For Your Consideration for Best Picture - The Dark Knight

For Your Consideration for Best Picture - The Dark Knight

I’m not sure why AFI decided to go with Sports instead of Action-Adventure. Act-Adv films have a long tradition in film history, from the great Errol Flynn films down to the great comic books films of today. And this list encompasses a whole range of them: swashbucklers, literary adaptations, James Bond films, comic book movies, kung-fu, cop films, spy films.

I could have split this up and done Action films separately from Adventure films, but the two have always been blended together by everybody else, so why not just make one list?

I didn’t bother to list the directors with the films this time, because for a lot of these films, it doesn’t really matter who directed them. No list of genres is so resplendent with mediocre directors as is this one. The top 10 has a lot more A-list directors (in terms of talent as opposed to money), including John Huston (twice), John Boorman, Quentin Tarantino and Michael Mann. But in the end, depending on what he chooses to do after Batman, it might turn out that Christopher Nolan is the most talented director on this list. He’s made six films so far, and with the exception of Insomnia, each film has been better than the last. Of course, it will be hard for him to top The Dark Knight, but we’ll see (his films, in order: Following, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight).

25. From Russia With Love (1963)

The first great James Bond film, complete with one of the more ridiculous deadly villain contraptions: the poison knife in the shoe.

24. Ronin (1998 )

The ultimate chase movie.  I am a fan of Natasha McElhone and feel she doesn’t get nearly as many good roles as she should.  I love the way the conclusion works out; Hitchcock would have been proud.

23. X2: X-Men United (2003)

More characters than the first one.  Better use of shades between black and white (you had to have a team-up with Magneto at some point).  Good use of the Scott-Jean-Logan-triangle.  You get a chance to see Wolverine in action, going nuts.

22. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The first two Bourne movies were enjoyable, but this is something else, altogether.

21. Goldfinger (1964)

The best of the Connery Bonds, and for a long time, the best Bond film ever made.

20. Spider-Man (2002)

The first X-Men had heralded a rebirth of the good superhero movie (as one cartoon put it: “They made good superheroes movie before, you know.”  “They were negated by the suckiness of Batman and Robin.  It’s a matter / anti-matter thing.”).  But this brought things to new heights.

19. Enter the Dragon (1973)

Between this and the next film, we have two tragedies and two, what might have beens.  I am not a fan of kung fu movies, but this transcends the genre.  This is the movie that showed what Bruce Lee could do.

Brandon Lee as The Crow (1994)

Brandon Lee as The Crow (1994)

18. The Crow (1994)

Brandon Lee died just a few months after River Phoenix and it was horrible.  After Tim Burton left the Batman franchise, this was the only bright spot in the comic book movie field until X-Men.

17. Iron Man (2008 )

Marvel had been making some subpar films (X3, Spider-Man 3), and some downright awful ones (Fantastic Four, Daredevil), but this has, hopefully, righted the ship.

16. The Hunt for Red October (1990)

I remember seeing this on opening night in a huge crowd and not knowing I had chicken pox.  And there’s the great ironic note that Sam Neill wanted to see Montana, and then begins Jurassic Park in Montana.

15. Captain Blood (1935)

Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland made a lot of films together.  This was the first, and one of the best.  The best pirate movie until the first Pirates of the Caribbean.

14. Die Hard (1988 )

The first time I had a VCR with slow-motion rewind, we watched this and watched Bruce Willis fly backwards and have the building put itself back together.  Isn’t that what new technology is for?

13. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

The last film to win Best Picture without winning any other Oscars.  Still the best version of this story and Laughton is the best Bligh.

12. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

The visual effects had improved over the first film, leading to one of the great all-time action sequences (the fight on the clock tower and train).

11. Casino Royale (2006)

Never has a film opened with such a burst of adrenaline.  Daniel Craig is definitely the right person to play James Bond.  And Eva Green ranks as the single best Bond woman.

10. Batman Begins (2005)

A return to the origin story, with a new star (who focuses more on acting than on being a star), fantastic villains and a great director.

9. Kill Bill (2003-2004)

The two movies were released separately but they were made together and really are meant to be one film.  Some people prefer one part or the other, but I love them both and feel they go together as one story.

8. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)

This is Connery’s fourth film on this list, making him the king of action films, I guess.  John Huston originally wanted to make this with Bogart and Gable, but it works better with Connery and Caine because they feel like British officers.

7. Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (2003)

I am still disturbed by the ending of the film and the way the sacrifices that have been made are all for nothing, but that doesn’t diminish the overall effectiveness of a great adventure story.

6. The African Queen (1951)

There used to be a lot of movies like this in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s; old fashioned adventure yarns out in the jungles or deserts.  This is the best of them, partially because of John Huston, partially because of the very fine acting of Bogie and Hepburn.

5. Deliverance (1972)

One of the most disturbing films ever made.  Every time I would drive out by my old roommate Jonathan Miller’s house in rural Oregon, he would start humming the banjo music.

an adventure hero for all time - Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye

an adventure hero for all time - Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye

4. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

From the moment that Day-Lewis and Stowe start walking away from the camp, until Wes Studi falls down dead are some of the best moments on film; an amazing combination of cinematography, editing and score.  I didn’t bother to look for them on YouTube, because it’s better if you watch them on DVD.

3. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Errol Flynn’s greatest role.  I have always been a fan of Robin Hood stories, in any shape or form, and Flynn’s Robin Hood still stands way above anyone else to ever attempt it.

2. The French Connection (1971)

The chase scene alone was worth Oscars for Editing, Cinematography and Sound (it lost the latter two to Fiddler on the Roof), and I only choose it as my second best film of that year because it’s from the same year as A Clockwork Orange.  Gene Hackman deserved his Oscar.

1. The Dark Knight (2008 )

A superhero film unlike any other.  Marvel had revived the comic book movie by using talented directors (Bryan Singer, Sam Raimi) to take over their star franchises (X-Men, Spider-Man).  What the two new Batman films have added is top notch acting.  They have also relied more on traditional visual effects, rather than CGI, and thus have more of a realistic look than the Marvel films.  We will see if the Academy Awards co-operate and nominate The Dark Knight for Best Picture, but the very fact that we’re even talking about shows how much of an improvement this film is over everything that came before.