The Top Five Chris Columbus Movies
Without realizing it, director Chris Columbus has been a huge part of two generations’ childhoods. Back in the 80s, he was the mind behind The Goonies and Gremlins, writing the screenplays for both. He also directed Adventures in Babysitting. More recently, he was the creative force behind both the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson franchises. That is one heck of a legacy thus far. Not only that, but he has an Oscar nomination under his belt for producing 2012’s The Help. The point being, Chris Columbus is a classic, prolific filmmaker. His most recent fumble was the Adam Sandler-starring Pixels, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have interesting projects on the horizon. His future includes a horror film, and animated film, and a sci-fi comedy. If you look back on his 30-year career, you will be filled with confidence that he will dazzle his audiences. Here are the top five Chris Columbus-directed films.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)/Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Chris Columbus was the man that kicked off one of the most successful franchises of all time. Back in 2001, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released to worldwide acclaim. Columbus created a gorgeous world full of rich characters and a vast mythology. The story about an 11-year-old boy, whose fame precedes him, is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The story unfolds as this neglected child discovers a magical world full of wonder, new friends, and even a bit of danger. The second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is lumped into this entry because the first to films of the franchise are somewhat interchangeable (you will notice this theme a few times in this feature). The child actors haven’t quite figured out their craft just yet, the stakes are not too dangerous yet, and the films’ tones are much less dark than the rest of the franchise. Without Chris Columbus, the epic adventure of Harry, Ron, and Hermione would not be what it is today.
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Home Alone (1990)/Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Is there a better family-friendly comedy for the holiday season than Home Alone? Macauley Culkin is one of those rare child actors who are so good at what they do, they can carry an entire comedy. If you have been living under a rock for the past 30 years, the story involves a young kid who is left behind when his family goes away on vacation. While living out every kid’s dream, the local burglars decide to rob his rich family’s house. He has something to say about that. In an outrageous, Three Stooges-style slapstick, Kevin (Culkin) rigs his house full of booby traps. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as the burglars are the hilarious victims of all the violence.
Just as with Harry Potter, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is lumped in with the original. Both films follow the exact same formula but are equally charming. The family wants to go on a Christmas vacation. Through extraordinary circumstances, Kevin is left behind. In one, he is navigating home life by himself and protecting his parents’ house. In the other, he is navigating New York City and protecting his uncle’s brownstone. The rousing John Williams score and the childlike innocence Culkin brings to the proceeding make the Home Alone films the perfect conduits to putting the viewer in the holiday spirit.
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Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
Nearly ten years after kickstarting the Harry Potter franchise, Chris Columbus once again dipped his toe into the young adult fantasy pool. On paper, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief should have been awful. There are many young adult fantasy series that have tried to adapt to the big screen to little success. However, Percy Jackson is Chris Columbus’ bread and butter. The film is essentially a combination of Harry Potter and Clash of the Titans. Logan Lerman plays the titular Percy. He is unaware that he is Poseidon’s offspring. Zeus’s lightning bolt has been stolen and he accuses Percy. If Percy doesn’t return it soon, then a war will break out among the pantheon. So the film is part Percy discovering the magical world of mythology that he had no idea he was a part of and part adventure to find the bolt and save his mother from Hades. The entire film is just so light-hearted, populated with a great cast, and full of wonderfully creative takes on Greek and Roman mythology. Uma Thurman as Medusa is a highlight, but Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is surprisingly wonderful.
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Chris Columbus is not the first director that would have come to mind when it was revealed that there would be a film adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s Rent. The Broadway megahit tells the tale of a handful of Bohemians in 1980s New York City. They are all navigating the ugly atmosphere of poverty, AIDS, racism, homophobia, and commercialism. It is pretty heavy stuff, but Jonathan Larson’s writing and musical compositions are extraordinary. For whatever reason, Chris Columbus was compelled to take on something so much more serious than his usual family-friendly fare. However, he pulls it off admirably. Admittedly, having cast the original Broadway cast (mostly) was a blessing and a curse. They are too old to play these characters and it is distracting, but they know these characters better than anyone, and Rent is better for it. Columbus does a swell job framing the performances and the sound mixing is fantastic for such a rock opera style. Though depressingly thematic, 2005’s Rent effectively stirs the soul, is life-affirming, and is actually a whole lot of fun.
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Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
The argument can be made that Mrs. Doubtfire may be the greatest Robin Williams film of all time. It is not really a movie that can be made today. Having a middle-aged man realistically dress up as a woman for comic effect is no longer PC. However, back in 1993, Chris Columbus created one of the all-time classic comedies.
Rarely has both Robin Williams’ comic and dramatic chops been so perfectly exhibited equally. As Daniel Hillard, he often gets to go on his hilarious Robin Williams-style rants. As Mrs. Doubtfire, he gets to disappear into an elderly British woman, which provides all sorts of differently toned laughs. Then there are those broken family themes, and they will make you cry. Try to keep your composure as Daniel pleads his case to an unsympathetic judge. If one were to rank Robin Williams’ all-time greatest roles, Mrs. Doubtfire has to land way up at the top, if not THE top.
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