My Favorite Movies
My Top 30 Favorite Movies
This is, and probably will always be, the hardest list for me to put together. I estimate that I’ve seen close to 2,000 films, and ranking even a lengthy-sounding Top 30 is incredibly difficult.
As you can see, I’ve created this post on a separate page so it will always be easily accessible under the “Pages” menu to the top right of my blog. I will update this page as new films make it onto the list.
Here’s the list, in descending order:
30. Almost Famous
IMDB plot outline: A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies it on their concert tour.
My thoughts: Great directing and a great story. You can tell this film was made from the heart, and Cameron Crowe did an incredible job telling this personal true story. This is my favorite Crow film, which says a lot considering he also directed Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky and Elizabethtown.
29. True Romance
IMDB plot outline: Clarence marries hooker Alabama, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood, while the owners of the coke try to reclaim it.
My thoughts: Anytime you get a film written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott, you know you’re going to get something special. This film is definitely that. It has an incredible script, and that is the main reason why this film is so great. The acting is good as well, with Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette in the lead roles. There are also appearances from Val Kilmer, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Tom Sizemore, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson and James Gandolfini. Quite the cast listing.
28. The Prestige
IMDB plot outline: Robert and Alfred are rival magicians. When Alfred performs the ultimate magic trick, Robert tries desperately to find out the secret to the trick.
My thoughts: The Prestige was a film I never expected to rank among my top 30. I had high expectations, and knew I would enjoy it based on who the director is (Memento’s Christopher Nolan), but never expected it to be so damn good. I was absolutely blown away. What a thrilling twist of a film. The performances by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are incredible. A definite must-see.
27. The Departed
IMDB plot outline: Two men from opposite sides of the law are undercover within the Massachusetts State Police and the Irish mafia, but violence and bloodshed boil when discoveries are made, and the moles are dispatched to find out their enemy’s identities.
My thoughts: The rightful winner of 2007’s “Best Picture” award, The Departed impressed me much more than I expected. Finally super director Martin Scorsese got his “Best Director” award. The Departed is more drama than action, but manages to keep you at the edge of your seat for the entire film. And that ending? Wow, wow, wow. Such a great film.
26. American History X
IMDB plot outline: A former neo-nazi skinhead (Norton) tries to prevent his younger brother (Furlong) from going down the same wrong path that he did.
My thoughts: American History X is definitely not for everyone. It’s a very depressing and disturbing film. I, of course, love these types of movies and this is one of the best ones. Edward Norton gives, like usual, a simply incredible performance.
25. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
IMDB plot outline: A couple undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories when their relationship turns sour, but it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.
My thoughts: I hear one of two things when I mention this movie to someone. They either love it or hate it. The hate it’s usually say so, well, because they have no interest in good films, and prefer the “Ave Ventura” version of Jim Carrey. I, on the other hand, like this Jim Carrey much better. I think he’s an incredible actor, and unfortunately most of his fans only want to see him in ridiculous slapstick roles. This is such a different, original and well made film. I love it more each time I see it.
24. Shawshank Redemption
IMDB plot outline: Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
My thoughts: Years and years ago I considered ‘Shawshank Redemption’ as my favorite movie. I hadn’t seen it for years, and figured I only liked it because I was younger, so it slipped down my list. Then, about a month ago, I watched it again. It was just as good as I remember it being and it rightfully regained a spot on my list of favorite movies. This film is as good as it gets when it comes to heartfelt feel-good movies.
23. Training Day
IMDB plot outline: On his first day on the job as a narcotics officer, a rookie cop works with a rogue detective who isn’t what he appears as.
My thoughts: I’ve always loved Denzel Washington’s work. I even did a top 10 list of his movies. In my opinion, this is his best performance. He rightfully won the Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his efforts. A gritty, dark action film that I enjoyed immensely.
IMDB plot outline: The story of Irish-Italian American, Henry Hill, and how he lives day-to-day life as a member of the Mafia. Based on a true story, the plot revolves around Henry and his two unstable friends Jimmy and Tommy as they gradually climb the ladder from petty crime to violent murders.
My thoughts: Although it’s not a better movie by any sorts, I have to say I enjoyed ‘Goodfellas’ more than The Godfather. Goodfellas has a great story, great acting and Martin Scorsese does an incredible job with directing the film. There is a great cast, with Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino.
21. Jackie Brown
IMDB plot outline: A female flight attendant becomes a key figure in a plot between the police and an arms dealer.
My thoughts: Jackie Brown is a great film. Quentin Tarantino is an incredible director, and the fact that at 21st, this is the lowest ranked of his movies on my list, says a lot. I thought this film was a lot better than it got credit for. I enjoyed it a lot… especially the performances from Pam Grier and Robert De Niro. Samuel L. Jackson, Bridget Fonda, Robert Forster and Michael Keaton also do great in their respective roles.
IMDB plot outline: A man, suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man he thinks killed his wife.
My thoughts: If ever there was a movie that you want to watch again as soon as you finish it, this is it. Such an original film, Memento keeps you guessing the entire film. It’s unique way of telling the story is by practically going backwards. You start with the end of the film, and then you learn more about how you got there. The amazing part is this film tells the story backwards, yet remains a thrilling hard-to-figure out film. Christopher Nolan is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors (he also did Batman Begins and The Prestige).
