Where the magic begins!
Here of 15 of my favorite movies ever, in no particular order. Most of these I saw at the movies at a young age, so their impact was much more significant than if I had seen them on the silver screen.
- Back to the Future: This iconic 1985 film follows teenager Marty McFly as he accidentally travels back in time to 1955, where he must ensure his parents fall in love in order to secure his own existence. The film’s clever plot, endearing characters, and exploration of the butterfly effect have made it a beloved classic. As one of the first films I consciously remember seeing in a movie theater, it is also where my love for Sci-Fi was born.
- The Lord of the Rings (trilogy): This epic fantasy film series, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, follows hobbit Frodo Baggins as he sets out to destroy the One Ring and defeat the Dark Lord Sauron. The films are praised for their stunning special effects, intricate world-building, and memorable performances. In making these films, Peter Jackson almost EXACTLY reproduced what I envisioned when I had read the novels. It was truly as if my imagination came to life through the works of another human being. I cannot recount HOW many times I have seen this trilogy both in and out of theaters; and also in their different versions.
- Goonies: This classic adventure film from 1985 follows a group of friends, known as the Goonies, as they search for a legendary treasure to save their homes from being demolished. The movie has become a cult classic, celebrated for its sense of fun, friendship, and nostalgia. Much like Back to the Future, Goonies was a big movie in my childhood. It resonated at the time due to having child protagonists on an exciting adventure grounded more in reality than pure fantasy films. Plus, it made me want to get braces without actually needing any. Go see the movie to know why 🙂
- Time Bandits: This 1981 fantasy-adventure film, directed by Terry Gilliam, follows a young boy who is transported through time by a group of dwarves who are using a map that allows them to travel through time to steal treasure. The film is praised for its imaginative storyline, comedic elements, and impressive visual effects. The film was a commercial success and was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay and Best Art Direction. Thus far, it is easy to guess that my favorites are as old as I am (or older). They are also very focused on an adventurous exploration of space, time or both. It’s important to note that so many decades before Inception, Time Bandits was my first experience with an open-ended film…more on that later!
- Big: This 1988 comedy film stars Tom Hanks as a young boy who wishes to be “big” and wakes up as an adult. The movie is considered a classic for its humor, heartwarming story, and Hanks’ charming performance. Simply describing the movie automatically brings back many memories and many wishes of wanting to be “big”. Little did we know as children that being big brings so much more trouble than we could imagine.
- Radio Flyer: This movie tells the story of two brothers who use their imagination to escape their stepfather’s abuse and neglect. The film is praised for its solid performances and ability to tackle complex and emotional subject matter with sensitivity and grace. As a teenager, this movie was very relatable. Growing up in a country filled with so many issues didn’t make family life any easier on top of everything. Escaping into our imagination was how we would cope with it all…just like in Radio Flyer.
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The second film in the Star Wars saga, this 1980 film follows Luke, Leia, and Han as they are pursued by Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire. Considered one of the greatest sequels ever made, the film is praised for its darker tone, more profound character development, and iconic reveal of Darth Vader as Luke’s father. The best fantasy film that so happens to take place in space. Your opinion may be different, but that’s OK; to each their own.
- Soldier (Kurt Russell): A science fiction film that follows a highly skilled soldier who is discarded by his superiors and sent to a desolate planet, where he must fight against a group of genetically enhanced soldiers to be superior in every way. The film is praised for its intense action sequences, Kurt Russell’s strong performance, and its exploration of the nature of humanity.
- Iron Man: This 2008 film is the first installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it follows billionaire Tony Stark as he creates a powerful suit of armor to fight against criminals and terrorists. The film is credited with launching the MCU and starting the superhero film craze. It is praised for its charismatic lead performance, thrilling action, and smartly-written script. With the right budget and technology available, this film was what the DC movie “Steel”, with Shaq in the titular role, wanted to be. Could the DCEU have been different if Steel had come out around the same time? We’ll never know!
- Inception: This 2010 film, directed by Christopher Nolan, stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief who enters the dreams of others to steal their secrets. The film is praised for its mind-bending plot, stunning action sequences, and top-notch performances. This brings us to the parallel I made earlier with Time Bandits! The ending of Time Bandits is thought-provoking and open to interpretation. The film’s ending leaves it open to debate whether the events that occurred throughout the movie were real or just a figment of the protagonist’s imagination. This type of ending is called an open ending; it allows the audience to come up with their own interpretation of the events and leaves it open to interpretation. Inception, which was released 21 years after Time Bandits, also has a similar open-ended ending, where the audience is left to question whether the entire plot we just witnessed was just in the character’s mind or even simply an interpretation of what really took place in reality. Time Bandits and Inception both have mind-bending and thought-provoking endings, making them great examples of the use of open-ended endings in film.
- The Prestige: This 2006 film is a period piece directed by Christopher Nolan; it follows the rivalry between two stage magicians in late 19th-century London. The film is praised for its intricate plot, strong performances, and themes of obsession and sacrifice. And on with go with the next movie from the SAME year and theme…
- The Illusionist: This 2006 film is a period piece set in Austria in the early 1900s; it follows the story of a magician and his love for a duchess. The film is praised for its stunning animation, exploration of the relationship between reality and illusion, and emotional depth. I could have easily included Now You See Me and its sequel here, but these two movies marked me more. Now You See Me tries to explain its tricks, but these two make it more “magical,” and one of them, which I will not point out, veers into fantasy at some point. Watch them both and find out…
- The Matrix: This 1999 science fiction film stars Keanu Reeves as Neo, a hacker who discovers that the world is a simulated reality controlled by sentient machines. The film is praised for its groundbreaking special effects, exploration of existential themes, and stylish action sequences. I don’t imagine anyone here has never seen this movie. If that is the case, go watch it. NOW.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day: The 1991 sequel to the classic 1984 film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, follows the cyborg Terminator as he is sent back in time to protect a young John Connor from a more advanced Terminator. The film is praised for its action sequences, its exploration of the nature of humanity, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic performance as the Terminator. I absolutely loved Terminator 2 – it was a cinematic masterpiece that left a lasting impression on me. The action, special effects, and story were all top-notch and made for an unforgettable experience, especially viewing it in a theater as a teenager.
- Everything Everywhere All at Once is a 2022 American absurdist science fiction comedy-drama film written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. The plot centers on a Chinese-American immigrant (played by Michelle Yeoh) who, while being audited by the IRS, discovers that she must connect with parallel universe versions of herself to prevent a powerful being from destroying the multiverse. The film combines different genres and themes like existentialism, generational trauma, nihilism, ADHD, and Asian-American identity. The movie has been well received by critics and audiences and has been nominated for several awards, including Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards. Michelle Yeoh won the Golden Globe for Best Actress with this role. She is also nominated for the upcoming Oscars! It is truly a heartwarming experience meriting at least one viewing if only for the performances of this fantastic cast. They drive forward a story that was already quite excellent into the stratosphere. In a period where “multiverses” are the rage in movies, this movie is a beacon for what can be done with the idea in just *one* film.