Awards: 5 Academy Award Nominations (Won 2), 2 Golden Globe Awards
Up has perhaps the saddest opening of any “kids” movie. We see a young couple slowly grow old together until only one is left, Carl Fredricksen. Now an old man, he decides to honor a promise he made to his late wife, Ellie, to explore the world a bit. He uses balloons to raise his home to fly off, not realizing a young wilderness explorer named Russell (whom he met earlier), is in his home. Along the way, they meet a talking dog (Dug) and a giant bird (Kevin). However, a lot of twists and turns take place beyond this that keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
Who knew Wolverine could sing? Hugh Jackman stars in The Greatest Showman as the infamous promotor, P.T. Barnum. The film operates as a musical, where Hugh does hold the lead role but a lot of the spotlight is given to other stars of the movie too, such as Zak Efron and Zendaya. The movie was interestingly released only seven months after the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus shut down too! Musicals rarely ever made a major mark at the time, as most movie executives felt they were in the past. However, this film proves that wrong as it became one of this generation’s classic movies.
Awards: 1 Academy Award Nomination & 2 Golden Globe Nominations
Tropic Thunder was truly a film that was used to show the idiocy of Hollywood and some actors. While it is co-written by Ben Stiller, who also directed and starred in the film, he’s not the only character that is connected to the crazy stereotypes. Robert Downey, Jr. actually plays a multi-time Oscar-winning Australian actor who, for the “Tropic Thunder” movie, “changed” his skin color to become a black man. He even acts the way he believes a black man acts. Jack Black plays a comedic actor with a drug problem too. It is truly so impressively Hollywood, it’s funny. Best of all, Downey is even nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for his performance!
Awards: 2 Grammy Awards, 2 Oscar & Golden Globe Nominations
George Clooney had been part of other movies by this point and even had a memorable stint on the E.R. TV series. But O’Brother Where Art Thou put him in another stratosphere. Loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey, this film takes place in 1937 Mississippi during the Great Depression. The story itself follows Ulysses Everett McGill, Delmar O’Donnell, & Pete who escape a prison chain gang. They end up becoming a singing group known as the Soggy Bottom Boys and somehow become a musical hit. This movie’s soundtrack actually won the 2002 Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. It is the only film soundtrack in history to ever do this.
While Keanu Reeves had been a huge star in Hollywood for years, he had essentially disappeared due to mixed box office success for certain projects as well as breaks he took. Then the opportunity for John Wick came up, where Reeves would play the title role. While there is an entire franchise of movies now, the initial film is the best of them all. It starts with us learning Wick lost his wife, was a retired assassin, and just wanted to live his life with the last gift his wife gave him, a dog. That dog is then killed, and Wick sets out for revenge.
Awards: 1 Golden Globe Award, 2 Academy Award Nominations
Tom Hanks is usually brilliant in everything he is in, which is why he’s part of many classic movies in this article alone. However, that was put to the test when he essentially had to act alone for at least 90% of Cast Away. In this movie, Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx Troubleshooter. During a flight, his plane went down and resulted in Noland being the only survivor. He would end up on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific. He has to survive isolated, while also trying to find ways to be rescued or save himself.
Johnny Depp once said that when he told people he would be taking part in a movie based on a ride at Disney World, he was laughed at. However, the first Pirates of the Caribbean became a massive success. Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow is the main reason for this. He is also the only character that has taken part in every single Pirates film as well. While the franchise has become a bit watered down due to the massive amount of films in the franchise, we can safely say the first was tremendous and certainly put it among the classic movies of this generation.
Initially, when Taken first came out it was not considered a commercial success. Liam Neeson had been a notable actor for years but he was far from a leading man in the eyes of the average moviegoer. Yet this film gave him the chance to prove just how much of a bada** he was. The box office results weren’t great, but when the movie came out on DVD/BlueRay, it saw huge rentals or sales there. That made it a cult classic, leading to the second movie seeing major box office results. The movie is simple, Liam plays a former CIA Officer who must rescue his daughter who is “taken” by human traffickers.
Based on the popular book of the same name written by French author Alexandre Dumas, this film stars Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce as the main leads. The story is all about a man named Edmond Dantès who comes from humble beginnings. As his life is getting better, he is getting a potential Captain role and marrying his dream girl. But his supposed best friend Fernand Mondego is jealous of all this and betrays him. Dantès spends years in prison at Château d’If until managing to escape, and eventually finds the treasure of Monte Cristo. He then becomes a Count and plots his detailed revenge on all who wronged him.
