My Favorite Spring Movies

Carrie (1976)
Written by Lawrence D. Cohen
Directed by Brian De Palma

This qualifies on my spring list for it being centered around the big finale at the prom. It isn’t cheery, which is what you might expect for a spring-themed film, but wait until you see the rest of the pictures on this list. Carrie stands out to me because it’s a movie about an experience idealized by a segment of the public (high school) and shows it as the horrific thing it has always been for marginalized people. Where I grew up, high school and especially the associated sports have created an elite class of teenagers while the non-white kids and queer teens are pushed further and further to the edges. Carrie’s home life stands out to me here, with a mother devoted to her religious beliefs. Carrie’s mother is clearly a reactionary but, through dialogue, seems to have been bullied. This woman chose to throw herself into a system of belief that resulted in every culture she was terrified of. It’s only through Carrie’s…well, breakthrough that she manages to break the system that beats her down daily. One could argue Carrie goes through a process of renewal, much like the planet during spring.
Read my full review here

Spring (2014)
Written by Justin Benson
Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

I couldn’t not include this movie on the list. I haven’t been terribly impressed with all of Benson & Moorehead’s reasonably prolific output, but they have outstanding concepts. Spring is one of their better pictures. Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) is an American abroad in southern Italy. His mother has died, and he’s lost his job, which leads to this sabbatical. One night, Evan meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), and they have sex. The following day he learns something about Louise that she rarely lets anyone see, which shocks the man. The more he gets to know Louise, the deeper he understands what she is and why she went to bed with him. The way the story unfolds in Spring is handled exceptionally well, parsing out information at a perfect rate and making sure we always focus on the characters. The love story between our leads feels authentic, and while Spring may be classified as a horror movie, it works better as a romance. When the final scene happens, you won’t be horrified; I felt sad but was also left thinking about what life experienced from a perspective wildly different than mine might be like.
Read my full review here.

The Spectacular Now (2013)
Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Directed by James Ponsoldt

Sutter (Miles Teller) is a popular high school senior spending his final year of school going to parties and drinking a lot of alcohol. His girlfriend breaks up with him, so the youth gets blackout drunk and wakes up on the lawn of a stranger’s house. Aimee (Shailene Woodley) lives there, a peer of Sutter’s who he has ignored throughout his childhood despite them going to school together. They get to know each other better, and she starts to see how alcohol is already fucking up Sutter’s life. He asks her to the prom while drunk and doesn’t remember doing it. We eventually learn that Aimee’s dad died from an opiate overdose, so addiction is a big deal for her. I included this movie on the list because it takes place when school is coming to a close before summer break starts and has that very green, lush tone in the world of green lawned suburbs. While I don’t personally like our two lead actors as people (both anti-vax, anti-mask, covid minimizers), I think this is an excellent movie that doesn’t deliver an easy ending. Sutter doesn’t end up okay, and by learning about his past, we understand why this happens.
Read my full review here.

Fish Tank (2009)
Written & Directed by Andrea Arnold 

Fish Tank feels like the start of spring; still a bit cold, the snow & ice melted and leaving a dirty mess behind. Mia (Katie Jarvis) is growing up in an East London council estate; she is 15 years old and quick to anger. Everything in Mia’s life is falling apart, from friendships to family; the only thing that brings her joy is dancing. One day she comes across a horse tethered in a Traveller’s camp. The two boys living there chase her off but eventually soften and become her friends. Mia’s mother has also started dating a new guy, Connor (Michael Fassbender), who seems like a dream come true, wanting to include the kids on trips to the country. But poor Mia, things just don’t go her way, and eventually, Connor is shown to be a piece of shit but can hide this side of himself to drive a wedge between Mia and her mother. Fish Tank causes the audience to feel the tension, the claustrophobia of being a teenager and being trapped in a place you don’t want to be. This one has a hopeful ending, Mia going into a possibly brighter future, not without its own challenges, but something different and in a new, better location.
Read my full review here.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Written & Directed by John Hughes

When spring rolls around, being stuck in a school building all day is no fun. I know this as a teacher, having been homeschooled my entire childhood. I’ve enjoyed Ferris Bueller since I first saw it in the 1990s, and I still enjoy it today. You likely know this one, so I won’t recap the plot. The feeling you get as a kid watching this picture is that rare sensation of potential. We like to imagine the day we could have if we stepped away from our routines. Instead of going to school, you go into the big city and see what happens while you are warehoused under the watchful eye of authority figures. It’s adults going to baseball games, fancy restaurants, museums, joyrides, and parades. I don’t necessarily think John Hughes is some cinematic maestro, and I certainly don’t find Matthew Broderick to be a charismatic actor. But Ferris Bueller has an energy & tone that always wraps me up in it. The tourism board couldn’t make a better ad for visiting Chicago than this movie. Also, as an adult, I now see Cameron is the most compelling character in the whole picture.