19. Kill Bill
IMDB plot outline: The Bride wakes up after a long coma. The baby that she carried before entering the coma is gone. The only thing on her mind is to have revenge on the assassination team that betrayed her – a team she was once part of.
My thoughts: I’ve grouped Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 under one movie, as that was Tarantino’s original intention when making the film. It’s not two films, it’s one that was split up to avoid having a four hour film. ‘Kill Bill’ is different than his previous three films, as it focuses on his teenage love for Japanese action films. The entire film is probably better than anything he was hoping to pay homage to. Uma Thurman was the absolutely perfect casting choice for “The Bride”. I really enjoyed the work of Michael Madsen and David Carradine, as well.
IMDB plot outline: An adaptation of Homer’s great epic, the film follows the assault on Troy by the united Greek forces and chronicles the fates of the men involved.
My thoughts: Out of all the films on my top 30 list, this is probably the most critically-panned. It didn’t receive the greatest of reviews, but I enjoyed it a lot. I thought it was an excellent film, and very enjoyable. One of my favorite Brad Pitt roles. I’ve rarely hated a character as much as I hate Orlando Bloom in this film. It’s the good type of hate, though.
17. Sin City
IMDB plot outline: A film that explores the dark and miserable southern town Basin City and tells the story of three different people, all caught up in the violent corruption of the city.
My thoughts: The second Robert Rodriguez film on the list, and the first of two based on a Frank Miller graphic novel. Rodriguez did such a great job at adapting this to film. Possibly the best comic-to-film adaptation of all time. You feel like you are watching a comic book come to life. Frank Miller’s writing comes through wonderfully, and I am anxiously awaiting the sequel.
IMDB plot outline: In 1980 Miami, a determined Cuban immigrant takes over a drug empire while succumbing to greed.
My thoughts: Quite possibly the best “drug lord” film ever made. Al Pacino, like usual, puts forth a great performance as the troubled ‘Tony Montana’. Scarface was directed by the great Brian De Palma (Mission Impossible, Carlito’s Way, The Untouchables). It was one of the many great films of the 70’s and 80’s for Al Pacino. He really was such an incredible young actor. If you haven’t seen some of his older films, I highly suggest checking them out.
IMDB plot outline: Police drama about two cops, one new and one about to retire, after a serial killer using the seven deadly sins as his MO.
My thoughts: Se7en is my pick as the best serial killer film ever made. It also features some of my favorite actors with Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey. It’s a pretty gruesome film, but well done and very enjoyable. Directed by another favorite of mine, David Fincher (he of Fight Club and The Panic Room fame).
14. 21 Grams
IMDB plot outline: A freak accident brings together a critically ill mathematician, a grieving mother and a born-again ex-con.
My thoughts: A reviewer on IMDB said it best, with describing the film as “an intelligent, sensitive and human portrayal of fatality”. It’s a very dark and depressing film, but comes together beautifully in a very sad way. The characters are complex and interesting, and the directing from Alejandro González Iñárritu is near perfect. Not a film you want to watch over and over, but definitely one that stays with you for a long time.
IMDB plot outline: When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by a corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge.
My thoughts: There has been a lot of ‘historical epics’ made over the past few years, but without a doubt, Gladiator remains the best. It’s a perfect film from nearly every standpoint. Writing, directing, story, characters, action, etc. Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix put through astounding performances. I forget how much I love this film, and then I watch it again, and it blows me away all over again.
12. The Woodsman
IMDB plot outline: A pedophile returns to his hometown after 12 years in prison and attempts to start a new life.
My thoughts: ‘The Woodsman’ is probably one of the least known films on my list. I’m going to guess that at least 90% of you reading this haven’t seen it. Well, if you’re like me, and you like depressing and disturbing films, then you have to check out this one. Kevin Bacon, in his usual creepy role, does an amazing job, as does his real-life wife Kyra Sedgwick. The fact that they can actually make you feel for a convicted child molester tells a lot about how well-done this film is. I am really looking forward to seeing more from director Nicole Kassell.
11. Good Will Hunting
IMDB plot outline: Will Hunting, a janitor at MIT, has a gift for mathematics which is discovered, and a psychologist tries to help him with his gift and the rest of his life.
My thoughts: ‘Good Will Hunting’, written by both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, effectively launched their respective careers. Having the incredible Gus Van Sant direct the film was a bonus as well. Robin Williams, in one of his best performances, plays a heartfelt role as Will’s therapist. This movie started my love for the work of both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (don’t laugh), and it’s continued through to this day.
IMDB plot outline: A thirteen-year-old girl’s relationship with her mother is put to the test as she discovers drugs, sex, and petty crime in the company of her cool but troubled best friend.
My thoughts: ‘Thirteen’ is possibly one of the most heart-wrenching and emotional films I have ever seen. Not many movies can claim the type of intense scenes that this film is filled with. An absolute nightmare of a film for anyone with teenage daughters, I would imagine. But also an eye-opener. Based on nearly this performance alone, Evan Rachel Wood made it onto my top 10 favorite actresses list. Nikki Reed is not only great in her role as well, but amazingly, this film is loosely based on her own personal experiences. She is also the co-writer of the film. Pretty impressive.
