Since the Oscars will be here soon, it is time to discuss movies. I don't watch the Oscars anymore, I think it is ideologically inconsistent to watch rich people give each other golden statues, and I rarely see any of the best picture nominees anyway. However, despite my political tendencies, I can be something of an elitist when it comes to films, as I can use the vernacular of a critic that writes for the New York Times. Despite that, I am a populist at heart and I try to combine the two when I contemplate any form of art. That doesn't mean you're going to see superhero movies and sequels on this list, but you also won't see those Cannes Film Festival independent films with a budget of $50 on here either. So here are my top 10 films, in no particular order.
The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
When it came down to one of my favorite genres, Westerns, I knew it would have to be this or Unforgiven. What led me to my decision was the way Clint Eastwood's character, "The Man With No Name," called Blondie, in the third and final installment of the Dollars trilogy changes throughout the movie. He does not start out as the "Good" but rather becomes good as he learns the value of life after seeing the brutality of the Civil War and the greed of his reluctant ally, Tuco (played by Eli Wallach who gives the best performance in the movie) and his enemy, Angel Eyes, played by Lee van Cleef who manages to steal all of the scenes he's in. The movie is incredibly long, but it doesn't feel long as none of the scenes are wasted or drawn out. Every detail in the film is worth the run time which is no small feat especially compared to today's movies.
Annie Hall (1977)
How does one manage to beat the very first Star Wars movie for Best Picture? Would it involve re-imagining an entire genre? That is exactly what Woody Allen did with this romantic comedy. All of the romantic comedies that have been successful since owing part of their success to Allen and Annie Hall.
The unconventional protagonist who is far from perfect and sometimes fails to appreciate the amazing but also flawed woman he has was never more present until this movie. The genius levels of dialogue given brilliantly by Allen and Diane Keaton is why this movie will be so memorable. It is best to have been in love before to appreciate it, but it will leave you laughing for quite some time after seeing it.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Whenever someone says they really like horror movies but are tired of all the over-the-top gore and ridiculous plots, I recommend this movie. Although it might not be considered a "horror film" by the definition we have come to accept today, the movie is an amazing thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. The movie primarily relies on its dialogue between the two main characters played by Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in stellar performances.
Ted Levine also does an amazing job playing Buffalo Bill. This movie would be especially good to watch now since all of the Ted Bundy projects have re-ignited America's love of a serial killer. If you're a big fan of serial killers, and I know you are, give Hannibal Lector a chance to show you some good eating.
The Godfather (1972)
So this film is pretty common on top ten lists, and it is one of the few things in this world that live up to the hype. It might be perhaps one of the few instances where the film is superior to the book. And Marlon Brando's performance is worthy of becoming an American cultural phenomenon. While this movie does portray criminals in a romantic light, it also makes you appreciate the concept of family and the loyalty and love that the Corleone family feels for one another is real. The performances of Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, and James Caan all deserve respect in their own right.
The Iron Giant (1999)
Everybody should have an animated film in their top ten list, and whenever I hear about this movie I'm filled with warm memories from my childhood which included owning my own giant robot. This is a great animated movie for young people to see, it teaches valuable lessons and it can make everybody feel good on the inside. I haven't seen the movie in a long time, but I'm still able to recall its importance in my early years.
Taxi Driver (1976)
It was hard choosing a Martin Scorsese movie since they're all amazing and memorable, but Taxi Driver takes the cake for Robert De Niro's unforgettable performance. This is probably one of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen, and I totally mean that as a compliment. The film did not shy away from showing the dark parts of the human mind and that is why I love it so much.
Travis Bickle is easily one of the most fascinating characters brought to life and it does a great job of portraying what vigilante justice would actually look like if it was done in the real world. There would be no glitz and glamour like the superhero genre tries to portray, it would be done by a mentally deranged man. And I intentionally include the word "man" for the way this movie discusses masculinity shows in just another way how it was ahead of its time.
It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Here it is folks, the movie that has managed to bring me closest to tears. If more Christmas movies took inspiration from this movie, Christmas movies would be less bad. It's true that this is a Christmas movie, but the lessons learned should be remembered year round. Jimmy Stewart's performance as the richest man in town represents the ultimate cinematic role model. I believe if you're going to learn a lesson from a movie, please let it be this one. And, the way in which it discusses mental health is important for anyone going through a difficult time.
As another movie that could be argued as being better than the book, the reason this movie is on here is mostly due to the three unforgettable performances by the lead characters. Their chemistry on screen is undeniable and makes what should be a forgettable summer movie a cinematic masterpiece. And, this movie is a perfect lesson in the idea that sometimes, less is more. The shark is rarely seen until the end, and that benefits the movie. It builds suspense and creates a fear in the viewer's heart that would not have been present if it was made today, with a CGI shark that covers the screen in blood.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
When people think of the comedic genius of Mel Brooks, they think of Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs first, and with good reason, as they're hysterical movies. But Brooks's parody of the old Universal Pictures classic horror films never fails to crack me up. This movie's irreverent but also incredibly witty humor could bring a smile to just about anybody's face. The jokes are not, like a lot of old movies, dated; they remain timeless and can make you laugh again and again just as hard as they did the first time. Gene Wilder might be immortalized from his performance as Willy Wonka, but he'll always be Fredrick Frankenstein (pronounced Froonkenstein) to me.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
So some people might argue that this is cheating because it's three movies, but unlike a lot of stories with multiple movies, they are easily the same in quality and they just go together so closely it would be impossible to get the experience without watching all three of them. It is true that the movies are not as good as Tolkien's books, but a lot of people today would not have read the books if it weren't for the movies. As far as adaptations go it does its best and really shines in a lot of places. The books were seen as un-filmable due to the massive scale but Peter Jackson is able to bring great characters and settings to life and the world of literature and film owe him a great deal.
So this isn't like a lot of my other articles, it's mostly all about me and my personal opinions on movies, but movies have always been my escape. And while you should always be educated on what is going on in the world, and stay informed, it is also important to enjoy something and find ways to be happy.