Sunday, June 14, 2020

Top 25 Movies of All Time

25. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Fury Road is the third in the Mad Max franchise. It's the first without '80s Mel Gibson, and the first with Tom Hardy. Not only is it visually stunning, but the story is good, the actors are solid, and the action comes full swing and non-stop. In it, Tom Hardy, famous for his chameleon method acting, said his biggest inspirations for his Max Rockatansky were Indiana Jones and Wile E. Coyote. His performance made for a fun combination of the two.

Mad Max is basically a desert wasteland drifter, always on the lookout for water, sustaining himself on live lizards, and trying his best to flee the checkered past that haunts him. This is when he comes across the tyrant Immortan Joe, who breeds an army of sons to protect him and the water supply he hordes in dystopian Australia. Rogue driver Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) gathers up Joe's brides and attempts to haul them off to safety. This is when Joe and his crew take to Fury Road in hot pursuit. Finding themselves in the crosshairs of a common enemy, Max and Furiosa team up to help the brides escape, with Max attempting to reconcile his past with the selfless act.

24. The Grey (2011)
I really like survival movies, and I really like snow movies. This one happens to encapsulate both, not to mention a couple of sentimental elements to give a little more depth. I happened upon this one when it was streaming on Netflix a million years ago, and liked it so much, I recommended it for family movie night.

Mysterious Irish oil rigger Ottway (Liam Neeson) works primarily as a sharp shooter, keeping the native wolf population at bay while the riggers complete their work. When the time comes to pack up and fly home, the riggers are involved in a plane crash that leaves only a ragtag crew of survivors. They must learn to work together as they're hunted down by a ravenous pack of wolves who take absolutely no prisoners. Durmot Mulroney is Talget, who wears a brown baseball cap with a gold WY on it. I always thought that was interesting, a subtle nod to his character's likely home state of Wyoming, where I spent four years of my life. It also contains one of the best movie moments.

23. From Hell (2001)
For a short amount of time, I was an amateur Ripperologist - someone who studies into the crimes and the possible identity of Jack the Ripper. I don't remember exactly, but it was likely spurred on by this movie, Johnny Depp playing one of his best roles to date. This movie is a Gothic horror masterpiece, an under-the-radar effort based on the graphic novel by Watchmen maestro, Alan Moore. The movie was directed by the Hughes brothers, known more for their graphic depictions of urban African-American life (Menace II Society), though they did a fantastic job with the casting, making sure Johnny Depp could perfect a London East End accent.

Frederick Aberline (Johnny Depp), playing the actual Scotland Yard detective charged with discovering and bringing down Jack the Ripper, is an unorthodox investigator, seeing clues to the present and the future through eerie premonitions. Part of that is probably due to his absinthe, laudanum, and heroin addictions. He is a flawed character for sure, but he indulges in such debilitating behavior due to his unexpectedly losing his wife and their unborn child. The true identity of the Ripper is complex, revealing that its not just random prostitutes falling under his knife. Aberline falls for Mary Kelly (Heather Graham), Jack's final victim, which motivates the inspector all the more to bring the killing to an end.

22. Predator (1987)
I saw Predator in the theater on opening day, June 12th, 1987 - otherwise known as my 11th birthday. It was considered my birthday present, and while my parents absolutely reviled it, I did quite the opposite. Predator was so different for its time, taking the popularity of '80s action movies Rambo, Missing In Action, and Commando to mesh it with a hostile alien. The characters were good, the story line was better, and Arnold actually did a solid job acting here.

A specialized covert ops team led by commander Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) suit up for a mission in the jungles of Central America to find out what happened to some missing green berets. Of course, they slaughter the guys they think are responsible, but Native-American tracker Billy (Sonny Landham) knows that something is rotten in Denmark, and the rest of the group respects him enough to listen. As it turns out, there's a seven-foot tall alien hunter lurking in the jungle, armed with a shoulder cannon, a wrist blade, and a cloaking device that allows him to turn translucent, blending in with the foliage surrounding him. This is an eleven year-old's dream come true, and it has persisted into my adulthood.

21. The Shining (1980)
The Shining is one that grew on me over time. I used to get pretty scared in horror movies. Once I got older and appreciated the sub-genre of psychological horror more, I found it fascinating how solitude could quickly turn on one over the course of a few months. It's now my favorite sub-genre, as I think that we ourselves can be far scarier than any ghost or monster, especially when our mind starts to unravel. Before The Shining was a movie, it was a book by Stephen King. When Stanley Kubrick bought the rights, he did with it as he pleased, which left King a little salty. King eventually saw his own vision come to fruition in a TV movie, but in terms of the creep factor, Kubrick won the day.

