10 Movies Best Seen on the Big Screen, From 'Southern Wild' to 'Oz'

Quvenzhane Wallis in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’/Photo © Ben Richardson/Fox Searchlight
Quvenzhane Wallis in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’/Photo © Ben Richardson/Fox Searchlight

Good news, movie fans: Sleeper hit "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is being brought back to theaters. It seems its four Academy Award nominations -- Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director for Benh Zeitlin, and Best Actress for Quvenzhané Wallis -- have led to enough demand to incite Fox Searchlight to exercise their right to an encore performance. The story, for those who have been spending the post-holiday bleakness of January under a rock, follows six-year-old Hushpuppy and her father, Wink, as they live out their precarious lives in the Louisiana bayou. Based on the screenplay by Lucy Aliber, the tale turns fantastical as ice caps melt and dangers ensue. If you've not yet seen it, this is definitely a movie worth watching on the big screen; the cinematography alone is breathtaking. Inspired by the news that it's returning to theaters, we started thinking about other films best seen -- if ever possible -- in theaters, in all of their larger-than-life glory. So without further ado, here are Signature's picks for silver-screen stunners, culled from those currently out there -- and those for whose reappearance one can only hope.

"Les Miserables" (2012)
Catch it while you can! The live-singing approach to this project taken by Tom Hooper certainly stripped away any danger of injecting that dreaded canned-and-preserved-by-Hollywood feeling into the beloved Broadway classic based on the novel by Victor Hugo. Whether you've seen the adaptation at some point on the Great White Way or not, don't just take our word for it; the film is up for eight -- count 'em, eight -- Oscar nominations.

"Anna Karenina" (2012)
In another example of a seasoned director's unconventional approach to filmmaking, Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina" was filmed entirely in a dilapidated old theater. The result? "Incredibly cinematic," said Jason Solomons. Another result was an Oscar nod for Best Cinematography. Performances by Keira Knightley and Jude Law were also hailed, so add this classic, based on the book by Leo Tolstoy, to your must-see-on-the-big-screen list.

"Django Unchained" (2012)
Quentin Tarantino has done it again with the solidly acted, incredibly gory, over-the-top drama "Django Unchained." His comic book style -- blood splattering, bodies flying, characters stylized to the Nth degree -- is out in full force in this Oscar-nominated movie. The film has an epic feel to it, and story plus soundtrack plus shock value equals another film best seen in a crowded theater, for the satisfaction of the collective gasp.

"Life of Pi" (2012)
Before turning our eyes to films of the past, we're allowing ourselves one more current film in the must-see-on-the-big-screen category: Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," based on the novel by Yann Martel. The Academy was quite forthcoming with the nominations for "Pi," doling out eleven in total, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. The film's somewhat polarizing conclusion isn't the only reason to add it to your list; it's also, quite simply, visually  stunning.

"Avatar" (2009)
It's no wonder that James Cameron's 3-D masterpiece, which drew inspiration from Hinduism, his mother, and the ongoing ecology vs. industry debate, pulled in $2.7 billion worldwide. The film's three Oscars were all for its aesthetics: Cinematography, Visual Effects, and Art Direction. If you weren't one with the masses last time it was in theaters, keep your fingers crossed that it returns once more before the sequel comes down the pipe.

"The Shining" (1980)
Stanley Kubrick's classic horror film of a cabin fever-inflicted crazy man and his family, based on the novel by Stephen King, perseveres to this day as one of the Scariest. Movies. Ever. This film fan had the unique and twisted pleasure of seeing it in the Bagdad Theater and Pub in Portland, OR, a few years ago -- and didn't sleep at all that night. If it ever comes back to a theater near you, don't think twice about ponying up for the price of admission.

"The Rocky Horror Show" (1975)
Director Jim Sharman added the power of perpetuity to his hit London play "The Rocky Horror Show" when he brought the movie adaptation of the production to theaters in 1975, aptly re-named "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." The film's near-immediate cult status was aided by its limited midnight showings, and since then, when "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" comes to theaters, so do its fans -- dressed up in costume and ready to sing along through the whole movie. If nothing else, the experience is unlike any other movie night you've ever had.

"The Godfather" (1972)
If you've come this far in life and have not yet seen Francis Ford Coppola's breakout hit, based on the novel by Mario Puzo, for shame, paisano. On the bright side, you can hold out to experience the mafia at its most soul-crushing best on the silver screen, the way it was originally intended, with a surprise star turn by a young Al Pacino, James Caan as his brother, and a larger-than-life Marlon Brando before he was, well, larger than life.

"The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
Dorothy, the Wicked Witch, tornadoes, Munchkins, Oz ... No matter how many times you've seen the classic tale, based on the book by L. Frank Baum, the experience of seeing it in the movie theater is as magical as cinema-going can get. It's not often that this one comes back around, but with its seventy-fifth anniversary quickly creeping up, you may just be lucky enough to catch it on the big screen.

Tell us below: What's the best movie-going experience you've ever had?

  • Kate

    I have to disagree on the pick of "The Shining". I happen to think this version was not very good. I don't know if it's my dislike of Jack Nicholson or what but I really didn't like it at all!! I will agree on all the others though!!

    • donna dawe

      I think the Shing was the best scary movie ever made. I loved Jack Nicholson.

  • Jeff M

    I remember going to the theater with my gf at the time. Romancing the stone was playing. And I just remember when she wakes up on the wrong bus and looks out the window over the gorgeous Valley scene. Everyone in the theater went Wow! I remember being so dissapointed at the lack of impact when I saw it on my tv a few years later. Size does matter for some films!

  • Evan Hammerman

    The first time I saw Star Wars it was in seventy millimeter. I also saw a special showing Apocalypse Now in seventy millimeter. Why isn't that movie on the list?

  • Debra Catania

    I just saw "Beasts of the southern wild" & was thouroughly bored.Have a few great movies I love.Green Mile,Avatar,but 1 movie that blew me away was "Close encounters of th third kind" & I saw it on t.v. I wish I had seen it on the big screen!

  • Rich

    This past year, I saw "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "North by Northwest" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" all on the big screen. After seeing them again, it makes me sad that whole generations have only seen them on a TV.

  • denise vaughn

    Time Bandits when it was new. I was a kid and my dad took me. You had to be paying attention to catch everything. There were two places where me and maybe a couple of other people in a packed theater laughed. When you noticed the castle ruins were. Legos. And when the tall merryman was wiping boogers on the small merryman! It was a laugh riot.

  • DM

    My favourite top 10 on the big screen in no particular order.

    1. The Exorcist
    2. King Kong (Peter Jackson's)
    3. Jaws
    4. Close Encounters
    5. Apocalypse Now
    6. Star Wars IV
    7. The Tree of Life
    8. Bladerunner
    9. Alien
    0. Jurassic Park

  • As a fan of Steven Spielburg I would add "JAWS" & "CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND".

  • Anne-Grethe Nielsen

    I was thrilled by "The Straight Story"

  • I remember watching Terminator 2 on the Big Screen, it was one of the greatest movie experiences of my life. Easy add to the list.

  • robyn

    i definitely second jurassic park. when dr grant sees the dinosaurs traveling in pairs . . . breathtaking.