Das Boot puts you inside a stranded and submered German U-Boat and explores the physical and emotional tensions of the situation with a vivid, terrifying realism. Holding it all together, under harrowing conditions, is a single man. The captain is a scruffy, mildly cynical, bastion of strength. He deals calmly with almost any situation, drawing on a seemingly unlimited store of courage.
Best line: “You have to have good men. Good men, all of them.”
Star Wars (The Original Trilogy)
The reason Star Wars became a cultural phenomenon wasn’t because of the special effects. It was the story. Star Wars simply put a futuristic spin on the archetypal story of heroic good vs. evil that men have been telling around fires for millennia. Stick with the original trilogy. They’re still the best. Mainly because manly man Han Solo is in it. If CGI effects was all it took to make a good movie, then we would have all loved Jar Jar Binks.
Best line: “I am your father.”
Rudy, a scrappy blue collar kid, has a dream of playing football with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. While Rudy wasn’t blessed with the talent or the body to be a star athlete, he’s a got a lot of heart and determination. When you’re feeling like the underdog in life, just plop down and watch Rudy. You’ll be ready to “Play Like a Champion” afterwards.
Best Line: “You’re 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for 2 years. And you’re gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen. Now go on back.”
High Noon is film about being torn between duty, love and standing up for what you believe in, even when everyone else abandons you. Gary Cooper plays Will Kane, a town marshal from New Mexico, who settles down with his pacifist Quaker wife (played by Grace Kelly, one of your grandpa’s babes). Kane plans to retire to a peaceful life are interrupted after he gets word that a former gunslinger is coming in on the noon train to settle an old score with him. His wife pleads with him to leave town, but Kane knows he can’t. He has a duty to defend the town and his honor. Will finds himself alone in the battle as everyone in town, including his deputy sheriff, have turned away from him. The tension builds, leading up to the final gun battle.
Best line: “Don’t shove me Harv. I’m tired of being shoved.”
It is impossible to capture the life of any man in one film, much less the life of a man who saw and did as much as Mahatma Gandhi. Thus the filmmakers who tried to capture his life on the silver screen sought not to give a blow by blow account of Gandhi’s life, but instead to capture his spirit in what they did show. The film begins with Gandhi’s assassination and then starts the retrospective of his life, beginning with his being thrown off a train for being Indian, and through his non-violent efforts to win Indians their rights and then their independence. One man truly can free an entire nation, if not change the entire world.
Best line: “They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me, then they will have my dead body. NOT MY OBEDIENCE!”
When people think about James Dean, they typically picture him in his role in Rebel Without a Cause. Even though it’s over 50 years old, Rebel Without a Cause still captures the feelings of modern teenage angst: nervous, confused, and feeling lost in a world that is changing. James Dean plays Jim Stark, a juvenile delinquent who moves into a new town. Jim clashes with other teenagers and his parents, whom he feels simply don’t understand him. The movie often points a finger at weak or absent fathers as the cause of teenage rebellion. Jim father’s always backs down to his wife when they argue, leading Jim to ask, “”What do you do when you have to be a man?”
Best line: “You’re tearing me apart!”
The French Connection is based on the true story of the Turmanio Case- a large heroine smuggling ring that linked the New York mob with a French mob in Marseilles. Two NYC cops busted the ring using tactics that were morally and ethically questionable. In The French Connection, the names have been changed, but the overall story stays the same. Legendary actor Gene Hackman plays Popeye Doyle, a ruthless cop who’ll do anything, legal or not, to get the job done: wiretaps, shakedowns, theft distribution of heroin to informants, extortion. You get the idea. The French Connection is thus a Machiavellian film. It forces the viewer to ask themselves if the ends really do justify the means, even if the end is noble. Oh, and a porkpie hat never looked so bad ass on a man as it does on Gene Hackman in this film.
Best line: “All right, Popeye’s here!”
Filled with iconic scenes and memorable (but often misquoted) lines, Casablanca is a love story that you can watch with your girlfriend, while still feeling manly because it has Humphrey Bogart in it. Bogart plays Rick Blaine, a bitter American ex-patriate living in Casablanca during World War II. One day his old flame and the woman who turned him cynical, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) walks into his club with her husband. An awkward and tense love triangle commences. In the end Blaine has a decision that many men face in their life: get what you want or sacrifice for the greater cause.
Best line: “Here’s looking at you kid.”
Cinema often glorifies the Old West as a mythic time when good guys wore white and the bad ones wore black. In Unforgiven, director/actor/producer Clint Eastwood shines a light on the dark, violent, and morally ambiguous aspects of life in frontier America. Clint Eastwood plays William Munny, a once notorious and violent killer. Now, he’s just a quiet and tired farmer who is a devoted father still mourning his dead wife. But Will’s old life comes back to haunt him when he’s asked to do a hit on a cowboy who slashed the face of a prostitute. Will is transplanted from his farm in Kansas to a town in Wyoming where he meets Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman), a mean son-of-a-bitch who is determined to not let the hit go down, no matter what it takes. Hold onto your hats, partners. This isn’t your grandpa’s Western.
Best line: “Hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.”
