1. The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, the film portrays the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who spends nearly two decades in Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover despite his claims of being innocent. During his time at the prison, he befriends a fellow inmate, Ellis "Red" Redding, and finds himself protected by the guards after the warden begins using him in his money laundering operation.
2. Scent of a Woman is a 1992 drama film directed by Martin Brest that tells the story of a preparatory school student who takes a job as an assistant to an irascible, blind, medically retired Army officer. It stars Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell, James Rebhorn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Gabrielle Anwar. It is a remake of the Italian movie Profumo di donna (1974), directed by Dino Risi. The movie was adapted by Bo Goldman from the novel Il buio e il miele (Italian: Darkness and Honey) by Giovanni Arpino and from the 1974 screenplay by Ruggero Maccari and Dino Risi. Goldman originally titled his adaptation "Stench of a Woman", which was met by resistance from the studio. It was directed by Martin Brest.
3. Into the Wild is a 2007 American biographical drama film directed by Sean Penn. It is an adaptation of 1996 non-fiction book of the same name by Jon Krakauer based on Christopher McCandless and his travels across North America. The film stars Emile Hirsch as McCandless with William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden as his parents.
4. Awakenings is a 1990 American drama film based on Oliver Sacks's 1973 memoir Awakenings. It tells the true story of British neurologist Oliver Sacks, fictionalized as American Malcolm Sayer and portrayed by Robin Williams who, in 1969, discovers beneficial effects of the then-new drug L-Dopa. He administered it to catatonic patients who survived the 1917–28 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. Leonard Lowe (played by Robert De Niro) and the rest of the patients were awakened after decades of catatonic state and have to deal with a new life in a new time. Directed by Penny Marshall, the film was produced by Walter Parkes and Lawrence Lasker, who first encountered Sacks's book as undergraduates at Yale University and optioned it a few years later. Awakenings stars Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, John Heard, Ruth Nelson, Julie Kavner, Penelope Ann Miller, and Max Von Sydow. The film features a non-speaking cameo from jazz legend Dexter Gordon (who died before the film's release) who appears as a patient and then-unknowns Bradley Whitford, Peter Stormare, Vin Diesel, and Vincent Pastore play a doctor, neurochemist, hospital orderly and a psych-ward patient, respectively.
5. Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical drama film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. The film was written for the screen and then novelized by Randall Wallace. Gibson portrays William Wallace, a 13th century Scottish knight who gained recognition when he came to the forefront of the First War of Scottish Independence by opposing King Edward I of England, also known as "Longshanks" (Patrick McGoohan).
6. Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 American drama film directed by Terry George. It was adapted from a screenplay written by both George and Keir Pearson. Based on real life events in 1994 Rwanda, the film stars Don Cheadle as hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, who attempts to save his fellow citizens from the ravages of the Rwandan Genocide. Veteran actors Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Nolte and Jean Reno also star in principal roles. The film, which has been called an African Schindler's List, documents Rusesabagina's acts to save the lives of his family and more than a thousand other refugees, by granting them shelter in the besieged Hôtel des Mille Collines. Hotel Rwanda explores genocide, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence.
7. I Am Sam is a 2001 American drama film written and directed by Jessie Nelson, and starring Sean Penn as a father with a developmental disability, Dakota Fanning as his inquisitive seven-year-old daughter, and Michelle Pfeiffer as his lawyer. Dianne Wiest, Loretta Devine, Richard Schiff and Laura Dern appear in supporting roles. Jessie Nelson and Kristine Johnson, who co-wrote the screenplay, researched the issues facing adults with developmental disabilities by visiting the non-profit organization L.A. Goal (Greater Opportunities for the Advanced Living). They subsequently cast two actors with disabilities, Brad Silverman and Joe Rosenberg, in key roles.
8. Mona Lisa Smile is a 2003 romantic drama film produced by Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures in association with Red Om Films Productions, directed by Mike Newell, written by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, and starring Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Julia Stiles. The title is a reference to the Mona Lisa, the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, and the song of the same name, originally performed by Nat King Cole, which was covered by Seal for the movie. Julia Roberts received a record $25 million payday for her role — the highest ever earned by an actress.
9. Unforgiven is a 1992 American Western film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood with a screenplay written by David Webb Peoples. The film tells the story of William Munny, an aging outlaw and killer who takes on one more job years after he had hung up his guns and turned to farming. A dark Western that deals frankly with the uglier aspects of violence and the myth of the Old West, it stars Eastwood in the lead role, with Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris.
10. Dead Poets Society is a 1989 drama film starring Robin Williams and directed by Peter Weir. Set at a conservative and aristocratic boys prep school, it tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students to change their lives of conformity through his teaching of poetry and literature. The story is set at the fictional Welton Academy in Vermont in the 1950s, and was filmed at St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware. The script, written by Tom Schulman, is based on his life at Montgomery Bell Academy, an all-boys preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee.
Special mention : Cinderella Man; Gladiator; Good Will Hunting; Philadelphia; Rainman; Saving Private Ryan; Schindler's List; The Kite Runner; The Pursuit of Happyness; The Motorcycle Diaries; Troy; United 93.