103 Favorite Films
by Jeff Bellerose
(with a disclaimer that says it is highly possible I forgot some, that the order is debatable, and that this is what I could think of on the spur of the moment.)
1. Raging Bull (Scorsese) – an astounding and staggering achievement of film. Every aspect of this film is done to perfection – and the filming itself is breathtakingly beautiful (every still could stand on its own) despite its less than beautiful subject. Editing, filming, cinematography, the use of music – all of it is incredibly realized. In college, an American Studies professor spent 25 minutes analyzing just the opening title sequence (which is like 1 minute long and is only DeNiro standing in the ring). Yes, it’s that good.
2. 8 ½ (Fellini) – another film that could fit the above description. The more times you see this, the better it gets. There are an overwhelming number of themes and ideas in here, all tightly wound within the seemingly rambling storyline. Narrative, literary film at its pinnacle.
3. Chinatown (Polansky) – one of those films that completely transcends its subject. Meant as a nod to the noirs, it succeeds as a work of art. The seeds of corruption are bleak and disturbing, but the film makes a lasting impression. The dialogue, for one, is tremendous. Repeated viewings only reveals the depth of the film.
4. Hannah and Her Sisters (Allen) - most all of Woody’s films work on at least two levels - the story, plot, characters, etc, which are very often some of the best depicted in movies, funny, full and unique – and a major theme that runs beneath and parallel to the story. This one is almost a dissertation on Art – the meaning, the definition and the function of it. Almost every scene and moment is some profoundly insightful comment about art, though the story is so good you’d hardly even notice it.
5. Fight Club (Fincher) – a truly powerful and modern masterpiece, this film functions on so many metaphorical levels it never stops revealing new layers. As much a wonderful and elaborate metaphor for the birth, development and function of religion as it is the most honest ode to modern life you’ll find. Also has major themes regarding the manipulation of power/media and the age old questions of man’s struggle for meaning and his place in the world. Not bad for a Brad Pitt flick.
6. Brazil (Gilliam) – a wacked out Orwellian-style masterpiece that is as much the past as the future, and as much the struggle for sanity as it is for freedom. Quite simply, no one creates worlds like Gilliam does. It is strange and disturbing, but love it or hate it, it is completely unique and thought provoking. (for example, the studio hated the film so much, they refused to release it, but it still managed to win awards for Best Picture, Best screenplay and Best director – then they HAD to release it).
7. Avalon (Levinson) – not that well known, but it should be. The most bittersweet of films. A perfect analysis on the last century and the immense loss that accompanied it, and almost all of it having gone unnoticed. The isolation and loss of family is at the heart of this, but it has so many insightful ideas about where we are headed and the immense cost of life we’ve spent to get there that it is a powerful and questioning film.
8. Kundun (Scorsese) – a film that is as much about form as anything else (it’s about the Dali Lama) – it is like a discourse on how to make film, with just astounding use of editing, sequencing, music, visual storytelling and metaphor. With no ‘actors’, no real plot, no real beginning or end, it works like Ulysses in its masterful filmmaking.
9. Vertigo (Hitchcock) – a classic film that gets to the heart of obsession and the boundaries of love. Arguably, Hitchcock’s masterpiece. A wonderful and unique story structure that crafts its way through life rather than a contrived plot – all of Hitch’s master strokes are in effect here.
10. The New World (Malick) – an astounding film as much about love as it is about loss. Man’s unavoidable striving for progress and betterment and all the loss of perfection that it inflicts. A film entirely dealing with opposites, it parallels ideas of love, purity, utopia and discovery with the narrowing of the world and the enclosing of our lives.
11. Crimes And Misdemeanors (Allen) – like a college course on philosophy. There are so many ideas, conflicts, contradictions and thought provoking concepts here that every viewing reveals new things. Maybe no one other than Woody Allen can make a film like this (and he made several) – one that is enjoyable, hilarious, beautifully filmed (he always has the best cinematographers) and simultaneously challenging and completely probing of life’s greatest questions.
