Blade Runner (Director’s Cut)
Based on Philip K. Dick’s masterpiece “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” Ridley Scott’s atmospheric, cyberpunk noir takes a cerebral sci-fi landmark and turns it into a violent, visceral dirge about what it means to be human.
Stephen King famously trashed this Stanley Kubrick adaptation, but he shouldn’t have. Kubrick took a perfectly spooky ghost story and created a horror movie game changer. It’s an oft-copied, sinister, and hypnotic tale of one man’s descent into madness.
Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper’s 19th Century prose can be a slog for contemporary readers, but it didn’t stop Michael Mann from dusting it off and finding its pounding frontier heart. With the help of a superb cast, including a plausibly badass Daniel Day Lewis, this historical saga is the rare highbrow action film.
The Bridges of Madison County
This best-selling novel by Robert James Waller is a disciplined, if slim, tearjerker about an affair long dead. It seemed counterintuitive that Hollywood man’s man Clint Eastwood would take the Oprah’s Book of the Month Club Winner and with fellow icon Meryl Streep, transform it into a sweeping, bittersweet love letter to doomed romance.
The Godfather/The Godfather Part II
Mario Puzo wrote one of the great pulp gangster books of all time. Francis Ford Coppola made it into two movies as bleak, complex, and cathartic as a Shakespearean tragedy. It’s not just a saga about the mafia, like the book. Instead, the movie is about the dark side of the American dream.
The Maltese Falcon
Sam Spade is one of crime fiction’s greatest gumshoes: a tough-talking private dick with a moral code, stuck in an amoral world. A great read, but when a legend like Humphrey Bogart shows up in the movie all bets are off. Not even the most sublime imagination could dream up such a righteous, world-weary hangdog.