I’ve always felt that watching a good movie is a lot like reading a riveting novel or an engrossing write-up with the added benefit of visuals thrown into the equation. It’s fascinating how a well-made movie with a strong story line, emphatic narration and apt dialogues, intertwined with human feelings is capable of taking us on a ride of a lifetime, bringing alive a bucket-full of emotions we didn’t know we possessed!
My 5 Favourite Movies & The Lessons They Have Taught Me
Over the years, my list of favourite movies has grown and so have the lessons I’ve learned from them. These movies resonate with me to this day, and some have even shaped my writing and helped me connect with my readers.
1. Roman Holiday
Category: Romance / Comedy
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck
William Wyler’s Production (1953)
‘Roman Holiday’ is my favourite romantic movie of all times.
Set in the beautiful city of Rome in 1950’s, this movie traces the journey of a modern-day princess played by the stunning Audrey Hepburn (Princess Ann) and her fateful encounter with Gregory Peck (Joe Bradley), a handsome American news reporter.
Tired of her hectic schedule and duties as a royal, Princess Ann sneaks out of her country’s embassy (after the doctor gives her a dose of sedative to help her sleep) to discover the sights and sounds of Rome. Under the influence of the sedative, Ann falls asleep on a bench only to be discovered by Joe Bradley.
Throughout the movie, the princess hides her true identity but soon Joe discovers her picture in the newspaper and realises that the girl in his apartment is in fact, the missing Princess Ann. Joe’s editor agrees to give him a large contract if he can bring him an exclusive interview with the royal Princess.
The next morning, Ann thanks Joe for all his help and borrows some money which she promises to return very soon. As she leaves Joe’s apartment, he begins to follow her and takes notes of her escapades. He even asks his photographer friend Irving Radovich to click candid pictures of Ann discreetly as she walks the streets of Rome, rides a scooter, gets a haircut, smokes a cigarette, eats a Gelato and even goes dancing – just like a normal girl would on her day out in Rome.
By now, Joe knows he has fallen in love with Ann, and vice versa. With the secret Government agents out to find her, Ann has no choice but to return to the embassy where she must resume her duties as a Princess. She bids farewell to Joe in one of the most romantic moments in cinema history.
Joe decides not to sell the story and instead, visits the embassy the next day with Irving to attend Princess Ann’s public appearance. As she interacts with the members of the press, Joe meets Ann one last time as a Royal Princess. Irving hands over an envelope containing all the pictures he had clicked of her as remembrance of her visit and their short but meaningful encounter.
Whenever I watch Roman Holiday, I’m reminded of the importance of maintaining a strong story-line, having a powerful beginning and an even more powerful ending. Keeping it real is important as is creating an emotional bond with readers.
Interestingly and not surprisingly, the movie received 10 Academy Award nominations and Audrey Hepburn bagged the Best Actress Award for her role in the ‘Roman Holiday’.
2. Shiloh 1 & 2
Category: Family Drama
Starring: Michael Moriarty, Scott Wilson, Blake Heron
Directed By: Dale Rosenbloom (1997)
Shiloh is the story of a young boy, Marty Preston and his unique connection with Shiloh, a dog who literally chooses him to be his new master.
After being harassed and mistreated by his previous owner Judd Travers, a lonely and disgruntled drunk who uses him as a hunting dog, a bruised and hurt Shiloh runs off one day and on instinct begins to follow Marty home. Thus, begins a unique relationship between a caring and kind boy, and a dog who is craving love, affection and companionship. Even though Marty’s family cannot afford a dog, they begin caring for Shiloh just as much as Marty does.
Things get difficult when Judd demands his dog back who he claims to be his best hunting dog. Marty pleads with Judd and offers to work for him in return for Shiloh. He works for days at a stretch, cleaning up Judd’s land but when it’s time to seal the deal, Judd refuses to keep his end of the bargain. Eventually, Judd lets Marty keep Shiloh.
