Gremlins (1984)

Director: Joe Dante

Cast: Zach Galligan, Hoyt Axton, Phoebe Cates and Howie Mandel

Synopsis: Inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is on a business trip and is searching for a last minute Christmas present for his son Billy (Zach Galligan) when he is brought to an antique Chinese store. In the store he tries to sell one of his inventions when he hears a faint singing and he offers to buy the creature singing. After he is refused sale of the animal the grandson of the store owner secretly sells it too him but tells him there are three rules he must follow keep it away from light sunlight can kill it, don’t get water on it and don’t feed it after midnight. We discover that the animal is a Mogwai which the family names Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel). It is not long however before they spill water on Gizmo which makes more Mogwai’s. It’s not long before they are fed after midnight turning them into small monsters that wreak havoc on the town and it’s people. Now Billy must rush to save the town and Kate (Phoebe Cates) a girl from work he has a crush on before the gremlins destroy to much of the town.

Trivia: Generally credited (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) to influence the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating, as many felt the scenes of violence in both movies were too much for a PG rating, but not enough for an R rating. Hoyt Axton was always the foremost choice for Rand Peltzer. Pat Harrington Jr. was also considered. Pat Hingle was said to have delivered the best screen test, but was passed on because it was feared Rand’s character would take over the picture as a result of Hingle’s excellent performance.

How scary is this really?: This movie is quite notorious because it was one of the films that created the necessity of a PG-13 rating. I have always loved this movie and while an overly scary movie is terrified me as a kid but I still couldn’t help but love it. If it wasn’t the fact that they can turn into gremlins I really wish the Mogwai was a pet you could actually have because they are beyond adorable. Although it is set around Christmas I still feel as though this is also a Halloween movie.

Films to See Before You Die: #5 Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies

Synopsis:  In 1936, Archeology Professor Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford) narrowly escapes death in a South American temple with a gold idol – by poison dart, fall, and finally a giant boulder that chases him out the front. An old enemy, Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman), steals the idol and then orders Hovito Indians after Indy. Indy, however, escapes back to the USA, where Army Intelligence officers are waiting for him at the University where he teaches. They tell him about a flurry of Nazi archaeological activity near Cairo, which Indy determines to be the possible resting place of the Ark of the Covenant – the chest that carried the 10 Commandments. The Ark is believed to carry an incredibly powerful energy that must not fall into Nazi hands. Indiana is immediately sent overseas, stopping in Nepal to pick up an old article from his former mentor but finds his daughter Marion (Karen Allen) who cuts a deal with Indy that she will give him what he wants if he takes her with him. Then Indy arrives in Cairo and meets up with his good friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies). But danger lurks everywhere in the form of Nazi thugs, and poisonous snakes in the Ark’s resting place. After Belloq, hired by the Nazis, makes off again with the Ark, Indy & Marion are determined to get it back, and they overpower the pilot of a German plane. But Indy finds himself confronted with a giant German thug, and after a frightening hand-to-hand fight Indy & Marion blow up the plane. Now the Nazis must drive the Ark to Cairo, but Indy regains control of the Ark after running the convoy off the road, one vehicle at a time. Once again the Nazis recapture the Ark and Marion, heading for a Nazi-controlled island. There, Belloq will open the Ark to demonstrate the horrific power it can unleash upon the world.

Trivia: Tom Selleck was Steven Spielberg’s second choice for the role of Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford was his first, but George Lucas objected, since Ford had been in both American Graffiti and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Selleck was not able to take the role because he was committed to Magnum, P.I.. However, that series did not go into production until Raiders’ filming had already wrapped. Selleck was in fact in Hawaii waiting for the series to start as the final scenes to be filmed (the opening sequence) were being shot in Hawaii. “Magnum” did an episode called “Legend of the Lost Art” that parodied “Raiders”, complete with hat, whip, booby traps, etc.

Why I think you should see this: As I have stated before I just love Spielberg’s work and he has done so many great films but this is my all time favourite of his films. The Temple of Doom and Last Crusade are also really amazing. The most recent installment is the only one which is just not up to par with the original three. Harrison Ford is at his best in this film and Karen Allen makes for his best love interest. The opening scene is about as memorable as they come with my favourite homage having been done by the Simpsons. This is classic Spielberg so watch it again sometime.

