While I usually prefer my movies to be a source of complete escapism, every once in a while I look to movies to help me put my problems in perspective, reprioritize my life, or just stress me out so much that whatever I return to in the real world doesn’t seem so bad. Here are 5 movies I can rely on to get the job done:
Get Out – With director Jordan Peele’s follow-up Us killing it (pun intended) at the box office, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about just how groundbreaking — and straight-up freaky — his debut film was. Get Out won him the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for mixing savvy social commentary on race relations with the best aspects of the horror genre. It tells the story of a black man who goes to meet his white girlfriend’s parents and discovers that something is definitely… off. You’ll be on the edge of your seat the whole time because you just know bad stuff is about to go down.
Ben is Back – In a way, this family drama could also be classified as a horror film as told from a parent’s perspective. Julia Roberts plays the mom in a family that’s been torn apart by son Ben’s (Lucas Hedges) drug addiction. When Ben returns home unexpectedly after a stint in rehab, all hell breaks loose again as the family dog is kidnapped, the house is broken into … and then Ben disappears. As a parent, this was a tough one to watch because you will constantly be asking yourself, “What would I do? What is the answer here?” Julia Roberts nails the mixed emotions that come with having a deeply troubled child.
Capernaum – I have a friend who was kind of raised on horror films. Her mom loved them, and so, right or wrong, she has been watching them since she was very little. Nothing seems to faze her. So when she told me that she almost walked out of Capernaum because it was that distressing, I knew it must be powerful. Let me be clear: it is not technically a horror film — it’s a foreign-language drama told in a documentary-like style — but as with Ben is Back, could be classified as a horror film in some people’s eyes, based on its subject matter. It stars real-life 12-year-old Syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeea as a boy who is suing his parents for bringing him into the world, after flashbacks show what a challenging life he’s lived. You will be perpetually in fear of what is going to happen to this child and the equally impoverished people he meets. And although it is not a true story, the worst thing is that you know that it could be.
Boy Erased – Lucas Hedges makes my list again, this time starring in the depressingly true story of a young man whose parents—a Baptist preacher (Russell Crowe) and his hairdresser wife (Nicole Kidman) — send him to a gay conversion therapy program. The horrors he witnesses and survives there will break your heart, and every time Joel Edgerton — who plays the head of the program — is on the screen, you’ll get a pit in your stomach about what might happen next. At least this film offers what could be classified as a happy ending when compared to the others.
Dunkirk – In this 2017 Best Picture and Best Director nominee from Christopher Nolan, the intensity comes from the fact that it’s based on what really happened in World War II on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, when Allied troops were surrounded by Nazis and the situation seemed most grim. It’s an unrelenting look at how the battle was fought from three different perspectives: land, sea and air. You’ll feel like you are right there with soldiers and pilots and everyday citizens as they must make life-or-death decisions. It’s the kind of movie where you’ll suddenly realize that you haven’t taken a breath in a loooong time.
When you’re looking to get sucked into an intense movie experience, what film does it for you?