I have always been a proponent of the idea that I can separate what I think is brilliant from what I personally enjoy. Let’s just look at 2015. I think that Carol and The Revenant were the two best films of the year. But if I’m going to sit and watch a movie from 2015, odds are it will be The Force Awakens (this is borne out by the fact that I’ve seen Carol twice, The Revenant all the way through once and The Force Awakens, at a modest count, 21 times complete plus the final 20 minutes about 15 more).
To that extent, I have finally culled together a list of my 100 Favorite Films, the ones I am most likely to sit still and watch, or at least not change the station if I come across them. They’re not heavy Drama. In fact, when I went through the genres, only one film on the entire list is one that I classify primarily as Drama (Casablanca).
It’s really hard to do this kind of list when you’ve seen as many films as I have (14,000+). I put it together by going through year by year and adding films, and once I hit 100, knocking off the films at the bottom. When I first read Veronica a list of 50 films, I then pointed out that those were the 50 I was about to delete because they didn’t make the list and she was stunned. “But you love those films!” she pointed out. “But I love the Top 100 even more,” I replied. It was very, very tough. Though they are easily two of the greatest directors of all-time if not the two greatest directors of all-time, not a single Kurosawa or Kubrick film ended up on the list. There is no Bergman. There is no David Lean. The Ealing Comedies and the Hammer Horror, both of which I love so much I wrote about them only have one film each. I did For Love of Film posts for James Bond (1 film) and Star Trek (2 films). It’s really, really hard to narrow it all down.
Veronica’s list wouldn’t be the same. There are films on here she could do completely without. There are films that she really loves that don’t come anywhere close to my list (Big Fish, Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Heroic Trio). But this is my list. If there is no link with the title, it means I have never written a full review of the film.
One last thing – I started this list at the beginning of October, 2016 and decided not to alter it. So, Rogue One and La La Land would be on this list somewhere but I didn’t try to force them in anywhere.
#100 – King Kong vs Godzilla (1962)
- One of my absolute favorite movies as a kid, the one I always waited desperately for when Channel 9 in LA would do their Monster Movie Marathon on Thanksgiving. Not a great film by any means, but that’s the whole point of a “Favorite Films” list.
#99 – Garden State (2004)
- I was a little dismissive of this film the first time I saw it (“Oh, Zach Braff’s Shins commercial?” I believe I called it). But it grew on me. Partially it was because Veronica and I became Scrubs fans and so Braff grew on us. Part of it is that the soundtrack is so fantastic. But it’s not the music – it’s how it’s used, especially “The Only Living Boy in New York”, a song I have loved from the first time I ever listened to Bridge Over Troubled Water. The use of it in this film is just amazing.
#98 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- When Paul Newman came into the Borders I was working at in 2007 and my employees didn’t know who he was (“You know,” said one, “The salad dressing!” I almost killed her.), this was the film I insisted they needed to watch. This has been a favorite from the first time I saw it, back in high school, from the great opening scene, to the fight scene (“Rules? In a knife fight?”) to the escape (“I can’t swim!”) all the way to the one of the great all-time endings.
#97 – King Kong (2005)
- What can I say? I really enjoy Monster movies, especially when they’re well done. There are definitely some moments in this film that could have been cut, but between the Jackson direction, the amazing performance by Andy Serkis that brings Kong to life and the sexy, under-appreciated performance by Naomi Watts (slips! they’re sexy!), I was in love with this film from day one.
#96 – House of Flying Daggers (2004)
- I fell for Zhang Ziyi the second she appeared in Crouching Tiger. She was incredible, she was brave, she was daring and good lord was she beautiful. This film made phenomenal use of her grace and beauty. What this film does with color is simply incredible. I can’t fathom that the Academy didn’t nominate this for Best Foreign Film.
#95 – The Birdcage (1996)
- In general, I prefer the originals to remakes, but this is the second remake on the list already, and what’s more, an English language remake of a Foreign Film. But I love this one much more than the original. The perfect deliveries from Robin Williams and Nathan Lane on almost every line just make this an unbelievably funny film. It’s hard to decide which line makes me laugh more, “I made you short” or “You’re going to a cemetery with a toothbrush. How Egyptian.” I will say that I am constantly talking to Veronica about “My Guatemalan-ness, my natural heat.” It’s ridiculous when I say it, of course, but it was when Hank Azaria said it as well.
#94 – Some Like It Hot (1959)
- Of course I would love this film even if my mother hadn’t been living two blocks from where it was being filmed while it was being filmed. It adds to its allure that its the Hotel Del, one of my favorite places in the world, though I have only been inside a couple of times. But I would love it anyway, because it’s so damn funny, with probably the best ending line of any film.