12. Jules Et Jim (Truffaut) – a great film about love and life – and the filmmaking is exhilarating and remarkably modern. Meaningful and challenging, it is the craftsmanship and the beauty of the film that puts it here for me.
13. Nights Of Cabiria (Fellini) – Masina (Fellini’s wife) is awesome. Here, she perfectly walks the tight rope between wounded angel and raging bitch – and the film as a whole is a masterpiece about life, religion, compassion and the unkillable need to persevere. And it is, like all of Fellini’s films, beautiful.
14. Diner (Levinson) – possibly the greatest, most accurate film made about young men. Perfectly captures the intertwined relationships of a group of college-aged friends – but exceeds that by also offering insight into coming of age, the modern world and the choices we have to make.
15. Barton Fink (Coen) – the mind of a writer, and a film about writer’s block. Sounds riveting, doesn’t it? With typically brilliant Coen brother’s dialog and their usually twist into strangeness, this stands as one of the great looks at an artist and creativity.
16. La Strada (Fellini) – Fellini’s wife is the main character here – a modern, female version of Charlie Chaplin – and she is completely riveting and wonderful. The film (The Road) is a bleak and challenging philosophical look at life and its paths. Heartbreaking and lovely.
17. Rushmore (Wes Anderson) – one of the great films about high school; not the standard crazy, misbehaving cliché, but a unique and quirky look at the aspirations of youth. The filmmaking is exceptional – Anderson is always creates complete worlds, unique, elaborate and thorough – with a number of witty nods to classic film styles. Max Fischer is the perfect modern hero – over-achieving, amazingly gifted and completely misplaced.
18. The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles) – Orson Welles, often cited as the greatest of directors, completely changed the concept, range and look of film. The studios, unfortunately, didn’t quite see it like that, and they continually messed with, tortured and frustrated both him and his movies. But what he did finish was remarkable, and this film is huge, sprawling and completely brilliant. It is also nearly ruined by a studio that recut, reedited and even reshot parts of it. Still, if you just completely ignore the last, absurdly terrible 1 minute or so, it is one of the greatest films ever made. Novelistic in style and scope, one of Welles greatest attributes was his astounding visual eye – and this film is breathtakingly beautiful, like a moving work of art.
19. Annie Hall (Allen) – the best romantic comedy there is, and the one that set off a million terrible copy-cats. But this one still lives on perfectly. An insightful (and very, very funny) look at the nature of relationships, this has a depth, honest and observant quality that possibly no romantic comedy ever could repeat (the reason, of course, is simple – Allen is a great director and great directors rarely make romantic comedies).
20. Blade Runner (Director’s cut, or Final cut –this is important) (Scott) – arguably the greatest sci-fi movie. Visually, it is tremendous, with as convincing of a world as you’ll find. With some great philosophical questions underlying the film (identity, creation, value of life, as well as the concept of meeting your God/creator and all of its ramifications), it makes something like Matrix look pre-schoolish. But you must see the director’s cut or the Final cut, the original is an entirely different (and vastly inferior) film.
21. The Thin Red Line (Malick) – Malick hadn’t made a film in 20 years, and then he just threw down one of the great war movies ever. Far reaching and philosophical, this film is like a meditation on the nature of violence, aggression, war and the very hearts of man and nature. Sweeping and almost religious in its sheer love of film, no one makes movies like him. A work of art.
22. Citizen Kane (Welles) – most often cited as the greatest film ever made, it certainly is extraordinary. The visual style was a revelation for its time, as was the sound and the sequencing (and, well, just about everything else about the filmmaking). But it’s not just a history lesson in important advances in the making of film. It still stands as a brilliant work; modern, complex, challenging and beautiful. Watch it once for the hype, then watch it again to just appreciate it.
