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Element Favorites – 14 Creative Films You Need to Watch

It’s award season in Hollywood – a time when famous people who get to make movies for a living pat themselves on the back and hold three-hour-long live broadcasts so we can watch them gloat.

But who cares what the Academy thinks? Who cares what the Hollywood Foreign Press says is the best, or what the movie critics say you should and shouldn’t watch? How about hearing from some real people?

Here at Element, we went around the agency to find out what the staff thinks are some of the most-creative movies of all time.

Check out the list! It’s pretty good if we say so ourselves.

1. Amélie


The first pick on our list comes from Art Director Aaron Graff, and it’s no surprise he chose a visually stunning movie.

2001’s Amélie is a picturesque story of life and love in Paris – with quirky characters and an accordion-filled soundtrack to boot. Amélie, the movie’s heroine, sets out on a mission to make the lives of those around her happier.

But of course, it’s also about finding her own happiness.

Aaron says he really appreciates the art direction in this film.

“You could print and hang any frame from the movie. ” ~ Aaron Graff

In fact,  Entertainment Weekly called the Amélie poster one of the “25 Best Movie Posters of the Past 25 Years.” The film was nominated for an Academy Award in Art Direction – but lost to Moulin Rouge!, which was some awfully tough competition.

Watch the Trailer

2. Django Unchained

Lance Peroutka

Agency Director, Lance Peroutka, chose a Quentin Tarantino movie for his favorite creative film. Django Unchained is a tribute to Spaghetti Westerns (Tarantino’s favorite genre) that completely reimagines the 1966 movie Django.

Tarantino won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for his screenplay. Set in America’s Deep South, the story centers around a slave who is freed by a German bounty hunter. The two embark on a vengeful journey to take on an evil plantation owner and rescue Django’s long-lost wife.

“I love the twists in the story and the retribution the main character gets.” ~ Lance Peroutka

As you might expect from Tarantino, this film reaches a fairly bloody, shoot-em-up climax. But it sure feels good to watch the bad guys get what’s coming to them.

Watch the Trailer

3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Eric Severstad

Copywriter and Assistant Creative Director, Eric Severstad, picked the most-recognizable work of the legendary comedy troupe, Monty Python.

Monty Python came up with the idea for Monty Python and the Holy Grail in between the third and fourth seasons of their sketch comedy TV show. The movie turns the legend of King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail into a ridiculously bizarre story full of all sorts of surprises.

“What is your quest? See this film. It includes bad-tempered rodents, wizards named Tim, knights who say “Ni,” watery tarts, anarcho-syndicalist communes, wooden rabbits,  flesh wounds, African swallows, false-nosed witches, evil Zoot, and huge tracts of land.”  ~Eric Severstad

And that’s just for starters!

Another thing that makes this movie creative is how the filmmakers adjusted to having a very meager budget, even though Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were investors.

Originally, the knights were supposed to ride real horses. Since there was no equestrian budget, they galloped around on foot as a squire followed behind making hoof sound effects with coconut shells. The film’s abrupt ending is due to the fact they simply ran out of money for production.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail never won any prestigious awards. But it is consistently recognized as one of the best comedy films of all time. It was also adapted into the Tony Award-winning musical, Spamalot.

Watch the Trailer

4. Les Misérables

Molly Wentworth

Speaking of Broadway musicals, Molly Wentworth’s favorite creative film is the film version of the musical Les Miserables, based on Victor Hugo’s novel.

Set around the time of the June Rebellion in France, this piece of classic literature has been told time and time again, including film versions that go back as far as 1909. But Molly says this particular adaptation stands out to her as being extra creative.

“Besides the breathtaking music by Claude-Michel Schönberg that makes Les Miserables such a captivating film, it is one of very few movie musicals to have live-recorded songs. For most musicals, songs are recorded in a studio and added to filmed scenes of actors lip-syncing. Having the actors sing while acting brings an incredible amount of emotion to each piece and makes the viewer feel more like they are watching the live performance on stage.” ~Molly Wentworth

Among 2012’s Les Misérables‘ many awards are three Oscars and three Golden Globes. Now, if someone can just talk to John Travolta about how to pronounce it.

Watch the Trailer

5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Derek Blaszak

Director of Digital Marketing, Derek Blaszak, chose a different kind of love story for his favorite creative film.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind comes from the curious brain of screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, and features the imaginative direction of filmmaker, Michel Gondry.

The story follows a very mellow Jim Carrey as a man who decides he wants to erase the memory of a relationship from his mind, and plans to use a strange new technology to do so.

He finds himself trapped inside his own head, and as memories start to disappear one by one, he realizes this may have been a bad idea.

“It’s a simple independent film telling a complicated, but relatable story. And, the intimate cinematography makes the story seem even more personal. Everyone has experienced a bad breakup, or at least had an experience they’d like to forget. This movie makes you consider how negative experiences impact the good, and that the good couldn’t really exist without the bad. #Mindblown” ~Derek Blaszak

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind creatively combines multiple genres. It’s part romance, part dramedy, and part science fiction. The film won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

6. The Truman Show

Kevin Hamilton

Jim Carrey makes another appearance on our list with The Truman Show – one of the first movies that proved he could do more than walk around saying “Alrighty then!”