- Veronica was surprised when Return of the Jedi didn’t make the list, but less so when I pointed out that it was the fifth ranked among Star Wars films. It is true that many of the lines spoken between Anakin and Padme in this film are painful, both in quality of dialogue and in delivery. But that doesn’t take away from the other thrilling moments throughout the film and especially the two parallel lightsaber duels that fuel the ending. I saw this at midnight the day it opened and then dragged Veronica to it just thirteen hours later, skipping class and making her take the afternoon off work. I then went and saw it again the next day.
#92 – When Harry Met Sally (1989)
- As I wrote about in my review, while it is the orgasm scene that really gets all the attention, the line that always gets me is “You made a woman meow?”
#91 – Wonder Boys (2000)
- First came the trailer. Then, since I had just gotten hired at a bookstore, I decided to recommend the book even though I hadn’t read it yet. I read the book and loved it and Chabon immediately became one of my favorite authors. Then the film came out and it was one of the first dates that Veronica and I ever went on. Loved it. Bought the soundtrack. Bought the film on DVD when it came out. A total Erik film.
#90 – Moulin Rouge (2001)
- I desperately wanted to see this in the theater but I didn’t want to see it alone and I couldn’t convince anyone I knew to go see it. When it came out on DVD and I couldn’t find it to rent, Veronica bought it for me. I loved it. She loved it and admitted she should have gone with me to see it in the theater. It was just simply amazing, the way it worked the music together, not to mention starring one of my favorite actors of all-time.
#89 – One, Two, Three (1961)
- We get the first repeat director with Billy Wilder. This was one of the last Billy Wilder films I saw and I couldn’t believe how little I knew about it given how funny it turned out to be. Almost every minute in the film makes me laugh, from the opening lines of dialogue right up until the sight gag that ends the film. James Cagney’s performance is simply perfect.
#88 – Young Frankenstein (1974)
- Mel Brooks stays true to the original Universal Horror films, but also finds the humor at the heart of them. How can you watch the scene with Gene Hackman and not burst out laughing?
#87 – Horse Feathers (1932)
- “I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you arrived.” That’s Groucho talking to his younger brother Zeppo, who is playing his son. Their relationship will provide a lot of laughs as will the plot about a football game, but the best scene is the one where Groucho tries to get into the speakeasy and has to outwit Chico.
#86 – Kill Bill (2003 / 2004)
- I decided to include this as one film because it really is one film that is just split for length purposes. It’s a great revenge story, complete with an amazing final fight and the only conclusion you could possibly have.
#85 – X2 (2003)
- Everybody’s favorite X-Men film except Veronica. It perfectly sets the stage for the Dark Phoenix saga (which the third film would botch), allows for a team-up between Magneto and the X-Men and gives us some back story for Wolverine without delving too much into it.
#84 – King Kong (1933)
- As I said, I’m all good with monster movies. Though I would see numerous Godzilla films and the crappy 1976 remake of this before I would ever see the original, the original is amazing, the way the claymation brings Kong to life, right up to that classic scene on the Empire State Building.
#83 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
- A romantic comedy with zombies. That’s how the poster described it. It was my introduction to the comedy of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright long before I would ever see Spaced. But looking back now, especially at the doppelganger scene, it is amazing how many great British television shows are represented there.
#82 – This is Spinal Tap (1984)
- I actually came to this film late, not seeing it until I was 26. But I took to it instantly, not just because it went to 11, but because of the music, the way it works so well in the plot, and just how funny every moment of the film is.
#81 – Finding Nemo (2003)
- The first Pixar film on the list but definitely not the last. Until 2015 it was the most heart-warming of the Pixar films but it also has some of the funniest moments, especially all the moments with Crush and his son. It works so well because it builds the characters and then works from there.
#80 – A Mighty Wind (2003)
- Given that we loved Spinal Tap and given that we loved Best in Show, this seemed like a perfect melding of those two things. Veronica and I saw this in a special preview showing before the film’s general release. I desperately loved the soundtrack and have listened to it constantly ever since. The film was so damn funny and the music was so good and those two things worked so well together. When everyone runs out to play “A Mighty Wind” it seemed like exactly what would happen in such a moment, like everyone singing “Do They Know It’s Christmas” at Live-Aid or everyone singing “I Shall Be Released” at the end of The Last Waltz. There are few film soundtracks I love as much as I do this one, especially since they did so many more Mitch & Mickey songs for the soundtrack – I would gladly buy a whole album of their music.
#79 – The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
- There are definitely people who don’t think much of this film. But I remember seeing it in the theater and it just seemed to be perfect for me. That final scene, when the three brothers make the realization and start hurling the luggage away is just the perfect moment. Another film I own the soundtrack to.
#78 – Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
- This melted my brain when I first saw it, the brilliant melding of live action and animation. It was the only film I saw in the theaters in 1988 and it’s only appropriate that it is my #1 film of the year.
