I had good memories of the Streisand/Kristofferson A Star Is Born, and since my attitude toward Lady Gaga was somewhere between “appalled” and “disdainful,” the lineup on the new film seemed unpromising, when it was first announced.

But over the past few years, my attitude has been evolving. It began with Lady Gaga’s duet album with Tony Bennett. Who knew she could sing real songs? Well, me, now.

And then there was the appearance of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga on the Graham Norton Show last week. It was one of the best Graham Nortons since I’ve been watching, because along with Gaga and Cooper, Ryan Gosling was there with a wonderful view of his Neil Armstrong movie, First Man; and Jodie Whittaker, the new (and first female) Dr. Who, was an absolute delight – and not just because of her wonderful Yorkshire accent.

Here’s what I learned from Cooper and Gaga on Norton:

  1. Bradley Cooper heavily recruited Lady Gaga to play the female lead opposite him.
  2. Bradley Cooper, as director, decided that all the singing would be recorded live, in the scene – meaning that when you see them singing on stage, the sound you’re hearing is the actual singing and playing that were happening during the scene. That’s almost never done anymore.
  3. Cooper and Gaga seemed to really like and care about each other, as friends and colleagues. That was not inevitable – while Cooper is a powerful filmmaker, his level of fame as an actor isn’t even in the same solar system with Lady Gaga’s level of fame as a singer. Such disparities are not always conducive to warmth.
  4. Lady Gaga was wearing her own face and actual human clothing through most of the movie, so that we had a possibility of seeing something genuine rather than the plastic persona she created during her rise to fame.

Then, this past Monday night, my wife and I came to the theater to watch A Star Is Born, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, and we rejoiced at the beauty of this movie. My wife never saw the Streisand movie; I don’t think she ever needs to see it, now that the story has been told this powerfully.

Not only are we hearing Bradley Cooper’s actual singing voice (and he’s very, very good), but also he actually plays those guitar riffs. Like Ryan Gosling on piano in La La Land, Cooper took intensive guitar lessons for a year and a half so he could do his own onstage playing in the movie.

(Speaking of which, you have to hear Gosling’s account on the Graham Norton Show of taking flying lessons in order to play Neil Armstrong in First Man.)

But the bravest thing in this movie was Lady Gaga emerging from disguise to show the lovely young woman she’s been hiding behind her Lady Gaga drag for all these years. Her singing is real; her acting is excellent; and she and Cooper have onscreen chemistry that really works.

If, like me, you were hoping to go through your whole life without ever seeing Lady Gaga naked, I must warn you. Unless you blink for the quarter-second that the shot lasts, you will have a full-frontal glimpse of her as a bathroom door is closing. Voyeurs will have to time the pause feature on their DVR or DVD player in order to study that moment; the rest of us can happily pretend it never happened.

Unlike every Barbra Streisand movie, this film is not devoted to loving Vaseline-filtered shots of the female star. Instead, the two leads get approximately equal time. And there are wonderful performances by supporting players like Dave Chappelle, Ron Rifkin, Michael D. Roberts, Michael Harney, Anthony Ramos and, believe it or not, Andrew Dice Clay.

The supporting cast is led by Sam Elliott as Bradley Cooper’s older brother; their relationship is an important subplot in the movie, and you end up loving this guy.

In fact, you end up caring about practically everybody, and above all, you want Cooper and Gaga to be happy together. It’s all complicated by Cooper’s addictions and by the manager who is shaping Gaga’s new career. The ending is frustrating and sad, but Lady Gaga brings off a terrific final number that pulls it all together; and Cooper, whose direction is, in my opinion, flawless, put two clips at the end of the movie that give the audience closure.

I have not been a fan of Lady Gaga, but she’s wonderful in this. I have enjoyed and admired Bradley Cooper, but never would have thought of him as a singer or musician, or as the actor who could pull off this star-turn performance.

This film was done right. It’s worth leaving home to go see it in the theaters, and add your ticket dollars as part of the public applause for A Star Is Born.


And now let’s continue as much of my list of Perfect Films of All Time as will fit in this issue of the Rhino Times:


Man of Steel (2013)

Pretend you don’t know about the other Superman movies. This is the only one that’s worth seeing, and Henry Cavill and Amy Adams are the real Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Before this movie, the TV series Smallville was the only good Superman storyline on the screen.

