1. Stand by Me (1986) – Four boys travel to find a dead body, and learn of life along the way. Covers every conceivable human emotion through four distinct characters who teach us how to appreciate childhood despite having to grow up. A sad and touching adventure that can never be forgotten.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – A captured nomad and a woman on a crusade of retribution come together against hordes of enemies. Takes about 60-seconds to get moving, and rarely lets up from then on. The action scenes are among the best ever filmed, while the characters show never-ending compassion despite minimal dialog. One of the most exciting and insane movies in existence.
3. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – Darth Vader stops at nothing to capture the Rebel Alliance, while Luke Skywalker learns the ways of the force. An always moving and always engaging sci-fi epic that perfectly blends tense action with emotional character drama. Every scene is a sight to behold, especially those with Yoda.
4. Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Peter Parker contends with letting go of his dreams while battling a heart broken scientist with robotic arms. A compelling story about love, loss and identity that never forgets to thrill the audience with heart stopping action. Surpasses the original, as well as every other comic book movie in existence.
5. The Elephant Man (1980) – An upper class doctor discovers and ultimately salvages a horribly disfigured man. A somber and haunting drama that showcases the beauty of the human spirit and the extent of true friendship. Makes an emotional impact amid a breathtaking backdrop.
6. Back to the Future (1985) – A teenager travels back in time to avoid death, but ends up nearly wiping out his existence. The two hour length is never felt, as the pace moves 88 MPH while covering a ton of intricate ground. Fueled by discernable characters who lead us to an overwhelmingly tense finale. One of the most fun movies ever made.
7. The Road Warrior (1981) – Mad Max saves a band of holocaust survivors from a gang of gas hungry nomads. The plot is rather thin and characters are hardly profound, but this is strictly about the action, of which there is plenty. An exciting build up to an awe inspiring finale that causes motion sickness and fist pumping.
8. Pump Up the Volume (1990) – A teen’s pirate radio station rouses disenchanted youths while intimidating corrupted adults. A unique spin on teen rebellion that features stimulating messages about life and love while questioning the problems with adult-run institutions. A rousing and thought-provoking experience.
9. Hard Target (1993) – Homeless veterans are hunted in New Orleans during a police strike, but a drifter aims to shut down their operation. A vast adventure that takes us from the streets of Louisiana to a Mardi Gras graveyard while firing a million bullets along the way. The superior Director’s Cut is much more violent and adds dramatic human interaction.
10. Almost Famous (2000) – A fifteen-year-old journalist goes on tour with a rising rock band and experiences the many facets of life. A long and involving journey that sucks you in from the start and never lets go. An emotional and spiritual drama laced with humor, memorable characters, and unforgettable moments.
11. Terminator 2 (1991) – The future savior of mankind is hunted by a force of evil while protected by a formidable source of kindness. A bit cold in terms of character depth, but when it comes to action and inventive F/X, few movies come close to this film’s awe-inspiring mechanics. An everlasting tale of bonding through the darkest of times.
12. American Beauty (1999) – An ordinary man takes control of his disrespected life while pissing off a rigid society. A dark and haunting realization of the purpose and unpredictability of living life to the fullest. Inspiring and uplifting, even through the depression.
13. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – A man accused of double murder faces life in a hardened prison. A deliberately paced and poetic tale of the willingness within the human spirit to discover freedom while learning of life and death. A moving creation of spirit and compassion.