With the most recent pandemic of COVID-19, and all Illinois schools being closed until at least April 7, Illinois citizens are now required to practice social distancing and quarantine protocol along with the rest of the U.S.. While quarantining oneself is the best way to avoid getting the virus, isolation for long periods of time can be incredibly boring. However, there is nothing better to beat boredom than watching a good movie or TV show. If quarantining has been feeling a little dull, then here are three TV shows and movies that I think will make the experience a little more enjoyable!

Movies

#3. “The Godfather” (1972) (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)  (Available for Rent on Several Services)

Starring Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, Diane Keaton, and Robert Duvall, “The Godfather” tells the epic story about the Corleone crime family and how they deal with themselves, each other, and their enemies. The film spans almost three hours in length, meaning that it is quite the commitment to get through. However, with all this time in quarantine to sit around and do nothing, what else is there to do with three hours? I personally believe “The Godfather” is a cinematic marvel, providing an exciting plot, rich characters, and exciting action. To add a little cherry on top, the film is loaded with subtext and visual symbolism, meaning there are hours of discussion to be had after the film is over. Also, Marlon Brando’s performance as the “Don” Vito Corleone is just a sight to behold, providing a character that is vulnerable, intimidating, and charming all at the same time..

#2. “Magnolia” (1999) (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) (Streaming on Netflix)

Starring Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Phillip Baker Hall, John C. Reily and Jason Robards, “Magnolia” tells the tale of how several small stories set in modern day Los Angeles come together in a series of strange coincidences. This is another commitment of a film, clocking in even longer than “The Godfather” at three hours and nine minutes long. While in quarantine, it can get quite lonely, especially if it’s all alone. “Magnolia” is perfect for cases like this, providing an experience that is entirely character driven, making you feel connected to each one as if they are your own friend or family member. With its long runtime, quirky characters, and a quick pace that never lets up, this film will be perfect for these times of isolation.

#1. “Contagion” (2011) (Dir. Steven Soderbergh) (Streaming on Hulu)

Starring Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow, “Contagion” tells the disturbing (but unfortunately realistic) tale of a disease’s outbreak and how it affects the world. On initial release, this movie was criminally overlooked possibly due to how the story felt overdone and unrealistic. However, with the most recent outbreak of COVID-19, “Contagion” feels more important and real than ever. While it is not as great in terms of quality as the past couple of entries on this list, it most certainly is interesting to watch to see how similar it is to our current reality. Characters in the film raid grocery stores, the Center for Disease Control is in full panic mode, and families are being kept in quarantine. Doesn’t that sound familiar? For those paranoid about this current outbreak, I would maybe pass on this one. However, for those who want a smart, well acted, and informative film about disease outbreaks, “Contagion” will not disappoint.

TV Shows

#3. “The Wire” (2002-2008) (HBO) (Streaming Free with Amazon Prime)

Starring Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Wendell Pierce, and Idris Elba, “The Wire” tells the gloomy story of the drug dealing underworld in Baltimore, and how the city’s police force plans to end it. Each season of this magnificent show tells the story of these drug dealers from a completely new perspective. This structure gives the show a lot of variety in what it is offering in terms of dramatic storytelling, giving the viewer a lot to take in while trapped inside for possible weeks. The show does have its fair share of ups and downs, as sometimes the plot can get very convoluted. However, seasons two and four, about dock workers and school children respectively, are as perfect television is ever going to get. 

#2. “The Sopranos” (1999-2007) (HBO) (Streaming Free with Amazon Prime)

Starring James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, and Dominic Chianese, “The Sopranos” tells the hilarious story about a modern day crime family set in New Jersey. Another slow paced and long show from HBO, this should keep you entertained for weeks on end. Not only is “The Sopranos” one of the most intelligent and well acted shows of all time, it might be even funnier than most comedy shows on today. Seriously. Seeing mob boss Tony Soprano (played brilliantly by James Gandolfini) go through his monotonous daily life and seeing him interact with his fellow mobsters is surprisingly hilarious to watch. Additionally, this show has one of those finales that will leave you speechless. Give this one a shot! Mamma Mia!

#1. “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013) (Streaming on Netflix)

Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Anna Gunn, Giancarlo Esposito, and Bob Odenkirk, “Breaking Bad” tells the insanely original story of a chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin after a recent cancer diagnosis. Viewers might get a little fatigued after watching those last two picks, considering that they are super slow and can feel like they take years to finish. For those who want a show that doesn’t waste time with filler, while also keeping what makes intense television great, “Breaking Bad” is that show! This show feels like it moves so fast over five seasons, that it will make quarantine feel like the most exciting thing in the world. Intense drama, memorable characters, and a heart stopping finale makes this a show that will never cease to be unforgettable in a million years. Here is my review of “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” if any diehard fans are interested. 

I really hope that these two lists serve useful for however long we are stuck in our homes. Movies and TV can transport us to worlds we didn’t even know were reachable, and make us forget of all the negativity that surrounds us. Now more than ever, we need TV and film to keep us sane and to keep us driving forward in this dire time. Stay safe and stay entertained, everyone!

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