My twentieth birthday is coming up in a week and a half and I thought I would share my top twenty favorite films of all time. These are not necessarily the best films I’ve ever seen, just the ones that have stayed with me and/or the ones that I go back to more than others. So after much deliberation, here are my top twenty films of all time.
The Back to the Future Trilogy (1985-1990): One of the film series that predominated my childhood was Back to the Future. I watched it from such a young age that I have no memory of ever not having seen them. The music is iconic, it features the great Christopher Lloyd in one of his best parts, and it has the coolest car on the face of the Earth.
Batman Begins/The Dark Knight (2005 and 2008): In both these films Nolan manages to do what I don’t think any other director of any of the live-action Batman films has been able to do, and that is really nail down what Batman is about. He is also able to occupy the movie with so many great players that it really is a joy to watch the actors at work in every scene. And I can’t really talk about these films without mentioning the Joker, who in The Dark Knight is probably the best portrayal of the character that I’ve seen.
Blood Diamond (2006): This is a bit of an odd choice and I debated whether or not to even include it. It’s a film I’ve seen only once and therefore didn’t really know if it should really qualify as a favorite movie but I decided to keep it in because ever since I saw it for the first time a year-and-a-half ago it has stayed with me. It’s a very powerful film that reaches such a great height because of its great actors who all give superb performances. Djimon Hounsou is the one who particularly caught my eye with how much he devoted to his part. I believed everything that character said and did. A very strong movie from beginning to end.
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935): James Whale has the ability to instill such a unique, bizarre, gothic, and yet still a bit zany feel to a film than I think any other director. What I think Bride of Frankenstein does so well, and better than its predecessor, is maintain its tone all the way through. One of the problems I have with Frankenstein (1931) is that the tone was too uneven. At the time Whale had to break up the scenes of ghastly horror with lighter scenes and I feel like that really hurt the film. In the Bride, Whale is able to interject lighter, comic relief scenes without breaking that tone. Boris Karloff, in the wonderful makeup done by Jack Pierce, gives a better performance than the first time around and really allows the Monster to grow and evolve.
Chaplin (1992): I love movies about old Hollywood. Part of that is because I am such a fanatic about learning more and more about the beginnings and early days of movies that any time I see it in a film I can’t help but smile a little bit inside. Also it features a little bit of Vaudeville which I am fascinated by and isn’t featured nearly enough in films for my taste. Chaplin is a very audacious picture. It’s trying to tell the life story of a man who did a lot in his long, long life, which isn’t easy to do by any means. The movie has drawn some criticism for trying to tell too much in too little time and while I do understand these complaints I don’t really agree with them. For me the motion picture really captures Charlie and his life and Robert Downey Jr. gives the best performance of his career so far and really should’ve gotten the Oscar.
Clue (1984): Here’s a film that’s far from a perfect comedy or mystery but one that I can’t help but watch over and over again. I love seeing Tim Curry, Martin Mull, and Christopher Lloyd in anything and I get so much joy out of seeing Curry running around like a mad man. It’s a very silly and zany movie that I find so enjoyable to watch every time. Oh, and I love tapping my feet to “Shake, Rattle, and Roll”.
Duck Soup (1933): One of the problems I have found with Marx Brothers’ films is that some of their jokes can go on for too long or go at too slow a pace. I’ve never found that the case with any of Duck Soup’s gags, from the start it’s pulling out some great jokes and it doesn’t relent until the end. Plus you can’t go wrong with starting a film with Groucho in probably one of the funniest beginnings to a movie ever. Every time this movie shows up on TCM I can’t help but smile.
The Godfather (1972): The Godfather has some of the best writing of any movie. It’s consistent and it never dips down into the lows that it might’ve under lesser writers. Something I didn’t notice until after a few viewings is really how much Michael changes during the film. If someone looks at his character at the wedding and then at the end when he’s talking to Kay for the last time, the character is completely different. You see the character progress into what he’s going to become slowly and subtly and Al Pacino deserves all the props in the world for helping to make that happen so well. Another actor I must mention is Marlon Brando whose part makes this film more enjoyable to watch than The Godfather: Part II for me. He plays a man who is a gangster and has killed many people but still has his own rules and moral code about what he will and will not do. This makes him someone who I am fascinated by with every re-watch.