- I’ve always been a comic book guy, ever since I was a kid. But for years, the comic book movies barely existed. There were the Superman films and then, eventually the Batman films, but both films went way downhill after the second one. Finally, after the success of both the X-Men and Spider-Man films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born and it came to a climax in the first stage with The Avengers, which perfectly brought together the characters from the separate films and merged them into coherent group, complete with very humorous in-fighting and a fantastic villain.
#76 – High Fidelity (2000)
- It’s a great book and it was a great film from the minute I saw it (on an early date with Veronica – part of the reason that 2000 has so many films on this list was because they worked so well for us when we were dating). My parents saw this film and then asked if it was about me. Yeah, it kinda is.
#75 – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
- I went to this film not hoping for that much from it. But we loved it as soon as we saw it. A lot of that was about Johnny Depp’s performance of course (though Veronica was quick to point out that I also wanted to immediately go back and see it because of Keira Knightley, and she rather accurately said ‘You like her because she looks like Natalie Portman’ and it was only after she said that that we realized she had played Portman’s decoy in Phantom Menace, so kudos to V) but also the great humor and fun adventure of it all. Going into 2003 who would have predicted that a pirate movie would both be a huge franchise spawning blockbuster and would also finally earn Johnny Depp his first Oscar nomination.
#74 – Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
- I’m not sure that anything will ever match that first time I saw this, in high school, at Jay’s house. When the revolutionaries are painting graffiti and the Roman soldiers come out and correct their Latin, Jay cringed in his chair and we laughed as he said “It’s Mr. Barrett!” and tried to hide away from his Latin teacher. Plus, of course, the Judean Peoples Front Crack Suicide Squad. And “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life”. And everything else about this film that is so damn funny.
#73 – Blazing Saddles (1974)
- The constant racial epithets make me cringe. The fart scene makes me roll my eyes. But the rest of it? Mongo punching out the horse? Hedly Lamarr’s constant refrain about his name? The toll booth scene? Almost every word Gene Wilder utters? They make me laugh until it hurts.
#72 – The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- This film doesn’t have the breakneck speed to really be considered a screwball comedy. But it has more romance than in a regular screwball comedy. It also has magnificent performances from Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. It is damn funny, it is romantic, is charming, it is wonderful.
#71 – Almost Famous (2000)
- Yet another film that Veronica and I saw when we were first dating that really spoke to both of us. But the best reaction to this film was John Ramirez, who, when he saw it with me said “How would you like to have to be the Rolling Stone factcheck girl? Hunter, what is this shit?” Contains one of the great true statements in life: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
#70 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
- My favorite of the Harry Potter books is my second favorite of the Harry Potter films. Perhaps it’s because it pulls back a bit from all the guest stars and focuses more on the kids themselves. Or perhaps it does the best job of creating scenes that aren’t from the actual book but have the feel for the actual book, a great job of being faithful to the themes and ideas without being faithful to the words themselves.
#69 – The Big Lebowski (1998)
- Do I seriously need to explain why this is on the list? Is it not on your list?
#68 – Ed Wood (1994)
- In a year with both Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption, this was my #1 film of 1994. Perhaps that should say enough? Johnny Depp’s earnest, heart-felt performance as the worst director of all-time (which is not hyperbole – I’ve seen most of Wood’s films) is just so much fun: “The worst film you ever saw? Well my next one will be better.”
#67 – Dracula (1931)
- Appropriate to be next on the list, but a coincidence. This is actually the lowest of three Dracula films on this list. What can I say? I have a serious passion for Dracula which began when I first read the novel in 9th grade. The Lugosi film has the atmosphere, his haunting performance and the first great movie take on the character.
#66 – The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
- In this case, my passion didn’t begin with the book, but rather with the musical. But it quickly grew from there to encompass the book and the various film versions. I am a big fan of the work of Lon Chaney as is clear. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was one of the last films deleted off the bottom of the list. But this is perhaps the definitive Chaney performance and it’s long been rumored that Chaney directed much of the film.
#65 – The Hunt for Red October (1990)
- There was a stretch in the 90’s when I was really into Tom Clancy. It all began with this film (the books followed the film for me), with the great character interplay and of course, what I now call the Hunt for Red October test.
#64 – The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)
- There will be a full review of this film up on the blog before too long. That’s because it will be part of a very long Tintin post. I have loved the Tintin books since I could first read and desperately waited for a movie to really bring them to life on the screen. This film did it.
#63 – Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
- I have mentioned before the irony that revenge, a concept which is supposedly outdated by the time of the Star Trek universe, is at the heart of the two best Star Trek films. This is easily the best of the Next Generation films and has some of the very best moments in all of Star Trek history.
