My favourite moviesby Jesper | created - 10 Jun 2012 | updated - 06 Dec 2014 | Public
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1. Don't Look Now (1973)
R | 110 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller
A married couple grieving the recent death of their young daughter are in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from beyond.
Why is this number one? Choosing a best movie is too hard, as it would depend on what factor I would focus on, thus the outcome would always be different. This is my favourite movie, the one I would always choose as favourite over any others. Its atmosphere is haunting and it contains great acting by Sutherland and Christie, moody cinematography and a whole number of memorable scenes and images. Repeated viewing makes the movie increasingly more disturbing, knowing how the story unfolds.
edit: With a new Bluray out and having only seen worn-out imperfect versions over the years, it was time for a re-watch.
Don't Look Now has always been my 'official' favourite movie, and in all honesty I know it is not a faultless movie. There are other movies on this list that are probably more complete and all-round perfect. But Don't Look Now has always done something quite unlike any other movie out there: I am able to totally emerge in it. Every re-watch sheds new light on several details I did not note before. It is indeed a movie that increasingly gets better with every re-watch.
Roeg's movie is an incredibly layered movie. His editing and camera work are highly effective in creating associations between scenes and images that are narratively not immediately related. The famous sex scene is always mentioned as the best example in this movie of his intertwined cutting. It is indeed beautifully done, but there is so much more of the intertwined cutting. The images of water and glass are constantly used to re-evoke the death of the couple's daughter. As characters turn their head, Roeg switches to characters in another place, also turning their head, relating them as if they were in one room. It strengthens the movie's second sight theme through mere visuals.
Venice is beautifully shot. Not as a postcard, but as a place of dread, grief and fear. This Venice is like a mortuary, devoid of people and beauty. It tries to put the characters wandering through it on a wrong track, wanting them either gone or devouring them inside.
Sutherland and Christie are realistically human. Sutherland seems to simultaneously underact and overact at first, but easing in, he fits extremely well in his character. Christie manages to get across the loving, but slightly unstable traits of her character. It is just Sutherland and Christie though that seem human (and even Sutherland's character is portrayed in an ambigious way at points). Other supporting characters seem as much part of the dread of Venice. The father, the chief of police and the two sisters are extremely ambigious: their eyes do frighten more than they reassure you.
Many people have been disappointed by the ending twist and it possibly is in a first watch. But this particular scene is the key to the whole movie: the story is an existential one, about fate. All of the themes in the story before are strengthened by it. It is a much more satisfying one than what would be expected. And indeed, during re-watches the scene is stronger than it ever was: it is an absolutely chilling scene.
Don't Look Now is so often overlooked. If you haven't yet, watch it. And then again...
2. Vertigo (1958)
PG | 128 min | Mystery, Romance, Thriller
A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.
Votes: 282,670 | Gross: $3.20M
Glorious Technicolor cinematography, a fantastic plot and innovative camera work. It was the movie that made me realise for the first time how visually beautiful movies can be.
edit after re-watch: Revisiting a movie you have placed very high on your lists is always tricky, a case of "Has it stood the test of time, do I still like it as much?". Vertigo, number 2 on my list of favourites, remains on that spot.
I find it hard to describe what truly makes Vertigo a great movie. In ways, it could even be said that the plot is inconsequential and seems to have a number of plot-holes. But this is Hitchcock, who not always explains everything through narrative, sometimes opting for subtle movements, even moods or colours to connect parts of stories. And in a strange fulfilling way, Vertigo seems complete because of this.
Right from the bat Vertigo feels different to what has come before in Hitchcock's oeuvre. The opening titles, Herrmann's music (one of the best scores ever committed to tape), the colours form a hypnotic opening. The movie includes all of Hitchcock trademarks (mystery, twists, suspense, an eye for visual shots, great use of music and technique) but on the whole it feels different. It plays on the mind. The themes of the movie seem to have found their way into the directional style as well: it feels despaired, obsessed, restless. There is an incredibly high number of exquisite locations used here, but this is not just scenery candy. Just like the characters, the movie never seems to settle in one place, always on the move from one place to another ("wandering around" as two of the main characters say). It is Hitchcock's way of saying that their characters have not found what they are looking for yet. The scenes use colour not as mere wallpaper, but as feeling, mood. The neon colours used in the second part of the movie not only are stunning to look at, but seem to tell the viewer of instability, falseness. Hitchcock and Robert Burks outdid their selves here, upping colour to the extreme.
Vertigo is not a logical movie in the sense of straight-forwardness. But it hypnotises and then somehow seems appropriately fitting. On a subconscious level it all clicks. I find myself drawn back to it every once in a few years, still lingering somewhere deep down there in my subconscious.
3. Barry Lyndon (1975)
PG | 185 min | Adventure, Drama, History
An Irish rogue wins the heart of a rich widow and assumes her dead husband's aristocratic position in 18th-century England.
Contains what are probably the most beautiful visuals I have ever seen in a movie. While this aspect alone would warrant a position in this list, it is also the great direction, plot, acting and music selections that turn this movie, in my opinion, into Kubrick's masterpiece. It is also his most underrated work unfortunately...
4. Blade Runner (1982)
R | 117 min | Sci-Fi, Thriller
A blade runner must pursue and try to terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator.
Votes: 548,748 | Gross: $27.00M
Far and away Ridley Scott's best work, this is one of the few key visionary works in movie history. Also contains one of the best scores ever by Vangelis. The Final Cut version is the best version to see.
5. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
R | 136 min | Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi
In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn't go as planned.
As illustrated by the various bans at the time, A Clockwork Orange was quite controversial when released due to its depiction of violence and sex. 40 years later, it is still misunderstood sometimes. Yet, the movie was never about glorifying violence and sex, but more so about bringing moral questions about our societies and freedom of will and ideology to the surface. The key scene is the one where the 'cured' Alex is presented to a group of (state) officials.
6. Come and See (1985)
Not Rated | 142 min | Drama, War
After finding an old rifle, a young boy joins the Soviet resistance movement against ruthless German forces and experiences the horrors of World War II.
I could write about the astonishingly good visuals, the brilliant camera work, the great use of music and sound or the breathtaking scene with the stork in the forest. And even though they are all fundamental to it, they would only downplay the immensely strong feeling the movie evokes. Never have I seen war documented so harsh as in Idi i Smotri. It has such a devastating intensity and a constant (almost too) realistic sense of fear in it that you feel drained and empty after viewing it.
7. Persona (1966)
Not Rated | 83 min | Drama, Thriller
A nurse is put in charge of a mute actress and finds that their personas are melding together.
To describe Persona within few sentences does not do it justice as it is so complex and layered. Persona is a fascinating analysis of behaviour, relationships and analysis itself. Technically, it also pushes the boundaries of movie making, experimenting with editing, composition, sets and minimalistic acting. The black and white contrasts are stunning.
PG | 124 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
After the rebels are overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker begins Jedi training with Yoda. His friends accept shelter from a questionable ally as Darth Vader hunts them in a plan to capture Luke.
Votes: 943,667 | Gross: $290.48M
The pinnacle of the Star Wars story. A movie that boasts so many absolute iconic images/moments (the imperial walkers, Yoda introduction, I am your father, frozen Han Solo, first time we see the Emperor, and several more); moments that are identifiable by half of the world has certainly done things right. Moreover, it is incredibly tight for an action movie / blockbuster.
9. Citizen Kane (1941)
PG | 119 min | Drama, Mystery
Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.
Votes: 329,066 | Gross: $1.59M
A perfect movie. Outstanding in its storytelling. If you were going to see only one black-and-white movie, make it this one.
10. The Shining (1980)
R | 146 min | Drama, Horror
A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.
Votes: 691,603 | Gross: $44.02M
The best horror movie, one of the scariest too. Claustrophobic, atmospheric, perfectly symmetric shots. And a truly memorable Jack Nicholson
11. Eraserhead (1977)
Not Rated | 89 min | Horror
Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child.
Votes: 80,603 | Gross: $7.00M
David Lynch's first full-length remains one of the most unsettling movies I have seen. Cryptic, mysterious and sometimes plain weird, Eraserhead is a movie able to let you experience what the main character, the father of a newborn, feels.
12. Apocalypse Now (1979)
R | 147 min | Drama, War
During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.
Votes: 497,418 | Gross: $83.47M
Lots of strange and dark stories about the filming process surround Apocalypse Now. While this is undoubtedly been part of the myth of the movie, without the stories the movie is still a beast waiting to be unleashed, which it finally is during its final moments. The movie is one of the famous Vietnam war movies, but also one of the few movies which succeeds in conveying the force of nature, here channelling the increasing descent into the darker corners of man's mind (it is actually based on the novel Heart of Darkness, which was not set during the Vietnam war but in Congo a century earlier).
13. Twin Peaks (1990–1991)
TV-14 | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.
TV series are not included in this list, yet I have to make an exception for Twin Peaks, which is of such cinematic quality (and was eventually also developed into a movie) that it deserves to be on this list. With Twin Peaks, David Lynch gave us a unique world of mystery, melancholy, fantasy and mystique. While in basis at first a 'who dunnit', the series quickly proved it had several tricks up its sleeve in the form of otherwordly characters, dreams and unpredictable plot twists. Although often criticised and certainly not perfect, the movie spin-off Fire Walk with Me is well worth watching too.
14. Lost Highway (1997)
R | 134 min | Mystery, Thriller
After a bizarre encounter at a party, a jazz saxophonist is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to prison, where he inexplicably morphs into a young mechanic and begins leading a new life.
