Gabbing Geek’s own Tom Kelly is doing an amazing re-watch of all of the top 100 films as recognized by the AFI.
Standing around the water cooler (virtually that is… Tom is a good friend, but we’ve only met three times in person!), discussing the majesty that is Goodfellas, I remarked that it is a favorite all-time film of mine. Tom challenged me to rank my favorite all time films and finally get it on the record.
So here we are. Fortunately, I had recently been pushed by a fellow list maker, who is much more impressive than Tom, to provide my Top Ten. Given how many films I would have to leave out, I went with a Top 25 list here. For franchises, I only list a film once (so no multiple entries for Indy or Star Wars) but I will let you know my favorite in the series in case you are curious. And I know you are!
But, remember, these are the rankings of my FAVORITE films. Not the “best”!
Do I honestly think Clue is BETTER than The Godfather in terms of cinematic excellence? Well…yes,,,yes, I do…bad example. But Dumb and Dumber is on the list and Pulp Fiction missed the cut and wound up in the painful honorable mention category.
As always, if you don’t like my lists, you can go to Hell. Enjoy.
25. Wayne’s World
What’s it about: Two young men (Mike Myers and Dana Carvey), in a state of arrested development, host a local access cable TV show about music and babes. When a shady producer (Rob Lowe) buys the show as a vehicle for arcade commercials (how dated is that?), the pair must fight back!
Why I love it: This WAS the movie of my high school years. The hairband soundtrack, the sophomoric yet witty quotes, the feeling that life was going to be hard once you grew up? It was all there. Myers and Carvey were amazing and the film holds up well, despite being very much anchored in the early 90s. Plus, doesn’t life always need a mega happy ending to go along with a Scooby-Doo ending?
Memorable moment: If you are a Gen-X male, if you have the will to resist doing most of the sing-a-long to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, you will at LEAST lose control when the headbutting guitar riff blasts out of the speakers. In a film with many memorable moments, this one stands out the most!
24. Get Shorty
What’s it about: A mob collector decides to scrap it all, move to Hollywood, and make a go at the movie business. But he finds that the skills he developed in the mob are just as useful in showbiz.
Why I love it: It is a brilliant satire of Hollywood and he moving making process. The cast of Travolta, Russo, DeVito, Hackman, and a pre-Soprano James Gandolfini hits every mark.
Memorable moment: The creative ways in which the absolutely amazing Dennis Farina finds new forms of grammar to employ the F-word.
23. Dumb and Dumber
What’s it about: Two of the stupidest people in the world go on a cross country adventure to return a suitcase to Mary “Samsonite”; unwittingly foiling a ransom drop and inviting the attention of devious kidnappers.
Why I love it: Jim Carrey was at his peak and Jeff Daniels matches him time and again with perfect comedic timing. These guys are so dumb, but in this early Farrelly Brothers picture it never seems unrealistic.
A sequel starring the original pair came out 20 years later, which was funny, but not memorable. The prequel, starring different actors as Harry and Lloyd in high school, was pure drivel.
Memorable moment: “Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF!”
What’s it about: Based (loosely, it would seem) on the true story of G-man Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his gang of Untouchables as they take down legendary gangster Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) in Prohibition era Chicago.
Why I love it: This was pretty much the beginning of the Costner revolution, when he was so hot he could later play Robin Hood with a Midwest, American accent. And this performance was worthy of launching the Kevin craze. Bull Durham was his best performance, but this was his best film!
Stealing the show was Sean Connery as Ness’ streetwise deputy in a performance that would land 007 an Oscar. THAT’S THE CHICAGO WAY!
Memorable moment: The shoot out in the train station at the end of the film remains, to this day, my favorite gun fight in cinematic history. Director Brian De Palma’s experience directing Scarface obviously helped. Man…that guy knows his shootout sequences…
Memorable moment: If you only watch the opening credits, ridiculously accompanied by Juice Newton’s Angel of the Morning, you got 2 minutes of entertainment better than most films. Ryan Reynolds was born to play this role and delivers laughs for the entire movie.
20. A Few Good Men
What’s it about: A brash, young Navy JAG officer (Tom Cruise) takes on the defense of two marines, stationed in Cuba, responsible for the unintended death of a whistle blower. While the marines do not deny they were trying to teach the victim a lesson, the case hinges on whether the god-like commandant of the base (Jack Nicholson) ordered them to execute the “code red”.
