Movies everyone should see in their lifetime

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Four years ago, in the study hall of my middle school cafeteria, I began 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.

Moonstruck
Year: 1987
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Rating: PG
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Moonstruck , which won three Academy Awards in 1987, centers around Loretta Castorini (Cher), a cynical widow soon to be engaged to an overly dramatic mama’s boy (Danny Aiello). She lives in a massive Brooklyn Heights house with her eccentric Italian-American family, including long suffering mother Rose Castorini (Olivia Dukakis) and cheating father Cosmo Castorini (Vincent Gardenia), among others. When her fiancé heads to Italy to visit his “dying” mother, Loretta is tasked with convincing his estranged brother-in-law Ronny (Nicolas Cage) to come to the wedding. When Loretta and Ronny meet, a volatile and flurried relationship ensues that sweeps all of the Castorini family members into its path.

What I liked: Wow. This movie was something else. I went in not really knowing what to think, a romcom starring two actors I’d only ever seen in mediocre roles. I was instantly surprised. It is genuinely funny, but still poignant. There’s a scene about halfway through the film that really showed me exactly what the creators were trying to accomplish. Loretta and Ronny attend the opera; they see Puccini’s La Bohème . In a moment reminiscent of Pretty Woman (though this film was released three years before that one), operatic novice Loretta is deeply moved by La Bohème . It makes for a turning point in the movie, and it made me realize that an opera played such a pivotal role in this film because the film is, in and of itself, very operatic. Every second is played with passion; monologues are screamed, madnesses embraced, all of the beauty of drama so essential to opera is breathtakingly present here. This serves as a wonderful nod to a movie about an Italian-American family, since opera is an integral part of traditional Italian culture. I adored it.

What I didn’t like: For all the wonderful things I can say about this film, there are many far less idealistic than I who would disagree. It is so sweeping, so romantic, so dramatic, that if you are more of a realist, Moonstruck might feel false. It also has all of those romantic comedy tropes, and I’ve found that many people just don’t enjoy the genre at all. It’s no secret that the motifs aren’t exactly subtle, either; the whole titular “moon” thing is really spelled out in a way that doesn’t even try to embed it into the plot.

Conclusion: Ah, Moonstruck . Funny. Dramatic. It’ll tell you to never fall in love, that it’s for suckers, but that love is also worth making yourself a fool for. It’s real in its portrayals of people and family, but pure opera in depicting sweeping romances. It reminds me a lot of where I grew up, in a New York town filled with large Italian-American families, and that celebration of culture is at the core of this film. The moon, which symbolizes the madness of passionate love, beautifully encompasses all of the couples’ struggles and triumphs, and adds to the intensely dramatic feeling of the film. Wonderful, magical feeling movie that will make you laugh, cry, and fly through every other emotion at a breathtaking speed. This film is available for free on YouTube, or with an Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Showtime subscription.

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