Movies + TV

Action Heroes

Onscreen stories about making moves.

Wayne's WorldWayne’s World (1992)
Simply put, this is the funniest movie I have ever seen. Based on an old Saturday Night Live sketch, Wayne’s World is about two dudes, Wayne and Garth, who have their own public-access cable show that they film in Wayne’s basement. There’s a story (a big, bad TV executive tries to make them sell out), but who cares about the plot? Every single thing that happens in this movie is hilarious, and I probably quote it at least once a day, and not always on purpose. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is inarguably one of the best songs of all time, and its inclusion in this scene only elevates its status that much higher. I could list a million other funny things that Wayne and Garth do, but there’s not enough space for that here. Just trust that I’m not steering you wrong. Wayne’s World! Party time! Excellent! Weee-oooooh-weeeee-ohhh-weeeee-ooooh! —Laia

aliasAlias (2001–2006, ABC)
Spy stories don’t get much more badass than Jennifer Garner as a butt-kicking CIA agent with rad disguises. Garner plays Sydney Bristow, a spy with a triple life (her friends don’t know she’s a spy and most of her fellow spies don’t know she’s a spy for a DIFFERENT group of spies). Because the show was created by J.J. Abrams, who made Lost and Felicity, it has plenty of stunts and plot twists and distant locales but also love triangles and feeeeeelings. By the fourth of five seasons, the spy stuff gets a little bit sci-fi, which might sound corny, but by then you’ll be so obsessed with these characters and their maze of an underworld (Wait, so-and-so is whose daughter?! Is that a clone?!) that it’ll all make perfect sense. —Joe

HannaHanna (2011)
The first thing you need to know about Hanna is that most of its characters are extremely violent, including Hanna, who is played in all her quiet fierceness by Saoirse Ronan. Hanna has never met another living person besides her father, who is training her to be a lethal fighter on an isolated tundra. She has a mysterious mission that will take her to Germany, where she knows her life will be in serious danger, and only she can decide when she’s ready. The thing is, because Hanna’s a teenager, what she’s really ready for is to experience life—to have friends and hear music and see parts of the world that aren’t totally frozen and meet people who aren’t her well-meaning yet intense dad—but that’s not even possible yet, because first she has to (and in the movie, she really does have to) kill people. This might not sound like the kind of character you’d like, let alone feel serious compassion and concern for, but because Saoirse plays her with palpable curiosity and gentleness, in addition to her clear-eyed ability to rip people to shreds, you cannot stop fearing for Hanna’s life or silently begging a higher power to help her make it to safety. —Lena

SpeedSpeed (1994)
I don’t have my driver’s license, so I have no idea what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a vehicle that is speeding down the highway at a trillion miles per hour, but I imagine it feels something like watching this movie. The concept is simple: What if you were on a bus that couldn’t slow down? The details of the plot are a little more convoluted—there’s a terrorist threat, a maybe-blossoming romance, and a hero (played by Keanu Reeves) with a tortured past—but they really serve as padding for a the crux of the movie, which is one wild ride. Despite its being 20 years old, it still induces the same Holy crap, can’t breathe, can’t look away feelings it did when it came out. —Anna F.

Center StageCenter Stage (2000)
As a former ballet dancer, I have a soft spot for any and all ballet-related movies. But even if you have zero interest in ballet, you will still be enthralled by Center Stage, because DRA-MA! The movie follows the lives of six young women and men in the American Ballet Academy’s workshop program. (I say “young people” because you can’t tell if they are supposed to be high school students or college students or what.) All the performing-arts clichés have their moment—there’s an overbearing mom pushing her ballet dreams on her kid, a ballerina who eats “too much” and one who eats “too little” (PROMISE ME YOU’LL NEVER LET ANYONE MAKE YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT YOURSELF FOR THESE OR ANY OTHER REASONS), and the sassy Latina with a terrible attitude who is, of course, a great dancer (this one really bothers me because she is such a bitch with no explanation at all, and it’s like, WRITERS, WRITE SOMEONE WITH BELIEVABLE MOTIVATIONS, PLEASE). But the truth is, believable is not in this movie’s vocabulary. In its BEST scene—a ballet choreographed by the renegade super-hot bad-boy dancer—costume changes happen before your eyes and a motorcycle just appears. The whole thing is completely unrealistic, which is the essence of what makes it great. It definitely earns its place in the canon of great American teen movies of the early 2000s. (Bonus points for having Mandy Moore on the soundtrack.) —Laia

NewsiesNewsies (1992)
My heart belongs to Jack “Cowboy” Kelly, the daring teenage newspaper boy at the heart of this superlative live-action Disney musical. Based loosely on the 1899 newsboy strike in New York that momentarily brought media empires to their knees, the film follows a pack of working-class kids who decide it’s high time they got paid a decent wage for their labor. They commemorate the occasion with uplifting and perfect rally songs (such as this one) that you can fall back on next time you’re feeling lethargic or trodden upon. Most important: There is not a single thing you will not love about a baby-faced Christian Bale playing the charismatic, bandanna-wearing newspaper-carrier-turned-social-justice-activist Jack. See also: the azure-eyed King of Brooklyn, Spot Conlon, played by Gabriel Damon. *fans self with Sunday Times* —Caitlin D.

