I've done the unthinkable...
...and quantified the unquantifiable.
Although my number of years of conscious movie viewing is short, I've decided to make a list of my favorites anyway, mostly for my own sake. I wish I could include more. This is not a list of the greatest films. How would I know? I haven't seen enough. These are just the ones that make and matter to me. Hope you enjoy.
My Top Films:
A revelation, quietly brilliant, and as close to honest as you're ever going to get in a film. It humbles other films about family and relational distance as it captures and wrestles with the ambiguous and sometimes invisible pains and joys attached to life in its every detail. Tremendously acted and unexpectedly fascinating, Junebug resonates with the intrinsic mysteries of all relationships. Movies like this are rarely ever made.
"Why would God let this happen? Why would he? I just wanted something good to come out of all this. I mean it... I really mean it."
2. My Own Private Idaho - dir. Gus Van Sant
Conceptually a work of postmodern genius, but it's greatest strength is found in it's heartbreakingly accurate story about the elusiveness of home, evoking perfectly that state of drifting need in a fallen world.
"I'm a connoisseur of roads. I've been tasting roads my whole life. This road will never end. It probably goes all around the world."
3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy* - dir. Peter Jackson
By bringing Tolkien's masterpiece to physical actualization, the trilogy is the crowning achievement of cinema today.
*(By the way, since they were all filmed at the same time as if one movie, I don't consider it cheating to list all three as one. I mean no one asks questions when you call Jesus, God, so stop judging me!)
"It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why."
4. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - dir. Stanley Kubrick
Bordering on the edge of sanity like all great Kubrick films, Dr. Strangelove is both cleverly funny and shatteringly devastating; and surely the greatest political satire ever made.
"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room."
5. Good Will Hunting - dir. Gus van Sant
It's a picture of hurt, our regressive nature that bends toward self-destruction and the need for community to be agents of undeserved love, hope, and redemption in bringing us back to be who we were created to be. What other stories should we tell?
"Yeah, well, I think that's a super philosophy, Sean. I mean that way you could actually go through the rest of your life without ever really knowing anybody."
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - dir. Michel Gondry
An amazingly complex and yet strikingly affecting look at love, life and memory that gives us one of the greatest movie love stories ever told. One that understands that loving someone means knowing them in all their brokeness, bearing devastation and working for redemption through mercy. Most Hollywood films tell us we have everything we need within ourselves. Eternal Sunshine indicates that we need each other, even in those times when togetherness disrupts happiness. Visually and conceptually stunning it aims for the head, heart and eyes.
"I wish I had stayed to. I swear to God I wish I had stayed. I wish I had done a lot of things. I wish... I wish I had stayed."
7. Breaking the Waves - dir. Lars von Trier
Asking the question, "Can faith and love give the power to triumph over death and evil?" this bold, angry, and defiant, emotionally and spiritually challenging film hammers at conventional morality with the belief that God not only sees all, but understands a great deal more than we give Him credit for. Incomparable director Lars Von Trier finds the straight pure line through the heart of a story.
"God gives everyone something to be good at. I've always been stupid, but I'm good at this."
8. Chinatown - dir. Roman Polanski
Penultimate Film Noir thriller with career defining performances and mind-blowing storytelling bold enough to deal with the consequences of real life.
"'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, public buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."
9. Schindler's List - dir. Steven Spielberg
An uncompromising vision of one of the world's greatest modern tragedies proving the power of filmmaking. Also the definitive Spielberg film where he finally realizes restraint can be a virtue.
"Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."
10. I Heart Huckabees - dir. David O. Russell
A knife to the heart of disconnect. Playful, intelligent, daring, absolutely hilarious and unabashedly hopeful.
"There's no such thing as nothing."
(11.) Manderlay* - dir. Lars von Trier
*I listed Manderlay because I have unfortunately only seen it once. Otherwise, I suspect it might have been listed higher.
The movie that understood everything that Crash didn't. A "fable for adults" that makes you see the world and yourself differently. As overwhelmingly complex, challenging, provocative, and heartbreaking as the subject matter it describes, this ultimately isn't a movie simply about history made and being made but about humanity itself. It will leave you breathless.
"Grace insisted, 'We have a moral obligation.'"
"A film should be like a rock in the shoe." - Lars von Trier
"I didn't want you to enjoy the film, I wanted you to look closely at your own soul." - Sam Peckinpah