Shiloh 2 begins with a strong narrative through which Marty recounts his struggle to bring home Shiloh for good. However, before you know it, Judd is back to his mean ways and wants Shiloh back with a vengeance. When Judd meets with a terrible accident and Shiloh literally saves his life, things begin to change. At this point, we get to see a highly mature and compassionate side of Marty as he tries to understand Judd’s frame of mind and decides to help him heal by showing him some kindness.
Slowly, Marty begins to bond with Judd. He sends him food to eat and also writes letters to him in which he shares amusing stories about Shiloh. A little bit of kindness goes a long way in healing Judd and helping him to become a better, more caring and kind person.
In addition to its strong, heart-rending narrative, the movie reiterated my faith in the power of the written word, and its unique ability to invoke strong feelings and emotions in the reader. Through his letters, Marty was able to strike a unique chord with Judd, helping him to discover a side of himself that was hidden away somewhere.
As a writer, we must be willing to put ourselves out there to truly connect with our readers.
Do watch Shiloh and tell me what you thought about it in the comments section below.
3. The Sound of Music
Category: Family, Musical Drama
Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Peggy Wood, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn
Produced and Directed: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s (1965)
The Sound of Music is a memorable timeless classic that stands out for its robust story, fine cinematography, exceptional dialogues, strong performances, and of course, some of the most unforgettable songs of all times.
Picturized in the beautiful and scenic locales of Salzburg in Austria, this is a touching story about a young Austrian girl Maria (played by Julie Andrews), and her unique bond with Captain Von Trapp’s (Christopher Plummer) seven children.
Maria joins the convent to become a nun but her zest for life, free-spirit and her love for music and the outdoors is quite evident to the nuns. One day, the Reverand Mother calls Maria to her chambers and commissions her to take on the role of a governess, sending her to care for Captain Georg Von Trapp’s seven mother-less children – Leisl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigetta, Marta and little Gretl.
The Captain, a retired naval officer is a strict father and disciplinarian who has misplaced his emotions after losing his wife, and as a result, has even lost the bond he once shared with his children.
Maria leaves the abbey and walks into the Captain’s home, bringing with her a fresh breath of life. The children, who hate having a governess, slowly become fond of Maria who wins them over with her patience, love and understanding. She teaches them how to sing and reintroduces music into the Von Trapp home, much to the surprise of Captain Von Trapp.
Eventually, Maria develops strong feelings for the Captain and returns to the abbey to come to terms with these feelings. The children, however, miss her profusely and she returns to the Von Trapp villa. Maria and the captain marry.
It is during these days that Austria is slowly falling under the control of the Germans and Captain Von Trapp is asked to report to the German Naval Headquarters. The Captain, a true Austrian at heart refuses to lose his identity as an Austrian and chooses to leave Austria after performing at the Salzburg Festival with Maria and the children. With the help of the nuns at the Abbey, the Von Trapp family hide from the German forces and escape on foot through the mountains towards Switzerland for a life of freedom.
Awards & Recognition: The movie has received numerous nominations and wins.
If you’re a music enthusiast like me, you will find yourself humming songs like ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria’, ‘Edelweiss’, ‘The Hills Are Alive’, ‘Do A Deer’ and ‘You Are Sixteen’, long after you have finished watching the movie!
Each song in the movie is relevant, heartfelt and contains strong lyrics that wonderfully connect with the story line. The movie made me realise that as a writer, it is important to choose my words wisely so I can connect with my readers, leaving a lasting impact on their minds and hearts.
How many times have you watched ‘The Sound of Music’? Tell me about it in the comments section below.
4. The Pursuit of Happyness
Category: Biography, Drama
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton
Directed By: Gabriele Muccino (2006)
This is one of the most inspirational movies I’ve ever seen.
It recounts the real-life struggles of Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith), a grappling salesman who works hard to provide a happy and stable home for his wife and five year old son.
Chris invests his life’s savings to buy portable bone density scanners which he plans to sell to doctors in the San Francisco area. However, he fails to sell the scanners as quickly or easily as he had anticipated, and as a result, he is unable to make both ends meet.
Things begin to go out of hand when he loses his home and his wife, who chooses to walk away, leaving him alone to fend for their son. Chris’s pursuit of happiness thus begins. His never-say-die spirit helps him to hold on to his dreams in some of the darkest moments of his life.
