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Student Blog: 10 Films All College-Aged Actors Should Watch

Some are classics, some are new. All are fantastic.

Student Blog: 10 Films All College-Aged Actors Should Watch

Over the course of the past year, I've realized just how important it is to study movies and films to learn about acting performances and theatre and cinema in general, specifically because live theatre was put on pause indefinitely. Below is a list of movies that I think everyone should see at some point in their lives, but actors in college should watch as soon as they possibly can. Every single film has a masterful script, as well as acting performances that taught me something essential to my own acting. I hope you find them as useful as I do!

  1. Good Will Hunting (1997)- Not only is this film the easiest way to learn to do a Boston accent (trust me, I speak from experience), it is also incredible in its creation story. Matt Damon, who plays the part of Will Hunting, and Ben Affleck, who plays a supporting character, both wrote the screenplay, as well. Add Damon's raw and honest performance to the playful, tough, and sometimes heartbreaking relationships that Damon and his friends have during a bulk of the film, then top it off with a serious, showstopping performance from the king himself, Robin Williams, who portrays a high school teacher and Damon's therapist- that's a recipe for a must-see film for any young actor. Watch on: Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube
  2. The Skeleton Twins (2014)- Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are perhaps best known for their absolutely hilarious work on SNL. However, they show off their dramatic chops in this devastating and brutally honest story about twins who have rekindled their bond after many years of drifting apart. Hader and Wiig are truly masterful actors, effortlessly switching between comedy and drama as the script requires and creating characters and relationships that are so believable that it's nearly impossible to not be instantly drawn into this film. Watch on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, YouTube
  3. The Dark Knight (2008)- Full disclosure: I am not a superhero or action movie fan. At all. But a friend forced me to watch this movie and I was blown away by Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker. The work he did as an actor in that film is simply unbelievable, from the character's voice to the distinct, quirky physicality, to the expressions under the layers of face paint, Ledger's Joker is terrifying and fascinating in its intensity and commitment. Watch on: Netflix, HBO Max, YouTube
  4. Dead Poets Society (1989)- I watched this movie within the last two months, and I immediately regretted not seeing this sooner. The plot is centered around a group of young men at a boarding school and their inspirational teacher, Robin Williams, who encourages them to find the joy, adventure, and excitement in everything they do. For such young men, these boys have their characters so clearly fleshed out in their bodies, speech, and mannerisms. The movie is a beautiful example of young actors committing to their roles without fear of looking ridiculous or embarrassment about being vulnerable and free. The character arcs for each of the boys and for Williams himself are so defined and clear, which is telling of the film's incredible writing and the intelligence of the actors. Watch on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, YouTube
  5. (500) Days of Summer (2009)- I don't quite know what it is about this movie. It seems to check most of the boxes to be classified as a cheesy romcom, but it subverts the genre in a ridiculously charming manner and keeps the viewer deeply engaged for the entire film. It moves so quickly because of the Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's energies and active choices with their lines and blocking, while the script is somehow witty, sweet, and cutting all at once. Every time I watch this movie, I am increasingly amazed by the emotion the actors express solely through their eyes, which in the age of masks is a very valuable lesson and acting aspect to take note of and hone. It might seem a bit cheesy at first, but if you give it a chance you will not be disappointed in the least. Watch on: Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube
  6. Comet (2014)- If you have no interest in this film whatsoever, watch this movie solely for Justin Long's performance alone. The plot is beautiful and complex, the script is equal parts lighthearted and serious, and the character's relationship is so clearly defined and understood by the actors that they become wildly fascinating to watch. While you may know Justin Long from his part on New Girl as Jess's nerdy music teacher boyfriend, Paul, his performance in Comet is utterly sincere and devastatingly honest, real, and human. I can't say more without giving away spoilers, but this film is a must-watch for any actor who wants to note the importance of acting with the eyes, as well. Watch on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, YouTube
  7. Marriage Story (2019)- If you haven't seen this film starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, add it to your to-do list this instant. The film was nominated for best picture, and, although it didn't win, the performances and the screenplay are almost impossibly naturalistic and devastatingly human. It follows a couple as they navigate their divorce, custody of their son, and their rediscovery of themselves without one another. The fight scenes between the divorced couple are full-fledged examples of how to release fully as an actor and as a person in the physical, mental, emotional, and vocal senses. Laura Dern also features in this film as Johansson's divorce lawyer, for which she won an Oscar. Have tissues handy for this one! Watch on: Netflix
  8. The Social Network (2010)- The range that Jesse Eisenberg has as an actor is unbelievable. The commitment he has to playing the neurotic Mark Zuckerberg during his college years at Harvard is unparalleled. Eisenberg fully immerses himself in this character and is unwavering in his clear motivations and objectives throughout the film as an actor and a character. His character is very unfeeling, but Eisenberg's vulnerability as an actor allows him to still maintain the viewer's favor, which is a hard feat to accomplish. Watch on: Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube
  9. Lady Bird (2017)- There is no one in the world who can convince me that Saoirse Ronan is not Gen Z's Meryl Streep. She is unbelievably suited for every role that she plays because of how versatile and talented she is as an actor and a person. Every single actor in this film is so grounded and honest, from the parents who are struggling to reign in Ronan's character, to Ronan's rebellious Lady Bird, to her best friend (played by Beanie Feldstein), to the toxic hipster heartthrob, Timothée Chalamet. This film so accurately portrays what it's like to struggle with your identity and your place in the world as a teenager and young adult without parents or teachers to tell you how to behave. I think this movie is a masterclass in truth in itself. Watch on: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Youtube
  10. Call Me By Your Name (2017)- This film has absolutely incredible cinematography, from the shots of the Italian countryside to the beautifully crafted shots of facial expressions and the subtlest of movements that are imperative for the story to be truthfully and fully told. Aside from the artful filmmaking itself, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer deliver unbelievable performances as young lovers struggling with their sexuality and growing up. Michael Stuhlbarg also gives a heartbreaking, sensitive performance of a scholar and father who is searching for the best way to parent his son, Chalamet, with love and honesty. The actors in this film do an incredible job at listening to each other. So much is said in the silences in the film, solely through minute shifts in facial expressions and physical movements. Watch on: Hulu, Amazon Prime

While some of these are classic films you might've already seen, hopefully you'll have some fantastic new movies to add to your movie night list! Pop some popcorn and get to it!


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