- “I’m Statler.” “I’m Waldorf. We’re here to heckle The Muppet Movie.” Those words begin 90 minutes of serious fun. Fun like a fork in the road. Fun like “Should it be snowing?” “No, I don’t think so.” Fun like “drinks are on the house.” Fun like “No thanks, I’m on my way to New York to break into public television.” But not just fun. Also wonderful, like “The Rainbow Connection”, one of the greatest songs ever written for a film. This is one of those movies that Thomas and I watched in waves and I think there was a whole month where we watched this everyday when he got home from school.
#61 – The Incredibles (2004)
- The second Pixar film on the list. Perhaps this movie is why there’s no good Fantastic Four movie to be made – because this film already covered the bases pretty well.
#60 – Skyfall (2012)
- Easily the best of the James Bond films. It perfectly melds the new Daniel Craig Bond world with the classic films, working back in Q, Moneypenny and the classic Aston-Martin. It has the best Bond villain, one of the best Bond action sequences, one of the best Bond women, the best performance by the best supporting character and the introduction of multiple great Bond performers.
#59 – Inside Out (2015)
- I had such a strong reaction to watching this film multiple times over Oscar weekend that it prompted the post in the link. Those moments are so intensely moving that they are almost difficult to watch and in some ways are a relief to watch.
#58 – Bambi (1942)
- From those opening moments, to “kinda wobbly isn’t he” to what Thumper’s father always says to the moments in the snow, all the way through to the death of his mother and the terrifying fire, this is Disney’s masterpiece of animated story-telling.
#57 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
- I am well aware that this is a flawed film. As many times as I have watched it (and it’s a lot, and growing higher since last year Veronica got me the Supreme Cinema Series Blu-Ray for my birthday) I can’t rate it any higher than a 75 (very highest ***). Yet, I love to watch it, for the amazing color, for the music, for the gore, for the eroticism, for the closest we’ve ever seen to Stoker’s original novel making it to the screen. A feast for the eyes.
#56 – The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
- As I mentioned in my original review, within a few minutes, I laughed so loud in the theater that Veronica hit me and she gasped so loud that everyone in the theater heard her. Any film that can do that is the perfect film for both of us. Watching Schindler’s List and Quiz Show and the English Patient, who would have ever thought that Ralph Fiennes was capable of such a madcap performance as this one.
#55 – Excalibur (1981)
- I had strong memories of this film as a kid but it was really 1997 when this film became one of my favorites. I was writing two different screenplays derived from the Arthur legend and I dove into research and bought the film. I have watched it numerous times since, entranced by the darkness of the vision, the brightness of the armor, the cinematography, the use of music and the legend.
#54 – The Horror of Dracula (1958)
- I will never get my dream Dracula film because Alan Rickman is now dead. And the various Dracula films all have some flaws and stray from the original. But this is probably my favorite because it has two of my absolute favorite actors in the roles they were born to play. I love Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and I especially love them in the conclusion of this film. My absolute favorite of the Hammer Horror films.
#53 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
- Getting to the end of creating this list, I opened all the years from 2000-2015 and entered them all in. Because of how the spreadsheets opened, 2000 was the last year I covered and as you can see it meant that several films got bumped off because several films from that year made the list. This is easily the best film of 2000, a magnificent vision of artistry and elegance. Veronica and I drove all the way to Seattle to see it two weeks before it would open in Portland and we almost got stuck in Seattle over night and it would have been totally worth it.
#52 – Wall-E (2008)
- The most human of all the Pixar films is the one with a romance between two robots. It is also the most romantic. And, though not my favorite (yes, there is more Pixar to come), it is quite possibly the best.
#51 – The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
- This is not Veronica’s list, it is my list. So this film is on the list because it is amazingly brilliant. As I have made clear numerous, numerous times, the climax of this film is, in my opinion, one of the masterworks of all of film history. The score from that scene, “Promentory” is the second most played song in my iTunes all-time.
#50 – The Crow (1994)
- As I have mentioned before, I ended up catching the very end of this film several times before I saw the film itself because I had starting working in a movie theater. This film is dark and brooding and not like most super-hero films, but yet it is also awesome and amazing.
#49 – Airplane! (1980)
- The funniest film ever made? It is certainly among the top contenders. Some of the gags are just ridiculous. Some are so funny you think you might pee. Some continue to run (“Stop calling me Shirley”) and run (“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”). My favorite line? I think I would have to go with “Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”
- I will again list the litany of products. We have this film on DVD. We have an old copy on video. We have a book on the art. I have a shirt. Thomas has a shirt, a hat (has had several hats actually through the years) a puzzle, a plush toy and a wallet. Veronica has a sweatshirt, a tape dispenser and a wallet. We have a blanket. Does that make it clear how much we love this film? One of the greatest films ever made for children and one that works just as wonderfully if not even more so for adults.
