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Dave Kopel's Great Movies Page

The main link to these movies is for DVD format. A separate VHS link is also supplied for some movies. For many of the movies, the linked page on Amazon.com will allow you to see trailers or previews.

Table of Contents: Children. Comedy. Drama. History & Biography. Music & Musicals. Science Fiction & Fantasy. War.


Children

The Incredibles (2004). A family of superheroes battles mediocrity and political correctness.

Monsters, Inc.(2001). Another stellar animation from Pixar. Monsters from Monstropolis are in the business of scaring children, but when a two-year-old girl accidentally enters the monster world, everything gets turned upside down.

Shrek(2001). Outstanding computer animation, plus a great performance by Eddie Murphy as a talking donkey. Lots of jokes which adults will enjoy, including echoes of Disney movies. The DVD version includes a bevy of bonus features. Also available in VHS.

Babe (1995). Christine Cavanaugh, James Cromwell. Six Academy Award nominations. Quirky, charming story of an orphaned pig who is raised by a dog and adopted by an eccentric farmer. VHS.

The Muppet Movie (1979). Steve Martin. Kermit goes to Hollywood, and learns some hard truths about Miss Piggy. Childlike but not childish. VHS.

Charlotte's Web (Widescreen Edition) (1973). Debbie Reynolds, Paul Lynde, Agnes Moorehead, Henry Gibson. Great adaptation of E.B. White's great book about Wilbur the pig, Charlotte the spider, and Templeton the rat. Some pig! Some movie! VHS

VeggieTales: Lyle the Kindly Viking (2001). What if C.S. Lewis met Monty Python, and they decided to write a Christian story for children based on parodies of Shakespeare and Gilbert & Sullivan? Find out with the latest release from the wonderful Veggie Tales series, one of the rare successes at offering Judeo-Christian moral tales for children without being didactic or puerile. VHS 

Disney

Pixar Three-Pack: Toy Story/A Bug's Life/Toy Story 2. Toy Story 1 and 2are superb. A Bug's Lifeis good but not great, which a story about an outcast ant who eventually saves the colony and marries the princess (Julia-Louise Dreyfus -- who's just as insecure as she was on Seinfeld.) VHS.

Toy Story & Toy Story 2 . Toy Story 1 won an special Academy Award for "the development and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first feature-length computer-animated film." These movies tell you what happens when humans aren't looking, and toys come to life -- complete with their own personal agendas and foibles. Toy Story 2is one of the rare sequels that exceeds the originals. These movies can handle repeated viewing by grown-ups.VHS

Hercules (1997). No political correctness and no Rosie O'Donnell in this movie, unlike some other Disney releases of the late 1990s. Just a fun re-telling of the Greek myth, with a Gospel Swing soundtrack, with fine performances by Danny DeVito as Hercules' mentor, and James Woods as Hades.VHS.

Beauty and the Beast (1991). Disney's best movie ever. Like a Broadway musical only better. One great song after another. Best Picture nomination -- the only all-animated film ever to garner a nomination. Awesome supporting cast, plus Belle -- the greatest Disney heroine. VHS.

Mary Poppins (1964). One hundred and forty minutes of live-action, animation, and magic. Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, plus a great supporting cast. A family values movie that reminds that what children need most is their parents. The only movie made by Walt Disney himself to be nominated for Best Picture. VHS.

Lady and The Tramp (1955). Peggy Lee. Wonderful characters: the well-bred Lady; the charming, raffish Tramp; plus Lady's buddies Jock and Trusty. And the very evil Siamese Cats. Second only to Beauty and the Beastas Disney's animated movie.

Peter Pan (1953). "You Can Fly" ranks as one of Disney's best songs ever, and the movie beautifully captures a child's sense of wonder. VHS. James Barrie's book, on which the movie was based.

Fantasia(Boxed set) (1942). Classical music combined with surrealistic animation. New edition has much-improved sound reproduction.

Pinocchio (1940). Why do you think Bill Clinton's nose was so big? VHS.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Doesn't every woman dream of moving in with seven weird guys, and keeping house for them? The new DVD edition includes a mountain of bonus items. VHS.

Table of Contents: Children. Comedy. Drama. History & Biography. Music & Musicals. Science Fiction & Fantasy. War. Back to Top of Page.


Comedy

Television

Brady Bunch. The Complete First Season. Still charming in its own way, although these episodes predate the glorious days of "Marcia in a miniskirt."