Groundhog Day (1994): Harold Ramis takes the premise of a guy who has to live one day over and over again and turns it to gold. It’s as funny as it is sometimes heartbreaking. Phil Connors is really despicable at times but you’re always with him, even during his meaner periods. By the end of the film you see him turn into a very kind person and it’s done believably. This is in no small part to Bill Murray in probably his best performance. He has that quality that allows him to be snarky, and mean, and rude but still lovable and a guy you can root for.
Hellboy (2004): Another one of my favorite superhero films and my favorite of Guillermo del Toro’s work thus far. It creates a tone that perfectly matches that of the comic and has a world that looks and feels like it was ripped from the pages of Mike Mignola’s work. The cinematography is some of the best I’ve ever seen and that makes the film a complete joy to look at with beautiful shot after beautiful shot. It could’ve used a bit more Abe Sapien but other than that it’s a marvelous movie with great acting, writing, and directing.
The Invisible Man (1933): One of the most visually appealing characters for me has been the Invisible Man. That might sound odd to say considering the whole idea of the character but I’m talking about the visuals you get when the character is partly clothed or whatever. James Whale and the special effects team are able to create these magnificent visuals with the stunning special effects of the time that are totally able to represent the Invisible Man and all his glory. The film has a great beginning (right out of the book) with the Invisible Man walking through the snow, great music, an amazingly dark and funny performance by Claude Raines, and, again, that wonderful tone that only James Whale can do. A true must see.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974): A silly, silly movie that encompasses everything that Python is about and everything that is great about it. I don’t really find the ending really funny but the rest of the film (with a couple exceptions here and there) is utterly hilarious.
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928): Another film that I’ve seen only once but, again, one that has stayed in my mind. It’s a very dramatic film that’s not to be taken lightly in the least bit. Maria Falconetti, in one of her few film appearances, is so good in her part that I won’t ever be able to give her all the credit that she deserves and she is one of the reasons that you should track this movie down if you haven’t already.
The Prestige (2006): Probably my favorite of Nolan’s films. It has a twist ending but the film doesn’t totally rely on it as much as other, lesser films do. It lets its wonderfully well written story and great characters carry it. It’s one of the movies that you can watch many times and still find new things that you didn’t pick up on the last time. A very mesmerizing film.
The Princess Bride (1987): I love films that mix together genres. The Princess Bride does this and it does it well. It’s a comedy, romance, swashbuckler, drama, fantasy movie all in one. It has a great cast and manages to do to a lot of male audiences what Peter Falk’s character does to Fred Savage’s, which is win him over in this wonderful story about love and revenge.
Serenity (2005): Like I said, I love movies that mix genres and Joss Whedon is known to do that in his television shows and films. Serenity is a comedy, drama, action, sci-fi, western that continues and ties up some of the loose ends of the show it’s based on (Firefly). It features one of my favorite spaceships ever and some great special effects for the budget they had. Also if you can watch this movie and not find Nathan Fillion a great actor then I would be amazed.
Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce (1938-1946): I’ve already talked a little bit about my love for Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes movies so I won’t go into too much more detail here. They’re just very fun and enjoyable movies to watch despite not having the best characterization of Watson (although I still love Nigel Bruce as Watson).
Singin’ in the Rain (1952): This features Hollywood in the days when they were transferring from silent films to talkies and I eat up every second of it. It features the best songs and they are performed to perfection by Grace Kelly and company. It’s another one of those movies that, like Duck Soup, I smile whenever I see that it’s on TV.
Star Wars (1977-1983): How could I not include these movies? The original trilogy is similar to Back to the Future for me in that I can never recall not having seen them. They’re magical films that transported me as a kid and still remain a source of great joy for me as an adult.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): I often don’t like the music in older movies as much as some current ones. That’s not to say I don’t like the music in older movies but some of it I find to be just not to my liking. To Kill a Mockingbird is different. Sometimes I’ll go a while without seeing it and then catch it on TV or something and be reminded by how much I love the music and main theme. The film itself tells the story of racism and what it’s like to be a child and grow up very well. It doesn’t do quite as good of a job with the latter as the book does but it still does it brilliantly.
Hope you enjoyed reading up on my favorite movies of all time and that I have enticed you to go out and view some of the films that you haven’t seen yet. Cheers.