If you haven’t taken a film class or lost to your parents
on family movie night, then chances are, you haven’t spent a Saturday night watching one of the classics. I don’t
mean the old, black-and-white classics like Vertigo or Casablanca—though you should watch those films as well. I’m talking the heart-wrenching, brain-twisting movies that require time, attention and, overall, more investment than your
average Will Ferrell flick. But trust me, they’re worth it.
First on my list is the Oscar-nominated The
Shawshank Redemption. No film more deeply reaches the core of friendship, as
the movie depicts the relationship between two inmates and their quest for freedom.
Dufresne enters prison as a quiet middle-class man, out of place and
unaccustomed to the system’s intrinsic violence. His character is juxtaposed with the old-time, well-adjusted inmate Red (Morgan Freeman), a prisoner who has
long given up the idea of living as a free man. The depiction of the fierce love
between these characters is unmatched by any other film, as the men find in
each other what they have needed in themselves.
The epitome of love, hope,
freedom and friendship, The Shawshank Redemption is a must-see movie. Just
make sure to cozy up with a good friend and a large box of tissues before
Next comes The Usual Suspects, your typical tough-talking
gangster movie with an unusual ending. Following New York’s five best-known criminals, the film begins with a roundup of the five men, all blamed for a minor truck hijacking. To the police’s dismay, all of the men
prove innocent, and they have brought New York’s masterminds into the same
room, with the same common enemy.
The constant prickling of suspense, mystery and
who-done-it is heightened by a rough recounting by Verbal, one of the usual suspects. The plot and character development build steadily, ending in a climax so riveting, I may have to
watch the movie again to fully understand it. So even if mob movies aren’t typically your go-to, the sheer brilliance of The Usual Suspects puts it on the must-see list. Please watch it with a group of friends, though—there’s no way
you’ll figure out that ending on your own.
The question of what to do after graduation haunts the mind
of every college student, and inspired my next must-see: the highly acclaimed The Graduate. This movie focuses on well-educated, recent graduate Ben
Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), and the unsettling truth of life after the end of education. Finding himself caught in between the worlds of innocence
and adulthood, Ben becomes lost and unsure of his expected future. He’s thus vulnerable to the villainous seduction of the experienced and well-known
character of Mrs. Robinson.
Longing for intimacy in a world in which he feels
completely alone, Ben relates to all graduates questioning their place in
society. What is an education really for: to lead you to the next conveyor belt
or to train you to live in a world in which you no longer have a definite place? The Graduate’s disconcerting take on reality makes for a fantastic movie,
and, for me, provoked some much needed self-reflection.
Finally comes one of my all time favorites, Sling Blade, probably the least well-known out of these important movies. The idea of what
it means to be a man has been a predominant theme since cowboys and the Wild
West ruled American cinema. However, nothing has depicted the essence of the
sacrificing hero as well as this film has.
Focusing on a not-so-typical male
hero, Sling Blade follows mentally ill Karl Childers in his reentrance into
society from a mental hospital. Karl’s simple understanding of the world draws
the attention and friendship of a lonely and fatherless little boy named Frank.
Together the two misfits decipher their role in a society that
rejects them. The truly touching love between Frank and Karl won the film an
Oscar and a place on my must-see list.
Though they may not be the old classics that you will find
on any list of the top 50 movies of all time, these pervasive and thought-provoking
films have earned the stamp of approval in my book. So the next time that
you’re in the mood for a tearjerker, turn on The Shawshank Redemption or Sling Blade. When you’re looking to engage in a jaw-dropping mind puzzle, please whip out The Usual Suspects. These are the must-sees
of the must-see list.
But don’t believe me—just watch!
Sawyer Henshaw SC ’17 is a media studies major. Believe it or not, the film columnist wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies until she was 17 years old.