Recommended: The Sea Hawk
If you liked: The Adventures of Robin Hood
Why: Not as well known as Robin Hood (which also stars Errol Flynn), but I love The Sea Hawk even more. It’s the quintessential swashbuckling film, filled with sword fights, English roses, haughty Spaniards, espionage on the high seas, and–best of all–the dashing Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, one of my first childhood heroes. If I could keep only one scene of any film ever made, it would be the eucatastrophic turn at the end of Act II: my single favorite moment in cinematic history. Wait for it.
If you liked: Enchanted
Why: If you honestly enjoyed the behemouthly lame Enchanted, then you will love Stardust even more and never return to Enchanted again. Stardust has its awkward moments, but it’s really good at its job–spinning together elements of all the fairytales you grew up reading: an empty throne, a crownless king, a lost princess, a fallen star, a cloud-sailing pirate who bottles lightning, and an old witch on a ruthless quest for youth. My family and I really enjoyed this one.
Recommended: Super 8
If you liked: The Goonies
Why: I wish some of the later Harry Potter films had struck the same balance as J.J. Abrams does here: fun enough to delight, scary enough to thrill, and warm enough to make you feel good but not gooey. All the young actors put in fantastic performances (especially Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney), the dialogue feels true and spontaneous (frequently ad libbed by the kids themselves, and unfortunately includes lots of swearing), and the train wreck is incredible. I’m not going to spoil the story any more. (J.J. wouldn’t liked it.) But it’s one of my favorite kids-in-danger movies ever and I never get tired of it.
Action With a Brain
Recommended: The Ghost and the Darkness
If you liked: Jaws
Why: One of my favorite action-dramas and certainly one of my top five man-vs.-monster movies. While not as define-the-times original as Jaws or Jurassic Park, The Ghost and the Darkness is a solid, powerful, memorable film with strong writing (based on a true story), unforgettable suspense, and an epic, pounding music score from Jerry Goldsmith–even a little too epic at times. I don’t want to spoil one of the best scenes, so let me just say: far too many films have gone for the same effect, and The Ghost and the Darkness puts them all to shame. If that’s too cryptic for you, you’ll just have to watch it. (Hint: the scene concerns lions…)
Recommended: 28 Days Later
If you enjoyed: World War Z
Why: I’m not afraid of scary movies, but I was scared of 28 Days Later. Hated it the first time because I thought it was a disgustingly well crafted horror story with no moral besides, gee, aren’t we all glad zombies aren’t real? But I watched it again (a year or so later) and fell in love. Beneath all the blood and fright and ugly lies a beautiful gospel story that Christians should watch. It’s by far the best of the good zombie movies. Check out a longer review (and a comparison with I am Legend and World War Z) here.