Movies that Get My Highest Recommendation

As usual you guys left the most supportive, uplifting comments on my last post. Seriously I am one lucky gal/blogger to have such wonderful blogger friends. I haven’t even met most of you in person and I feel like I have such a wealth of friends.

Oh, and I’m sooooo glad that I’m not the only one that sleeps with their blankie still! I’ve had my blankie since I was a newborn. It used to have fabric hearts, rainbows, and stars sewn on but now it is just a faded, slightly torn blanket. It’s actually in pretty good shape considering I sleep with it almost every night. That’s probably because in high school I decided I didn’t need it anymore, folded it up, and put it in the back of my closet. 2 years later I found it and it was like the magic blankie forces pulled me in. As soon as I touched it again I needed in in my bed. And it’s stayed there ever since. Yes, I’m almost 30. I don’t care 🙂

I’ve been meaning to do a movie post for awhile now. Seeing movies is one of my absolute favorite things (preferably in the theater so I can get some popcorn and mix my Milk Duds in…MMmmm). Here is a list of some movies that I highly recommend. I have a quirky taste in movies so you might disagree with me on some but that’s okay!! Here goes…

Moonrise Kingdom–This movie is just plain adorable! Wes Anderson has a great, quirky style (seen Fantastic Mr. Fox? It’s also farther down the list. Moonrise Kingdom has the same quirky feel). Themes: love, coming of age, acceptance

Safety Not Guaranteed–the bf and I just saw this film from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine and I really, really liked it! Plot: magazine journalists/intern travel to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel. It’s a really heartfelt story and all of the acting is superb.

Jeff Who Lives At Home–Ahh Jason Siegel. How can a movie he is in be bad? (see I Love You Man below). This is a quasi-dark comedy meaning it is serious sometimes and at other times laugh out loud funny (as opposed to just humorous like most dark comedies). You’ll see from this list that I am a sucker for endearing characters. Siegel is so freaking endearing in this movie and you just root for him.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen–I tried to get the bf to see this with me for so long in the theaters and he kept saying no. Finally I just rented it online and sprung it on him. Surprise, surprise he really liked it. I wouldn’t say it’s the best movie in the world and is probably at the low end of this list for me, but there’s something about 30-40 somethings going through mid-life crises that are driven by love lost that really gets me. And I like movies that have happy endings 🙂

Running With Scissors–Excuse my french, but this movie is a clusterf*ck. But in such a weird, touching, good way. Along with liking movies with endearing characters, I also am all about strange, quirky films. Adapted from the bestselling book/memoir Running With Scissors, the plot follows the life of a adolescent boy who is sent by his semi-psychotic mother to live with her psychiatrist’s family in the 70s. The movie didn’t get the best reviews when it came out but, like I said before, I’m all about strange, quirky plot lines.

Melancholia–And speaking of strange and quirky plot lines…This movie makes me wanna speak like my high school self in the mid to late 90s: it is just the bomb. Quite possibly the best movie of 2011, Melancholia is a commentary on seemingly disparate things that can in fact serve to highlight each other: An apocalyptic event (here, literally the end of the world) and crippling depression and intense sadness.  In the film, the planet Melancholia is on a collision course with Earth. Totally ridiculous yes, but that’s not the point of the movie. The point is how different characters react to the reality that the world will end and they will die. Not many people know this, but I went through a period of time where I was severely depressed. We’re talking not getting out of bed, not paying bills, not eating depressed. To this day I still deal with phases of low-level depression and anxiety and I can relate all too well to how paralyzing depression can be. Kirsten Dunst embodies this fully in the film. The all consuming sorrow that Melancholia (the planet) causes for the rest of the characters perfectly mirrors the internal strife and sorrow Dunst–or anyone with depression–feels. In other words, Melancholia is a metaphor. Okay, okay I won’t say anymore in case you haven’t seen it and want to. If you do see it and think to yourself “this is the weirdest movie, why the heck did Claire recommend it????” just let it sink in for a little while.

An Education–I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age tale, especially one about a girl (duh, I can relate). Well, maybe this movie falls more into the genre of cautionary tales rather than coming-of-age, but either way it’s still a moving romantic film. I really enjoy reading historical fiction–just how the context of a time informs roles, norms, etc–and thus I was bound to like this film. It’s also why I absolutely love Mad Men 😉

About A Boy–while we’re at it, we might as well mention another movie that benefits from the screenplay of Nick Hornby. I saw this movie in the theater when I was a sophomore in college. Oh what can I say about Hugh Grant? This is hands down his best movie ever. Yes, I’m a sucker for Notting Hill, but he truly shines in this black comedy. The end scene? Absolutely priceless. If you haven’t seen it, do it.

Lars and the Real Girl–Let’s get back to an endearing character. Lars (Ryan Gosling) is probably one of the most endearing characters I can think of. Gosling is so damn good in everything (Blue Valentine; Drive-see below) and this movie is no exception. The movie is about an emotionally fragile man who orders a life-sized doll on the internet and uses her as a crutch to communicate and interact with the world.  Get your minds out of the gutter people: Lars doesn’t use the blow-up girl for sex. I said it was endearing. And it is. It is such a hopeful, uplifting movie. Even the other characters who slowly come to accept Bianca (the doll) inspire hope. Ohh I just love this movie.

Pieces of April–The only Katie Holmes movie I will endorse. Probably ever. But this story is so good! Holmes plays a tattooed daughter who is the black sheep of her family. When she invites her mother, who is dying of breast cancer, for Thanksgiving, chaos ensues. But so does joy and quirkiness.

Winter’s Bone–this film literally rubs your emotions raw. I’m sorry for all you Hunger Games fans (and I was sort of one of them!) but Jennifer Lawrence is the real deal in this movie. Unlike her adaptation of Kitness, which I felt was weak, Lawrence is a true heroine in this movie. At only 17, she takes care of her younger brother and sister on little to no money in the backlands of the Ozarks. The poverty and “cold” cinematography of the movie mirror each other: they’re both just so bleak. But there is some good to be found in even the most grim situations.

 3:10 to Yuma–Something you probably didn’t know about me: I love westerns (and I especially love Kung Fu movies, which we’ll get too). 3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale is a remake of the 1957 classic. Is there action and bloodshed? Yes. But there is also a touching father-son element that elevates the story. Plus, these men are just yummy to look at 😉

Into the Wild–Oh goodness gracious I don’t know what is better: this movie or it’s soundtrack. Before I get to the movie: walk, no run, to get the soundtrack, which has amazing original tracks by Eddie Vedder. LOVE those songs. Listen to them all the time. Back to the movie. Sean Penn directed this movie, based on Krakauer’s take on what happened to Christopher McCandless, and it is a cinematographic masterpiece. I really don’t think that is overstating it. Just beautiful scenes in this movie that makes you want to get your Osprey pack and travel around the world on a whim. **I have an 65 Liter Osprey pack that I used to backpack around South America, the Middle East, and across Europe so I obviously love that thing. And this movie makes me nostalgic for traveling again like I did in my early to mid-20s.**I think everyone knows the ending and what happens to Christopher McCandless, but that doesn’t ruin it one bit.  Emile Hirsch is simply superb.

Drive–I threw in this one to make the bf happy. Ok, I kind of liked this movie too. I didn’t like it so much the first time but when I was forced to watch it again I could appreciate it more. It is an retro-noir thriller, meaning it is a modern film trying to evoke the feeling of older times (in this case the 80s BABY!). It is good in the classic sense of mobster/thriller movies. Plus, as I’ve said before, you can never go wrong with Gosling. Oh, and the soundtrack, complete with M83, rocks.

Hero–we’ve made it to the kung fu portion of the list people! This is a recent film with Jet Li that tells such a beautiful story. It’s got beautiful, artistic fighting scenes, romance, moving music. It’s got it all. I own this jem on DVD and can watch it over and over again 🙂

Pan’s Labyrinth–another foreign film that is just so touching. Set in fascist Spain during the 1940s, Pan’s Labyrinth is about a young girl, stepdaughter to a sadistic army officer, who escapes into an eerie fantasy world to escape her reality (seriously it is not a fairy tale world, it is freaky people!).

Project Nim–Other than Project Nim, I didn’t include other documentaries on this list just because it is already long enough. But I really liked this one so I had to put it on the list. Shot by the same people who did Man on Wire (so good! Watch that documentary and read Let the Great World Spin), Project Nim is about a chimpanzee, who, in the 1970s became the focus of a landmark experiment which aimed to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child.

The King’s Speech–All of you have probably seen this Best Movie oscar award winner already but it deserves to be on this list. Touching and humorous, the story is one of a kind. Both Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are so good in it.

Tree of LifeHear me out here. The first time I saw this I thought I wasted over 2 hours. It was such a nebulous, convoluted plot. But I kept seeing bits and pieces of this movie as HBO kept airing it all summer. Despite my initial reaction to the contrary, there is indeed a plot. There are deep characters and strong messages about life and love, memories and nostalgia. Watch it when you are feeling introspective.

Midnight in Paris–Ahh who doesn’t love a Woody Allen movie? They just make you feel so…so…good! This romantic comedy is about a screenwriter who is nostalgic for the past and travels back in time every night at midnight. He eventually confronts the shortcomings of his relationship with his fiancée and decides to live the life he truly wants to live.

Chocolat–Another feel good favorite! I have this on DVD and whenever I need cheering up or want to watch a movie I know I will enjoy I pop this sucker in. Johnny Depp is so cute! Ok that’s not the only reason why this movie is great. It’s just a classic story of being different, defying conformity, kindness, and, yes, romance.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story–You might see that this movie has Zach Galifianakis and think it is a barrel of laughs. Wrong. Ok, sort of wrong. There are funny moments, but this movie tackles some serious issues and Galifianakis plays a pretty messed up guy. The movie is mostly about a depressed adolescent boy who checks himself into the mental ward of a hospital after he comes close to committing suicide. Much of the film is unrealistic, but that doesn’t really matter. It deals with so many issues relevant to growing up as a teen and the pressures young adults feel. The end is seriously uplifting and reminds you to find joy in every. single. little. thing. 

