I recently gave you the first 20 of my top 40 DVD rental recommendations. Below are 21-40. It’s an eclectic mix, so you should be able to find something of interest.
21. The Secret of Roan Irish. This magical folk tale by John Sayles is set in Ireland and will turn everyone in the family into a believer. It’s an all-time favorite not to be missed.
22. Kinky Boots. This British film about an ailing shoe company that decides to make shoes for drag queens is a hoot. A musical version of it will soon land on Broadway with a score by Cyndi Lauper, but the film includes a great performance by the underrated actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor.
23. Safe Passage. This family drama stars Susan Sarandon as the matriarch of a family of seven kids. One of her Marine sons may have been killed, and the family must deal with this news. Robert Sean Leonard plays one of her sons, and the performances are excellent throughout.
24. Igby Goes Down. Another Susan Sarandon film, but this quirky coming-of-age tale belongs to Kieran Culkin. Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Ryan Phillippe, Bill Pullman, and Amanda Peet costar. Not too shabby casting.
25. A Shine of Rainbows. A sentimental story, but it’s heartwarming and sweet about a young boy who is adopted by an Irish couple played by Connie Nielsen and Aidan Quinn.
26. The Believer. One of Ryan Gosling’s early films, The Believer is the story of a Jewish boy whose self-hatred leads him to become a neo-Nazi. Yes, it’s intense, but Gosling is remarkable. The screenplay was inspired by a disturbing true story.
27. Pirate Radio. I can’t get enough of this movie about early rock DJs on a pirate station that broadcasts from a boat. The British government wants to shut them down, but it isn’t that easy. It stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman, along with the great Bill Nighy, who is one of my favorites.
28. The Girl in the Café. Another with Bill Nighy, this quiet HBO film by David Yates is a breath of fresh air in a sea of so many derivative movies. Nighy plays a civil servant in Britain who falls for a younger woman (played by Kelly Macdonald) who ends up calling his superiors to task for their political/social views.
29. Something the Lord Made. This HBO film about the first open heart surgery stars Alan Rickman and Mos Def – two actors at the top of their game.
30. Margaret. A harrowing but honest tale with an Oscar-worthy performance by Anna Paquin, Margaret is one to watch only when you feel you can handle a difficult story. But it’s worth it.
31. Keeping the Faith. This Edward Norton film with Jenna Elfman and Ben Stiller is the anti-Margaret. It’s a delight from start to finish – funny and sweet without becoming too sappy.
32. Rounders. Another Edward Norton movie, this one is about poker players, and stars Matt Damon with John Malkovich, John Turturro, and Gretchen Mol.
33. David Copperfield. This version of the Dickens classic stars a very young Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter himself – in his first role. He’s surrounded by a host of greats in fantastic performances, including Maggie Smith, Ian McKellen, Imelda Staunton, and Bob Hoskins.
34. American Psycho. I resisted this movie for years because I don’t like violent films, but a friend begged me to watch it. I’m so glad she did. Watch it from the standpoint that it’s a fantasy, and it becomes an outrageous, hilarious (albeit dark) commentary on image-obsessed 1980’s yuppies. It’s one of my favorites of all time.
35. Don Juan DeMarco. This romantic film with Johnny Depp also features sweet turns by Marlon Brando and Faye Dunaway. A terrific choice for date night, and Depp has some moments that will make women weak in the knees.
36. Touching Evil. One of Masterpiece Theatre’s true masterpieces, this BBC Mystery! series about serial killers is brooding and suspenseful. It also stars my favorite British television actor, Robson Green. Luckily, this one is streaming on Netflix.
37. Reckless. Another with Robson Green, this special BBC film in two parts is about a young doctor who falls in love with an older woman (played by Francesca Annis) who just happens to be his boss’s wife. Funny and romantic.
38. The Tango Lesson. This film is, unfortunately, not yet on Netflix, but I highly recommend it if you can find it. The fascinating filmmaker Sally Potter based it on her own life and stars in it. Excellent music, dancing, and drama.
39. Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. This is another film not yet on Netflix, so it may be hard to find. That’s a shame because it provides wonderful performances from Robert Duvall, Shirley MacLaine, and the late, great Richard Harris. It’s also one of Sandra Bullock’s early films.
40. Heart Beat. This 1980 movie may be even harder to locate. Also not on Netflix, it’s about Jack Kerouac, his friend, Neil Cassady, and Neil’s wife, Carolyn, played by John Heard, Nick Nolte, and Sissy Spacek, respectively.
A Bonus – sort of. I wish I could offer you this next film as a bonus, but alas, it isn’t available on DVD yet. If you still have a VCR and are curious, I highly recommend the 1936 version of the musical Show Boat with some of the cast from early stage productions, including Irene Dunne, Paul Robeson, Hattie McDaniel, and Helen Morgan, who originated the role of Julie in the first Broadway staging in 1927. Not to knock the later version with Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, and Howard Keel, but the acting and singing in this 1936 film just might give you chills.
So, that’s it! My top 40 DVD rentals (and one VHS). (If you didn’t see my first 20, check them out here.) Which ones have you seen? Do you agree? Disagree? Go ahead … let me have it.