9. The Usual Suspects
IMDB plot outline: A boat has been destroyed, criminals are dead, and the key to this mystery lies with the only survivor and his twisted, convoluted story beginning with five career crooks in a seemingly random police lineup.
My thoughts: ‘The Usual Suspects’ is probably my favorite “whodunit?” film. Even though you may have it figured out before the film ends, the suspense of “just who is Keyser Soze” is the best part of this film. He’s built up as one of the most feared people in the world, yet we as viewers, know practically nothing about him. Like I seem to repeat with each film on my list, it has a great cast, great directing and great writing.
8. Fight Club
IMDB plot outline: An office employee and a soap salesman build a global organization to help vent male aggression.
My thoughts: ‘Fight Club’ has one of the best scripts and best endings of any movie I have ever seen. I don’t know if there’s any film with as many great quotes as this one. Two of the best actors of our generation, in Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, star in this film. It’s such a dark, dreary film that you sometimes fail to notice the beauty behind it. If you listen to the points the film is trying to get across, you’ll see it is so much more than a simple film about a “fight” club.
7. Reservoir Dogs
IMDB plot outline: After a simple jewelery heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.
My thoughts: This is Quentin Tarantino’s debut film, and he started with something incredible. Reservoir Dogs, with it’s small budget, ends up being one of the best “heist” films of all-time. Filled with great performances from Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi among others, it’s hard to believe this film was made with a $1.2 million budget.
6. Lost In Translation
IMDB plot outline: A movie star with a sense of emptiness, and a neglected newlywed meet up as strangers in Tokyo, Japan and form an unlikely bond.
My thoughts: A beautiful film about finding yourself and finding happiness. Two unlikely friends find a connection. This film comes together because of two things. First, Sofia Coppolla’s intensely beautiful portrail of Tokyo. Second, to the work of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. This is the film that started my near obsession with anything Scarlett does, and gave me the utmost respect for Murray; something that I didn’t have prior to seeing Translation. I’m undecided whether this film should be ranked higher. I keep changing my mind, and will most likely continue to do so. Practically any film ranked in my top 10 could be slotted anywhere from 2nd to 10th.
IMDB plot outline: Several stories interweave during two days in Los Angeles involving a collection of inter-related characters.
My thoughts: I love films that interweave stories and characters, and ‘Crash’ is among the best of them. The amazing Paul Haggis wrote and directed this movie. He has written scripts for so many incredible films such as Million Dollar Baby, Letters From Iwo Jima, Flags of our Fathers, The Last Kiss, Casino Royale and many others. Still, I would rank ‘Crash’ as Haggis’ greatest achievement. Such a perfect film, it was acknowledged by the Academy Awards when it won the Oscar in 2006 for “Best Picture”.
4. Mean Creek
IMDB plot outline: When a teen is bullied, his brother and friends lure the bully into the woods to seek vengeance.
My thoughts: ‘Mean Creek’ is a pretty unknown film. I’ve never met anyone who has seen it, other than the people I’ve recommended it to. Another very depressing film, that will bring along a lot of debate among those have seen it. The performances by these… well, children is nothing short of spectacular. Some of these kids had barely any acting experience prior to this film. After watching the film, I just sat there, and said aloud to myself, “wow”. It really is awe-inspiring.
IMDB plot outline: Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
My thoughts: ‘300’ is an absolutely breath-taking film. The best way describe this film would probably be “beautifully awesome”, because that’s exactly what it is. Thanks to Frank Miller, the writing is excellent. Director Zach Snyder duplicates what Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City, in create a near perfect comic-to-film adaptation. ‘300’ is the only film I have gone to see at the theaters more than once, and I could have easily gone a third time. It is so beautiful, so intense, so entertaining that it’s no wonder it was such a box office success.
2. American Beauty
IMDB plot outline: Lester Burnham, a depressed suburban father in a mid-life crisis, decides to turn his hectic life around after developing an infatuation for his daughter’s attractive friend.
My thoughts: The theme of my list continues, as once again, a disturbing and depressing film makes my list. As messed up as this film, and the characters within it are, it remains one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. The direction and cinematography are nearly unmatched by any other film. Writer Alan Ball, the writer/producer/creator of ‘Six Feet Under’ does a wonderful job. Kevin Spacey is magnificent, and the rest of the cast is incredible as well. It was noticed by the Academy Awards by being nominated for eight awards and winning five, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.
1. Pulp Fiction
IMDB plot outline: The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
My thoughts: Well, it’s first on my list. That pretty much says it all. It’s been my favorite film since I first saw it more than ten years ago. I loved the way the stories all intertwined with each other. It was the first movie I saw that was anything like it. It has probably the coolest script of all-time, with that classic Tarantino dialog. It’s his ability to write incredible dialog that makes him so damn good. The film is filled with career making or re-inventing performances from John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Ving Rhames and others. It’s such an amazing film, and I’m not sure if any movie will ever have the kind of impact on me that Pulp Fiction did.