Votes: 108,940 | Gross: $3.80M
Lost Highway is the most nightmarish of Lynch movies. It is dazzling in its narrative, yet it is all held together by great direction. Also, the Mystery Man is a total creep. Great soundtrack too, with beautiful use of Bowie's I'm Deranged, setting the tone perfectly from the first shot.
edit after re-watch: I could not never forget the opening shot with Bowie's I'm Deranged loudly over it, as I couldn't forget the Mystery Man or Dick Laurent's outburst in the middle of the movie. But I kind of had forgotten many of the dark little details that make this movie such a powerful experience. This is David Lynch all-out. In every possible way he's making it creepy here, using unconventional lighting, camera shots that are hovering above people, jarring cuts. And then there's the impeccable sound design, which does so much: the low drones, the rumbling, the telephone ringing. If all of that doesn't make you at least a little uneasy, well, I don't know.
I had forgotten too about the beautiful cinematography that's in here, although sometimes masked. The rooms may look ugly and plain, but a lot of work went into that to make it look that way. The camera shots and lighting are such that they invoke a certain specific feel. And then there's the flat-out beautiful cinematography, such as the house burning in reverse, and Patricia Arquette waving her in slow-motion lit by a car's headlights.
The plot is classic cryptic Lynch (and - I think - pretty much solvable) puzzle, but I never get the sense any of it is unplanned or shouldn't be there. Every bit seems essential to the total, be it to the plot or to the overall atmosphere that is being created.
Lost Highway is such a powerful and intense experience, and it's definitely a personal favourite. Hence it's raised position.
15. The Deer Hunter (1978)
R | 183 min | Drama, War
An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.
Votes: 257,750 | Gross: $48.98M
What may seem like an over-long movie at first is actually a slowly unfolding Vietnam war tragedy that builds and builds until it is let loose somewhere halfway. What is shown from there on is psychologically intense and horrific. Search no longer for Christopher Walken's best role, it can be found here.
16. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
PG-13 | 164 min | Western
A mysterious stranger with a harmonica joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.
Votes: 242,658 | Gross: $5.32M
After his famous Dollar trilogy, Sergio Leone did another western. Whereas the previous movies were lighter and ultimately fun to watch, this time however his focus is on anger, loss and vengeance. The result is just as good and proved how the western as a genre is capable of intense and layered plots.
edit after re-watch: Once Upon a Time in the West was one of the reasons I watched all of Sergio Leone chronologically again, seeing how I did not see it for a long, long time, quite a way before I saw all the others. I did hold it in high regard, but without any true reference to the others. Seeing it, in chronological order after the Dollars trilogy, was a satisfying experience. The trilogy, using visual language over lengthy dialogues, already felt like a contrast to similar western entertainment. Ultimately, even with its moments of light and (increasing) darkness the trilogy can be classified as entertainment. There is nothing wrong with that, after all Leone's best scene is the climax of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Without in any way objecting to it, I feel I need to state it though, to show how different Once Upon a Time in the West is. Once Upon a Time in the West feels like a more ripened version of the trilogy, like an evolvement of what came before. Leone invests considerably and consistently to let this movie ring on an emotional level. Characters are driven by anger, grief or know that they are on their way out. No unneccessary comic side-characters here, but definitely strong support characters (Morton and Cheyenne). Even in moments of quietness, there is always a sense of solemness or remorse. The sets are less theatrical and dustier, grittier, rougher. The on-location sets form a powerful underlining to all of it. And then there's Morricone's score, which is truly outstanding and among the best ever made. The well-known Harmonica theme is haunting, but it is the melancholic title track that truly hits it for me. The climax where everything comes together is on a level of its own, and Leone gives us everything here. While visually stunningly brought, it is not so much a theatrical tour-de-force as in TGTBATU. But it functions as a climactic release in that it reveals an important part of the story and pays off the tension that is being built to through sound and vision. Seeing this again, this gets an upgrade: 10/10
17. Psycho (1960)
R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller
A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.
Votes: 476,378 | Gross: $32.00M
Hitchcock opting to go a little more low-budget was the fitting choice for this movie. There is a sleazy, dirty atmosphere in Psycho that is in such contrast with what Hitchcock did before. The Bates motel is cheap and simple, but also look at the intro scene where a couple are cheating somewhere in an anonymous room in an anonymously large building. The famous shower murder scene is rightly famous and executed flawlessly. While horror has gone into far more gruesome territory these days, the scene is very effective even today. But that is just one scene. Psycho is more than that. The Bernard Herrmann score is stunning, and much more than just the sound effects in that one scene. It embodies the instability that is in the story. The black-and-white setting could have been a step back from colour, but it looks superb here. Just look at the ominous bright light coming from windows in the dark house on top of the hill, which itself creates a scary silhouette against the dark night sky. And the living room with the stuffed birds, where the lighting creates eerie shadows on the wall. The plot is very much toying with the viewer. The most amusing part of the story is how the large sum of money is a carefully chosen catalyst that is ultimately of no value. Psycho is an easy-to-follow story, but when looking at what sets off what, it has an intelligent script. If I were truly nitpicking, the third part with the couple visiting the Bates Motel is a little less interesting, due to the plainness of the two actors, but Psycho is focused and well-paced enough that this is not so much of an annoyance.
18. Angel's Egg (1985)
71 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy
A mysterious young girl wanders a desolate, otherworldly landscape, carrying a large egg.
This underrated gem is a fantastic surprise!
Angel's Egg just oozes mystery. At first this seems like an ode to atmosphere and texture (which I was fine with and would have made a great movie already), but the story that slowly comes out from underneath it has a certain grandeur and emotional release in it.
I was deeply affected by one scene in particular that starts with the very long still shot of the man sitting beside the bed where the girl sleeps. Had the scene ended there it would have been engraved in my mind already, but to see the man reveal himself finally and smash the egg topped it off.
The atmosphere is at points reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as Alien. The images have a lethargic quality to them and remind me of Edvard Munch.
edit after re-watch: What a delightful movie. On second watch, it still resonates. Perhaps in different ways, as the development of the story is less shocking, but on the other hand I could focus more easily on the character traits, knowing more about them.
The drawn landscapes are among the most beautiful things I ever saw. Those first 10 minutes with the girl wandering through that dark, desolate landscape are of a sublime dark beauty. The soundtrack is quite haunting too.
The most magnificent scene of the movie is very different to watch this second time: knowing how the man is not guarding the girl, but waiting for her to fall asleep to finally smash the egg open, is devastating to watch if you all know it in advance. It didn't have the same shocking impact on me as it did have last time, but the knowledge of knowing what is to come and watching the man wait in cold silence is disturbing. It is the key scene of the movie to me.
19. Taxi Driver (1976)
R | 113 min | Crime, Drama
A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action, while attempting to liberate a twelve-year-old prostitute.
Votes: 571,089 | Gross: $28.26M
Taxi Driver is as actual today as it was then, with a single human deciding he has had enough. It is to Scorsese's credit that he is able to make this movie with a strong message, while never being overly obvious with it, letting the viewer judge the characters for himself. Even its humorous moments are, when looking closer, ultimately tragic in nature.
20. Schindler's List (1993)
R | 195 min | Biography, Drama, History
In German-occupied Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazi Germans.
Votes: 970,560 | Gross: $96.07M
This movie about the Holocaust is often praised, and rightly so. While Spielberg has sometimes been somewhat Hollywood-minded or sentimental in some of his other movies, here he is spot on and not compromising, giving us a movie that is tragic and painful to watch, but also incredibly honest.
21. The Third Man (1949)
Not Rated | 93 min | Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller
Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.
Votes: 127,392 | Gross: $0.45M
One of the most visual striking black and white movies. The scenes with Orson Welles are hypnotic. The ferry wheel scene would rate as one of my top 10 movie scenes.
22. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
R | 102 min | Drama
The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep.
Votes: 639,155 | Gross: $3.64M
Requiem for a Dream, about addiction and lost causes, is a horrible and unsettling experience. It is incredibly strong too. Aronofsky's editing is good, but the main strength is the overbearing sadness as if the movie is screaming: don't do this!! Ellen Burstyn was (rightly) nominated for the Oscar, Jennifer Connelly should have won it.
23. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
R | 229 min | Crime, Drama
A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life.
Votes: 247,292 | Gross: $5.32M
Sadly Sergio Leone's last movie, showing a very different and more mature version of him than in his earlier westerns. Leone leads Robert de Niro's in his best, and wonderfully understated, role ever; although the rest of the cast (especially James Woods) is equally impressive as well. The movie's narrative, cinematography (the Brooklyn bridge shot!) and incredibly sad Morricone score are all very noteworthy too.
edit after re-watch: Rated slightly too high previously (I now remember I originally gave it 9/10 and only bumped it up to 10/10 in hindsight). But this is in many ways a grand movie, among the best made. It continues Leone's increased focus on the emotional value of a movie, something he started with Once Upon a Time in the West, carried on in Duck You Sucker and finds its destination here, culminating in his most mature and poignant movie. Of all his movies, this is the one that is most about story and less about visuals. The characters here are very developed and layered, ending up somewhere totally different as where they started. Still, the visuals are as beautiful as any other Leone movie. There's his highly natural colours, perfect compostions, slowly moving shots and of course that beatiful Brooklyn bridge shot. Even putting it against some of the other stellar Robert de Niro performance, I think this is his best. It is diverse, understated and subtle. The scenes with an aged De Niro have a tenderness and tragedy to them that is hardly seen in other De Niro roles. One of the scenes that stood out to me was the rape scene. There are several rape scenes in movie history shown in various terrifying ways. But this scene differs: many other movies have a villain or bad guy rape the girl. Yet here it is the good guy, the one guy who truly cared about the girl and she for him. When she rejects him and he rapes her, it is not just about her being raped, but it also embodies how everything has gone wrong for him. The scene rings through in many heartbreaking ways Ennio Morricone turns in an outstanding score again, and while not topping his score for Once Upon a Time in the West, it is again a winner.
