I subscribe to Netflix, and have watched a lot of movies in the past couple of years, some of which were box office successes and some of which were "sleepers." A sleeper film refers to a film that isn't popular at the box office upon its initial release, but after positive "word of mouth" gains unexpected success or recognition.
Now that the "lazy, hazy days of summer" are upon us, I thought I would share a few of the movies I've especially enjoyed, some of which were "sleepers," and some of which were box office successes. I realize that just because I liked the movies, doesn't mean that you will, but most of them received excellent reviews by other viewers, so, hopefully, you will find one or two that you will enjoy, too.
Billy: The Early Years of Billy Graham
Though the Rev. Billy Graham is world-renowned for being one of the most influential Christian preachers of the 20th century, very few know what drove him to build his spiritual empire -- this film tells that story. Growing up in the Depression era, Billy (Armie Hammer) follows his faith and battles his doubts during the journey that ultimately leads him to revolutionize modern-day evangelism. Martin Landau and Lindsay Wagner co-star.
Shirley MacLaine (in a Golden Globe-nominated role) stars in this Lifetime biopic, which tells the story of one of fashion's most prominent women, Coco Chanel, beginning with her humble beginnings in a French orphanage and continuing through her unparalleled success as a fashion icon. The film also explores Chanel's dramatic personal life, including her intense and tragic love affair with an English gentleman. Malcolm McDowell co-stars.
The Final Season
The tiny town of Norway, Iowa, loves baseball -- particularly the games played by the local high school team, the Tigers. So when authorities decide the town is too small for its own school, the residents are devastated. Sean Astin stars as the rookie coach who must lead the Tigers to victory for one last season in this touching drama based on a true story. Powers Boothe, Rachael Leigh Cook, Michael Angarano, Larry Miller and Tom Arnold co-star.
Fried Green Tomatoes
In this adaptation of Fanny Flagg's novel, flashbacks reveal the remarkable and mysterious story of soul mates Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker), whose antics cause an uproar in their rural Southern town during the 1920s. Feisty Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) tells the tale to a repressed Alabama housewife (Kathy Bates), who becomes obsessed with Idgie and Ruth, and ultimately finds inspiration in their story.
Pregnant 18-year-old Connie (Ricki Lake) has been kicked out by her boyfriend. On a train, she meets Hugh Winterbourne (Brendan Fraser) and his pregnant wife, Patricia (Ricki Lake again). When the train wrecks and Connie wakes up in the hospital -- mistaken for the widowed Patricia -- Hugh's mother (Shirley MacLaine) takes her in. Playing along with the charade, Connie soon falls in love with Hugh's twin brother, Bill (Brendan Fraser again).
Blending lush animation sequences with live-action drama, director Chris Noonan constructs this unconventional biopic about the personal life of beloved children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter (Renée Zellweger). The film traces Potter's romance with a young editor (Ewan McGregor) as well as her enduring contributions to literature, including the timeless bunny story The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Emily Watson co-stars.
Longing for action but feeling more like a heavily armed butler, Doug Chesnic is a serious-minded Secret Service agent assigned to protect the very demanding Tess Carlisle (Golden Globe nominee Shirley MacLaine), a widowed First Lady living quietly in Ohio. After three years on the job, the pair clash to comic perfection -- and as Chesnic readies for a new assignment, Carlisle pulls out all the stops to keep him by her side.
An Unfinished Life
When her husband dies, grieving widow Jean Gilkyson (Jennifer Lopez) moves herself and her daughter, Griff (Becca Gardner), into the Wyoming home of her estranged father-in-law, steely rancher Einar (Robert Redford), even though they don't get along. Einar can't get over the death of his only son, while Jean struggles to make sense of her new life. But over time, the two learn to move on through the power of forgiveness.
The African Queen
Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart), the booze-guzzling, rough-hewn captain of a broken-down East African riverboat, teams with a straitlaced, iron-willed missionary (Katharine Hepburn) to take on a menacing German gunboat during World War I. A classic study in star charisma and pitch-perfect casting, The African Queen was nominated for four Oscars (for actress, actor, director and original screenplay), with Bogart winning a Best Actor statuette.
Frustrated newspaper reporter Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Mary Steenburgen) abandons her career and moves to a Florida bayou to concentrate on writing fiction. Here, Marjorie's life is changed by a devoted servant (Alfre Woodard) who befriends her, a local businessman (Peter Coyote) who becomes her lover and the backwoods father (Rip Torn) and his daughter (Dana Hill) who become her greatest inspiration. Based on Rawlings's best-selling memoirs.
A Man Called Peter
Based on a true story (and adapted from the best-selling book by Catherine Wood), this drama centers on young Scotsman Peter Marshall (Richard Todd), who heeds his "calling" from God to be a minister. Marshall leaves Scotland and travels to America, where he lands the position of pastor of the Church of the Presidents in Washington, D.C., on his way to becoming chaplain of the U.S. Senate. Jean Peters co-stars. Henry Koster directs.
The Princess Diaries
Impressive performances elevate director Garry Marshall's frothy teen comedy about gawky Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), a social outcast whose life changes drastically after learning she's the heir to a tiny European principality's throne. But as her royal grandmother (Julie Andrews) schools Mia on the fine points of posture and conducting herself with gracious disdain, she becomes progressively at odds with her best friend (Heather Matarazzo).
