The Best “Last” Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

last castle

The Last Castle (2001)

A military prison receives a new inmate sentenced for disobeying a presidential order leading to the deaths of eight soldiers. The prison’s warden has never seen battle but has great respect for Irwin’s accomplishments. Unfortunately, the feeling isn’t mutual, and soon a rivalry builds between the two men leading to more bodies on the ground.

Easily the most popular of the six films here, director Rod Lurie‘s second-best feature (go watch The Contender!) is a smart thriller about honor, respect, and the ways we treat those around us. Front and center are prisoners being mistreated by the warden and guards, but there’s equal attention paid to both the dangers of blind respect and strengths of respect earned. These themes play out against a familiar but still suspenseful narrative with various turns delivering dramatic weight and thrills. There are action beats, but much of the film’s intensity comes from the moments in between.

The script (co-written by Speed‘s Graham Yost) is the main driver behind the film’s dramatic strengths, but there’s no arguing with the quality of this cast. Robert Redford brings the honorable, incarcerated general to life while James Gandolfini offers the perfect foil in the thin-skinned warden. The two are great individually, obviously, but they’re fantastic sparring partners with styles that play off the other beautifully. Supporting players are equally impressive with the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Delroy Lindo, and Clifton Collins Jr. all standing apart from the crowd.

Buy The Last Castle on DVD from Amazon or rent via Amazon Video.

last kiss

The Last Kiss (2006)

A young couple just a few years into a happy marriage is overjoyed to discover they’re expecting their first child. Well, she’s excited, but he finds himself increasingly nervous at the thought that life as he knows it is over and that his youth has disappeared with it. Unfortunately for their relationship, someone younger appears offering to share her spirit and bed with him.

Zach Braff was still in everyone’s good graces when this romantic drama hit screens – it would be another eight years before he sent friendly critics scrambling to get away from his second directorial effort, Wish I Was Here – but it still failed to find much of an audience. It’s a shame, as the film finds a real honesty in its story. It’s an ugly honesty to be sure, but that doesn’t lessen its raw power as we watch a man’s fear and temptation give way to infidelity. The film understands his behavior without ever suggesting it condones it, and we’re left to judge the character as we see fit without the script forcing our hand.

Braff is only here as an actor with Tony Goldwyn (Ghost) taking directorial duties on a script by Paul Haggis (Casino Royale), but as he did with his more hands-on efforts like Garden State, I’d bet money he played a role in the soundtrack selection. Snow Patrol, Cary Brothers, and Aimee Mann? It’s a great soundtrack. Braff also does well with a more serious role than he’s typically playing, and he’s well-supported by Tom Wilkinson, Blythe Danner, Rachel Bilson, Harold Ramis, and more.

Buy The Last Kiss on Blu-ray from Amazon or rent via Amazon Video.

last train home

Last Train Home (2009)

North America is home to a migratory work force that numbers in the millions as immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere come to the United States to work the fields, but it’s dwarfed by the one in China. Well over a hundred million people from rural China work in the country’s big cities, and each year they make the trek back to their respective homes to celebrate the New Year. It’s the largest annual migration in the world, and it’s at the heart of this documentary on modern China.

LiXan Fan‘s film offers a revealing look at the inner workings of a nation whose size, population growth, and political design have left many of its citizens behind. The story being told is a grand one, but the film focuses our attention on a single family separated by the need for survival. A young couple works in a factory in a coastal city where they live in cramped quarters and send much of their earnings back home. That home is over a thousand miles away in a village where their son and daughter are being raised by their grandmother. They see their kids just once per year at New Year, and the journey is almost as arduous as the waiting in between.

We see life in both extremes, the city and the village, but it’s the literal trip of the title that captures the tension, anxiety, and stress of their existence. From packed crowds that create solid walls of people, each of them just as tired and torn as the next, to frequent delays that pause the trip for hours and days at a time, it’s a nightmare beyond any transportation issues experienced in the West. Far from just a documentation of hardship, though, the film makes it clear that for these people the situation is both inevitable and worth the sacrifice. The payoff comes as the family reunites with uncertainty and tears, and while it’s over too soon the effect of seeing parents give their all for their children is as heartwarming as it is heart-wrenching.

Buy Last Train Home on DVD from Amazon or watch via Amazon Prime.

Pages: Previous page 1 2

Cool Posts From Around the Web: