We’re not saying you need to look at life differently. Your perspective on this thing we call living is probably…fine. But if you’re going to watch a movie anyway, why not pick one that could broaden your horizons, works your brain, and make you look at everything differently?
1. Magnolia (1999)
There aren’t many movies that leave you sitting in eerie silence, wondering if your entire life has been a tangled web of bitter grudges, lingering trauma, false bravado, and emotional gunk. Before you call me a sissy, know that Genghis Khan would need to book a session with Dr. Phil if he watched Magnolia. Paul Thomas Anderson’s multi-protagonist epic will punch you right in the tear ducts.
2. They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Are you looking to go to bed in a good mood? Avoid Peter Jackson’s WWI documentary They Shall Not Grow Old like you would a landmine at the Battle of the Marne. Want to watch a film that will sober you up, put your trivial problems into perspective, and perhaps compel you to write a Facebook post urging a couple of world leaders (not naming any names) to negotiate peace ASAP? Load this one up on your streaming service of choice.
3. Starred Up (2013)
You could watch the 45th Avengers spinoff, turn your brain off, and crush several bags of popcorn. Or, you could watch Starred Up, a British prison flick grittier than a five-dollar steak. How often do you consider what daily life in prison is like? Or that the slightest error on your taxes might land you in the slammer, just like Jack O’Connell’s character Eric Love in Starred Up? Check out this underrated movie if you want to see life on the inside without the typical Hollywood tropes and gloss.
4. Her (2013)
One fan of the Spike Jonze film Her decided that the story about a man who falls in love with a robot, only to be dumped by said robot, is “about making peace with past relationships.” No matter how cold and calculating your ex (and how you split with them) may have been, you can love again. On to the next robot, right?
5. The Matrix (1999)
You’re probably thinking: who hasn’t seen The Matrix? I agree, but surely someone who comes across this list still doesn’t understand all the Red Pill references they’ve been hearing for the past half-decade. If that person is you, be The One to watch The Matrix tonight. It will change everything.
6. Arrival (2016)
As the news networks continue to try and whip the public into a UFO-fueled frenzy, Arrival feels like an appropriate entry on this list. Director Denis Villeneuve doesn’t miss, and part of his stellar track record lies in his determination to tackle thoughtful-but-thrilling scripts. Arrival isn’t always thrilling, but it’s tense throughout. When twelve alien crafts touch down on Earth, the human race must grapple with the fact that the aliens don’t speak English. Apparently, there’s no Rosetta Stone on Mars. A brow-furrowing game of figure-it-out ensues, making for a neuron-stimulating couple of hours of cinema.
7. American History X (1998)
Is American History X a bit heavy-handed in its handling of race issues? Some might say that. You can’t expect a director to deftly address the issues explored in American History X in less time than an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience. Still, this Ed Norton-powered film poses more questions and provokes more thought than most movies that clumsily tackle similar themes. There is no clear-cut good or bad guy in American History X. There are just complicated guys.
8. Whiplash (2014)
One fan endorsed the movie Whiplash as the cinematic equivalent of, well, whiplash. The movie will shake you up and will give you a few things to consider if you’ve been mulling the possibility of enrolling in band class, or even a Neil Diamond cover band, for that matter.
9. City of God (2002)
Few films will make you realize that your first-world problems are truly first-world problems like City of God. The Brazilian cinematic masterpiece remains thrilling, shocking, immensely human, and wholly unique more than two decades after its theatrical release. The no-punches-pulled look into the slums of Rio will make you appreciate what you’ve got, and you’ll get to watch one heck of a movie as an added bonus.
10. The Truman Show (1998)
And the message with The Truman Show is this: your Amazon Echo, smart TV, Apple Watch, and toaster? They’re the TV network, and you’re Truman. You don’t necessarily need to have a paranoid takeaway from this movie, though. Perhaps you simply adopt the “life could be worse, I could be living in a simulated dome world” take, in which case The Truman Show might change your worldview for the rosier.
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