Many of the best movies ever made fall into the drama category. Dramas have a way of transporting us to another world and getting under our skin. From spending time with death-row inmates, to tapping into our fears about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of crazed generals, when we watch dramas, we allow ourselves to understand someone else's experience.
Humans have been creating dramas for others to watch since ancient times--and we still retell stories from centuries past, because they tell us something about our modern selves. "Seven Samurai" might take place in the 16th century, but it shows us how communities can come together to defend each other.
"The Green Mile" and "The Shawshank Redemption" make us contemplate the prison system in the U.S., even if those films take place decades ago.
American dramas show us our love-affair with the nitty-gritty lives of the American Mafia and crime families. Can you tell the difference between "Scarface," "The Godfather," and "American Gangster" from a single screenshot?
Take this quiz to find out how well-versed you are in the dramatic cinematic experience!
John Travolta was actually the first choice to play Forrest, but turned down the role. Winston Groom, the author of the novel that the script was sourced from, envisioned John Goodman in the title role. Instead, this iconic part went to Tom Hanks.
This film is based on Stephen King's novel, "Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption." Despite the fact that it was set in Maine, the fictional state of Shawshank State Penitentiary was actually the Ohio State Reformatory.
Throughout the filming of "The Godfather," Marlon Brando used cue cards to remember his lines. One of the most famous lines from the movie was actually improvised: it's the line where Peter Clemenza says, "leave the gun, take the cannoli." The horse's head in the film is entirely real.
Alan Ball, the film's screenwriter, was sitting at the World Trade Center Plaza when he saw a paper bag floating in the wind and was inspired to write the film.
Oskar Schindler and his associates made a total of seven lists during the war--four are still known to exist. Two are at Yad Vashem in Israel, one is at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and one privately owned list was unsuccessfully put up for auction on eBay in 2013.
Cillian Murphy auditioned to play Batman in the mid-aughts iteration of the film franchise, but Nolan thought he would be a much better Scarecrow, and so he was ultimately cast as that, and Christina Bale was cast as Batman.
"The Godfather: Part II," was almost never made. Francis Ford Coppola was exhausted by the time he was done with the original. In later interviews, he said he didn't particularly want to make a sequel because the first part encompassed the entirety of the novel. He ultimately made it because he thought it would be interesting to make two stories in parallel of a man and his father at the same age.
The real-life Henry Hill from the movie, "Goodfellas," had too long of a criminal past to fit into a movie. The movie's infamous f-word count was mostly improvised; the script only called for the word to be used 70 times, but much of the dialogue was improvised during shooting, so the expletives piled up. It is actually used closer to 300 times in this film.
Joaquin Phoenix actually turned down the lead role in American History X, which ended up being played by Edward Norton. This was Tony Kaye's first feature film. His only prior experience was directing music videos and art installations in the 90s.
The author of the novel, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," never actually saw the film. Although the author, Ken Kesey, was initially involved in the film adaptation of his 1962 novel, he left production after two short weeks and took a lawsuit out against the film's producers. He had multiple grievances against the film, most notably that he wanted Gene Hackman, not Jack Nicholson, to play Randle McMurphy.
In "Léon: The Professional," Natalie Portman's parents were against her playing Mathilda, as they thought it was too intense of a role for a pre-teen. Not only does the character have to deal with a broken home and violence, but she has to deal with the unwanted sexualization of a young girl. After Portman read the script, though, she says she was moved to tears and knew she had to play the role.
The film, "The Green Mile," is based on a novel by Stephen King. He published the book serially, in six installments, in order to follow the example set by Charles Dickens. In the film, the character, John Coffey, was supposed to be seven feet tall, but because the actor was only 6"5', they still had to use forced perspective and camera angles to make him appear taller than he was.
"No Country for Old Men" was shot almost entirely in Las Vegas, but Tommy Lee convinced the Coen brothers to film some scenes on location in Texas. Josh Brolin broke his shoulder in a motorcycle accident two days after winning the part of Llewellyn Moss in this film. He was convinced they would drop him from the role because of his injury, but because the character he played was shot in the shoulder very early on in the film, his injury didn't matter.
Stanley Kubrick originally didn't want to make the movie, "A Clockwork Orange." Kubrick didn't like the book upon first reading it because of the Nadsat language Burgess created for the novel. Malcolm McDowell was Kubrick's one and only choice for the role of Alex, and surprisingly McDowell had no idea who Kubrick was. Originally, McDowell thought that the director was Stanley Kramer, the filmmaker behind "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."
"The City of God" was voted Movie of the Year in 2003 by Empire magazine. It would be another six years before a foreign film got the #1 spot again. The actor who played Lil Dice, Douglas Silva, was the first Brazilian to win an Emmy. There were 200 non-professional actors used during the filming of "City of God."
"The Truman Show" was originally titled "The Malcolm Show" and had a much darker tone. Jim Carrey took a pay cut to play Truman Burbank; instead of his then-standard $20 million pay-per-film, Carrey accepted $12 million. The filming of "The Truman Show" was put on hold for an entire year so that Jim Carrey could finish "Liar Liar."