A Man for All Seasons (1966)

I was 15 years old when this movie transported me outside myself and showed me what a real hero looked like: Thomas More, as portrayed by Robert Bolt’s script and Paul Scofield’s acting. Robert Shaw also appears, this time as Henry VIII, and Leo McKern is amazing as Thomas Cromwell. I’ve acted in various scenes from the play, and the script holds up brilliantly every time. I still think of this as one of the greatest movies ever made. Maybe the greatest. Some days I’m quite sure of that. But it’s certainly one of the finest plays of the 20th century.

Midnight Run (1988)

Charles Grodin almost steals this caper movie out from under Robert De Niro, yet Grodin and De Niro make a delightful pair of understated comic actors. The idea is that Grodin, a bail-jumping mob accountant, has to be safely transported to where he is supposed to testify. De Niro, the bounty hunter who has him, has to keep him away from the FBI, other bounty hunters, and the mafia – while Grodin is doing his best to escape from De Niro and everybody else. Hilarious and exciting, it’s a timeless winner.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

This is the original “He’s really Santa!” movie, with Maureen O’Hara as the executive at Macy’s who has to find the right Santa for the parade – and the store – and Edmund Gwenn as the best screen Santa Claus ever. Natalie Wood plays Maureen O’Hara’s daughter, whom she has taught not to believe in Santa Claus, while neighbor John Payne falls for Mom and becomes a friend and father figure to the daughter. Romantic, yes, but mostly about the magic and love of Christmas. (Gene Lockhart, who plays the judge, died in 1957, but he keeps getting credits in new movies because they use an old song, “The World Waiting for the Sunrise” [1919], in the score – and Lockhart wrote the lyrics.)

Mr. Right (2015)

Sam Rockwell is Francis, a hit man who has repented of his life of murder; therefore, whenever anybody tries to hire him, he atones for past sins by killing his would-be employer – usually wearing a clown nose. He happens to meet Martha McKay (Rockwell’s real-life wife, Anna Kendrick) and they hit it off. The only drawback is that Martha gets sucked into his violent life … and soon figures out that she actually likes it. Funny, weirdly romantic, morally appalling, and absolutely wonderful. Tim Roth is great as Rockwell’s former boss when he worked for the government.

Mr. Roberts (1955)

Henry Fonda’s best-loved role as the executive officer on a Navy cargo vessel during World War II. The story began as a novel, became a hit Broadway play, and was adapted as a film with great success. James Cagney played the tyrannical, half-insane captain, and Jack Lemmon had a scene-stealing role as Ensign Pulver. The war they’re mostly fighting is against the captain, but Mr. Roberts’s most urgent goal is to get reassigned to a combat vessel so he can be part of the war. It’s a comedy with bite.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

No, not the new one, which has become a star vehicle for a vain actor who never understood Agatha Christie’s original. The 1974 version, directed by Sidney Lumet, has Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, and an amazing cast that brings off their mix of upper and lower class characters with panache. If you’ve seen many movies, you already know every one of the actors except, possibly, Rachel Roberts as Hildegarde.

My Cousin Vinny (1992)

Because people are mean-spirited and stupid, there was a lot of nastiness about Marisa Tomei’s Oscar – people were “sure” that presenter Jack Palance must have read the wrong name. Well, the only thing wrong with Tomei’s Oscar is that it was for supporting actress instead of simply Best Actress, because nobody gave a better performance that year than Marisa Tomei’s perfect, believable, hilarious, deep performance as Joe Pesci’s fiancee and muse. Everybody else is outstanding, but the movie belongs to the lady.

My Fair Lady (1964)

This Lerner and Loewe musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion had a monster run on Broadway, and with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn in the leads (and Marni Nixon singing Audrey Hepburn’s songs), it’s one of the best movie musicals ever made. The music is still excellent – even without Rex Harrison singing more than two notes in a row – and the performances luminous.

My Man Godfrey (1936 and 1957)

Made first in 1936 with William Powell and Carole Lombard, this film did not need a remake. In this story of an English butler in the home of a rich family who have lost track of their love for each other, its redemptive power still works. Yet when they made it again in 1957 with June Allyson and David Niven, it was every bit as wonderful. In 1936, its roots in the Great Depression lent it poignancy; but even in the boom years of the 1950s, it held on to its humor and its truth.

Nashville (1975)

This movie was the beginning of my love of Country music. Robert Altman famously made his actors compose their own country songs, and they took the responsibility seriously and brought it off with panache. Everybody’s favorite song was Keith Carradine’s “I’m Easy,” but we loved everybody from Ned Beatty to Shelley Duvall. I listened to the album about fifty times in a row – so long ago that it was on a turntable in my office. I’ve been listening to (and loving) Country ever since.

The Odd Couple (1968)

It’s not just that Neil Simon never wrote anything funnier. It’s that nobody ever wrote anything funnier. And with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the leading roles, it was and remains the perfect film comedy.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Jack Nicholson is wonderful as the rebel who finds himself an inmate in a mental hospital, with Satan – er, Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) – at war with him. Scary and funny and finally heartbreaking, this is one of the greatest movies ever made.

One Magic Christmas (1985)

The great Christmas movies – and there aren’t many – have tragedy and pain at their core. This story, in which Ginny Grainger (Mary Steenburgen) has lost hope and faith as she and her husband, Jack (Gary Basaraba), struggle with financial loss during economic hard times, takes us down some unbearable paths as an angel (Harry Dean Stanton) shows Ginny just how wonderful her life is, if she would only notice the love that surrounds her. After losing everything, Ginny is given the chance to go back and treat people differently, being glad for what she has and trusting in the future to improve their circumstances. It’s also worth pointing out that Jan Rubes is my second favorite movie Santa Claus.

Ordinary People (1980)

Not only was this Robert Redford’s directing debut, but also it was Mary Tyler Moore’s debut as a serious dramatic actress. Its climactic scene was later weakly remade under the title Good Will Hunting, but it’s here, with Judd Hirsch, Donald Sutherland, and Timothy Hutton that it has all its real power. Oh, and it won the Best Picture Oscar in 1981, along with another for best screenplay for Alvin Sargent’s adaptation of Judith Guest’s novel, and acting nominations for Moore, Hutton, Hirsch, and director Redford. It won almost everything at the Golden Globes, and the Directors Guild gave Redford its outstanding directorial achievement award. How have you not seen this movie yet?

Parenthood (1989)

This movie absolutely is not a screwball Steve Martin comedy. Instead, it’s a heartfelt, wise, and painful exploration of the anxieties and failures and agonies and triumphs of raising children, with Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen luminous as the central married couple, along with Dianne Wiest as a divorced single mom, Jason Robards as the patriarch of the clan, Tom Hulce as the utterly selfish black sheep who brings home his illegitimate son, Martha Plimpton as the rebellious – and pregnant – daughter of Wiest, and Keanu Reeves as Plimpton’s drag-racer boyfriend who turns out to be a lot more promising as a father than anybody, including himself, could have guessed. Joaquin (Leaf) Phoenix shows up as Wiest’s angry son. In my opinion, this is Ron Howard’s best movie – in a career of wonderful movies.

Patton (1970)

Francis Ford Coppola co-wrote the powerful script that turns General George S. Patton Jr. into a cultural icon. George C. Scott is brilliant in the title role, but it’s Karl Malden as General Omar Bradley who provides the counterbalance – a general who knows how to do all the jobs, including treating the men under him with decency and respect. This movie shows that brilliance in command doesn’t always lead to long-term military success. And it does this while being marvelously entertaining every step of the way.

The Player (1992)

Michael Tolkin’s bitter-but-loving revenge against Hollywood is his version of What Makes Sammy Run. I think of it as Tim Robbins’s best movie; it’s also one of the most twisted crime stories ever filmed. It’s a hoot to see Lyle Lovett do an excellent job as a police detective.

Poltergeist (1982)

The only horror movie I ever loved, this story of a family torn apart by the accident of having moved into a ghost-heavy house is timeless and devastating. Zelda Rubinstein as the exorcist steals the movie on first watching, but on later viewing it becomes clear that JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson are the heart of this family story.