Throughout the movie, we can see the special bond he shares with his real and reel son Christopher Junior, never letting him lose faith or hope in a better, brighter future that awaits them.
Chris is able to secure a position as an intern stockbroker but his troubles are far from over. The movie further traces the struggles Chris faces as he is forced to find shelter for his son and himself in a train station’s restroom, and eventually has to queue up every evening outside a shelter for the homeless.
The highlight of the movie is its strong narrative and Will Smith’s exceptional depiction of Chris Gardner – a person who never gave up and faced life’s challenges with his chin-up. Eventually, Chris secures a full-time position as a stock broker and goes on to building a successful brokerage firm of his own.
The movie is titled ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’, reminding us of the moment he notices ‘happiness’ misspelt as ‘happyness’ outside his son’s daycare.
All of us are on our own pursuit of happiness and just like Chris, it is important not to lose faith in our abilities. A freelance writer’s life can be difficult and unpredictable.
What’s important, however, is to always give our 100% to everything we do, and not be afraid to work hard and smart. It’s when things get really tough, that miracles happen.
Awards & Recognition: Will Smith was nominated for a ‘Best Actor’ Academy Award. The movie won 8 awards and also received 17 nominations.
5. The Scarlet and the Black
Category: Drama, True Story
Starring: Gregory Peck, John Gielgud, Christopher Plummer
Directed By: Jerry London (1983)
This movie stands out for its strong performances by Gregory Peck as O’Flaherty, Christopher Plummer as Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler, and John Gielgud as the Pope.
‘The Scarlet and the Black’ takes us back to Nazi occupied Rome.
Set in 1943 during World War II, this is a true story about a Vatican priest, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty who operated a secret organisation and helped thousands of Jews and prisoners of war escape the atrocities of the German military forces.
Lieutenant Kappler is concerned about the escaped prisoners coming to the Vatican for help and thus, approaches the Pope to express his concerns. Further, he seeks the Pope’s permission to get a while line painted across St. Peter’s square in order to mark the extent of the Vatican’s jurisdiction.
However, O’Flaherty uses his ingenuity, presence of mind and willpower to continue helping the prisoners and provides them shelter, before sending them to safer quarters. Several locals, diplomats and clergy men help him in this endeavour.
Throughout the movie, Gregory Peck is seen donning many different disguises as he goes about unnoticed by the military forces. Things get difficult when Kappler realises how O’Flaherty has been helping the prisoners escape and decides to take matters in his hands. Several of O’Flaherty’s aides are caught and killed, and an assassination attempt is made against O’Flaherty too, who manages to escape.
Towards the climax, the movie shows the movement of the Allies towards Italy and the slipping power of the German resistance. By now, Colonel Kappler is concerned for his family’s safety and approaches O’Flaherty in a hush-hush meeting, requesting him to provide protection to his family. O’Flaherty refuses help and leaves.
In 1945, Kappler is held captive by the Allies. During an interrogation, he finds out that his wife and children were successful in escaping from Italy and were safely smuggled into Switzerland. He refuses to say who might have helped his family and does not take O’Flaherty’s name during the interrogation.
The heart-warming ending recounts how O’Flaherty is the only regular visitor to the prison where Kappler is serving life imprisonment.
For me, ‘The Scarlet and The Black’ brings alive the realisation that it’s never too late to do a good deed, or to have a change of heart. We all make mistakes in life but these mistakes should not stop us from trying to turn a new leaf.
What truly stood out for me were the empowering words spoken towards the movie’s climax between Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty and the Pope, and between O’Flaherty and Kappler.
Words truly have the strength to change a person and bring about a revolution.
Have you watched ‘The Scarlet & The Black’? Do share your feedback with me in the comments section below.
In addition to these top 5 movies on my list, some of the other must-sees that I highly recommend include ‘Gone With the Wind’, ‘Ben-hur’, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘The Birds’, ‘To Sir With Love’ & ‘Annie’.
Feel free to share your feedback and comments in the section below!