Films to See Before You Die: #26 Schindler’s List

schindler's list

Schindler’s List (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz

Synopsis: Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a successful businessman, arrives from Czechoslovakia in hopes of using the abundant cheap labour force of Jews to manufacture goods for the German military. Schindler, an opportunistic member of the Nazi party, lavishes bribes upon the army and SS officials in charge of procurement. Sponsored by the military, Schindler acquires a factory for the production of army mess kits and cooking paraphernalia. Not knowing much about how to properly run such an enterprise, he gains a contact in Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), a functionary in the local Judenrat (Jewish Council) who has contacts with the now-underground Jewish business community in the ghetto. They loan him the money for the factory in return for a small share of products produced (for trade on the black market). Opening the factory, Schindler pleases the Nazis and enjoys his new-found wealth and status as “Herr Direktor,” while Stern handles all administration. Stern suggests Schindler hire Jews instead of Poles because they cost less (the Jews themselves get nothing; the wages are paid to the Reich). Amon Göth (Ralph Fiennes) arrives in Krakow to initiate construction of a labor camp nearby, Paszów. The SS soon liquidates the Krakow ghetto, sending in hundreds of troops to empty the cramped rooms and shoot anyone who protests, is uncooperative, elderly, or infirm, or for no reason at all. Schindler watches the massacre from the hills overlooking the area, and is profoundly affected. He nevertheless is careful to befriend Göth and, through Stern’s attention to bribery, he continues to enjoy the SS’s support and protection. Workers in Schindler’s factory are allowed outside the ghetto, and Stern falsifies documents to ensure that as many people as possible are deemed “essential” by the Nazi bureaucracy, which saves them from being transported to concentration camps, or even being killed. With his factory Oskar Schindler is able to save over 1100 Jews from death in the gas chambers.

Trivia: Director Steven Spielberg was able to get permission to film inside Auschwitz, but chose not to out of respect for the victims, so the scenes of the death camp were actually filmed outside the gates on a set constructed in a mirror image of the real location on the other side. There is a Jewish tradition that when one visits a grave, one leaves a small stone on the marker as a sign of respect. This is why the cast and the Schindlerjuden cover Oskar Schindler’s grave with stones at the end of the movie. Martin Scorsese turned down the chance to direct the film in the 1980s, as he felt he couldn’t do as good a job as a Jewish director. He agreed to swap films with Steven Spielberg, taking over Cape Fear instead.

Why I think you should see this: This is the other movie Spielberg made in 1993 after Jurassic Park set all kinds of box office records. This is not an easy film to watch because it is so sad and depressing made all the more by the fact it actually happened. Liam Neeson is spectacular as Oskar Schindler and Ralph Fiennes is diabolical as Amon Goeth it is a crime that neither won an Oscar for their portrayals. I am not gonna lie I cry every time I watch this movie it is just emotional and shows just how good or evil people can really be. One of the most important films ever made check this out as soon as possible but be ready to cry.

Films to See Before You Die: #30 Jurassic Park


Jurassic Park (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Sam Neil, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough

Synopsis: Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Sam Neil and Laura Dern), are paleontologists working on a dig for InGen where they are visited by the head of InGen, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). Hammond insists they come with him to an island he owns so he can show them his new theme park in exchange for this he will continue to fund their dig for three more years. On their way to the island they learn that they have been chosen by Hammond to defend him against the company lawyer who is not convinced the park is ready to be opened. The lawyer has brought his own expert with hims in Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) a chaos theorist. Once at the park Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler learn that this is no ordinary park, InGen has actually been able to genetically reproduce dinosaurs and Jurassic Park will be open to the public as soon as possible. After Hammond has explained what he plans to do with the park neither Dr. Grant nor Dr. Malcolm believe this is a good idea because they just don’t know how well humans and dinosaurs can cohabit the Earth successfully. After Hammond’s grandchildren arrive the tour starts and the dinosaurs are not easily visible until they find a sick Triceratops and Dr. Sattler decides to stay behind. Once the power goes out throughout the entire park Dr. Grant and the kids must find there way back to the main building and off the island before it is too late.

Trivia: Director Steven Spielberg was worried that computer graphics meant Nintendo type cartoon quality. He originally only wanted the herd of gallimimus dinosaurs to be computer-generated, but upon seeing ILM’s demo animation of a T-Rex chasing a herd of galamides across his ranch, he decided to shoot nearly all the dinosaur scenes using this method. The animation was first plotted on an Amiga Toaster, and rendered for the film by Silicon Graphics’ Indigo workstations. Generally speaking, any shot of a full dinosaur was computer-generated, but shots of parts of dinosaurs were of animatronics.

