Monday, September 1, 2008

Matt's top 100 movies of all time (with honorable mentions and lots of exceptions)

Ok, let's be honest, I pounded out this list a long time ago in a short period of time and there is no way it reflects any type of actual list. I am proud to have attempted it, but looking at it now makes me cringe in some spots and I want to delete it, but alas, I am a bit too proud to have completed it at all, so I leave this note to let you all know that, well, much has changed and don't hold any of it against me, but at least this gives you a general idea of what I consider to be good viewing.
My Top 100 Movies of All-Time (w/ Honorable Mentions!)

*** It has been 6 months since I made the original list, and I am not happy with my choice for #2. While a great movie, it just doesn't fit with my actual likes. In my next edit of this list I plan to move #2 somewhere in the 10-15 range, and will just admit I made an error in judgement.

I have, of course, failed to see every movie ever made. If I have not seen a movie in entirety I have not included it on this list (so Citizen Kane (1941), (1941), Rear Window (1954), North by Northwest (1959), Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966) (aka The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)and others are not being considered here.) I welcome comments if you can suggest a movie you think belongs here, and will be happy to discuss whether I simply chose not to include it or did not see it.

I tried very hard to give an accurate ranking (according to my likes, and my belief that the film warrants it – not always the same), but many of them can and will fluctuate over time. I struggled a lot with the top 10, and especially with recent movies, such as No Country for Old Men (2007) and There Will Be Blood (2007), as they have only recently been viewed, and I cannot accurately say where they will fall in the years to come.

1. The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974)

No movie has the staying power for me quite like The Godfather(s). This is the ultimate representation of what a wonderful cast and crew can do to bring out the deepest of emotion in the viewer, never wavering in theme, continuity, or content. We are allowed to take a special point of view at a world that almost no one ever truly experiences, and we come away with an understanding we can only hope is not truth. Perfect performances by Brando, Pacino, Caan, and Duvall (among many many others) and a score that can only be considered among the best of all time, compliment each other in a way that will leave you feeling completely satisfied as the Corleone family maneuvers its way throughout the mafia underworld.

2. Vita è bella, La (aka Life Is Beautiful) (1997)

Roberto Benigni gives a masterful performance as a father (Guido Orefice) who goes to the ultimate extremes to shield his son from the ultimate terror during the time of concentration camps. We never lose sight of the terrible situation the people in this movie find themselves, but we are constantly removed, slightly, through the use of humor, and we are ultimately left with a sense of helplessness as Orefice is murdered, and neither joke nor funny face could have saved him. The fact that his son survives only leaves us with that much more sorrow, if not small hope.

3. Braveheart (1995)

It is not easy to pull off an epic masterpiece set in medieval times (for the shear scope of casting, location, and costumes lead many a movie to disaster) but here we find that Gibson (as William Wallace) prevails with a truly remarkable film which depicts the unflinching desire for man to be free (incredibly mixed with raw emotions of revenge, desire, and love). That this is loosely based on factual events makes it all the more poignant when we think strongly and intellectually about what freedom means to us in this day and age, and what lengths we are willing to go to truly consider ourselves human.

4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

It is a fear of many a person to be wrongly convicted of a crime, to find oneself in prison for life for something of which you are not guilty. For the character played by Tim Robbins in his breakout role (Andy Dufresne), it is much worse. The Shawshank prison grounds play host to the majority of the scenes in this film, and within the confines of the guarded gates and walls, thieves and crooks and, sometimes, innocents co-mingle in harmony and, quite often, disharmony, en route to violence and struggles just to live day-to-day. Time is all these people have, and for one of the incarcerated time is all he needs. With amazing performances by Morgan Freeman as ‘Red’ and Bob Gunton as Warden Norton, Tim Robbins leads us on a stimulating, soul-searching journey through the body of Andy Dufresne, and ultimately, he comes out on the other side.