23. Casino (Scorsese) – filmmaking of the highest order. The first half, I could watch anytime; the second half has scenes I’ve never been able to watch. It is the classic opera structure, and the downfall is harrowing. Too many people see this as a second Goodfellas – it isn’t. And it is arguable even the better film. A sweeping epic of corruption, it finishes off Scorsese’s trilogy about crime life.
24. Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back (Lucas)/(Kershner) – sci-fi movies that are in no way sci-fi. So steeped in mythology that the films became a myth in of themselves. It is surprising how no films of this sort ever matched up to them. Empire would get a little nod if forced to choose between them, and it is one of the greatest adventure films of all time. Current cinema should learn a lesson from these, including Lucas himself – the FX never really got better or more real than Empire, they just got digitized (and loused up, if you ask me).
25. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Spielberg) – THE classic adventure film.
26. The Third Man (Reed) – a classic. Filmed in Vienna soon after the close of WWII, with the ruins and the damage fully visible as a backdrop, this is a wonderfully filmed look at human ethics and the boundaries of morality. Orson Welles as Lyme is one of the classic roles in all of cinema. (no doubt that he had a hand in the filming at times too, as the dramatic cinematography is all Welles.)
27. Igby Goes Down (Steers) – I love this movie. It is a small film, and the only one Steers has made, but it perfectly captures the struggles of youth trying to find a way to live without the system destroying them. Always a favorite theme of mine, and here it is lovingly done. A moving film that hits a personal chord.
28. The Right Stuff (Kaufman) –fantastic epic film of the coming of the Space Age. Grand, plotless tale that follows the innovations of aviation and the birth of space travel. Intertwined and complex storylines all set against a nice period backdrop of the changing ideals, dreams and look of America. Inspiring and geeky movie about nerds living it up, but I love it.
29. Amelie (Jeunet) – the French film that everyone saw. Jeunet tones down his usual bizarreness and creates a magical and lovingly quirky look at love and uniqueness. This is one of those films that succeeds at making you love the character and lose yourself in their world.
30. 12 Monkeys (Gilliam) – Gilliam took a very brief short French film of still photos and made it into this elaborate post-apocalyptic rant on science, memory and the whole gamut of Gilliam themes. It is, as always, a completely unique world, convincingly and spectacularly created. One of those films that I keep returning to – packed with tons of wonderful ideas.
31. Goodfellas (Scorsese) – in addition to being one of the great genre films of all time, Scorsese continues and stretches his exploration of unusual and innovative narratives. Constructed nothing like normal films, this one is very literary in form – from documentary style description and plotless slabs of story to narrative voice over. Throw in the best director alive and his masterful techniques (sweeping long take through kitchen, stop-frame scenes, brilliant editing, subtle tension building camera movements, impeccable use of music) and this is a classic.
32. Never Cry Wolf (Ballard) – Farley Mowat’s true story of living in Alaska and studying wolves. I saw this when I was young and it made a profound impression on me – not just the beauty of it (and it is that – you’ll want to be in Alaska by the credits), but the ideas in it – the control of nature, progress, technology and modern man’s increasing inability to live.
33. Batman Begins/The Dark Knight (Nolan) – both, of course, completely stand on their own, but I listed together to cheat a bit. The first takes the dark comic action film to entirely new heights. The second weaves a complex and meaningful work of art out of it.
34. Delicatessen (Jeunet) – Jeumet is one of the great modern visual stylists, along the lines of Terry Gilliam. He always creates completely original and overflowingly creative worlds. One of those filmmakers that puts you in awe and perplexity over just what on earth is happening inside his head. This one is a fantastic and bizarre wonder – hilarious and completely unique.
35. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Gondry) – a wonderfully quirky romance. Extremely original, witty and funny, it runs on an interesting question of memory and the modern obsession with happiness and pain-free living, even at the cost of ones identity.
36. Brother, Where Art Thou (Coen) – A rural, downhome, 1930’s America re-look at Ulysses. Can’t get any more original than that. It is achingly amusing, with dialogue so witty it needs several viewings just to get it all, and beautifully filmed. And the soundtrack caused a small folk revival.
37. L’Avventura (Antonionni) – this is Italian filmmaking in its abstract, rambling best (the 50’s and 60’s style). You watch Antonionni not for plot, story or action, but for something unique, something resembling the freeform and unexpectedness of life. And you watch it for the beauty – his cinematography is extraordinary.
38. La Dolce Vita (Fellini) – I didn’t really appreciate this film until I watched it twice (partly, I think, cause of all the hype), but it is a tremendous achievement. Like all Fellini’s films, it is unusual and beautiful. It is also a thought provoking look at the lives we live and the choices that guide them – and how quickly we will sell ourselves for something empty and temporary. Fellini splices his films into segments of deep contrast, and here, as elsewhere, his juxtapositioning of noise and silence, action and stillness wonderfully compliments (as well as being beautiful) his visual and thematic metaphors (of segmentation and division, for example).
39. F For Fake (Welles) – this is Orson Welles last masterpiece. Completely unconventional and original, to the point that it is hard to even really call it a movie, but it is thought provoking and challenging and leaves a lingering impact.
40. The Truman Show (Weir) – I always hated Jim Carey – but put him in a decent role, like here or Endless Sunshine, and he is great; funny, sharp, likable. This is a great construct of an idea. Even if the philosophy is slightly overt, it works wonderfully; great parable about the limits of our world, with nice observation about taking risks against our safety and pushing against the accepted.
41. Run Lola Run (Tykwer) - Visceral filmmaking at its best. A perfect movie for the video game generation. But more so, it is very well done and very enjoyable.
42. Match Point (Allen) – a return to the issues and themes of Crimes And Misdemeanors. Again, a wonderful movie in every aspect – and fascinatingly, it works as a window into the thoughts of Allen 20 years (or so) on from one of his masterpieces. Here, it is as if God, religion and the entire concept of spirituality that he struggled with so often in that earlier film (and all of his earlier films) has vanished completely – the world is a new and undeniably colder place where the only guiding light is one of pure chance and human dilemma.
43. Magnolia (P.T. Anderson) – a colossal undertaking. The sheer attempt to make a film this involved and sprawling is worthy of note, but that he pulls it off (and, I should add, it may need a 2nd viewing to see why he pulls it off) is extremely impressive.
44. Before Night Falls (Schnabel) – Schnabel is an artist that has made only 3 films (presumably, he is painting most of the time, but who knows) and his visual eye is stunning. The first half an hour of this film is so good it is overwhelming. A film about a poet (all of his films are about artists) and the creative process, but it is the visual look of it that makes it so special. No one really sees or films textures and the outdoors as well as this.
45. Seven (Fincher) – putting this on a favorite list is an odd choice because it is SO disturbing and creepy that you basically never want to watch it again. That said, it is also so well done it is tough to keep off the list. City as hell metaphor (always a favorite of mine) and tons of religious and mythical references, this is one tense and visual thriller. By employing Hitchcock’s trick of never really showing you the incident, but rather keeping it just around the corner, lets your imagination make everything far worse than what they would show. And Fincher is a masterful (and quite young) filmmaker.
46. Barry Lyndon (Kubrick) – simply, unlike any other movie made. Kubrick is one of those famously insane and meticulous directors where every detail must be accurate. For this 18th century epic, he had to invent new lenses and cameras to film everything in real light – meaning, they used no additional lighting, just natural light outdoors, ambient light indoors and candle light at night (the latter is particularly amazing). But the film itself is also terrific – sweeping, powerful, subtle and subtly funny, and just incomparably beautiful. Kubrick does a wonderful job of depicting the range of human emotions, often times without a word being spoken.
47. Bandits (Levinson) – a recent, small movie that never got much attention, but a compelling and original story that works both as an entertaining movie and as a highly developed discussion on media; its form, influence and effect.
