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Movie Recommendations to Friends and Their Favorite Movies

Updated on July 6, 2020

My favorite movie is Casablanca. Has been and will forever be until I die. What can I do? I'm an old soul. I got into classic movies when I was 13. Casablanca wasn’t my first “old” movie but The African Queen. Bogie was in it and he became one of my favorite actors of all time. The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Big Sleep, but it’s his American anti-hero, the man who will not stick his neck out for nobody, Rick Blaine that had the most impression on me. I’m proud to say that I share the same sentiment with Leonard Maltin, my favorite movie critic, who wouldn’t hesitate to name Casablanca as his favorite in a snap, as would I. His favorite line is “I was misinformed” when Captain Renault (Claude Rains) asked Rick what brought him to the place, mine is Renault saying “That is my least vulnerable spot!” when Rick had a gun aimed at his heart. In some aspects, we differ, to each his own, as do other people when it comes to which movies are their favorite.

I asked some friends what their favorite movie of all time were. Just the title. No explanation whatsoever. And I write down why I think they chose that movie based on what I know about them, then I recommend a title for them to watch. Here are a varied list of movies, some you may already have seen, some you might want to try out.

CARLO, 37, Graphic Artist

His favorite movie: BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson

Who doesn’t love the whole Marty McFly thing, right? Time travel was “the” thing back in the 80s, consider Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, The Terminator, The Philadelphia Experiment, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. But, Back to the Future is special. It has the DeLorean and it has Christopher Lloyd. And I get why Carlo chose it as his favorite movie of all time. Because he’s got to be one of the nicest person I know, a confidant, one I would trust my innermost secret to that I know he’ll bring to his grave. Like Marty, he really could keep a secret. He’s that nice or maybe well, he just doesn’t care. No matter, BTTF brings back childhood memories and may be everyone’s favorite childhood movie no matter when they were born. Ah, maybe it’s that sentimental feeling.

The Time Machine (1960). Directed by George Pal.
The Time Machine (1960). Directed by George Pal.

MY MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: One of the movies that got me hooked on classic movies was the original time travel movie—George Pal’s version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1960) starring Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux.

STAN, 45, Comedian

His favorite movie: KUNG-FU HUSTLE (2004)
Director: Stephen Chow
Cast: Stephen Chow, Danny Chan Kwok-kwan, Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu, Bruce Leung Siu-lung

Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu-Hustle is a cauldron of pop references from Spider-Man to The Godfather. Buster Keaton to Bruce Lee, Laurel & Hardy to the Looney Tunes, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to The Matrix. It has fighting sequences exaggerated to the nth degree. It has the Pig Sty Alley that seemed like its part-apocalyptic settlement, part Star Wars trading post. Chow’s inspiration was his own neighborhood in Hong Kong growing up. When the movie was released, Stephen Chow became famous internationally, though it was the wuxia heroes disguised as the chain-smoking landlady and the landlord played by Yuen Qui and Yuen Wah that really stole the show. This martial arts-comedy masterpiece is the obvious choice of favorite movie by Stan, an old friend who had been gifted by the great Buddha with many talents—stand-up comedy, hosting podcasts, making youtube videos, and doing comic strips. He is also part-Chinese. Though, I don’t think he knows any martial arts. You’d know when you see him. He's just too nice a guy. Or, what if he really is a kung-fu master in disguise?

The General (1926). Directed by Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman
The General (1926). Directed by Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman

MY MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: Stan would’ve seen his lion’s share of kung-fu comedies. He’s an 80s boy, so it was the era of Jacky Chan. Segue to Jacky Chan’s American inspiration, none other than the great stoneface, silent movie legend Buster Keaton. The man who was his own special effects. His best is The General (1926).

ERIKA, 33, Marketing Manager

Her favorite movie: THE PRINCESS DIARIES (2001)
Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo, Heather Matarazzo, Mandy Moore

So what kind of someone would have Princess Diaries as their favorite movie? Your daughter in kindergarten, perhaps? Your little niece with the braces? Or a lovely marketing manager who could be graceful as a princess and also hang out with the boys? If you knew Erika like I did, then you’d say this is her movie. Based on the young adult novel by Meg Cabot, Princess Diaries catapulted Anne Hathaway into teen stardom. It wasn’t only her debut movie but also of recording star Mandy Moore. As far as high school ugly duckling stories go, it's pretty much formulaic. The gang's all here: the DUFF, the cheerleader bitch, the hot guy jerk, the secret admirer, the supportive mother. They even threw in Hector Elizondo from Marshall’s Pretty Woman as a sort of voice of reason. What makes this movie memorable though, is the casting of Julie Andrews. They said the movie revived her career, if you could call doing voice overs a career. But it did cemented her legacy, something we should be thankful for.

Roman Holiday (1953). Directed by William Wyler.
Roman Holiday (1953). Directed by William Wyler.

MY MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: What Princess Diaries did to Anne Hathaway’s career, so did Roman Holiday (1953) to Audrey Hepburn. Directed by William Wyler and co-starred Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert, it is one of the best romantic comedies ever.

JAMES, 52, Writer

His favorite movie: DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989)
Director: Peter Weir
Cast: Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen, Norman Lloyd

James had been my boss at different times from two different ad agencies. We also collaborated on independent comic books, and still do today. He has that creative passion and enthusiasm to teach just like the radical Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society played by Robin Williams urging his students to seize the day! Set in 1959 when beat poetry and jazz were in full swing, I sometimes forget that Dead Poets Society is a period film maybe because it feels as secluded as that damn Welton Academy, which only makes camaraderie stronger. And when boys get together they rebel (and get those weird ideas, too). And in that scenario I think James would stand out from the rest not just because he’s tall, but because he’s always ready to fire the first shot. But he’s no anarchist. Oh no. He’s a firm believer in the values of tradition and good morals. And probably that’s why he had been in all those years, the captain of our ship.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). Directed by Sam Wood.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). Directed by Sam Wood.

MY MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: There are a number of good movies that happen inside the classroom or school. I think of Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver, Michelle Pfieffer in Dangerous Minds, and Morgan Freeman in Lean on Me. But I always go for that beloved school teacher Arthur Chipping played by Robert Donat in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939).

SHINOBI, 47, Creative Head

His favorite movie: THE KARATE KID (1984)
Director: John G. Avildsen
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elizabeth Shue, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Randee Heller

I’ve worked with Shinobi for around 2 years as part of a graphics design team, and it’s a no brainer why he chose the classic martial arts movie. He has a green belt in Karate and also grew up in the 80s. I also loved the film back then and probably like him, wore a bandana, did the wax on wax off and that crane kick with Survivor’s Moment of Truth playing in my head. We both think the new Cobra Kai TV series kicks-ass and realized a newfound admiration for William Zabka who played Daniel LaRusso’s arch-nemesis Johnny Lawrence, whom every kid probably hate back then. I did, but now I fully understand where Johnny was coming from. Yeah, Daniel is a prick. Now, I just hate Johnny for falling for that crane kick. I mean, it is just too obvious that Daniel was going to kick with the other leg. But Shinobi is more like Mr. Miyagi for his enviable work ethic and discipline. And people around him respect him for that.

The Five Deadly Venoms (1978). Directed by Chang Che
The Five Deadly Venoms (1978). Directed by Chang Che

MY MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: Shinobi (real name: Erwin) obviously loves everything Japanese and must have seen his share of ninja and samurai movies, so I recommend some Shaw Brothers kung-fu, one of the best being 1978’s The Five Deadly Venoms.

ALLYSA, 29, Writer

Her favorite movie: WHATEVER WORKS (2009).
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Conleth Hill, Henry Cavill, Ed Begley Jr.

Allysa is a kindred spirit whom I both share a love for books. She struck me as someone who fancies reading a book during a rainy day, comfortably on the sofa petting her dog, wilst drinking a hot beverage. A scene that goes well in a Woody Allen movie. Whatever Works is the director’s 39th feature film and has Larry David play another one of his fantasies. An old misanthrope falls for a pretty, simple-minded runaway, they marry, but eventually split up. It’s familiar Allen territory from quite a number of his movies. The menage à trois as always, the better man playing to Allen’s insecurities, and the breaking of the fourth wall. And don’t forget entropy. So, why this, Allysa? Why not Allen’s other New York stories? I’d probably not pick them too. I’ve already grown tired of Annie Hall and Manhattan. By comparison, this movie is light, easy, uncomplicated and delightful, and sometimes those are the things we really need.

Next Stop Wonderland (1998). Directed by Brad Anderson.
Next Stop Wonderland (1998). Directed by Brad Anderson.

MY MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: If it’s for those certain moods, nothing is better than a romantic comedy with a bossanova soundtrack, Brad Anderson’s indie gem Next Stop Wonderland (1998) with Hope Davis, Alan Gelfant and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

KYO, 32, Strategic Planner

Her favorite movie: PULP FICTION (1994)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Harvey Keitel, Ving Rhames, Christopher Walken

1994 was a great and memorable year for movies. Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, The Lion King, Speed, True Lies, Interview with the Vampire, Clerks, Ed Wood, Ace Ventura, Reality Bites, The Professional, and that’s just to name a few. All of which were tops in their genres. But, and in my best Don La Fontaine voice, there’s one movie that took the genre to new heights. I’m talking of course of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. It was “the” bomb. The movie that made more people wanting to be directors or screenwriters just because they thought that if a video clerk could do it, they could too. Pulp Fiction was just phenomenal. This is Kyo’s favorite movie for good reason. She’s a strategic planner. No, she doesn’t plan airstrikes but works in the PR business. I take her as someone very impressionistic of people, curious about them, and easily enthralled by them. Must come with the job too. And there’s plenty of curious characters in the Tarantino world.

