Ten Pandemic films: That gave me goosebumps

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In this crucial time of the pandemic, we have no choice but to stay at home. At first, that might sound like just anything we needed to hear, especially when we eagerly had to wait for the weekends to relax our minds from the burden of work. Ironically that’s not the case anymore; now we are witnessing the ‘season of holidays’ as some like to call it funnily, and others who like humor but prefer it to be dark have proclaimed it ‘a season for death.’ Being a pessimist my sympathies are in line with the latter.

No matter how good a relationship we may be having with our family members at our homes, at some point, we feel bad for being stuck in a single place for so long. Somewhere at the back of our minds frustration slowly starts to build up making it hard to stay calm. We wouldn’t be able to live if that were to continue for a considerably longer time.

So we have to look for an escape, no! not a physical one because that would be against the newer laws, but a mental escape so that we can keep ourselves busy as well as distract from the fact that we presently have no freedom at all. My own personal amusement or you can say the escape is watching exceptionally good movies that if I can access them. So many things come right off my head when I say it like that, for instance, the way the cinema nowadays is associated with only entertainment and actors as mere entertainers. Still, I’ll refrain from getting into any debate regarding the sanctity of films. Instead, I’ll focus here on telling you some unusual names of the movies.

As a filmy nerd who more or less sees the world through the eyes of cinema, it’s essential for me to keep track of first-class movies; otherwise, it’s likely that I’ll run out of big ideas. So in order to make sense of the world, I have to keep myself up to date. Let me add here at the outset; these movies that I’ll be naming here are neither the ones that win the distinguished awards like the Academy and Golden Globe nor are they the most underrated. Instead, they lie somewhere between these two extremes. The fascinating thing about these movies is that they usually feature unique story-lines and weird endings like you have never seen before. As far as I know, there are no written set of parameters to judge the quality or compare the greatness of two movies that have relatively done well, but only one gets picked in the end. These movies might not have been made into the list of best films of the year, but they are undoubtedly worth our attention.

Some of these movies, I feel deserved a better reception than with what they met at the time of the release and out of which some are even viewed as a classic now. After spending the last few days going through these movies, I thought to list out the names of the ten movies while keeping in tune with the current situation. The films that I’ll be listing here range from old to new, average to mind-blowing, English to non-English, drama to thriller, and so forth. But one thing that will be common in all of them and which is a central character being trapped in an existential crisis for various reasons. There will be a bonus in the end if you stick till the end.

1. Witness for the Prosecution (1957) 

This Billy Wilder movie is based on Agatha Christie’s play of the same name. It deals with the trial of a man accused of murder. I am not going to spoil the thrill here by saying anything that is remotely related to the subject matter of the film. Suffice is it to say that it’s a courtroom drama and you’ll be hearing a lot of courthouse jargon. This is the first among my pandemic film list.

2. Sunset Boulevard (1950) 

Again a Billy Wilder movie tells the story of a Hollywood screenwriter who, after being bankrupt, ends up in a vast isolated mansion owned by a silent-era superstar. This woman is a downright mad person, and in a strange turn of events, the writer is held as a hostage in her house. The movie deals with the mistreatment of old actors whose fame is invaded by the coming of the talkie films. Generally, they are cast aside even from society, as shown in the movie. The movie is told from the point of view of the writer.

3. Umberto D (1952) 

After Bicycle Thieves(1948), this one is my second favorite of all the Vittorio de Sica’s films. This masterpiece follows the heartbreak story of an elderly pensioner as he arrives to make ends meet during Italy’s post-war economic recovery. Umberto, alone except for his dog, rents a room in a tenement building where he is repeatedly threatened by the owner of the building to be thrown out of the building since he can’t pay the fare at a given time.

4. La Strada (1954) 

This is the fourth among my pandemic movie film list. Federico Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina combining for the fourth time in a film that ultimately launched them to their international stardom. The film is structured like an ‘on the road’ allegory of a family suffering from abject poverty. Her mother sells Masina’s character into employing her husband, Zampano, a strong man in a traveling circus. A twist in the movie comes when an old rival reappears on the scene. The film has a sad ending, so be ready for the tear-jerkers. This is the seventh among my pandemic movie film list.

5. Rebel without a cause (1955)

Perhaps one of the best movies of the genre called “angry young men” both popularised and originated in 1950s America. Initially, the film seems like a story about middle-class teenagers. Still, the plot becomes interesting when James Dean’s character accidentally finds himself in the murder of one of the boys in the group. He is now traumatized by this unprecedented act forcing him to make a good call. 

6. Psycho (1960) 

This one is Hitchcock’s best work more so because once “the master of suspense” had recently been accused by the critics for not being able to deliver his best of the performances. The movie is based on the 1959 novel of the same name. It shows a character, Norman Bates, suffering from multiple personality disorder after having murdered his own mother and her lover out of jealousy. He also happens to be the owner of the Bates Motel earlier owned by his mother. Incapable of bearing the guilt, he steals the mother’s corpse and hides her in that secluded house. Things get out of hand when in a fit of rage, he kills one of the renters who plan to spend the night in his motel. 

7. The Graduate (1967) 

I might be wrong to include a romantic-drama film here but who wouldn’t love a movie about a college graduate with yet no definite aim in life for comic relief. It’s a movie about growing up with our inner insecurities that one usually goes through at this vulnerable stage, so in a manner of speaking, it gives a sharp picture of a confused young mind whose career is just about to take off. As the story proceeds, we see him seduced by an older woman, and later, he falls in love with her daughter. Despite what happens in the final scene of the movie, I somehow feel bad for the character of Mrs. Robinson. 

8. Badlands (1973)

This is the eighth among my pandemic film list. Terrence Malick’s debut film as a director about two couples on the run after killing spree to achieve their ends. Film is much admired for bringing the new wave of cinema in the early 1970s by latching on to the themes of the American Dream and its nightmares. This, in my opinion, is the best film created by Malick, and he couldn’t have a better way to start his career. 

9. The Shining (1980) 

A family of three, a couple and their son move into an isolated hotel with a turbulent history. Over time, Jack, the protagonist, starts to lose his sanity to a point where he chases them with an ax. Kubrick can hypnotize the audience with his long-shots and with entrancing scores always played in the background. Characters bear no resemblance to a ghostly creature like in most of the traditional horror movies I have seen. Instead, they are rational human beings with troubled minds, mostly because of the mysterious circumstances. This is one of the best movies in this genre and also my favorite Stanley Kubrick film. 

10. Fight Club ( 1999) 

David Fincher flicks about the downsides of the modern capitalist and consumer culture, where humans are subject to endless work ethics that isolate them even from their own selves. The movie also has a mysterious plot that is only revealed towards the end. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton’s chemistry is perfect for this role. 


Some more for the pandemic film list

  1. American Psycho (2000)
  2. Babel (2006) 
  3. Wall-E (2008)
  4. The Master (2012) 
  5. Amour (2012) 
  6. Her (2013)
  7. Room (2015)

Featured Image Credits: Irish Times

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