The following are films that you can use for your film review assignments. Some are old, some are new, some you’ll love, some you might not…but all are excellent examples of quality filmmaking and you can learn many things from them.
None of these are mandatory viewing! Some are rated PG-13 and it is up to your parents to decide what is appropriate for you.
Note: Films that have “Netflix” next to them can be streamed for free on Netflix streaming if you have a subscription at home. Films that have “Hulu Plus” next to them can be streamed for free on Hulu Plus if you have a subscription. Films in bold are HIGHLY recommended!
(*) = Academy Award Winner
Currently in Theaters
On DVD or Netflix
Modern Dramatic Movies
- Moonrise Kingdom (PG-13) – Two misfit teens run away to a secret land in the 1960’s
- Mud (PG-13) – Two teenagers in rural Arkansas befriend a strange vagabond named Mud and try to discover his secrets
- The Way Way Back (PG-13) – A coming of age story about an alienated teenager’s summer spent at a beach house
- Lars and the Real Girl (PG-13) (Netflix) – Ryan Gosling gives an incredible performance as a lonely small-town guy who seeks companionship with a mail-order doll
- Much Ado About Nothing (PG-13) – A humorous retelling of the Shakespeare play, set in modern times
- (500) Days of Summer (PG-13) – A modern romantic comedy that follows two twenty-somethings on their quest for the perfect relationship
- Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (PG-13) – A quirky story about a wealthy sheik who tries to bring the sport of salmon fishing to the deserts of his homeland in Yemen
- Moneyball (PG-13) – A unique baseball movie based on a true story of the Oakland Athletics
- Finding Forrester (PG-13) (Netflix) – A high school basketball star makes friends with an old writer who hasn’t left his apartment in decades
- Searching for Bobby Fischer (PG) (Netflix) – A young chess prodigy tries to compete at the highest level in this story about perseverance and sportsmanship
- Whale Rider (PG-13) (Hulu Plus) – A coming of age story of a young girl living in a small native village in New Zealand
- Juno (PG-13) – An excellent, quirky comedy about a teenager who gets pregnant and tries to make plans for her unborn child (*)
Fantasy/Science Fiction Movies
- The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (PG-13) – The second part of Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy trilogy…dragons, wizards and elves. (* 2014 nominee)
- Gravity (PG-13): Innovative special effects and cinematography help tell this story of an astronaut alone in space (*)
- Inception (PG-13) – A dream within a dream within a dream within a…etc. See if you can figure it out (*)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (G) – An older science fiction movie famous for ground-breaking special effects (*)
- The Princess Bride (PG) – A hilarious fairy tale comedy full of mythical creatures, princesses, giants and sword-fighting adventure
- The Hobbit (PG-13) – A fantasy adventure story with hobbits, dwarfs, wizards and elves (*)
- Life of Pi (PG) – a boy shares a lifeboat with a tiger (*)
- Harry Potter Series (PG/PG-13) (*)
- The Lord of the Rings Series (PG-13) – Film adaptations of the famous fantasy trilogy (*)
- Where the Wild Things Are (PG) – A darker adaptation of the popular children’s book featuring huge monsters and a lonely young boy
- The Hunger Games (PG-13) – An adaptation of the first book in the trilogy
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (PG-13) – A story about a man who is mysteriously born as an old man and ages backwards (*)
- Hero (PG-13) – A beautifully shot Kung-Fu movie set in ancient China
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PG-13) – A magical Chinese fairy tale full of gravity-defying martial arts special effects (*)
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (PG-13): Katniss finds herself back in the arena in the second installment of the trilogy.
- Toy Story 3 (G) (*)
- Finding Nemo (G) – An animated fish story about a father and son (*)
- Up (PG) – A beautifully animated adventure tale about an old man and a young boy. (*)
- Frozen (PG) – The world is plunged into eternal winter in this animated adventure. (*)
Historical Fiction/Biography Movies
- Lincoln (PG-13) – an incredible biography of the famous president (*)
- Les Miserable (PG-13) – a film adaptation of the famous musical – a sad story, but amazing acting (*)
- The Help (PG-13) – A civil rights tale of the 1960’s (*)
- The Social Network (PG-13) – Biopic of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook (*)
- Forrest Gump (PG-13) – A touching story about a simple man becomes who finds himself at the center of every major historical event of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s (*)
- The Artist (PG-13) (Netflix) – Best picture winning tribute to the Silent Era (*)
- True Grit (PG-13) (Netflix) – Remake of an old western adventure story where a young girl seeks revenge for the death of her father
- Lee Daniels The Butler (PG-13) – a historical civil rights tale of an African American butler working in the white house
- The Book Thief (PG-13) – beautifully told story of World War II, from the perspective of a young adopted German girl (* 2014 nominee)
- Saving Mr. Banks (PG-13): The true story of Walt Disney trying to persuade the creator of Mary Poppins to make a movie based on her book.
