18. Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant, 1997)
Every movie lover knows the story behind “Good Will Hunting”: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote the script while in college and have being trying to get it produce for a couple of years. It is the first Gus Van Sant film out of his independent cinema comfort zone and it features one of Robin Williams’s best performances ever.
Every movie lover also knows the story of “Good Will Hunting”: a super gifted boy coming from a broken home lands a job as a janitor at M.I.T. after spending most of his childhood in foster homes. The boy, by the name of Will Hunting (Matt Damon), is in his early 20’s and spends most of his time hanging out with his friends, drinking and fighting. He also has a fantastic memory and an extraordinary gift for mathematics.
After getting into a fight and assaulting a police officer he goes to court where it is ruled that he must attend therapy sessions and advanced mathematics sessions with a renowned professor (Stellan Skargard) – as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. The boy is more than happy to attend the mathematics classes but is very reluctant as to doing therapy. With the help of his unconventional psychiatrist (Robin Williams) Will is faced with the daunting task of re-evaluating his life, his relationships with his girlfriend and his best friends.
Will cannot (or at least thinks he can’t) survive outside his circle of friends who have been the only people he trusts. Trust is a very important issue in this film as it shows how hard it can be gained and how easy it is to lose it. “Good Will Hunting” is a magnificent film about growing up and opening your eyes to the world around you and to the world inside you.
19. Liberty Heights (Barry Levinson, 1999)
To be young is all about being foolish, being silly, being in love…these are things one must experience while young or else it will fade away. Ben (Ben Foster), the main character of this film, seems to know this that’s why he wants to live his life different from his parents or his friends.
“Liberty Heights” is Barry Levinson’s fourth film about Baltimore (his home city) and it follows the life of young Ben, his parents and his older brother. Ben is not your average Jewish kid in the Baltimore of the 50’s: he dresses up like Adolf Hitler for Halloween (to his grandmother’s terror and his parents’ disgust) and he befriend an African-American girl who comes to his school after the district has been integrated and with whom he shares a mutual love for James Brown and black comedians.
Around him people seem to go on living their lives like any neighborhood community. His parents struggle to make ends meet, his brother Van (Adrien Brody) fights racism as he is sick of being labeled as a Jew and his friends seem to be preoccupied with the number one subject of adolescent boys: sex. This semi-autobiographical account of Levinson’s childhood is the perfect mélange between comedy and drama, love and rejection, friends and friendships.
20. Keeping the Faith (Edward Norton, 2000)
“Keeping the Faith” might be described as a religious love triangle but that would sound too pretentious. The movie is about two friends, Brian (Edward Norton) and Jake (Ben Stiller), who become servants of the Lord each in his own faith. Brian becomes a catholic priest while Jake becomes a rabbi. Their friendship has been going on since they were little kids but it begins to crumble as Anna (Jenna Elfman) walks into the scene.
After being away for many years, Jenna comes back to New York and reconnects with the two men. Anna and Jake begin a shaky relationship but the problem is the Father Brian is also in love with Anna. Neither Anna nor Jake suspect a thing given the strictness of the catholic religion on this subject matter.
The wonderful friendship that the three had in their childhood is now being put to the test as the passions, loves and lusts between the two take bigger proportions. This wonderful romantic comedy is Edward’s Norton directorial debut and it raises some questions about faith and faith in each other.
21. Stuff and Dough (Cristi Puiu, 2001)
Romanian films made after the fall of communism in 1989 can be categorized as before and after “Stuff and Dough”. The Romanian films of the 90’s all (with no exception) dealt with the same thing: communism. Directors that have lived under the communist regime lounged to tell Romanians and the world like the terrible stories that this regime produced. They also used a lot of unnecessary profanity and nudity – things that weren’t allowed in communist films.
Some films were good but most of them were pretty bad. Then in 1999 Romanian cinema hit rock bottom so much so that between that year and 2001 no films were produced. The came 2001, Cristi Puiu and his debut film “Stuff and Dough” and along with them came the Romanian New Wave of Cinema – one of the most critically acclaimed trends in cinema today.
“Stuff and Dough” is the first film in 12 years not to talk about communism; in fact there not one single connection of reference to the regime in the entire film. It is also the first Romanian road movie. The film’s premise is very simple and the way the story is told is even simpler.
It follows Ovidiu (Alexandru Papadopol), a young man from Constanta looking to get ahead, his friend Vali (Dragos Bucur) and his girlfriend Beti (Ioana Flora), who travel from Constanta to Bucharest transporting a mysterious package that they believe to be pharmaceuticals. The three youngsters travel in a broken-down van on shabby roads. They discuss various little things about their lives and their adventures and just enjoy being young and being good friends.