Why I love it: This was the first work we saw from the mind of the brilliant Aaron Sorkin. This thing is pure Sorkin. Sorkin’s dialogue and Rob Reiner’s sharp direction set the stage, while Cruise and Nicholson led a wonderful cast including Demi Moore, Kevin Pollack, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon (this film was helpful for the Kevin Bacon game) and JT Walsh, who take things from there.
AFGM was already a personal favorite, but later took a special place in my heart when I got back into theater after 20 years and performed in a local, award winning, production of the original stage play!
Memorable moment: It was the scene where Tom and Demi were eating crabs in that seafood restaurant in Maryland. No….wait… of course it was Jack’s “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” courtroom scene.
The build up, back in forth, and egos involved made you actually believe that Col Jessup would confess to ordering the code red AND be shocked when he was arrested for it. This scene was not included in the original play, but it was so popular that after the film introduced it, Sorkin authorized it to be included in later stage versions.
Promise me this… if you see it live someday… do not quote along with the pivotal line during the play. The cast doesn’t appreciate that. We wanted you to hear our pal Rick Smith nail the line…not Bubba in Row AA…
19. Forrest Gump
What’s it about: American history seemingly revolves around the life of a simpleton from Greenbow, Alabama. From Elvis, to Civil Rights, to Vietnam, to every political scandal of the late 20th century, Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks, who won his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar for the role) was there to play a part.
Why I love it: It is so wonderfully charming. Hanks plays an amazing man with a low IQ, but an unbeatable spirit. Gary Sinise, in the the first role I noticed him, brought anger and depression to balance out Forrest’s constant simple optimism. Sally Field as Forrest’s mother delivers a homey, heartfelt performance that was one of her finest.
Some folks have soured over Forrest Gump over the years, mainly because it won Best Picture over Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption. I’ve already noted Pulp missed my top 25, and Shawshank is higher on this list, but none of that invalidates the amazing charm and heart of Gump. While either of those films would have made excellent Best Picture winners (1994 was the best year for Best Picture nominees ever, in my opinion), that should not be an indictment of a film that can hold its head up against any other winner.
As Ray Romano’s character said in The Big Sick, “You go online, they hated Forrest Gump. The frickin’ best movie ever!”
Memorable moment: Though Forrest’s homespun wisdom and bus stop bench scene get more coverage, the scene for me that makes the movie is when Forrest meets Forrest Jr for the first time and asks “Is he smart or is he…”. When he trails off, the implication is obvious that Forrest has been self-aware, all this time, of the obstacles he’s overcome to become an American success story. Watch that scene again and tell me this isn’t an all-time classic. Or are you dead inside! DEAD INSIDE!
What’s it about: A total loser, with an active imagination, (Weird Al Yankovic) takes over a failing TV station his uncle wins in a poker game. With nothing to lose, he and his wacky friends (Al is almost he straight man in this comedy) unleash the most creative shows to make it to the top of the charts.
Why I love it: Mainly because I think Weird Al is one of the most talented human beings alive (Flashback to the time the Gabbing Geek team all saw him in concert!). This ridiculous premise let Al just vamp and bring the zany weirdness that have kept him relevant for 40 years.
Stealing the show is pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards as the dimwitted Janitor Stanley Spadowski, who becomes a zen-warrior Captain Kangaroo. The wisdom Stanley espouses comparing his new mop to the enduring triumph of life? That was as inspirational as anything Rousseau or Kant ever wrote…
Memorable moment: In the hit game show Wheel of Fish, Phyliss Weaver chooses the mystery box over the delicious red snapper. When her prize is revealed, Phyliss receives “Nothing! Absolutely nothing! STUPID! You so STU-PIIIIIIIIIIID!” Get your shit together, PHYLISS!
18. Silence of the Lambs
What’s it about: A serial killer is on the loose and proves so elusive that the FBI agent working the case (Jodie Foster, in her second Oscar winning performance) is forced to turn to a brilliant, incarcerated serial killer known as Hannibal the Cannibal (Anthony Hopkins, in one of the most impressive Oscar Winning performances ever) for help.
Why I love it: Is it a horror… or a thriller… or a horror-thriller? It sure is scary as hell! Even though there is considerable gore and violence, that isn’t the what scares you most in Jonathan Demme’s (who won Best Director at the Oscars) psychological mindfuck. It is the caged tiger fear of what Hannibal Lecter is going to do next that scares you.
The film came strong, also winning Best Picture (amazing feat as the film debuted in February as a not so fun Valentine’s date), making it the only film in Oscar history to win Best Picture, Director, and both lead actor trophies.
