Genre (Sub-genre): Baseball
The American baseball film is an enduring tradition, and for the most-part a reliably formulaic one. There’s something to be said for those films, though – they’re entertaining and fun, and earn their clichés with their earnest spirit and classic feel. Moneyball however, was a different baseball movie.
This is a film that examines the sport with intelligence, showing us the statistics and math behind-the-scenes, and what actually goes into all the aspects of the game that we don’t really even think about. Moneyball is a very interesting and well-acted movie with good characters and an ear for dialog, and it’s ultimately more about what goes into the game than the game itself.
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
Genre (Sub-genre): Music
Music films often take on a predictable formula. They either seem to focus on a “rags to riches” tale of success, or a dark story of a famous musician that already has that success, and how they misuse their celebrity. There are of course many music films that exist in between, but Inside Llewyn Davis really stands out, as it adheres to no formula, and doesn’t really even take on any real plot structure.
The Coen brothers’ story of a folk singer who never makes it is a bit of a downer, but it also gleams with humor, artistry and has an amazing soundtrack. The brothers’ talent is on full display here, and though Llewyn does not have an uplifting character arc, it is a compelling character-study none-the-less.
Genre (Sub-genre): Horror
Scream is the ultimate horror “deconstruction” film. It intentionally features all of the expected tropes of a slasher horror film, but instead of going where you think it will, is a wicked satire of the genre, and as a turns out – a pretty damn good horror film on its own.
The iconic Ghostface killer is ingenious in its hilarious unoriginality and blandness. They literally took an already popular Halloween costume mask, and made it the defining countenance of the killer. Scream is a great horror movie as well as a clever deconstruction of the genre. It goes unexpected places, and has in-jokes a-plenty for the horror-buff.
5. Million Dollar Baby
Genre (Sub-genre): Boxing
Possibly the saddest and most brutally honest sports film of the twenty-first century is found in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. This Best Picture-winning tour de force is unflinching and heartbreaking, and definitely deviates from any expected rules or formulas you’ve come to expect from sports movies.
This story of an ambitious young female boxer, is something of an anti-Rocky, with a very unhappy ending and honest, realistic characters. Million Dollar Baby is a great film, but it can be very hard to watch, and is far from the triumphant, inspirational boxing flick you may have been expecting.
Genre (Sub-genre): Religion
The Christian/Biblical movie has its place in motion-picture history; films like Ben-Hur and The Greatest Story Ever Told are some of the more memorable of these epics, and films such as Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and this year’s Noah and Exodus have carried the sub-genre into the contemporary era.
Kevin Smith’s religious satire Dogma is technically part of this genre too, as it features angles, prophecies and even God herself (that’s right, God is women). Dogma may feature a lot more profanity than the average religious movie, as well as the ability to make the faithful really mad, but it’s a hilarious film that is not cruel to any religion, and as the opening message tells us, even God must have a sense of humor.
3. Marie Antoinette
Genre (Sub-genre): History
Marie Antoinette is basically a big middle-finger to all stodgy historical movies/period pieces. This is a dazzlingly designed film set during the French revolution that boldly breaks every rule of the historical film genre, and has a lot of fun doing it. Kirsten Dunst stars as the Austrian queen, and director Sofia Coppola depicts her in a non-judgmental way, as a nice and free-spirited women – one who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The extravagant costumes and colorful cinematography makes Marie Antoinette resemble more of a historical party than any historical period-piece, and the film is incredibly enjoyable and surprisingly poignant.
2. The Thin Red Line
Genre (Sub-genre): War
You often go to a war film expecting operatic sequences of battle, heroic sacrifices and a deep anti-war message. The Thin Red Line is completely like no war film ever made; it’s a very thoughtful and philosophical picture that seems much more interested in pondering deep questions about the nature of fighting and of man, than in filming epic battle scenes.
Pure Terrence Malick it is, The Thin Red Line may be a love-it or hate-it experience, at its three hour running time and slow pace, but it’s definitely one of the most unique and different films of the genre ever made, and it’s also probably the best-looking – every shot is absolutely stunning.
Genre (Sub-genre): Western
By the time Unforgiven rolled around in 1992, the Western was a tired and worn-out genre. Everything had been done before, and there weren’t many fresh ideas left around. Clint Eastwood’s magnum opus of the genre is a rare Western that actually condemns the violence it depicts, and gives a real humanity to both the good and bad guys of the story.
Suddenly, the events in a Western felt achingly real and honest, and the simplicity of many classic American films of the genre was replaced by genuine complexity in both character and event. Unforgiven is one of the greatest Westerns ever made, but it definitely deviates from the traditional structure and feel.
Author Bio: Gavin Miller is a cinephile who keeps up his blog cinefreakdude.tumblr.com as well as a YouTube channel – both dedicated to film criticism and discussion. He is an ardent Blu-ray collector as well as the director of two short films – “A Chupacabra Afternoon” and “Coffea arabica” – the latter of which is in competition at the Johnson County Community College Film Fest. this year. Gavin models his lifestyle after The Dude from The Big Lebowski.