Editorial by Alec R. Lee
Indulge me, maybe you can get some tips.
This post is taking a leaf out of Rotten Tomatoes’ playbook and I’m going to give a list of my ten favorite films (plus explanations). As one of the most “media-savvy” of my peers, I frequently get questions on what are my favorite movies, as I do like a lot of movies (shocker, I know), so I decided to do this while waiting for the next movie to review (in February, most likely). The movies I list are in not any particular order EXCEPT the top 3. The bottom 7 are subject to change because I might have forgotten a movie or two, or even haven’t seen a film that will knock another off. I will say that I haven’t filled the list with too many “artsy” films that no one has ever heard of, but I may have saturated it from too many inductees from one particular category. But any movie on this list I will defend heavily as I believe that they are perfect in every way and no one will be able to convince me otherwise. Don’t try to argue, it’s pointless.
I’m going to start this off aggressively and state that if you never saw this as a kid, then you had no childhood. E.T. should have been on the top of the list for any kid to see, especially if they had an interest in aliens. It’s a timeless classic that, admittedly, makes me tear up whenever I see it. The actors all perform their parts exceptionally, the story is pretty much flawless, and John William’s iconic score always manages to elicit goosebumps. I don’t need to say any more about this film other than the fact that it’s E.T. If you haven’t seen it, shame on you.
At first, I had reservations putting Drive on the list. But hear me out for a second. Even this film tends to have a polarizing reception from casual film audiences, I maintain that this is a work of art, yes, an “artsy” film (don’t hold that against me.) The trick to enjoying this film, is not to expect an action film, but a drama film. There is action, yes, but it’s so sporadic that it will admittedly bore you so the best way to actively enjoy the film is to not expect any action. You do that and the film is fantastic to behold. You have an impressive cast, featuring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, and Ron Perlman. Not to mention the fantastic licensed songs and Cliff Martinez’s electronic score are pretty kick-ass, too. It’s a film that doesn’t conform itself to cliches and operates on minimal dialogue, but be prepared for an original film experience that few filmmakers dare to achieve today.
I had to put a comedy in here or else people would yell at me for not possessing a sense of humor. And pretty much the only comedy film that still has me quoting passages from it (aside from “Blazing Saddles,” which almost made the list) would be Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you’re familiar with Monty Python’s body of work, then you’ve probably seen this film already. It features a ton of British humor (which I love) and several hilarious intertwined skits that the adaptable cast absolutely kills. Even with just one showing, you’d be quoting this film for days (a favorite of mine is the Castle Swamp skit). It’s an absolute riotfest, and I rarely say that as there are so few comedies out there that have made me double over with laughter.
A note first: my favorite Indiana Jones film is actually The Last Crusade, but out of loyalty to the original introduction of the character, I feel that Raiders of the Lost Ark deserves the spot on the list. This movie defined all of the traits of the Indiana Jones character, which was a throwback to the adventure films of the 30s. The tone of the period is dead-on and it is one of the greatest adventure films ever made, if not the greatest. Harrison Ford brings his Han Solo roguishness to Indiana Jones and performs admirably on various quests to retrieve religious artifacts (NOT alien skulls….) The setpieces are unique, the action is intense, and George Lucas could actually write a story back then. Point is, if you’re a fan of Nazis getting their ass handed to them by an archaeology professor, then I- oh wait, you’re out the door already? Okay…..cool.
Coming fresh off of The Terminator, James Cameron proved that he can direct a sequel by being better than the original in every way. Aliens was the Godfather II of science fiction for years and also inspired more militaristic sci-fi movies after than (which in turn was inspired by the novel Starship Troopers). In contrast to the original Alien, which relied more on atmosphere than action, Aliens focuses on taking everything up to eleven. Whereas you had one alien in the first film, now you have a couple hundred. No guns in the first film? How about a few machine guns, assault rifles, and flamethrowers? We’ll also throw in an armored car. Despite the bombastic nature, the film felt like an extension of the original story, which meant that it felt like a sequel. Everything from the sets to the action is done exquisitely and the climax is particularly gut-wrenching. Watch in the dark for maximum effect.