Spring Breakers (2013)
Written & Directed by Harmony Korine

Unfairly maligned upon its initial release, Harmony Korine’s divisive Spring Breakers feels prescient. There’s a reason why the camera feels like a sex predator, and our female leads spend so much time lost in hedonism. The girls here engage in the same behaviors the boys have gotten away with for decades. It’s also no coincidence that two Disney starlets were cast. Korine has always had his ear to the ground regarding the psyche of America’s youth and can communicate that in his own often confusing manner. This is not the director’s best picture, but it presents America in an authentic way. Look at the United States right now; it’s an opiate-brain-fried neon nightmare. The moronic rapper, played by James Franco, is the exact sort of guy that would release a song defending Donald Trump or spreading COVID misinformation. At the time, he seemed like a fantasy or an exaggeration. He wasn’t. Nothing in this movie is larger than life. It’s close to being a perfect mirror.
Read my full review here.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf
Directed by Victor Fleming

I will always associate the 1939 Wizard of Oz with spring because it was an annual Easter tradition. It always seemed like one of the major networks aired this picture on an evening just before Easter Sunday. I don’t get the connection, but it quickly became one of my favorite childhood films. As an adult, I can see the script’s flaws, but it still holds up as a light-hearted kids’ movie. It even does that thing that modern films have continued where there are jokes for the parents alongside the silly humor that appeals to kids. The wordplay may not be the best, but it’s used to create genuinely funny moments, especially in the banter between Dorothy Gale’s three companions. I also think this was my first genuine experience with cinematic horror. The Wicked Witch of the West, played expertly by Margaret Hamilton, is such a terrifying figure when you are a little kid. Her cackling and witchy voice, combined with her appearance, truly scared me as a kid. It is horrifying when Dorothy’s pals go to the witch’s castle to rescue her. I also recommend Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, the novel the Broadway play was based on. It stands alone and is better than anything I’ve seen from that show. It has some genuinely creepy portions, especially near the start.

Late Spring (1949)
Written by Kogo Noda & Yasujirō Ozu
Directed by Yasujirō Ozu

Like all of Ozu’s best movies, this is a slice of life in the best sense. Noriko is a young woman who enjoys living with her elderly father, Shukichi, and has no plans to marry. Shukichi’s sister convinces him that Noriko must be married, and if it doesn’t happen soon, she might end up as an old maid. He loves his daughter so much for all she does for him that he colludes with Aunt Masa to find a match for Noriko. All the while, Shukichi becomes sadder and sadder, contemplating living the rest of his days alone when his daughter inevitably moves for her future husband. Ozu does an excellent job highlighting how ways of living should be different because people are different. Of course, he doesn’t spell this out but lets the characters discover these ideas independently, leading to a heart-breakingly bittersweet ending. Noriko goes along because she thinks this will make her father happy, and he encourages her because he believes this will make her happy. Neither seems to understand how miserable they end up in their new “better” situations. Ozu understands that people often think happiness is a change of scenery when instead, it’s about feeling contentment with where you are in the moment.
Read my full review here.

The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)
Written & Directed by Jacques Demy

In 2022 I discovered the magic of Jacques Demy and was so happy to have finally watched his best pictures. The Young Girls of Rochefort is a perfect spring movie for its color palette alone. Delphine and Solange are sisters living in Rochefort who dream of bigger things. The carnival has come to town and, with it, a chance at magical things. A young sailor yearns for the woman of his dreams, who he’s painted from memory; she looks an awful lot like Delphine. Solange keeps crossing paths with an American composer who a friend wants to introduce her to. Demy can take the narrative tropes of mid-20th-century American movie musicals and transform them through his unique perspective. The songs are fantastic and witty, and this is the director’s first foray into dance which he nails as well. The Young Girls of Rochefort might be one of the best ways to kick off the spring season, filling you with hope for all the good things to come.
Read my full review here.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Written & Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

No director’s work captures nature’s calm beauty and grandness more than Hayao Miyazaki’s. Totoro is a classic that truly deserves that moniker. Two sisters move to the country with their father while their mother is treated at a nearby hospital. The girl eventually encounters the spirits of the forest, who work to entertain and console them while they go through a difficult time. Miyazaki’s imagery and reverence for nature just drip off the screen. Every quiet shot of grassy fields, dense forests, and rainy afternoons feels so real you can smell the rain and the flowers. Intended for a young audience but readily appreciated by people of all ages, there isn’t a very solid narrative. Instead, we follow the day-to-day experiences of these little girls as they live their lives. It’s cute, sweet, emotional, and, most notably, a quiet movie. This isn’t made to overstimulate kids’ brains but to speak to them honestly and calmly.
Read my full review here.


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