- The Great Gatsby (PG-13): An adaptation of the famous novel – full of love, jealousy, money and extravagant parties. (* 2014 nominee)
- Captain Phillips (PG-13): Incredible true story of a Navy SEAL operation to rescue an American ship captain who’s been captured by Somali pirates. (*)
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – One of the first horror films; a creepy doctor trains a somnambulist (sleepwalker) to commit murder with a great twist at the end – Watch it online
- The General (G) – A silent comedy film from the 1920’s about the Civil War – Watch it online
- The Great Dictator (G) – Charlie Chaplin plays Hitler in this satire comedy about World War II
- The Kid (G) (Hulu Plus) – A Charlie Chaplin silent film featuring an abandoned baby adopted by a tramp and how they build a life together
- The Battleship Potempkin (G) – A silent film from Russian master Sergei Eisentstein about a rebellion on board a battleship in 1905 – Watch it online
- The Kid (G) – A Chaplin masterpiece where The Tramp befriends and takes care of an abandoned young boy – Watch it online
- The Phantom of the Opera (G) – A disfigured composer hiding in the Paris Opera House falls in love with an opera singer – Watch it online
- Safety Last (G) (Hulu Plus) – A boy moves to New York City to make enough money to support his loving girlfriend.
- City Lights (Hulu Plus) – Charlie Chaplin plays a lovable vagrant falling for a young blind woman who sells flowers on the street.
- Sherlock Jr. (Netflix) – Buster Keaton plays a movie projectionist who longs to be a detective.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (PG) (Netflix) – An older western comedy of two outlaw friends running from the law (*)
- The 400 Blows (PG-13) (Hulu Plus) – An 1950’s French film about a troubled young boy trying to find his place
- Bringing Up Baby (G) – A screwball comedy from the 1930’s…full of physical comedy
- The Grapes of Wrath (G) (Netflix) – An award-winning drama about a family migrating to California during the Dust Bowl of the 1920’s (*)
- Of Mice and Men (PG-13) (Netflix) – A classic story of two migrant workers struggling to reach their dreams in depression-era California
- To Kill a Mockingbird (G) – A Hollywood masterpiece set in Alabama in the 1960’s tells an important civil rights story through the eyes of a teenage girl (*)
- On the Waterfront (NR) – A former boxer turned dock worker must decide between following a corrupt, violent mob boss or doing the right thing to help his fellow workers (*)
- 12 Angry Men (NR) – One of the greatest courtroom dramas of all time tells the story of the impact that one man can have
- Rebel Without a Cause (PG-13) – James Dean stars as a troublemaking teenager who falls in with the wrong crowd
- Stagecoach (Hulu Plus) – An award winning western about people from all walks of life who find themselves on a stagecoach riding through dangerous Apache land (*)
- Blackfish (PG-13) (Netflix) – A thrilling expose of the violent behavior exhibited by whales kept in captivity at Sea World.
- Pressure Cooker (NR) (Netflix) – A captivating look at a dedicated teacher getting her students ready for a cooking competition in inner city Philadelphia.
- Five Broken Cameras (NR) (Netflix) – A Palestinian man documents life in his Israeli-occupied village and what happens when a wall is built is through his land.
- Chasing Ice (PG-13) (Netflix) – An environmentalist uses incredible time-lapse photography to show glaciers melting and the effects of climate change.
- Into the Arms of Strangers (PG) (Available in SMS Library) – Recounts the rescue operation that saved more than 10,000 Jewish children from the Nazis. (*)
- Hoop Dreams (PG-13) (Netflix) – An excellent documentary following two young inner-city boys trying to earn basketball scholarships
- Elevate (PG) (Netflix) (Hulu Plus) – A documentary about three African teenagers who move to the United States to play basketball at elite high schools
- 180 Degrees South (PG) (Netflix) – An environmental and adventurous travel documentary about a trip to South America
- These Amazing Shadows (G) (Netflix) – A documentary about famous films that have been selected to the National Film Registry
- Spellbound (G) – A fascinating documentary about students participating in the National Spelling Bee (*)
- Super-Size Me (PG-13) (Hulu Plus) – A food documentary about a man who observed what happened to his body after eating only McDonalds for one month
- God Grew Tired of Us (PG) (Netflix) – An incredible story about three young African men who flee their war-torn homeland of Sudan and struggle to build a new life in America
- Dive! (PG) (Netflix) – A short documentary that tells the story of food waste in America through people who feed their families from food found in supermarket dumpsters
- ESPN 30-for-30 Series (Netflix) – An excellent series of sports documentaries telling a variety of sports and culture stories
- Man on Wire (PG-13) (Netflix) – A historical documentary of a French acrobat who walked on a tightrope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in the 1970’s (*)
- Life in a Day (PG-13) (Netflix) – Two filmmakers edit over 4500 hours of YouTube footage to tell the story of how ordinary people around the world lived their lives on July 24th, 2010
- Happy (Netflix) – What does it mean to be happy? This documentary travels the world trying to search for what really makes people happy
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi (PG) (Netflix) – An interesting story about an 85 year old Japanese man who makes the world’s best sushi
- Food, Inc. (PG) – A detailed look at where your food really comes from and what it means for your health and the environment
- An Inconvenient Truth (PG) (Netflix) – Former Vice President, Al Gore, takes on global warming (*)
- First Position (PG) (Netflix) – A story of hard-working dancers fighting for scholarships in elite dance programs
- Being Elmo (PG) (Netflix) – A biography of Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind the Elmo character on Sesame Street
- Touching the Void (PG-13) (Netflix) – An intense docudrama of a mountain climbing accident in the Andes of South America…has some tough moments and strong language, but an amazing survival story
- Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (PG) (Netflix) – An overweight, sick guy goes on an all-juice diet and experiences amazing health benefits