Green Acres. The Complete Second Season. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but if you're going to waste yours, this show is wonderful.

The Bob Newhart Show. The Complete First Season. A fun series with a good heart. And wonderfully inspiring for all smart guys who hope to marry someone as beautiful as Suzanne Pleshette.

The Best of Friends. Vol. 1-2 (1994). David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston. A fine show with witty writing. Ten episodes. VHS.

The Honeymooners.The Lost Episodes, Boxed Set 2. Jackie Gleason. The master of domestic comedy.

The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus. 14 DVDs, with all 45 episodes. Collect 'em all!

Monty Python's Flying Circus: Set 1, Episodes 1-6 (1969). Terry Gilliam, Graham Chapman. VHS

Movies

Caddyshack (1980). Rodney Dangerfield, along with Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Ted Knight, and an excellent supporting cast. The greatest golf comedy of all time.

Back to School (1986). Another Rodney Dangerfield masterpiece. Owner of a "Tall & Fat" men's store, Rodney takes some time off from his business, and enrolls at the same college as his son. VHS.

Fargo (1996). William H. Macy. Directed by the Coen Brothers. A thieving car salesman arranges for his wife to be kidnapped, and sets off a comedy of errors. A black comedy, with some gruesome violence. VHS

Raising Arizona(1987). Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter. Directed by the Coen Brothers. An ex-con and his policewoman wife kidnap a quintuplet, because the wife can't conceive. Fast-paced, funny, and engagingly implausible. VHS

When Harry Met Sally(1989). Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal.C'mon guys...you do need to own a couple movies to watch with girls. One of the best romantic comedies ever, with career-best performances from the two stars. VHS

The Breakfast Club (1985). Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy. Teenagers spend Saturday morning in high school detention, and eventually break through their social barriers. Realistic depiction of the pain of high school life. VHS.

Repo Man (1984). Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez. Bizarre science fiction comedy. A pair of repo men (people who steal back cars from owners have missed their payments) go after a 1964 Chevy Malibu, which contains more than they expected. VHS.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Sean Penn. Based on the director's undercover year at a California high school, detailing student life. Funny and realistic, a true slice-of-life. VHS.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Special Edition (1975). The best of Monty Python's full-length movies. Arthurian legend meets Python's unusual sense of humor. The DVD version contains a bonus version of the full movie, with all dialogue subtitled with lines from Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2. VHS

Young Frankenstein(Special Edition) (1974). Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman. Directed by Mel Brooks. A reverent spoof of the original Frankenstein movies. Mel Brooks at his best. VHS.

Blazing Saddles (1974). Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman. Directed by Mel Brooks. The movie that made Mel Brooks famous. A parody of the whole genre of Westerns. VHS.

Reefer Madness (1938). Dorothy Short, Kenneth Craig. This black & white propaganda film is narrated by a high school principal who shows what happens when young people smoke marijuana: they start playing jazz on the piano, and then go permanently insane. VHS.

Three Stooges: Curly Classics. (1934). Includes "Three Little Pigskins" -- co-starring Lucille Ball! Plus "A Plumbing We Will Go," the best plumbing comedy ever made. In "Woman Haters," the Stooges join a club in which the men pledge never to marry -- but they quickly have trouble keeping the pledge; the entire script is in rhyme, which some people don't like, but which I found pretty clever. Three more fine shorts round out this set.

Table of Contents: Children. Comedy. Drama. History & Biography. Music & Musicals. Science Fiction & Fantasy. War. Back to Top of Page.


Drama

Pride and Prejudice (BBC TV Miniseries) - The Special Edition (1996). Jane Austen's classic romance.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman. The hero gets sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, and then finds freedom in more ways than one.

Like Water for Chocolate (1993). Marco Leonardi, Lumi Cavazos. A true miracle: a movie about Mexican cooking that a guy will love! Exquisite romance.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep. Garnered scores of Academy Award nominations. Single parenthood transforms a yuppie.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Jack Nicholson. Louise Fletcher. One of the greatest movies of all time. Why the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, the first movie to do so in 45 years. Jack Nicholson, in the role of his life, fakes his way into a mental hospital (in order to get out of prison), and finds that most of the patients are men who been stripped of their self-confidence and pride by Nurse Ratched. A wonderfully inspiring movie about freedom and sacrifice. VHS.

