Why do we love movies so much? Where would we be without them? Even if you’re not a cinephile, movie-watching is something that pretty much everyone does and enjoys. We sit in darkened room and stare up at a screen as we see someone’s story unfold, we get a glimpse into a different world . Movies have the power to terrify us, make us weep, or even sometimes alter our view of reality. (Don’t we all wish some of those famous rom-com moments could happen to us in real life? Just once?) It’s all the more intriguing when a movie decides to turn the camera on itself, to examine the medium that it is a part of. Here are some movies about the nature of movies and their meaning, the trials and tribulations of filmmaking itself, or the effect of Hollywood’s changes and morals on actors.
1. Cinema Paradiso
The Italian film Cinema Paradiso is like a love letter to the movies. Film director Salvatore looks back on his childhood, where he befriended projectionist Alfredo, who taught him everything about the movies. Under his wing, Salvatore’s love for films grew. Cinema Paradiso also shows the audience the changes in cinema, the dying trade of traditional filmmaking and editing, as well as beautiful old movie houses. The village cinema Salvatore loved so much is to be demolished and turned into a parking lot. One of the most poignant scenes is when Salvatore discovers a reel Alfredo filled with the on-screen movie kisses that the local priest would ban and cut from the films. Cinema Paradiso shows that as filmmaking grows and changes, we should never forget or demolish it’s roots, for those very roots have changed and made better the lives of many.
2. Singin’ in the Rain
Who doesn’t love Singin’ in the Rain? Considered the best movie musical of all time, the amazing Gene Kelly plays a silent movie leading man preparing for his role in his first talkie, a movie that will have sound! (Which today may be a bit incomprehensible, but think of how awe-inspiring this must have been for a 1930s audience) This newfound and perplexing technology creates a foil for his co-star, who has, to put it lightly, not the best voice. With some of the best song-and-dance sequences and movie moments of all time, Singin’ in the Rain is a sunny and hilarious look at the conversion from silence to sound.
3. The Purple Rose of Cairo
In this slightly meta-film, Woody Allen geinusly deconstructs our fascination with film, as well as our deep-seated desires for a happy ending. Mia Farrow plays a meek housewife who uses cinema as an escape from her dreary and unhappy life. When seeing her favorite film for the fifth time, the character she swoons over walks off screen to sweep her off her feet. Woody Allen has been quoted as saying, “People are faced in life with choosing between reality and fantasy, and it’s very pleasant to choose fantasy, but that way lies madness. You’re forced finally to choose reality, and reality always disappoints, always hurts you.” and that is the crux of the film. Mia Farrow’s character stresses that love isn’t like the movies, but soon the film gets you swept up into thinking that maybe it is. But ultimately, (and the ending will really hit you) The Purple Rose of Cairo is about how our lives is not going to be as we expect, even in our imagination or in reality. Life isn’t like the movies, and we have to decide if that’s a good or bad thing.
4. The Artist
For the happy look at silent actors turning into talkie actors that Singin in the Rain gives, The Artist gives the complete opposite. Famous silent movie actor George Valentin finds himself against the newfound movement refusing to move into talkie pictures. When no one wants to see him up on the screen anymore, this leaves him depressed, and in poverty with no career. Filmed as a silent movie itself, The Artist is a daring homage to the magic of silent cinema with gorgeous visual style.
5. Shadow of the Vampire
Shadow of the Vampire is filled with humor that not only movie-lovers or filmmakers can appreciate, but especially actors. The film takes the kooky idea of what if the actor who filmed the famous vampire movie Nosferatu was an actual vampire?? The director accounts for the actor’s creepy behavior as to him being a dedicated method actor, which leads to absolutely hilarious moments. Not only is it funny, but the film is equally terrifying. The actress realizes she is playing opposite an actual vampire, and the director does not care for safety when it means he can capture something astonishing and wholly real. He’ll be sure to get the reaction he wants now. Shadow of the Vampire is a homage to the art of filmmaking, but also a play on the blend of fact and fiction.
6. Gods and Monsters
With two incredible performances from Ian McKellen and Brendan Fraser (yes…THAT Brendan Fraser!) Gods and Monsters tells the story of real-life Bride of Frankenstein director James Whale. Gods and Monsters gives more of a look into the man behind the famous film, and how life for an artist can so often imitate the art they create.
7. Ed Wood
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have teamed up so often it’s become a running joke now, but looking back on their work it is easy to see why they make such a good team. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp both have a love of portraying and telling the stories of outsiders. What more of an outsider than that of Ed Wood, a 1950s director who made some of the worst (but hilariously so) sci-fi films. Ed Wood portrays the filmmaking and cut-throat Hollywood world of that era, where Ed Wood pairs with the dying drug-addicted actor Bela Lugosi (played brilliantly by Martin Landau) dares to try and make his fumbling dreams come true.
8. Tropic Thunder
Tropic Thunder is a hilarious satire at the making of a huge Vietnam-era war film. Tropic Thunder pokes fun at actor’s inflated egos and method acting (especially Robert Downey Jr. as actor Kirk Lazurus), the hypocrisy of Hollywood moguls (Tom Cruise is hilarious as the overweight producer, as well as Matthew McConaughey as Ben Stiller’s agent) , and the labor of filming huge blockbusters. Tropic Thunder offers more spoofs than meta-filled insights, but it’s a hilarious spoof at that.
9. For Your Consideration
Christopher Guest returns for another hilarious mockumentary of an upcoming Jewish drama film Home for Purim. Fame and success starts to get to the actors heads when they all start having lofty visions of Oscar buzz for their performances. Christopher Guest dares to mock the sacred idea of getting an Oscar that most actors have.
10. Perfect Blue
Perfect Blue is a thriller that comments more about the obsessive celebrity culture and fixation with actors rather than the craft of making film. But the film also – quite dangerously and vividly- gets inside the mind of an actor- when does what you’re acting stop being fiction and start being real? Although more about a television series than a single film, Perfect Blue dares to examine the fragility of the craft of acting.