7 Best Movies to Watch by Dean Norris

Staff & contributors

, 1995

Something is wrong with Carol White. She’s a well-off housewife living in the picturesque suburbs of Los Angeles. Her husband’s job is going well, her step-son is pleasant, and her social life consists of boutique lunches, fruit-filled diets, and lavishly pink baby showers—all is well on this side of the white picket fence.

Until Carol starts sneezing. Then she begins coughing, and she experiences a violent asthma attack while driving on the freeway. Afterward, Carol’s nose won’t stop bleeding. She starts having seizures. Struggling to breathe, Carol winds up in the hospital, seeing doctors and psychologists trying to diagnose what’s wrong and whether her mystery illness is physiological or psychological.

Todd Haynes’ Safe is an unnerving examination at our relationship with the environment—and in an increasingly modernized world, how much we can tolerate of what we create: white noise, toxins, busy work, everyday poisons, monotonous obligations. It’s also a complicated reflection on the ways in which women’s pain is disregarded and minimized, and what the loss of invisible agency looks like when it begins to manifest outward.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Allan Wasserman, April Grace, Beth Grant, Brandon Cruz, Cassy Friel, Chauncey Leopardi, Dean Norris, Eleanor Graham, Elinor O. Caplan, Francesca P. Roberts, James Le Gros, James Lyons, Janel Moloney, Jean St. James, Jessica Harper, Jodie Markell, John Apicella, Julianne Moore, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Lorna Scott, Martha Velez, Mary Carver, Peter Crombie, Peter Friedman, Rio Hackford, Ronnie Farer, Saachiko, Sarah Scott Davis, Steven Gilborn, Susan Norman, Tim Gardner, Tricia Dong, Wendy Haynes, Xander Berkeley

Director: Todd Haynes

When citizenship and rights can only be achieved through federal service, you have no choice but to militarize. Johnny Rico is young, impressionable, but noble; in other words, he is an archetypal hero even if he initially enlists just to be close to his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards). From then on, Starship Troopers unfolds as a high-strung high school drama, but in the middle of a space colonization. During one such mission, a highly evolved insectoid race, Arachnids, proves to be the most dangerous enemy to human supremacy and the fight is on. What's interesting about Starship Troopers is that it shows how a well-oiled propaganda machine works and for that reason, it was accused of indoctrination and army endorsement. Even more, it was dubbed fascist, instead of the fascist satire it claimed to be. But today, it's indisputably a cult film and a great introduction to the Paul Verhoeven's work in Hollywood.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Stielstra, Amy Smart, Anthony Ruivivar, Armand Darrius, Betty Hankins, Blake Lindsley, Brad Kane, Brenda Strong, Brooke Morales, Bruce Gray, Bruce Holman, Cari Vega, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Curry, Clancy Brown, Claude Stuart, Curnal Achilles Aulisio, Dale Dye, Dan Olivo, David Rey, Dean Norris, Denise Dowse, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, Edward Neumeier, Eric Bruskotter, Eric DaRe, Farnaz Samiinia, Greg Travis, Hunter Bodine, Jake Busey, John Cunningham, Jon Davison, Julia Self, Julianna McCarthy, Julie Pinson, Kai Lennox, Kaius Harrison, Lenore Kasdorf, Mara Duronslet, Marshall Bell, Mary Ann Schmidt, Matt Duggan, Matt Entriken, Matt Levin, Michael Ironside, Michael Papajohn, Mike Stokey, Mylin Brooks, Nathaniel Marshall, Neil Patrick Harris, Parry Shen, Patrick Bishop, Patrick Muldoon, Patrick Wolff, R. Lee Ermey, Ray Quiroga, Robert David Hall, Rue McClanahan, Seth Gilliam, Stephanie Erb, Steven Ford, Tami-Adrian George, Timothy McNeil, Timothy Omundson, Tyrone Tann, Ungela Brockman, Walter Adrian, Whitney Hall, Zoë Poledouris

