10. My Fair Lady
‘She’s so deliciously low. So horribly dirty.’ – Fun is what this movie is full of. This is the greatest musical of all time. It has catchy tunes, well timed musical sequences, and the smartest lyrics I’ve ever heard. Henry Higgins is everyone’s favorite misogynist. Yes, he can be cruel and belittling, but underneath all of that is a heart of…well…some gold alloy that is around 4 carats. What makes this a top 10 movie of all time is the timelessness of it. It is smart, funny, and holds together as a full length film more than all other comedies. And that is still true today. One word: CLEVER.
9. Forrest Gump
‘I’m not a smart man… but I know what love is.’ – Love is the driving force behind this entire film. Forrest experiencing all significant events during the 50’s-80’s. However the magnitude of his experiences fall deaf to him because all he cared about is his Jenny (and also maybe due to the fact he was retarded). The journey Forrest takes us on is magical, inspiring, and ultimately heart-breaking. I know liking this movie has become frowned upon; cool Bohemian types may see it as overdone and too fantastic, but I say ‘Pshaw! Shut up and keep drinking your mocha latte”. Forrest Gump runs the gamut of all emotions; from love to hate to rejection and everything in between. How many movies do that? OK, obviously more than one, but how many movies do it better? Shut up and finish your mocha latte! One word: HEART-WRENCHING.
‘The secret, I don’t know… I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then… do it for the rest of your life. For me, it’s going to Rushmore.’ – Quirky is Wes Anderson’s forte, in fact I dare say no one does it better. I regret only having one movie on my list, but Rushmore is his magnum opus and will not be ignored. Max Fischer is one of the most interesting and memorable characters I’ve ever seen. If I could harness a fraction of his ambition, well, I’d probably write a better list. Rushmore, like all of Anderson’s movies, put us in this slightly skewed but oddly familiar world where everyone acts just a tad off cue. All the situations and montages in this film fit the storyline and feel perfectly. And of course all the performances are wonderful. There is a real warming element to this film; not heavy-handed at all, but just a slight stroke on your heartstrings that resonates more than any over-the-top love story out there (on notice Notebook lovers). One word: SATISFYING.
7. No Country For Old Men
‘And in the dream I knew that he was goin’ on ahead and he was fixin’ to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold, and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. And then I woke up…’ – Drama comes in many forms; romantic conflict, criminal conduct, international espionage, pretty much anything on TNT . However, the one thing all drama stories have in common is the tension. NCFOM has as much tension and discomfort as any other film I’ve seen. This is drama about good versus evil and all shades in between. What makes Anton Chigurh so evil, beyond the senseless killing, is the uncertainty and unpredictability that goes with his decision making. By flipping a coin, he tries to remove himself from the reasonability and also adds a level of randomness to his actions. What a douche, huh? The final scene where we see this pure evil man trolling around everyday American shows us that evil is everywhere but we never know where and we will never catch it (hence Jones’s dream at the end). There is so much more to this film that I missed that I may need to see it again and think about more. Be right back…… One word: INTENSE.
6. The Godfather Part II
‘It ain’t the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!’ – Some movies are essential: I feel one needs to see before one can call themselves a true educated movie watcher (facts, not blatant arrogance). This is not to say all of these movies are great or fun, but they teach us where other movies come from, the techniques that have been used over the years, and most importantly how to watch a movie. For example, I watch movies with a keener eye than I did 5 years ago, and I hope to improve. The Godfather Part II is an example of a film that taught me how to watch a movie with a more astute sense. The reason why I like GF II over the first installment is more purposeful. The story is bigger, the goals are higher, the connections are more inferential. I think the Godfather has a tighter story, but the sequel shows us the comparisons between homeland ideals and American ideals, the generation gap, the evolution of the family ‘business’ (or any business for that matter), and how these factors parallel to the overall growth of America. There is so much this movie says about not just criminal enterprises, but our society as well. One word: AMBITIOUS
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey
‘I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a… fraid.’ – Sci-fi, in the truest sense, should not just be a peek into the future or simply have aliens taking over the world. There should be a sense of commentary to them; have a bigger message that can thought about in a greater context. Does the evolution of man count? 2001 is about a thought-provoking of a film I have ever seen. Yes, there is a story in there about a computer who turns on his creator (I mean BSG did a better job of telling that story), but the deep symbolism is so complex and arcane, it takes many viewings to simply scrape the surface of this Kubrick masterpiece. Some say the movie is slow, I always say it is deliberate. Without that methodical pacing, the ambiance would be lost. This movie is about life, human life, and where we are headed. I am still not 100% sure what the 3rd act exactly meant, but I have developed theories in my mind about that for years (sad, I know, but willing to discuss sometime, any takers…), in other words this movie sticks to me like something that is really sticky. That, to me, is the meaning of a great movie. One word: PROFOUND.