#47 – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
- Veronica has never forgotten sitting through all three hours of this at Cinema 21 but hey, again, it’s not her list. Everything leads up to that magnificent stand-off in the graveyard at the climax with one of the most memorable scores ever written.
#46 – Battlestar Galactica (1978)
- One of the films that most highlights that this is a list of favorite films and not the best films. I have loved the show and film (the original three hour pilot edited for theatrical release) since I was a kid. I still love it in spite of all the flaws. Yes, it was basically a Star Wars rip-off. But it action, it had humor and it had all those actresses I had a crush on as a kid.
#45 – Jeffrey (1995)
- I saw this in the theater (Cinema 21 again) and I have rarely ever laughed so hard. It has one of the great all-time under appreciated supporting performances (Patrick Stewart) and two absolutely magnificent extended cameos (Nathan Lane and Sigourney Weaver). It has some of the funniest lines I have ever heard (“To see the apartment.” “How dare you turn down sex when they are children in Europe who can’t get a date.”). How daring brilliant to make a black comedy about AIDS, a subject which it would seem you couldn’t possibly laugh about.
#44 – O Brother Where Art Thou (2000)
- Here we are in 2000 yet again! We’re also in a tight spot. And if that line doesn’t make you laugh then either you haven’t seen it or aren’t a fan and either way I would say, what the hell is wrong with you?
#43 – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
- If this were a list of my favorite novels, this would be higher. But it’s still pretty high and that’s because Terry Gilliam and Johnny Depp managed to perfectly embrace everything about the novel and make it truly come to life. I find when I go back to the book now I read certain parts of it with Johnny Depp’s cadence of the lines coming to mind.
#42 – Beauty and the Beast (1991)
- Starting in 1989, Disney had the Renaissance and they proved that the Disney princesses, 1 – don’t have to actually be a princess and 2 – can fend for themselves. Combine that with the amazing songs and fantastic animation and you have a perfect movie for a first date, which is what this was for me.
#41 – Back to the Future (1985)
- Until Batman came out in 1989 and I started going to the movies more regularly (and seeing films multiple times), there were only four films I had ever seen in a theater more than once. Three of them were the first three Star Wars films. The other was Back to the Future, which I saw three times in the theater in 1985. The score, the humor, the very concept, all of them kept drawing me back.
#40 – The Great Escape (1963)
- At one time I described this as my favorite film. It is still a big favorite, one of the great all-time fun War films. It is the film that made me love Steve McQueen and his motorcycle jump is still an all-time thrilling moment.
#39 – Superman II (1982)
- I have had a lot of shitty birthdays. My eighth birthday was not one of them, as I was taken to a double feature and both of the films are in the Top 40 of this list. I love this so much because it’s so cool – it actually gives Superman villains that can match up against him physically. Yet, unlike Man of Steel, which would have much better visual effects, it’s not just an orgy of destruction. The opening credits, with the recap of the first film to John Williams’ magnificent score is still one of the best opening credits in history.
#38 – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
- It has the misfortune of being the middle film in the trilogy – the score doesn’t hold up as well as the first and third films (which isn’t to say it’s not awesome – just not as awesome) and it doesn’t have a performance like Ian McKellen in Fellowship or Sean Astin in King. It does, however, introduce several of my favorite characters: Eowyn, Eomer and Faramir.
#37 – Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
- There was a stretch where I lived at home and this was the only one of the numerous films I owned on video that my mother ever wanted to watch. Probably because it’s one of the funniest films ever made while also being charming, romantic and moving. Did a nice job for W.H. Auden’s sales, over two decades after he had died.
#36 – The Producers (1968)
- If you’ve got it baby, flaunt it. Certainly one of the funniest films ever made. When Mel Brooks was told his movie was vulgar, he responded “Lady, it rose below vulgarity.” Has any song, even one written for comedic effect, ever had a funnier line than “Don’t be stupid be a smartie / Come and join the Nazi Party”?
#35 – The Dark Knight (2008)
- The superhero movie to end all superhero movies? Certainly I have a hard time imagining that a better superhero film will ever be made or that there will ever be a better performance in a comic book film than Heath Ledger’s performance in this film.
#34 – Trainspotting (1996)
- I saw the teaser, with Ewan disappearing into the toilet, and I knew I had to see this film. I saw it and didn’t understand the dialect, so I went back to see it again. Then I saw it again. Then I bought it. And watched it again and again and again. I have the poster. I have the soundtrack. I have the film. I am looking forward to the sequel with great anticipation. One of the great all-time openings, one of the great all-time endings, one of the great all-time sex scenes. Choose life.
#33 – The Little Mermaid (1989)
- In the fall of 1989 I was fifteen and felt I was too old for Disney films and besides, Disney hadn’t made a really worthwhile film in a long time, so I skipped this one in the theater. I saw it on video when it first came out and then watched it four more times before I returned it. Though it is not the best of the Disney Renaissance, it is definitely my favorite. I love the music. I love the humor. I love the redhead who falls in love with a prince with my name.
#32 – Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
- I went to see this with friends and wow did it win us over. I’m big on black comedies anyway (I once wanted to put this on a tape with The Trouble with Harry and Heathers and call it “death can be funny”). It’s got a pitch-perfect soundtrack and you better believe we were sitting there singing “Blister in the Sun” in the theater as the credits were rolling.
#31 – In the Bleak Midwinter (1995)
- I knew about this film before it came out, Branagh’s little Hamlet film before tackling the full play. I almost went to see it in London because it wasn’t out in the States yet, but I didn’t have time. I saw it the day it was released in Portland with just about no one else there. When I would meet Michael Maloney in Borders in 2008, I asked him if this would ever be released on DVD and he seemed pleased that I loved it so much.
#30 – The Music Man (1962)
- This came from being one of my mother’s favorite movies and because I watched it so many times as a kid. I remember once being allowed to eat dinner in front of the television because we were watching it and my mother was willing to indulge that habit for this film. I love the music. I love the performances. And good lord did I fall in love with Shirley Jones.
#29 – Casablanca (1942)
- Of the 14 different genre classifications that I use, Drama is by far the one I have seen the most of. I have seen more than 14,000 films and over 6000 of them I classify as a Drama. But of the 100 films on this list, this is the only Drama. That’s because it is the classic romance, a smart, funny, romantic film with a great romance, magnificent dialogue, a cool performance from the coolest actor and a lovely performance from one of the most beautiful actresses who ever lived.
#28 – Duck Soup (1933)
- “We go forth to fight for this woman’s honor. Which is probably more than she ever did!” It is still one of the funniest lines ever spoken on film, possibly the funniest thing Groucho ever said and that’s saying a lot. This is one of the funniest films ever made.
#27 – Annie Hall (1977)
- I didn’t really take to Woody Allen at first and that might surprise anyone who knows me, because I love Woody Allen films. Part of it is that the first Allen film I saw wasn’t a Comedy (Crimes & Misdemeanors) and then I saw several of his weaker films (Alice, Shadows & Fog, Another Woman). It wasn’t until Bullets over Broadway where I learned to appreciate his humor and then went back and finally saw this and realized how damn funny it was. This was the film that really won me over. Still Woody Allen’s funniest film, even after all these years.
- This becomes more and more clear all the time. This has been on Starz a lot lately and I keep watching the end of it. Veronica and I watched Roadies (and liked it), but she was out of town for the final episode and before we could see it, I had watched the end of this something like six times and really had Luke Wilson on my mind. The entire film is funny (I can’t believe how much I have loved it since the day I first saw it in the theater at a special screening before it opened given how much I loathe both Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller) but also poignant. It has what might be the best narration of any film (I would love the read the actual novel that Alec Baldwin seems to be reading from). It has always felt like a film version of the Glass stories by J.D. Salinger. And it has that incredible ending that made me realize how great Van Morrison’s “Everyone” is.
#25 – The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
- I had watched Star Wars well in excess of 300 times before I ever saw an Ealing Comedy. But I started watching them in college and it became clear that Alec Guinness wasn’t just Obi-Wan Kenobi. He was my favorite actor of all-time. This film has two of the greatest chase scenes in film history and both of them are hilarious.
#24 – Across the Universe (2007)
- When I went to London in 1996, one of the Musicals I saw was Return to the Forbidden Planet. It was a Musical that made use of pre-existing 50’s and 60’s songs and each song was perfectly fitted into the story. It melted my brain and I bought the soundtrack before leaving the theater. I have desperately wanted to make something like it ever since. But I never could have imagined what Julie Taymor would do with the Beatles catalog when presented the chance. It takes the songs from the greatest and most important band in rock history and re-imagines them, often in ways you never could have conceived. To top it off, it has one of the most beautiful, perfect endings you could imagine. It was the first review I ever wrote on this blog and then I wrote a completely separate one here.
#23 – The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
- As I said, Alec Guinness is my favorite actor of all-time. But when I was in high school, I loved the action heroes, the charismatic ones I wrote about here. I loved Errol Flynn because he wasn’t just a great action hero but he always seemed to be enjoying himself. His is the Robin Hood I have always loved most.
#22 – Spirited Away (2001)
- Quite possibly the greatest animated film ever made. I hadn’t seen much Miyazaki when I first saw this – that would come soon after (though I had seen Kiki and Totoro, because, you know I am married to Veronica). This film was a wonder to behold. It was such a vivid world, created with such intricate detail. And with such a wonderful heroine, pushed to find her parents and save them from this strange, fascinating world.