24 hour party people24 Hour Party People (2002)
If I could choose one superpower, it would be the ability to travel in time. I’d go straight to Manchester, England, in the late ’80s and stay through the ’90s, to see live bands and PARTY! The Madchester music scene is one of my favorite cultural touchstones, and 24 Hour Party People, which imagines what it was like to be there, is one of my favorite films. It stars Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records and the Haçienda nightclub, two of the most important locales in the Madchester music history. Through him, we get to see the early days of bands like Joy Division, New Order, and the Happy Mondays. Scenes shot for the movie are cut with archival footage of the actual bands, and there is nothing like seeing Joy Division’s Ian Curtis dancing around in an old club, surrounded by a crowd that is feeling it. The movie’s music will get you dancing, too, and wishing you could have hung out with the Factory Records crew. —Meagan

X-Men Days of Future PastX-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
There are a LOT of X-Men movies (seven, to be exact), and if you’ve never seen any of them, X-Men: Days of Future Past, the newest one, which is in theaters now, is a great place to start. It travels back to the very beginning of the series’s long-running story to review and re-create some of the action. If you’re already an X-Men fan like I am, it’s especially cool to see characters like Professor Xavier and Magneto in their formative years and what early decisions led them to where they got to later in life (but earlier in the series—so confusing!). I know it can be annoying when a franchise messes with a story’s timeline, but trust me on this one! I came out of the theater ready for a serious X-Men movie marathon, to re-see how it all fits together and dream about what might come next. —Stephanie

The Magic School BusThe Magic School Bus (1994–1997, PBS Kids)
A lot of what you will need to know to graduate from college with a liberal arts degree, you can learn from The Magic School Bus. I speak from experience. It is my favorite cartoon to rewatch, because I now recognize how ahead of its time it was. Its writers were among those rare wizards who can make hard concepts—educational ones, and ones from life—not just easy to understand, but also fun to learn. The Magic School Bus taught me about things like gravity and the water cycle, as well as how to manage difficult relationships and to be OK with failure and imperfection—or rather, to understand that they are parts of creativity and learning. To this day, I’m guided by some of the show’s key messages: Create, read, build friendships, take chances, make mistakes, and GET MESSY. —Arabelle

The To-Do ListThe To Do List (2013)
The To Do List stars Aubrey Plaza as Brandy Klark, a SUPER serious recent high-school grad with countless accomplishments under her belt (valedictorian, president of the mathletes, self-publisher of the magazine “Womyn) but no notches in it, so to speak. Brandy has never had sex or got it on in any way, shape, or form, which she’s pretty OK with until her older sister (played by Rachel Bilson) convinces her that she needs to be “experienced” before she gets to college. Brandy, overachiever that she is, makes a to-do list of every sex act she can think of and vows to cross them all off in a summer. She tries SO HARD and fails even harder (a lot of times while she is simultaneously succeeding in eliminating something from the list), but she refuses to give up, which is as sweet as it is hilarious. The list of extremely funny people in this movie (Aubrey, Rachel, Alia Shawkat, Bill Hader, Connie Britton, Andy Samberg, Donald Glover, etc.) is long, and seeing them together in scenes like this one is reason enough to watch it—several times! I have liked only one comedy enough to go to the theater thrice for it, and this is it. —Lena

Agents of SHIELDAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2014–present, ABC)
You will get sucked right into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the latest TV show by the awesome Joss Whedon, because it is pure action. S.H.I.E.L.D., which stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, is a global intelligence and law-enforcement agency pulled from Marvel comics. Like a lot of crime-fighting shows, this one mainly deals with special agents chasing down villains—in this case sent by forces (human and alien!) that are hellbent on destroying the world. You’ve also got the witty dialogue Whedon’s been known for since Buffy, plus kickass heroines like the talented hacker Skye; the pilot May, and the brilliant scientist Simmons. The mystery builds quickly through the first season, and when you get to the last episode, you’ll be screaming for more. —Stephanie

The PaintingThe Painting (2011)
You know how people say you make your own path in life? This beautiful animated film takes that idea literally. The characters are artistic creations of “the Painter,” who has left them in various states of completion. Some people are finished works, while others are just sketches, and the way they’re treated depends a lot on the way they look. It’s a movie about discrimination, the ways differences shape us, discovering your desires, and creating yourself. It’s a good Netflix Instant selection, for sure. Watch it especially if you feel attacked for decisions you’ve made about your appearance. It will help support you on your journey. —Arabelle