‘I heard the music of true forgiveness filling the theater, conferring on all who sat there, perfect absolution. God was singing through this little man to all the world, unstoppable, making my defeat more bitter with every passing bar.’ – Period pieces usually are epic, sweeping, Oscar nominees, and long. I love this genre, however many of them just tell a story and don’t get much deeper. Amadeus is not one of those period pieces (although it is epic, sweeping, Oscar winning and long). The story is less of a biographical recounting of Mozart and more of tale of envy, resentment, and failure. Don’t you hate that feeling that there is always someone better out there than you (I know Josh feels that every time he reads my list)? Know that feeling? Well, Salieri lived his entire life with those thoughts. Yes, the music is excellent, the look is beautiful, and the story is a great dramatic interpretation of Mozart’s life, but it’s the complicated emotions that Salieri suffers through that gives this movie an extra dimension over other period pieces. And if you never have felt that feeling of inferiority, well, I hate you. I hope that sentiment is enough to make you feel inferior. One word: RELATABLE.
‘It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.’ – Macho is exactly the adjective I would describe Clint Eastwood. I know there have been bigger and buffer stars. I know there have been action heroes that jump out of planes and helicopters. But none are as tough minded as Clint Eastwood; the OAH (original anti-hero). I’m a big fan of westerns (as you probably noticed from my list), but the reason why this one tops my western list is the introspection the characters have on the killing and confrontations they encounter. Usually in most shoot’em-up films no one really cares or realizes what is actually going on; they are taking someone’s life! Sure, they are mainly ancillary characters, but don’t they deserve better? (I bet you get that reference Mallett). Unforgiven has a psychological element that is rare in these types of movies. Of course this film also reaches an unparalleled level of bad-assery at the end. One word: GRITTY
2. American Beauty
‘I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time… For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars… And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined our street… Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird… And Janie… And Janie… And… Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.’ – I find this movie inspirational. Inspirational? How is a movie where the protagonist gets shot in the back of the head considered inspirational? Well, re-read that quote. That is what this movie is all about to me. I have a soft spot for movies about suburbia; the stale, synthetic, insulated world where myself and probably everyone who reads this is from. What I love about this movie is that it doesn’t really judge the suburban world, doesn’t say it is terrible and dehumanize our existence. What it does say is that even within this man-made world where everything in contrived and forced, there is a force that still exists; that no one can drown out. Whether this force is Mother Nature or God or Zeus, there is a real beauty that is present. That makes me think life is worth living and I find that as inspiring as any thought one can have, don’t you? One word: AWAKENING.
1. Lord of the Rings
‘Farewell, my brave Hobbits. My work is now finished. Here at last, on the shores of the sea… comes the end of our Fellowship. I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.’ – Fantasy has a strange way of creating characters that are more real than most stories based around real life. Let me modify that statement; GOOD fantasy. LOTR is the ultimate Fantasy movie, book, story, video game, and whatever else there is out there. In other words, Tolkien invented the modern fantasy genre. I am a pure Tolkienite; and as every fellow Tolkienite, we do not see LOTR as three separate stories, but as one. And no level of peer pressure will make me hedge on that. Yet for as much as I love the books, the movies are better. Yes Virginia, there is a….movie that are better than a famous and revered book. I can list the details on how this is the greatest cinematic undertaking ever; over 400+ of continual shooting, hundreds of millions of dollars (US dollars!) invested, CGI incorporated in a novel way that has influenced all of special effects since. And the payoff? The greatest cinematic masterpiece I have ever seen. Another amazing thing about LOTR is that all three films (again I know they are one film, but whatever) were nominated for Best Picture. All three? In a time where only 5 movies were nominated? And a fantasy movie? We all know the academy doesn’t care for that fancy magic stuff. I bet I will never see another fantasy movie ever be nominated for Best Picture, let alone win one. Another amazing fact is that this movie satisfied the three most separate movie goers: an inherited fan base of nerds, critics, and the hoi polloi. It is rare at best that these three audiences are in congruence about a movie. I can’t say enough things about this work, the music is amazing, the look is gorgeous, the acting is amazing (how hard is it to say goofy things like ‘I think Treebeard is right’ and make it believable), the pacing is perfect (for me), and the additions/differences from the book actually enhance the story, not distract from it. I can itemize all the differences for you, if you like……I thought not.
I love this movie. Period. It makes my life better. I think that is the highest compliment I can give to a movie, or anything else in this world. One word: One word is not good enough. But these words are: Frodo: “I can’t do this Sam.” Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here, but we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered, full of darkness and danger they were. Sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when there’s so much bad that had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stay with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances for turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.” Frodo: “What are we holding on to Sam?” Sam: “That there’s some good left in this world Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.”