#21 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban (2004)
- I am not even remotely alone in thinking that this is the best of the Harry Potter films. It’s not a coincidence that the director of this film would eventually go on to win an Oscar. What Alfonso Cuarón did with this film was take it away from the Kids genre that the first two films had belonged in and made it into a fantasy. It’s true that he was helped by my favorite Hogwarts teacher (David Thewlis as Lupin) and the death of Richard Harris, allowing Dumbledore to be recast with the magnificent Michael Gambon. But it’s Cuarón who stamps this film with a directorial vision.
- While I do love the prequels, there was definitely going to be a benefit for the new films that Lucas wouldn’t be writing them. But it wasn’t just the new hands involved that made me love this film. It’s the look of it. When the Millennium Falcon is being chased on Jakuu, it’s the real effects rather than digital that make it looks so amazing. And it’s got some great humor (“That’s now how the force works!”). But most important, it has that moment that still makes me sit and watch until it happens – that lightsaber flying through the air into a young woman’s hand, called to where it knows it belongs.
#19 – Say Anything (1989)
- Ding. If that means nothing to you, then watch this film right now.
#18 – Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
- I took the girl I was in love with in college to see this on our first date. I loved it then. I still love it. I think I have seen it, on average, at least once a year ever since it came out. It is the one film in which a Shakespeare Comedy is done absolutely right.
#17 – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
- Not only the best (and my favorite) of all the Star Trek films, but one of the best Science Fiction films ever made. It takes all the character development that had made the first two seasons of the original show so good, kicks things up a notch with great special effects and an effective story, then concludes it with one of the great all-time edited, shot and scored scenes.
#16 – The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain (2001)
- A lot of foreign titles get shortened for their English language releases and usually that’s fine. This is one time where I think the original title really makes you feel what the film is about. This isn’t just the story of a young woman. It’s the story of her destiny, specifically her fabulous destiny, and that gives you an idea of how she will get there. She will melt, she will count how many orgasms are occurring through Paris at one time, she will piece together photographs, she will connect the past to the present, and it will all be brought together by a luminous performance that makes you fall in love. It’s true that her Paris is just a movie Paris, just like Remy’s (see below), but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful.
#15 – A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
- On the short list for the funniest film of all-time. It is a reminder of Roger Ebert’s dictum about humor (paraphrased): a person trying to be funny is not funny but a person trying to be serious and failing is funny. Plus, it has probably the funniest speech in the history of film, beginning of course with, “No, to call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people!”
#14 – West Side Story (1961)
- West Side Story has come up for me a couple of times recently when discussing “all-time bests”. The first time came when I first started listening to (and then got a chance to see) Hamilton. To me, West Side Story is the only other contender with Hamilton for Greatest American Stage Musical (I think they would both lose out to Les Miserables for Greatest Stage Musical). But then it came up again when La La Land came out. Because West Side Story and Singin in the Rain are the only films that beat out La La Land for Greatest Film Musical (The Wizard of Oz gets classified as a Kids film). It is magnificently filmed, it has wonderful music and it tells a distinctly American story and gets every note of it right.
#13 – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- Star Wars was always going to be remembered as a great film. But would it have become such an incredible franchise if they hadn’t hit the ball right back out of the park with the next pitch? In some ways, it has to deal with being a middle film, but in some ways it is definitely superior to the first film and there are a lot of people who champion it as the best of the franchise. Either way, it has some of the most remembered dialogue of the series and gave us the music that I chose for walking into my wedding.
#12 – Clerks (1994)
- Another on the short list for funniest film ever made. I actually skipped this in the theaters because it just looked like it would be another small budget indie Comedy that wasn’t worth all the hype. Boy was I wrong. And it’s not just all the great lines like “37! My girlfriend sucked 37 dicks!” but the responses, like “In a row?” This is a strange movie in that I feel so in touch with it (Smith isn’t that much older than me and has a lot of the same interests) and yet, years away from it (I did head off to college and escaped where I was raised).
#11 – The Maltese Falcon (1941)
- The reason I own a fedora. Everyone wanted to be Indiana Jones, and I wanted that as well, but he has these fantastical adventures. But I also wanted to be a detective in the fog and the shadows in San Francisco and that seemed like a much more realistic prospect (I even worked on a novel about a detective in the same city in the same time period). One of the great examples of a novel and a film that transcend the genre.