Memorable moment: So many iconic scenes.. like the restraints they try to use to keep Lecter in check… or the, um, “tuck and cover?” scene with Buffalo Bob. But the scene that resonates most is when Hopkins has killed some guards, is covered in their blood, yet pauses to appreciate the classical music playing over the radio…conducting along with the orchestra…violence as art form.
17. LA Confidential
What’s it about: The individual stories of three police detectives in 1950s era Los Angeles weave together as a fascinating conspiracy of sex and corruption plays out. Whatever you desire…
Why I love it: It has mood and style of both a 50’s era crime film, as well as the modern sensibilities of a Scorsese picture. This was the first movie I remember noticing Russell Crowe, who was amazing as a violent cop so close to the edge, it is hard to tell if he is a hero or a villain.
Kevin Spacey, who we don’t like today, was amazing as the limelight-loving, media-whore vice detective who is on the take from the sleazy, tabloid shutterbug (Danny DeVito) to provide juicy “skinny.” Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush…
Titanic may have won Best Picture, because it was a total sensation, but LA Confidential was the best film in one of the best years on record (second only to 1994). At least Kim Basinger landed a Best Supporting Actress trophy…
Memorable moment: When Kevin Spacey’s slimeball character has a revelation and accidentally confides in the wrong person…the film’s ultimate villain… and takes a bullet for it. As he bleeds out, he takes advantage of the situation by setting up the villain to reveal himself inadvertently to the other good guys. Making sure he isn’t the guy who “gets away with it.”
16. Groundhog Day
What’s it about: A narcissistic, local weatherman (Bill Murray) relives the same day, Groundhog Day, in a sleepy little town that he hates. Along the way he finds a zen-like form of inner peace.
Why I love it: I have another Murray film rated higher, but I think this is his best personal performance. The repetition of the days never seem redundant because Murray brings something new to each moment.
The rest of the cast, including Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliot, and Brian Doyle-Murray all allow Murray to deliver a tour de force performance…even compared to his many other brilliant roles.
Memorable moment: The scene that encapsulates this movie for me is the recurring encounters with “Needlenose” Ned Rierson, an annoying insurance agent played by strong character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. Far from being the same scene, even with many of the same comedic strokes, each time the changes highlight the transformation of Murray’s character.
What’s it about: What isn’t it about? Logan is action, adventure, suspense, thrills, and pretty much the greatest Western ever filmed. All that despite really being a movie about a mutant from the X-Men (Hugh Jackman’s finalperformance as Wolverine) in the near future, who has outlived most of his friends, and find himself trying to help a young mutant in whom he sees a lot of himself.
Why I love it: This is where my list gets tricky. How the heck is Logan not in the top ten? My goodness the films that muse be yet to come! Man I love movies.!
Why I love Logan specifically is that it defies genre and goes for the brass ring. Ryan and I have debated many times about what is harder: starting a series or finishing one off at a high level. Ryan posits that the beginning is harder because you have nothing to build on. As usual, Ryan is wrong.
Logan is great because it does everything necessary to go out on top. Despite following one bad, and one average Wolverine solo film, Logan decides to tell a different kind of story because everyone knew this was Jackman’s final performance as the character. Add in Patrick Stewart’s brilliant final bow as Professor X, and you have everything coming together to make for an all-time classic.
Memorable moment: The fight scene at the end. When Logan and Laura (Dafne Keen) go full berzerker against the evil goons trying to capture them, we have one of the better fight scenes in film history. It has the choreography, action, intense musical score, but ,most importantly, it has heart.
What’s it about: It is story about a family business…where the business happens to be organized crime. The patriarch of the family, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando in an oft-imitated Oscar winning role) teaches the ways of corruption and violence to his children; intending to turn things over to the violent Sonny (the also violent James Caan) but ultimately has to make the offer to his more respectable son, Michael (Al Pacino…who was absolutely robbed of an Oscar so wrongfully that he had to win one for Scent of Woman).
Why I love it: So if you asked me what is the “best” movie in cinematic history, this would probably be my answer. It has all the artistry of the dreadfully boring Citizen Kane but also has an amazing story and brilliant performances that the “Rosebud is a fucking sled!” film lacked.
What keeps Godfather a little lower on the “favorite” list is its run time. Hard to do a rewatch every year when it clocks in at three hours. Today, the producers would have made director Francis Ford Coppola turn Mario Puzo’s best seller into a trilogy in and of itself.
Controversial opinion in the film community, but I do NOT like the revered Godfather, Part 2. Other than the Fredo scene, that movie bored the hell out of me. So, though sequels are included as part of this list… for this entry… we are only talking the original.
