So after 20 or so odd years of having a list of my favorite 5 films and not having that list change whatsoever, I thought it might be time to revisit the list as well as expand it. Some things have changed (Henry and June has dropped off completely) and some things have not (#1). It should be noted that this list does not present a list of the 10 best movies of all time but rather my personal favorites. These are the movies that I had an emotional reaction to for whatever reason. I'm sure that anyone can make an argument that a film like Schlinder's List is a much better film than Guardians of the Galaxy but I'm not sitting through Schlinder's List numerous times.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - The newest film on my list is also the most fun. This is the perfect summer blockbuster and there isn't one thing I'd change about it. I weep for humanity when mindless dribble like any of the Transformers or The Pirates of the Caribbean movies makes a ridiculous amount of money. I'm told I should just check my brain at the door and enjoy the ride. Don’t worry if it makes any sense or not. Well I call bullsh*t on that. Guardians is smart, funny, sweet, sad, action-packed, perfectly cast and has a killer soundtrack. Seriously, it's the perfect blockbuster and proof that you don't have to be dumb to be fun.
Favorite Scene: Rocket and Groot at the Prison….”Oh Yeah!!!”
Guardians of the Galaxy Original Movie Poster
9. Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring (1986)- This is a 2-part film that can be viewed as separate entities but taken as a whole, it packs an emotional wallop. These are the two films that turned me onto the French cinema of the late 80's and early 90's. If you've got about 4 hours to spare, I promise you won't be disappointed. It’s a devastating masterpiece.
Favorite Scene: The moment that Jean De Florette learns the truth about Manon.
Jean De Florette/Manon of the Spring DVD
8. Wall-E (2008) - I remember walking around a Disney Store in 2007 and seeing the first marketing signs for a new movie about a rather bland looking robot named after a wall and thinking "They've lost their minds. This will never succeed." Now I know, never ever doubt the animation department of Disney/Pixar (the live action department is a completely different story). Wall-E is “Us”. It is the most prophetic movie of the last 25 years. Just take a moment and pick your head up away from your electronic device and tell me what you see. We are not that far away from the humans of Wall-E. From our recent loss of bone mass to our inability to communicate to the person right next to us without using technology. Wall-E is also a sweet, funny and sad film separate of its' social commentary. And like a lot of my favorite films, it demonstrates the power of the movies on its characters (Hello Dolly).
Favorite Scene: Eve seeing Hello Dolly for the first time.
Wall E DVD
7. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) – This is probably the one film on the list that I think will get most people shaking their heads at me. This is the film that Stanley Kubrick was in the middle of making when he died and by most accounts Steven Spielberg came in and made it all sappy. Well I love Steven Spielberg movies and I hate sappy. He’s probably my favorite living director and I’m not so sure that Kubrick would have done a better film. Have you seen Eyes Wide Shut? It would have been a different film for sure but better, I don’t think so. The only thing I know for sure was that I was an emotional wreck after this film. I couldn’t move for at least 5 minutes and I was sobbing…hard and loud. This film probably affected me for personal reasons as my son was only 1 when it came out. The story of the poor robot David trying everything and waiting literally thousands of years just to experience his mother’s love was just too much for me to take. I haven’t really been able to watch the whole thing again. It’s just too much. This is Spielberg’s most underrated masterpiece.
Favorite Scene: David falling asleep for the first and last time in his mother’s arms, finally happy.
6. Notorious (1946) – I love the films of Alfred Hitchcock. I believe he is the greatest director of all time. I haven’t seen all of his films but I’ve seen most of them and there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. Trying to pick my favorite Hitchcock film is such a hard decision and the answer changes from time to time. Sometimes it’s Rear Window, sometimes it’s To Catch a Thief but for today, it’s Notorious. I grew up watching every Car Grant movie there was. He was my mom’s favorite actor. I didn’t really appreciate his films at the time, but I do now. He was an amazing actor and when he worked with Hitchcock, he was never better. This film is romantic and thrilling at the same time. And that famous scene between Grant, Ingrid Bergman and a telephone really is one of the sexist things you’ll ever see on celluloid.
Favorite Scene: That Kiss.
5. Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989) - And speaking of sexy movies….well this one does it for me. I really can’t explain why. It’s a film that talks a lot about sex but doesn’t really show much of it. All of the characters in this movie are somewhat damaged and they talk about their issues at great length. This should be a bore of a movie. But it isn’t. This is the film that really started the independent film movement and showed how little money was needed to make a great film.
Favorite Scene: Ann’s gentle seduction of Graham at the end.
4. Pride and Prejudice (2005) – This film wasn’t even on my radar a few years ago. But now that I’ve seen it about 30 times, well I just love it. It is the perfect film adaptation. I love Keira Knightly’s Elizabeth Bennett and I love that Mr. Darcy isn’t exactly handsome (definitely less handsome than Colin Firth in that other adaptation that made him a star). And yet for me, he is Mr. Darcy. It’s such a lovely, beautiful movie. And it has one of the best films scores to boot.
Favorite Scene: Mr. Darcy walking out of the morning mist.
3. Dangerous Liaisons (1988) – John Malkovich was my main man for many, many years and this was the film that did it for me. He just oozes sexuality for me in this. Again, he’s not the most physically attractive man (but again much better than Colin Firth in the limp remake Valmont*) but looks really have nothing to do with sexuality. I saw this movie 4 times while in my senior year of high school. Each time, I saw it with a different person. I was always amazed at how differently we each interpreted the film, who won and who lost, which characters were good and which were evil. For me, Valmont wins back the love of Madame de Tourvel and dies the winner, in a sense. I’ve always seen it as a tragic love story.
Favorite Scene: It’s beyond my control.
2. Casablanca (1942) – This is, without question, THE PERFECT MOVIE. Every single aspect of this film is perfection. It’s romantic. It’s hilarious. It’s suspenseful. It’s political. It’s everything. Has anyone every looked as beautiful as Ingrid Bergman does in this film? Was Humphrey Bogart ever this likable again? To be very honest, I actually hated this movie the first time I saw it. I was around 16 years old and thought I was getting ready to watch one of the great love stories of film. And then that ending….I was pissed to say the least. But with more viewings and little more growing up, I’ve come to love it for the masterpiece it really is. And of course, now I love that ending.
Favorite Scene: The singing of La Marseillaise (I’m French).
1.Cinema Paradiso (1988) – This is the hardest movie for me to write about because it’s just so personal for me. It literally changed my life. Next to my family and friends, movies are the love of my life and this film taught me that it was O.K. It was better than O.K. It was great. This movie has so many great aspects. Philippe Noiret is one the best and most underrated actors of all time. Marco Leonardi is one of the best looking human beings to ever walk the earth. The great Ennio Morricone’s score is simply put, the greatest film score ever created. It’s so beautiful that I cannot bare to listen to it casually. It’s too powerful. And that ending….perfection. The magic of the movies wrapped up in one prefect little Italian film.
Favorite scene: It's not the ending as one might suspect, though it is a close 2nd. My favorite scene of this film and of any film ever made is when Toto begs Alfredo to give the people of the town square what they want which is to see the sold out film at the Cinema Paradiso. He then moves the image of the film across the projection booth walls onto the giant wall outside in the square. The Magic of the Movies Voila!!!!
* I mean no disrespect to Colin Firth who happens to be a fine actor. I really loved him in A Single Man.