5. The Usual Suspects (1995)

I am not often taken by movies that require some magical twist or fantastically unrealistic plot lines, and thankfully for us all this movie takes such a twist and delivers on a level like none other. From the moment we meet ‘Verbal’ Kint (Kevin Spacey) and delve into his story of mythical proportions, we are taken by his handicapped stature, and as time progresses we may actually feel somewhat sorry for the third-rate thief trying to pull off a heavy heist with his contemporary crooks (Wonderfully cast Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollack) with rap sheets a mile long. By the time his ankle twists and the coffee mug slams into the ground, we are stunned at the final reveal, our eyes fixed firmly on the screen wondering if what we just witnessed is actually possible, recounting the scenes on screen and in our head, only to come to the ridiculously wonderful conclusion that the ‘gimp’ of the movie is the one person, the very Boogeyman, we all fear when we lay our heads to our pillows.

6. American Beauty (1999)

Lester Burnham’s life is dull. If nothing else happened to Kevin Spacey’s character in the days, weeks, years to come, he may very well end up dying a premature death having never experienced the highs and lows that come with a life well spent, a life conflicted, and a life that takes chances. The turning point of the movie is a wonderful scene (perhaps one of the finest transitional moments in any movie) when we see Lester smoking a joint in his garage and pumping iron, changing his life for many reasons (cheating wife, Lolita desires, longing of youth, etc.) When, as his wife (played passionately by Annette Bening) is storming out of the garage we hear Lester, through repetitions of the bench press, state with firm vigor, “That’s….What…You….Think” we know that it’s on, that this character is going to take us down a path that neither we nor he is aware of where it will end. Ultimately, we all understand how the movie will end, and the pieces of the who dunnit are not all that important. In the end, we are left with both beauty (a life changed and worth leading) and the opposite of beauty (greed, cheating, sloth, and murder), and like the bag that floats beautifully in the wind, lives are tossed and turned, and, in the end, continue to fly or finally fall.

7. The Deer Hunter (1978)

Michael (Robert De Niro), Steven (John Savage), and Nick (Christopher Walken), are 3 buddies from a Pennsylvania factory town, just living their lives and working their jobs. Director Michael Cimino purposely stretches out the opening hour of the movie (3 hours in length) so that we come to know these people, this town, which makes the aftermath all the worse. What we learn is that these men are headed to Vietnam, and none of their lives will ever be the same. What follows is the horrific capture of these friends who are forced into violent games for their lives. What we are left with is the return of two of the three to the Pennsylvania town (both with their own horrors to deal with) and the remaining Nick, played masterfully by Walken, who can only be accurately described as having gone completely insane. Of all the movies on in my top 10, this one is probably the most flawed as far as details go, but the actual movie sucks you into these lives and thankfully there is not a strong anti-war message being pushed (of course that comes through, but it is not forced down our throats). In the end, these friends who used to take guns to hunt deer in the nearby woods have found themselves caught up in one of the most terrible times in our nation’s history, using guns and other weapons in ways none of them could have ever imagined.

8. Hoosiers (1986)

There have been many movies focused on basketball (and sports in general), so what makes this film about small town Indiana high school basketball so deserving of the #8 top movie slot? The simple answer is that no other sports film delivers such a gut reaction, such a genuine release of joy, as this middle-of-nowhere, simple-life, old world depiction induces. Inspired by the Milan (Indiana) Indians' state title of 1954, Gene Hackman (as Coach Norman Dale) of Hickory, a school that can barely put together a full team, miraculously makes a victorious run through the (now defunct) Indiana state high school basketball championship open tournament. What made this so spectacular was that the state used to have no divisional seeding, meaning that schools with 2,000+ students to choose from could potentially meet up with schools like the fictional Hickory, and as the team uses everything including the old picket fence to advance through the tournament, we are introduced to one spectacular, emotional out-letting when, with the clock at zero, the unlikeliest of teams with the unlikeliest of coaches pulls off the unlikeliest of victories. Along the way we are treated to fabulous performances by Hackman, as a displaced coach struggling to fit into a world that is not his own, and Dennis Hopper as ‘Shooter’ - an alcoholic former high school star, and father of one of the players, fighting to be a part of the present in hopes that it will heal his past. What we leave with at the end of the film is a feeling of hope, that all is never lost, and as long as we are willing to work hard, we will always have a fighting chance to take down the giant.