When a group of complete strangers try to steal their package and then harass them the whole road the three realize that the stuff they are carrying might be something else entirely from what they thought it to be. As fear and panic takes hold of the three they start arguing and pondering what to do next. The three actors were then unknowns; handpicked by the director from acting school.
The dialog in simple and uses a lot of Romanian slangs. All of the characters talk like any other Romanian and are not trying to be pretentious of philosophical about the matter, Still there is a wonderful sense of deepness in their actions as they start to realize that this is just the first step in selling their soul for money; an abyss in which once you’ve walked into you can never get out.
22. Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)
“Superbad” follows the recipe of American teen movie but brings a fresh new set of jokes and situation comedies to the table. It is about two high school seniors who are about to be separated (because they are going to different colleges) after spending all of their life, so far, together. The two belong to the unpopular group of kids and see an upcoming party as their last chance to shine and lose their virginity.
Of course (like any other American teen movie) they long for the affections of popular girls and would do pretty much anything to get on their radar. So they volunteer to supply the alcohol of the party. Being underage they try to get fake ID’s in order to buy alcohol. This gets them into a lot of trouble and the comedy just keeps rolling one scene after another.
But behind all the comedy, the laughter and silliness this is actually quite a touching film about friendship and the whole experience of growing up. The two stick with each other no matter what and can’t help but feel that they’ll still be good times ahead in their life.
23. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
The only Romanian film (after 1989) to have won the Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” is a gripping and haunting tale about a friendship and an abortion. The story takes place in the late 1908’s when the communist regime had reached an unbearable level of exploitation and restriction. In this somber background a young woman aids her friend to have an abortion.
Not only was abortion illegal in that time but her friend was pregnant in 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days making it very dangerous to perform the operation. Despite all this the two girls manage to find someone who is willing to go ahead with the procedure and expose himself to the risks. However the” price” for this is might seem a little too much to bear.
Eventually they agree to the shameful request of the abortionist but there actions leave emotional scars and destroy one of the girls relationship; no to mention the friendship between the two. The film is shot in a minimalist manner with faded colors and realist dialogue. Realism is the word to describe this soul crushing film that shows the things people are willing to do just to help a friend in need.
24. Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood, 2008)
This movie marks the last appearance of Clint Eastwood in a Clint Eastwood film. It tells the story of a grumpy old man named Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) who befriends a teenage boy of Asian origins. There is a sweetness to this film that few other productions of the genre can match. Eastwood makes a very believable role as the grouch of the neighborhood who opens up his heart to the most unexpected person.
At first completely ignorant to the Hmon culture Walt finds himself closer to this family of immigrants than to his own family, especially to the teenage boy Thao, an introverted young man who is a constant victim of bullies. Walt does not teach Thao about the birds and the bees but he does teach him discipline, the importance of hard an honest work, honesty; basically everything a young boy needs to know in order to become a man.
The friendship between Walt and Thao is surely one that will stand the test of time and will often be mentioned as one of the best on-screen friendships.
25. Boogie (Radu Muntean, 2008)
“Boogie” is probably the best Romanian film about friendship, with all of its positives and negatives. While holidaying at the seaside Bogdan (nicknamed Boogie) and his wife accidentally bump into to Boogie’s old high school friends. The two friends are having a weekend escape just between the guys. With almost no effort Boogie is drawn back into the stag world; a world of freedom, alcohol and casual sex.
Boogie is married and has a little boy and with that comes responsibility and from his point of view this means his freedom in over. So Boogie goes on a guy’s night out with his two friends while leaving his wife behind in the hotel room. The three reminisce old times recalling all sorts of adventures, people they knew and songs they used to sing; all of these things create a nostalgia and a craving in Boogie’s heart and mind.
But sadly no world is perfect and Boogie comes to discover that his two friends are very lonely and dissatisfied with their lives and that they actually envy him for having a family and a steady job. Boogie soon realizes that his friends are not what they used to be in high school but maybe he is not the same anymore either. The big question really is this: did their friendship stand the test time?
Author Bio: Horia Nilescu is a 30-year-old cinephile from Brasov, Romania. He works at a local bookstore as a multimedia & events manager (handling supplying issues in regards to cd’s and dvd’s and also organizing local events). He is passionate about film and fascinated by its diversity. He has created a local film club in Brasov (going of 3 years) in which he handles all aspects. He likes to talk and write about movies but most importantly he likes to watch them.