The Princess Bride (1987)

Good as this movie is, the book – by William Goldman, who also scripted the movie – is still better. Sure, see the movie – but if you get a chance to read the book first, do it. Then you’ll know what really happens. Mandy Patinkin’s best performance gives us the most-quoted line from the film: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

In this ultimate swashbuckling film, director Steven Spielberg and writer Lawrence Kasdan pile on peril after peril, triumph after triumph. Insanely courageous, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) could only exist in fiction – and only Nazis are really evil enough to be his opponents.

Rebecca (1940)

I think this is Alfred Hitchcock’s best film, based on Daphne Du Maurier’s best novel. Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine were never better than in this story that seems to verge on being a ghost story until it very much is not.

The Remains of the Day (1993)

A beautiful novel translated perfectly into an understated but deeply moving screen romance for Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. It is also lovely to see Christopher Reeve, still walking and talented and young.

The Replacements (2000)

It’s one of my wife’s and my favorite sports movies. During a football players’ strike, several teams continue the season by hiring scabs – replacement players that are not union members. The gamble is that fans will still want to see a team with a famous name – even if none of the players are the ones who were playing before the strike. Keanu Reeves is wonderful as a would-be quarterback who learns now to be a team leader and the kind of ambitious player who always wants the ball. Gene Hackman plays the coach and Brooke Langton is the cheerleader/bartender Keanu Reeves falls for. And the team of replacement players is a delightful ensemble of weirdos who still manage to play pretty good football now and then. Funny and sweet and exciting.

Riddick (2013)

This is Vin Diesel’s third outing with the character of Riddick, but the first of the Riddick movies to make my list of perfect films. Crude and violent, I wouldn’t recommend it to the sensitive and delicate viewer – but we get to see Vin Diesel at maximum charisma, while working with a remarkable cast of actors – and some really scary aliens.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

This trilogy really needs to be considered together. Any previous Planet of the Apes movies look childish by comparison, and since this trilogy is a reboot that makes no reference to any previous movies in the series, there’s no reason to consider them. While many fine actors have taken part, the trilogy belongs to Andy Serkis as the sentient ape Caesar. He was equally brilliant as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, and I look forward to the day when the CGI skin that he wears will be considered as costume and makeup, so that actors in full CGI garb can be nominated for well-earned awards. Andy Serkis should have won Best Actor Oscars several times over. And Bad Ape, Steve Zahn’s character introduced in the third movie, is another unforgettable performance, as is Karin Konoval as Maurice the orangutan.

Rocky (1976)

Sylvester Stallone wrote the script, and the producers kept their commitment to keep him in the leading role. The result was that Stallone wrote and acted his way into a hugely famous film career, something that would never have happened without this role. The story of the failed boxer who is given one last shot at a title is moving and exciting – even his training is inspirational. Don’t let the big-budget sequels deceive you; this was an indy film and the producers took enormous risks. It was made on a budget of less than a million dollars – and opened to $5 million on the first weekend and a worldwide gross of $225 million over the life of the film. Sometimes big gambles take off – especially when film producers like Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler make smart moves to make sure the movie is good.

Romancing the Stone (1984)

This is the Michael Douglas movie that I like. Kathleen Turner was wonderful as Joan Wilder, a world-famous romance writer who finds herself caught up in a perilous adventure as she tries to rescue her kidnapped sister. With this story, being a little over the top wasn’t a flaw – it’s just what writer Diane Thomas and director Robert Zemeckis called for.

Runaway Jury (2003)

Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz have worked hard to get one of them on the jury of a lawsuit against a gun manufacturer. It’s both scary and cool to see how they demonstrate their power over the other jurors as they try to get both sides to pay them to deliver the verdict they want. Gene Hackman plays the anything-to-win lawyer who is strategizing for the gunmakers, while Dustin Hoffman is the plaintiff’s lawyer, eager to win but hoping to do it with his integrity in place. Based on one of John Grisham’s best novels, this is a superb adaptation. I’ve watched it about a dozen times now, and I still enjoy every scene.

