Figuring out my personal top ten movies of all time has always been something of great interest to me. I think you can tell a lot by a person by their favorite movies. Cinema has always been my favorite art form and I always do my best to expand the catalogue of movies I’ve seen. Because of this, my top ten list is always changing. Some movies come in for a little while, and then leave, only to find their way back onto it later. Only one movie has been on my list since the beginning and never been taken off. With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to list my top ten movies once a year, and see how they change over time. If I stick to this I’ll come back in early February of 2018 with a list that may be similar or quite different. Who knows really? So without further ado here we go.
10. Gone With the Wind
I actually got introduced to this film about a year and a half ago. In my opinion it is the best of the classic epics. Maybe I love it because I am from the South, and no film captures the feeling of this land quite like this movie. I love the arc of Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara from spoiled and horrible to resilient and hardworking, but then back to horrible again. Clark Gable gives an awesome performance as Rhett Butler who is equal parts romantic and mysterious. Yes, it is overly long, but that’s part of its’ charm. It’s from a different time where going to a movie was an event. If you got a night to kill check it out. It’s an important historical movie.
9. No Country for Old Men
One of the few instances where the movie is better than the book. This is the first of my Cohen picks. This movie is a deeply dark and stirring character piece while also being a thriller in western trappings. All three of the leads make this film entertaining, even when you’re dealing with such serious themes. Josh Brolin is solid as a man who stumbles upon a suitcase of money at the remains of cartel shoot out. He wants to use the money to make a better life for himself, and he almost gets away with the money clean except he returns to the shootout scene to do a good deed. Tommy Lee Jones is great as an aging sheriff trying to hunt down Jones and Bardem, and Javier Bardem is captivating as a hitman hired by the cartel to hunt down Broil’s character. It’s not a joyous movie by any means, but it keeps you locked in while also delving into topics of age, morality, and the nature of evil.
This movie ripped my heart out all three times I saw it in theaters. It’s my personal favorite Pixar film, and it came at a time when the studio was batting a thousand. It’s about Carl and old man who’s wife passes away. His zest for life seems to pass away with her, and in a last ditch attempt to follow through on a promise to his beloved he ties a bunch of balloons to his house and attempts to fly their home to a waterfall they always said they would visit. Many people have talked about the opening 9 minutes of the movie, and while they are beautiful and tearjerking, I argue that the real guy punch comes near the end of the movie during Carl’s emotional catharsis when he goes through his wife’s scrapbook. It’s a movie that has a lot to say about the adventure of life, dealing with the passing of loved ones, and how we treat the elderly. It’s also one of the funniest Pixar films, and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Dug the talking golden retriever.
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
My all time favorite Cohen Brothers’ film. There is something so sleepy and comforting about this movie, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when its’ central character is constantly in a state of displacement and discomfort. The movie is about the unwillingness to compromise artistic vision in the face of obstacles. Throughout the movie the main character Llewyn is given opportunities to succeed, but he is unable to sell out his music and his artistic expression. This would almost come across as noble if it wasn’t for the fact that Llewyn is an absolute jerk. He is a deadbeat, a womanizer, and pathetically petty and jealous. Yet, he is so fascinating to watch. This is due to Oscar Issac’s underrated performance. Issac really was robbed of an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of one of the most likable-unlikable main characters in cinema history. Ultimately Llewyn doesn’t achieve his goals, and is left where he was when the film began. Also the music in this film is outstanding. It’s my favorite soundtrack to a film, and my vinyl of it is well used. Issac has an amazing folk voice, and the instrumentation is great. Also look out for Justin Timberlake’s best cinematic performance.
6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
One of the only films to win the “Big 5″ at the Academy Awards, One Flew is one of the most iconic films ever made. Jack Nicholson is at his best as McMurphy, a convict who gets out of jail by claiming insanity. He is transferred to a mental institute, but when he finds out he can’t leave he starts hatching plans to get out. Every performance is outstanding in the movie. Look out for Danny Devito and Christopher Lloyd who play smaller but memorable rolls. The real show stealer is Louise Fletcher who plays the head nurse of the facility Ratched, who is undoubtedly one of the most evil characters ever put on screen. She reduces the power of our main characters and there is nothing they can do about it. This causes so much skin crawling fury in the viewer. It’s no wonder Fletcher won Best Actress. It’s a classic for a reason.