Element’s Director of Technology, Kevin Hamilton, picked this movie because he says it was somewhat prophetic. The story follows a man who is unknowingly the subject of a reality television program about his life. Everything around Truman is completely fake, and it all starts to unravel as he discovers the truth.

Kevin points out this movie seemed to predict America’s major obsession with reality programming. It predated Big Brother by a year and came out two years before Survivor.

“It’s significant, I think, for the iconic poster (image of Jim Carrey’s face made out of hundreds of individual images from the film), for Jim Carrey breaking out of the typecasting of his previous roles, for Ed Harris’ portrayal of Christof as a director with a god complex, and for the way the film accurately predicted the fascination people would have with reality TV.” ~Kevin Hamilton

Carrey and Harris both won Golden Globes for their performances and the film was nominated for three Academy Awards.

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7. Beetlejuice

Jamie Weidman

Traffic Manager and film buff, Jamie Weidman, chose a Tim Burton movie that brought us one of Michael Keaton’s most-unforgettable performances

Beetlejuice was Burton’s second feature film, following Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. This story turns the typical haunted house tale on its head. That’s because it’s told from the perspective of the deceased trying to get the living out of their home. And Beetlejuice, a bio-exorcist, is just the guy for the job.

Jamie says she always enjoyed this movie, but it wasn’t until she got a closer look at Burton’s attention to details that she realized just how creative it is.

“I had the pleasure of getting to see Tim Burton’s artwork at the LACMA a few years ago, and at the time I liked his movies as movies, but it didn’t go further than that. When I saw his drawings, the giant carousel costume, the claymation for the sand monster, the ‘art pieces’ and set design, not to mention the model of the town, I realized why we call filmmakers artists.

I think people love Beetlejuice because it’s a good movie, but there’s something that attracts us to that kind of detail and work. Maybe that is why everyone’s begging for reboots of ’80’s & ’90’s movies.” ~Jamie Weidman

As a matter of fact, there have been rumors of a Beetlejuice sequel for a while, and recently, original star Winona Ryder confirmed it’s in the works! Keaton calls Beetlejuice his favorite role – so expect him to be back too.

Watch the Trailer

8. Moonrise Kingdom

Kate Shropshire

You can’t have a list of creative films without including something from director Wes Anderson. Digital Marketing Specialist, Kate Shropshire, chose his 2012 coming-of-age story, Moonrise Kingdom.

The film focuses on the relationship between two pre-adolescents who both feel like outcasts. They run away together just as a massive storm is heading towards their tiny island community off the coast of New England. That sparks a search party made up of an amazing ensemble including actors like Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Francis McDormand.

Kate says she has a lot of respect for the director.

“Wes Anderson incorporates personal details from his life. The way he films with a moving camera, but the shots look like photographs from visual compression, and the signature wide angle views during his movies are unique. There are subtle metaphors throughout the film, like that the kids and the parents are shown in separate rooms, representing divided, separate universes between the two groups.” ~Kate Shropshire

If you enjoy Wes Anderson’s whimsical stories, sense of style, dry humor, and heartfelt melancholy – you’ll love Moonrise Kingdom too.

It was nominated for an Academy award as well as a Golden Globe, and the American Film Institute recognized it as one of its 10 Movies of the Year in 2012.

Watch the Trailer

9. Shrek

Nikki Peroutka

Director of Account Services, Nikki Peroutka, chose the only animated film on our list. But it’s not just any animated film.

Shrek is groundbreaking because it became the first winner of an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. And there’s much more that makes this movie creative.

Shrek is a very clever parody of many familiar fairy tales and children’s stories as well as the Disney films we’re all familiar with. However, it’s also packed with tons of inside jokes that only grownups will get, making it fun for the whole family.

“I mean really, who DOESN’T like Shrek??!” ~ Nikki Peroutka

Nobody, that’s who.

Shrek is a good example of working hard to get something right, because creativity doesn’t always come easy. It’s loosely based on a storybook, which Steven Spielberg purchased the rights to before the founding of DreamWorks.

Nicolas Cage was once considered as the voice of Shrek. Then Chris Farley was cast as the big green ogre before his untimely death. When Mike Myers accepted the role, he wanted the script completely re-written.

Then, when the film was well into production, Myers chose to re-record all of his lines so he could use a Scottish accent. Despite all the extra work, those involved with Shrek say it was worth it.

The movie has spawned several sequels, a spin-off with Puss in Boots, and there is even Shrek the Musical.

Watch the Trailer

10. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

This next pick comes from Element’s beloved mascot, Canuck the Moose. He chose the Coen Brothers classic, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

It takes a couple of creative minds like Joel and Ethan Coen to have the guts to take on Homer’s Odyssey and turn it into a story about bumbling idiots running from the law/devil during the Great Depression.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is certainly a very loose adaption of Homer, but if you look closely, there are quite a few parallels.