#10 – Watership Down (1978)
- There was a time when this rivaled Star Wars as my favorite film of all-time. I watched it as a kid then asked for the film for a while (my parents wandered around one year in the days before Christmas before finally finding it on video) and Veronica gave me the new Criterion Blu-Ray for Father’s Day last year. After devouring the film for years, I discovered the book and loved that as well, placing it in my Top 100. The author, Richard Adams, died on Christmas Eve but his death wasn’t reported until the 27th, a couple of hours after Carrie Fisher’s, so, like C.S. Lewis, his death went almost unnoticed.
#9 – Ratatouille (2007)
- Not the best of the Pixar films (that would be Wall-E, probably followed by Inside Out), but my favorite of them. Ironically, we only saw part of it in the theater (it was a double feature at a drive-in with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix but we had gone for the latter and had to get back) but, a few apartments back, when we first got a DVR it was one of the first things we recorded and Thomas and I started watching it every day. Sometimes more than once. I love Remy, love the food he makes (actually, that’s not true – I don’t like ratatouille), love the way he talks about food (I’m always blathering on to Veronica about the combination of tastes), love the version of Paris he lives in (no more real than Amelie’s or the Los Angeles of La La Land). Another film where I quote a line to Veronica all the time (“You’re the one who was gettin’ fancy with the spices!”). It’s been on Starz a lot lately and even though we own it on DVD, I let it continue playing every time I find it on.
- I considered counting all three of the films as one film, since they’re adapted from one novel and they were all filmed at one time, then broken into the parts and released across three years, similar to how the books were released. I waited, basically, my whole life to this point for this film to come out and it didn’t disappoint in any way. While I quote a lot of movies to Veronica, she has, for over 15 years now, had a quote from this film up on her wall (“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”). Of the many, many moments I love, one of them is subtle and was almost certainly added in post-production, given that we don’t see the person when he says it: it’s when Merry realizes that Frodo is leaving and that they need to let him leave to fulfill the quest, so he starts to yell towards the orcs, then says (off-screen), “Go Frodo”. Much like the moment when Aragorn tells him to flee after seeing his sword (another favorite moment), it’s not in the book, but is completely in character.
#7 – Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
- “Very small rocks!” “Build a bridge out of her!” “I got better!” “No, it’s too perilous.” “Is there someone else we could talk to?” By themselves, those lines make almost no sense and wouldn’t be particularly funny. But in context they help make up the funniest film ever made.
#6 – Fantasia (1940)
- Dancing hippos!
#5 – The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- I always loved this film. There’s no question of that. From the first time I saw it, watching a world of sepia be pushed aside and make way for the world of color, for the performance that I fall in love with every time I see it, for those wonderful songs, I was opened up into a world that I never wanted to leave. Dorothy may have wanted to return home, but I will journey to Oz again and again and again. But what also started to happen as the years would go by and I would watch it again and again, as I would get it on video as I would see it in the theater (more than once), as I would get it on DVD, I began to realize that this film might just very well be the greatest movie ever made.
#4 – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
- The best of the three films, though it’s hard to decide that. Through all the fantasy, through all the action, through all the magical moments, through the ride of the Rohirrim, through the destruction of the ring, it’s always the human (or hobbit) story that gets to me and so when I hear those words “We set out to save the Shire. And it has been saved. But not for me.” it still brings tears to my eyes. “My dear Sam. You cannot always be torn in two. You will have to be one and whole for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be and to do. Your part in the story will go on.”
#3 – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
- The adventure hero for my generation, and really, for every generation. It’s a Comedy. It’s an Adventure film. It’s a Fantasy. It’s Action. It’s Drama. It’s Suspense. It’s even good for Kids (I saw it in the theaters just short of the age of seven). It’s pretty much everything but a Musical and a Sci-Fi.
#2 – The Princess Bride (1987)
- “Is this a kissing book?” Well, yes it is. But it’s so much more than that. Like Raiders and The Wizard of Oz, this film has a bit of everything. It is, I would say, the most quotable movie, not just of my generation, but of any generation. My review of the film basically says everything about why I love the film and how much everyone I know loves the film without saying a damn thing about the film itself.
#1 – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
- It is impossible to figure out how many times I have seen this film. Well in excess of 500, without question. I saw it any number of times in the theater because of my brothers. After we moved to Orange, it was first on HBO (which we had) and then on Cinemax (which we got for free for a decade because the cable guy accidentally turned it on when he turned on HBO and the cable company never realized it) and I would watch it every day. Then I taped it and would watch it every day. Then the special edition came out in the theater and I saw it several more times. Then those came out on video and I bought those and watched them all the time. Then it was released on DVD right around the time Thomas was born, so I would sit around and watch it everyday while home with him and Veronica was at work. Then they released the original non-Special Editions on DVD and I got those and would watch them. Then they came out on Blu-Ray and I started watching those. The end of Rogue One makes me watch this film again and I’ve seen Rogue One four times so far. The only reason I haven’t seen it more is because there are only so many hours in the day.