The Man Who Would Be King 1975 Adapted from the Rudyard Kipling novella. Directed by John Huston. A thoroughly entertaining yarn with Caine and Sean Connery in top form. 1885 India. The wildly adventurous saga of ex-British army sergeants Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) and his buddy Danny Dravot (Sean Connery) is told (in flashback) to Kipling (Christopher Plummer) by Peachy, a seemingly crazed beggar.
With fewer opportunities of larceny in regulated India and nothing waiting at home, Peachy and Danny set off to remote Kafiristan, virtually unknown since Alexander the Great. Their plan is to transport rifles, help the country’s leader take over neighboring lands, then rob the spoils. Encountering the survivor of a previous expedition, they conscript him as translator offering their services to a warring village…and teach the natives about modern weapons.
During a skirmish, an arrow pierces Danny’s jacket without wounding him. He’s to be tested for a miracle, but the high priest finds he wears a Masonic medallion with the sacred symbol left by Alexander the great. The veteran is made king and god. There’s unimaginable gold in the treasury. Peachy wants to steal as much as possible and run, but Danny’s reveling in his status. When it’s discovered the deity can bleed, however…Terrific, unexpected ending.
A favorite of Huston as a child he tried to get the Kipling film made since the 1950s. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels 1988 Directed by Frank Oz. Delightful. Sophisticated con artist Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) lives in Beaumont-sur-Mer on the French Rivera. His luxurious lifestyle is maintained by romancing and fleecing wealthy women, aided and abetted by amoral police inspector Andre (Anton Rodgers). Suddenly, a territorial challenger appears in the form of unpolished hustler Freddy Benson (Steve Martin).
Not only is Lawrence unsuccessful in ridding himself of the persistently annoying American, but he’s blackmailed into smoothing Freddy’s very rough edges and teaching him how to get on. They briefly work together. It doesn’t work out. The two agree on a bet: the first to con $50,000 out of a selected mark wins, and the other must leave town. They select Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly), a naïve American contest winner newly arrived in town.
Each deceptive set-up is undermined by the other with trickery extending to the very last minute. Also featuring Barbara Harris, Dana Ivey, Ian McDiarmid. A remake of the 1964 Marlon Brando/David Niven film Bedtime Story, this version was originally intended for David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Cider House Rules 1999 Based on the John Irving novel. Directed by Lasse Halstrom. Avuncular Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) runs the Spartan Maine orphanage in which Homer Wells (Toby Maguire) grows up. Despite lack of amenities, the place feels like a cozy family. Each night before they go to sleep, Dr. Larch says to the boys, “Goodnight you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England,” as both encouragement and a kind of blessing. Larch performs abortions. (He also has an ether habit.)
As Homer’s mentor and surrogate father, he sees the boy’s intelligence and compassion, deciding to apprentice the boy in obstetrics. Homer will help deliver babies, but disapproves of abortion. The young man leaves his home with Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd) and his girlfriend Candy (Charleze Theron) who had an abortion. He goes to work on the Worthington family apple orchard. When Wally leaves to fight in WWII (Homer is 4F), Homer and Candy fall in love.
He gets involved with regulations imposed upon migrant workers and notices that one of them – Rose (Erykah Badu), has morning sickness. The girl had been impregnated by her father (Delroy Lindo). Homer rethinks his principles and…eventually goes where he belongs. Also with Jane Alexander, Kathy Baker, Kate Nelligan, J.K. Simmons, Kieran Culkan. Caine won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. A solid, old fashioned film. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Quiet American 2002 An adaptation of the Graham Green novel. Directed by Philip Noyce. 1952 Saigon, Vietnam. Thomas Fowler, a British journalist in his fifties (Michael Caine), writes objectively about the first Indo-China war, never getting involved. Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) is a CIA operative who represents America and its policies in Vietnam. His directive is to steer the conflict according to U.S. interests. These men and their opposing morality might never have met but for Pyle’s taking Fowler’s Vietnamese mistress Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen).
When the American facilitates terrorist bombings, Fowler makes a kind of stand. Does he do it to get Phoung back, take revenge, or as a gesture of solidarity? An earlier 1958 version, written/directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, starred Audie Murphy, Michael Redgrave, and Giorgia Moll. This iteration was screened then shelved for a year after 9/11 as unpatriotic. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Secondhand Lions 2003 Directed by Tim McCanlies. A sweet-ish dramady. 14-year-old Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is dumped for the summer with his eccentric bachelor uncles, Hub and Garth McCann (Robert Duval and Michael Caine). The boy is unwanted until it’s noticed that his presence irritates mercenary relatives. With the best of intentions, Walter tries to get his relatives to spend some of their money. Results are calamitous.
A second plot revolves around discovery of the photo of a beautiful woman in the attic evoking adventurous flashbacks that feature an African Sheik – which is to say the uncles’ tall tales have some basis in reality. The lion in their cornfields is quite real. Walter discovers where the McCann’s have hidden their cash. When his disreputable mother returns with her boyfriend, their story about where the uncles got the money is very different than the one he’s heard from the horses’ mouths. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Last Love 2013 Directed by Sandra Nettlebeck. Apparently every older male actor eventually makes one of these, which is not to say they aren’t often worthy. The sentimental story of Paris-based, widowed professor Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine) who falls to pieces after the loss of wife Joan (Jane Alexander). Matthew seems to have no friends or occupying interests. He’s never learned French. Two selfish children live in the states and are barely in touch.
One day on a bus Matthew meets young, charming Pauline (Clémence Poésy, she is charming) who sees him home without agenda. Matthew reminds the girl of her father, she reminds him of a young Joan. When they accidentally meet a second time, Pauline invites him to a ballroom dance class she teaches. He takes Colette (Anne Alvaro), a woman he’s been teaching English at once-a-week lunches, but for whom he has no feelings. They cha-cha.
Matthew and Pauline spend time. The relationship is nicely written if somewhat inexplicable. She unwittingly becomes his reason for going on. When Pauline temporarily disappears with a boyfriend, he sinks lower and attempts suicide. Not only does Pauline show up, but daughter Karen (Gillian Anderson) and son Miles (Justin Kirk) arrive from the states. Both are historically angry and currently insulting to Pauline of whom they suspect the worst. Things work out, but neither neatly nor without pain. Rent on Amazon Prime.
King of Thieves 2019 Based on the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Burglary of 2015 – the largest burglary in British history. Directed by James Marsh. Terrific cast of solid actors in an over-complicated, deeply accented, no-honor-among-thieves film. Old codgers make a last effort at the robbery of the century and despite constant arguing and mishaps succeed. In addition to Michael Caine, there’s Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Paul Whitehouse, Ray Winstone, Michael Gambon and a cameo by Francesca Annis. Free with Amazon Prime.
Top Bigstock photo: Sir Michael Caine attends the ‘Youth’ Premiere during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2015 in Cannes, France.