48. The Deer Hunter (Cimino) – a super intense, tormented look at the effects of war and the value of life. Beautifully filmed, with outstanding direction, this is one of those traumatic pictures that stick with you for a long time. The sound edit from the friends singing to the horror sounds of war and a helicopter is one example of many such wonderful and meaningful masterful strokes.
49. Stranger Than Paradise (Jarmusch) – an extremely individual filmmaker that develops his projects without studio influence (he once told a Hollywood exec that he didn’t want to work for him because he was afraid he would break his knees with a baseball bat when he tried to change his film). Stranger is a plotless, rambling movie that can be quite powerful and unique to some (like me), focusing on the waywardness of life and boredom. Jarmusch’s films are always peculiar and often quite engaging for reasons you can’t quite figure out. He also has a tremendous visual eye and every frame is artfully and beautifully constructed.
50. The Aviator (Scorsese) – wonderfully filmed epic of one man’s struggle with himself, his ideas, and his country. Oops, that sounds like a tag line. Let’s just say that beyond the story and the struggle for ideas against the massive engine of America, this is a film very much about appearances, layers and the battle between insides and outsides.
51. The Game (Fincher) – not the masterpiece of Fight Club, or the scope of Seven, but still a wonderfully constructed and enjoyable film that has great insight into the mindset of modern man and is one big, extended metaphor for modern life. Fincher is always working on many levels, and his film technique is so arresting and intriguing that all of his films beg to be watched multiply times.
52. Matewan (Sayles) – a great, historical film about the West Virginia mining unions of the 1920’s. Sayles is a lone creator; writing, directing, editing and producing his films so he has complete control over the process. What almost always results is a thought-provoking and original work of a superior creator. This is arguably his best and most challenging work.
53. Taxi Driver (Scorsese) – an exploration and remarkably perceptive insight into the life of a social outcast, this film offers more explanation and challenging questions than just about any psychological analysis. Alienation may never have been filmed so well, or so hauntingly. Hit such a strong nerve that it became the foundation for the attempted assignation of President Reagan (in one of those strange art imitates life, life imitates art sort of things).
54. Roma (Fellini) – a very unusual and original approach to the format of film. No story per say, just insight after insight of life, meaning and history. With visual metaphors and stunning photography, Fellini paints an elaborate picture of Rome; its history and its underbelly, its lives and its structures, its sacred and profane – and he wields it all into an image of the modern world and a concern for the future.
55. Time Bandits (Gilliam) – possibly the best film about young, 11 or so year old adolescence. Tremendously creative, Gilliam built another spectacular world. He also perfectly captures that indescribable feeling of being that age, where you’re perceived as a young adult but are alienated from their world. Plus, it is very funny and original.
56. Breaking Away (Yates) – a wonderful, touching and accurate film about youth and growing up. Set in a small, blue collar Indiana town, it speaks directly to the complex trials and failures of coming of age, the struggles of class definition, and the dichotomy of friendship and individuality. Plus, it’s hilarious.
57. The Rules Of The Game (Renoir) – French film by famous director Renoir. A party, basically, with all its interweaving lines and stories. The bourgeois life before WWII and the concern and lack of humanity in people’s daily lives. A striking film that accomplishes a great deal within its rambling, seemingly unfocused structure.
58. A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick) – a cult classic. Kubrick’s disturbing masterpiece about the dark side of society and the boundaries of morality. Extremely meticulous in its setting, it is a haunting film, with a number of unforgettable and unpleasant scenes, but the philosophical depth makes it well worth the effort.
59. Manhattan (Woody Allen) – beautifully filmed opus to New York. The opening scene is simply one of the greatest 5 minutes of film you’ll see. The film after that is a very different movie, but great in its own way.
60. Good Will Hunting (Van Sant) – the best Boston movie, and a fantastic look at male friendship.
61. Memento (Nolan) – an original story and structure, told in as complex of a manner as possible, but it all works wonderfully. Creates a dark, obsessive world that questions man’s intentions and shows how we choose to invent obstacles and complexities to create meaning in our own lives.