Awards:Nominated For 3 Academy Awards & 2 Golden Globe Awards
Shawshank Redemption was really the film that helped to launch Morgan Freeman’s and Tom Robbins’ careers more than any other. The story revolves around their characters, Andy Dufresne and Ellis “Red” Redding. Andy is sentenced to prison in 1947 where he is serving consecutive life sentences for killing his wife and her lover at Shawshank State Prison. Redding, however, is a prison contraband smuggler also serving a life sentence. Yet the two men bond over the several years they are in prison, attempting to find solace and “redemption” through acts of common decency.
Awards:Nominated For 4 Oscars (Won 1), 4 Golden Globe Nominations, & 5 BAFTA Nominations
Marty is a high school student but happens to be friends with a seemingly crazy scientist known as Doc Brown. Somehow, Doc is able to find out how time travel works by using a Delorian. If a person hits 88mph, they can trigger the car to time travel. When Doc is shot at and seemingly killed while the two are testing the machine, Marty gets into the car to speed off. Triggering a previously placed date to 1955. Now, Marty must find the present-day Doc to help him get back to 1985 where he’s from. He also chooses to help his parents out knowing their high school history. Although this does not go perfectly for Calvin Klein, we mean, Marty.
Awards:Nominated For 3 Oscars & 6 Golden Globes (Won 3)
While Jim Carrey was known for his comedic roles, The Truman Show allowed him to mix in some drama. The movie revolves around Truman Burbank, who was given up by his mother as she did not want him. Cristof, the antagonist of the story, adopts him and places Truman in a reality show he controls where Truman is filmed 24/7. He is given fake parents, child actors play his friends, and they place a love interest in his life. Truman grows up on a complete set, in a small town built just for the show. Cristof places obstacles in his way to prevent Truman from learning too much. Truman grows suspicious of everything, slowly learning the truth about his life.
Awards:Nominated For 6 Oscars (Won 1), 5 Golden Globes (Won 3)
The movie Boyhood took practical effects to an entirely different level. This movie was filmed over the course of 12 real-life years. We see the characters as they age in real-time, even the youngest star of the movie, Ellar Coltrane. He starts off as a young boy and the movie essentially shows him growing up. How did they manage to do this and keep the same look? They never changed how they shot it, as they used 35mm film assuming digital technology might advance but celluloid wouldn’t. The movie mostly just follows the family through its highs and lows, which might not work normally. Yet the long-term shooting truly helped us connect to this family.
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale star in The Prestige where they play rival magicians. Robert Angier and Alfred Borden are magicians in 1890s London, England. They work for shills together under their mentor, John Cutter. Sadly a water tank trick goes wrong, causing Angier’s wife Julia to die as she failed to escape. Angier blames Borden for using a riskier knot. They become enemies and bitter rivals after this, and each goes on to launch their own careers. Borden does a famous bullet catch trick while Angier performs an amazing Transporting Man trick. Each trying to get crazier and crazier to outdo the other, even sabotaging the other’s tricks.
It would be terrible of us to only bring up one Men in Black film since they are all really good. The stories all revolve around a secret group of the government called the “Men in Black” who find criminal extraterrestrials. With a specific focus on two agents, K and J. They might hunt down aliens who are harming humans, while they allow others to remain on Earth as long as they’re peaceful. The group might even aid them here and there. Either way, their identities as well as the existence of aliens must remain top secret. Therefore, they wipe the minds of any human who sees one, and their only memories are of the men in black who told them what happened.
Awards:Won 11 Academy Awards & 4 Golden Globe Awards
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet star as Jack and Rose in a movie about a real-life event, the sinking of the Titanic. The RMS Titanic really did go down on its maiden voyage, but it is unlikely Jack and Rose ever existed. At least in the capacity that they do in the movie. Rose is rich and essentially set to wed a rich man until she meets Jack. He’s only on the ship due to winning a steerage ticket in a poker game. Their chance meeting makes Rose reconsider her life and the two proceed to have a romance aboard the ship. This is one of the classic movies where we might know the ending, but we’re not prepared for it even still.
Awards:Won 2 Academy Awards & 1 Golden Globe Award
The Lion King follows the life of Simba, the son of pride leader Mufasa. Sadly, his father is killed by his jealous brother Scar after pushing off a cliff into an oncoming Wildebeest stampede. Simba’s life is also in danger, so he gets away but nearly dies as he does not know what to do to stay alive. He is befriended by a warthog named Pumbaa and meerkat named Timon. The three grow together, but as Simba gets older, he eventually wants to rejoin his tribe. With the persuading of his childhood friend Nala, he works to get control back and away from his uncle. It might be a “kid’s movie,” but it’s clearly among the classic movies of this generation.
