In recent years, the lawn boy has replaced the cowboy as the hero of American cinema. He's a loner; a noble champion for the little guy against the powerful forces of the rich. What follows are lawnmower movies designed to cut the villains down to size.

Summer Catch (2001)--Other than batting his lashes and mowing the lawns of the exceptionally wealthy, Ryan Dunne (Freddie Prinze Jr.) has one talent: A powerful--if not erratic--pitching arm. As the first local boy invited to pitch for the fabled summer baseball league in Cape Cod, Ryan mingles uncomfortably with the Ivy League college ball players. To make matters worse, he can't keep his mind off the tartish, well-bred Tenley (Jessica Biel), whose lawn he mows (literally, not figuratively). To complicate matters, Tenley's daddy tells Ryan in no uncertain terms that the lawn is the only thing he'll be trimming. It is embarrassing--but impossible--not to adore this infectious romance.

Lawn Dogs (1997)--Why can't suburbanites understand that all the lawn boy wants to do is cut the grass? The boorish residents of a gated community pin their wild sexual fantasizes on the lean and charismatic landscaper, Trent (Sam Rockwell, Charlie's Angels). In the midst of this simmering, well-manicured cauldron of libido, a daydreaming 10-year-old girl (Mischa Barton, The Sixth Sense) wanders off to Trent's trailer, where she strikes up a dynamic (and platonic) friendship with Trent. Problem is, the townfolk can't understand their friendship, and chase Trent out of town like Frankenstein-on-a-riding-mower.

The Straight Story (1999)--Watching an old-fogy slowly motor at 6 miles an hour on a John Deere across the Midwest may sound as exciting as... well, watching the grass grow. But this story of a gruff farmer from Iowa, trying to visit his dying brother in Wisconsin, is truly mesmerizing. Like a slow motion Wild at Heart, the usually glum David Lynch directs a surprisingly sweet-hearted tale about freedom, the open road, and the responsibilities of family. PHIL BUSSE