Memorable moment: So many iconic scenes and quotes, but the one that stuck with me the most was when Sonny dies, the Don cashes in a favor with a local mortician. Brando was so brilliant in the scene that, in his grief, I remember thinking he was actually going to ask the mortician to bring him back to life or something surreal.
Despite being a horrible monster, Vito loved his children, and Sonny’s death almost broke him. Instead when he asks the man to “I want you to use all your powers, and all your skills. I don’t want his mother to see him this way” Corleone gives us a peek at his humanity that he must hide from his enemies at all times, lest they think him weak.
13. The Martian
What’s it about: In an early expedition to the red planet, the crew accidentally leaves astronaut Mark Whatley (Matt Damon) behind during a deadly sand storm. Mark must figure out how to “science the shit” out of his situation to survive long enough on a dead planet for NASA to launch a rescue.
Why I love it: The Andy Weir book ,on which the film is based, is one of my all-time favorites. Whether you read the book first and then watch the movie…or vice versa…there is something new and exciting.
The crew that left him behind (including Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan, and Kate Mara), as well as the earth bound geniuses trying to figure out how to rescue their colleague (including Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ojiofor, Sean Bean, Kristin Wiig, and Donald Glover) help balance the isolation of Whatley, so that it isn’t a one man show like the film Castaway.
But make no mistake, Damon’s ability to carry a film solo is what makes The Martian so special. He is funny, charming, heartfelt, and always keeps you wanting director Ridley Scott to return to Mars. That’s right. This movie was so good, it broke the Ridley Scott streak of mediocre to bad films.
Memorable moment: The rescue scene where Whatley goes Iron Man, and Chastain has to improvise to take advantage of a single chance to rescue her friend, tested just how long I could hold my breath. While I watch the whole film once a year, I probably watch just that scene every couple of months. In fact, I am going to stop writing this article for a few minutes and watch it now. (Watson Note: Chills…)
What’s it about: A trio of unconventional scientists (Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, and Harold Ramis) open business catching ghosts in New York City just as a paranormal uprising begins (they later hire Ernie Hudson to round out the team). High-jinks ensue…
Why I love it: It is the perfect action adventure comedy. Murray is hilarious in a role that was written for John Belushi, but which would have suffered had Murray not been the lead. Between jokes, there is some really great action and intrigue; as an evil spirit tries to conquer our world. Go back and watch this movie. It REALLY holds up.
The funny thing is, this was right before PG-13 ratings were created, so it is a VERY envelope pushing PG film. Akroyd literally calls someone dickless. Then Murray confirms, “Yes sir, it’s true. This man has no dick.” Awesome stuff, but shocking today to hear that in a 1980’s movie I saw when I was in 3rd grade!
We should all live my life by the adage, “when someone asks you if you are a god, you say yes!”
Memorable moment: The finale is as iconic a scene as ever shot on film. When told the Ghostbusters themselves will determine the harbinger that will bring doom to the world, Akroyd’s Ray Stantz can’t help thinking of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Anyone who from Camp Waconda knows, the only way to beat that guy, is crossing the streams.
11. Back to the Future
What’s it about: #BadlyExplainedPlot hashtag on Twitter described the plot as “Unsuspecting boy is seduced by a creepy old loner into a game of crime, terrorism, and incest.” I mean…that ain’t wrong… but there is also Time Travel and the 1950s.
Why I love it: In the Ghostbusters entry above, I noted that was a comedy from the 80’s that really holds up (most of them don’t without the benefit of heavy nostalgia). Back to Future is right there with it; so much so the producers have resisted a remake because you can go back and watch it today and still connect with Marty, Doc, and the gang.
Michael J Fox was actually not going to be the lead when his Family Ties commitments led the producers to cast Eric Stoltz (Pulp Fiction) as the the lead. They filmed for a couple of weeks, and had a lot of footage of Stoltz in the iconic orange vest, before Robert Zemekis (Forrest Gump) pulled the plug and said they absolutely had to wait for Fox to become available. It was worth the wait, because Fox carried the film with his charisma and boy next door, aw-shucks charm.
There were two sequels, which while very good, could not approach the original’s high standard. When 2015 came and went, without the hoverboards promised in the second installment, people were pissed. Rightfully so!
Memorable moment: While the film has many epic moments, Back to the Future‘s most memorable contribution to entertainment…no… to civilization itself, was the epic trivia contest in Episode 57 of the Gabbing Geek Podcast!
THE TOP TEN
10. Royal Tenenbaums
What’s it about: A quirky family. That is all. And it is enough…
Why I love it: Cuz damn they are quirky. This is essentially a two hour film version of the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World commercials. Wes Anderson is one of my favorite filmmakers and this edges out The Royal Budapest Hotel as his seminal work. This film is not for everyone. Enjoying Wes Anderson is sometimes an acquired taste.