Crazy Heart: Let me sum up this jem in a few words: The music, the music, Jeff Bridges, the music. Bridges is outstanding as a fallen, alcoholic country music star who tries to turn his life around after a life-changing romantic relationship. Go get The Weary Kind (Ryan Bingham) on itunes. Just a little pretty ditty.

Fantastic Mr. Fox–We’ve gone full circle here with another Wes Anderson creation. My bf and I don’t just like this movie. We LOVE it! It’s cute, funny, clever, and entertaining. Plus it’s full of great one liners (the bf and I are known to throw out a random “here…wear this bandit hat” on occasion 😉 ) Can it get much better than that? We are planning to dress as the characters from this movie for halloween one of these years

I Love You Man–Even though I could go on and on about my favorite movies, I’ll finish this list off with a comedy. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a big fan of the slap-stick dumb comedy genre. I never really got the whole “American Pie”-type movies (although there are many exceptions, such as Can’t Hardly Wait, which I saw with all my friends at the theater junior year of h.s. and to this day think that movie is such a good representation of high school life in the late 90s). But back to I Love You Man. I could do a whole separate list called “I Love You Paul Rudd”. I don’t think I’m going to get many arguments on that point. He’s just freakin funny. There’s something particularly laugh-out-loud funny about I Love You Man. The bf and I are constantly spitting lines from this movie. I’m convinced Rudd is so funny because he is endearingly awkward. Other Paul Rudd movies I love? Well, Clueless (obv), Role Models, My Idiot Brother.

Honorable Mention Movies:

A Separation


Thank You For Smoking

Apocalypto (Ahh I wouldn’t normally support Mel Gibson but this movie is G-O-O-D)

Royal Tenenbaums

Garden State

When Harry Met Sally (Obv. But I had to throw in a classic on this list)


Easy A

Elizabethtown (probably the most controversial of all of my choices for the list since so many people hate this movie, but I personally relate to this movie in so many ways it’s strange).

Movies I thought were overrated:

Like Crazy

The Descendants


The Hunger Games (sorry guys!)

WHEW! I warned y’all, but that was seriously a long list and I feel like I didn’t even scratch the surface of great movies. Here’s where you come in! What do you agree/disagree with me about? What is one movie you would add to the “highly recommend” list? 

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15 Responses to Movies that Get My Highest Recommendation

  1. My fave is Ferris Bueller’s Day off (classic!!), The Holiday and I really loved I love you Man as well!

  2. jumpeatrun says:

    Ooh, we have very similar taste in movies. LOVE running with scissors.You should read the book when your life isn’t as completely crazy busy as it is right now 😉

  3. Dash says:

    Really really great choices there – I feel a movie night coming on.

    I saw Drive the other day and was very impressed – Ryan Gosling has gone way up in my estimation!

  4. Jorie says:

    We have VERY similar movie tastes! I absolutely LOVED Midnight in Paris, Lars and the Real Girl, and Moonrise Kingdom. I would watch those anytime they came on TV or anytime someone suggested it we pop in the DVD. Into the Wild was fabulous, as was Drive (I kind of liked Ryan Gosling in a gritty, violent role). I was not into Tree of Life the first time around, thenI read up on the reclusive director, Terrence Malick, and I was SO into my second viewing. The film is basically his baby and semi-autobiographical. He grew up in the south with brothers, and had one brother commit suicide at a young age. I’m convinced this movie is his grand masterpiece, a way of trying to cope with the fact that his brother died so young, and what it means in the large scheme of the universe.

    I’m also obsessed with Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino flicks, and I bet you would like them/already like them too! Inglorious Basterds, Fargo, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, No Country for Old Men….love ’em!

    Great post, Claire!

  5. julie says:

    Thank you for this post! I’ll be checking out a few of these this weekend 🙂

  6. THANK YOU i seriously am always looking for good movies. i have actually only seen one of the movies (midnight in paris) which I actually did not like. way over my head to be honest. I can’t wait to start looking into these!

  7. I generally don’t watch too many movies but that’s because until this year my life has been hectic and it hasn’t been a priority. This needs to change and I obviously need to catch up on some of the movies on your list!

    I really like quirky movies too. Did you ever see I Heart Huckabees? I really liked it!

  8. Omg I loved Saved! Such a great movie! (it’s okay, I’ll forgive you for not ranking it higher up 😉 )

  9. eatpraytri says:

    love love love your list. I’ve been wanting to put a post together like this but when I sit down and start it just seems so overwhelming!! Agree with you on so many of these. Added the ones I haven’t seen to my Netflix. Tree of Life….def an acquired taste. LOL. My favorites all time include Say Anything, Grosse Point Blank (love John Cusack) Whale Rider, Fight Club, Traffic, amongst others….Just saw Argo which was great! Garden State and Thank you for Smoking…classics both. Thanks for posting this!

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