While we’ve been sheltering at home, my partner and I have been slowly working through her expansive collection of DVDs procured cheaply when the video store she worked at last year went out of business. One benefit of this is that we’ve been able to watch and re-watch several of my favorite Jewish movies. Since art is an anchor of society, consuming Jewish and Jewish-adjacent movies can be a good way to keep your spirits up during this difficult time.
“The Blues Brothers” (1980)
Though not a strictly Jewish movie, I consider “The Blues Brothers” to be part of the Jewish film canon strictly for the scene in which Jake and Elwood drive their car through a parade of Nazis, forcing them to leap from a bridge into the river below. Most of my favorite Jewish-adjacent movies include a similar scene, because Nazis getting their due is always fun to watch. Director John Landis is also Jewish, so I think this funny, classic film is worth a re-watch if you’re stuck inside.
Based on a book of the same name by Naomi Alderman, “Disobedience” follows the story of a woman (played by Rachel Weisz) returning to her Orthodox community for her father’s funeral after being cast out for her attraction to her childhood friend (Rachel McAdams). The film has come under some fire for its deviations from the book, as well as accusations of fetishizing gay women, but I found it sensitive, nuanced and beautiful. Maybe watch it after the kids go to bed, though.
“Inglourious Basterds” (2009)
I know Quentin Tarantino is a creep. We all know he’s a creep. That being said, “Inglourious Basterds” is a hyperviolent thrill ride that scratches the primal itch on the surface of my brain every time I watch it. Eli Roth shines as Donny Donowitz and Christoph Waltz puts on one of the most incredible performances of his career. Best of all, Mélanie Laurent, who plays Shoshana, is Jewish, which makes her revenge at the end of the film that much sweeter. It’s a satisfying movie to be watched and re-watched in dark times.
“Sixty Six” (2006)
I watched this film with my father as a kid and, as such, it has a special place in my heart. Based on director Paul Weiland’s actual bar mitzvah, Bernie (Gregg Sulkin) learns that his hotly anticipated bar mitzvah will take place on the same day as the 1966 World Cup Final, in which England is participating. Bernie’s story launches from one misfortune to the next, but his father saves the day with a heartwarming scene. It’s funny, intelligent and timeless.
“The Prince of Egypt” (1998)
This is one of the greatest animated films of all time, full stop. It’s required watching for all Jewish kids, preferably surrounded by other Jewish kids who are all also weeping at the crocodile reveal. This film is so quintessentially Jewish, so beautifully done, that it puts other Old Testament retellings to shame. Make it part of your Passover festivities if you haven’t already.
“Green Room” (2015)
For all the horror fans out there, “Green Room” focuses on a punk band held against their will in a Nazi bar after their front man (Anton Yelchin) discovers a body in the green room. I’ll probably never stop talking about this movie, primarily because the characters are just so resourceful. Classic horror movies often rely on characters’ poor decisions, but the band in “Green Room” make pretty reasonable choices, which makes the progression of events that much scarier. Plus, Patrick Stewart is the main villain and he is terrifying.
“The Frisco Kid” (1979)
A classic in the Jewish film canon, “The Frisco Kid” is a western that follows a newly minted rabbi (Gene Wilder) across America. Harrison Ford and Wilder play off each other so well, and they’re both Jewish, which adds to the real-world impact of the film. It’s absolutely worth a re-watch, if only for the Amish scene and the happy ending.