Maybe you don’t think lines like “Well everyone knows Custer died at Little Big Horn. What this book presupposes is… maybe he didn’t …” are funny. Or maybe seeing an ironic tombstone bearing the inscription ” 1932-2001 Died Tragically Rescuing His Family From The Wreckage Of A Destroyed Sinking Battleship” doesn’t tickle your fancy. I can’t help it that you’re a lowbrow.
Memorable moment: After Tenenbaum manservant Pagoda is revealed as Royal’s longtime informant on the activities of the family, Pagoda stabs Royal for a second time with his pen knife. At the end, when Royal earns a modicum of gratitude from Angelica Huston’s Etheline, he walks away, turns back, and uses his token to ask her to take Pagoda back into her employment. One of the few truly selfless and redemptive gestures of a conniving man.
9. Almost Famous
What’s it about: A teenager in the 1970s cons his way into covering an emerging rock band for Rolling Stone magazine; in this semi-autobiographical story by Director Cameron Crowe which won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
Why I love it: The music. The acting. The direction. The dialogue.
This is one of those movies that just grab you forever. Frances McDormand puts in an Oscar nominated performance as the Crowe analog’s fretful mother; splitting votes with fellow nominee Kate Hudson as the vampish Band-Aid (don’t you dare call them groupies). Billy Crudup was the real attraction in the film as the guitarist who is noticeably more talented than his fellow band members.
Memorable moment: The most emblematic moment of the film is when the band and their teenage chronicler have gotten out of town on the tour bus. Everyone is exhausted, stressed, and burned out. But then Tiny Dancer by Elton John comes on over the radio and the whole band slowly starts singing along; illustrating the healing power of the music.
What’s it about: A high school student council election is marred by adultery, treachery, and a popular teacher (Matthew Broderick) driven to madness trying to stop a gold-star over achiever (Reese Witherspoon).
Why I love it: It was the first time I remember embracing black comedy. Before this, I was more into broad, silly comedy like Adam Sandler. Witherspoon deserved an Oscar nomination for this role, but the film had to settle for losing out for Best Adapted Screenplay. From this day forward, I was a fan of director Alexander Payne, who would go on to direct films like The Descendants and Sideways.
Memorable moment: Broderick, playing the foil instead of the “Ferris” at this stage in his career, comes to school after getting kicked out of his house, sleeping in his car, and getting stung in the eye by bee. The man who was once the most popular teacher in town loses it and starts telling it like it is. To watch this pillar of the community fall, convincingly thanks to a great script and Broderick’s deft performance, was priceless.
What’s it about: The true story of a group of mobsters who pull off a big heist and then begin to turn on each other.
Why I love it: Joe Pesci puts in one of the finest performances ever as the psychopathic enforcer, Tommy. His Oscar win was, to me, overwhelmingly the finest Support performance ever until JK Simmons turned in his masterpiece in Whiplash and Heath Ledger nailed The Dark Knight, and created some competition.
Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro are amazing in this film; working from a brilliant script, but this was Scorcese’s finest work ever.
I liked Dances With Wolves just fine, and it is not an unworthy Best Picture winner in a different year, but Kevin Costner absolutely stole the top prize and Best Director from Scorcese’s masterpiece.
Memorable moment: I know you think I am going to say Pesci’s “clown funny scene”. Great scene. One of the best.
But Paul Sorvino’s prison cooking scene haunts my dreams. The way he chops garlic in the tiny little slices? Better than any cooking show on basic cable! I’d go to prison to eat a meal like that.
What’s it about: Based on the popular board game, a group of strangers come together at a mysterious mansion to confront their blackmailers. When people start dying, the group must solve the mystery before they are discovered and exposed.
Why I love it: Mainly because it is so quotable. Classic quotes like “Iit…it…it… flames… flames, on the sides of my face, breathing…breathless…heaping breaths… heaping”, “He wasn’t a very good illusionist”, “Communism is just a red herring!”, “Even if you were right, that would be one plus one plus two plus one, not one plus *two* plus one plus one”, and of course, “Tim Curry!”
The film has an all-star cast of comedy talent including the aforementioned Tim Curry, Martin Mull, Madeline Khan, Leslie Ann Warren, Christopher Lloyd, and Michael McKean.
It’s by far my favorite comedy of all time. It bombed at the box office, but like the works of Vincent Van Gogh during his life, Clue was genius ahead of its time. It became a beloved cult classic, and is in constant rotation in Alamo Drafthouse’s quote-along series…because it is so quotable.
