10. A Time to Kill
As much as I can’t stand Matthew McConaughey, this is the one exception that I would recommend to anyone. It’s about racism, rape, and murder, and it was John Grisham’s first novel.
9. The English Patient
A sweeping epic ranging from World World II to near-present day, this love story is also one of the most amazing dramas I’ve ever seen. Many people complain it’s too slow, and it’s definitely not an action! packed! film, but if you enjoy surprises, crying, and sensual scenes featuring Ralph Fiennes, it’s for you.
Oh, how I love this film. It depicts the life of the Marquis de Sade (played brilliantly by Geoffrey Rush) after his lock-up, and is both delightfully naughty as well as sickeningly disturbing. It isn’t for the faint-hearted, for sure.
7. Little Children
Another not for the squeamish film (and featuring Kate Winslet, who was in #8), this one will make you look at child molesters in a whole new way. It’s a movie that will never leave you.
6. Billy Elliot
This is such a wonderfully uplifting story. It’s a British movie about an 11-year-old boy who wants to be a dancer, despite his father’s disapproval. Everyone should see this film.
Another Geoffrey Rush movie (I’m a huge fan), this Australian gem features Rush as mentally disturbed but utterly brilliant pianist David Helfgott.
Starring Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks (I would include Forrest Gump, but I think most people have seen that one) this amazing film is about a gay man with AIDS and his fight against discrimination based on his illness and sexuality, and his lawyer who is also prejudiced against him. I never fail to cry while watching this movie. Never.
3. The Silence of the Lambs
What list of dramatic films would be complete without the amazing performances of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs? I maintain that you can skip all four other movies (though I love Manhunter and Red Dragon, both based on the same book) and simply watch this breathtaking, terrifying, wonderful film on its own.
2. The Shawshank Redemption
I would hope that everyone has seen this film by now, but if you haven’t, rent it immediately. It’s arguably one of the best movies ever made and it has just about everything in it—drama, hope, despair, loss, and an ending you’ll love. Every time I think about it, I want to watch it right then and there.
1. Stand by Me
Every time someone asks me, “What’s Stand by Me?” I just want to gasp with horror. It’s my all-time favorite movie, a coming of age story about four boys who go off in search of a dead body that’s rumored to be nearby. It’s absolutely amazing, with the best youth acting you’ll ever see (including the late great River Phoenix), and it is based on one of Stephen King’s best novellas.