The story behind officer John Ryan and his father in "Crash" comes from a piece of hate mail that the director, Paul Haggis, received while he was working as a writer on %0Dthe TV series, "Family Law." One of the things that inspired the movie was Paul Haggis' own carjacking incident. This film was the lowest-grossing winner of an Oscar for Best Picture since "The Last Emperor" in 1987.
Paul Schrader, the screenwriter for "Taxi Driver," didn't see his first movie until he was seventeen years old. Schrader was raised by strict Calvinist parents, so movies were forbidden in his household. Schrader also rewrote Jodie Foster's character after meeting an actual underage New York City prostitute.
The original authors of "Casablanca" signed away their rights for the then-record sum of $20,000. Warner Brothers later gave the pair of writers, Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, $100,000 apiece and the right to produce the original play.
During rehearsals for "Scarface," Al Pacino burned his hand on the barrel of a prop machine gun that has just fired 30 rounds; He was out of commission for two weeks. The idea to remake the 1932 version of "Scarface" was Pacino's. He saw the classic crime drama at a revival screening in LA and told producer Martin Bregman that he thought he should star in an updated version.
Robin Williams and Matt Damon used to joke around in-character in between takes in "Good Will Hunting," resulting in many of the lines between the two characters being totally improvised. The scene where Matt Damon was in bed with Minnie Driver, he is actually asleep. Because he was producing, writing, and starring in "Good Will Hunting," he was justifiably exhausted.
Although Ewan Bremner played Renton in the stage version of the film, Danny Boyle had always wanted Ewan McGregor to play the role after working with him on "Shallow Grave." He offered Bremner the role of Spud, instead.
In "Gran Torino," Clint Eastwood's son, Scott Eastwood, appeared in the movie as Trey, and his other son, Kyle Eastwood, provided the music for the film. The two writers of the script, Nick Schenk and Dave Johannson, knew some of the Hmong people near the steel mill where they worked. They wrote the script on pieces of paper during their lunch breaks.
"Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," more commonly known as, "Dr. Strangelove," is a political satire black comedy that focuses on the public's Cold War fear of a nuclear conflict happening between the USSR and the USA. The film is directed, produced and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. Peter Sellers plays three different roles in the film.
Hilary Swank, who played the lead in "Million Dollar Baby," contracted a bacterial infection from a blister on her foot during the training for her role. She caught the infection before it became life-threatening and took a week off for "medicated rest" so that she wouldn't have to tell Clint Eastwood about the injury, as she felt it was not in character.
In "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Brad Pitt says it took 5 hours each day to complete the make-up that was required for the role. The film began development in 1994. David Fincher also directed Brad Pitt in, "Fight Club." They actually acknowledge this film when Benjamin's father asks about "the house on Paper Street."
According to the real Frank Abagnale Jr., the individual that "Catch Me If You Can" is based upon, approximately 80% of the movie is true. The film shows Frank on the FBI's Most Wanted list, but in real life, he didn't make the list as it is reserved for violent criminals. Another fun fact: To get a sloppy kiss out of Amy Adams, Steven Spielberg told her to pretend she was starving to death and eating a cheeseburger.
Bill Murray was bitten by the film's groundhog twice while they were shooting the film, "Groundhog Day." According to the website, Wolf Gnards, Bill Murray spends eight years, eight months and 16 days trapped repeating Groundhog Day. In the movie, all the clocks in the diner are stopped which mirrors Phil's predicament.
In "A Beautiful Mind," the equations that we see on the classroom chalk boards are actual equations that were written by the real life John Nash. After John Nash visited the set, Russel Crowe said he was fascinated by the way John moved his hands and so he tried to do the same thing in the movie. He thought it helped him to better get into character.
The film, "There Will Be Blood," is about Daniel Plainview, who is based on real-life oil tycoon, Edward Doheny. Doheny set off the oil boom in California in 1892. The scene in the bowling alley was filmed at the Greystone Mansion, a California estate Doheny built for his only son. The house's descending stairs are one of the most famous sets in Hollywood.
Orson Welles was regarded as one of the great geniuses of his time. Because of this, when making "Citizen Kane," Welles got unprecedented creative control during the film. Welles' original idea for the story was an adaptation of "Heart of Darkness," but ultimately, the idea was nixed because the budget was too high. Instead, it focuses on William Randolph Hearst's life while still tapping into the influence of Joseph Conrad's seminal story.
"12 Angry Men" is inspired by a real jury duty experience. Reginald Rose, a respected writer for TV at the time, served as a juror in a manslaughter case in 1954. As a dramatist, he wrote "12 Angry Men" as a one-hour teleplay for CBS' Studio One anthology series. It aired on September 20, 1954. This is also the only film that Henry Fonda ever produced.
In "The Social Network," Justin Timberlake, who plays Sean Parker, was the only actor that was able to meet his real-life character. Not a single Facebook employee, including the founders, were involved in the making of this movie. Jesse Eisenberg's cousin was a Facebook product designer. Even though Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is against the film, he still allows the movie to have a Facebook fan page.