Memorable moment: You think I am not going to talk about the Book People Incident and how I butterfly effected the 2015 Oscar monologue? Cuz I am going to talk about the Book People Incident and how I butterfly effected the 2015 Oscar monologue.
After bragging of the film’s quotability on an early Podcast,and then failing to get a large number of folks to deliver one single quote, Ryan issued a critical double dog dare.
I was at the Austin institution Book People with my kids lined up for an autograph session for Neil Patrick Harris’ new autobiography. Ryan was waiting across the street with his youngest son while his wife Sara and their oldest son waited in line with me and the boys (thankfully, because that is the only reason Ryan believes what happened next).
The whole time we are in line, Ryan is taunting me about Clue and daring me to ask NPH if he can name a quote.
The Garcias and my boys get their books autographed. NPH could not have been more of a gentleman; giving Besher tips on Broadway performances and giving How I Met Your Mother superfan Clayton a HIGH FIVE and noticing that he “suited up”.
When my turn came, I took a deep breath and, before I lost my nerve, blurted out , “Ok, Harris! Settle a bet for me! Can you name one quote from the movie Clue?”
Harris went cold. I am sure he feared a brutal rape was in his near future due to my brashness. But then…SUDDENLY…a look of steely resolve overcame him and you could tell he was thinking “I can do this!”
He then drew his breath, and belted out… IN ACCENTED ENGLISH, “Good shot, Green! VERY GOOD!”
The Garcia and Watson clans went crazy. Sara grabbed a photo of me thrusting my fists in the air, triumphant. In the background, NPH has a look of smug satisfaction that screamed “NAILED IT!”
Once informed, Ryan was clearly devastated, as he is a huge fan of Harris’s Tony winning performance in Hedgewig and the Angry Inch.
Later it was announced that NPH would host the Oscars, and during an ask me anything chat on Twitter, he noted that his favorite movie that could never win an Oscar was…Clue.
We started teasing Ryan mercilessly. Jimmy even said “Ryan, if Harris mentions Clue in his monologue, you are done for!” We all laughed.
Then, on Oscar night we were all gathered at my house for the telecast. With fellow Gabbing Geek host Jenny and many other friends crowding the living room, Ryan and I sat on the floor.
Harris, a classic song and dance man, broke into his homage of classic cinema. I figure you can guess what happens next…or you read the billboard I paid for outside Ebbing, Missouri explaining the story… That’s right. Neil Patrick Harris included the movie Clue in his montage. Everyone in the room went crazy!
Everyone except for a single person. To his eternal shame, Ryan knew it was over for him. He would live. But he would not live well…
On his death bed, as Sara and the boys begin to say farewell to their beloved husband and father, I am going to push them out of the way, look that son of a bitch in his cold, dying eyes and say… IN ACCENTED ENGLISH, “Good shot, Green! VERY GOOD!”
What’s it about: Two dueling magicians in Victorian England (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) start a decades long battle of revenge filled with murder, betrayal, and intrigue.
Why I love it: If not for a film that will follow shortly, this would be Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece! It is so amazing. Jackman and Bale have such wonderfully hateful chemistry as they take their revenge to the next level.
The plot is perfectly complemented by the dialogue, and the cast more that does it justice. In addition to the leads, Nolan favorite Michael Caine is amazing, Scarlett Johanson is lovely in an early role, David Bowie disappears into the historical figure, Nicola Tesla, and Andy Serkis is creepy and fun in a rare live action role.
The twists keep coming as the pair try to create the perfect illusion (“tricks are for whores!” -JOB Bluth) but at the same time sabotage the success of the other. The film ultimately proves the old adage that no one wins when it comes to revenge, but man is The Prestige an interesting vehicle to tell an old tale?
Memorable moment: Hugh Jackman, using a drunken lookalike to finish the act in the final part of his trick (which is called “The Prestige” in illusionist parlance), must finish the act under the stage while his patsy enjoys the audiences affection.
During one performance, the lust for appreciation…a fault that would lead his character to commit unspeakably monstrous acts… Jackman’s character stands below stage and bows to the boards and rafters holding up the stage above.
Performances in roles like these, ensure Jackman not need to go back and play Wolverine ever again. EVER!
4. Star Wars
What’s it about: Seriously?
Why I love it: It has defined a huge part of my life. The first film came out when I was two. Empire Strikes Back, my favorite, came out when I was five. Return of the Jedi came out when I was eight.