Sabrina (1995)

Yes, the black and white Sabrina directed by Billy Wilder and starring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart back in 1954 was very good, but in my opinion, the 1995 remake with Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford was simply perfect. This story of a cold businessman who gets involved with the daughter of the family chauffeur only to keep her from getting her hooks into his overly-romantic younger brother (Greg Kinnear) gives us a complete understanding of why he falls in love himself, and changes the way he lives his life. “Paris is always a good idea.”

Say Anything … (1989)

This Cameron Crowe written-and-directed movie looks at first like a teen comedy, but it’s so much more. With John Cusack and Ione Skye as the young lovers, and John Mahoney as her father, who strongly disapproves of the boy, this story of loyalty and commitment reaches its strongest point when Lloyd Dobler (Cusack) stands outside her house and plays, on a boom box, “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. How many movies since then have quoted that moment? If you don’t have this movie in your memory, you’ve been deprived.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Kate Winslet’s best role, in my opinion, and Emma Thompson was perfect both as screenwriter and leading actress. Alan Rickman gives a great good-guy performance – no Snape here – and Hugh Grant has never been more lovable. If I had favorites, this would be one of my five favorite movies of all time. On some days, it would be number one.

Serenity (2005)

Joss Whedon’s big-screen adaptation of his truncated TV series Firefly, this is Nathan Fillion’s defining role – as part of a brilliant and beloved cast. The movie isn’t just a rehash of the series – it covers all the same ground and then shows us what science fiction is supposed to be. It felt like a comedy on the small screen; it became an epic at the movies. This was the first time many of us saw Chiwetel Ejiofor in a dominant and dangerous villain role.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

This is, in my opinion, the best original movie musical ever. Yes, even better than Singin’ in the Rain. With Howard Keel as the backwoodsman who comes to town to find a wife, and Jane Powell as the idealistic young woman who falls in love with him only to discover that he really brought her home to be the cook and maid for him and his six uncouth brothers, this story is full of memorable songs and wonderful dancing – much of it by Russ Tamblyn, the youngest brother, Gideon. The barn-raising scene and the wood-chopping scene where the men sing “Lonesome Polecat” are especially memorable, as is the kidnapping of town girls, in imitation of the Romans’ taking of the Sabine women, to be wives for the six younger brothers. They pass through a snowy canyon and then let the girls scream and bring down an avalanche that seals them away from town till spring. That’s what comes of reading ancient writings.

Shane (1953)

This movie touches all the Western cliches without ever losing its simple honesty. Alan Ladd plays the titular drifter who works for room and board on the farm where husband Van Heflin and wife Jean Arthur are raising their son, the brilliant child actor Brandon De Wilde. When some bad guys threaten the family’s safety, Shane goes into town to take care of the problem; meanwhile, though, it is hard for him and Jean Arthur not to fall in love. When Shane leaves town, Brandon De Wilde calls after him, which is why people who love this movie quote his call, “Shane! Shane! Come back, Shane!”

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Morgan Freeman and James Whitmore are wonderful in this movie, as the two inmates who befriend Tim Robbins after he is wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife; but the movie belongs to Robbins. The story of how this white-collar accountant manages to survive in prison is satisfying; the story of how he’s able to set things to rights is downright thrilling.

Silverado (1985)

This is a combination of every element that made Westerns a beloved part of American culture for decades – but instead of being a parody, writer/director Lawrence Kasdan makes everything feel deep and real. The cast is amazing, with Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Linda Hunt, Rosanna Arquette, and Danny Glover on the good-guy team, and Brian Dennehy heading up the bad guys. But the favorite is Kevin Costner as the exuberant, risk-loving younger brother of Scott Glenn. This movie is the big-budget, full-color version of Shane – all the Westerns rolled into one, with a lot of fun and a lot of danger along the way.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

This is Gene Kelly’s best movie – yes, even better than An American in Paris – and he’s teamed with Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds as the comic trio who try to pull a good talkie out of a failed silent movie script during the transition to sound movies in the early 1930s. Jean Hagen steals the show as the silent-film star whose low-class accent is doomed to fail once the audience hears her talk. “Then all our hard work won’t be in vain for nothin’!” The dancing is great – with Cyd Charisse pulled in for the big dream dance sequence, though Debbie Reynolds is a superb dancer for the lighter numbers. This is the perfect meta film musical – a musical about making a movie musical. And Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” is one of the best dance numbers ever filmed.

