- The Godfather (1972) This is one of my all time favorite movies. The scenes are tight as a drum. I love the scene with Connie, Carlo, and Sonny at the dinner table arguing about if business should be discussed at the table. You learn everything you need to know about the dynamics of these people in 30 seconds. It’s perfect.
- Carrington (1995) There’s a scene with Carrington (Emma Thompson) outside her home, sitting on a stump with a shawl wrapped around her, and she’s watching the people she loves prepare to turn in for the evening with their partners. There’s nothing voyeuristic about it because they’re just doing the ordinary things people do when they’re getting ready for bed, but her loneliness in watching these simple moments is devastating. And the score is perfect in that scene. I listen to that music over and over when I write.
- Junebug (2005) It’s such a gentle movie that says so much. How the characters move around each other in this movie is a marvel to watch. And the scene where a woman realizes she really knows nothing about her husband is beautiful and heartbreaking. Also, I grew up in a world like this so it’s a little like visiting my own past.
- WALL-E (2008) Every single character in this movie counts. Most of them don’t even talk or aren’t even alive in the same sense that we generally think of what that means. Yet, they are all filled with such longing and passion, all the way down to the little robot who just wants a clean floor…dammit! It’s a great example of how to make every character matter.
- The Age of Innocence (1993) This is a little bit of cheat because this is also one of my favorite novels. But I have to include it because the movie creates a beautiful world and then you feel the walls move in so slowly throughout the whole movie until it’s unbearably claustrophobic. The choices that Scorsese makes about what to show and what to tell are really genius. And it preserves one of the most brilliant final scenes of anything ever.