This is my best attempt at creating an ordered list of my top 20 movies of all time. I do not necessarily believe that these are the best in the world, but rather my personal favorites. This list is also subject to change constantly. I could be different tomorrow.Thank you for reading.
20. Pacific Rim
I am not a fan of action movies. In fact, there are only three films that are purely action movies that I really like at all. Taken is one of them, John Wick is the other, and Pacific Rim is the last. This is a beautifully crafted film that is a heck of a lot of fun to watch. It’s mindless fighting between Giant Robots and monsters that Director Guillermo del Toro designed each to be different. For an action movie, there are some great performances here, especially Charlie Day, who is perfectly cast.
Sam Rockwell is the most underrated actor working today. Moon is a great example of his acting prowess, as he carries the entire movie as basically the only human character. This is an intense sci-fi drama thriller character study that will keep you guessing till the end. Kevin Spacey is also marvelous as the robot companion on the moon base where the movie takes place. This is a mind-bender of a film, and one worth thinking about.
18. Shutter Island
This movie is one of my favorites because it’s a completely different experience the first and second time you watch it. It’s immensely creepy without relying on gore or cheap scares. Instead, this film uses psychological elements to drive home it’s scares. This is my favorite thriller of all time, and Scorcese’s directing and Dicaprio’s performance as Teddy Daniels make this movie worth watching time and time again.
My introduction to the genius of Christopher Nolan began with Inception, and after multiple viewings, it had lost some of its flavor. It wasn’t until recently when I began reading all the fan theories about the meaning of the film that I was able to put it back on my top 20. This film has many different interpretations, including my favorite which is that the whole film is a metaphor for Nolan’s life as a filmmaker. This movie demands multiple viewings, it’s visually stunning, and is in my opinion, flawless.
16. The Kings of Summer
This is the only true comedy to grace my list. And surprisingly, most people have no idea that this movie exists despite it’s stellar cast (Nick Offerman, Allison Brie, Kumail Nanjiani, Tony Hale, etc.) This movie is not only consistently funny, but also offers some good lessons about boyhood, family, and friendship, which is rare in the comedy genre. The real winner for this film is the beautiful cinematography. This is a gorgeous film. It makes Ohio seem like a paradise. For these three reasons, Kings of Summer will remain my favorite comedy for a long time.
Perhaps it’s hasty of me to put a movie from this year (2014) on this list, but it had such an impact on me that I couldn’t resist. This movie is artistic without being pretentious to the point of being abstract. It’s drums only soundtrack fits the tone of the film perfectly. I have no qualms with this movie. Simply put, this is a masterpiece. If you like masterful achievements in filmmaking, see Birdman. If you like the superhero film industry, but know how to take criticism, see Birdman. If you like thought-provoking stories, see Birdman. If you want to see Zach Galifianakis’ best performance ever, see Birdman. If you like theater, see Birdman. Just see Birdman. (Check out my full analysis here)
Few movies are so grim that I would rarely recommend to anyone or so dark that I would consider not watching again, but fewer movies are as poetic as Se7en. This is a dismal movie about the depraved nature of mankind and sin, and the ending is not exactly pleasant, but this movie ties this all up so poetically in the blackest of bows and begs you to not watch again. And perhaps I won’t. And maybe you shouldn’t either, but this is a purposefully crafted tragedy. It had a significant impact on me as a filmmaker and for that, it will remain on my list. (But don’t watch it!)
13. Inside Llewyn Davis
I suppose it’s poetic justice that Inside Llewyn Davis would fall next to Se7en on this list, as I consider this movie pure poetry as well. This movie is dim and literally colorless and the subject material can be depressing too. This movie also speaks to the nature of man, but the key difference is that this is a movie that I would recommend to anyone (especially anyone who thinks themselves an artist). I won’t spoil the movie by explaining my theory about it’s message or ending, because I think everyone should ponder this movie on their own. Ultimately the pleasure of this movie is in thinking about it, not in viewing it. And in the words of Abed Nadir from Community, “will your story acknowledge the very nature of stories and embrace the fact that sharing the sad ones can sometimes make them happy?” (Also, best original soundtrack in my book)
12. Fight Club
David Fincher makes technical masterpieces. Fight Club is no exception. This is a movie that is on a filmmaking scale, essentially flawless. But it’s also a magnificent story that keeps you guessing constantly. It’s performances are magnificent, especially Brad Pitt, who finds the perfect balance of humor and menace. This is just a fun movie to watch, and I appreciate it more every time.