The movie I, Robot was influenced by several science fiction movies or novels that came before it. They based this movie on the work of Isaac Asimov, as it comes from his 1950 short-story collection of the same name. The movie takes place in 2035 where intelligent robots fill several public positions throughout this dystopian universe. However, robots must follow Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith), must investigate the alleged suicide of U.S. Robotics Founder Alfred Lanning. He feels a human-like robot named Sonny murdered him, going against the Laws of Robotics.
Awards:Won 5 Academy Awards & 2 Golden Globe Awards
During World War II, the United States would legitimately remove a person from combat if they somehow became the last man with their family name. In this movie, Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller and his squad go on a search for a paratrooper, Private first class James Francis Ryan. He is the last surviving brother of four, as three of his brothers were killed in action during the war. Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and a slew of other great actors, Saving Private Ryan should obviously be considered one of the classic movies of this generation.
Moonlight is certainly fitting as one of the classic movies of this era. It’ll leave you speechless at times, and it’s just as powerful of a watch every time you see it. Technically, the movie has a simple premise when you break it down. It is a coming-of-age story that examines the sexual identity of a black man in three stages of his life, within the African-American community. This is a relatively big deal because many movies with a largely black cast tend to be about racism or have that at the core of the film. Not Moonlight though. This is actually the first major LGBTQ+ movie with an all-black cast, yet the story of the film could fit any skin color.
Braveheart is clearly one of the most important classic movies of this generation. Mostly because it is one of the last true “epic” movies to have success. The story follows Sir William Wallace, the late-13th century Scottish warrior, as he fights for Scottish independence. Wallace is known for leading the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England in real life. Of course, the real title of “Brave Heart” belongs to Robert the Bruce. Historical inaccuracies aside, it is still a good movie.
There are very few movies that can have so many great actors and still somehow be underrated. Yet Fight Club is constantly overlooked for lists like this, so we feel it is only right to put it among the classic movies of our generation. Based on the book of the same name, Edward Norton operates as the “main” star of the movie and narrator, who seems to be disgruntled with his white-collar day job. To alleviate himself from this issue, he starts up a “fight club” with soap salesman Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt. All of this takes place as he gets involved with a penniless woman named Marla. Do us a favor though, and try not to talk about it.
While there are several Die Hard movies today, none will ever live up to the epicness of the first two. However, the first is truly the best of the bunch. Alan Rickman plays an incredible villain named Hans Gruber, who must be stopped by John McClane whose played by Bruce Willis. Of course, Willis was a comedic actor going into this movie so very few thought he’d be believable as an action star. Die Hard changed all of that for him, and it became one of the most notable classic movies of our generation. However, it is NOT a Christmas movie!
Will Smith has been in quite a few classic movies in this generation. The movie is loosely based on Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name. I Am Legend revolves around U.S. Army Virologist Robert Neville who attempts to find out how he became the last human in the city of New York. A virus originally made to cure cancer somehow wiped out the city’s population, with the remaining people turned into nocturnal mutants. Neville is somehow immune to the virus and works to develop a cure while having to defend himself from the hostile mutant creatures.
The Green Mile is not just one of the best classic movies of this generation, but one of the best movies of all time, period. It is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, starring Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, and many more. It follows a death row prison guard during the Great Depression who somehow witnesses supernatural events following the arrival of a specific convict at the facility he works for. While Hanks was very established by this film, it was the role that helped Duncan’s career take off.
Awards:6 Academy Award (Won 1) & 5 Golden Globe Nominations
Discussing this movie in the light of Ray Liotta’s recent passing is sad, but he can rest knowing he was part of one of the classic movies of this generation. People often do not know that Goodfellas was based on the book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi. Of course, Pileggi wrote the screenplay along with Martin Scorsese. The movie itself stars Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Paul Sorvino, and many others. Gangster movies rarely work in this generation but Goodfellas found a successful formula, which others (even non-gangster) have followed since.
The original Terminatormovies were a major success when they hit theaters. In fact, The Terminator as a character has become iconic overall. That is clearly thanks to the impressive work of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He stars in the title role as a cyborg assassin sent from the future date of 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor. All because her unborn son will one day save mankind from extinction by Skynet, a hostile AI in the post-apocalyptic future. While the original barely misses our cut-off year, the rest do not in the franchise.
No Country for Old Men came out during what seemed to be a renaissance of the epic or mini-western-style film genre. The film is based on the book of the same name written by Cormac McCarthy. It easily became one of this generation’s classic movies the moment it came out. Set in the 1980 West Texas desert landscape, we follow three characters. The first is Llewelyn Moss, a Vietnam war veteran who stubbles across a lot of money in the desert. The second is Anton Chigurh, a hitman tasked with recovering the money. Finally, Tom Bell, the local sheriff charged with investigating the crime.