24. The Celebration (1998)
R | 105 min | Drama
At Helge's 60th birthday party, some unpleasant family truths are revealed.
Votes: 69,926 | Gross: $1.65M
While not necessarily realistic, Festen is probably the most pure and honest but also detailed depiction of unspeakable family secrets. The story needs no elaborate effects or props as the strong dialogues form its core. Finterberg starts peeling shell after shell, baring the family members' truth and ugliness. As each shell is peeled, the movie's tension increases.
25. The Seventh Seal (1957)
Not Rated | 96 min | Drama, Fantasy
A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.
A lot of symbolism is scattered throughout The Seventh Seal, none of it without reason. At the same it also resonates clearly in the scenes where Max von Sydow plays chess with Death: these scenes with their stark black and white contrasts are iconic and unforgettable.
26. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
G | 149 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi
Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.
Votes: 481,521 | Gross: $56.95M
Kubrick is the main provider of high entries in this list. Although I personally rate a few of his higher, 2001: A Space Odyssey is without doubt his most important movie and in fact one of the most important in movie history. 99% of science-fiction movies can in some way be led to 2001. The movie is incredibly innovative technically and daring in its minimal story. The marriage of music and floating space ships changed our view of space ships forever.
27. Napoleon (1927)
240 min | Biography, Drama, History
A film about the French general's youth and early military career.
An extraordinary movie in the silent era. Its five hours are (nearly) entirely justified, with hardly any less interesting material in it. The acting is remarkably good and lively. The direction is nothing short of astounding, using many techniques that are not seen in the silent era or as advanced as seen here. A few examples I found notable: 1. inventive overlays, sometimes creating quite spooky imagery; 2. passe-partout framing, singling out certain aspects of the image; 3. rapid-fire editing; 4. the triptych, creating an overload of information or an impressive wide angle.
A criminally underrated movie, although it has its vocal fanbase.
version: I watched the 1983 Kevin Brownlow version with correct speed and Carl Davis soundtrack. This unfortunately does only include the middle screen of the triptych ending the movie. I also watched the final fifteen minutes with the triptych from Coppola's version. I can say that the triptych instead of just the middle screen is far, far better. Carmine Coppola's soundtrack, while certainly accomplished, is trumped by the Carl Davis soundtrack which is if anything more fitting.
28. Weekend (1967)
Not Rated | 105 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama
A surreal tale of a married couple going on a road trip to visit the wife's parents with the intention of killing them for the inheritance.
There were always shades of absurdity in previous Godards. In Weekend only the absurd reigns. Weekend is totally anarchistic. In his previous movies a general recurrence was the demystifying of aspects of cinema or genres. Weekend goes a whole step further and demystifies cinema as a whole: cinema is often idealistic, glossy, glorious and unreal. I do not oppose to that - this stance has produced great movies - but the exact other side of the scale is just as interesting. In Weekend Godard has found this exact opposite. Not totally unimportant, Weekend is not only an intellectual exercise, but is also hilarious.
29. Stalker (1979)
Not Rated | 162 min | Drama, Sci-Fi
A guide leads two men through an area known as the Zone to find a room that grants wishes.
Votes: 80,976 | Gross: $0.23M
Stalker's story is largely found in between the dialogue. Throughout, there is a constant ominous and foreboding feel, conveyed through beautiful cinematography. Stalker is like a journey to an entirely different place, a place we are not quite sure of what it brings.
30. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
R | 155 min | Drama
A filmmaker recalls his childhood when falling in love with the pictures at the cinema of his home village and forms a deep friendship with the cinema's projectionist.
Votes: 174,636 | Gross: $11.99M
Cinema Paradiso is a movie about the strength of memory. But ultimately it is about passion. Passion can easily be over-emphasised or kitsch, but Cinema Paradiso possesses a very rare honesty: there are many scenes here that are heartfelt, warm and beautiful.
31. Brazil (1985)
R | 132 min | Drama, Sci-Fi
A bureaucrat, in a retro-future world, tries to correct an administrative error, and becomes an enemy of the state.
Votes: 164,504 | Gross: $9.93M
A movie that is overlooked a lot, or so it seems. Brazil is fascinatingly creative at points, but at the same also quite powerful in its bleak portrayal of future society.
32. Scarface (1983)
R | 170 min | Crime, Drama
In Miami in 1980, a determined Cuban immigrant takes over a drug cartel and succumbs to greed.
Votes: 599,343 | Gross: $45.60M
Whereas The Godfather was a gangster epic mostly looking inwards, Scarface is more of an extravaganza; a gangster epic put through a megaphone. This works great for a gangster movie, with graphic violence and nervous and upset characters. But the great gangster movies have always stood by their stories. Scarface is no different: its backbone is a very solid story about power.
edit: Rewatched this today, position here confirmed. Scarface has a great script to back up the style and the violence. Also, Giorgio Moroder's soundtrack is outstanding.
33. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
R | 178 min | Western
A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.
Votes: 559,150 | Gross: $6.10M
Earlier I wrote: Sergio Leone's best western movie. The shoot-out at the cemetery ranks as one of the best in movie history.
On re-watch this does not hold anymore (since I rate Once Upon a Time in the West higher now): In a rather surprising turn of events, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was slightly less convincing this time than it was before. That's the beauty of re-watching: some grow (Fistful), some fall (For a Few Dollars More, TGTBATU). While not a 10/10 for me anymore, this still is 9/10. TGTBATU differs from the first two Dollar trilogy entries in that it has more melancholy. As an aside, seeing Once Upon a Time in America for the first time it was hard to connect this to Sergio Leone, famed director of westerns. But seeing TGTBATU now, the melancholy, especially underlined by Morricone's score, one can extrapolate this into the sad atmosphere of Once Upon a Time in America 20 years later. Back to the movie, the melancholy adds a layer to this that is less present in the first two Dollar movies. Placing the story amidst a civil war, as well as having character development also make it a more complex movie. Than there is an increasing use of violence, which adds to the intensity. But on the flip side, the civil war theme is a little uninteresting too. And, save for the first fifteen minutes, the haunting desert scene (rivalling any of the Lawrence of Arabia highlights) and the final twenty minutes, there are less stand-out scenes in the middle. All in all, I feel it is a little overlong. But then there's that glorious ending, that is like THE masterclass of cinema (it certainly was for Tarantino). Having given us already similar scenes with a great build-up, Leone outshines everything he has done before with a finale that opens up with that wonderful circling camera, then comes to a clever halt, reshuffling the pieces and then builds to an excrutiating and tense climax. While not a top-10 entry for me anymore, this is still one of the great works in cinema history.
34. Das Boot (1981)
R | 149 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller
The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.
Votes: 187,086 | Gross: $11.49M
Claustrophobic and in its five hour version absolutely compelling. Wonderful score too.
35. Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
Not Rated | 68 min | Documentary, Music
A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.
Man with a Movie Camera is remarkably exciting for a movie that consists out of seemingly random chosen images, which are not so random at all when you have sunk into the movie after a few minutes. Technically the movie is very impressive. It is highly dynamic too, as lively as a 90's Tarantino movie. Above all though, the movie accomplishes something quite unique. We see shots of the man shooting film and we see the actual shots he made. By showing both the process and the outcome, Man with a Movie Camera makes clear what the beauty of movies is, more than any staged shot (magnificent as it may be) in movie history was ever able to.
36. Mulholland Dr. (2001)
R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.
Votes: 267,230 | Gross: $7.22M
A great David Lynch and certainly his most polished. Yet it does not bring so much new as every previous movie of his did, making it somewhat less original and ultimately not his best offering. As a 'greatest hits' of Lynch it works though with many of his trademarks blended into a great mix. What helps too are the great visuals, a great Badalamenti score and great acting throughout, especially Naomi Watts' role.
37. Natural Born Killers (1994)
R | 118 min | Crime, Drama
Two victims of traumatized childhoods become lovers and psychopathic serial murderers irresponsibly glorified by the mass media.
Votes: 187,545 | Gross: $50.28M
An audio-visual onslaught.
So, the visuals: Oliver Stone does it in hyper-style, editing rapidly between various point-of-views, and switching between black-and-white and colour constantly. He knows exactly what he's doing though. Almost hammering, this is intense and gripping. The colour shots are bewildering, in their (sometimeS) neon-green colours. His black-and-white shots are beautiful sometimes, showing how he observed older black-and-whites carefully (much more careful compared to say, The Artist), as well as Wim Wenders.
So, the audio: well, having no less than three Peter Gabriel tracks in here certainly was a bonus, but the soundtrack throughout is genuinely spot-on. There is a LOT of music here and all of it fits perfectly, works immersing.
Natural Born Killers was controversial. But like so many of the other controversial movies (thinking of A Clockwork Orange right away), people clearly were not watching. Natural Born Killers contains a powerful anti-hype, anti-media message. In some twisted way, the two killers were actually the least corrupted people on screen here.
Disclaimer: I've had a Rum & Vita Coco, Malibu & Vita Coco, 2 Cuba Libres and Mojito in advance and while watching this, so this rating might or might not be influenced by it. Sidenote: with Havana Club of course, no terrible chemical Bacardi.
38. Antichrist (2009)
Not Rated | 108 min | Drama, Horror
A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.
Votes: 97,578 | Gross: $0.40M
Highly disturbing and intense. Antichrist is remembered for an absolutely shocking scene. It is indeed nearly unbearable, but it is a crucial scene in a movie I'd like to be remembered for much more. Willem Dafoe plays a difficult controlled and detached role. Charlotte Gainsbourg's instabile role is downright believable.
Antichrist is an amazing work, very largely built on associative images and feelings. In some ways it is a dark distant cousin of Don't Look Now, another movie with a couple grieving over the death of their child. Like that movie, this movie is as much about a couple in a world in which all of its beauty is somehow transformed into an evil and ugly thing. The character work here is stellar, but a lot of the darkness comes from the places the characters move through. Note how there are various things (out of nature) falling throughout the movie, constantly evoking the fall of the dead child.
To cap it off Antichrist boosts the most beautiful cinematography of Von Trier's career yet, glossy and macabre at the same time.
Antichrist is a difficult movie. It is not a movie that is to be liked. It is about fear. Fear is an emotion that should scare the hell out of you, not something to laugh at. If this movie succeeded in shocking the crap out of audiences, I say Von Trier got across his point about fear just fine.
39. Un Chien Andalou (1929)
Not Rated | 16 min | Short, Fantasy, Horror
I had seen Un Chien Andalou nearly ten years ago. It was one of the first black-and-white movies I saw. I greatly admired the opening scene with the eye and moon. The rest, I did not like it too much then. In my mind it also was quite long, while actually being only sixteen minutes. How I've come to appreciate black-and-white quite a lot more! Totally familiar with black-and-white now, I rewatched Un Chien Andalou and discovered that not just the opening shot (although it is certainly the pinnacle of this short movie), but the whole sixteen movies are in fact stunningly good. Un Chien Andalou is memorable for many reasons: the eye/moon scene, the bugs coming out of the hand scene. But it is also amazingly ahead of its time, with dark undertones and even a naked breast grabbing scene for example (1929!). Un Chien Andalou is a marvellous experience in dreamlike/nightmarish scenes of imagination. It stands out for its pure vision.
40. M (1931)
Not Rated | 99 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.
Votes: 111,690 | Gross: $0.03M
On re-watch M still is a strong movie and I found it a satisfying experience. While it could be argued that it could have been more accurate or how it introduces the various opinion positions a little too easy, it does make its point effectively and well. Somehow it is just as actual today, and perhaps even more so with discussions dominating media whenever the discussion comes up. M provides an interesting point of view of the criminal versus the outspoken mass, ultimately showing how very grey and difficult a discussion this is. Cinematically, Lang is very refined here. Lang is very comfortable in his first talkie, although there are certain moments when all sound mutes. Somehow, though perhaps unintended, this does the movie favours and works to emphasise what is happening. The final half hour is cinematic gold. While still a 9/10 I am moving M slightly down, some twenty spots. Still top 100, but it was a little tóó high.
41. 8½ (1963)
Not Rated | 138 min | Drama
A harried movie director retreats into his memories and fantasies.
Votes: 88,024 | Gross: $0.05M
I never fully grasped most Fellini movies. This holds for 8 1/2 as well, however its visuals and some powerful scenes are enough to woo me over. I suspect repeated views will only raise its position in the future.
42. American Beauty (1999)
R | 122 min | Drama
A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter's best friend.
Votes: 910,999 | Gross: $130.10M
Elegant and beautiful. Thomas Newman's score is one of the best ever made.
43. Dogville (2003)
R | 178 min | Crime, Drama
A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits the town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away.
Votes: 116,865 | Gross: $1.53M
Bare is the best word to describe Dogville. Its sets are literally bare with only chalk outlines on a stage (yet the movie looks amazing). And while the story and characters are rich in that they are written with lots of detail, they are ultimately stripped bare to their naked core. The story's and character's outcome is bleak and bare, showing the ugliness of man.
edit after re-watch: Dogville is (eventually) as brutal and baring as other Von Triers. But in Dogville we see a Lars Von Trier who directs with a certain calmness and complete control. Dogville is a story bared to the bone and told in perfect cadance. Its three hours are over surprisingly quick. With only one stage, a limited number of props, the story breathes. Nicole Kidman plays a wonderfully subdued role. John Hurt's narration is beautiful.
44. Notorious (1946)
Not Rated | 101 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Romance
A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them?
Votes: 79,542 | Gross: $10.46M
There were other great Hitchcocks before this (Rebecca, Shadow of a Doubt). But whereas before it was always 90% Hitchcock at most, this is the first where he seems to have mastered everything, breaking loose from the production companies, totally feeling like Hitchcock and not like anybody else at all. Notorious is so glamorous, stylish. It just drags you along for the ride. But stiff it ain't. It is very spontaneous and vivid. Bergman and Grant have great chemistry, one of the best matched screen couples I ever saw. Grant is great here, less snappy happy than usual, more subdued, yet very stylish. Seeing him here, it is no wonder he was Ian Fleming's first choice for Bond. Bergman shows a spontanity that is affectious, lively and sensual. The script is rock solid, well-paced and exciting. The romance isn't tacked on here as an audience warmer, but is equal to the espionage story. The two elements of the story are so intertwined that there is a flow of tension between these two story elements, that it is hard not to care. Visually this is stellar from start to end, with a look that is lush, rich and sexy. The camerawork is great (take for example the stunning ball room overhead shot, zooming in on a hand with a key), always in tune with the scale of a scene.
45. The Holy Mountain (1973)
R | 114 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
In a corrupt, greed-fueled world, a powerful alchemist leads a Christ-like character and seven materialistic figures to the Holy Mountain, where they hope to achieve enlightenment.
Votes: 27,306 | Gross: $0.06M
You will start out watching The Holy Mountain thinking it is off-the-charts weird. It is. You might enjoy its highly original cinematography and well-crafted sets. But somewhere further in the movie, themes and motives start to emerge, showing the movie is not just about shock and absurdity. It is too, but placed in a perfectly constructed context.
edit: having seen many, many more movies and knowing what I would see, I was not really shocked by The Holy Mountain on second viewing. I think The Holy Mountain is nearly shot-perfect when it comes to composition and use of colour. One of the most creative and imaginative movies made. A bit bewildering on first view, the thematic content made perfect sense to me this time. There hardly is an outlined story, but The Holy Mountain totally works as an experience. In that experience, Jodorowsky gets across a lot: the effects of mass-culture, earthy reality vs. spirituality, and as I interpret it: a searching society, creating everything, ultimately creating nothing.
46. Princess Mononoke (1997)
PG-13 | 134 min | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy
On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.
Votes: 256,950 | Gross: $2.38M
Not to be compared with the typical family animation movie, Princess Mononoke is violent, dark and intense. It is almost like a pumped up and animated version of a Kurosawa movie.
edit after re-watch: An outstanding animation movie that taps into the raw primal power of nature, has something to say about that too, does that in an intense and powerful way, yet isn't preaching it. Princess Mononoke is a close relative to Nausicäa, but this is more intense, powerful, layered. And it does it in a beautiful, sometimes beautifully ugly, way. Strong soundtrack too.
47. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
Not Rated | 110 min | Biography, Drama, History
Herzog's film is based upon the true and mysterious story of Kaspar Hauser, a young man who suddenly appeared in Nuremberg in 1828, barely able to talk or walk, and bearing a strange note.
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser is as captivating as the story it is about: a man is found, with little details as to his origins. While this is a great catalyst for the story, Werner Herzog really uses this to create a character that is unspoiled and has no prejudices, raising questions about things commonly accepted. At the end of the movie we are left with many questions, not only about Kaspar Hauser...
48. All About Eve (1950)
Not Rated | 138 min | Drama
An ingenue insinuates herself into the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends.
Votes: 93,652 | Gross: $0.01M
Incidentally released in the same year, All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard have many things in common story-wise. Whereas Sunset Boulevard focuses more on the life after fame, All About Eve's story is about the rise to fame. This story is so incredibly well-written: there is not one moment where the movie needs to catch its breath as it so tightly written.
edit after re-watch: This is one that despite being old does not have the problem of feeling dated. That's because there's no funny quips and every bit of dialogue is necessary to the story.
All About Eve is an impeccable movie. I can't find any faults here. Every line, every scene is there for a reason. It's an incredibly tight movie. The acting is all-round strong too, no under-performing extras. And the lead actors are memorable.
On top of that, All About Eve is also a movie I don't just respect, but also genuinely like. Hence it's high placement.
49. Gone with the Wind (1939)
G | 238 min | Drama, History, Romance
A manipulative woman and a roguish man conduct a turbulent romance during the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods.
Votes: 238,459 | Gross: $198.68M
A tad naive and racist at points, but a visual feast to look at. Its story and acting are memorable too. While the movie presents itself as a story about the American war between North and South first, at its heart it is a story about finding luck and happiness, or rather the inability to.
50. Wings of Desire (1987)
PG-13 | 128 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance
An angel tires of overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a mortal.
Votes: 52,178 | Gross: $3.21M
At first, Wings of Desire seems like a cacophony of images. And it was not quite clear to me why I was looking at a black-and-white movie, considering it was made in 1987. It all opens up after twenty minutes or so. While there is a story, there is no very defined narrative here. Without a progressing story you would expect to get bored. Wenders rather goes for a ghostly string of scenes. And I was consistently captivated without a story to hang onto, which means I am looking at the work of a director who knows exactly what he is doing. There are little dashes of colour showing up throughout. They are really wonderful because they are so short. When the colour finally flows in, beautiful as it is, it becomes apparent how beautiful the black-and-white really was.
51. Inception (2010)
PG-13 | 148 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
A thief, who steals corporate secrets through use of dream-sharing technology, is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO.
Votes: 1,652,046 | Gross: $292.58M
Christopher Nolan's main strength has always been vision. Inception is another of his works only made possible through a clear and strong vision. It is also his most ambitious movie yet, both conceptually and visually. In the story, that literally is acted out through different layers, each layer is visually brought to life in a unique way.
edit after re-watch: As I was to watch Inception again, I feared I might have overrated it a little at the time, letting me be fooled by the cool factor. Turns out, it sits right at the position I put it. In my opinion, Inception is Nolan's best work, even eclipsing The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight may be his most complete and focused statement, but Inception dazzles and amazes in a way that tickles me even more than TDK does. It tends to make dizzy with all the directions it goes in, but after repeated viewings I must say that the whole storyline completely fits, even though there are several details that can easily cause questions.
But what does it for me is the visuals. Nolan tended to settle on a single mood for each of his movies up until now, but Inception goes through a wide spectrum of moods and looks. Each of the layers has its own distinct look, and each is as beautiful as the other. Then there's the set design: the Japanese house is richly detailed, the sea shores and buildings in limbo are fantastic, the deluxe look of the hotel bar. The gravity-defying 'turning hallway' fight is as original as it pleases the eye.
Pacing-wise I'm amazed every time how fast time passes when watching this movie, even though it runs for a good two-and-a-half hours. Once the inception starts, the intensity is taken a few notches up and remains like that until the end. Zimmer's soundtrack is crucial for the intense vibe, certainly one of the best soundtracks in recent years.
I appreciate how Nolan managed to assemble a cast that is all-round great, and - apart from DiCaprio and Caine - not too obvious. All of the main actors are of course far from unknown, but Nolan succeeded in avoiding the obvious A-list stars, opting for slightly less obvious choices that fit the roles perfectly.
52. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
R | 118 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.
Votes: 1,005,186 | Gross: $130.74M
Silence of the Lambs is perhaps the pinnacle of the psychological thriller with very tight direction keeping you on the edge of your seat. Anthony Hopkins' performance stands out obviously.
edit after re-watch: There's a reason why Silence of the Lambs is often cited as a great movie. It's not just the famous Anthony Hopkins shots. It's a very complete movie, very competently directed. An example. When Clarice first visits Hannibal Lecter, she's moving downstairs and away from the daylight, the rooms become smaller and the walls are closing in, the camera wobbles as if your head is slight dizzy. Not just Hannibal is famously shot in close-up, but also Clarice. It creates an immense sense of intimacy. Lecter is nearly dissecting you, staring so close in the camera.
53. Rear Window (1954)
PG | 112 min | Mystery, Thriller
A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.
Votes: 355,243 | Gross: $36.76M
After Dial M for Murder's obsession with the small details, Rear Window makes even more sense. Filmed in and from just one room, the camera sways and dances along the windows of the neighbours' houses as life happens. Zooming in there is a lot to be found: Hitchcock manages to create small visual passe-partout stories for each window. This visual style of telling a story is highly effective: we, the viewers, are obsessively watching and trying to pick out the little details just as the main character is. On a pure entertainment level, the plot is suspenseful and always interesting. James Stewart manages to keep the attention. Grace Kelly has grown in her acting since Dial M for Murder and is quite captivating here.
54. Goodfellas (1990)
R | 146 min | Biography, Crime, Drama
The story of Henry Hill and his life in the mob, covering his relationship with his wife Karen Hill and his Mob partners Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito in the Italian-American crime syndicate.
Votes: 813,295 | Gross: $46.84M
Goodfellas is very, very solid and it has those magnificent long tracking shots.
55. The Wages of Fear (1953)
Not Rated | 131 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller
In a decrepit South American village, four men are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.
What I like about La Salaire de la Peur is how it predates several action blockbusters by many decades, yet is a lot more thrilling. The action scenes are very well built up and mostly rely on tension and suspense. Also, time is genuinely invested in the characters.
56. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Not Rated | 131 min | Drama
A bitter, aging couple, with the help of alcohol, use a young couple to fuel anguish and emotional pain towards each other.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is two acting forces pouring gasoline over each other, then igniting it, for nearly the length of the movie. It is almost a theater play in that it could be stripped of almost anything with only the strong script and acting remaining: it would still be a strong movie.
57. Blue Velvet (1986)
R | 120 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.
Votes: 148,800 | Gross: $8.55M
Although later David Lynch movies would be even more 'Lynchian', Blue Velvet is the one that conveys Lynch's favourite theme of the underbelly of society best (save for Twin Peaks). It is probably Lynch's most influential movie. And it features a very memorable Dennis Hopper performance!
58. Sin City (2005)
R | 124 min | Crime, Thriller
A film that explores the dark and miserable town, Basin City, and tells the story of three different people, all caught up in violent corruption.
Votes: 693,038 | Gross: $74.10M
Sin City has a unique visual style, very unlike other comic book movies. The three chosen stories are great too though. Sin City is also noteworthy for its sometimes surprising, but always effective casting.
59. Insignificance (1985)
R | 109 min | Drama, Comedy
Four 1950s icons meet in the same hotel room and two of them discover more in common between them than they ever anticipated.
Wow, how does this only scores a 6,6 here I fail to understand.
Insignificance shows a very mature Roeg, presenting an opaque tale of four people, woven through each other (note: Love Actually, Alles is Liefde, and every other romance movie that weaves together multiple story lines: watch this to see how it is done intelligently).
Insignificance gets better the longer you watch. You start out thinking it is done competently, then notice you are closely listening to the very well-written dialogue, then are surprised even more when there is two or three scenes in there with intensity.
It is a dazzling movie, hard to describe and fully understand at first view. The stories of the professor (of course representing Einstein) and the girl (of course representing Monroe) are beautiful metaphors of each other. Relativity, knowledge, truth and (in)significance create a dialogue between the two's stories.
Direction-wise this is Roeg showing us all he knows, mostly in a subtle way, a few times at full intensity. It is consistently photographed extremely well (watch the beautiful Criterion Bluray). Roeg's editing is at its most meaningful here (perhaps only second to Don't Look Now). The final scene is of such visual beauty that I decided to bump my high 8/10 up to a 9/10.
60. Sleuth (1972)
PG | 138 min | Mystery, Thriller
A man who loves games and theater invites his wife's lover to meet him, setting up a battle of wits with potentially deadly results.
If it were not for the sets, you could mistake Sleuth for a theatre play. Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine carry this entertaining and well-written story very strongly.
61. De noorderlingen (1992)
108 min | Comedy, Drama
During the summer of 1960, the idiosyncratic residents of a one-street Dutch suburb collide in intertwining stories of desire and frustration.
Holland's best movie is both very Dutch in its exaggerated depiction of suburb culture, as well as non-Dutch in how 'in between the lines' and surreal (as in almost Lynchian) it is. It is as funny, as it is a strong critique of closed-mindedness.
62. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
R | 116 min | Drama, War
A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.
Votes: 545,594 | Gross: $46.36M
It took me multiple views to be fully impressed by Full Metal Jacket. Famously split in two distinct parts, I found the first part fantastic on first view, but found the second part a let-down. I have grown to like the second part a lot now, but it is the first part that is a stroke of genius.
63. Raging Bull (1980)
R | 129 min | Biography, Drama, Sport
An emotionally self-destructive boxer's journey through life, as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring destroys his life outside it.
Votes: 259,986 | Gross: $23.38M
One of very few movies about sport that are actually great. The opening scene is stunning.
64. Walkabout (1971)
GP | 100 min | Adventure, Drama
Two young siblings are stranded in the Australian Outback and are forced to cope on their own. They meet an Australian boy on "walkabout": a ritual separation from his tribe.
In a way this totally fulfills what Picnic at Hanging Rock managed to do in a number of scenes but not consistently over its total length. Storywise I like it a lot: the story is presented without overemphasised moral baggage. Sure, there are themes in there about western capitalisation vs. nature and original culture, but these are secondary themes. It is first and foremost the story of the two kids wandering around in the Australian outbacks. Throughout themes such as coming-of-age, (loss of) innocence, emerging love, the distance between men and women, are introduced in a most subtle way. Walkabout is a stunner visually too. Roeg's trademark editing is in there, but far more subtle and done quietly.
65. In the Mood for Love (2000)
PG | 98 min | Drama, Romance
Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.
Votes: 88,906 | Gross: $2.73M
Wonderfully atmospheric. Music is put to great use (those slow-motion shots!). Story-wise surprising and understated. There is quite a bit of ambiguity: while the characters seem innocent and you are almost rooting for a romance between them, what they are doing is of course not entirely honest. For some reason, in my mind I am constantly translating all shots to black-and-white. It probably has to do with the way faces are framed and where focus is put on, but also with the compositions of the shots: there are no unnecessary objects, just the bare essentials.
66. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
Not Rated | 117 min | Drama, War
In World War II Italy, our fascist libertines round up nine adolescent boys and girls and subject them to one hundred and twenty days of physical, mental and sexual torture.
When I watched Salo more than a year ago I scored it 6/10, impressed by many of its aspects, disturbed by many of its other aspects. As it leaves an imprint in my mind unlike any other movie, I upped it to 7/10 half a year ago. The longer I think about this movie, the more I am impressed by it and I now score it 8/10, introducing it to my top 250.
I still think it was wrong of Pasolini to use fully nude minors in the movie's most disturbing scenes. The movie is quite brilliant though in how it is entirely uncompromising. What is acted out is often horrendous and very disturbing, but only in this way the real nasty side of humanity can be shown. Toning down the content would only have weakened the movie's point: what we see is indeed shocking, sick and an assault on morality, but sickness and amorality do exist.
Edit after re-watch: When I watched Salò over a year ago, it needed a lot of time to sink in as not only a memorable movie, but also as a good movie. I actually feared watching it a second time. Seeing it on re-watch it turned out to be a bit tamer than the proportions it had grown to in my mind. Still, this is a disturbing movie, one of the most disturbing and thought-provoking ones out there.
It feels weird to say the visuals in this movie were so beautifully done, when the content of the movie is as disturbing as this. But every image in this movie is extremely carefully constructed. Look at the colour schemes of mostly red-green-white referencing the Italian flag. There is a cold wash over the images making it a distant and cold affair. The highly symmetrised, static images increase this cold and clinical atmosphere. Although visually recognisable, Salò's visuals are a 180-degree turn with Pasolini's previous movies, giving off a very different atmosphere just by colour and perspective.
Speaking of the Italian flag, the fascist analogy that runs throughout the movie became much more apparent on second watch, linking Marquis de Sade's tales to Aryan ideals and war atrocities.
Salò is a very ambigious movie, making it hard to judge what is actually happening and what (if) we should take or learn from it. No doubt, this ambiguousness did not do the movie and Pasolini favours, as to this day it is controversial and many would judge it as mere shock material or sick crap. I could go different ways interpreting this movie (as anti-fascism, as stating that immorality is always somewhere out there, or how perversity is within everyone). I do not know know what it is my definitive explanation for it, and this is somehow its strength. I do not like what I see one bit, yet I do not turn the movie off. This exact ambiguity is what it plays to and is its strength.
It is easy to throw Salò aside, but I feel Pasolini was sincere when he made this. Why else would he introduce nudity as arousing in Il Decameron, transforming to complete natural nudeness in Arabian Nights, and remove every arousal and natural feeling here in Salò? Salò is extremely difficult, not only to watch but also to find out what one thinks of it. In the end I feel it is worth it. It is one of cinema's most uncompromising, thought-provoking works, sure to stay with you if you see it.
67. Alphaville (1965)
Not Rated | 99 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
A U.S. secret agent is sent to the distant space city of Alphaville where he must find a missing person and free the city from its tyrannical ruler.
Votes: 18,528 | Gross: $0.05M
The world of Alphaville is completely unique and utterly strange, even though not many special effects and outlandish sets are used. While Alphaville is a bit of an ode to science-fiction and film noir, it is as much a parody of it. But Godard has made it completely its own. The black-and-white cinematography is magnificent. The atmosphere is superb, and feels a bit like a cross between The Third Man and Sin City, yet the story is entirely Godard. There is some typical Godard dialogue in here, but it is totally in place here, contributing to the strange atmosphere.
68. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Not Rated | 92 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery.
Robert Mitchum is convincingly creepy here. Laughton's images are equally ominous as well. I think The Night of the Hunter might be frowned upon by some puritines today still, such is the controversial matter in the movie.
What a pity that Charles Laughton's movie was not entirely understood at its time, and he decided this would be his only movie as a director.
69. The Dark Knight (2008)
PG-13 | 152 min | Action, Crime, Drama
When the menace known as the Joker emerges from his mysterious past, he wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, the Dark Knight must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice.
Votes: 1,863,223 | Gross: $534.86M
One of the biggest movies of recent times, The Dark Knight stands out for many reasons: it is bold and big, yet intelligent. It is almost solely responsible for the current superhero movie hype, but it supersedes the super hero movie genre and becomes something much larger, appreciable on many other levels.
after re-watch: Batman Begins was a needed clean-slate entry into the Batman franchise. Nolan's work was fundamental in it, yet where Begins feels like 90% Nolan, The Dark Knight is 100% Nolan. It strips away even more, adopts a more serious tone. The little CGI found in Gotham City in Batman Begins is gone here. It opts for a large look with concrete and mass building blocks (Michael Mann influence here?). The result is a starker, even less elaborate setting that doesn't intrude the scenes anymore, yet contributes to the mood. The select IMAX scenes show this best and look absolutely stunning in their scope and vivid natural colour. While hand-on-hand fistfight scenes always looked a bit clumsy in Nolan movies, his other action scenes are genuinely good. (and they far outnumber the hand-on-hand scenes). Batman's motor racing through the streets in IMAX looks jaw-dropping. The tone of anarchy and dissonance is convincing. The score is both dissonant and epic in its scope. Heath Ledger's Joker manages to be as good (and equally different) to Nicholson's Joker in Burton's Batman. The scene near the end with the two boats is perhaps the only scene in the movie that is a little jarring, in that it goes too much for a moral tone, but I can't say it hurts the movie. Truly a movie, for which the word 'grand' was invented.
70. Possession (1981)
R | 124 min | Drama, Horror
A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister.
Votes: 16,880 | Gross: $1.11M
Bizarre and restless. The acting performances are fantastic. I have always enjoyed Sam Neill's acting, but this is by far the best thing he has done. Isabelle Adjani's acting is the highlight of the movie though, borderline crazy at points. The camerawork is stunning, contributing to the tension. A highly imaginative movie.
edit after re-watch: Some movies lose intensity on second watch, when you are prepared and know what's going to happen. But the intensity of Possession remains intact on second watch. And in fact, I appreciated it even better this time.
Possession wacks out on all levels. The camera work and editing create a dizzy patchwork, constantly moving, zooming in/out, switching angles during movements. There's totally weird stuff going on with a fridge full of heads, tentacles, an electric meat carver. And then there's the acting that's just indescribable. Sam Neill is great, but it's really Isabelle Adjani who goes beyond what's to be expected or any conventions of acting. Every scene she's in she's stunning, and there's a huge range of vibes she goes through: from scared, to rabbit-in-the-headlights frightened, to frightening, to intense, to borderline crazy screaming insane.
Zulawski always includes his healthy dose of weird stuff in any of his movies (at least for so far I've seen), but this goes further. But what's most interesting is that he manages to streamline and focus his way of movie-making as well. Possession is a far more tighter movie than the previous three movies he made. It may be weird and cryptic at points compared to the average movie, but as a whole it is focused (and I think quite clearly about disintegrating relationships), even if you can't grasp what every weird bit is supposed to mean. Furthermore, it's interesting throughout - there are no dull or unnecessary scenes here.
71. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
PG | 142 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller
James Bond woos a mob boss's daughter and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld's allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.
Votes: 65,779 | Gross: $22.80M
The sixth entry of the James Bond series has been widely criticised for various reasons, but in truth it was never given a fair chance being the first movie without Sean Connery. It is a far better movie than many of the reviews would make you believe. Granted, one-timer George Lazenby is not the ultimate Bond, but he is capable enough and fits the script well. Looking beyond Lazenby there is a lot to admire though. The Alpine sets look wonderful. The action scenes are very well done. There is a great villain. The Bond girl is actually a good actress. John Barry's instrumental theme is the best of the series. Best of all though, the script (unlike a lot of other Bond movies) and direction are very strong. It is also the most human and personal Bond script (staying quite a bit closer to Fleming's novels than is usually the case), with a true depth to the characters unlike any other Bond movie.
edit after re-watch: There are many reasons at hand to argue why this is the best Bond movie, and perhaps quite a few reasons to dismiss this entry of the series. But to explain why this is in my top 100 movies is harder. Its more serious and toned-down story makes it one of the more personal and heartfelt ones in the series (I tend to see it as the heart of the series). But compared to any great movie out of the Bond realm, its drama is very one-dimensional and unreal. And yet, this movie is somehow very satisfying each time I see it. The fantastic theme song and score, the ski chasing, Blofeld, Diana Rigg, genuinely nice visuals.
72. The Lives of Others (2006)
R | 137 min | Drama, Thriller
In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives.
Votes: 290,001 | Gross: $11.29M
Different to what I had expected (mostly more subtle and quiet than I imagined). Das Leben der Anderen is a fabulously written story with a stand-out role by Ulrich Mühe. The movie perfectly portrays the cold status quo situation of East Berlin.
73. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Not Rated | 114 min | Biography, Drama, History
In 1431, Jeanne d'Arc is placed on trial on charges of heresy. The ecclesiastical jurists attempt to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions.
Votes: 31,288 | Gross: $0.02M
The Passion of Joan of Arc is very convincing in its portraying of a single person's emotions. The image of Mario Falconetti crying is unforgettable.
74. Irreversible (2002)
Not Rated | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass.
Votes: 96,375 | Gross: $0.75M
Watched this right after Seul Contre Tous. In comparison, that difficult movie felt almost like a light-hearted story. Irréversible is brutal, harsh, bleak. The very long rape scene (including that haunting bit where you see a passenger in the background passing a blind eye) and especially the fire-extuingisher beating will stay with me for sure.
Irréversible is constructed on the fact that its story plays backwards. I have to agree with many others that this makes the story far more interesting. Had it played conventionally, the above mentioned scenes would have made as much impact, but the overall tone of the movie would have been far different. Instead of sorrow, remorse, impending doom and an overall very bleak view of the world, the movie would have felt like a revenge flick, or as someone described in an IMDB review, just like "I Spit on Your Grave". The choice to tell the story backwards also has the benefit of confusion: I am wondering what is going on, or what happened before. The backwards trick has its downside though. I had expected there was some stronger reason for what happens to Alex and Marcus. But it's more a case of one thing sets off another, and how non-meaningful actions can set off actions with a lot of impact. That is not without meaning, but it's also not very rewarding, and a bit of a let down (its obvious 'brother' Memento is conceptually far more accomplished in this aspect). Noé seems to want to say a lot with it, but this comes off as a little pretentious too. Take a look at the ending, it's a beautiful shot, with the spinning camera, and a fantastic ending in how it's shot, but Noé wants to over-do his message.
Still, while I can't fully get behind Noés vision, as an experience the movie is fantastic. It is uncompromising in what it shows, and what it wants to tell. How it's all told is stellar: the camera work and non-censored way of showing all the world's ugliness is up-front, rubbing your nose right into it.
75. Pulp Fiction (1994)
R | 154 min | Crime, Drama
The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
Votes: 1,476,365 | Gross: $107.93M
Pulp Fiction is fun and basically one of the founding fathers of the now very common movie with a story that is served with a shuffled up story. This is a difficult type of movie to do well: Pulp Fiction succeeds with a great script and the fact it never takes itself seriously.
76. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
R | 99 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
After a simple jewelry heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.
Votes: 745,426 | Gross: $2.83M
Very Tarantino, Reservoir Dogs is like a blueprint for Pulp Fiction. It is not as fleshed out perhaps as Pulp, it is more interesting and original in its ideas.
77. Pi (1998)
R | 84 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery
A paranoid mathematician searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature.
Votes: 152,989 | Gross: $3.22M
Intense and authentic, Pi is an interesting vision on science, truth and and how one can go so far that it becomes madness. But there is also surrealism: what we see might also just be allegory. The movie is presented in wonderful high-contrast black-and-white, almost as 1 and 0 as the mathematics the main character studies.
78. Yozhik v tumane (1975)
11 min | Animation, Short
A little hedgehog, on the way to visit his friend the bear, gets lost in thick fog, where horses, dogs and even falling leaves take on a terrifying new aspect...
While technically amateurish compared to many other animated movies, Hedgehog in the Fog (with its cut-and-paste figures) has an almost transcending quality to it not found in other animated movies.
79. There Will Be Blood (2007)
R | 158 min | Drama, History
A story of family, religion, hatred, oil and madness, focusing on a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.
Votes: 418,428 | Gross: $40.22M
Daniel Day Lewis is one of the reasons why There Will Be Blood is as great as it is. Cinematography, vision and soundtrack are others. I am very much looking forward to what Paul Thomas Anderson has to offer in the future, based on what he has made up until now.
80. The Fall (2006)
R | 117 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama
In a hospital on the outskirts of 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman begins to tell a fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm, a fantastic story of five mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality blurs as the tale advances.
Votes: 95,873 | Gross: $2.28M
The Fall is stunning to look at, made all the more impressive by the fact that it is all real and no CGI was used. The story has been criticised often, but it is solid and imaginative.
81. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
R | 120 min | Drama
A Mumbai teen reflects on his upbringing in the slums when he is accused of cheating on the Indian Version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"
Votes: 696,842 | Gross: $141.32M
82. Dark City (1998)
R | 100 min | Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
A man struggles with memories of his past, including a wife he cannot remember, in a nightmarish world with no sun.
Votes: 168,393 | Gross: $14.38M
Released a year earlier than The Matrix, Dark City already shows the very similar type of futuristic world that was torpedoed to fame by The Matrix. I do not think The Matrix copied anything (its production was likely already on the way), but I do think Dark City is the more interesting movie of the two. In any case, it is highly original, layered, atmospheric and impressive.
83. The Thin Red Line (1998)
R | 170 min | Drama, War
Adaptation of James Jones' autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War.
Votes: 150,349 | Gross: $36.40M
One of the oft-forgotten great war movies. It shares a lot with the best-known war movies, but it is different and unique too. There isn't necessarily a clear moral point-of-view that is being rubbed in; in fact Malick mostly refrains from giving an outspoken story against war. What stood out for me was the purposelessness and nothingness of the war that is being fought in this movie. The story doesn't clearly outline the directives of the mission. We know the Americans are fighting the Japanese, and there's a hill that is being captured. And that's it. And it does feel like you're dropped right in the middle of that army: soldiers just following orders, without knowing what is happening in the big picture.
Much has been written about Malick filming hours of footage, cutting away a lot, including complete storylines of characters. Several characters are not specifically introduced, but pass through the screen uttering only a few lines of dialogue. It is often noted as a negative point of the movie. I see it as one of the strengths though. I'm not sure if it was intentional - Malick wanted more footage in originally - but the lack of elaborate focus on individual characters increases the facelessness of the movie. There are main characters, but at no time is this the personal story of an army member. There are just soldiers, various soldiers, in war.
The landscape in which all of this happens is perhaps equally - if not more - important as the soldiers. It could even be said that nature does have a face in this movie, as it is the one thing constantly referred to and shown in its full glory. There are various discussions and reviews on these boards here going much further into the nature-man relation of this movie, better than I could; suffice to say there is an obvious dialogue going between the two that holds the movie together. From a technical point of view, the images are superb. The landscape is shown in a certain clarity, a certain overview that is amazing. It is far and away the most beautifully filmed war movie.
In various ways, this is very much a Malick movie, but I like how he is more intense here. Sure, Days of Heaven has an intensity to its images too, but Malick shows a darker intensity here. I hope to see him do more of this kind of stuff.
84. Oldeuboi (2003)
R | 120 min | Action, Drama, Mystery
After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.
Votes: 407,144 | Gross: $0.71M
Approaching Oldboy again, I thought I might have placed it too high on my top 250 earlier having overrated it a little. On the contrary, I moved Oldboy up a little, as I felt it was actually slightly better during this second watch.
The premise of the story is superb, making the viewer question just as hard why things have been done to the main character. We totally feel every bit of his revenge, and feel for the character. The movie is tightly paced throughout. The soundtrack is great. I am not much a fan of animal abuse, but the scene in which an octopus is eaten alive is disturbingly fitting and perfectly captures the dispair of the main character.
85. Run Lola Run (1998)
R | 80 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
After a botched money delivery, Lola has 20 minutes to come up with 100,000 Deutschmarks.
Votes: 170,688 | Gross: $7.27M
In some ways almost a B-movie, but truly original in its concept and presentation. Very enjoyable too.
edit after re-watch: A strong marriage of visuals and audio, that gets the adrenaline pumping. And it's focused as hell, clocking in at a mere 81 minutes, without superfluous side plots and such. What sets this one apart is the editing. The editing is definitely the hero of this movie.
86. The Godfather (1972)
R | 175 min | Crime, Drama
The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
Votes: 1,288,729 | Gross: $134.97M
So... the elusive best movie ever according to a lot of people...
I've seen The Godfather some three or four times. I've always liked it, wouldn't put it on top of my list, but definitely understand the buzz around the movie. And I still do. The Godfather is a revelatory movie, in that it's utterly complete, enigmatic, grand, and advanced in so many ways that it obviously speaks to a lot of different people. You can enjoy it for its rich and detailed and very well-told story, for its diverse characters and their actors, the warm cinematography, the scenery, or even for its charming American-Italian peculiarities. It's not my favourite of favourites, but it's good, it's very good indeed.
And yet it isn't a faultless movie. Brando's voice is over-the-top I think. The constant parodies haven't helped. And yet, I can't blaim the movie for it either. Because Brando's body language on the other hand is perfect, and is for me the proof why he's a great actor, moreso than the voice he uses here. Simarly, the wedding scene at the start takes forever. At the same time, it is a scene that is highly identifiable with the movie, makes up the perfect introduction for all the characters and the story. Would it not have been there, the movie wouldn't have been that complete.
Do I like it? Yes, quite a bit even. Are there movies I like better? Yes, that too. Do I have a problem with this being one of the highest IMDB Top 250 movies? Without a doubt, no. It totally deserves its rank.
87. Ran (1985)
R | 162 min | Action, Drama
In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.
Votes: 86,869 | Gross: $3.52M
Kurosawa: a director I have difficulties with. In his samurai movies I find it extremely hard to pay attention to the dialogue, while seeing what he does is often great.
This is the case with Ran too. But it differs in that its atmosphere is different from other Kurosawas: it feels desolate, drained. It is a powerful movie.
But Ran is here mostly because of something else. After a very silent and long-winded build up Ran explodes, as if it wakes you by hitting you with a sledgehammer in your stomach. This silent scene, with haunting music by Toru Takemitsu over it, is a top 5 scene in cinema history. It also shows what Kurosawa could do with colour, something he was only able to show in a select number of movies.
edit after a re-watch: I enjoyed the overall story a little better this time. The quiet, dialogue scenes have a slow, desolate quality to them. But the magnificence of this movie is still the ever so powerful scene in the middle. Other memorable moments include: the opening credits, the battle scene near the end, the moment where the grand lord visits the ruins of the castle, and the heart-achingly beautiful final shot of the blind woman standing on top of the ruins.
88. Children of Men (2006)
R | 109 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.
Votes: 396,047 | Gross: $35.55M
Children of Men is a case of style over substance. However, the substance is solid enough. The style is superb: Cuaron is one of the few directors these days with a unique visual style. The minutes-long one-take war scene with the camera moving through streets, buildings inbetween gunfire is magnificent.
89. Touch of Evil (1958)
PG-13 | 95 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town.
Votes: 80,772 | Gross: $2.24M
Visually quite perfect, and includes a great Orson Welles role.
90. The Thing (1982)
R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
A crew in Antarctica finds a neighboring camp destroyed and its crew dead. Whatever killed them is nowhere to be found, unless it's hidden in plain sight.
Votes: 293,287 | Gross: $13.78M
John Carpenter's The Thing is still scary 30 years after its release. Its special effects, while simple, are clever and effective. The images of the cold, freezing Antarctic combined with Carpenter's own score are crucial to the desolate atmosphere. What propels the movie most though is the simple set-up: as a mysterious lifeform assimilates character after character of the small Antarctic team, the danger is always very close and human, and as an effect none of the characters is to be trusted at any time.
91. Patton (1970)
GP | 172 min | Biography, Drama, War
The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.
Votes: 82,627 | Gross: $61.70M
Patton is not so much a war movie as a biography of a war general. George C. Scott turns in a real tour-de-force performance here, with a lot of megalomania on the surface, but nuances peaking out underneath. The images have a very cinematic quality to them as well, fitting very well with the grandeur of General Patton.
92. From Russia with Love (1963)
PG | 115 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller
James Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE.
Votes: 97,551 | Gross: $24.80M
The essence of Bond as an espionage agent. This is just classic. Bond movies will never be the epitome of intelligence, but there is a good focus on clever story development here. The array of villains and henchman is great: Robert Shaw as Grant is one the most solid actors to grace the series, Rosa Klebb is memorable, as is Kronstein. And of course this introduces Blofeld, pulling strings in obscurity as a yet unknown evil power. The girl is one of the most elegant ones of the series. The locations are wonderful. The music is solid, with a great theme song and enveloping score. A scene that is easy to overlook is the one where hired assasin Krilenku escapes through a window and is shot by Bond's ally Kerim Bey who steadies his gun using the shoulder of Bond, who gives the favour to Bey after first pointing at Krilenku. It is a great scene that shows that Bond was first of all an espionage agent. It is a suspenseful scene, that shows how the revenge for Bey is more important for the story than Bond being heroic. There is no over-the-top idolisation of Bond in From Russia with Love, just a very well developed script that puts the great story in front of the character. Most importantly though, it does not jettison all the essential Bond elements either (as happened in some of the later Bond movies getting back to story). All the fun, glamour and style is here and done in such a way that it is all tasteful, entertaining and clever without overshadowing the story.
93. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
R | 142 min | Crime, Drama
Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
Votes: 1,887,498 | Gross: $28.34M
The movie that everybody likes: it is clever in that it speaks to many different audiences and has something to offer for each of them. It is perfectly fine as a blockbuster, but equally fine as a more contemplative movie too.
edit after re-watch: The Shawshank Redemption is very much an all-man pleaser, but I wouldn't know anything bad to say about it. It follows the safe route of voice-over, slightly sentimental story and sensational reveal for sure, but they're all done extremely well, and I'm not bothered by them for one second. The story has much in common with earlier stories/movies such as The Great Escape or Escape from Alcatraz or Papillon, and therefore hardly revelatory, but again, it's done extremely well. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman make two of the most loveable characters in movie history here. And this is actually a Morgan Freeman role before he got cast as the proverbial good, wise man consistently on the base of this role (and Se7en). Morgan Freeman is always solid, but here he gives an extra layer of spontanity that I found a little less in his later roles. I found it remarkable how the movie makes me forget this story is about inmates, many of them with a dirty back story, despite them telling they're innocent. For many movies I would have called this view a naive perspective on reality, but that's not what this story is about. The Shawshank Redemption is a life-affirming movie and it's all about believing: there's good in most of people, even the bad ones (note how I say most - there is of course people like Bogs). To top it off, both Roger Deakins' cinematography and Thomas Newman's soundtrack are of high quality.
Is is the best movie ever made? I may have a personal different choice, but I have a hard time understanding if anyone is truly left disappointed by this movie.
94. Casino (1995)
R | 178 min | Crime, Drama
A tale of greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two best friends: a mafia enforcer and a casino executive, compete against each other over a gambling empire, and over a fast living and fast loving socialite.
Votes: 372,732 | Gross: $42.44M
Quite reminiscent of Goodfellas, Casino seems like an older sibling of Goodfellas. It is perhaps not quite as original, it is strong though and contains more great tracking shots and great dialogues.
95. Tetsuo, the Iron Man (1989)
Not Rated | 67 min | Horror, Sci-Fi
A businessman accidentally kills The Metal Fetishist, who gets his revenge by slowly turning the man into a grotesque hybrid of flesh and rusty metal.
This movie in the vein of Eraserhead and Pi is very intense. Essentially a gory horror movie, Tetsuo is lifted entirely by the masterful technique displayed. As such, it is much more than a crazy Japanese movie. The grainy black-and-white contrasts, the lighting, sound, pacing are all integral to the intensity. It's sometimes said that "editing is the soul of cinema" and it certainly is true here: the editing makes this. The pulsing shots, jarring cuts are powerful and tense.
96. Black Swan (2010)
R | 108 min | Drama, Thriller
A committed dancer wins the lead role in a production of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" only to find herself struggling to maintain her sanity.
Votes: 600,857 | Gross: $106.95M
Aronofsky has yet to make a misstep. His latest continues the string of excellent movies he has made. Black Swan is among the best movies made in recent years. It is beautifully made, when judging it on cinematography and camera work. Also unnerving at points. Natalie Portman is at her best here. There is a great Vincent Cassel role, as are Mila Kunis' and Winona Ryder's roles. Tchaikovsky music is nicely transformed into a good score. And if I were to single out one aspect of Black Swan I like most it is its classicism. Aronofsky has closely watched Hitchcock and especially De Palma and lets himself be influenced by it. The final scene is grand, and a work of beauty, with touches of those masters visible, but perhaps also by 'visual' horror directors like Bava and Argento. Aronofsky is not afraid to let Black Swan be a visual metaphorical piece. Not that its story isn't good. It actually is excellent and enjoyable, but this is very much a movie to feel, to hear, to look at.
97. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
G | 86 min | Animation, Family, Fantasy
When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wondrous forest spirits who live nearby.
A grower. This does have the iconic, classic status written all over it, and that's definitely justified. The images just keep hanging in my mind, and are very memorable.
There's a lot of cuddly cuteness here, but I feel this is very different to the average Disney movie where the cuteness has been added to a script to make it even better suited to the young target audience. But here the cuteness is the essence of the movie. There isn't much of a big story, but the movie speaks magic, innocence, naivety. The movie toys with the blur between fantasy and reality. This is all about children's fantasies and how those fantasies can be magical. But there's quite some subtext too if you look close: these fantasies can also be surrogates to displace emotions or cope with them. One example: see how the children, while not being told, do sense that things might not go well with their ill mother (see also Grave of the Fireflies for another example of this). I often hate happy endings, but here rightfully everything ends happy, and even the 'bumps' in the children's story are done in a way that does not detract from the bouncy happiness that makes this movie so strong.
While this is a perfect children's movie, there's a lot in there that makes this just as fun to watch for adults. But even if you watch this just 'as is', soaking in all the magic imagery, Totoro is a winner.
98. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
R | 202 min | Crime, Drama
The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York City is portrayed, while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate.
Votes: 889,076 | Gross: $57.30M
It's hard to do a sequel as good as your first movie. It's certainly even harder to do a great sequel if your first movie was as great as The Godfather. The Godfather II succeeds. It's not AS great as the first one, but comes very close (yes, after always putting The Godfather II ahead of I, I've now swapped these two).
Coppola managed to repeat everything that was good about The Godfather in The Godfather II again, sometimes even bettering it. There's a well-written story, depth to the characters, great cinematography. I think he even improves on the last two.
Coppola mixes two story lines here: De Niro as young Vito Corleone, and Pacino as current age Michael Corleone. Both story lines are far developed and done justice. Yet, and this is what stood out to me this time, the switches were the weakness for me. I find myself immersed into both story lines equally. But the story lines do not necessarily enhance each other or feed off each other for me. Separate, they're wonderful, as well as powerfully juxtaposing warmth and coldness, small life and megalomanic life, intimacy and distance. But the switches are a little jarring for me as a movie experience.
Also, part of the Michael Corleone story set in Miami isn't as interesting to me as young Vito Corleone or anything out of the first movie.
It's a great movie, and contains the pivotal scene of the trilogy for me - Fredo's assassination - but it's not as complete as the first one. That said, I have no problem with its number 3 position in the IMDB Top 250, because it speaks pure cinema to me, which is something I can only applaud.
99. Se7en (1995)
R | 127 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.
Votes: 1,151,068 | Gross: $100.13M
Se7en is very unpredictable. Kevin Spacey's acting is wonderful, as is Morgan Freeman's, although the rest of the cast is very able as well. Quite influential too, as it set off a whole load of (usually inferior and more generic) psychological thrillers.
edit after re-watch: It's easy to dismiss Se7en as a run-of-the-mill psychological thriller where a serial killer is being looked for. Thing is, Se7en is probably largely responsible for the huge amount of these types of thrillers that were made in the years after it. With varying quality. A lot of the elements of the story and look might seem cliché, but they became cliché after this.
Of course Se7en does have its clichés: plot twists, shocking murders, cat-and-mouse play. But all these clichés are done in a superbly strong manner way, way better than in many of the copycats. Morgan Freeman as the wise old cop and Brad Pitt as the loud young cop might be a cliché, but Freeman is rock solid and Pitt is a remarkable league above other acting colleagues in a similar role. Any self-respecting psychological thriller has creative, shocking murders, but could anyone have thought up what is at display here? The seven deadly sins make for an interesting premise, but the execution is of the highest creative order. The victims and crime scenes are thought up in very unexpected ways that they truly are surprising and disturbing. Cat-and-mouse play is a definite cliché too. But have you seen many thrillers with a mid-story chase as good as this one, ending with the stunning shot of the killer, out-of-focus, reflected in a pool of rain? And then there's the ubiquitious plot twist. Best not to describe it, but this one challenges the whole definition of plot twist, raises the bar significantly for other movie-makers.
The look of the movie, dark, gritty, dirty (look at the wonderful credits too!), might be one of the things really new here. Here too, Fincher does it a whole lot better, more subtle too, than many of the copy-cats.
100. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
PG | 115 min | Action, Adventure
Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.
Votes: 732,572 | Gross: $248.16M
A truly good entertainment movie might be more difficult to make than an intellectually challenging movie. I know just a few anyway. What it lacks in meaning, it has to make up for with action, pacing, an interesting angle around which the plot resolves, humour. There is a huge risk all these factors become generic, bland or simply entirely miss the mark. Raiders of the Lost Ark delivers: it has the action, a tight pacing, an effective element (the Ark) that fuels the story and spot-on humour. It is one of only few movies in this genre that does everything right, an icon of its age.