The Exorcist (The Version You've Never Seen) (1973). Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow. My vote for the scariest movie ever.

The Godfather. DVD Collection (2001). Marlon Brando, Al Pacino. "Family" values. Part II includes one of the very few movie sequels that is better than the original.

Ben-Hur (1959). Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins. Mr. Heston races chariots, finds God, and proves his mettle as a superb actor.

The Seventh Seal.Criterion Collection (1957). Gunnar Björnstrand, Max von Sydow. A knight returns home to Sweden from the Crusades, and finds the nation ravaged by Black Death. Heavy symbolism. Perhaps Ingmar Bergman's greatest movie.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Maureen O'Hara. Natalie Wood. Yes, there really is a Santa Claus, especially if you're persistent.

Citizen Kane(Special Edition). Orson Welles. Fictionalized biography of William Randolph Hearst. Young director Orson Welles is at the height of his powers.

Casablanca. Dooley Wilson, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid. A great movie about people who put duty above their personal needs.

Gone with the Wind (1939). Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh. One of the first great epic films, set in the South during and before the Civil War.

Hitchcock

Psycho. Collector's Edition (1960). Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh. One of the greatest-ever screen depictions of a disturbed mind.

North by Northwest (1959). Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint.

Vertigo. Collector's Edition (1958). James Stewart, Kim Novak.

Rear Window. Collector's Edition (1954). James Stewart, Grace Kelly.

Notorious (1946). Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman.

Table of Contents: Children. Comedy. Drama. History & Biography. Music & Musicals. Science Fiction & Fantasy. War. Back to Top of Page.


History (Also, see War)

Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001). Proof that children can be heroes.

Innocents Betrayed (2003). Documentary by Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership documents the 20th century relationship between gun prohibition and genocide.

New York(7 Episode PBS Boxed Set). A wonderful history of the greatest city in the world.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII.Complete Set (1971). This PBS series was the class act of television when it originally aired. Its story of the egomaniac King and his unfortunate spouses is as fresh as ever. Remember the mnemonic: divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived.

Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. A beautiful syncretistic look at religion and culture, reminding us the heroes and close encounters with the ultimate can be part of our world, not just the ancient past.

Table of Contents: Children. Comedy. Drama. History & Biography. Music & Musicals. Science Fiction & Fantasy. War. Back to Top of Page.


Music & Musicals

Brigadoon(1954). Two Americans on a hunting vacation in Scotland stumble upon a village from 1754 which only appears one day every century. Great costumes, beautiful women, lots of ale and dancing--and then it's all gone, unless you choose to give up your "real" life and join the enchanted one. Just like a Grateful Dead concert.

Grateful Dead: Anthem to Beauty. Reminds me of the movieBrigadoon. Actually, it's a history of the Grateful Dead from 1968 to 1970. Plenty of very interesting archival footage, retrospective interviews, and wonderful music.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?(2000). George Clooney. Three escapees from Mississippi prison travel the state unintentionally reenacting The Odyssey. A very funny movie, but the highlight is the soundtrack of "roots" music from the 1930s. The soundtrack won the Grammy Award for best album of the year.

Down from the Mountain(The "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Concert) (2001). An awesome concert featuring  Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch,  The Peasall Sisters, Ralph Stanley, and many other greats.

Almost Famous. (Director's Edition) (2000). Billy Crudup. An aspiring teenage rock-and-roll writer goes on tour with Stillwater. Good recreation of the rock ambience of the 1970s.

Cats. (Commemorative Edition) (1998). Elaine Paige, John Mills. Not exactly "deep", but still a treat for kids.

Amadeus (1984). F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce. Biography of Mozart and his "rival" Salieri. Not especially historically accurate, but still lots of fun.

Tommy (1975). Ann Margaret (Academy award nomination for Best Actress), Roger Daltry, Jack Nicholson (singing!), Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Elton John. Ultra-surrealistic director Ken Russell takes the Who's rock opera over the top and into the stratosphere. An amazing journey that answers the question "How can he be saved?" The new DVD edition remasters the soundtrack for much greater clarity.

American Graffiti(Collector's Edition) (1974). Directed by George Lucas. Set in 1962, a superb evocation of the time, accompanied by a superb collection of music from the era. 

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973). Much better than the P.C. 2001 television version, the 1973 theatrical release has become the classic version of this rock opera. VHS.

