The House of Mirth (2000)

America has always been fueled by social ambition and the desire for wealth. Early 20th-century novelist Edith Wharton focused on the difficulties of upper-class women in balancing those goals with a personal moral code. Her books detail how society often punished these women unfairly when they failed to reconcile the contradictions in their motivations.

British writer-director Terence Davies intelligently dramatizes Wharton's masterwork, The House of Mirth. Lily Bart (Gillian Anderson) is a turn-of-the-century socialite. Aging, she needs to find a husband so she can maintain her social standing, but she cannot find a suitable suitor and she is too naive and good-hearted to keep pace with the fast set whose approval she craves.

A scheming heiress (Laura Linney) falsely accuses Lily of having an affair with her husband (Terry Kinney) to cover up her own sins, and the unmarried socialite finds herself ostracized.

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974)

Great historical movements are usually remembered for their leaders and the important ideas which they embody. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, a TV movie based on Ernest Gaines' novel, puts a human face on the American civil rights struggle by dramatizing the life of an ordinary person who was there at the very beginning. Miss Jane (Cicely Tyson) is a 110-year-old former slave who opens up to a white journalist (Michael Murphy) in 1962 about her past.

We flash back to her childhood and experience the tragedies inflicted upon her as an African-American as she encounters the different forms of racism throughout her life.

Miss Jane's will is never broken, and she survives with her generosity of spirit intact.

Director John Korty creates a memorable sequence in which she is depicted as the first black person to drink out of a “whites-only” water fountain in the Deep South. She's also shown to enjoy less serious things, particularly baseball and the sport's first black player, Jackie Robinson.