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, this movie promoted Haley Joel Osment from Forrest Gump Junior to Cole Sear,the boy who sees dead people. Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, and Olivia Williams are wonderful as the adults who are trying to cope with all this ghost business, and as the horror scenes make way to clarifying scenes of healing and hope, we feel the sense of triumph that Bruce Willis’s and Haley Joel Osment’s characters feel.

The Social Network (2010)

Aaron Sorkin’s script for this movie is as dialogue-driven as a screwball comedy – and Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, along with his main friend and antagonist, played by Andrew Garfield, is definitely up to the job. The astonishing thing about this movie is that it dared to name names. And somehow, even after betrayals and general jerkhood, we end up liking and admiring Mark Zuckerberg – even as we’re rooting for Andrew Garfield (as Eduardo Saverin) to beat him in court.

Spanglish (2004)

Written and directed by James Brooks, this is easily Adam Sandler’s best movie – and I like Sandler and a lot of his films. A Spanish-speaking woman and her daughter come to work for John and Deborah Clasky. John Clasky (Sandler) is a well-known restaurateur, and Téa Leoni is a nightmare of a self-obsessed woman who blames her mother – Cloris Leachman in one of her best roles ever – for everything that’s wrong in her life. When John learns that Deborah has slept with another man, he walks out – and takes housekeeper Flor (Paz Vega) with him. Every moment of this movie is carefully earned, and while the focus is on the adults and who does or doesn’t sleep with whom, the heart of the movie is the relationship between Flor and her daughter, Cristina (Shelbie Bruce), whom Flor is trying to raise decently while giving her every opportunity. So it’s several interlocking love stories. The most glorious moment is when Cloris Leachman tells her daughter exactly what to say, and not a word more – and Téa Leoni’s character actually does it.

Starman (1984)

Jeff Bridges took on the extremely difficult job of creating a character who looks human but is alien, as he gradually learns how to adapt to human culture and, eventually, to love a human woman (Karen Allen, in a part infinitely more demanding and interesting than her part in Raiders of the Lost Ark). The fact that Bridges wasn’t even nominated for the Best Actor Oscar he should have won says much about Hollywood’s ignorance of and disrespect for science fiction as a genre.

Star Wars (1977)

All those later titles with their phony episode numbers mean nothing to me. This was the original Star Wars and it remains the real one, the one that can stand alone.

The Sting (1973)

Sure, this was a cynical effort to bring Paul Newman and Robert Redford back together to make box office gold again (after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), but David S. Ward gave it a brilliant, gripping script that made it a thriller without ever losing the comedy. The ragtime score, mostly by the legendary Scott Joplin, is as wonderful as the movie.

Table 19 (2017)

This Anna Kendrick film is, for me, a perfect comedy. Stuck at a table of least-favored wedding guests, Kendrick plays the former Maid of Honor, now demoted because her boyfriend, the bride’s brother, jilted her by text message a few days before. The other people at the table give us a wonderful mix of sadness with a hope of redemption, and Kendrick herself has a story worthy of the best romantic comedies.

Taxi Driver (1976)

Martin Scorsese hadn’t yet decided that his directing would be the star of all his films, so Robert De Niro, as taxi driver Travis Bickle, was able to beguile us and appall us, as a man desperately searching for some kind of importance in his life. Jodie Foster blew onto the screen like a hurricane as the young prostitute Bickle is determined to save, and this remains Scorsese’s most straightforward, watchable movie.

Temple Grandin (2010)

Yes, it originated as a TV movie, but this is one of the best movies ever made about a real person. Claire Danes is perfect in the role of an autistic woman who brings her unique understanding of animals into the practices of slaughterhouses, making them more humane – and more profitable.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

This movie doesn’t get much love from critics, but I don’t understand why. It isn’t as jokey or as scary as the James Cameron Terminator movies, because it has way more story to tell – but I think it carries that burden well, and Nick Stahl and Claire Danes did an outstanding job of making us care about their mission to prevent global catastrophe. Because the later stories exist, we know that they will fail – but the story turns their failure into the hope of eventual triumph. I have watched it again and again, enjoying it more each time.