Winter break is the ideal time to curl up in a blanket, grab a steaming mug of hot chocolate and start a binge-a-thon of movies and television shows featuring Illinois alumni who became award-winning directors, screenwriters and actors.
Here are a few suggestions to add to your streaming queue for your next movie night:
Anything directed by alumnus Ang Lee
The Oscar-winning director has been recognized for his critically-acclaimed work on movies like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Life of Pi,” “Sense and Sensibility," “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and most recently "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk."
David Magee, also an alumnus with a master’s in fine arts from Illinois, was a screenwriter for “Life of Pi.”
Peter Pan and Pettigrew
Speaking of Magee, he also penned the screenplays for both “Finding Neverland" and “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.”
The Netflix original series took the Internet by storm (and gave us an insatiable craving for waffles), but did you know that one of the actors is an Illinois alum? Cynthia Barrett, an Illinois alumna, plays the role of Barb's mom in the series.
Binge-watch “Parks and Recreation,” starring Illinois theatre alumnus Nick Offerman
Offerman, who plays the loveable curmudgeon Parks Department supervisor Ron Swanson on the award-winning series, is also featured in the movies “22 Jump Street,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “Welcome to Happiness.” Behind the scenes, Offerman has done voice work on “Hotel Transylvania 2,” “The Lego movie” and “Ice Age: Collison Course.” Offerman received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Illinois.
Illinois – in space
After you’ve seen the newest Star Wars installment, check out two movies taking place in other galaxies far, far way that have Illinois connections.
First up is “Interstellar,” brought to you with assistance from animations of space created by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ Advanced Visualizations Laboratory. The film’s star Matthew McConaughey narrates a short film that explains the science behind “Interstellar” that features animations created by the Lab.
The Advanced Visualizations Laboratory has also created animated visualizations for the movie “The Tree of Life.”
And speaking of space …
What does one of the most famous science fiction films in history, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” have in common with Illinois?
According to co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke, the villainous computer HAL 9000 “became operational at the H.A.L Plant in Urbana, Illinois.” Clarke chose to put him at Illinois because his old math professor, George McVittie, was a faculty member on campus. “He had been my math professor at King's College, London, and he became professor of astronomy at Urbana, and that was a tribute to him,” Clarke told the Chicago Tribune in an interview.
Alumna Shanola Hampton has appeared in several television series, such as "Shameless," "Reba," "Popular," "Scrubs," "Criminal Minds," "Related" and "Miami Medical."
Groundhog Day, again and again and again ...
According to The News-Gazette, alumnus Stephen Tobolowsky earned his master's degree from Illinois and plays Ned Ryerson, the annoying former high school classmate Bill Murray is trying to flee in "Groundhog Day." The actor also had roles in "Memento," "Thelma and Louise," "Silicon Valley" and "Californication."
Paging “Nurse Jackie”
Alumnus Dominc Fumusa, who received a master’s of fine arts from Illinois, played the character of Kevin Peyton on the comedy drama series “Nurse Jackie.” He also portrayed the character of Jared in the 2015 romantic comedy “Focus” starring Will Smith. He was also in the Michael Bay film “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi."
Find a new favorite
Morgan Peter Brown (BFA) has been featured in “Absentia,” “Ouija” and “Contracted: Phase II.” Jocelyn DeBoer (BFA) was in “Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead” and was a voice performer on “Wings: Sky Force Heroes.” Justin Gordon (MFA) was in “The Unbreakable Sword,” “Oculus,” “Absentia” and “The Hunting of Lost Characters.”
The documentary "Life Itself" focuses on the career and life of the late Roger Ebert, a Pulitzer Prize winning movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and an Illinois alumnus. His wife, Chaz, continues to host Champaign-Urbana's annual Ebertfest, which journalism graduate Roger Ebert founded in 1999.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Alumnus Alan Ruck, who received his bachelor's degree from Illinois, portrays best friend Cameron Frye in the classic John Hughes film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
Alumnus Jon Michael Hill is a Tony Award-nominated theater actor and is one of the lead recurring characters in the Sherlock-inspired TV series “Elementary.”
Sing-a-long with No Comment
One of Illinois' premiere a capella groups, No Comment, is featured in "Sing It On," a reality documentary series that follows the journey of five college a capella groups as they battle to win the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella (ICCA).
Alumnus Ryan McPartlin, who graduated with a degree in speech communication, portrayed Devon "Captain Awesome" Woodcomb in the spy comedy TV series "Chuck" and has had roles on shows like "Hart of Dixie" and "Rizzoli & Isles."
Two Broke Girls
Jonathon Kite, who received his bachelor in fine arts degree from Illinois, is one of the leads in the TV series “Two Broke Girls.”
Alumna Betsy Brandt was one of the main characters in the TV series “Breaking Bad,” in which she played Marie Schrader, the protagonist Walter White’s sister-in-law. She was also featured in “Parenthood” and “Life in Pieces.”
Alumna Melissa Carlson has a recurring role in the TV series “Chicago PD" and alumna Amanda Drinkall had a featured role on "Chicago MD."
Corey Allen (MFA) had a recurring role in the TV series “Manhattan” as the character Theodore Sinclair.
Jeffrey Lieber (BFA) has written for “NCIS New Orleans,” “Necessary Roughness,” and “Miami Medical,” and was one of the creators of the iconic TV series “Lost.”