62. I (Heart) Huckabees (Russell) – a film about existential detectives. That’s about as good of a plot idea as it gets, in my book. A very clever and witty film about, well, about a lot of random things. Searching, for just about everything. It is an offbeat and hilarious philosophical rampage told, somehow, in a remarkably enjoyable way.
63. The Age Of Innocence (Scorsese) – yes, more Scorsese. This one is very different – a period piece about the social mores and rules of upper society in 19th century New York. All of Scorsese’s usual tension and underlying violence are here. Fantastic filmmaking (editing especially). A very moving tale of love and all we lose to the inhibitions of the world and ourselves.
64. Everyone Says I Love You (Allen) – Woody’s musical with people who can’t sing. Very funny, but moreover, a wonderful, meaningful film about lives and relationships. Simply, no one can make a movie like this and make it work except Allen. Magical.
65. Raising Arizona (Coen) – one of the best comedies around. Hilarious, tremendously original, and downright ingenious. Complete with great directing and filming techniques.
66. Shadow Of A Doubt (Hitchcock) – one of his best, tightest and most underappreciated films. Hitchcock has a way of infusing his unique, master strokes (bold like woodcuts) into every frame.
67. Dead Poets Society (Weir) – an inspirational film about education, resisting conformality, and pushing one’s life to the limits of potential. It also has very dark and sobering, real-world consequences, but the spirit of the film is so strong it is quite stirring.
68. Gangs Of New York (Scorsese) – epic about America finding its identity. Challenging, huge film that asks more questions about this country, where we came from and what defines us, than most history courses. The middle of the film becomes a mythological opera of sorts, with Daniel Day Lewis rising up as one of the most terrifying people ever put to film, thanks in large part to Scorsese’s masterful direction.
69. Double Indemnity (Wilder) – one of the great film noirs. Classic noir dialogue, with endlessly witty and crafted language that is as sharp and honed as it gets. When they say ‘they don’t make them like they used to,’ this is what their talking about.
70. Bringing Out The Dead (Scorsese) – a sweating, pulsing, remarkably tense narrative with Scorsese’s typical brilliance. Pushing, again, the ideas of narrative, form and story in film, this one is an intense, metaphorical ride through the spiritual anarchy of our times. So many masterful scenes with multiple layers of ideas, visual metaphors and challenging observations on the state of our souls, this is vastly underappreciated.
71. The Departed (Scorsese) – the film that finally (!!) brought Scorsese his Oscars, long after such clowns as Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner raked them it. It is compelling and experimental, as is the norm for him, as well as being a tense drama. Wonderful depiction of the false honor to empty ideals, corruption and the loss of morality.
72. La Femme Nikita (Besson) – the French classic If only America could make an action film this serious, thrilling and just all around great. (they finally did – The Bourne Identity).
73. The General (Keaton) – One of the first truly classic and lasting films. Buster Keaton (actor and director) is famous for doing all his own stunts, but he also crafted films way ahead of their time, with elaborate sets, filming, and poignant stories. Remember, this is so old there were no special effects at the time, so everything here is actually done. Keaton is hilarious – the best physical comedian of his, or any, era. And his films still seem relevant, whereas Chaplin’s sort of sagged over time. Also, his stunts were a motivation for Jackie Chan.
74. The Bourne Identity (Liman) – finally, a serious look at the action hero. And damn did they do it well – one of the great, completely enjoyable and convincing action films.
75. Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski) – there is a noticeable absence of horror films on this list, partially because they usually don’t stand up at length, or past the immediate scare. But this is Polanski’s classic and tremblingly tense thriller/horror film that works as quite a bit more. Tense and twisted, this one as a haunting and eerie quality that puts it in the high air of The Shining and Pyscho.