This is my last Spielberg movie. Promise. All right, I couldn’t not include this film because it’s very significant to me. As a person of Jewish descent, this film really speaks out to me at a personal level. I am always struck by the actions of one person, a Nazi, that culminated in the saving of a few thousand Jews during World War II. It’s a very disturbing, poignant, but very important film. This is Spielberg at his most mature, taking in the horrors of the Holocaust with an unflinching eye. Liam Neeson and Ralph Finnes are electric in their roles and are virtually indistinguishable from the people they portray. You might not have had (or will have) the same reaction I had, but it is most definitely a film that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.
This may be a shock to some, but I don’t think The Godfather was the best gangster film ever made. I found it too slow paced and rather unrealistic in terms of how the Mafia is structured. Goodfellas, though, threw all the soapiness out the window and replaced that with a tough grittiness. Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece is fast paced, unrelenting on violence, and completely grounded in realism. Trust me, The Godfather is a fairy tale compared to Goodfellas. This is not up for debate. Goodfellas IS better than The Godfather, get that through your thick skull!
We have now reached my Top 3, which are the films that I do have a ranking for and will most likely stay in these spots until the end of time. Star Wars (Episode IV) most definitely deserves this spot. From as long as I can remember, I’ve watched Star Wars when I was a toddler. I played with the action figures, I had a few toy lightsabers, I played the games, I read the books, I did everything George Lucas brainwashed me to! Prequels aside, the first trilogy is perhaps the greatest film trilogy in existence because it gets everything right. Story, action, villain, love interest (sort of…), scoundrels, settings, the list goes on. This was the film that started a multi-billion dollar franchise and still holds up well despite it being over 30 years old (maybe that’s because of Lucas’s consistent meddling of the series of the years) and parodied to death. To be blunt, if you’ve never seen Star Wars, people will judge you (not in a good way). There is no reason whatsoever to not have seen this film and I’m being as nice as I can on this point. Greatest science fiction film ever? Maybe. But most important? Oh, yeah.
I had some kind of revelation while watching Wall-E. There was something about this film that struck me deeply. It must have been really deep because I saw the damn film six times in the theater (back then, no one was kind enough to give me an illegal copy). I argue endlessly that this is the best film that Pixar has ever produced because 1. It’s a science fiction film, my favorite genre. 2. The first act of the film features little to no dialogue and is pretty impressive technically when you consider the wide range of emotions that transpires on the screen (accentuated by Thomas Newman’s quirky, yet flawless score). 3. (Finally) It’s one of the best love stories of the decade. I need to stop myself from going on more about why I absolutely adore this film because I’ll write so much that I could just make another review at that point. It remains one of the few movies that I tear up at every time I see it (most notably when the two main characters “kiss”). So, let me hear it, what is Pixar’s best movie? No…not Up, try again. It isn’t The Incredibles, it’s Wall-E. No, it isn’t Toy Story, are you even listening to me? What? A Bug’s Life? It’s Wall-E, dammit, WALL-E!!!
Surprised? Well, I have yet to hear a negative from any person who’s ever seen this film. But for those who haven’t, let me explain why this is my most favorite movie of all time. To me, Terminator 2 represents the most perfect combination of story, acting, music, and action ever. You have James Cameron’s slick, well thought out script, an excellent ratio of practical effects to digital effects (which in turn makes the digital effects seem more “real”), and you have Brad Fiedel’s pounding score that hits all the right dramatic notes. As for the acting, I know that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the greatest actor in the world as he does have the acting range of a robot. But that’s the genius part, if his acting can only befit a robot, then he should have no problem actually playing a robot! It’s the actor’s best role remains a high spot for everyone else involved in it too (though sadly, most of them have had their careers fizzle as of late). With that being said, I present to you: Terminator 2.
So those are my favorite movies of all time (for now). If you have a problem with any exclusions that you find to be particularly egregious, write me a letter, tie that letter to a rock, and lob it through the window of the Philadelphia Police Department. Someone will answer you in due time. Cheers!