Melancholic, elegiac, and achingly beautiful to look at, this is a surprisingly quiet essay of wise guys with tommy guns, including Paul Newman in one of his final roles and a surprisingly sniveling Daniel Craig in his pre-007 days. It is not the energetic shot of adrenaline to the heart that one might expect after watching a lot of Martin Scorsese gangster flicks, but 20 years later it’s still evocative and memorable.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Steven Spielberg took H.G. Wells’ turn-of-the-century science fiction milestone, already filmed once before in 1953, and quite effectively, and brilliantly updated it. This turns into an exploration of post-9/11 America and the fear that gripped the nation in the aftermath of that horrific day. One of the director’s darkest films, it faithfully follows the trajectory of Wells’ story for the most part, but imbues it with an anger and dread that Spielberg has rarely deployed in such intense fashion.
Tom Cruise does solid work as the story’s working-man hero, but War of the Worlds will continue to be remembered for its often stunning imagery: people running and being blasted out of existence by the alien tripods; burning bodies floating down a clogged river; a downed airplane lodged into the middle of a suburban neighborhood, corpses dangling everywhere. Spielberg may slightly pull his punches toward the finish, but this remains one of the most terrifying sci-fi movies of the past 20 years.
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
The classic romantic comedy of its time, When Harry Met Sally… follows the two title characters, played to perfection by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, as they meet in college and continue to interact with each other over the next 12 years—studiously avoiding the fact that they are not meant to be just friends but are actually each other’s soulmates.