The following ten films are in my collection and I have almost worn them out because they have touched me in some way that either brings me joy, sadness, awe, or laughter. While looking these selections over, I noticed that only two of the films are American and most of them are rated R. If you can find any of them online, give them a try.
One: Beautiful Thing (UK, 2003) R This film deals with friendship between three neighbors, 1)Jamie, who lives with his eccentric mother, 2) Ste lives with his alcoholic father and drug-dealing brother, and 3) Leia a girl who is obsessed with the music of Mama Cass Eliot and Ste’s brother. The film deals with growing up in Council Flats and finding out who your real friends are.
Two: Elizabeth: The Golden Age (UK, 2007) PG-13
I do like historical dramas as long as they feel real. This film follows the life and loves of Queen Elizabeth I of England. The costumes and scenery are very well done. The story deals with the events which led up to the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Cate Blanchett did an excellent job portraying the Queen and Clive Owen did also as Sir Walter Raleigh.
Three: Europa,Europa (Ger./Polish 1990) R
This is based on a true story. On September 1, 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the West. The Russians invaded from the East and many people found themselves torn between which side to stay with. The Polish Jews, however, had no real choice. This is the story of a fourteen year old German Jewish boy who is separated from his family and how he manages to survive the War. He is first taken by the Russians and sent to an orphanage, but then captured by the Nazis when they break the treaty with the USSR. This is an amazing story that will keep your interest and, at times, make you laugh.
Four: Guardians of the Galaxy (USA 2015) PG-13
This made my list because I like the characters and I think the writer(s) wrote a great story. There is great music, good jokes, and the actors were not too cartoonish in their portrayals. There were some scenes (mostly with the bad guys) which were done in too much darkness, which annoyed me a bit but I still think it was a good film (which I have written a fuller review on about a year ago).
Five: Red Cliff (China 2009) R
This is a good historical drama which originally ran for about 6 hours. This version is less than 3 hours long. Some Chinese historical dramas that I’ve seen lately seem to focus on a love story. There is one between a man and his wife, but the main focus is on the battle tactics used by two opposing armies in 208 AD. The action and battle scenes are cool, but if you expect to see a lot of people getting beheaded, you will be disappointed. The action moves well and it is easy to keep up with the story line.
Six: Saving Grace (UK 2005) PG
This is a pretty funny movie about a widow who finds out that her late husband spent most of his money on his mistress. In order to keep from becoming homeless, she is convinced by her gardener (Craig Ferguson) to grow marijuana and sell it. Since this is set in a small fishing village, it becomes necessary to keep her secret. There are some funny scenes. One is when a local drunk sees the powerful lights in the greenhouse and thinks it is a UFO. I also like the scene when two elderly sisters into botany take some of the pot leaves and make a tea out of them.
Seven: 1612 (Russia 2007) NR
This film takes place during the Russian “Time of Troubles” when there was no tsar and the country was being torn apart by the Poles, Tartars, and various Russian nobles. The story line is easy to follow although the battle scenes aren’t huge, they are good for moving the story along. Even though this film is not rated, there is a nude scene but it is not sexual in nature. This would probably be rated PG-13.
Eight: Spetters (The Netherlands 1980) NR
This film features Rutger Hauer who plays a famous motorbike racer. One of his fans wants to be just like him but is made to look foolish when Hauer shows his training film with silly music. A guy who is trying to take over Hauer’s record unfortunately is involved in a motor accident and becomes a quadriplegic. Another friend lives with his strict religious family but works at a garage. All of their lives change when a beautiful woman and her brother come to the small town in their food truck. I must caution that there are two versions of this film. The slightly longer one is a bit more steamier than most Americans would be used to.
Nine: The Legend of Suriyothai (Thailand 2001) R
This is an historic drama set in 17th century Thailand. During this time, Thailand was divided into several smaller kingdoms. Suriyothai was a princess who married the man she wanted and some of the consequences from that marriage. The film is more focused on court intrigues and battles, but Suriyothai’s devotion to her husband and kingdom are also shown. The end of the film shows a battle between Burma and Thailand. Queen Suriyothai and her children fought in the battle on the backs of elephants.
Ten: Torch Song Trilogy (USA 1988) R
Before this was a movie, it was a play written by Harvey Feirstein. Even though the main character is a drag queen and does some singing (with a horrible croaking voice), this is NOT a musical. It is a drama! The other actor who appears in the film is Matthew Broderick. He had appeared in the theatrical version as a different character. In the film he plays a better role as Harvey’s model boyfriend. This is a tragic story, but it does have its funny moments especially when Anne Bancroft (Google her, kids!) visits her son Arnold (Mr. Feirstein).