I love the movies. All kinds. My taste is pretty eclectic as my taste in music. I want to share my twenty favorite movies ever with you. I rank them in order of how much I love them, how many times I’ve seen them, how well I know the lines, who’s in them and what effect they had on me. So lets take a look at 20 to 11.
#20 – THE EVIL DEAD TRILOGY – Sam Raimie gets a bum rap now a day as a film maker because of “Spiderman 3.” A lot of people like to conveniently forget that the forced addition of the Venom character threw a monkey wrench into the movie. But I digress. I enjoyed the “Spidy” movies but to me Raimie’s early work with the Evil Dead films are still his best. The first film was a straight up in your face horror film. Shot for very little money, it had that gritty nasty feel that the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” had. Lots of energetic camera work, a simple plot and lots of blood made it a truly frightening film in the time at a time when Jason, Chuckey, and Freddy were getting old. The second film was sort of more a remake than a sequel and had more dark comedy. But a wild performance by one of my faverite actors Bruce Campbell make it a great movie. Army of Darkness is the last one and is more of a fantasy/comedy. Campbell once again gives a hilarious performance and it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
# 19 – THE WRESTLER – Pro wrestling used to be a lot of fun to watch. But I never forgot that, although scripted and choreographed, the performers in the ring put their bodies and lives through much abuse. A hand full of the guys thrived and became wealthy, saved their money and moved on with their lives. But most partied a bit too much, squandered their fortunes and became addicted not only to the parties, drugs and alcohol, but to the fame and the adulation of the crowd. The love of their spouses and children just isn’t enough. It doesn’t charge their adrenaline like the crowd does. That is the story of The Wrestler. Micky Rourke gives a brilliant performance as a once big name main event pro wrestler whose time has passed. He still performs on the indy circuit making a couple hundred bucks or so. He then has a heart attack and has to reconsider his entire life. He realizes for once just how alone he is and how he’s driven everyone who once cared about him away to sooth his lust for the roar of the crowd. The dialogue is beautiful, the direction by Darren Aronofsky is perfect. The rest of the cast is great too including Marisa Tome and Evan Rachel Wood. But it’s Rourke’s show all the way. He shows why he was once one of the most sought after and respected actors in film and can be again. It’s not a movie just for wrestling or ex fans. It’s a story about what is most important to a person. Career, or family, your wants or your needs. The brilliant part is it doesn’t tell, but leaves it up to the viewer to decide.
#18 – POTC (Curse of the Black Pearl) A few years ago this would have been higher on my list. Why a few years ago? Because the pleasure of the original has waned a bit with the many so, so, sequels. Now there may be another coming out. The 2,3 and 4 ones were … ok. But the first POTC was to me a great film. It was funny, exciting, lots of great moments and lines, and of course one of the great performances of all time. Johnny Depp has always been a favorite of mine. (this is not the only Depp film on this list) But he finally kicked the door down on the box office star home with this film. I don’t know if it was his intention but he did it with one of the most original and best performances ever. But another on of my favorite actors, Geoffrey Rush almost steals some of the scenes with Depp. His turn as the nasty, rancid, yellow eyed Barboza is a true treat to watch. He is the perfect arch rival to the cool, aloof, yet crafty Jack Sparrow. Rush is so good he comes back in the sequels as a sort of good guy. Sort of good. I really wished that the 3rd POTC was the last one. “Stranger Tides” was good but the theme is getting tired and the cash cow of Jack Sparrow I’m sure is about to dry up. Depp is too talented to play the same role forever. I would like to see him get away from comedy a while and play more serious roles. Maybe a real villain for once? But this film is still fun to watch and will forever be a fave.
#17 THE RAMBO TRILOGY – A childhood favorite. From ages of maybe seven to eleven I wanted to be Rambo. He was tough, gritty, kicked ass. Sure some think/thought the movies were bad, violent, ect. But as a kid I loved them. It was the same I’m sure when John Wayne, Lone Ranger and such tromped through the big screen and shot everything in sight. Stallone and Schwarzenegger (who will appear on the list later) were the John Wayne’s of their time. The movies they made were no different from the over hyped westerns of the 50’s. Rambo was the Rooster Cogbern of his day. A flawed, troubled hero who was scarred by society and ills of the world. Much like Frankenstein Rambo was created by the government (ie Dr. Frankenstein) and made a monster in the first film by the “civilized world.” The second two films may have not had the layers of character or story but to me they’re still fun.