I have owned these films in several editions on VHS. On DVD. On Digital media. I have bought novels, encyclopedias, comics. I have dressed as an Ewok, rode theme park rides, and bought every form of toy known to man.
Then fresh-faced stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher were chaperoned by legendary Oscar winner Alec Guinness (in a role he despised) and balanced out with Wookies, droids, and faced off against the evil (he was dressed in solid black to drive home the point) Darth Vader.
When the less enjoyable prequels came out (only the third one was remotlry enjoyable), I was able to at least take solace that my kids enjoyed having new Star Wars films to digest (though, responsible father that I am, I taught them to hate Jar Jar…).
Of course, now that Disney has bought the franchise, we get a new film every year. I didn’t like The Last Jedi but I enjoyed The Force Awakens and Rogue One. It looks like we will be getting more of the beloved films that have been with us since 1977.
Memorable moment: For me, the greatest moment in any of the films is the lightsaber battle in Cloud City between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. The silhouettes of the two force users in the carbon freezing chamber, as they ignite their lightsabers to do battle, was a thing of majesty.
The scene, and the film, climaxes as Vader cuts off Luke’s hand as he clings to life over a huge exhaust shaft. Vader then makes the greatest reveal in cinematic history, rebutting Obi Wan’s claim (from a certain point of view) that Vader killed Luke’s father by rasping, “No, I am your father!”
The bad guy was secretly the father of the good guy!
Cinematic heritage had not been this messed up since Chinatown!
3. Shawshank Redemption
What’s it about: A man wrongly imprisoned (Tim Robbins) forms a friendship with the only guilty man in Shawshank (Morgan Freeman) as he deals with abuse from other inmates, brutal prison guards, and corrupt warden.
Why I love it: It is an absolutely beautiful film. Like Clue, it was not a huge success at the box office even with a Best Picture nomination; losing out to the aforementioned Forrest Gump. It would actually rise to “every white guy in America’s favorite movie” status when it landed on VHS and in heavy rotation on the TNT network.
Of course, I saw it first in the theater with my buddy Dom and had to fight back tears as the movie revealed one gut wrenching twist after another (Dom lost that battle, the big sissy…).
Today it is atop the IMDB Top 250 Best Movies ever as ranked by douchey, film snobs.
Memorable moment: Come on? The ending. When Andy is sanding a boat on the beaches of Mexico and is finally reunited with his dear friend, Red. No dialogue is spoken. No close ups of the pair.
Director Frank Darabont simply pulls the camera to a bird’s eye view as the men embrace and the film ends. Subtle, yet brilliant.
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
What’s it about: An adventurous 1930s graverobber archaeologist fights Nazis and Thugees for mystic relics in the ultimate quest for fortune and glory.
Why I love it: This was Han Solo on steroids. Harrison Ford proved that he was the breakout star of the newly iconic Star Wars series by anchoring a movie all by himself. Others would come and go throughout the four installments of the series, but it was always the charismatic Ford filling the screen with his smart ass charm.
The first three films were obviously the best. All three would vie for a spot if I ranked individual films instead of having one spot for franchises. In order of favorite for me: The Last Crusade (starring Sean Connery as Indy’s quirky dad), Raiders of the Lost Ark (the original), and Temple of Doom (great but rated too high by JENNY!)
The fourth film, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, featuring an older Indiana Jones, would come decades later to mixed fan reaction…but it wasn’t as bad as South Park led on. Ignore the refrigerator and monkey scenes, and you have a decent adventure with Harrison; still nailing the Indy charm.
Memorable moment: Indy was often more lucky than good, bumbling through his adventures and winning sometimes despite his wits and strength. In the third installment, Indy is trying to escape Nazi Germany with his father’s diary so they can take it to the Middle East and find the Holy Grail before Hitler’s men discover the secret to immortality.
During a giant rally, Indy…dressed in a Nazi uniform…accidentally bumps into the Furher himself while holding the Grail Diary. Hitler snatched it out of Indy’s hand with a look of scorn, and Jones feels the impending sense of doom.
Instead, the man who leads the agents of the darkness that Indy opposes day in/day out, scribbles his name in the diary, thinking it was the man’s autograph book.
Indy escapes again…
1. Dark Knight
What’s it about: A man, consumed by rage after witnessing the death of his parents, turns himself into a human weapon, but one dressed as a creature of the night in an effort to protect his beloved city.
Why I love it: Ah we get to #1. As hard as the other rankings were (Star Wars vs Indy vs Andy & Red???), this one was easy.
