Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Top 50 Favorite Movies Part 5 (The Top 10)

Okay, time for the 5th and final installment, where I finally reveal my 10 favorite films. Pretty exciting, huh? I know it's not, but I'm going to act like it is anyway.


#10. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Yes, the gay cowboy movie. I don't care what anybody says, as much as I hate cowboys I still think this is a great romance. Brokeback Mountain's reputation has taken on a life of its own, one which has largely overshadowed the film itself. Sadly, this has tended to distract people from the fact that this is a touching human drama filled with top-notch performances by a strong cast. This is one of those movies that has been subjected to tons of analysis from film schools, so I'm not going to heap more onto that pile. The simple truth is that I have loved this movie since the first time I saw it, and that's all that matters to me.


#9. Ran (1985)

Akira Kurosawa is great, with one of the most stunning catalogs of any filmmaker in history. Ran, his late-career masterpiece, is one of the greatest. This film is massive. The sets are incredible, the period-authentic costumes took three years to make (entire armies are outfitted with careful accuracy), the acting is excellent, the story is Shakespearean tragedy at its best . . . basically everything about this movie is totally amazing. It's long, and it's foreign, so yet again there is that warning tag for people who don't want to spend hours reading a movie. Yet again, though, I think it's totally worth it.


#8. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

If I were to give an award for the greatest dialogue in history, this would win it in a runaway. Elizabeth Taylor's Oscar-winning performance is fantastic, but I honestly think Richard Burton was even better. Their verbal sparring throughout the course of the film makes for probably the most fascinating on-screen relationship between two characters that I've ever seen. It's witty, it's emotional, it runs the gamut from love to hate, and it's mesmerizing to watch. I was instantly impressed by this film, and to this day it remains one of my favorites. Also, while I can't fully explain this, it's one of those movies that I think would be less effective if it were in color.


#7. Troll 2 (1990)

I've talked about this one on my list of the greatest bad movies of all time. It's the most hilariously awful film ever (there are worse movies, but none that are so entertaining) and I laughed harder at this the first time I saw it than I have at almost any other movie I've ever watched. The earnestness of the writing, directing, and acting all add the delicious flavor of failure to the whole affair. If you want to hear more of my thoughts on Troll 2 you will find it occupying the top spot on this previous post.


#6. The Hustler (1961)

I have loved this movie since I was a kid. It's Paul Newman's best performance in my opinion, and it features a wonderfully funny and understated performance by George C. Scott. It's generally thought of as a movie about pool, since it basically is a movie about pool, but in my mind it's more of a story about redemption. The whole central section of the film, framed on either side by extended pool matches, builds Paul Newman's character and prepares him for his redemptive final match. Well written and coolly shot with good performances all around, this is just a really good movie that I always enjoy.


#5. Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)

Anybody who knows much about me at all knows I love Monty Python. I've watched the show and Monty Python's Life of Brian far and away the most brilliant and incredible satire of religious zealotry ever put to film, and anybody who disagrees is just wrong and stupid and sucks at life. Seriously, though, this is in many ways the culmination of the Pythons' collective work, and it's pretty much essential viewing for anybody with a taste for satire. Importantly, because this seems to be a sticking point for a lot of people, it's a movie about Christians rather than Christ. And I think all of us (whether we're Christian or not) know a few religious folks who could stand to be taken down a peg. This movie does just that, and hilarity ensues.
the movies to death, but I still enjoy them all immensely.


#4. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

This amazing Werner Herzog film has a strangely organic feel that few movies have ever matched. A group of Spanish explorers, isolated from the rest of the world as they travel through the Amazon, form the central cast. It's a brilliant tale of man against nature, man against man, and a spiraling descent into insanity. In particular, Klaus Kinski's portrayal of the titular character is madly brilliant. There are all sorts of stories about the off-screen battles that Herzog initiated to whip Kinski into a frenzy of fury and exhaustion before shooting his scenes. These tactics clearly paid off, as the result was one of the the greatest performances I've ever seen. It may sound like this is all about his acting carrying the film, but really this is shot and structured so well that the whole movie around Kinski is almost as good as he is.


#3. The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)

This one is just goofy and ridiculous. A South African slapstick comedy, this is a movie I've watched and enjoyed more times than I can count. It's central message, which is really not that different from the non-materialistic anti-consumerism we see in films like Fight Club, is conveyed here with such simple sincerity that it comes through as genuine rather than being annoying and preachy. This has long been established as one of my favorite movies, so it won't be a shock to some readers. For everybody else, I don't care how low-budget or goofy or stupid this is. I don't care how bad the dub is or how weak the occasional special effects are. They all just add to the charm so far as I'm concerned. Admittedly, by pretty much any vaguely objective measure, this is a poorly made movie, but I love it just the same.


#2.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

If I had a nickel for every time I've watched this movie, I'd have had to go get some coin rolls from the bank by now. I already mentioned how much I love Python like five minutes ago (less if you read faster than a 1st grader) so I'm not going to repeat myself. This was the movie that introduced me to them, and I've never stopped being happy about that. I love them, I love this, the end.


#1. Seven Samurai (1954)

Here it is, my top most number-onest favorite movie of all time ever. Aaaand, we're back to the long black-and-white foreign films. Akira Kurosawa, as I've noted, is a great director who has made a bunch of great movies. His crowning achievement, though, was the samurai epic to end all samurai epics. Despite is robust run-time, this has never felt like a long movie to me when I watch it. It's so well-structured, well-acted, well-written, and well-balanced that is pulls me in and races by in a flash. I love every single thing about this movie. It was famously re-imagined for American audiences in the form of the western The Magnificent Seven, but the original is light years ahead in terms of quality, depth, and impact.

So that's it. Seven Samurai is my favorite movie, as well as my standard answer when I'm asked to name the greatest movie ever made. I hope you enjoyed the list, thank you and good night.


  1. I can't remember whether I even got through Seven Samurai. I think I did. I just . . . can't relate to it. Far be it from me to tell the critical consensus and you that you're wrong, but the acting seems completely unconvincing--and maybe that's a cultural problem, but I can't find the characters relatable. I also was not impressed with the editing; the flow felt awkward to me.

    The only other ones I've seen from the top 10 are the Monty Python ones, and I heartily agree with those picks even if I prefer The Meaning of Life to The Life of Brian.

  2. The Meaning of Life was a lot of fun too. In my humble opinion you really can't go wrong with Monty Python.

    As to you reaction to Seven Samurai, I expect that many current American viewers would share your feelings. Even though it's my favorite movie and I think it's magnificent, I don't make a habit of recommending it to most people simply because I realize its appeal is somewhat selective.