Fiddler on the Roof (1973). One of the best musicals ever, in which fine music is matched to a serious plot about the struggles of a Jewish milkman in pre-revolutionary Russia -- and what happens when his three eldest daughters all fall in love the same year. The DVD edition contains extensive bonus material. VHS.

Cabaret (1972). Liza Minnelli, Michael York. The Weimar Republic gives way to the Nazi era, in this dark, brilliant musical study of social and personal decadence.

Woodstock. (The Director's Cut) (1970). Richie Havens, Joan Baez. Awesome performances by The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and much more.

The Monkees (Volumes 1 & 2) (1966). They're too busy singin', to put anybody down.

The Sound of Music(Five Star Collection). (1964). Best Picture of year. One of the last movies of the 1960s to respect innocence.

My Fair Lady (1964). Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison. Liza Doolittle learns how to act and talk like an upper-crust Brit.

The Music Man (1962). Robert Preston, Shirley Jones. The reason that this musical keeps getting revived in summer stock is that it's so much fun.

The King and I (1956). Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner. Way, way better than the subsequent remakes.

The Wizard of Oz (1939). Judy Garland, Frank Morgan. A great movie, despite its totally illogical ending and Dorothy's final line. Buy the movie, and listen to the Dark Side of the Moon album at the same time for some extra fun!

Table of Contents: Children. Comedy. Drama. History & Biography. Music & Musicals. Science Fiction & Fantasy. War. Back to Top of Page.


Science Fiction & Fantasy

Movies

I, Robot. Not at all a literal adaptation of the Isaac Asimov short stories, but still a very interesting film that rises above its many Hollywood conventions.

The Lord of the Rings. The Motion Picture Trilogy (Special Extended DVD Edition). All three movies from the wonderful trilogy, which featured heroes who know the difference between good and evil, and who have the courage to risk their lives to stop tyranny. Includes many additional scenes which did not appear in the theatrical releases of the films.

J.R.R. Tolkien Giftset (The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings/The Return of the King). (1978). Animated.

Logan's Run (1976). Michael York, Jenny Agutter. The hero escapes a high-tech underground world in which everyone over 30 is killed.

Westworld (1973). Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin. "Delos" is a high-tech vacationland for adults, where realistic robots create fantasy worlds such as ancient Rome or the Wild West. Until the robots revolt and start attacking the tourists. 

2001 - A Space Odyssey (1968). Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece. 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). A classic commentary on paranoia, and the times when one's worst suspicions turn out to be true.

The War of the Worlds (1953).Gene Barry, Ann Robinson. Based on the H.G. Welles novel. Martians invade New Jersey.

Frankenstein (1931). Colin Clive, Mae Clarke. When the movie first released, theaters had to hire nurses with smelling salts to revive people who fainted. 

Television Shows

The Twilight Zone- 40th Anniversary Gift Set. Six-disc collection includes "The Twilight Zone, Volumes 1-5," featuring 19 classic episodes. Also a 90 minute biography of the Rod Serling.

Star Trek - The Original Series, Vol. 2, Episodes 4 & 5: Mudd's Women/The Enemy Within (1966). "Mudd's Women" introduces the interstellar huckster and fugitive Harry Mudd.

Star Trek - The Original Series, Vol. 21, Episodes 41 & 42: I, Mudd/ The Trouble With Tribbles(1966) Harry Mudd is back to his old tricks, as one of his schemes backfires, leaving Kirk, the Enterprise crew and himself held captive by a race of androids.

Star Trek - The Original Series, Vol. 34, Episodes 67 & 68: Plato's Stepchildren/ Wink Of An Eye (1966). In "Plato's Stepchildren," Kirk, Spock and McCoy are humiliated by an alien with telekinetic abilities. The episode also features the first interracial kiss on network television.

Star Trek - The Original Series, Vol. 33, Episodes 65 & 66: For The World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky/ Day Of The Dove (1966). In "For the World is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky," Oracle, an unrelenting computer, controls the Yonada planet, which is really a spaceship. Kirk and crew must free up control or all Yondans will die. Consider this episode a metaphor for the fight against Larry Ellison and Oracle's attempts to impose a national ID card on United States.