9. No Country for Old Men (2007)

Already becoming a much heralded film after just recently being released, I hesitated to give this movie such a high ranking, but ultimately decided to go with my gut that this will be a movie that stands the test of time. Javier Bardem’s portrayal of soulless killer Anton Chigurh is one of the great acting accomplishments one will ever witness. With the flip of a coin we are terrified by what we do not see in his eyes, and we finally must come to the conclusion that no bargaining, no pleading, and no different course of life could have prevented the inevitable outcome that is Anton Chigurh. Tommy Lee Jones voice overs and sparse appearances are the glue that binds the story together, and ultimately it is his perception of the world that we should be focusing on to understand the world of No Country For Old Men. With Josh Brolin holding his own between these two great performances, and a supporting cast of likeable characters, what we are left with as the screen cuts to black is not, as many suggest, a let down to an otherwise magnificent movie, but, more accurately, a gut-check of magnificent proportions that should, hopefully, provoke a deep and terrifying realization.

10. The Exorcist (1973)

Sandwiched between some almost unbearably slow moving sequences, young Regan (Linda Blair) finds herself tormented to the point of near death by the spirit of the devil himself, which will stop at no cost to get what he wants. What he wants is not so clear. It is the portrayal of the conflicted Father Karras (Jason Miller) and his senior mentor Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) that drives this tragic and seemingly unavoidable movie to its climactic ending. Along the way questions of faith and the human spirit are put to the ultimate test, and we are left with the unanswerable thoughts of how does one defend oneself against pure evil, especially when evil itself cannot be captured?