Why I think you should see this: I have seen Jurassic Park more times than I can count but it is just such and awesome film that it never seems to get old to me. Once again I cannot say enough for the work of Steven Spielberg who at this point in his career was releasing one amazing film after another. Sam Neil and Jeff Goldblum were both amazing as the two leads in the film and Laura Dern was pretty awesome too look for a youngish Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Arnold. Considering how old this film was and that it is one of the first to successfully use CGI in a film the FX are pretty amazing. An absolute gem if you haven’t seen this shame on you and go rent it now!

Films to See Before You Die: #73 Poltergeist


Poltergeist (1982)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein

Synopsis: The Freeling family live in a neighbourhood just like any other until their daughter Carole-Anne (Heather O’Rourke) begins communicating with the supernatural through a dead channel on the television. It is not long before the enter the house and at first begin to play small tricks to amuse the family. Then the spirits behaviour takes a nasty turn when they start to attack the family and finally abducting Carole-Anne and bring her to the other side. Her mother (JoBeth Williams) and father (Craig T. Nelson) hire a spiritual medium to help them get Carole- Anne back.

Trivia: The skeletons that emerge from the swimming pool while Diane searches for help are actual skeletons. JoBeth Williams didn’t know this until after the scene was shot. JoBeth Williams was hesitant about shooting the swimming pool scene because of the large amount of electrical equipment positioned over and around the pool. In order to comfort her, Steven Spielberg crawled in the pool with her to shoot the screen. Spielberg told her, “Now if a light falls in, we will both fry.” The strategy worked and Williams got in the pool.

Why I think you should see this: This is yet another movie that is greatly influenced by Steven Spielberg and it doesn’t hinder it one bit. This film while not as scary as it once was is still very entertaining and also very well made. The idea to cast them unknown actors was a great idea because it adds to the authenticity of the film. I really enjoy this film and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun older movie to watch.

Films to See Before You Die: #83 Gremlins


Gremlins (1984)

Director : Joe Dante

Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Frances Lee McCain, Hoyt Axton

Synopsis: Inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is on a business trip and is searching for a last minute Christmas present for his son Billy (Zach Galligan) when he is brought to an antique Chinese store. In the store he tries to sell one of his inventions when he hears a faint singing and he offers to buy the creature singing. After he is refused sale of the animal the grandson of the store owner secretly sells it too him but tells him there are three rules he must follow keep it away from light sunlight can kill it, don’t get water on it and don’t feed it after midnight. We discover that the animal is a Mogwai which the family names Gizmo. It is not long however before they spill water on Gizmo which makes more Mogwai’s soon after they are fed after midnight turning them into small monsters that wreak havoc on the town and it’s people.

Trivia: In Cantonese Chinese, mogwai means devil, demon or gremlin. The Mandarin pronunciation is mogui. The set for Kingston Falls is the same one used for Back to the Future. Both movies were filmed in the Universal Studios backlot.

Why I think you see this: It’s Gremlins man need I say more? I am sure most people have seen this or at least heard of it but this is a super fun film that scared me as a kid but makes me laugh now. It is incredibly silly and quite dated now but I still love it. It is a shame they made the sequel as a sort of spoof of the first because this could have been a fun franchise. Highly recommended!

Films to See Before You Die: #87 Minority Report

minority report

Minority Report (2002)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Tom Cruise, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow

Synopsis: In the year 2054 there is a government program exclusively in Washington, D.C. called Precrime which has eliminated murder. They are able to do this by premonitions by the Precogs wherein they are able to see murders hours before they happen. Police officer Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is the lead detective of the Precrime unit working for the founder of the program Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow). The program is being investigated by The Department of Justice agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) before is goes national. While they are being investigated a murder has been seen by the Precogs that John Anderton will kill a man named Leo Crow in 36 hours. Anderton now running for his life must prove his innocence by finding his “minority report” which means stealing the most powerful Precog Agatha (Samantha Morton) and extracting it from her before his time is up.

Trivia: At the police station, the officers talk about the metaphysical proof of precognition. Chief Anderton rolls a red ball along a table to demonstrate the law of cause and effect to Det. Witwer. All of this is an allusion to the famous claim of philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), that by observing billiard balls you can actually demonstrate that cause and effect does not exist but is merely a habitually created fiction of the mind.

Why I think you should see this: Minority Report is a great sci-fi film and has aged pretty well actually. I have always been a huge fan of Spielberg’s whether he is directing or producing each film has a sense of wonderment that most filmmakers cannot bring to their films. Tom Cruise is great in the lead as the always cornered but never beaten John Anderton and Max von Sydow does a great job as usual in his role.