Some time ago, we asked readers to tell us about their “movie surprises”—films they weren’t necessarily expecting much from, but were wowed enough to leave an impression.

We’ve all seen these movies. Maybe we just went along for the ride with friends, or went just to please a significant other, mildly rolling our eyes as we sat down in the theater. But two hours later, as the credit rolled, our low expectations had been turned upside down by a pretty good flick after all.

Here are some of those reader responses:

I was surprised by Millions. We went to see it at an art house in Tacoma, Washington. It is now one of my favorite movies.
—Tim Foutz

Some that surprised me include The Iron Giant, with a truly Christ-like picture in a children’s movie; Rudy, with its realistic portrayal of working-class life (something you just don’t see from Hollywood); Silent Running, a low-budget sci-fi film that made me think seriously about a world with its natural resources depleted; and The Strait Story, with its final understated scene saying more about love and reconciliation than any other film I can think of.
—Robert Dunbar

Years ago, Rocky caught me totally off guard. More recently, O Brother, Where Art Thou? did it again.
—Sam Little

Bruce Almighty and Liar, Liar both totally surprised me as I had Jim Carrey pegged as playing only certain types of roles that I did not enjoy. And Bruce Almighty was so much deeper than I expected. Click is another one; I never would’ve watched this if not recommended by two friends who said I had to see it. I was blown away by how deep and moving it was, despite the Adam Sandler crude humor.
—Michelle Habrych

My biggest movie surprise was Lars and the Real Girl. It didn’t do well at the box office, which is too bad. More people should have seen this film. I did purchase it on DVD and am sharing it with my friends and family.
—Sheila K. Fredericks

Nothing could ever equal my biggest movie surprise: Star Wars. When a male friend told me about it, I thought there was no way I’d like a tale about a sci-fi war. If it isn’t about romance, I’m not interested.When I finally broke down and saw it, it was one of those huge moments. The very first visual—the words moving away in a virtual sheet into a very realistic outer space, and then the big cruiser comes over the screen and we are looking at the underside of it and listening to sounds in Dolby stereo for the first time—light years ahead of anything that had ever been done in special effects before. John Williams’ score made even the music both familiar and thrilling.I felt like I was witnessing history.After seeing it, we didn’t want to leave the theater.We could hardly wait to see it again.It was common among my college-age friends for people to have seen it ten, twenty times. We couldn’t get enough of this exciting new experience. It was like filmmaking had jumped ahead hundreds of years.
—Debbie Wood

Several years ago, as an avid science fiction fan, I decided on a whim to check out Galaxy Quest with my boys. It has since become one of our all-time favorite films. Not only is virtually every line quotable (“Mum’s the word!”), but embedded within the “sci-fi” satire (“Do the rolls help?”) lies the timeless message of becoming more authentically oneself through community, empathy, and self-sacrifice. Long live the Thermians!
—Stacey Larin

Since I loved Strictly Ballroom, I watched Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School. It’s so much more than Rocky-does-ballroom-dancing.It’s a story about grief and growing up, letting go and fighting for what you really want.
—Kath Davis

Waitress, starring Keri Russell. It took me a while to get into it because the behavior of the husband was so upsetting, but the end just blew me away. I was a wild young woman, and having my first baby in my early 20s literally changed my life, just like Jenna’s in this movie.The song she sings, “Baby, don’t you cry, gonna make a pie” sticks in my head, and now I sing it to my little girl.
—Heather Davis

Our biggest surprises were all foreign films: Dear Frankie, Duma, Rabbit-Proof Fences, Rare Birds, Millions. Most American movies are garbage in terms of plot, morals and overall quality.
—Greg and Kelli Gilbreath

Finding Neverland. I was astonished in the wonder which this movie captured Peter Pan.
—Clyde Godwin

Most of the films that my husband has rented—”guy movies” that I sat down to watch “for just a few minutes”—have been the most surprising for me.When the characters are really developed and I care what happens to them, I am hooked.These have become some of my favorites: The Untouchables, the Die Hard films, and The Godfather trilogy.
—Sherrie Gumienny

I was totally surprised by Speed Racer. I went into the (empty) theater and was totally surprised at how entertaining the movie was.
—Jerry Bullock

Mr. Bean’s Holiday. After having seen and not really liked Bean: The Movie or Johnny English, my expectations were very low for this film.I did not expect the movie to have the charm and style of an old Charlie Chaplin silent.I did not expect it to be laugh-out-loud funny for our whole family—especially my 11-year-old daughter, who does not laugh at many movies!I did not expect to be quoting this movie—the lead character speaks very little and the rest of the cast mostly speak in French or Russian. And I certainly did not expect to want to own a copy of for my own library. We loved it!
—Tamara Goff

Recently, I finally watched It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. I’ve long known it was considered a classic, but what a delightful treat! It may now be my favorite romantic comedy. Intelligent, sweet, funny—both my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so it’s not just a “chick flick.”
—Annette Gysen

Adventures in Babysitting is one of the best surprise movies for me. Ididn’t even want to see it, assuming that it wasgoing to be justanothersilly teen comedy, but it was so much more. Through every misadventure, our heroic sitter would keep uppermost in her mind the responsibility to her charges.I still love this movie!
—Karen Willingham

These surprised me in one way or another by being better than I expected: Groundhog Day, Once, Children of Men, Changing Lanes, Lars and the Real Girl, Dan in Real Life.
—John Bibee

My biggest movie surprise this summer was the documentary Young@Heart, which follows a group of 73-93-year-oldsingers and their 53-year-old director through the rehearsal process of getting ready to do a show. This is the most incredible study of human beings at their best, drawn together by their love of singing and their relationship with their director, a gritty, tenacious man who has more patience than Job, and more chutzpah in his musical choices than I as a choir director had ever considered.I dragged my husband to this movie, and we both laughed and cried as we were immediately drawn into the lives and hearts of these precious people. This is one movie I will own.
—Peggy Forstad

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