5 Movies Like Courage Under Fire (1996)

Staff & contributors

There’s a vein of reality running through He Got Game that gives this Spike Lee joint a sense of pulsating immediacy. For one, the young basketball prodigy at its center is played by real-life pro Ray Allen, who shot the movie during the sport’s off-season period in 1997. The film also draws on a host of other ballers and ancillary figures — including coaches and commentators — to fully convince us of the hype around Jesus Shuttlesworth (Allen), a Coney Island high-schooler who’s been crowned America’s top college draft pick.

Lee takes this premise to much more interesting places than sports movies usually go. The plot is a melodrama of sorts, in which Jesus’ incarcerated father Jake (a top-tier Denzel Washington) must convince his son to declare for the governor’s alma mater in exchange for a reduced sentence. The pair are estranged — Jake is in prison for the death of Jesus’ mother — making this as much a tense examination of family and forgiveness as it is a sports movie. And what a sports movie it is: Lee makes his love of basketball not just abundantly clear but also infectious, opening the film on soaring, balletic images of the sport that suggest it’s no mere game, but something unifying, artistic, and ultimately salvatory.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Al Palagonia, Arthur J. Nascarella, Bill Nunn, Bill Walton, Charles Barkley, Chasey Lain, Denzel Washington, Dick Vitale, George Karl, Hill Harper, Jennifer Esposito, Jill Kelly, Jim Boeheim, Jim Brown, John Turturro, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Kim Director, Leonard Roberts, Lonette McKee, Michael Jordan, Milla Jovovich, Ned Beatty, Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Rick Fox, Robin Roberts, Roger Guenveur Smith, Ron Cephas Jones, Rosario Dawson, Roy Williams, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Zelda Harris

Director: Spike Lee

Rating: R

There are comfort food movies, and then there are films like Big Night: comfort food movies about comfort food. Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub are brothers running a failing Italian restaurant. Their last chance to save it from foreclosure is to throw a colossal dinner bolstered by a dubious promise of a visit from singer Louis Prima.

The comedy is mellow and pleasant, and Tucci and Shaloub have wonderful chemistry as bickering brothers. Meanwhile, a great supporting cast featuring Isabella Rosellini, Ian Holm, and Allison Janney more than make up for the somewhat predictable script.

 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Allison Janney, Andre Belgrader, Campbell Scott, Caroline Aaron, Christine Tucci, David Wenzel, Dina Spybey-Waters, Gene Canfield, Hélène Cardona, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, Jack O'Connell, Karen Shallo, Ken Cheeseman, Larry Block, Liev Schreiber, Marc Anthony, Minnie Driver, Pasquale Cajano, Peter Appel, Peter McRobbie, Robert W. Castle, Seth Jones, Stanley Tucci, Susan Floyd, Tony Shalhoub

Director: Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci

Rating: R

The story of Antwone Fisher as told by Denzel Washington (in his directorial debut) may be a bit too straightforward for its own good, but it only proves the strength of his eye and ear for performance. In addition to turning in his own understated yet authoritative performance, Washington gets a powerhouse turn out of Derek Luke, who allows every new revelation about Fisher to strengthen every aspect of his work. What the film gets right about talking about mental health (that other movies get so wrong) is that it knows that providing an explanation for why someone is the way they are shouldn't be a dramatic climax. What Antwone Fisher emphasizes is healing, community, and the dignity of the person working through these issues.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance

Actor: Charles Robinson, Cory Hodges, De'Angelo Wilson, Denzel Washington, Derek Luke, Earl Billings, Gary A. Jones, James Brolin, Joy Bryant, Kente Scott, Kevin Connolly, Kim Johnson, Leonard Earl Howze, Malcolm David Kelley, Novella Nelson, Rainoldo Gooding, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Stephen Snedden, Sung Kang, Vernee Watson-Johnson, Viola Davis, Yolonda Ross

Director: Denzel Washington

Finding Forrester is the rainy afternoon type, or a summer night film -- it's a traditional American movie so to speak, with all the components to make your traditional need for a traditional movie more than satisfied. It tells the story of two writers, a young black kid living in a ghetto and struggling to admit his passion for writing over his passion for Basketball (played by Rob Brown), and a Pulitzer Prize winning writer who has renounced his success for unknown reasons (played by Sean Connery). The plot is predictable, and in that traditional sense, very enjoyable. Directed by Gus Van Sant, it will feel almost as a sequel to Good Will Hunting but trust me, this ends up being a great thing too.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Trebek, Alison Folland, Anna Paquin, April Grace, Busta Rhymes, F. Murray Abraham, Fly Williams III, Gerry Rosenthal, Glenn Fitzgerald, Gus Van Sant, Jim Titus, Lil' Zane, Matt Damon, Matt Malloy, Michael Nouri, Michael Pitt, Richard Easton, Rob Brown, Sean Connery, Stephanie Berry, Vince Giordano

Director: Gus Van Sant

Rating: PG-13

With an ensemble cast featuring a young Natalie Portman and a less murderous Uma Thurman, Ted Demme's "Beautiful Girls" recreates the worries and woes that thrive in the minds of a tight knit group of working class friends stuck in their own small town Massachusetts world. Warm, quirky and filled with champagne diamonds, both metaphorical and tangible, for anybody who's ever walked the thirty something walk, it's a film that'll make you want to remember all the friends you wish you still had and actually still do.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam LeFevre, Annabeth Gish, Anne Bobby, David Arquette, Frank Anello, John Carroll Lynch, John Scurti, Lauren Holly, Martha Plimpton, Matt Dillon, Max Perlich, Michael Rapaport, Mira Sorvino, Natalie Portman, Noah Emmerich, Oliver Osterberg, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Rachel Oliva, Richard Bright, Rosie O'Donnell, Sam Robards, Timothy Hutton, Tom Gibis, Tomas Settell, Uma Thurman

Director: Ted Demme

Rating: R