Awards:1 Golden Globe Award, 2 Academy Award Nominations
Many people are unaware of this movie, but usually, once someone sees it they absolutely love it. The story revolves around a deadly virus released in 1996 that nearly wipes out humanity, believed to be released by the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. All survivors now live underground. In 2035, a prisoner living in an underground compound named James Cole is selected to go back in time to find the original virus and help them develop a cure. But he goes back too far to 1990, and absolute insanity takes place from there. This movie is incredible!
While this movie helped to truly start the careers of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting also allowed comedian Robin Williams to truly prove himself as an actor. Written by Damon and Affleck, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. While Robin won the award for Best Supporting Actor. The movie revolves around Will Hunting, a janitor at MIT who is self-taught but happens to be a genius. Which is seemingly unknown to him. The movie has since become legendary, and clearly one of the best classic movies of this generation.
While not exactly historically accurate, the story revolves around the Roman General Marcus Decimus Meridius. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is killed by his son Commodus, allowing him to take over the Empire. This goes against the wishes of Aurelius who told Meridius he wants him to be in charge and give Rome back to the people. Commodus realizes the threat Meridius is, and betrays him. He kills Marcus’ family and puts Meridius into slavery, where he eventually becomes a Gladiator. Marcus then sets out to avenge his family and the former emperor. This is most certainly one of the best classic movies of the era.
We’re cheating by adding the entire franchise for Policy Story. It had already been a thing dating back to the 1970s before Jackie Chan managed to remake and star in all of the versions from 1985 and on. There have been around 5 or 6 of them since Chan took them over. While he has played the same role in them all, he also put together all of the action scenes. He also served a producer, writer, and/or director in some form on various versions. These movies have given us some of the most incredible, dangerous stunts of Jackie’s career. When we say they are epic in action, you have no idea. Check them out and you’ll see what we mean.
Catch Me If You Can is based on the autobiography written by Frank Abagnale. Most of what is referenced in the movie actually happened. By his 19th birthday, Frank managed to con the government among others out of millions of dollars. He attempted to be a master of disguise, and succeeded pretty well. He posed as a Pan American Pilot, though Frank himself claims he never flew any planes. Abagnale also posed as a doctor in Georgia and a Parish Prosector in Louisiana. All the while faking it as long as he could until the U.S. government caught up with him. The film stars Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, so you know it’s well done.
Awards:7 Academy Award Nominations (1 Win) & 6 Golden Globe Nominations (Won 1)
Likely the most famous movie created by Quentin Tarantino, it is co-written by Roger Avary. Pulp Fiction also stars a murderer’s row of amazing actors like John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, and Tim Roth. The film tells various crime stories in Los Angeles, and is truly centered around old pulp magazines and crime novels. As they were often known as “pulp fiction,” which revolved around very graphic violence and dialogue centered around the characters rather than the reliance of a narrator. Truly this film set up the Tarantino style, and has every major trope connected to him.
Written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, Interstellar is one of those movies you have to watch from the start and try not to blink. If you do, you just might miss something big. It revolves around a dystopian future, where humanity is struggling to survive on Earth. As viewers, we follow a group of astronauts who travel through a wormhole near Saturn in search of a new home for humanity. The main character is Joseph Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey. He has to give up seeing his kids grow up to go on this mission, as years will pass before he will make it back. Yet decades end up passing, far more than he realized.
The craziest thing about 12 Years A Slave is that it is based on true events. Screenwriter John Ridley adapted the 1853 slave memoir of the same name written by Solomon Northup (published by David Wilson) to create the film’s script. Northup was born in New York, as a free African American man. However, in 1841 he was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. by two conmen who sold him into slavery. Upon being purchased, Northup was sent to work on a plantation in Louisiana where he remained for 12 years before being released.
While we did mention that we’d avoid using movies where the ending spoiled the re-watch, Knives Out is another story. It is one of the classic movies of this generation simply because it’s a tremendous thrill-ride of suspense. It teaches us not to just buy into what we assume as true and to pay attention to every detail, regardless of how small. The potential wrongdoer is technically known from the start. The mystery for them is how they are going to be able to avoid others finding out, especially when the stakes are bigger than they realized.
Another Tarantino masterpiece, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood takes a real trip down memory lane. In classic Tarantino fashion, we’re given several stories to follow in a large ensemble cast. It takes place in 1969 Los Angeles, where the main stories revolve around a fading actor and his stunt double. The industry is changing and they are struggling to adapt to it. Tarantino uses the real-life Tate-LaBianca murders involving the Manson Family that took place during this time. However, he flips the script to imagine what would happen if the family was ended before they hurt anyone.