#16 – THERE WILL BE BLOOD – I didn’t think when I first watched this film it would become such a favorite. DDL is one of the greatest actors in film history. No one can deny it. This, in my humble opinion is his greatest performance ever. I have loved all his performances, but he is so mesmerizing in this I can’t take my eyes away from him. He encompasses greed, and anger so well you almost see it seep out of his pores like the oil from the ground. Even though his character is contemptible you sit and watch for what he may say or do next. DDL is one of the few actors that can steal a scene away from a child. Everything about the film is great. From Paul Thomas Anderson’s wonderful direction and script. To the gorgeous cinematography, to the music and of course the acting. The one thing that is very disturbing about DDL’s character is that all his greed is driven by his obsessive competitiveness and his distaste for people. So it makes the last scene with his son more painfu. His son tells him he wants to leave and start his own oil company. Plainview (DDL) suddenly feels betrayed and instantly looks at the child he raised as his new competitor. He berates him and drives him away. This scene to me is much more disturbing than the final climax. Which I won’t spoil if you haven’t seen it. But there is blood as is promised in the title.
#15 – The GOODFELLAS – The ONLY mob movie I’d ever put above the original “Godfather”. As great as “The Godfather” is I love the realism of “Goodfellas” more. Based on a true story of Henry Hill and his friends inside a prominent crime family from the 50’s to the mid 80’s. Everything is great in this film and is in my opinion Martin Scorsese’s best film. Definitely Ray Liotta’s best performance and also Joe Pesci’s. A performance that Pesci won an Oscar for but never could distance himself from. A great film from start to finish.
#14 – ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST – After I saw Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman film, (to be soon later on the list) I wanted to see more of the guy who played the Joker. So I searched the video store (remember those?) to find any movies with his name on it. I then found this one and I was so glad I did. One of the greatest ensemble acting pieces ever on film. A great film that blends humor and heartbreak at the same time. Also cleverly weaves a tale of standing up against fascism and challenging things you see that are wrong. Louis Fletcher as Nurse Ratchet is one of cinemas greatest villains. She never swears, kills, or even raises her voice that often. But with her ever annoying jingling keys, her icy glare, rigid demeanor and devil horn hair adorned with her satanic nurse crown, she wields authority over mentally weak men. She becomes threatened by the charismatic Mcmurphy (Nicholson) as he begins to awaken the broken men in the ward. She does everything to keep it from happening as any dictator will do. On top of that it was the second film to win every major award at the Oscars in 1975. The first was It Happened One Night in 1934. The third is listed here later.
#13 – THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY – Sometimes I want to pick which one is the best. But then I’ll watch them and just can’t. The “Fellowship” is great and as good a movie as one can get. But the “Two Towers” has Golum and the great helms deep battle. Then the “Return of the King” is awesome because of the epicness. (is that a word?) So I just have to list them all. I know the “Star Wars” films are often called the greatest adventures in film. And they are fantastic. But to me the LOTR films are more grand. I love fantasy books and films and Tolken’s creations are the masterpieces of this genre. Peter Jackson was able to do the impossible by crafting the books into masterpiece films that like the books will stand the test of time.
#12 – THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS – And the third film to win the five major Oscars is … Jonathan Demme’s “Silence of the Lambs.” Boy did it ever deserve it. Chilling doesn’t even cover what this movie is. Every time you watch it you notice or find something new. It’s all at once a horror, drama, noir , and a twisted love story all rolled into a masterpiece film. Anthony Hopkin’s becomes one of the greatest film villains/anti-hero, (which ever way you want to see it) of all time. As well as one of the greatest all be it chilling performances ever. It’s not all Hopkin’s show though. Jodie Foster, one of the great actresses of her time, more than holds her own in a great role. Even Ted Levine is disturbing good as the vile Jamie Gumb/Buffalo Bill. Levine was so good I think he gets overlooked in the role because of the vulgar disgust his character brings out in the viewer. There are so many memorable moments one could go on for days talking about it. So grab some Chianti, some Fava beans, popcorn, anything else you want and enjoy.
# 11 -DANCES WITH WOLVES – A sentimental favorite of mine. As one who has Native American blood it was the first film I saw where Natives were portrayed as the good guys. Every John Wayne, or 50’s western I had seen till that time always showed Natives as bloodthirsty killers, cowards, drunks, or just buffoonish. Except for another wonderful film with the late great Richard Harris “Man Called Horse.” That film is often never mentioned in great westerns. (hmm, coincidence?) Unlike like Wayne’s Natives, the ones in DWW not seen as cowardly, dumb, drunk, or greedy. (As John Wayne stated they were in this interview -> http://pages.shanti.virginia.edu/Wild_Wild_Cold_War/files/2011/11/John_Wayne_Playboy_Int2.pdf) Also the Natives in Costner’s film were real Native people. (Which the majority of the Natives in 50’s westerns were not) Kevin Costner directed a sweeping epic film that looked at the flip side of the grandiose tale of the American west. About a people who knew and loved the land that was torn from them. A proud people whose pride, culture, and heritage they clung to no matter what the cost. Those are the Native’s you won’t see in any John Wayne film. Why? Because he and the people of his day wanted you to forget the sacrilege of the history of America. Thankfully Kevin Costner brought it back to the spotlight. And made one of the greatest (IMO the greatest) western film ever.