76. The 400 Blows (Truffaut) – Truffaut’s masterful look at childhood.
77. The Godfather/The Godfather 2 (Coppola) – everyone loves the Godfather films. And for good reason – completely masterful, sweeping epics that glamorize the gangster life. Modern day operas, complete with moral dilemmas, warm, sepia lighting and grandiose settings. It’s arguable that the second one is even better than the first.
78. Touch Of Evil (Welles) – Welles’ masterful noir. Has one of the great opening sequences – famous for it all being one take. But the whole film works, crafted artistically in bold compositions and twisted characters. Welles made few films, and all of them are essential viewing.
79. Mulholland Drive (Lynch) – Lynch’s films are often very peculiar. This one is indeed that, but it all works out into a fascinating and convoluted tale of memory, innocence and the parts of ourselves that we hide. The construction of the film is a pleasure in itself. Lynch often pulls off these powerful, moving and perfect scenes that have little direct relation to the film but add greatly to the emotional impact. Here, the night singer scene is utterly beautiful (and eerie).
80. Ran (Kurosawa) – the Japanese master doing his classic version of King Lear. Wonderfully filmed, with a number of very memorable shots, the film is a sweeping epic from late in Kurosawa’s life.
81. Summertime (Lean) – maker of the big, classic epics, Lean goes for a smaller film here and makes a delightful romance. Filmed in Venice – spectacularly, by the way – it deals with loneliness and defining moments in life. Katharine Hepburn is completely enjoyable throughout.
82. The Conversation (Coppola) – an excellent thriller of sorts with moving scenes of dilemma, alienation and struggles of conscience. The film Coppola made between the first two Godfathers, and though a much smaller in scale film, it is at least as good.
83. The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich) – a beautifully done quiet film about growing up. Nice look at small town life, has nostalgic moments that pull at your own memories.
84. Once Upon A Time In America (Leone) – beautiful filmed. Another one of the classic gangster films. Wonderful scenes of early New York and an epic tale of life.
85. The Lost World (Spielberg) – the second Jurassic Park movie, and a guilty pleasure. Sure, there are nice undertones of man as the true beast and the value of life, but really, it is just that the dinosaurs are the coolest bad guys in film. So convincingly real that after the first few scenes you just give up and accept them as real – something about them brings you back to those childhood fantasies and days of imaginative play. Simply, a blast.
86. Frida (Taymor) – a film about Frida Kahlo. One of the great films about an artist, this is beautifully and playfully filmed, working in the artful style and moody darkness of Frida’s paintings. A story, and a culture, just very well told.
87. Tess (Polanski) – I hated this book. But Polanski takes it and makes it into a beautiful and moving tale that captures a time and a powerful sense. Love, identity, all that stuff, but perhaps its best attribute is how meticulously and beautifully it creates a time.
88. 1900 (Bertolucci) – the definition of epic at over 5 hours (don’t watch the shortened versions). An Italian film, with American actors speaking English, dubbed into Italian and subtitled back into English. Oh well. The film is a massive tale of the rise of Fascism in Italy, the movement from farm life to modernity and the conflicts of coming of age, for youth and country. Beautifully filmed and the best work (in my opinion) of this Italian existentialist.
89. Heat (Mann) – films with smart bad guys. DeNiro and Pacino are mirror images of one another, both bending the laws in their own ways, but one as outlaw, the other as the law. The conflicts and contrast in this very well done action film is what makes it lasting and a classic of the genre.
90. Panic Room (Fincher) – a tense thriller that works more on its psychological metaphor than on any sense of plot. Fincher throws in some excellent, crafty camera work that adds to the depth of the concept. Nowhere near the scope of Fight Club, but the ideas and the extended, film length metaphor makes it surprisingly enjoyable and thought provoking.
91. On Golden Pond (Rydell) – a nice film, and there really aren’t a huge number of nice films on this list. There is a surprising range of emotions here, and it is the honesty that makes it a lasting film. Fonda and Hepburn are a fantastic team, with their curmudgeon dialogue and their tender companionship. Overall, the warm summer by the lake feel of the film is unbeatable – it is nostalgic even as you are watching it.