The Princess Diaries 2
As the newly crowned princess of the tiny European country of Genovia, teenager Mia (Anne Hathaway) is still trying to get used to her new title, and moving from her home in America to the small, little-known land has been difficult. Luckily, her best friend Lilly (Heather Matarazzo) is visiting during her summer vacation. As Mia's groomed to become the future ruler of Genovia, she finds out that an arranged marriage might be in store, too.
Sense and Sensibility
Jane Austen's classic tale of 19th-century etiquette and ethics chronicles the troubles and triumphs of the marriage-minded Dashwood sisters -- sensible oldest sibling Elinor (Emma Thompson) and her romantic younger sister, Marianne (Kate Winslet). While Marianne deftly charms two suitors (Alan Rickman and Greg Wise), Elinor must weather a circuitous courtship with an aspiring clergyman (Hugh Grant) of considerable reserve.
Pride and Prejudice
In this beautiful made-for-television adaptation of Jane Austen's much-loved novel, wealthy and proud aristocrat Fitzwilliam Darcy (Colin Firth) matches wits with witty but prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle), who believes him to be boorish and rude. To win Elizabeth's hand and heart, Darcy meddles in the love lives of each of her sisters. But just as Elizabeth begins to realize her true feelings for Darcy, she risks losing him forever.
Focused on achieving the impossible -- defeating the Soviet Union's unbeaten hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics -- brash U.S. hockey coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) unites a motley group of college athletes and turns them into a force to be reckoned with. Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich and Eddie Cahill co-star in this inspirational drama based on an improbable true story that shocked the world.
In this comedy based on real events, a small sheepherding village in Australia is thrust into the spotlight when NASA employs its massive satellite radio dish to serve as a backup transmitter for the 1969 Apollo 11 moon mission. But when a change in the spacecraft's schedule puts the primary dish out of range, it's up to the Aussies to ensure that the history-making mission is broadcast to the masses. Sam Neill and Patrick Warburton star.
Based on a true story, this action-packed drama follows hydroplane boat racer Jim McCormick (Jim Caviezel) as he prepares for the 1971 Gold Cup championship, which is to be hosted in his depressed river town of Madison, Ind. Hoping to restore Madison's lost glory, Jim revamps his decommissioned racer with help from his pal (Brent Briscoe) and a retired mechanic (Bruce Dern). Jake Lloyd and Mary McCormack co-star.
Music of the Heart
In director Wes Craven's inspiring Oscar-nominated drama -- which is based on a true story -- violinist and single mother Roberta Guaspari (Meryl Streep) struggles to convince the administration at an East Harlem high school to let her establish a music program. Having won that battle, Guaspari nonetheless continues to face an uphill climb as budget cuts threaten her determined and deeply felt efforts to bring the arts to underprivileged kids.
My Louisiana Sky
Newcomer Kelsey Keel stars in this touching coming-of-age drama. Tiger Ann Parker (Keel) is a 12-year-old girl in 1950s Louisiana who lives with her mentally handicapped parents. Old enough now to realize the gravity of her parents' disability, Kelsey struggles to cope with these unsettling revelations. Her lively Aunt Dorie (Juliette Lewis) soon comes to the rescue, helping to ease both Kelsey's mind and her parents' burden.
American widow Larita (Jessica Biel) meets John (Ben Barnes), a wealthy young Englishman, in France and impulsively marries him. But when they visit his family at their country estate, Larita receives a chilly reception from her virulent new mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas). As she waits impatiently to move on with life in London, Larita forms a subtle bond with John's father (Colin Firth) while John falls further under his mother's spell.
Door to Door
This inspiring made-for-cable movie tells the story of salesman Bill Porter (William H. Macy), who came into contact with many people during his decades of knocking on doors. Porter, suffering from cerebral palsy, didn't allow his condition to stop him from pursuing a career, and his story touched the hearts and lives of many of his potential customers. Macy also collaborated on the script with director Steven Schachter.
When she learns she's in danger of losing her visa status and being deported, overbearing book editor Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock, in a Golden Globe-nominated role) forces her put-upon assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), to marry her. Directed by Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses), this romantic comedy also stars Craig T. Nelson and Mary Steenburgen as Andrew's parents, Joe and Grace, and Betty White as the outspoken Grandma Annie.
The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn
Small-town farmer Noah Dearborn (Sidney Poitier) lives an uncomplicated existence until shady developer Christian Nelson (George Newbern) tries to usurp his family's land. Nelson will do anything to take Noah's property, including hiring a shrink (Mary-Louise Parker) to have him declared insane. But Nelson doesn't anticipate Noah forming an unbreakable bond with the doctor, which proves stronger than anything the land baron can dish out.
Run the Wild Fields
Ruby (Joanne Whalley) eagerly awaits her husband Frank's return from duty during World War II. But Frank goes missing in action, and after waiting dutifully for a long time, Ruby contemplates whether to keep believing Frank will return or whether to get on with her life. When a handsome drifter shows up on her doorstep asking for work, Ruby hires him … and sparks fly.
And here is a list of some of the movies I recommended in one of my previous posts. If you would like to read that post which gives a brief summary of the movie, you can click here.
Facing the Giants
Trip to Bountiful
Welcome to Paradise
The Legend of Bagger Vance
The Greatest Game Ever Played
The World's Fastest Indian
Master and Commander
A Good Year
The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio
The Ultimate Gift
Walk the Line
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Ladies in Lavender
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
Love Come Softly
A Home of Our Own