Though it is a trilogy, and I like all three, this entry’s rank depends solely on the middle installment, The Dark Knight because it is the perfect film. It has everything I need, want, expect in a movie.
Christian Bale was perfect as Batman. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was as strong an Oscar winner as they come (his performance took on a melancholy hue after his untimely death prior to the film’s release). Greybeards Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman support the young guys with amazing flair.
But why is Dark Knight head and shoulders above all the other thousands of movies I have seen in my life?
First, it was a “film” and not just a popcorn movie. This is a film that Scorcese, De Palma, or Francis Ford Coppola could have made. It has great dialogue, intense pacing, and real world consequences. You forget this is a superhero movie starring the character once played with an extra slice of ham by Adam West.
Second, it IS a superhero movie and I love superhero movies.
Add Oscar quality drama (Dark Knight was screwed out of a Best Picture nomination so unfairly, that they changed the nomination process…though it still doesn’t help genre films much) to a superhero movie and that is math that doesn’t add up to Orange Fish!
The first and the third films (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises) were good, but nowhere near as strong as The Dark Knight. BB would have been closer to A+ territory if not for the awful performance by Katie Holmes who was replaced as Rachel Dawes in the second film. DKR gets special credit for inspiring Jenny’s Swedish Bane voice, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the slightly clunky villainous plot.
Memorable moment: The whole film was great, but it was all Heath Ledger. The ferry scene and the finale between Batman and the Joker is pure psychological torture (it doesn’t hurt that a fire alarm went off in the theater I saw it in before the scene).
The Joker’s madness is encapsulated in one thought exercise: he wants others to become as crazy as him. When humanity rejects his style, he loses it and goes full psychopath and it is up to Batman to stay true to his principles, which is how he ultimately defeats the nihilistic Joker.
Ledger’s final line from the film becoming unintentionally tragic when he reflected that Batman and the Joker were in an unending battle of good and evil. There was a huge sadness in the theater when the dead-to-soon Ledger cackled, “I think you and I are destined to do this forever…”
FIVE PAINFUL OMISSIONS
No, Ryan. Not painful EMISSIONS. OMISSIONS.
In other words, films that were difficult to keep out of the top ten…let alone the Top 25. The article isn’t Top 30, so consider that some of the greatest films ever are getting my participation trophy.
Memorable Moment: So much mood and vibe in Tarantino’s second film. The moment that sticks out is Vincent and Jules’ hit in the apartment to get the brief case. It flows seamlessly from chit chat and banter to terrifying violence. ” I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?” Classic Tarantino.
Coming to America
Memorable Moment: This was probably Eddie Murphy’s last GREAT comedy. The best parts are all in the barbershop (watch for future Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr playing an extra) where Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall play most of the roles in makeup. I don’t carry how old he was, but Joe Louis certainly got his ass whupped!
Plus, the music of Mr RANDY WATSON! was the soundtrack to my late 80s.
Memorable moment: Harrison Ford is at it again, but in a rare quirk someone else (Tommy Lee Jones) stole the film. Jones has many great moments (his henhouse, outhouse line is the most memorable), but the scene that sticks with me most is when he and a deputy are interviewing a friend of Kimble’s (who turns out to be the villain) and are told they will never catch him because Kimble is too smart.
Jones’ Sam Gerard cockily replies “Oh well… we’re pretty smart guys.” I use that line at work all the time. It is a small moment, but Oscar winning performances are made in the small moments.
The Way Way Back
Memorable moment: An Indie dramedy (my favorite genre) classic. A lot of little things make this movie great but it is the performance of Sam Rockwell that you remember. His classic lessons on life, told in a waterpark, are as zen as anything the Buddha taught us.
Special mention to the performance of Steve Carrell. This was the first film I realized he was not just a broad comedy funny man, but the guy who would go on to shine in films like Foxcatcher, Battle of the Sexes, and Last Flag Flying.
That Thing You Do
Memorable moment: Tom Hanks’ directorial debut produced a wonderfully charming feature about a would be American Beatles that turned into a one hit One-eder. The song being played many times was the best part (that song is sticky!) but the coolest non-musical part was the fun the guys are having as their single rockets the chart; especially as the tour the country with other Playtone acts and visiting state fairs. These boys from Erie, Pa interacting with middle America was charming.
But what about Lord of the Rings? What about Argo? What about Wonder Woman? What about Iron Man? What about Dave? What about Ender’s Game? What about Grease? What about Gremlins? What about The Matrix? What about Toy Story?
I’m sure there are even more I could add here that were painful cuts. There are some great movies out there. This is why I don’t watch much television!
As always, let me know how much my list sucks in the comments section.