5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I remember my friend in high school forcing me to watch this while we were making costumes. I thought it was going to be really stupid, but by the end of the movie I was enthralled. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play against type as two lovers who choose to erase each other from their minds after a falling out. We follow the action from Carrey’s character Joel’s mind on the night his memories are being erased. Besides the endlessly interesting set up, this movie just does so much right to pull the viewer in. It’s visual style is so dreamlike and perfectly captures that dim faded photograph way we view our own memories. No movie has hit on the pain and frustration of love like this movie has. One of the best scripts ever written, and a modern classic.
Maybe my second most sentimental movie on this list, Boyhood is just an incredible film unlike any other. Shot over the course of twelve years with the same actors, Richard Linklater set out to capture time itself, and in the process made a film that shows that it’s time that often catches us. There are so many scenes in this movie that I can relate to as a boy who grew up in roughly the same time span. Some argue the movie is boring, but I think it takes real life problems and gives us a snapshot of them. Mason experiences the pain of parents who haven’t achieved what they had hoped for, and what he hoped for them. The uncomfortableness of distant relatives and their affections for him. The escape of finding an art form he is good at. All these are things the viewer can relate to, but more than all of that I just love every character. The titular boy Mason isn’t always a strong character, but he is real. We all know someone like him. His mother is played by Patricia Arquette who won an Oscar for her performance, and she almost steals the show with an arc that takes the whole film to complete, and yet leaves the viewer thoroughly sad and sharing in her disappointment. Ethan Hawke is excellent as Mason’s father who complete his own redemption arc, and gives Mason sound advice as his life moves forward. There is so much I can talk about with this film, and even though there is some recency bias with is, I can’t deny that this is one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. The fact that it lost to something as flashy and preachy as Birdman at the Academy Awards will always upset me.
3. The Breakfast Club
Sure the stereotypes might not really apply anymore, but the themes of identity, hidden pains, and family hold true to this day. John Hughes was a brilliant filmmaker and almost set the tone for coming of age films from the 80′s onward, but this was his magnum opus. I love that each of the five main characters (The brain, the Princess, the basket case, the athlete and the criminal) are all so well rounded and fleshed out. Every time you start to think one person is getting shafted on the character development, they drop a bomb on you that helps you understand them more than you did before. I love that all the action basically takes place in one room. This type of movie relies heavily on the actors and all five knock it out of the park, specifically Judd Nelson as John Bender, who is one of my favorite movie characters of all time. It’s the perfect coming of age movie, and so much more.
2. Kill Bill
I count vol. 1 & 2 as one giant movie, because that’s how Tarantino wrote and directed it. This is the movie that cultivated my love for Tarantino, who is still my favorite filmmaker to this day. The movie is a good old revenge film, and honestly that’s all it needs to be. Uma Thurman stars as The Bride who’s groom and unborn baby are murdered moments before her wedding. She awakens in a hospital years later, and sets out on a war path with the league of assassins that caused her this pain, and at the top of her list is the league’s leader the titular Bill. This film is just awesome. There is so much good action, and it remains to this day my favorite action film. There is a scene where The Bride takes on a whole army of ninjas called the Crazy 88′s. It’s a masterfully choreographed scene, and ranks near the top of my all time favorite scenes. I’ve heard people complain that all the action is in the first movie, and all the dialogue and back story are in the second, and I can see why that would annoy some people. Tarantino is supposedly making a cut of the film where both volumes are finally edited together into one giant film. I hope he gets around to it, and it isn’t lost to time. I’ve read that one of Tarantino’s influences was the Japanese film “Lady Snowblood” and I’m interested in seeing that film too. Kill Bill is stylish, fun, action packed, and distinctively Tarantino.
1. Back to the Future
This is the one that started it all for me. I vividly remember me and my dad watching this trilogy together over and over again when I was a kid. In those formative years this was the film that instilled a love of cinema inside of my heart. As a kid I thought it was awesome cause there was a hover board, flying car and I liked the idea of being able to travel back in time. All those elements are actually in the second film, but as an adult the first film has become my favorite. It has one of the tightest scripts ever written, and it only gets more impressive with every subsequent film. I love all the subtle changes to the present that Marty causes in the past. I remember thinking that Michael J. Fox was so cool as Marty Mcfly. This movie was foundational for me, and it may always be number one. It’s endlessly rewatchable and my current favorite movie of all time.
So what have I learned from all this? It seems that I have a fascination with time. I appear to like movies that deal with the passage of time and it’s affect on people as it marches ever onwards. I like movies that deal with traveling through time (perhaps why I’m a Doctor Who fan). Also with the inclusion of Up, Eternal Sunshine, and Boyhood I seem to have a love for memory. I’m interested in seeing what happens over the next year. Will my tastes change any? Who knows? Thats the fun!