Welcome to December — a holiday month in many traditions, but this year it’s also an incredibly tight time in millions of households. I’ve heard countless friends and readers talking about “cutting back” this holiday season.
Our mission at ReadTheSpirit is to surprise you, day after day, with unusual and cutting-edge ways to make spiritual connections. But, recommending a group of specifically religious or pointedly Christmas or Hanukkah movies wouldn’t be surprising at all. You know those choices by heart, don’t you?
Instead, we scoured the Internet until we found an intriguing new list of “Flicks That’ll Lift Your Spirits,” compiled by MoviePhone online. But we didn’t stop there. We’ll show you that list at the end of today’s story, but the original MoviePhone list of 25 films looked a little skewed by online voters. Our approach at ReadTheSpirit is to involve our readers. So, I spent a week circulating this list among a couple of dozen teen-agers and several dozen adults, as well. This process really fine-tuned the results in important ways.
The result is our own Top 10 Movies to Lift Your Spirits, which appears above. You can click on any of the covers on this Amazon “carousel” and order any of these movies right now.
(PLEASE NOTE: If you do order them though this page, a small portion of your purchase will help us in our work. And, if you’re reading this in an Email or RSS feed and don’t see DVD covers — click on the headline and jump to our main Web site to see the full story.)
WHY are these 10 movies smart choices for holiday viewing?
They’re inter-generational favorites. Not only do they make great gifts, but these films also are ideal to have on hand for holiday gatherings.
ARE these really cheap?
Yeah, they are. If you haven’t checked out the DVD aisles of popular retailers for the special holiday releases, your jaw will drop when you see the big gift sets of TV series, many of them tagged at more than $100. The new “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” boxed set lists at more than $150! These inspirational crowd pleasers we’re recommending today weigh in at pennies on the dollar compared with the big holiday-packaged sets.
WHY is shopping for such movies tricky?
These films are so popular that various editions of the DVDs are floating around. If you walk into a typical retail store, you might find only a single edition or title in a series available.
Here’s one example of how a little savvy advice can help: Let’s say you want to pick up the crowd-pleaser “Rocky,” which got a strong vote of approval across all age groups as I circulated this list. Well, on a budget, there’s the “Rocky” in the carousel of Top 10 DVDs above. It’s only $10.49 and, if you want a reasonably priced gift — or you want a film to help your crowd pass a single afternoon, then it’s a great choice.
BUT for $20, you can get a boxed set of the first five “Rocky” films, which is an even cooler gift for a “Rocky” fan — or it’s a good selection to have in your own home to sustain high spirits though a whole weekend with friends and family.
BUT for only $5, you can pick up the more recent sixth “Rocky” film, called “Rocky Balboa,” which could be the coolest choice if you know someone who already has enjoyed the old-time “Rocky” movies and might enjoy seeing the end of the series.
Here’s a second example: “It’s a Wonderful Life” got votes from teens as well as adults. Everybody loves this old gem, even if we’ve seen it, as I have, closing in on 40 times.
There are many editions of “Wonderful Life” in almost every store, even grocery stores these days. But, for $18 you can get the special set above that contains both the black-and-white and colorized versions. I know! I’ll make it easy for movie purists among you to send me your complaints right now. But it’s a fun idea if you’ve got a crowd coming to have this DVD set on hand and ask which one they’d like to see. They can argue a little bit then, when they make their choice, they’ll already be talking about the movie and how the scenes should look.
WHY are we highlighting some expanded editions?
They’re fun and they have “extras” that second-time viewers in the household will enjoy.
One great expanded edition is the particular version of “Remember the Titans,” shown above. There are other editions out there, but this is the “Director’s Cut.” Now, truth be told, that’s a bit of a marketing scam because the “Director’s Cut” only adds 7 minutes to the movie.
BUT, this film along with “Rudy” was a slam-dunk, was universally praised by teens, also earned votes from adults — and people said they’d enjoy seeing it more than once. If you’ve got this “Director’s Cut,” then viewers who’ve seen it already can enjoy being the experts in pointing out which scenes are new.
Or, if you look carefully, you’ll see that this “Special Edition-Remastered” set of “Glory” has both widescreen and “full-screen” versions of the movie, which means you can carry it with you and enjoy it on whatever kind of TV set you find in someone’s home.
DID anyone “write in” nominations?
Sure. Mainly we based our polling on the MoviePhone list of 25, because that list apparently had the backing of men, women and young people nationwide. We just fine-tuned it among our dozens of voters to choose a Top 10. But, naturally, people argued for “write-in” inspirational movies.
One very popular recommendation with adults — but unknown to young people — is Peter Yates’ delightful bicycling-and-coming-of-age movie, “Breaking Away.” Older viewers will smile to see actors like Dennis Quaid and Daniel Stern when they were young. Plus, this is a film by Peter Yates, who directed “Bullitt” and “Good Will Hunting.”
Another strong “write in” candidate was “Iron-Jawed Angels,” starring Hillary Swank and Frances O’Connor as suffragettes battling for the 19th Amendment. It’s reasonably priced as a DVD; a high-quality production; something that few in your household will have seen before — although it’s not great for children. It’s an HBO production, so it’s got an almost obligatory R-rated scene or two.
The single most popular “write in” was “The Great Debaters,” which crossed all age groups. Plus, the DVD edition has a lot of cool extras in it about the painstaking attention to detail in the movie from research into the real historical characters — to the period music that was unearthed for the soundtrack.
SO, what else was on the original MoviePhone list of 25?
Here are the other 15 films on the MoviePhone list:
“My Left Foot,” 1989
“The Miracle Worker,” 1962
“Schindler’s List,” 1993
“The Best Years of Our Lives,” 1946
“The Grapes of Wrath,” 1940
“The Bridge on the River Kwai,” 1947
“Hotel Rwanda,” 2004
“Field of Dreams,” 1989
“A Raisin in the Sun,” 1961
“The Diary of Anne Frank,” 1959
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” 1939
“In the Heat of the Night,” 1967
“Stand and Deliver,” 1988
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)