Canuck has his own reasons for liking the film.

“There’s so much delicious foliage in this flick! Also, Clooney is my favorite actor.” ~ Canuck the Moose

This movie features gorgeous cinematography by the talented Roger Deakins and a hilarious cast of characters – from John Goodman and Holly Hunter, to John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson, who round out the trio of fugitives.

O Brother, Where Art Thou is also well-known for its soundtrack from T. Bone Burnett. It even won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2002.

Watch the Trailer

11. Psycho

Kasey Steinbrinck

Content Marketing Specialist, Kasey Steinbrinck, picked one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most-famous films. Even if you’ve never seen the movie Psycho, you probably know about the infamous shower scene.

Hitchcock shocked movie-going audiences in 1960, but it was about more than just a grisly story of a serial killer. Psycho is believed to be one of the first films to make use of a literary device known as a “false protagonist.”

At first, you feel like the story is about Marion Crane, who steals $40,000 from her boss and plans to run away with her lover. Then, right smack-dab in the middle of the film, she gets killed, and the story goes off in a completely different direction.

“It’s such a jarring twist that even though you knew the shower scene was coming, it still leaves you wondering ‘Now what?’ I love storytelling that keeps the audience on its toes.” ~ Kasey Steinbrinck

In the novel on which Psycho is based, Marion (Mary in the book) is actually killed off very early on. So that version of the story follows a more familiar murder mystery plot. Hitchcock and screenwriter Joseph Stefano consciously changed that by following Marion closely for the first half.

They also changed the character of Norman Bates from being older, overweight and grotesque in the book, to a shy, somewhat charming yet creepy young man in the film.

Interesting fact – Hitchcock chose to film in black and white because he didn’t think the audience could handle all the blood in full color. They used chocolate syrup. Also, Psycho marked one of the first times a toilet was shown on a movie theater screen.

Now that’s shocking.

Watch the Trailer

12. The Notebook

Lori Schwartz

Grab the Kleenex! It’s time to switch gears and go from slasher to tear-jerker. Senior Graphic Designer, Lori Schwartz, picks The Notebook as one of her favorite creative movies.

Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, this film has just about everything you could ask for in a romantic tale. An old man narrates the story as he reads to a fellow nursing home patient from a notebook. She’s a woman with dementia who doesn’t realize the story is actually about the two of them.

Lori says she knows this is a sappy choice. But don’t forget, understanding how to tug on heartstrings takes plenty of creativity.

“The Notebook, gets me every time!” ~ Lori Schwartz

Consider this – Steven Spielberg was originally interested in directing this movie in the late ’90s and wanted it to star Tom Cruise. The Notebook received mixed reaction from critics, but Roger Ebert liked it enough to give it three-and-a-half stars.

While it didn’t win any of the fancier awards, actors Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams totally took home Best On-Screen Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards.

Watch the Trailer

13. Being John Malkovich

Joel Haase

Art Director Joel Haase recommends yet another strange story from Charlie Kaufman, who teamed up with innovative director, Spike Jonze, on this project.

Being John Malkovich is a tough movie to wrap your head around. But while it’s a pretty complicated concept, it all started very simply.

Kaufman wanted to write a story about a married man who fell in love with another woman. He added other elements from there, and somehow, he ended up with a screenplay about a puppeteer who discovers a portal inside the mind of the actor John Malkovich.

To say this movie is bizarre is almost an understatement. But Joel points out that there are also some deep messages in the film.

“It’s hard not to like anything that Spike Jonze touches (remember Weezer’s Buddy Holly video?).

I love this flick because of its quirkiness and the crazy turns it takes as we try to learn the meaning of life via characters venturing into actor John Malkovich’s mind through a door behind a filing cabinet in an office on the 7-1/2th floor. AND it has puppets, too. ” ~ Joel Haase

Roger Ebert called Being John Malkovich the best film of 1999 (and there were a lot of good movies that year). He said, “Rare is the movie where the last half hour surprises you just as much as the first, and in ways you’re not expecting.”

Watch the Trailer

14. Inception

Ryan Hebl

Wrapping up our list of creative movies is another mind-bender. Lead Developer, Ryan Hebl, picked Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

In the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio plays a different kind of thief – one who can steal thoughts and ideas from people’s minds by entering their dreams. Then he faces the classic “one last job” scenario in which he leads a team in an attempt to actually plant an idea into the mind of a high-profile target.

Ryan says it’s the chance to see what traveling through a world of dreams might actually be like that sets this movie apart for him.

“This was a creative movie because of the unique views of the dream world. Anything’s possible in your dream, let alone someone else’s dreams.” ~ Ryan Hebl

Inception not only has a captivating story, the visual effects are spectacular as well, and the talented cast featuring Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, and others has some great chemistry.

Inception was nominated for a total of eight Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay. It won four of them: Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

What Creative Movies Do You Love?

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to movies. So what’s yours?

Head over to Facebook and like our page if you haven’t already. Leave us a comment and tell us what other films you think should be on this list.


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