11. Unforgiven (1992) – an incredible study in characters with perfect performances depicting the ultimate Western.
12. Léon (aka The Professional) (1994) – Do I really feel compassion for a hitman? This movie made it so.
13. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – The best of all the films, with the most amazing cinematography and deepest subject matter. This is the film that holds the series together.
14. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – The Action/Adventure at its finest. Harrison Ford portrays treasure hunter/archaeologist/lucksac to perfection and we are fortunate to be taken along for the ride.
15. Rocky (1976) – It is unfortunate that so many Stallone movies to follow would be so terrible, but it can never be overlooked at just what a wonderful movie experience Rocky was and is, following the everyday life of an average bum as he gets his shot at sports immortality
16.The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) (I consider this one movie) – Each film could be ranked on its own merits, but I choose to believe that this is one continuous, magnificent film that captivates us with sweeping landscapes and well-thought out and executed CGI. This is a world that could easily have failed to translate to the big screen if it were not for the superb direction of Peter Jackson.
17. Heat (1995) – Al Pacino and Robert De Niro never actually spent 1 minute together on set of this epic cops and robber tale, with their one scene together being shot at separate times and spliced together, but that in no way diminishes the magnitude of the experience director Michale Mann brings to us as we follow the separate but inextricably intertwined lives of a homicide detective and a career criminal.
18. There Will Be Blood (2007) Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s depiction of turn of the century oil grasping is told with vigor through the superb acting of Daniel Day Lewis’s character Daniel Plainview. With each sweeping shot of barren terrain across miles of untouched country, we are reminded of the potential that awaits men like Daniel in their quest for fame and fortune, no matter what the cost to others or to their own soul.
19. Poltergeist (1982) – The ultimate in scary tactics are employed in this tale of a family tortured by evil spirits. Who can forget the first time they tried to watch television after seeing the movie, only to reach back and turn on all the lights?
20. Donnie Brasco (1997) Johhny Depp in one of his finest performances as an undercover cop working to bring down the infrastructure of the mafia.
21. Apocalypse Now (1979) – With an iconic cast of superstars and the magic of Francis Ford Coppola, This epic wartime piece featured variations in filming never seen or done before, and it all works. With Martin Sheen’s character searching out Brando’s for an ultimate elimination that will ‘never exist’, this movie takes us through a multitude of emotions and our eyes never leave the screen.
22. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) Jack Nicholson’s daring, beautiful, and disturbing portrayal of a psychiatric patient is somewhat overshadowed by the steely glare of Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) who gives the performance of a lifetime.
23. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)An incredible exploration of what it means to be human. No movie repertoire is complete without an understanding of the great red eye of HAL 9000.
24. Jaws (1975) – “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” accurately sums up this tale of man versus beast is what turned out to be an all-time blockbuster that sent many viewers to permanently retreat from the ocean.
25. Alien (1979) – the ultimate sci-fi horror flick, Sygourney Weaver fights her way through intergalactic species in this tale of woe.
26. A Beautiful Mind (2001) Russel Crowe’s depiction of physicists John Nash’s battle with schizophrenia is beautiful and heart-felt, and Jennifer Connolly’s moving performance as the woman who stands by his side holds the film together. With an outstanding score and amazing use of cinematography, we are able to “see” what Nash sees when his mind is at work on a level that very few, if any, have ever understood.
27. A Clockwork Orange (1971) –Stanley Kubrick’s dark and disturbing flick leaves us questioning much of what we thought we knew.
28. Schindler's List (1993) – Simply put this is an epic tale of real-life tragedy and sorrow, told beautifully by one of the masters
29. Ben-Hur (1959) An epic tale of war in the greatest sense, this is a movie best enjoyed in widescreen for the immense visuals.
30. Taxi Driver (1976)Robert De Niro delivers a powerful performance as a deranged taxi driver intent on many things, including the winning over a young prostitute played by Jodie Foster.
31. Dances with Wolves (1990)Kevin Costner delivers his finest performance in this breathtaking tale of cowboys and Indians played out on a grand scale.
32. Caddyshack (1980) – The ultimate comedy that has stood the test of time. Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Ted Knight (as Judge Smails) create an ensemble of characters we can only hope to find at some point in future movies, but have yet to do so. More one-liners can be attributed to this movie surrounding golf than one can recall, and the entire public opinion of gophers was changed forever.
33. Blade Runner (1982)Ridley Scott’s post-apocalyptic (Really?) depiction of a world that forces us to examine what it means to be human.
34. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999) – The writers of South Park have always had a special talent to bring their breed of comedy to the proper fan base. With the full-length feature they have given us something that even those who oppose the material in normal South Park episodes can not help but smile at and admire. The songs infused throughout this tale are nothing short of spectacular, and if nothing else is taken from this movie, you will surely marvel at the lyrical lines of Uncle Fuc*er.
