5. SEVEN POUNDS
Academy Award nominee Will Smith reunites with the director and producers of The Pursuit of Happyness for this emotional drama concerning an IRS agent whose quest for redemption is unexpectedly complicated after he inadvertently falls in love. Ben Thomas is an IRS agent with a fateful secret. Assuming the identity of his younger brother, Ben sets out in search of redemption. Instead, Ben discovers true love while forever changing the lives of seven complete strangers. Woody Harrelson, Rosario Dawson, Michael Ealy, and Barry Pepper co-star.
4. PAY IT FORWARD
A young boy stumbles upon a simple way to change the world in this drama. Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) is a bright 11-year-old boy who comes from a troubled home; his mother Arlene (Helen Hunt) is an alcoholic trying to hold down two jobs to support her son, while Trevor’s father Jon Bon Jovi) left his family behind some time ago. At school, Trevor’s class is introduced to their new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey), a guarded man with severe facial scars. Simonet gives his class an unusual assignment — think up a practical way to make the world a better place, and put it into action. Trevor comes up with the notion of “Pay It Forward” — do a needed favor for three different people without being asked, and then ask them to do the same for three others.
3. THE GRAPES OF WRATH
Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, who opens the movie returning to his Oklahoma home after serving jail time for manslaughter. En route, Tom meets family friend Casey (John Carradine), a former preacher who warns Tom that dust storms, crop failures, and new agricultural methods have financially decimated the once prosperous Oklahoma farmland. Upon returning to his family farm, Tom is greeted by his mother (Oscar-winner Jane Darwell), who tells him that the family is packing up for the “promised land” of California. Warned that they shouldn’t expect a warm welcome in California–they’ve already seen the caravan of dispirited farmers, heading back home after striking out at finding work–the Joads push on all the same.
2. MEN OF HONOR
This military drama is based on the true story of Carl Brashear, who was the first African-American to serve as a diver in the United States Navy. Brashear (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) was born to a poor farming family in the deep South, and joined the Navy in hopes of bettering himself. When Brashear applies for diving school, he first encounters Master Chief Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro), a gruff and tyrannical diving instructor who holds absolute sway over his charges. Sunday does little at first to encourage Brashear’s ambitions, and the would-be diver discovers racism in the military is an ugly fact of life when his white comrades refuse to share barracks with him. But Brashear’s courage and determination make an impression on Sunday.
1. A BEAUTIFUL MIND
The true story of prominent mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. is the subject of this biographical drama from director Ron Howard. Russell Crowe stars as the brilliant but arrogant and conceited professor Nash. The prof seems guaranteed a rosy future in the early ’50s after he marries beautiful student Alicia (Jennifer Connelly) and makes a remarkable advancement in the foundations of “game theory,” which carries him to the brink of international acclaim. Soon after, John is visited by Agent William Parcher (Ed Harris), from the CIA, who wants to recruit him for code-breaking activities. But evidence suggests that Nash’s perceptions of reality are cloudy at best; he is struggling to maintain his tenuous hold on sanity, and Alicia suspects a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Battling decades of illness with the loyal Alicia by his side, Nash is ultimately able to gain some control over his mental state, and eventually goes on to triumphantly win the Nobel Prize.