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Rating: R

Never has evil been so darn fun to watch. Bridget (Linda Fiorentino) is such a captivating villainess, you'll actually find yourself rooting for her at times in this noirish take on..., I don't know what, but it involves drug money, double-crosses, lots of witty repartee and cat-and-mouse manipulation that will make your stomach hurt. The script is tight, the acting is all testosterone driven and crisp and you'll hear some choice words come from nice guy Bill Pullman (as Bridget's husband Clay) that you never imagined he could say. Peter Berg (Mike) is fantastic as the guy's guy determined to earn his Alpha-dog badge by subduing the fierce and wickedly intelligent heroine, Bridget. Fiorentino won a BAFTA award for her performance and was nominated, along with Director John Dahl, for several others. The movie did not qualify under Academy rules for the Oscars, but it would have been a strong contender.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Anne Flanagan, Bill Nunn, Bill Pullman, Bill Stevenson, Dean Norris, Donna W. Scott, Herb Mitchell, J.T. Walsh, Jack Shearer, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Raysses, Mik Scriba, Peter Berg, Walter Addison, Zack Phifer

Director: John Dahl

Rating: R

Starring a sad-sack Steve Carrell and an ensemble cast with brilliant timing and real heart, Little Miss Sunshine is a rare understated comedy that brings laughter and tears. As a dysfunctional family's youngest member gets chosen to be in a pageant in California, the family must come together and support her through her journey. Along the path that they take, they learn and cope with each other. A great movie filled with phenomenal acting and writing with a real heart that will leave you breathless.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Beth Grant, Brenda Canela, Bryan Cranston, Chuck Loring, Dean Norris, Geoff Meed, Gordon Thomson, Greg Kinnear, Jerry Giles, Jill Talley, Joan Scheckel, John Walcutt, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Justin Shilton, Lauren Shiohama, Marc Turtletaub, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Matt Winston, Mel Rodriguez, Paul Dano, Paula Newsome, Steve Carell, Steven Christopher Parker, Terry Bolo, Toni Collette, Wallace Langham

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Rating: R

Ethan Hawke, Uma Therman and Jude Law star in this film, set in the not-so-distant future, where humans are genetically engineered to be as close to perfect as possible. Any child who is conceived in the traditional fashion is labeled inferior and is discriminated against by the rest of society. The movie follows the life of Hawke's character who, although looked down upon and considered genetically inadequate, attempts to break free from the tethers his peers have placed on him to pursue his lifelong dream of traveling to outer-space.

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alan Arkin, Blair Underwood, Carlton Benbry, Chad Christ, Cynthia Martells, Dean Norris, Elias Koteas, Elizabeth Dennehy, Ernest Borgnine, Ethan Hawke, Gabrielle Reece, George Marshall Ruge, Gore Vidal, Greg Sestero, Jayne Brook, Jude Law, Ken Marino, Lindsey Ginter, Loren Dean, Mason Gamble, Maya Rudolph, Russell Milton, Ryan Dorin, Steve Bessen, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Tony Shalhoub, Uma Thurman, Una Damon, Vincent Nielson, William Lee Scott, Xander Berkeley

Director: Andrew Niccol

Rating: PG-13

Unfrosted is the kind of bonkers treat filled with movie references, physical gags, and too-many-to-count stars that’s easy to sink your teeth into and enjoy for what it is—in the beginning, that is. It’s helped by snappy visuals and a colorfully accurate rendering of the ‘60s too. But then it wears you down with the same jokes and flimsy story, until eventually, you can’t help but ask: are you really dedicating an hour and a half of your life to watching *check notes* a Pop Tart get made? The filmmakers don’t make it any deeper than that sounds, sadly, even though there’s more drama and flavor involved in the real-life competition between Post and Kellogs. I’m not saying Unfrosted is a bad film—to be honest, I laughed out loud in many parts—just that you won’t be able to get over how overbudgeted and ultimately hollow it is.

