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Directed by Robert Redford
We’ll start with a film that is perhaps the most well-known on this list but nonetheless a movie that is a must-see for any film fan. Based on the real life scandal that rocked the TV game show circuit in the 1950s, it centers on handsome Columbia University instructor Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes) who comes to star on the titular Quiz Show, the most popular of the bunch. He’s a smart guy and thinks he has a chance but is soon entangled in a scheme that sees him getting the answers before the show is taped, and getting rich by doing so. As the pressure mounts and an steely-eyed Congressional lawyer (Rob Morrow) begins to squeeze, Charles faces a decision that will change his life. A nail-biting thriller as well as a gripping drama. Read more here.
Directed by Jaco Van Dormael
This one is a brain-twisting head-scratcher that is as visually-arresting as it is compelling, with a terrific lead performance from modern character chameleon actor Jared Leto (who shows up again on this list later). Telling the story of the last mortal man on Earth after science has created quasi-immortality, he plays a man 118 years old, on his death bed, reflecting on his life, focusing on the three main loves of his life and three crucial moments in his life, revealing different paths his deteriorating mind compiles. An under-seen and underrated film, this is a challenge to be sure, but well worth a look, it being rich with symbolism and interpretation. Seek it out.
Directed by Arthur Hiller
One of the great movie comedy teams of all time has to be Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, who made a number of films in the 70s and 80s, with this one, a comedy/drama being the first and (arguably) the best. It follows a book editor named George Caldwell (Wilder) traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago who meets a beautiful woman Jill Clayburgh aboard the Silver Streak train. Not long after, he’s wrapped up in a murder/mystery with his own life on the line, teaming up with a thief named Grover (Pryor) in a wild set of adventures to stop a madman from causing untold devastation with the train as his weapon. A sensational mix of laughs and action, this is timeless movie that is a good today as it was forty years before. Read more here.
Directed by Stan Dragoti
A remake of a the 1972 French film Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire, this action/comedy was a letdown at the box office on release, a seeming misstep from rising star Tom Hanks at the time, though the years have been kind to it, the movie a good mix of mystery and drama with Hanks delivering a great turn as a man caught in a trap where a desperate CIA deputy director (the great Dabney Coleman) and his boss (Charles Durning) are trying to take the other down. This sees a young man named Richard Drew (Hanks) randomly chosen by one to tip the other off, surveilled and watched by agents thinking he is a man of extreme importance. Pratfalls, action, and a bit of romance with Lori Singer keep this farce moving right along, and while it might not be a classic, there’s nothing like watching Hanks work his 80s magic movie mojo. Give it a watch.
Directed by Cornel Wilde
A passion project for Wilde, who also produced and starred, The Naked Prey is loosely based on the experiences of explorer John Colter, who was chased by Blackfoot warriors through Wyoming in 1809, though this is set in the heart of Africa. It’s an unflinching look at a man in a desperate fight for his life. While it might bend reality a bit, there’s no escaping the dread and the fear it evokes with a great performance from Wilde, who was in his early 50s and did all his own stunts. Filmed on location, it follows an unnamed professional safari guide (Wilde), who accidentally brings three arrogant hunters upon tribal lands, and when the hunters dismiss the locals as harmless, things get out of hand as they become brutally torture forcing men to then give chase to Wilde. It’s harrowing stuff and for the 60s, surprisingly authentic. Read more here.
Directed by Jeb Stuart
Some films come and go without much chance, sometimes the context and vision of the filmmakers a bit too off the beaten path to make it a hit. Such is the case with this tight little thriller that deserves a closer look for its great cast and even better style. Following FBI agent Frank LaCrosse (Dennis Quaid) on the hunt for a serial killer, the identity of who that killer is kept a secret for much of he film. Meanwhile, we send time Lane Dixon (Jared Leto–again on the list), a hitchhiker who is riding along with Bob (Danny Glover) in a rather peculiar car full of pictures of nude women. As the men all seem destined to collied, the film packs itself with a nest of questions and while the tricky performances keep one guessing, it is the film’s overall dark atmosphere and mood that make this a winner. A classic that you need to see.