Caitlin's Pop of Culture: My Top 10 Favorite Movies

This week at HCOU, we are celebrating all of our favorite things. So naturally, your resident pop culture fanatic had to add a pop of culture into the mix. I firmly believe that your favorite films, TV shows, music, etc. speaks a lot about who you are as a person. So, here I am, bearing my soul for the world to see. These are my top ten favorite films of all time. 

10. “Rocketman” (2019) and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018)

And so at the top of the list, I cheat (expect that a few more times on this list). I may have mentioned my recent obsession with these films a couple of times in my column. “Rocketman” is about the life and times of living legend Elton John and “Bohemian Rhapsody” focuses on Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. These two movies slide in at the bottom of the list due to their recent releases, and I have yet to see the longevity of my love for them. But, for now, these intimate looks into two larger than life characters have allowed me to find similarities within myself and take a new look into how I live my life. Plus, they both feature killer soundtracks that I can’t stop listening to! These Dexter Fletcher helmed productions are still captivating me several rewatches later, so here’s to hoping they remain on this list long term. 

9. “Toy Story 3” (2010)

On the topic of obsessions, this is where my love for movies probably began. Way back in the day, little Caitlin was obsessed with “Toy Story,” specifically Jessie the Cowgirl. Her room was adorned with red and everything Jessie. She even had each “Toy Story” character toy, and she promptly added her name to the bottom of their boots just like Andy. I have no clue why I connected or bonded with this story, but ever since then, this Disney Pixar franchise has always held a special place in my heart. So much so that when “Toy Story 3” was released, it sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions. The third film in this franchise marked a massive turn for our beloved toys as their owner Andy headed off to college. This was the first film where I honestly cried as an audience member and was released when I, too, was going through a time of transition. For me, my love for this franchise stems from my inner child. It sparks memories of sprawling on my living room floor with my toys. But, the older I get, I realize that Woody, Buzz, Jessie and the gang perfectly represent the universal human emotions we have throughout significant phases in life. While the franchise as a whole holds a special place in my heart, this threequel is arguably the best thanks to its solid storytelling and its strong pull on the heartstrings. 

8. “Sense and Sensibility” (1995)

When it comes to romance, I like a good throwback- all the way back to the 19th century. The queen of the romance novel, Miss Jane Austen, has had several reiterations of her works over the years, but the ‘90s were full of them. Out of all of them, this Emma Thompson penned screenplay has to be my favorite. “Sense and Sensibility” follows the Dashwood sisters, Elinor (Emma Thompson) and Marianne (Kate Winslet), as they transition from wealthy English women to lower means after the death of their father. As typical Jane Austen, the women find romance, but not without the ups and downs that the English social circles can provide. What I love about this Austen adaptation are the story’s complexity and strong ensemble cast. Each character acts as folds to the other, and this cast of talented British actors are used effectively. On a personal level and outside the romantic elements, I love the Dashwood sisters. The quiet, responsible and reserved Elinor is who I am. While the open, eager, and high spirited Marianne is who I wish I could be at times. While some may favor one sister’s qualities over the other, this film, in particular, shows the positives and negatives of these traits against the beautiful backdrop of the English countryside. 

7. “Brooklyn” (2015)

I love a good period romance film, and the trend continues with this underrated 2015 film. Based on the novel of the same name, “Brooklyn” follows Eilis Lace, played by the brilliant Saorise Ronan, a young Irish immigrant who comes to the U.S. during the 1950s. Her transition from small-town Ireland to big-city America is marked by homesickness, but that all changes when she meets Italian-American Tony, who sweeps her off her feet. But, when a tragedy strikes back home, Eilis must decide what kind of life she wants to lead. Simply put, this film is beautiful from beginning to end. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the film takes its time in fleshing out Eilis’s story. Ronan also gives a simplistic yet commanding performance that drives the film forward at all times. These reasons are why I love “Brooklyn”. It’s a strong film with the ability to move just about anyone. 

6. “Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

There are some films/franchises that are so dynamic that they land somewhere on just about everyone’s favorite movie list. “Star Wars” is one of them, and my favorite is “Empire Strikes Back”. “Empire” has the strongest plot, directing, and character development and acts as the rising action for the original trilogy. I came into the “Star Wars” fandom pretty late, but that doesn’t mean the magic of this sci-fi franchise didn’t enchant me. On first viewing, I received a thrill from watching Luke, Leia and Han battle the evil Darth Vader in the name of good. Between the lightsaber duels, blaster battles, and ship navigation, there is a lot of heart to be found in this saga. It’s the more quiet moments in the saga that reaches out to me and helps me remember that I’m not alone. In terms of film history, George Lucas has created a wonderful world of fun, dynamic films that have stood the test of time and changed cinema forever. For me, “Empire” provides everything the saga has to offer: Jedis, Battleships, Wookies, and fun.

5. “She’s the Man” (2006)

Going off the path here just a bit is an early 2000s teen rom-com. “She’s The Man” is a classic Amanda Bynes flick sprinkled with a bit of a young Channing Tatum (shirtless I might add), but that’s not why I adore this film. Based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (Weird, right?), Bynes plays Viola, a soccer-loving twin who runs into problems when her school cuts the women’s soccer team. Upset, Viola takes her rebellious brother’s leave of absence as an opportunity to show the world her talent. Viola arrives at Cornwall Prep disguised as her brother, where she meets her roommate and campus hotshot, Duke, played by Channing Tatum. Of course, chaos ensues. Unlike my other picks on the list, “She’s The Man” does not really hold any emotional value in my heart, nor do I consider it an extremely thought-provoking film either. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. To compare, “She’s The Man” is like comfort food. It does not take too much time to prepare and does not take much thought to make. But oh! Doesn’t it feel good when you take those first few bites of that meal? Each time I know what’s going to happen, but every revisit of this early 2000s gem is just as fun as the first time I watched it. 