Star Trek - The Original Series, Vol. 31 - Episodes 61 & 62: Spock's Brain/ Is There In Truth No Beauty? (1966). "Spock's Brain," a mysterious woman appears suddenly on the Enterprise, renders the crew unconscious and then disappears with Spock's brain. The crew later finds Spock's brain happily living in a jar. "Is There in Truth No Beauty," Kirk must deal with a possessive female telepath, a jealous engineer and an alien ambassador.

Humorous

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension(Special Edition) (1984). Peter Weller, John Lithgow.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Beginning of the End (1957). Giant radiated grasshoppers rampage and invade Chicago.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1988). 

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Manos/Hands of Fate (1988). The worst movie of all time gets appropriate treatment from MST. 

Table of Contents: Children. Comedy. Drama. History & Biography. Music & Musicals. Science Fiction & Fantasy. War. Back to Top of Page.


War

World War III

United 93 (2-Disc Special Edition)(2006). Christian Clemenson, Trish Gates, Cheyenne Jackson, and Polly Adams. The unorganized militia assembles and defeats the terrorists, winning the last battle on September 11, 2001.

Cold War

Red Dawn (1984). Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell. Set in the 1980s, the Soviets conquer the United States, used gun registration lists to disarm the population, and set up a dictatorship with the assistance of craven local politicians. Teenagers start a guerrilla resistance movement in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Buy this and annoy the nuclear freeze movement.

World War II in Europe

Escape from Sobibor. Originally filmed in 1987, released to DVD in 2005. Wonderful true story about the prisoners of the Sobibor, Poland, extermination camp who carried out an armed uprising. Some of them escaped; all of them died with honor. And the extermination camp was permanently shut down.

The Guns of Navarone (Special Edition) (1961). Gregory Peck, David Niven. Based on the Alistair MacLean novel. Commandos assault a cliffside Nazi fortress.

The Longest Day (1962). Richard Burton and an all-star cast. D-Day.

Patton (1970). George C. Scott won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of one of America's greatest generals.

The Great Escape (1963). Steve McQueen, James Garner. American prisoners of war dig a tunnel to try to escape the Nazis.

World War II in the Pacific

The Caine Mutiny (1954). Humphrey Bogart, José Ferrer. Set on a U.S. Navy ship in the Pacific. The ship's commander gradually loses his mind, and the next in command decides to relieve him of his duties, against his wishes. Although this action saved the ship, the officer is put on trial, with one of the greatest courtroom scenes in movie history.

Midway(Collector's Edition) (1976). Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda. The turning point out toward the Pacific.

Tora! Tora! Tora!Realistic depiction of the attack on Pearl Harbor, from both the Japanese and American viewpoints.

The World at War.Classic television documentary covers the entire war. 26 episodes. DVD version includes extensive bonus material. Also available on VHS.

World War I

Gallipoli (1981). Mark Lee, Mel Gibson. Australian youths are sent to fight on the British beachhead in Turkey. Beautiful photography illuminates the bravery and the futility of this war.

Nineteenth Century

Khartoum. Charlton Heston plays Sir Charles Gordon, the brilliant British General who defended Khartoum, Sudan, against an army of Islamic holy warriors led by The Mahdi (Lawrence Olivier). Directed by David Lean, director of Lawrence of Arabia.

The Alamo (Widescreen Edition). (2004). Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, and Patrick Wilson. From Davy Crockett to Green B. Jameson, all the great men of the Alamo are here.

The Alamo (1960). John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Carlos Arruza, Frankie Avalon, and Veda Ann Borg. Also a great treatment of the brave heroes who fought the tyrant Santa Anna.

Civil War

Glory (Special Edition). A mostly accurate story about the first black combat unit in the Union army.

Gettysburg (1993). Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen. The decisive battle of the Civil War. Great scenes of Little Round Top and of Pickett's Charge.

Gods & Generals (2003). Focuses on Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, and especially on Stonewall Jackson. Magnificent.

England and its freedom-loving Colonies

Braveheart. Mel Gibson. The greatest action movie of all time. William Wallace fight for the freedom of Scotland, and to avenge his beloved wife and father.

The Patriot. Mel Gibson. The greatest gun action movie of all time. Based on the historical Francis Marion, "the Swamp Fox." The hero leads his family in the War for Independence in the back country of South Carolina. Wonderful family values.

Table of Contents: Children. Comedy. Drama. History & Biography. Music & Musicals. Science Fiction & Fantasy. War. Back to Top of Page.

 

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