My favorite science fiction and horror movie are both Alien. This movie sets the foundation of so many horror and sci-fi tropes for decades to come. Although it is painstakingly slow, I believe that this is an absolutely tight script that is purposefully slow to build suspense. I also love the amount of practical effects and how convincing they are (This was 1979 after all). This is a fantastic example of Ridley Scott’s ability to craft a believable world in his movies, and Alien is a foundational film in cinema history.
Here they are. My top ten movies of all time. These are the real deal: the movies I could watch over and over again (and for most of them, I have). Rounding out the beginning of this list are three classics that no one could deny putting on a list such as this.
10. Jurassic Park
This movie fulfilled so many of our imaginations when we watched it for the first time. Seeing the dinosaurs on screen was a sight to behold. After watching it again, I am reminded of how wonderful this movie truly is. It’s funny, scary, and awesome all at the same time. John Williams’ score is unforgettable and so are the characters. Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcom is a personal favorite of mine. This is just a fun movie.
9. Star Wars
Some say that the Empire Strikes Back is the best of the original trilogy, however, I am a sucker for a good origin story as well as a film that can stand alone, and A New Hope fulfills both of these wishes. I don’t need to explain why this is on my list. If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re doing something wrong. See it. It’s a classic.
8. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Some might cry heresy to the fact that this is rated higher than Star Wars, but there are a few reasons why it is. I like watching Harrison Ford as a lead rather than Mark Hammil. I also like John Williams’ score more that star wars. That’s really all it comes down to. Honestly these movies are equals in my mind, but if I’m going to choose which to watch on a friday night, I will choose Raiders before star wars. Additionally, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and Raiders all appeal to my love of theme parks in some way (the Star tours and Indiana Jones rides at Disneyland are superb). For these reasons, all three of these movies had to make my list.
7. Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino is good a lot of things, but most remarkably is his ability to draw tension using dialogue only. His debut film, Resevoir Dogs is a great example of this. This movie is mostly scenes of talking, but they are so intense, and you are drawn into the characters motivations so much that this is an unforgettable film in many ways.
6. The Usual Suspects
The usual suspects is a collection of great individual elements which place it so high on my list. It has my favorite twist ending of all time, a great performance from Kevin Spacey, it’s become highly iconic, and overall it’s just a great heist movie. It’s just that simple.
Scorsese certainly knows how to make a good crime movie. This is my personal favorite, and among many list of the greatest of all time. It has a few fantastic tracking shots, and overall great performances all around. This movie takes an honest look at the organized crime industry without glamorizing it. By the end of the movie you will be certain that in the crime industry, there really are no goodfellas.
4. The Prestige
For a while this movie was in my top three, but then I saw Drive. Nonetheless, this is probably the best example of Nolan’s incredible storytelling capabilities. This non-linear tale will keep you guessing the whole time, and demands multiple viewings. This is a masterpiece that takes everything you love about inception and adds characters that are explored much deeper than in inception.
3. The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is the movie that I can watch over and over again. It is not only the best movie based on a comic book, but actually transcends the comic movie genre and is actually just a darn good crime thriller. This is a fun ride with some of the greatest performances of this generation (Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart).
2. Inglorious Basterds
Everything I love about storytelling in film began when I saw Inglorious Basterds the first time. This is Tarantino’s masterpiece and embodies everything that he is good at in perfect scale. The ultra violent scenes are fewer than in many of his films, and the tense scenes of dialogue are perfectly executed here. Christoph Waltz’s performance is my favorite of all time. If you can handle the blood, then this is a great example of storytelling in cinema that will probably exhaust you because of it’s length, but it’s totally worth it.
Drive is not for everyone. Ask most filmmakers and you will find that Drive is in most’s top three. I will not recommend this movie to many, but for me, this is not only the most aesthetically pleasing movie I have ever seen, but has a very subtle meaning that you will have to dig for to understand as well as several very purposefully subdued performances. I love this movie and it will continue to inspire my visual style for a long time.
Thanks for reading. This list is constantly changing and even more movies that I have seen this year will likely make the list eventually, but until then, here are my honorable mentions (all of which I would consider personal favorites): Nightcrawler, Whiplash, The Descendants, Super 8, The Way Way Back, X2: Xmen United, Matchstick Men, Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Hot Fuzz, Toy Story, The Book of Eli, No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Skyfall, There Will Be Blood, and School of Rock.