Animated films often don’t have much to offer a man, packed as they are with zany animal sidekicks and pop culture humor. But The Iron Giant is not so much an animated film as it is a film that happens to be animated. It’s a beautifully drawn, intelligent, and thoughtful film in which a giant robot falls from space and is befriended and taken care of by a boy. It’s 1957, and Cold War paranoia is running high, making the robot a target of government suspicion. I won’t give the ending away, but the story is an emotional tale about doing the right thing and sacrifice. A real masterpiece.
Best line: “You are what you choose to be. You choose. Choose.”
General Maximus Decimus Meridius represents all that is good in a man. He loved his family, he loved his country, he knew how to lead, and he kicked some serious ass. This movie has everything a man would want in a flim: epic battle scenes involving huge swords and a protagonist who is fighting for what is right. If you ever need a film to pump you up for something, watch Gladiator.
Best line: “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”
Jimmy Stewart plays a small town scoutmaster named Jefferson Smith who is picked to fill an empty U.S. Senate seat. The scheming politicians and party boss who foisted this office on Mr. Smith had plans to control this naive country bumpkin as a cog in their political machine. Little did they know, they picked a man filled with integrity, honor, and ideals. The filibusterer scene is classic. Mr. Smith spoke for 23 hours straight, beseeching his fellow Congressman to listen to their consciences, only to faint out of exhaustion at the end. Hokey? Maybe a bit. But in a world where corporate and political corruption runs rampant, men like Mr. Smith can inspire all men everywhere to stand up for what is right.
Best line: “Because of just one, plain, simple rule: Love thy neighbor. And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You know that rule, Mr. Paine, and I loved you for it, just as my father did. And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any others. Yes, you even die for them, like a man we both knew, Mr. Paine.”
A brash young pool shark named Fast Eddie (Paul Newman) sets his sights on defeating one of the game’s greatest players–Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). But getting up on Fats isn’t enough. He wants to crush his opponent. Eddie’s relentless drive eventually becomes his undoing as his winning streak turns to defeat. But Fast Eddie is tenacious. He musters up some more cash and challenges Minnesota Fats again. The Hustler is about more than pool. It’s about winning and losing, greed, self-respect, and redemption.
Best line: “You know, this is my table, man. I own it.”
During the time of Prohibition, when it seemed the whole country could be bought and sold by ganglords, a small group of men stood firm and fought the storm that raged around them. The movie follows Eliot Ness, a U.S. Treasury Agent, and his group of hand picked men that brought down the infamous mob boss, Al Capone. Sean Connery is perfect as Jim Malone, the gritty Irish street cop who taught us never to bring a knife to a gun fight.
Best line: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That’s* the *Chicago* way!
Based on John Steinbeck’s famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath follows a group of “Okies” during the Great Depression on their westward trip to a California in search of a better life. Henry Fonda plays the story’s main protagonist, Tom Joad, a man who has to hold his family together as the high hopes they began the journey with collide with a far colder reality. The film softened Steinbeck’s political overtones and gave the story a more hopeful ending, yet it’s still a movie of real thought-provoking substance.
Best Line: “I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.”
Steve McQueen is the man and Bullitt puts his rugged manliness on full display. The film is raw and edgy and changed the way detective movies were made in Hollywood. The best thing about this movie? The epic car chase scene through the streets of San Francisco. It was and still is the best car chase scene in film history. A 390 GT Mustang never looked so good.
Best line: “You work your side of the street and I’ll work mine.”
Although we remember World War II as “the good war”, the one where the soldiers didn’t complain much about the hell they went through, GI’s from the Big One had the same rough time transitioning back to home life that all soldiers did and do. And The Best Years of Our Lives is a rare movie that honestly captures that experience. The film follows 3 servicemen who hitch a ride together back to the same town. Each has a very different life he is coming home to, and each has their own struggles to fit back into that life.
Best line: “You know, I had a dream. I dreamt I was home. I’ve had that same dream hundreds of times before. This time, I wanted to find out if it’s really true. Am I really home?”
With believable characters and deft touches of humor supplementing the blow em up plot, Die Hard reigns as one of the greatest action films of all time. John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, is an off-duty cop who gets caught up in a fight when sophisticated bank robbers crash his wife’s company Christmas party. He picks them off one by one, and even survives their attempt to blow up the building. I’d hate to see what John McClane would have done if he had his shoes on.
Best line: “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”
An underground martial arts tournament, drugs, prostitutes, revenge, some sick Kung Fu, mirrors – is there anything this movie doesn’t have? The first Kung Fu flick to come out of Hollywood was, sadly, the final one from Bruce Lee. Hailed as one of the most financially profitable films of all time, Enter the Dragon capitalized on the insane ability of one of martial arts’ prodigies. The story follows Lee on a journey to avenge his sister’s death and bring honor back to his master and Shaolin Temple. Throw in a secret island, some hookers, maybe a little international espionage and… let’s face it, we don’t really watch these kinds of movies for the plot. Bruce Lee is ridiculously awesome and that’s all I really need to say.
Best line: “Don’t think. FEEL. It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”
American culture has unfortunately and simplistically rendered the history of the civil rights movement as a battle between Martin Luther King Jr., the good guy who got it right, and Malcolm X, the bad guy who got it wrong. The story is of course much more complicated, as is Malcolm X himself. You owe it to yourself to get a fuller picture of the man by reading his autobiography, and watching this film which also goes a long way in showing both his faults and his too often forgotten virtues.
Best line: “A man curses because he doesn’t have the words to say what’s on his mind.”