Summer is a great time to catch up on great movies you haven’t seen because sometimes the movies that are released to the theaters during this time are contenders for the dud award.
I shall leave films such as Transformers: The Franchise Could Have Been So Cool or Pirates of the Caribbean: Johnny Depp Is Now Acting Really Weird nameless.
Instead of watching duds, try a couple of these fantastic movies, all of which are based on true stories.
Queen of Katwe. A tremendous film based on the true story of depicts Phiona Mutesi, a girl growing up in the slums of Katwe, a city in Uganda, who gets a chance to break out of that life with chess. You will come away having laughed and cheered and been touched in a poignant way. Highly recommended.
The Eagle Huntress. A fascinating documentary about the first girl in Mongolia to compete as an eagle hunter—these are folks who capture and train golden eagles to hunt game like fox or rabbit. You’ll be introduced into a new and interesting culture that triggers you to think about your own.
The Founder. Ever wonder how McDonald’s got started? No, neither had I. Who cares, as long as the food is good, right? Well, if you’re like me, you’re in for an eye-opener. This tells the story of how Ray Kroc started McDonald’s, except, hint, he didn’t. Kroc is played by Michael Keaton. He’s one of my favorite actors, and I loved his performance. This story will fascinate you, and then make you think, and then make you really appreciate folks like Dave Thomas of Wendy’s.
Concussion. An engrossing, suspenseful film about the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu and the tie between football and brain degeneration. Omalu was working as a forensic pathologist (one who figures out the cause of death) in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In 2002, Omalu performed an autopsy on Mike Webster, a former NFL star who played for the Pittsburg Steelers and is considered by some to be one of the best centers in NFL history. And his worked opened up a can of worms the NFL wanted to quash. I loved this film.
Hacksaw Ridge. This one is based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who did not believe in killing, but wanted to support his country and all those going to war. So he goes into World War 2 as a medic and is sent to the Pacific theater. His first engagement is the Battle of Okinawa. And, oh my holy heck, what he did during that battle is nothing short of amazing. There’s one part of the film in boot camp that seemed out of place. Really, some dude back in the 1940s was going to do pull ups in the barracks naked (nothing but a bum is shown in the film)? But then I recall that growing up in the 70s and 80s that we guys showered in communal showers. And that wasn’t a big deal. And earlier than that, swimming at the swimming hole often meant shucking your clothes and jumping in. So who knows? We have a similar funny scene in Mulan, but for some reason that one felt more organic. This one felt tacked on. It was a gag for humor and then, thankfully, Mel Gibson, who directed this, got on with the awesome story of Doss.
Deepwater Horizon. This one is based on the true story of the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that encounters a catastrophe. The details of how such rigs work and the issues involved are fascinating. But what will really get you is the heroism of the captain and crew.
In the Heart of the Sea. This is based on the true story of the whaleship Essex that was sunk in the Pacific in 1820 by a sperm whale and what the few that survived did to remain alive. Back in the 1700s and early 1800s, sperm whale oil, which was contained in the whale’s large head, was highly prized for lamps because it burned bright and odorless. It was also a great lubricant. Later the oil was replaced with kerosene and other and petroleum-based lubricants, but in those days there was a whole industry dedicated to harvesting it. I watched this with my teenage daughter, and we both found it a powerful tale.
The Finest Hours. This last one is based the book The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. It chronicles the 1952 United States Coast Guard rescue, in a dinky boat, of the crew of the SS Pendleton, a big tanker, after the ship split apart during a nor’easter off the New England coast. The movie was thrilling and heroic.
And after you watch all of those, if you want some more great films based on true stories, well, you won’t go wrong with Tom Hanks in Sully or Captain Phillips or Bridge of Spies.