4. “La La Land” (2016)

If you follow my writing, then you’ll know that I’m a bit of an old soul. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I’m that way, but I believe it stems, in some part, from my love of old movie musicals. It’s been decades since Hollywood’s golden age of movie musicals, but 2016’s “La La Land” brought us right back to that era. Mia (Emma Stone in her Academy Award-winning role) is an aspiring actress and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz musician. Both are trying to make their dreams a reality and are drawn together because of their passions. They fall in love, and the film follows the two as they battle complications within their relationship and their personal lives. “La La Land” has beautiful music, artful cinematography, and a classic Hollywood story. Yes, this film does take me back to the films my parents introduced me to, where Fred Astaire danced with Ginger or Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly sang in the rain. Gosling and Stone recapture those images, but it also speaks to the twenty-year-old me who still has goals and dreams to accomplish. “La La Land” explores the highs and lows of dreams. Dreams can happen, but the road to them can be bumpy. We may seem stuck in a rut, but sometimes we just need someone who will pull us out of there. “La La Land” celebrates the fools, like me, who still dream in the crazy world we live in. 

3. “Titanic” (1997)

This movie is so colossal. I don’t think I have to explain this one. My first viewing of “Titanic” came during a key time of transition for anyone: puberty. Disney Channel Original movies just weren’t cutting it anymore, and my growing mind (and hormones) craved to watch well-crafted, classic films. After some begging, my mom obliged, and I was blown away by the scale of the set, Kate Winslet’s acting capabilities and the ending. (THERE WAS SOOOOOO ROOM ON THAT DOOR) “Titanic” was my first lesson in the world of cinema and made me realize what that word meant. While its backdrop is a tragedy, “Titanic” is surrounded by a well-paired acting duo, strong storytelling and a sweeping score. Director James Cameron takes all the elements of a film and masterfully takes them to a whole new level. All of these elements evoke strong emotions from viewers and creates a movie that seems it will stand the test of time. 12-year-old Caitlin realized this was the power movies and filmmaking had, thus making it cinema. I credit “Titanic” as the film that helped me transition from child to teen, and each rewatch reminds me of the passion and awe the first time I watched it. 

2. “Coming To America” (1988)

For many, a favorite film is one that they can quote by memory, and “Coming To America” follows this rule. Eddie Murphy stars as an African Prince bored with his duties who flees to America to find a woman who will love him despite his title. Along for the ride is his trusty sidekick played by Arsenio Hall, and the two of them discover all that Queens, New York has to offer. While stateside, Murphy’s prince falls in love with a fast-food king’s daughter but struggles in revealing the truth to her. “Coming To America” is Murphy and Hall at their comedic best. The film allows them to be creative with their outlandish humor, which is just how I like it. Whenever this classic is on TV, I have to stop and watch it, especially whenever the Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate scene is on. Can I quote several other scenes? Yes, and I try to implement them into my daily life (much to my mom’s dismay). What I love about this ‘80s comedy is that it has managed to capture my sense of humor in a bottle, which is a rarity. It’s comforting to know that there’s someone else out there with the same weird, outlandish humor I have. Like “She’s The Man,” I know all the jokes and punchlines, but that does not mean I won’t be doubled over laughing just like the first time. 

1. “Forrest Gump” (1994)

I started this list by cheating, and I’m going to end it the same way. In my heart, there are two movies that mean the world to me for very different meanings. One of them is “Forrest Gump.” Tom Hanks stars as the slow-witted Forrest Gump, an Alabama man with a life filled with historical events. I know this is an unusual choice in favorite film, but hear me out. I have always loved history, especially 20th-century history, and those events act as the backdrop for this film. “Forrest Gump” manages to make these historical moments personable with Forrest as the focus and, like “Coming To America,” has captured my sense of humor on a film reel. But, that’s not necessarily why I love this movie. Forrest Gump is a simple man, and despite the spectacular events around him, dreams only of life’s simple desire: love. This is one of the messages within the film: life means nothing without the ability to love and share the love. There’s a lot to life, but if you can shuffle through the noise, you can find the value in simplicity. 

1. “Funny Girl” (1968) 

As I’ve alluded to earlier, films have the power to make us cry, laugh, think and carve out our most profound insecurities. These characteristics are what allow us to feel seen on film, and “Funny Girl” makes me feel that exact way. Starring the incomparable Barbra Streisand in her film debut, “Funny Girl” follows Fanny Brice, an aspiring actress, who struggles to find her footing due to her unconventional looks, but thanks to her ambition and tenacity she is able to make it big on Broadway. Along the way, she also struggles to maintain a relationship with the handsome and suave professional gambler, Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif). Streisand is in top form here and plays Fanny with all the gusto and awkwardness one can muster. Streisand as Fanny Brice was the first time I really related with a character. Like Fanny, I have big dreams, and they come along with their fair share of haters or doubters. Nevertheless, we both still insist to keep trying to accomplish them and follow where our ambition leads us. We also consider ourselves to be unconventional beauties, but we try to move past these insecurities, acknowledging that we still have worth. “Funny Girl” made me realize there was nothing wrong with who I was, and what makes me different is what makes me special.