92. Pollack (Harris) – Ed Harris apparently spent a decade or so working over this film, and the end result is an excellent biography of one of America’s most important painters. Lovingly crafted, and honest with all its dark side, this is one of the better films about an artist. Has some insightful moments of the life and mind of an artist that you just don’t usually see in film, (like him lying in the grass looking at the sky) quiet scenes that are perfect.
93. The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson) – a good story about the search for oneself, their history and their roots. And it is filmed in such a transfixing and beautiful way, I feel like I could look at it forever. Same remarkable attention to detail as Rushmore.
94. eXistenZ (Cronenberg) – a cult classic. Not sure this is really a favorite, but it is a powerful and original film that gets under your skin and makes you think – about life, technology, progress, where we are headed, and what defines us as well as what defines existence itself. Not too shabby for a bizarre little film.
95. Ali (Mann) – I certainly wasn’t expecting this to be anything close to this good. Mann is always making something other than it seems – and this has very little to do with boxing. It is much more about the self-made hero, the lone man against the system, shouldering the burdens of our century and our history. And it is very, very good.
96. Ed Wood (Burton) – a biography of the man many claim is the worst director in history (Ed Wood), and maker of the worst film anyone would ever want to suffer through (Plan 9 From Outer Space). Burton crafts this very peculiar life with loving care and a humorous affinity for the absurd. It also has a nice question-posing base concerning the nature of creating, art and how one defines their own success in life.
97. The Maltese Falcon (Huston) – this was a toss up for Huston’s best crime tale with The Asphalt Jungle (which could make the list on the title alone). A classic noir, with all the noir esthetics, that is a gripping drama, expertly told and all sullied up with great dialog and the corruption of the city.
98. Treasure Of the Sierra Madre (Huston) – a classic film about the search for gold and the spiraling greed and corruption of man. Lovely topics. Great film.
99. Down By Law (Jarmusch) – another Jarmusch film that pretty much fits the above description of Stranger Than Paradise. This one about outlaws in Louisiana. Tom Waits, Benigni and Lurie make the strangest and most perfectly hilarious trio of misfit prisoners you’ll find. There is a strange alluring and lingering quality to Jarmusch’s seemingly tossed off style, almost like abstract poetry.
100. Blow Up (Antonionni) – the master of sparse, meandering alienation. Blow Up isn’t quite the achievement of L’Avventura, but it is still a great film. Strange, perplexing and challenging, it is a thought provoking film about man, technology, perception and the modern city.
101. Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead (Stoppard) – Two obscure character’s in Hamlet that, if you read the play, are on stage a lot but rarely say anything. Stoppard crafted a brilliantly creative film where the only real plot is that occasionally Hamlet is occurring in the background. Throw in some great dialogue and ideas about fate, destiny and science, and you have a very creative, original film.
102. Toy Story 2/The Incredibles (Lasseter)/(Bird)– kid’s movies, but not really. Both are utterly enjoyable. Toy Story 2 is impressively hilarious, with quick, perfect delivery. The Incredibles, although not as laugh-out-loud funny, is a great and hilarious concept, and a very fun movie.
103. The Spanish Prisoner (Mamet) – a fun, twisted plot movie (rare for this list - if you’re looking for trends, the lack of a plot is one). Convoluted, suspenseful and well done, Mamet, an often writer and occasional director, has a highly unique style of dialogue. It usually sounds terrible at the start, but by the end, it’s the only dialogue you want to listen to. And Pidgeon is always fantastic – one of the few in Hollywood where there is a palpable intelligence behind her acting.
Others that are worth noting, but are either too recent or just didn’t make the cut though I greatly enjoy them.
Lawrence Of Arabia
Passage To India
Out Of Sight
The Royal Tenenbaums
There Will Be Blood
Lost In America
Dumb but very fun summer movies: