Here’s our pick of 15 films to help keep you entertained during the coronavirus lockdown. Whilst they might not be able to expand your physical horizons, we hope that they will stimulate your mind or at the very least offer some respite from this tumultuous time.
1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
A tragicomedy, ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ tells the story of a mother seeking justice for her raped and murdered daughter. Its clever script, sharp wit and set of caricatures, including Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), a defiant and ferocious female lead with a deadpan sense of humour, make it a film I can watch over and over again.
2. Les Intouchables
An improbable friendship ensues when Philippe (Francois Cluzet), a millionaire quadriplegic Frenchman, hires Driss (Omar Sy), a convicted black man from a poor suburban ghetto, as his caretaker. Despite differing life experiences, Phillipe and Driss show an enormous amount of compassion and their contrasting attitudes towards art, music, opera and women are laugh-out-loud funny. Its uplifting story based on truth earns its place on this list.
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
An apathetic man named Joel (Jim Carey) discovers that his free-spirited yet fragile ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has undergone a medical procedure to wipe any memory of him and decides to follow suit. Its exploration of memory's impact on identity and the bittersweet complexity of love gives it a depth and cleverness that make it a great film to re-watch.
4. The Lives of Others
'The Lives of Others' chronicles the ruthlessness of the Stasi, the GDR’s secret police. In 1980s eastern Germany, a state of surveillance ensured a toxic environment of mistrust in which everyone became the enemy. In the film, a Stasi officer instructed to spy on playwright George Dreyman must grapple with his own emotions and misgivings, and for me it is this humanist touch to such a brutal history of Orwellian surveillance that grants its appeal.
5. The Breakfast Club
Set in a 1980s suburban American high school, five teenagers belonging to different cliques unexpectedly bond during a Saturday detention. Materialising as a character study of a cross section of teenagers, the film captures the social rifts, alienation and angst of high school in a touching, humourist way. Whilst the cliques and fashions might have changed, its essence still seems relevant today.
6. La Haine
Portraying the lives of three multi-ethnic young men trapped in the lowest social ranks and confined to the banlieues, 'La Haine' taps into the long history of racism and social inequality within France. Filmed in black and white, it cleverly reflects the timelessness of the film’s subject and removes the classic romanticisation of Paris (the film's location), replacing it with a brutal and stark landscape.
7. The Boat That Rocked
For when you need some feel-good fun, ‘The Boat That Rocked’ delivers it aplenty. It follows four exuberant and hedonistic pirate radio station DJs that continue to play rock and roll music from a ship despite a government ban. Richard Curtis transports us to the swinging 60s, reminding us of the rapturous power of music.
8. The Shawshank Redemption
Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sentenced to life in a maximum-security prison for a crime that he did not commit yet he never gives up on the chance of freedom. Despite the torturous realities of the prison, Andy does not falter and befriends a long-term inmate named Red (Morgan Freeman). Its core sentiment of hope is guaranteed to leave you feeling uplifted and inspired.
9. Little Miss Sunshine
A dysfunctional family sets out on an interstate road trip to support Olive’s (Abigail Breslin) dream of becoming Little Miss Sunshine, the winner of a children’s beauty pageant. Olive: a bespectacled, round bellied seven-year-old; her nearly bankrupt, self-help business-owning parents; her mute philosophising brother; her suicidal uncle and her crass grandfather, all pack into a battered VW van to realise her dream. I love the film for its quirky affable characters, their near fearless approach towards individuality and sheer determination against all odds.
10. City of God
'City of God' offers a gripping and impassioned insight to gang violence in 1970s Rio, Brazil. With few opportunities to escape the crime and brutality of the slums, it explicates child participation in gangs in a non-condescending fashion, showing moments of tenderness and hilarity alongside. That it is based on truth and acted out by a predominantly non-professional cast gives the film an authenticity and spirit that steers clear of Hollywood exaggeration and romanticisation.
11. A Star is Born
'A Star is Born' is about the relationship that develops between Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), a successful artist suffering with addiction, and Ally (Lady Gaga), a struggling artist that has given up on her dream. Its camera angles allow you to share their ecstasy from performing on stage. The onscreen chemistry and powerful music make it a beautiful watch, yet it is also a tragic reminder of the tendency to dehumanise celebrities causing their demise.
12. The Graduate
Having just returned from college in the 1960s, simmering with frustration and disaffect, Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), the 21-year-old son of wealthy Californian parents, begins an affair with his parents’ friend, Mrs Robinson, only to then fall in love with her daughter. The film muses on Ben’s fear of becoming his parents and taking on their purportedly staid and hollow lives.
If a beguiling love story takes your fancy, then 'Brooklyn', about an Irish girl that migrates to New York in the 1950s, might well be the one for you. Just like the novel, it is charming and captivating, and Saoirse Ronan plays the lead fantastically well.
Chiron (Ashton Sanders), a coming of age young black man, tries to make sense of an identity that interlaces blackness, poverty, masculinity and queerness. Moonlight is one of the first films to address all of these complex social categorisations, doing so in a sensitive and holistic way.
15. Jackie Brown
One of Tarantino’s lesser known films and one that departs from his usual high shock blood and gore. Accompanied by a soulful soundtrack, Pam Grier’s portrayal of an unwaveringly cool and capable air stewardess that, having been caught smuggling money, is torn between appeasing the ATF agents, her arms dealing boss and cross cutting them both, is what gives the film its edge.