Many students may not know this, but deep within the shelves on the third floor of the Leatherby Libraries is home to a true gold mine of movies. Here’s a list of 15 films worth checking out that you can’t find on services like Netflix or Hulu, but can easily access through our school library.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Starting off with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, it can be a hard sell to any casual movie watcher. It’s three hours long and might not have the same high energy as the countless other science fiction films it inspired. That being said, 2001 is the equivalent to “cinematic vegetables” for any film lover- it’s sort of a required viewing. If you ever have three hours free on a weekend, find the biggest screen you can and prepare to go on a journey unlike any other with this cinematic masterpiece.
The Big Lebowski
The Leatherby Libraries is home to many Coen brothers films worth watching, but one stands out from the rest as their best work yet. The Big Lebowski is one of those rare films that gets better and better upon each rewatch. Weren’t a fan the first time? Give it another shot, and if you have never seen the film before, college is the perfect time to be introduced to Jeff Bridge’s career defining role as the Dude.
Big Trouble in Little China
A vastly underrated cult classic from the mind behind Halloween and The Thing, John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China is an absolute blast to watch. Taking inspiration from the great kung-fu Chinese blockbusters, Big Trouble in Little China centers around the iconic Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) as he slings one-liners and “shakes the pillars of heaven” in Chinatown, San Francisco. The film is not all spectacle and captivating fight choreography, though. Carpenter presents a satirical yet thoughtful commentary on the ‘white savior’ protagonist that plagued, and arguably still plagues, films like these, which makes the film all the more enjoyable.
Before director Ryan Coogler dominated pop culture with the hit Black Panther, he directed one of the greatest installments in the Rocky saga: Creed. Better bring some tissues to this one, because Creed will make you cry, but it will also make you cheer. Got an exam or a project coming up that you don’t feel confident about? Watch this film and you’ll be ready to take on the world! It’d also be appropriate to watch this film before the Adonis Creed returns to the ring this Thanksgiving in Creed II.
When discussing great noir films, Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour isn’t brought up as much as it should be. A nightclub pianist hitchhikes his way from New York to Los Angeles. One day, he accepts a ride from a gambler when the driver unexpectedly dies. From beginning to end, Detour is boiling with enough tension and suspense to keep you engaged. The film is a tight 67 minutes, so it never bores you by drawing out the mystery.
Halloween is just around the corner, so why not celebrate by watching something old school… really old school. Tod Browning’s Dracula is one of the few of Universal’s early monster movies that still hold up today thanks to its eerie tone and its excess of gothic aesthetics. This film shaped the image of Count Dracula in pop culture today, so it’s a must watch for any vampire fanatic!
Everyone knows the king of the monsters, but not many have experienced his very first foray on Tokyo. Ishirô Honda’s 1954 classic is a unique film that can be both entertaining to watch with friends. You can have fun watching a dude in a rubber suit kick through a miniature city, or it can be viewed as the film being an allegory of the nuclear bombs being dropped in Japan, which makes the experience a whole lot deeper.
Howard the Duck
The Leatherby Libraries may offer some of the greatest films to ever hit the silver screen, but it also contains a few of its worst. Why would anyone recommend the George Lucas (yes, that’s right, that George Lucas) produced Howard the Duck then, you may ask? Well, Howard the Duck is a special case where the film goes through so many levels of horrible, it’s actually quite entertaining to watch. It’s really telling that the director Willard Huyck has never directed a film since Howard the Duck. He knew he could never top this. Grab some friends and make a night of of this film by questioning how something like this could’ve been made.
Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Listen, a Wes Anderson film was bound to make it onto this list. Out of all of Anderson’s films in the library, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is one worth checking out, not only because it’s one of his best, but also because it works as a great introduction to Wes Anderson style. Anderson’s stylization in an aquatic setting along with the heart and humor from its large cast of characters leads to really charming film. Bill Murray gives one of his best performances as Steve Zissou, who’s essentially Jacques Cousteau, but a lot more emotionally messed up. If this film doesn’t make you want to explore and celebrate life, then who knows what will.
Lost in Translation
That’s right, back to back Bill Murray. Life Aquatic was one of Bill Murray’s best performances, but Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation takes the cake as Bill Murray’s greatest yet. Sofia Coppola paints such an atmospheric picture of Tokyo in this film, which really makes the city a character of its own. How can a city so busy have so much loneliness? How can a relationship so subtle and underplayed feel so romantic? The film may be too methodically paced for some, but if you’re willing to be patient with it, Lost in Translation will reveal its beauty.
If there’s one word to describe Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, it’s hypnotic. While the film doesn’t name drop the cult itself, it’s about Scientology. This film is in no way in support of the church, but more of character study and a twisted deconstruction of the human consciousness and the desire to be the greatest one can be. Joaquin Phoenix is at his all time best in this film. If you want to get a glimpse of the levels of madness he can reach before you watch his performance as the Joker next year, you should definitely give this film a watch. Or if you like strange yet thought provoking movies, then this will be right up your alley.
Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle is just a delight, there’s nothing else to it. Don’t let the fact that it’s a French film scare you away, because there’s very little dialogue. It spends more time letting the viewer have fun with the eccentric characters and physical gags than reading the subtitles. The film is simple yet imaginative, and so wholesome in its comedy. If rainy days ever existed in Southern California, then this film would be a perfect watch during one.
Planet of the Apes
A landmark in science fiction cinema, Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes presents the ultimate “what if” and is the perfect film to watch or revisit in a post Black Mirror culture. While there are some cheesy scenes, the film presents an impressive commentary on the relationship between religion and politics. It deconstructs the power of organized religion and the patriarchy in society and it can lead to ignorance of those who refuse to see, hear, or speak the truth. Pretty clever, huh? Bet you didn’t think you’d get that out of a movie with a bunch of gorillas riding horses!
Singin’ in the Rain
Everyone knows this one, but Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain had to be included purely because, as shocking as it is, it’s nowhere to be found on any prominent streaming service! Thankfully the Leatherby Libraries have you covered when it comes to the best musicals. What hasn’t been said about this film? The music is so catchy and timeless, and the choreography is spellbinding. If you haven’t seen this classic yet, head to the library as soon as you can to check it out!
Almost everything you’ve seen in popular cinema has been inspired by Akira Kurosawa. He’s one of the most influential directors when it comes to telling a grand story. All of Kurosawa’s samurai films are worth checking out. Luckily, the Leatherby Libraries owns his entire filmography. Yojimbo is the perfect first step into his feudal Japan epics. Yojimbo is not nearly as long as some of his other films, but it still carries the same amount of style and gravitas. If you’ve seen any western out of the 1960s and 70s, or even films like Star Wars, you’ll notice various aspects come from films like Yojimbo.
Still not sold? No worries, these are just a handful of the amazing films you can easily get access to at the Leatherby Libraries! If you ever have some time on your hands, explore all that they have to offer and you may just find a cinematic gem of your own. Have fun watching!