When it comes to movies, sequels are usually requested when an original movie does well. However, rarely do they ever live up or surpass the first film. The Dark Knight written Christopher Nolan bucks that trend heavily. The story revolves around Batman as he tries to save Gotham from The Joker, while also dealing with the threat of Harvey Dent (Two-Face) after Joker gets in his head. Joker just wants to watch the world burn, but Gotham’s Dark Knight refuses to allow this. But can he stop him before irreparable damage is done?
When one thinks of the greatest newsmen of all time, they must include the legendary Ron Burgundy and his news team. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, yet Will plays the lead in the film while Adam directs. The movie takes place in the 1970s when the world is changing, especially in the world of news. Burgundy and the San Diego Action News team have to somehow adapt to this. Especially when it comes to women both in the newsroom and alongside the men on TV. The movie is not just one of the classic movies of this generation. Rather, it has become iconic within the comedy realm.
It would simply be impossible for us to rate one Lord of the Rings film as the best as it is clearly subjective. Plus, most of them work together. Therefore, removing one film and calling it greater than the rest would spit in the face of the franchise. The heart of the story is simple. During his quest to conquer Middle-Earth, Dark Lord Sauron created the “One Ring” to rule all other Rings of Power given to man, dwarves, and elves. However, the Hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin seek to destroy this ring to bring balance.
Kevin Costner produced, directed, and starred in this 1990 Western Epic. Dances with Wolves is based on the 1988 novel of the same name, written by Michael Blake. It revolves around the story of Union Army 1st Lieutenant John J. Dunbar, who is traveling through the 1863 American Frontier to find a military post. Along the way, he meets and gets close to members of the Lakota Tribe. Dunbar chose this after he essentially went on a suicide attempt to distract Confederate forces to aide the Union. He earned the right to choose any post he wanted, and chose this one simply to see the Frontier before it is gone.
Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood even swayed the infamously choosey Daniel Day-Lewis to play the lead. The movie is loosely based on the 1927 novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair. It revolves around Daniel Plainview, who went from being a silver miner to an oilman. Plainview is a ruthless individual who wants to make it big during the Southern California oil boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This oilman will do whatever it takes to take the wealth he feels he’s earned. If you get in his way, there simply WILL be blood.
Another Christopher Nolan film that’ll blow your mind is Inception. We’ll try to explain this movie without it getting too wild. Imagine you are an important person who has information one can use against you or those you know. In this world, that information can be accessed via your dreams. Architects can make the dream world or reality seem realistic enough to get the info they need. Due to this, some are hired to protect people from this and help them see when attacks are present. Yet to do this, they need to access dreams too…and they can then take information as well. Trust no one!
Jordan Peele might have made his name in the world of comedy, but the man knows how to create horror. Get Out proves this, as Peele creates a world where specific white people seek to take advantage of the black population once again. The movie revolves around a young black man who is dating a white woman. She takes him home to meet the family where the man uncovers some shocking secrets about the family. The question is, does his GF know of her family’s past or is she in on it all?
Tombstone might be the best western movie ever. If nothing else, it is the best of this generation and certainly among the classic movies of our time. The movie revolves around Wyatt Earp and his brothers along with Doc Holiday. The Earps travel to Tombstone, Arizona in the 1880s where they try to stay out of the law field but are pulled back in due to local outlaws. This is the infamous location of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the setting of the infamous Earp Vendetta Ride. All of which really happened, but the specifics are still debated.
Okay, we’re done discussing Tarantino movies now. Django Unchained might be his best work. He decided to mix his style into the Spaghetti Western genre and give a revisionist tribute to the era. Specifically when it comes to the 1966 Italian film, Django. Jamie Foxx plays Django, a black slave who is bought by a German bounty hunter. The German makes Django his partner and trains him to be a bounty hunter all with the ultimate goal of reuniting him with his long-lost wife. The script and acting in this film is off the charts amazing.
Tom Hanks plays Forrest Gump, a relatively unintelligent fellow who finds himself in historic events for his entire life. He manages to go to the University of Alabama where he’s coached by Bear Bryant. He joins the Vietnam War where he is honored for his heroics. Gump then goes on to get involved in the shrimp field to create the Bubba Gump Shrimp Corporation where he becomes quite wealthy. All while the love of his life, Jenny, is in and out of his life for decades. While Gump might not be the smartest man, he’s certainly one of the luckiest.