Genre: Comedy, History

Actor: Adrian Martinez, Alex Edelman, Alexandra Wentworth, Ali Wentworth, Amy Schumer, Andy Daly, Aparna Nancherla, Bailey Sheetz, Beck Bennett, Bill Burr, Bill J. Stevens, Bobby Moynihan, Catherine Last, Cedric the Entertainer, Cedric Yarbrough, Chris Rickett, Christian Slater, Dan Levy, Darrell Hammond, Dean Norris, Drew Tarver, Earthquake, Eleanor Sweeney, Felix Solis, Fred Armisen, George Wallace, Gregory Burke, Hugh Grant, Isaac Bae, Jack McBrayer, Jack Murillo, James Marsden, Jaxy Boyd, Jeff Lewis, Jerry Seinfeld, Jessica Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan, John Forest, John Slattery, Jon Hamm, Ken Narasaki, Kue Lawrence, Kyle Dunnigan, Kyle Mooney, Lauren Peters, Maria Bakalova, Mark Kwak, Max Greenfield, Melissa McCarthy, Mikey Day, Nelson Franklin, Patrick Warburton, Peter Dinklage, Rachael Harris, Ronny Chieng, Sarah Burns, Sarah Cooper, Sasheer Zamata, Sebastian Maniscalco, Shane Carpenter, Spike Feresten, Susan Elle, Tad Griffith, Thomas Lennon, Thomas Silcott, Tony Hale, Will Allan, Winter Bassett

Director: Jerry Seinfeld

Rating: PG-13

An interesting premise quickly sputters out in Fool’s Paradise, writer-star Charlie Day’s misfire of a directorial debut. Day plays a down-and-out Charlie Chaplin-esque mute who happens to be a dead ringer for a difficult method actor (also Day) who’s stalling production on a Billy the Kid remake — and so he’s brought in by the movie’s producer (Ray Liotta) to star instead. 

The rest of Fool’s Paradise follows in this vein, as things just happen to Latte Pronto (as he comes to be named). There’s wry satirical potential in this set-up: a lot can be revealed about someone (in this case, the self-serving stars, agents, and directors of Hollywood) by what they project onto a blank slate like Latte. The problem, however, is twofold: Fool’s Paradise doesn’t have anything especially sharp to say about the biz — and, in the absence of clever or indeed funny writing, the film’s weak center is exposed. Day’s wordless performance is understated to a fatal degree; presumably designed to highlight the ridiculousness of the Hollywood players he’s surrounded by, it only shows up the weakness of the material and the unfocusedness of some of the key supporting performances. Maybe the movie would’ve fared better had some of its other characters been silent instead.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Adrien Brody, Aixa Maldonado, Alanna Ubach, Allison Paige, Andre Hyland, Andrew Leeds, Andrew Santino, Artemis Pebdani, Austin Zajur, Benito Martinez, Brett Wagner, Charles Grisham, Charlie Day, Christine Horn, Common, David Hornsby, Dean Norris, Drew Droege, Edie Falco, Eliza Coleman, Eric VanArsdale, George Lopez, Glenn Howerton, Harry Yi, Helen Geller, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Chu, Jillian Bell, Jimmi Simpson, John Ales, John Malkovich, Julia Cho, June Carryl, Kate Beckinsale, Katherine McNamara, Ken Jeong, Lance Barber, Leandra Terrazzano, Leonora Pitts, Lindsay Musil, Lisa Schwartz, Luvh Rakhe, Lyndon Smith, Marilyn Giacomazzi, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Moses Storm, Peter MacKenzie, Ray Liotta, Ricky Wang, Robert Belushi, Romel de Silva, Roy Jenkins, Scott Allen Perry, Scott Pitts, Shane Paul McGhie, Steve Coulter, Steve DeCastro, Talia Tabin, Thomas Vu, Tom Beyer

Director: Charlie Day

Rating: R