I absolutely love cinema. Films can often drive a point home better than any other artistic medium, and I have learned a great deal about myself and the world through them. In fact, I watch and rewatch the movies I love so much that I begin inserting quotes and references into everyday conversation. So much so that its probably a bit obnoxious. But I digress.
This 'list making' will be of the ten films I love the most. This is certainly not a greatest or most important films of all time list; you will not find The Wizard of Oz or The Godfather listed below. Instead, these will be the films that have stuck with me the most, be it because of their message, content, acting performances or sense of humor. I would love to hear what some of your favorites are that did not make my list; leave your list in the comments section below (I have set it so that you do not have to be logged in or have a profile to leave a comment).
Spoiler alert: some of the scenes I link to will give away plot points or the ending of the film. Don't watch them if you haven't seen the movie before or if you don't want the end ruined for you.
1. The Shawshank Redemption
This movie is, in my opinion, the greatest film of all time. I'll be brief here as I plan on a future post concerning Shawshank. The message of hope and perseverance is powerful and the story is riveting. Plus, Shawshank has the greatest bromance this side of Scrubs. Can you go wrong with Morgan Freeman? Perfect story, perfect characters, perfect ending. I could watch this again and again and never get sick of it (and I do).
Most memorable scene(s): Andy Escapes, I Hope
2. V for Vendetta
My clear cut number one for a long time until recently. Now V and Shawshank are virtually 1A and 1B for me. I love the political undertones and overtones throughout this film. The visuals are stunning as well, and having Natalie Portman certainly doesn't hurt. Spending a semester living in London allowed me to interact with the setting of the film on a regular basis, which was pretty cool. Seeing the Old Bailey and Trafalgar Square daily was special for me considering how much I enjoy this film. Not that seeing those things wouldn't have been exciting anyway, but you get the point.
Most memorable scenes: V's Introduction, "My Turn", Dominos
3. The Prestige
Christopher Nolan never fails to impress. The director of Memento, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and now Inception made his biggest impact on me with The Prestige. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play dueling magicians in this film, with major roles played by Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine and David Bowie. The mantra of the movie is "Are you watching closely?", and it certainly rings true throughout the film. Fantastic ending that will keep you on the edge of your seat and not dissapoint.
Most memorable scenes: The Real Transported Man, Goodbye
4. Fight Club
I could write all day about this film, but I'll limit myself here. If you have read this blog for a while, I'm sure you have noticed that I reference Fight Club a great deal. And for good reason. Many who see the title of the film assume that it is a mindless bloody action flick, with no real purpose or message. They would be wrong. This movie is filled with thought and philosophy, much of which has influenced my own views on society. Anti-consumerism, the destruction of masculinity, the folly of advertising, individualism...all these are ideas brilliantly woven into Fight Club through the character Tyler Durden. There is little I can mention about the actual story without betraying important plot points, so I won't. Just go see it if you haven't already.
Most memorable scenes: Middle Children of History, Human Sacrifice, Homework Assignment
5. The Life Aquatic: with Steve Zissou
Wes Anderson plus Billy Murray equals funny. This is one of the quirkiest films I have ever seen, but the dry humor and subtlety of the plot is brilliant and right in my comedic wheelhouse. Wes Anderson uses music brilliantly throughout the film, with the highlight being Seu Jorge's everpresent acoustic picking of David Bowie songs in Portugese. And strangely enough, I really connected with Murray's character Zissou in a fairly significant way. The climactic moment of this film is perhaps my favorite scene in all of cinema.
Most memorable scenes: Jaguar Shark
It's not even worth mentioning any other scenes.
6. Good Will Hunting
Troubled but smart kid gets discovered and has emotional problems. Or something like that. Robin Williams gives an incredible performance in this film, and Matt Damon turns in a fine performance as well. But beyond the acting, the story itself is riveting and makes you root for Will Hunting to figure himself out.
Most memorable scenes: Park Scene, How do you like them apples?
7. The Last of the Mohicans
I maintain that this is the ultimate chick flick/guy movie combo. Great story, beautiful scenery throughout the film and my favorite soundtrack of any film (O Brother Where Art Thou? is a close second). For the ladies, there is a fairly sappy and slightly predictable love story that permeates the film; for the guys, the French and Indian War is the backdrop and driving force behind the plot.
Most memorable scenes: Waterfall, End Scene
Historically inaccurate but historically entertaining. Ridley Scott does a great job setting a worn feeling to the film, giving it a roughness and level of grit that is fun to watch. The lasting mark of this film is Joaquin Phoenix's character, Commodus. I hate Commodus more than any other character in film. I can't stand the sight of him, his whiny voice, his cowardly actions. And the fact that the writers created a character that I vehementely hate is quite an accomplishment. Oh yeah, and Russell Crowe.
Most memorable scenes: Are you not entertained?, Maximus
Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the man knows story structure. Braveheart is a fantastic action/war epic that contains a worthwhile message (freedom) and combines the two with Scottish accents and blue warpaint. Doesn't get much better than that. Plus, this is one of the last times society considered Mel Gibson to be a fairly normal person. So there's that.
Most memorable scenes: Sons of Scotland, Betrayal
10. The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger gives the single greatest acting performance I have ever seen. His portrayal of the Joker is one that hides Ledger completely within the role; when Jack Nicholson played the Joker, you were never unsure of who the actor was. With Ledger's Joker, you actually begin to believe that this character might exist. Christopher Nolan delivers the goods as usual, and Christian Bale's Batman is as flawed but realistic a portrayal of the superhero that we have been presented. A trifecta that stands out.
Most memorable scenes: Pencil Trick, Why So Serious?
So close: O Brother, Where Art Thou?; The Boondock Saints; Lord of War; American History X; Anchorman; Memento; The Matrix (trilogy); Bourne (trilogy); The Departed; Caddyshack; Forrest Gump; Saving Private Ryan; Amistad; Stardust; The Princess Bride