81. The Killing Fields (1984)
> Directed by: Roland Joffé
> Starring: Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, John Malkovich
Dith Pran was a real-life Cambodian journalist, photographer, and translator who worked with New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg during the civil war in Cambodia in the 1970s. When the communist Khmer Rouge rebels occupy the country’s capital, Pran, left behind and working as a forced laborer, discovers the “killing fields” scattered with the bones of millions of Cambodians murdered by the communists. Back in the U.S., Schanberg, who had remained in Cambodia as long as possible, wins awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, for his coverage of the events. In 1979, Pran escapes and is reunited with the reporter.
82. The Lives of Others (2006)
> Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
> Starring: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch
The lives of others was precisely what the notoriously paranoid Stasi, the East German secret police during the Cold War, were concerned with. A Stasi officer is told to spy on a prominent communist playwright — not for political reasons, it turns out, but because the officer’s superior covets the playwright’s girlfriend. The officer ends up protecting the playwright instead, and both survive the communist regime.
83. The Lost Weekend (1945)
> Directed by: Billy Wilder
> Starring: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry
This classic film, a depressing portrait of an unsuccessful alcoholic writer, was called “[t]he stark and terrifying study of a dipsomaniac” by the New York Times. After being on the wagon briefly, the writer eludes his well-meaning girlfriend and brother and goes on an epic bender, debasing himself and reduced to stealing to keep the liquor flowing. He is about to shoot himself when his girlfriend intervenes and as the film ends, it seems that he might finally be able to conquer his addiction.
84. The Normal Heart (2014)
> Directed by: Ryan Murphy
> Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Jonathan Groff, Frank De Julio
Few areas of the country were impacted by the AIDS crisis of the 1980s as much as New York City. The HBO-produced film “The Normal Heart” uses this time and place as a backdrop to tell the story of gay activists and medical professionals working together to raise awareness of the disease. While the film has an angry edge, it also possesses “poetry and vitality,” as New York Magazine noted, working to have audiences “connect with it emotionally and intellectually.”
85. The Perfect Storm (2000)
> Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
> Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly
The idiom “a perfect storm,” meaning a rare concurrence of circumstances that engenders a particularly bad effect, derives from the 1997 Sebastian Junger book of the same name, a real-life account of maritime tragedy in the North Atlantic. The film follows the book closely, as a swordfishing boat called the Andrea Gail, finds itself trapped by weather fronts and a hurricane trying to return to home port. An Air National Guard helicopter sent to rescue the crew crashes into the ocean, and the Andrea Gail is capsized by a 40-foot rogue wave, drowning all on board.
86. The Pianist (2002)
> Directed by: Roman Polanski
> Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay
Based on the life of Polish-Jewish pianist and Holocaust survivor Władysław Szpilman, this saga follows the man’s experiences during the Nazi occupation of his native country. After his family is shipped off to the death camp, he helps smuggle arms to Resistance fighters, witnesses the unsuccessful Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, is taken in by a sympathetic Nazi officer, and survives the war.
87. The Remains of the Day (1993)
> Directed by: James Ivory
> Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, John Haycraft
In the late 1950s, a grand Oxfordshire manor, whose disgraced owner has died, is sold to a retired American congressman. Anticipating his arrival, the manor’s longtime butler thinks back on his decades in service there, and on his relationship — or lack of one, with the housekeeper, who was in love with him.
88. The Sea Inside (2004)
> Directed by: Alejandro Amenábar
> Starring: Javier Bardem, Belén Rueda, Lola Dueñas
In this film, Javier Bardem portrays Ramón Sampedro, a real-life onetime ship’s mechanic who became a quadriplegic following a diving accident and spent almost 30 years fighting the Spanish government and the Catholic Church for the right to die. He finally succeeds in taking his own life.
89. The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
> Directed by: Juan José Campanella
> Starring: Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago
An Argentinean crime drama, told in non-linear fashion, “The Secret in Their Eyes” is about a brutal rape and murder and the obsessions it inspires. The culprit is eventually caught and jailed, but is then released for political reasons. He is ultimately punished, though, by the widower of the woman he killed.
90. The Swimmer (1968)
> Directed by: Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack
> Starring: Burt Lancaster, Janet Landgard, Janice Rule
Based on a classic John Cheever short story originally published in The New Yorker, “The Swimmer” is a surrealistic accounting of a disaffected suburbanite’s attempt to swim home from a party through a “river” of pools in neighboring yards. Along the way, he has strange experiences and encounters hostile strangers. When he finally arrives at his house, he finds it locked and deserted.
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