Saturday, February 6, 2010

Films to Make You Think and Help You to Remember

I am very into films--always have been. One of the best courses I took in college was a film class (not filmmaking).

I sort of hated some of the films we viewed--one, I recall, was shaky, hour-long footage of a fluorescent-lit institutional hallway. Watching it made me ill--but I was very glad for the experience of seeing so many great films, and for learning more about film.

I have long been meaning to put together a list of films that I think students should see before they graduate or emerge into the Big, Wide World, and lately, I am noticing that allusions I make to films are not being recognized. Even more alarmingly, many of my juniors didn't know who Woody Allen was.

That must change.

So, for what it's worth (feel free to tell me what I forgot), here is a preliminary list of films that teachers can and probably should use to supplement curricula and provide their students with even fuller, more enriching experiences in school.

For Understanding American History or just things that happened in America or to Americans

  • The Untouchables (the 1920s)
  • Cinderella Man (except I think this is too depressing)
  • Apocalypse Now
  • A Civil Action
  • Good Morning, Vietnam
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Citizen Kane
  • Scarface
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Roger & Me
  • Black Hawk Down

For Understanding Pop Culture (and various Allusions)

  • The Godfather (1 &2)
  • Annie Hall
  • Manhattan
  • Casablanca
  • Harold and Maude
  • A League of their Own
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Deliverance
  • Terminator (perhaps not the sort of film to show IN school, but one that probably ought to be seen)
  • The Exorcist (see above)
  • Jaws
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Cool Hand Luke
  • Psycho
  • Raising Arizona
  • The Pink Panther
  • Pulp Fiction
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • The Sixth Sense

Foreign Films

  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Europa, Europa
  • Wings of Desire
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Akira

For Stimulating Intellectual Curiosity and Metafiction (or, films about writing)

  • Educating Rita
  • Dead Poets’ Society
  • The World According to Garp (excellent book, not-so-hot film)
  • Finding Forrester
  • Wonder Boys
  • The Door in the Floor (again, excellent novel upon which it was based, "A Widow for One Year'; film is much different and is based on one part of novel)
  • Capote
  • A River Runs Through It
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Movies that Made Me Think (and that I can watch over and over, for various reasons)

  • The Motorcycle Diaries
  • Secrets and Lies
  • The Usual Suspects
  • The Green Mile
  • Goodfellas
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Witness (husband's favorite)


  1. I think babel should be added to the list. maybe foreign films?

  2. Absolutely yes for the foreign films. I have about five here, and I've not seen too many new ones lately (although a few years ago, I loved Motorcycle Diaries)--but this list is mainly for showing to high school students. If you have foreign film recs, do share. I think i learned the most from a film class i took in college...seriously. I can't say enough about film-viewing to augment learning and spark thinking.