X-Men (2000)

The only superhero movie to date capable of standing with the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies, X-Men is as interested in conflicting ideas and ideologies as clashing superpowers or martial-arts moves. Based on the popular Marvel comic books, Bryan Singer's film is bold enough to invoke the Holocaust and the civil-rights movement in its tale of widespread fear and mistrust of a misunderstood minority population, the superpowered mutants.

Patrick Stewart plays Professor Xavier, leader of the X-Men, who wants to see mutants and other humans live together in harmony. Ian McKellen plays Magneto, an embittered Holocaust survivor whose determination to realize his vision for mutantkind by any means necessary ironically mirrors Nazi superior-race ideology. The real star of the large ensemble cast, however, is Hugh Jackman as the popular Wolverine.

Violence is sometimes intense but stylized and seldom deadly (except for a brief but brutal prize-fighting scene); refreshingly, the film finds it unnecessary to kill off the villains. Persecution of the early Church is highlighted in a key scene, deleted from the film but available in special-edition DVD/VHS, that slyly parallels the conversion of Constantine and legitimization of Christianity with Magneto's entertainingly hokey comic-book plot.

As a young man living under Nazi occupation in Krakow, Karol Wojtyla (now Pope John Paul II) participated in an underground cultural resistance movement called the Rhapsodic Theatre.

During this time he wrote The Jeweller's Shop, a three-act play mostly consisting of contemplative monologues reflecting the vision of love and personhood that would one day inform his treatise Love and Responsibility.

The film version broadly adapts the soliloquies into a loosely structured drama spanning two decades, two continents and two generations. A pair of young Polish couples embarking on matrimony receive guidance from a Wojtyla-like priest and a mysterious jeweler (Burt Lancaster) whose shop seems to exist on a boundary between time and eternity.

References to the parable of the wise and foolish virgins bookend the drama, highlighting the challenge of preparedness for a lifetime of love and of weathering the whims of circumstance, tragedy, temptation and uncertainty. Small touches of magical realism highlight the indissolubility of marriage, while realistic psychological challenges face a young man growing up without a father and a young woman fearful of commitment due to her parents’ troubled marriage. Ultimately, the film affirms love as the vocation of the person and the hope of the future.

A joyous experiment in pure animation, an ambitious work of imaginative power, a showcase of cutting-edge technique and a celebration of great music, Disney's masterpiece is without precedent and without rival. Originally boldly conceived as “a new form of entertainment,” the film initially met with critical and popular failure. Now a recognized classic, it remains one of a kind.

Essentially a high-minded, feature-length descendant of Disney's classic “Silly Symphony” shorts, Fantasia combines the music of Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky with animated imagery drawn from a far-ranging array of conceptual fields.

The film's many unforgettable images include the magical flowers and pixies of the Nutcracker Suite, Mickey Mouse battling the unstoppable bucket-wielding broom in Sorcerer's Apprentice, the dinosaur showdown of Rite of Spring, the majestic winged horses and flirting centaurs of the Pastoral, and the bizarre ballerina hippos and ostriches of Dance of the Hours.