Tips to Picking Good Movies to Rent

08 March 2022

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Do you ever have trouble finding good movies to rent? If you answered in the affirmative, I'm hardly surprised. That's because the shelves of your local video store contain hundreds or thousands of films with appealing cover art and positive blurbs from some obscure Internet critic. Separating the wheat from the chaff isn't always a simple proposition.

But that's where this list comes in. Below, I proudly present an assortment of films for your viewing pleasure. From fantastical tales directed by Tim Burton to movies where Lee Marvin plays a wiry tough guy, each of these works combines solid performances with an above-average screenplay. In short, you simply can't go wrong.

Big Fish (2003) - Albert Finney is Edward Bloom, a former traveling salesman (played as a younger man by Ewan McGregor) who's approaching the end of his life. Visited by his son (Billy Crudup) in an attempt to repair their long-damaged relationship, Edward spins a series of tall tales about his life long ago. As with most Tim Burton movies, Big Fish is packed with fantastical imagery and bizarre characters. It's also a surprisingly touching tale, with the theme of father/son relationships playing a key role. If you've ever wondered what defined a Southern Gothic movie, watch this one to find out. Also starring Jessica Lange, Marion Cotillard, Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi, and Burton regular Helena Bonham Carter.

Children of Men (2006) - While this film didn't blow up at the box office, it's already regarded as a modern-day science fiction classic. Set in a dystopian Britain where people are no longer able to conceive, the film stars Clive Owen as Theo Faron, a former activist turned bureaucrat. When his estranged wife (Julianne Moore) shows up unexpectedly, she asks if Theo can help secure traveling papers for a young woman named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey). He does so, and also agrees to accompany the young woman in exchange for money. But that's when all hell breaks loose, and Theo learns that Kee is carrying a secret that could save the human race. Grim, gritty, and filled with action sequences captured in a single shot, Children of Men is a science fiction film that will both excite and make you think. Oh, and Michael Caine plays a pot-smoking hippie.

Prime Cut (1972) - A little-known gem from the early 1970s, Prime Cut stars Lee Marvin as a mob enforcer sent to Kansas City to collect $500,000 owed by Mary Ann (Gene Hackman), a violent and thoroughly wretched meatpacker/crime boss. Sissy Spacek makes her screen debut as a girl rescued from sexual slavery by Marvin. One of the film's signature moments involves Marvin and Spacek being chased though a wheat field by a combine.

Vertigo (1958) - Considered one of the finest films from director Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo stars James Stewart as a former cop who developed an intense fear of heights after witnessing a fellow officer fall to his death in the line of duty. When he's hired by a friend to follow the man's suspicious-acting wife (Kim Novak), our hero is drawn into a web of suicide, intrigue, and possible spiritual possession.

The Battle of Algiers (1966) - Filmed in a black-and-white documentary style with amateur actors, this landmark film about events during the Algerian War is still highly regarded by both cinema fans and members of the intelligence community. Both sides of the war receive equal treatment, and the DVD extras include everyone from Oliver Stone to Spike Lee discussing the political and cinematic importance of this motion picture.

The next time you're looking for some good movies to rent, I hope you'll consult this list for ideas. Each of these films is a classic in their own right, and they all have my personal stamp of approval.