School might have started back, but that doesn’t mean the summer heat is a thing of the past or that you don’t need to unwind and cool down. Enter the family movie night—your happy weekend remedy to a busy schedule. For this final summer installment of Movies with Style, we look at films with inspiring style and creativity that the whole family can enjoy. We have some new movies we’re confident will become classics, and others that have already withstood the test of time.
In light of the passing this week of two movie-making greats—Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall—we would be remiss if we did not feature some of their work here. We are fortunate that their immense creative talents left legacies we can return to again and again through their incredible films.
Bacall said it best in her memoir By Myself, “Imagination is the highest kite one can fly.”
5. How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
Today as much as ever before, we need reminders that beauty and money are not everything. Those lessons don’t necessarily need to be learned through dark dramas, though. This situational comedy takes a lighter approach, as Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, and Betty Grable rent a penthouse apartment in New York City in hopes of attracting rich husbands and solving their respective relational and financial woes. Keeping up appearances by selling off the absentee landlord’s furniture, they start running low on furnishings just as their marriage prospects get complicated. Perhaps we aren’t surprised when things don’t go according to plan in their journey of true love and self-discovery, but the charm of each actress in this all-star cast makes the movie a classic. We especially love Pola (Monroe) in glasses and Bacall as the edgy Schatze.
4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Considering that Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first feature-length animated motion picture, this could have been included in our list of “blockbusters of creativity.” As one of the original family films, however, it is probably best enjoyed in a homey setting where multiple generations can spend an evening together. Recent adaptions of the Snow White fairy tale, like Once Upon a Time, Snow White and the Huntsman,and Mirror Mirror, make it worth returning to this earlier version. It’s a pleasant reminder of why we found the story so enchanting in the first place. There is nothing quite like Disney’s original conception of the seven dwarfs with all of their idiosyncratic quirks. Plus, with school back in session, we could use a lesson in how to “Whistle While You Work.”
3. The Lego Movie (2014)
Probably the most recent film in our Movies with Style series, The Lego Movie captures the joy of creativity in a rare form that is simultaneously nostalgic and innovative. Viewers follow the unremarkable everyman Emmet (Chris Pratt) as he journeys through the many worlds of Lego in hopes of sparing the plastic bricks from being forever frozen by Lord Business (Will Farrell) and his Kragle. With a cast of characters and voice actors that includes Batman (Will Arnett), a Unikitty (Alison Brie), and a Lego-version of Roman sage Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), there isn’t much ground this movie doesn’t cover. Even Shaq makes an appearance. All the while, the film’s subplot asks, which is better, carefully following instructions or making your own free-form creation? It will also forever change the way you hear the word “awesome.” With a sequel slated for May 2017, and three other Lego films planned for 2018 and 2019, the Lego movie franchise is just getting started.
2. Jumanji (1995)
Ever wondered what would happen if your favorite game came to life? If you think about it long enough, that game world is probably best left to fantasy. At least that’s the case in Jumanji, where orphaned siblings Peter and Sarah Shepherd (played by Bradley Pierce and Kirsten Dunst) play a mysterious board game only to unleash its wild contents on their quaint New Hampshire town. Inside the game they also discover Alan Parrish (Robin Williams), who has been stuck inside the Jumanji world for some 26 years. Together they have to finish the game for the their lives to return to normal—lives where monkeys don’t destroy police cars, elephants never stampede through New England, and survival doesn’t require lion-taming skills. Full of excitement and truly wild twists and turns and hinging on the simple imaginative concept of a board game come to life, Jumanji has become a family classic.
1. Toy Story (1995)
Andy has a bedroom full of toys. For him, they unlock an imaginative world where Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) becomes a one-eyed bandit and the trusty pull-string cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) always saves the day. Andy doesn’t realize, though, that each time he leaves his room those beloved toys take on lives of their own. Life in Andy’s room gets especially complicated when a brand new Buzz Lightyear action figure (Tim Allen) arrives and threatens to replace Woody as the boy’s favorite toy. The buddy-comedy that unfolds between Woody and Buzz is full of true-to-life human emotions that make this film a favorite for kids and kids at heart. As the first feature-length computer animated film and Pixar’s first theatrical film, Toy Story also joins the ranks of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs when it comes to breaking new ground in movie-making innovation. Nearly 20 years later, we take for granted the world of digital animation that it began. Just as remarkable, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 equal the original in character development and story quality, the third installment taking home two Academy Awards.