Alice in WonderlandAlice in Wonderland (1951)
Each time I see the Disney animated classic Alice in Wonderland, I discover something new. When I was younger, the movie was all about fantasy, dreams, and color, but later in life, I started relating to the characters on a deeper level. When Alice is chasing the White Rabbit, trying to understand who he is and where he’s going, I now can completely understand how he feels—busy as a bee, overwhelmed by what’s happening, and unable to respond to anyone who’s talking (“No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”). But, like Alice, I’ve had some Mad Hatters and Caterpillars in my life—friends who think nonlinearly and make me question the way I think, too. A lot of the characters Alice meets in Wonderland act illogically, and she finds herself in a lot of confusing and uncomfortable situations with them (like navigating the Mad Hatter’s nonsensical tea party or playing croquet with the scary and unpredictable Queen of Hearts). Now more than ever, I appreciate that Alice is quick on her feet and learns how to adapt to whatever and whoever comes her way. —Shriya

kingpinbox2Kingpin (1996)
This movie was the last time Bill Murray played an unrepentant d-bag, and as much as I love the soulful, yearning-but-tired-of-yearning Bill Murray who’s shown up in all the movies he’s done since this one came out in 1996, I do miss this type of swagger:

He’s not in enough of the movie, but his scenes are all precious gems that make the whole thing worth watching and rewatching. Not that the rest of it is bad—it is actually hilarious, if you like dumb jokes told smartly, which are my favorite kind. It was directed by the Farrelly brothers and came out between their two biggest hits: Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. But I think it’s so much funnier than those two. It’s weirder and more surprising, and it contains an infinite amount more Bill Murray, which happens to be exactly the amount of Bill Murray we all need in our lives. —Anaheed ♦

13 Comments

  • llamalina June 20th, 2014 2:20 AM

    The To-Do List is freaking hilarious and actually not too far from realistic, Aubrey Plaza is the best.

    http://llamalina.blogspot.com

  • RabbitRouge June 20th, 2014 3:08 AM

    You can read my mind!!! Honest to god, I was just talking about Wayne’s World and… (get out of my thoughts Rookie! I know you’re in there! ;) )

    On another note : Rookie, you are LITERALLY THE BEST THING EVER!!! (OK, you tie with Wayne’s World!! :) )

  • sacaguweea June 20th, 2014 9:22 AM

    Yes! I LOVE these movies: Hanna, Center Stage, Newsies, Alice in Wonderland, and The Magic School Bus. Thanks for showing that you appreciate them too. I love you Rookie!

  • Vlada June 20th, 2014 9:31 AM

    I remember watching Hanna and freaking out but it was worth it! Also, I watched “The To Do List” because of you guys (I saw it on Rookie once)

    PS: Btw my blog is speakingofvlada.blogspot.com

  • soviet_kitsch June 20th, 2014 11:07 AM

    “ribbed for her pleasure…EEEEEEWW”

  • tangratoe June 20th, 2014 2:00 PM

    Wayne’s World and Hanna <3 best movies

  • Mimi7 June 20th, 2014 3:44 PM

    Bowfinger needs to be on this list! I forgot their character names, but Steve Martin is trying to make a movie starring Edie Murphy, but with out him knowing that they’re filming him. They call their film Chubby Rain because the aliens come down in the rain drops. Totally hilarious.

    http://dreaminginfashion.wordpress.com/

  • Lascelles June 20th, 2014 3:45 PM

    Just watched the Painting. Cool but very french. So much very french. You should write a warning :D It was cool though.

  • Tiana June 20th, 2014 7:23 PM

    I love speed and Hanna, this list is perfect!
    Tiana x
    http://Www.tianaesparon.blogspot.co.uk

  • Sarah June 21st, 2014 5:46 AM

    Omg! AoS is my favourite show. *fangirling*

  • amelia3 June 21st, 2014 4:58 PM

    You know, S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually not my favorite. For some reason I’m not feeling the Joss-Whedony charm of Buffy or Firefly. My favorite part of Whedon’s work is his realistic, relatable characters, and I just didn’t feel connected to any of them in this show apart from Simmons. To be fair, I only watched the first half of the season, so I’ll be on the lookout for reviews of later episodes because I really want to like it.

    As an aside, for a sci-fi show with an amazing plot and great characters, I’d recommend Firefly.

  • Maria Clara Santarosa June 22nd, 2014 3:26 PM

    omg ALIAS is literally the best thing ever!

  • wishfulwanderer June 24th, 2014 6:47 PM

    NEWSIES IS THE BEST THING EVER