Movies everyone should see in their lifetime


Four years ago, I began, in the study hall of my middle school cafeteria, to draft a list. I titled it “Movies EVERYONE Should See In Their Lifetime.” I wanted everyone to fall in love with the films I adored, so I began to add all of my favorite movies to this small, half-a-google doc list. I started taking suggestions, and looking at today’s list, I could still tell which movies were suggested by whom. This list became somewhat of my legacy. My friends quiz me on my claims that I know quotes from “every movie on the list” (which is only somewhat true), people I’ve barely even met already know about my list, and my Instagram polls get pretty heated when I claim Ethan Hunt is way better than James Bond. The natural next step was to share it with everyone, right? Every week, I go through a different movie that managed to make a list that now strains to stay on two pages. What I liked, what I didn’t, where you can watch: you have found the movie you’ve been looking for, and it won’t take you a lifetime to see it.

Year: 1993
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is a hot-shot young trial lawyer, having just made senior associate at one of the most powerful firms in the city. However, Andrew Beckett also has a secret: he is dying. He has AIDS, which in the late ‘80s was largely misunderstood and completely uncurable. Beckett hides his AIDS from his employers because of the stigma attached to the disease, and consequently the stigma attached to his homosexuality. Eventually, however, Beckett develops Karposi’s sarcomas, lesions often associated with AIDS, and they are seen by one of his superiors. Within days, Beckett has been fired. Though the firm explains away the release, Beckett believes he has a case against them. After nearly every lawyer in the city turns him away, he goes to old rival Joe Miller (Denzel Washington). At first wary of Beckett and his “gay cancer,” Miller eventually sympathizes with the frank discrimination Beckett faces and agrees to take the case. As the seemingly impossible lawsuit gains media attention, Miller struggles to overcome his own prejudices, and all the while Beckett deteriorates, inching closer to death every day. Philadelphia was acclaimed in the box office, winning two Academy Awards and being nominated for three more.

What I liked: I don’t think I have ever seen a better-acted film. Denzel Washington as conflicted family man Joe Miller is understated and wonderful. He isn’t some hero to Beckett, he struggles with the same homophobic prejudices that most of the characters in the film, and we see him truly develop into a better person. Equally as impressive was Tom Hanks as protagonist Andrew Beckett. His performance was, in a word, captivating. Completely different from Washington’s in that it embraced its emotion, its intensity. I could not get over how honest everything felt, like I was actually catching a glimpse of reality.

What I didn’t like: Philadelphia is intense. If you are someone who gets uncomfortable watching sad or dramatic movies, it is not the one for you. It exposed public opinion on gayness in a way that was fully intended to discomfort the audience, to make us second-guess our own ingrained prejudices, which is sometimes a difficult thing to reveal within ourselves. Proceed with caution when it comes to your mental state.

Conclusion: Imagine dying. Imagine closing your eyes and never opening them again. The harsh white hospital ceiling glints at you as your eyelids shut on a fluorescent world. Your family, friends around you, but you are, in all actuality, alone.
Now imagine being hated as you die. The typical compassion the world reserves for its truly terminal souls is absent. In its place, cruelty and blame. You are avoided, isolated, and shunned from any semblance of society. They tell you your death is your fault , not theirs. You wither away in loneliness, pure and complete.
It is movies like this that make me love movies like this, because I cannot imagine. I can’t imagine, so instead the reality is forced into my perception, images of pain and hate and sorrow and despair and truth and triumph invade the spaces of my heart that allow for empathy, discomfort me to an excruciating level, and succeed in making me feel. Philadelphia was the first of its kind, a box-office film that faced the AIDS epidemic in such a direct way, and we are all better for it, I think. This film is available for free with an Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Starz subscription.

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