of deadly shark attacks, police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) enlists the help of marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) to track down and kill the deadly predator. Steven Spielberg’s thriller is credited with being one of the first modern blockbusters, paving the way for expensive effects-heavy crowd pleasers like “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Scheider, Dreyfuss, and Shaw all give iconic performances. The film is packed with a sense of dread and anticipation that ratchets up anytime someone enters the water, due in no small part to John Williams’ legendary score. Its deliberate 1970’s pacing might seem slow to some, but I promise that “Jaws” lives up to the hype.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Pursued by Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) Ravagers and the Sovereign, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the Guardians meet Ego (Kurt Russell), a powerful celestial being that claims to be Peter’s long lost biological father. Writer/director James Gunn’s follow-up to his 2014 hit is a surprisingly sincere and moving story about found families, mending relationships, and what it really means to be a father. Sure, it still has plenty of laughs and action but “Vol. 2” is primarily focused on the emotional arcs of its characters, especially Peter, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Yondu (Rooker deserved all the acting awards for this performance). In the middle of a franchise that is sometimes too busy moving the plot forward, it’s extremely refreshing to get a movie that dives so deep into its characters’ inner lives.

The Thing (1982)

An American research team at a remote Antarctic base is picked off one-by-one by a parasitic alien lifeform with the ability to consume and imitate other organisms; nobody is sure who to trust. “The Thing” has become a cult favorite since its middling release, thanks in part to an all-star ensemble (including Kuret Rusell, Keith David, and the late Wilford Brimley) and a terrific score by the late Ennio Morricone. But the real star of John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror film is it’s unforgettably grotesque creature designs and the seemingly impossible visual effects used to bring them to life. It’s nothing short of astonishing to see a decapitated head sprout legs and skitter away in a movie that’s nearly four decades old, long before CGI came around. If that’s not enough, it also features the greatest dog performance in the history of cinema (though you might not like what that entails).

Logan (2017) 

In the near future, the X-men are gone and mutants are all but extinct. But when an aging Logan, a.k.a Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and a sickly Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) come across a young mutant with some very familiar abilities (Dafne Keen), they must outrun the ruthless forces trying to capture her. “Logan” is savagely violent and deeply somber, packed full of all the gravitas that you could want from Jackman and Stewart’s last outing as the iconic characters, It’s use of Western iconography and themes in a modern setting make it a familiar tale, but not one that you often see in comic book movies. It’s a spectacular and cathartic send off for Jackman and Stewart and is a must-watch for anyone who’s loved their versions of these characters.

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) has put aside dream after dream in order to help others in his small town of Bedford Falls. After a lifetime of self-sacrifices, George is driven to suicide but is interrupted by a man claiming to be his guardian angel (Henry Travers) sent to show him what the world would be like if he were never born. Frank Capra’s Christmas classic is nothing short of pure cathartic delight, with Jimmy Stewart’s winning performance giving some serious weight to what might otherwise be too slight of a story. Filled to the brim with iconic scenes and deeply personal themes, “It’s A Wonderful Life” is worth watching any time of the year.

Children of Men (2006)

It’s 2027, and society is on the verge of collapse after nearly two decades of global infertility and depression. Cynical U.K. civil servant Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is convinced by his estranged wife (Julian Moore) to help a young refugee to safety. Director Alfonso Cuaron paints a bleak picture of a society on the breaking point, using his incredible aptitude for shot composition and emotional atmosphere to create memorable sequences that are all at once impressive, melancholic, and dispassionately violent. “Children of Men” was nominated for three Oscars and is one of the most chillingly effective films of the 2000’s. It might not be one to watch if you’re in a bad mood, but you just might find some surprising optimism in this grim dystopian thriller.

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