Things You Should Have Seen By Now

If you were a child of the 80s, I think there are many movies or shows we should have seen by now. Some of them are movies which helped guide our formative years, develop our tastes, or just open up our minds to the possibilities out here. Here is my short list of things I think every person about my age should have seen up until this point:

When Harry Met Sally
Picking a good first movie to start the list was surprisingly difficult. I settled on When Harry Met Sally because of its universal appeal and iconic scenes. from the discussing women faking it in the diner to Harry’s ongoing assertion and ammendments to men and women being friends, there are plenty of places for a viewer to get hooked. and who can forget the love-story-triumphant line:

I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

The Shawshank Redemption
Aside from its memorable if unfortunate title, the Shawshank Redemption remains at the top of my movie list because of the amazing acting, character development, character vignettes, and possibly one of the best endings I’ve ever seen. I won’t put any spoilers here, but after seeing this movie, you’ll get the reference to Zihuatanejo and a new appreciation for Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo (a book about a prison escape and revenge).

The Usual Suspects
High Crime, Conspiracy, Keyser Soze! What’s not to love? The action drama has a brilliant cast of characters. The story of five criminals trying to get free of a debt they owe to the ominous Kaiser Soze narrated by Kevin Spacey’s character Verbal. This may be the best Kevin Spacey movie of his career – he has these great off-tangent stories about picking coffee and guatemala, the barbershop quartet in skokie Illinois, and the famous line “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist”. At the end of all the action and building tension, this movie hits you with one of the best plot twists ever (I like it better than Old Boy’s twist). See it, love it, tell your friends.

Say Anything
This iconic 80s movie has John Cusack playing John Cusack- err- Lloyd Dobler, the classic 80s underachiever and Ione Skye as the valedictorian daddy’s girl Diane. This boy-meets-girl, Dobler’s pessimism and Diane’s optimism create some fun dialog, but I think the best part is Cusack being Cusack with lines like “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen”. The most iconic part of this movie is without a doubt the image of Lloyd Dobler standing beside his Malibu holding up a giant boombox playing Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes towards Diane Court’s window. Wonder how many people actually tried this move after seeing this movie?

High Fidelity
Top Five’s. Relationship scrutiny. 4th-wall monologues. Jack Black. High Fidelity, like most Cusack movies, has the same downtrodden character, but this one is different because he does so much more introspection than other Cusack roles. He explores his “top five” break-ups and what they meant to him and how they’ve affected him. I think everyone can relate to this movie – it has good music (as Cusack’s character works in a record store) and several cameos like Tim Robbins, Lisa Bonet (Cosby show anyone?), Joan Cusack, and Sara Gilbert. If you like John Cusack at all, you should have seen this movie already.

Empire Records
Where to start with this one? Empire is great. It is more than great, it is a really fun ride that has an all-star cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Debi Mazar, Renee Zellweger, Ethan Embry, and Liv Tyler. There is some great 90s music, a love story, and an overall “finding yourself” theme that I think a lot of 90s movies embraced. If you don’t know the reference to “Rex Manning Day”, you have to see this movie. if you have ever just jammed out to a great rock song to blow some steam, you’ll definitely like this movie. “Damn the man. Save the Empire!”

Bringing it waaaaaay back, I had to add at least one classic here. Casablanca is my favorite old movie, followed closely by Cinema Paradiso and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I think the classic lines and scenes in a movie about love lost and found again during a war make this movie a permanent favorite and movie everyone should see. Be it the “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid”, or the oft misquoted “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”, this movie has all the lines and scenes that you’ll notice are used time and time again (get the “as time goes by” reference?).

Groundhog Day
I really like Bill Murray as the narcissistic weatherman reporting on Punxatawny Phil’s appearance in this recursive storyline. Andie McDowell plays Murray’s love interest as he keeps waking up on Groundhog’s day over and over again. He goes through countless iterations of having to live each day knowing it will be the same as before. He tries killing himself, helping others, and bettering himself to try to break the cycle, all the while making a name for himself by the end of the day. He develops into a selfless character unlike the one that started the film, and ultimately a deeper and profound love with Andie McDowell. It turns out, this is what he needed to stop waking up every morning to “I Got You Babe”.

Honorable mentions: Donnie Darko, Stranger Than Fiction, Can’t Hardly Wait, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Breakfast Club

I’m sure there are others, but I just can’t think of them now. What are your must-sees?

* I realized after posting this that I may have to write a movie “foundation” post to include titles like Star Wars: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi; Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Last Crusade, and Temple of Doom; Back to the Future I and II, the Karate Kid (1984), Rocky, Terminator I and II, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dazed and Confused, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dirty Dancing, Clerks or Mallrats, Romeo + Juliet, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, The Matrix, Forrest Gump, Apocalypse Now, Alien, Life is Beautiful, Braveheart, The Big Lebowski, Lock Stock or Snatch, The Sixth Sense, Jaws, The Exorcist, Inception, Reality Bites, and Trainspotting.

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  1. Kate!
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Star Wars
    Rear Window
    Strictly Ballroom
    The King’s Speech

  2. Posted October 12, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Here’s my list of shame
    I’ve been trying to cross some of them off for a long time.

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