Brawl in Cellblock 99 (2017). Directed by  S. Craig Zahler
Brawl in Cellblock 99 (2017). Directed by S. Craig Zahler

MY MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: The only movie that comes close to a Quentin Tarantino is another Quentin Tarantino movie. So, the question really is, who could be the next Tarantino-esque auteur? It’s a matter of opinion. So, I give you writer/director S. Craig Zahler. In just three of the movies he wrote and directed, Bone Tomahawk (2015), Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017), and Dragged Across Concrete (2018), he redefined raw violence and gruesome deaths.

RYAN, 31, Director

His favorite movie: THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998)
Director: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Cast: Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Chris Elliott

I haven’t seen There’s Something About Mary in a long, long time. Too long. That long ago that I’ve forgotten many of the scenes, except for one, and you’d probably know what I’m talking about. Ben Stiller comes out of the bathroom, opens the door, Cameron Diaz is outside, they’re going on a date, and what’s that hanging on Ben Stiller’s ear? Yeah. Hair gel! Cameron Diaz with her bangs sticking up is the poster image of the movie. I remember people exploding in laughter in theatres. The Farrelly Brothers arrived that year and saved comedy. Not that it needed saving, but, I really felt that they did. There’s Something About Mary is my friend Ryan’s favorite movie. He directs videos. He’s a fitness nut, and all-around party guy. When I asked him what movie, it was a toss up between this and Good Will Hunting. He was rather torn. So, I asked him which movie would he choose if he had been stranded on a deserted island, and this comedy won. Okay, so there’s no electricity in a deserted island. Only hair gel.

Swingers (1996). Directed by Doug Liman.
Swingers (1996). Directed by Doug Liman.

MY MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: I consider it an underrated comedy because I don’t think many (at least among my friends) had seen it, Doug Liman’s swinging cool comedy Swingers (1996). It stars Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn and Ron Livingston, with its quotable quotes and too many classic scenes. Mike’s phone call being my personal favorite. I’m surprised this isn’t Ryan’s favorite movie because it is so him. Oh, he’d surely be screaming Vegas!!! when it’s over.

Rita, 33, Producer

Her favorite movie: AKIRA KUROSAWA’S DREAMS (1990)
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Akira Terao, Mitsuko Baisho, Martin Scorsese, Chisu Ryu

This is only the second time I’m watching Dreams in almost 30 years. I can only think of one great movie that I haven’t seen that long, and that’s Volker Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drum (1979). Somehow, nothing compelled me to seek them. Maybe I saw them too early and didn’t quite “get it.” Dreams is comprised of eight short stories that were actual dreams the director had and are meant to be a visual experience both surreal and metaphoric. I feel a little guilty not watching it sooner because it showed a side of Kurosawa not bound by swordfights. Like his Western counterpart John Ford who ventured outside gunfights and made The Grapes of Wrath. The parallelism of the two is a beautiful thing but its a story for another day. Dreams is the favorite movie of Rita, a producer I have worked with in advertising who really loves foreign films. She’s very easy to work with, always brimming with excitement to get that one great idea. Now, I “get” where she got her influence. After Dreams, Kurosawa never made another samurai movie. His follow-ups were Rhapsody in August (1991), and Madadayo (1993).

24 Frames (2017). Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
24 Frames (2017). Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

MY MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: Movies with multiple stories. Maybe, a horror anthology? Or interlacing stories-in-one? Magnolia? Short Cuts? But these movies are damn talkative. If its just vignettes that’s meditative, there’s the great Abbas Kiorastami’s last film 24 Frames (2017). Goes well with yoga, too.

Simon, 45, Application Developer - I.T. Security

His favorite movie: THE MATRIX (1999)
Director: The Wachowskis
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano

Simon is a friend from college who now works as an application developer. Computer Programming. Cyber Security. You know, nerd stuff. But he’s the kind that’s not irritating but easy to be with. Straight, just the facts kind-of-guy. In a sci-fi movie he would be the man behind the keyboard looking at all those little blinking falling green numbers. Oh, yeah, the Matrix. The favorite movie not just of tech guys. Some even think it’s a religion. I for one did consider for a second the possibility that we are all but computer simulations. You don’t think so? Okay, fine. But I do like the second movie better because of two things. One, Matrix Reloaded has the burly brawl. Neo versus a whole bunch of Agent Smiths. Two, and this trumps everything else, it has the freeway scene. You know, them fighting agents, the twins, cops while going the wrong way. It is arguably one of the best action sequence ever filmed. The behind-the-scenes are legendary. Now that Matrix 4 is on the horizon, every nerd is in a frenzy. But who knows, that elation may only be an illusion. And this article isn’t real.

Upstream Color (2013). Directed by Shane Carruth
Upstream Color (2013). Directed by Shane Carruth

MY MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: If it’s mind-boggling concepts backed by science you’re looking for, look no further than the two movies that director/writer, and former Mathematics-major Shane Carruth made. Primer (2004) and Upstream Color (2013). Two movies so intelligent there are internet articles and youtube videos dedicated to explaining them.

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