For his role in "Into the Wild," Emile Hirsch had to lose 40 pounds to make the weight loss look real. There are no stunt-men or doubles in this entire film. Sean Penn, who wrote and directed the film, waited ten years to make it to make sure the family of Christopher McCandless' was alright with the story being turned into a film.
Paul Thomas Anderson wrote the bulk of the script for Magnolia during two weeks he spent at William H. Macy's Vermont cabin. He spent much of his time there inside the cabin because he was afraid to go outside after he had seen a snake. Fun fact about the film: Almost every location contains at least one picture or painting of a magnolia flower.
The making of "Gangs of New York" took 32 years. It was also shot on a massive set in Rome. Production designer, Dante Ferretti, and his team, built a mile of sets -- stores, saloons, houses, the town square, the harbor, docks and ships -- all of them fully functional, with no facades. People that visited marveled that it was like stepping back in time.
On "Oprah", Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman said that the "farting in the phone booth" scene was actually improvised as Hoffman actually passed gas while the scene was being filmed. Hoffman said it was his favorite scene ever. Jake Hoffman, the boy at the pancake counter, is Dustin Hoffman's son. Both Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro turned down the part of Raymond.
The film, "American Gangster," went through a number of titles, directors and acting duos throughout its development process. It was almost called "Tru Blu" and would have been directed by Brian De Palma or Antoine Fuqua (from "Training Day") and might have alternately have starred Benicio Del Toro and Will Smith in the lead roles. Fun fact: The crowd at Muhammad Ali's fight sequence is made up of 650 extras and 1500 inflatable dummies.
This movie is based on the career of casino boss, Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal, who is portrayed by Robert De Niro. Director, Martin Scorsese, knew that studios would not want a three hour film, but he ignored them. The film runs for 178 minutes--Scorsese described it as a "fast three hour" movie.
William Broyles Jr., the screenwriter for the film, "Cast Away," stranded himself on an island so that he could research what it would actually be like. Broyles spent several days alone in Mexico's Sea of Cortez trying to fend for himself. He speared and ate stingrays, learned how to open a coconut, befriended a washed-up Wilson-brand volleyball, and tried to make a fire--all of which ended up in the movie.
Charlie Kaufman, who wrote the script for "Being John Malkovich," said that John Malkovich was the only person that could play the lead actor, although the studio envisioned someone else as the lead role, Tom Cruise. When the real John Malkovich first read the script, he wondered if he had wronged Kaufman in the past; they hadn't met at that point yet. At first, Malkovich said he wouldn't mind producing or directing the film, but that Kaufman should find a different actor to play him.
Although the story of the film, "The Wrestler," does not stray from Robert Siegel's script, all of the backstage locker room scenes (and the first scene where Randy the Ram works a deli counter) were all improvised. In fact, Rourke was serving legitimate customers in that first scene, making his quips to those getting food that much funnier.
Clint Eastwood's production designer, Henry Bumstead, built the main set for the 1880's town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming on a lonesome prairie in Alberta from which no signs of modern civilization could be seen in any direction. The nearest city was Calgary, which was 60 miles away. All of the buildings for the film were fully functional; not just facades.
Russell Crowe, director James Mangold, and producer Cathy Konrad unanimously wanted Christian Bale as the co-lead for the movie, "3:10 to Yuma." Mangold originally wanted to cast Kris Kristofferson as Byron MacElroy, but due to scheduling conflicts, Peter Fonda got the part instead.
The actual speech, given by the King in the film, is only two-thirds the length of the original. The original speech was 407 words; the movie version only has 269. Four sentences of the speech were deleted, and four sentences were shortened. At the age of 73, David Seidler became the oldest person to ever win the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award (Oscar) for this film.
The shooting script was 200 pages long for the film, "Zodiac." To combat problems with length that might be caused by such a big script, David Fincher decided to make his actors speak faster.
Mark Hamill wanted the titular role in "Amadeus," but the director wouldn't let him audition. He thought people wouldn't be able to imagine Hamill as any character other than Luke Skywalker. For the film, Tom Hulce (who was cast in the role instead) practiced piano for four to five hours a day in order to look believable on camera. He also spent a month with a piano teacher before they started filming.
"Seven Samurai" was Akira Kurosawa's first Samurai film. At the time "Seven Samurai" entered production, most major Japanese films cost around $70,000. Because Kurosawa demanded authenticity of things like a fully constructed outdoor village location, there were production challenges and setbacks, and the film ended up costing almost $500,000, which was a massive sum at the time.
The screenwriter for the film, "Hotel Rwanda," spent a year writing the first draft of the script. During the process of writing, he called the Rwandan embassy in D.C. The woman who picked up the phone was a survivor who had actually stayed at the Milles Collines Hotel. The real Paul Rusesabagina (who inspired the story) actually met with Don Cheadle (who played him in the movie.)
Brad Pitt gave up one of the starring roles in "The Departed" (a film that he actually co-produced) in order to play a role in this film. "Babel" was shot almost entirely using hand-held cameras--even the driving scenes. Rinko Kikuchi went through a year-long audition process before finally gaining the role of Wataya Chieko. Actress, Adriana Barraza, gained 35 pounds for her role as Amelia Hernández.