35. Mr. Holland's Opus (1995) – The moving story of Mr. Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) as he spends his life longing to be a composer. Along the way he ‘settles’ for teaching to pay the bills while he works on his symphony. What he finds is that his life has been completely fulfilled through his teaching, and with the help of lessons learned from his deaf son and his students throughout the years, the triumphant unveiling of his unfinished symphony at the climactic end to the movie is a scene that will make even the most hardened of men’s eyes well up with tears.
36. Saving Private Ryan (1998) An unflinching look at the ‘storming of the beach’ is one of the great scenes ever filmed. Tom Hanks portrayal of Captain John Miller is what holds this film together, as he gives a strong yet human performance. Along with an entire cast of wonderful supporting roles, this epic war film will pass the test of time honored films.
37. Philadelphia (1993) – Another wonderful performance by Hanks as AIDS stricken attorney Andrew Beckett. The discrimination trial that is the focus of the movie acts as a bridge between corporate society, private lives, and the human condition. A film released just 10 years after the first known reports of AIDS came to light, this film made us all ask the tough questions.
38. Deliverance (1972) – What bad can possibly happen when a group of friends take a bonding canoe trip into the wilderness? Disturbing and thought-provoking, Jon Voight (Ed), Burt Reynolds (Lewis), and Ned Beatty (Bobby) change in many ways as they struggle to survive against a few random back-woods predators in this John Boorman thriller.
39. Reservoir Dogs (1992) Quentin Tarantino bloodbath that brought the names Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. White, Mr. Blue, Mr. Orange, and Mr. Brown into the common lexicon. Michael Madson’s mesmerizing performance as crazed Mr. Blonde is immortalized in the famous scene when the captured police officer is doused in gasoline and has his ear sliced off, all the while the radio is blaring K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70s.
40. Sideways (2004) – Paul Giamati finally got his shot at a leading role and he does a fabulous job in his portrayal of an uptight and high strung wine snob looking to find something more in his life. A great supporting role by Thomas Haden Church solidifies this as an all time great.
41. The Princess Bride (1987) – “Mawaige…” and “inconceivable” are just two terms that immediately conjure up the magical world that is the Princess Bride. A movie that will last with the audience for eternity as each viewing finds more and more reasons to smile at this absurd tale of piracy and love.
42. The Cincinnati Kid (1965) – As long as Lancey Howard is around, the “Kid” will never be the “Man”. One of the great card player movies ever made, and if you can get by some of the absurd scenarios, you’ll find a well acted and well thought out plot.
43. American Gangster (2007)
44. Raging Bull (1980)
45. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
46. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
47. Raising Arizona (1987)
48. L.A. Confidential (1997)
49. Animal House (1978)
50. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
51. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
52. Airplane! (1980)
53. The Straight Story (1999)
54. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
55. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
56. The Bourne Identity (2002)
57. The Jerk (1979) and The Man with Two Brains (1983) (tie)
58. Goodfellas (1990)
59. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
60. The Untouchables (1987)
61. Groundhog Day (1993)
62. Dr. No (1962) (Many Bond Movies would make my list here, but not all)
63. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
64. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
65. Rain Man (1988)
66. Road to Perdition (2002)
67. The Sting (1973)
68. The Green Mile (1999)
69. Beautiful Girls (1996)
70. Forrest Gump (1994)
71. Stand by Me (1986)
72. Hoop Dreams (1994)
73. The Departed (2006)
74. Training Day (2001)
75. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
76. 12 Angry Men (1957)
77. Into the Wild (2007)
78. Name der Rose, Der (aka The Name of the Rose)(1986)
79. Pulp Fiction (1994)
80. Finding Nemo (2003)
81. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
82. Casino (1995)
83. Spaceballs (1987)
84. The Blues Brothers (1980)
85. Blood Diamond (2006)
86. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
87. Five Easy Pieces (1970)
88. Walk the Line (2005)
89. Cape Fear (1991)
90. Gladiator (2000)
91. Batman Begins (2005)
92. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
93. The Terminator (1984)
94. Risky Business (1983)
95. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
96. Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
97. Unendliche Geschichte, Die (aka The Neverending Story) (1984)
98. Better Off Dead... (1985)
99. The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew (1983)
100.Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Honorable Mention

The Karate Kid (1984)
Legend (1985)
Howard the Duck (1986)
One Crazy Summer (1986)
Kingpin (1996)

NEW EDIT: Movies that may/should be considered for the list (either I forgot, have not seen, or am not sure yet)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Rear Window (1954)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
North by Northwest (1959)
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
The Great Escape (1963)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964
Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966) (aka The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Easy Rider (1969)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Up in Smoke (1978)WarGames (1983)The Natural (1984)
Back to the Future (1985)
Platoon (1986)Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
This Boy's Life (1993) Se7en (1995)Bottle Rocket (1996)
Trainspotting (1996)
Chasing Amy (1997)
Ronin (1998)
Rounders (1998)
Memento (2000)Snatch. (2000)Zodiac (2007/I)
Add lost In translation


Anonymous said...

i really appreciate your devotion to movies. and i like your list as well as the comments. how i wish i could become a person like you:)

Matt said...

Thank you Anonymous