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their young son, Danny, travel to the Colorado Rockies to serve as caretakers for the massive, sprawling, and supposedly haunted Overlook Hotel. Jack seems in pretty good spirits at first, but the more time he spends in the hotel, the more the old ghosts, his own warped mind, and perhaps even a case of reincarnation, as eluded to in the closing scene, begin to turn an already edgy character. Wendy's character is very weak in Kubrick's vision, though she was quite the opposite in King's, an aspect the latter certainly resented. Danny has the gift of "the Shining," which allows him to experience some of the strange goings on around the hotel, and inspired the sequel, Doctor Sleep.

20. Scream (1996)
Scream is considered a hit and a cult classic all within the same breath. It's also probably the only movie in which you'll see Drew Barrymore die within the first 20 minutes. While a masked slasher with a knife hunting down teens in a small town seems far from original, Scream finds a way to breathe new life to the premise. Like The Cabin in the Woods, it spends much of its time poking holes through overdone genre tropes, while its characters ironically fall into the same traps they're scoffing at.

Scream follows Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), whose mother was raped and murdered the year before the events of the story take place. The killer has just been exonerated and released from prison, forcing Sidney to question all she's ever known. This is about the time she starts receiving cryptic phone calls from a guy obsessed with scary movies. She is soon stalked by said guy, and her friends start dropping like flies in this whodunit-slasher with just as many laughs as dead bodies. Scream has a great sense of humor, penned by Kevin Williamson (the Scream sequels, I Know What You Did Last SummerThe Following), and directed by A Nightmare on Elm Street guru, Wes Craven. The sequels didn't have quite the same punch as the original, which is one of the greatest ever made in my humble opinion.

19. Last Man Standing (1996)
There are three Bruce Willis gems in my opinion - the iconic Die Hard, the war-time tear-jerker Tears of the Sun, and this underrated crime flick, Last Man Standing. The movie takes the urban noir, drops it on its head, and relocates it in an Old West-style universe, giving us a fascinating glimpse at a tough, grizzled anti-hero.

A mysterious stranger known only as John Smith (Willis) blows into a ramshackle Texas town with the tumbleweeds, unknowingly, though fortunately, right into the middle of an Irish-Italian gang war. Both outfits are trying to intercept booze shipments from Mexico during Prohibition so they can ship them back to their home Chicago. Seeing it as a way to earn easy money, Smith begins to play both sides, manipulating Irish pipsqueak Doyle and Italian suave Strassi into believing he's with them. Hickey (Christopher Walken) is a trigger-man for the Irish and is immediately suspicious of Smith. Things get complicated when the lone gunman falls for Strassi's blonde bombshell city girl, Lucy, and Doyle's main squeeze, the Mexican-Native-American Felina.

18. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones is one of the most iconic characters to come out of the '80s. Besides Jack Burton (Big Trouble In Little China), he's likely my favorite. He's brainy, he's handsome, and he's good with a whip, using it against Egyptian swordsmen in crowded Cairo agoras and to swing to safety across booby-trapped cave ravines. Tom Selek was originally supposed to play the role of Indy, but I'm so grateful that it never came to fruition.

Archaeology professor by day, adventurer by night, Indiana Jones takes on the globe to retrieve lost artifacts from history and popular myth, trying to keep it out of the wrong hands. The Indy movies do a great job of meshing history with the slightly supernatural, making the movies still feel at least a little grounded. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the one that started it all, and made Indiana Jones a household name. Along with old flame Marion Ravenwood, and old friend, Sallah, Indy attempts to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant from the clutches of the Nazi army, led by Indy's arch nemesis and French archaeologist, Rene Belloq.

17. The Warriors (1979)
I first came across The Warriors when I was in high school, and though it was highly dated, even at  that point, I loved it. The concept was good, the fighting scenes were better, and I could appreciate the attempt to create a whole slew of gritty, although often cheesy, gangs for the Warriors to fight their way through. This is an iconic movie that has since become a cult classic, spawning video games and even a forever in development remake.
Street toughs the Warriors take to the heart of Manhattan along with the rest of the city's gangs to hear the respected Cyrus speak. He's proposing a gangland ceasefire in order to combine forces in battling the police. When Cyrus is shot dead by the Punks' Luther, he blames the Warriors, sending every other gang after them. With leader Swan at the helm, the boys have to survive the night and make it back to Coney Island in one piece. The movie is directed by Walter Hill, the same guy who did Last Man Standing. Hill creates gritty, violent anti-heroes, and uses sense of place as a character all its own.

16. True Romance (1993)
At one time, this was my cousin's favorite movie, and so years later, I finally checked it out for myself. True Romance is filled to the brim with colorful characters, memorable baddies, and Brad Pitt as the weeded-up roommate everyone loves but nobody wants. The romance here is true, and the far-fetched characters and ideas are actually grounded enough to come off authentic. Maybe that's because it was written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott (Man On Fire, Deja Vu).

Clarence Worley is a normal enough guy, one who is obsessed with comic books, kung-fu movies, and Elvis. But he's a lonely guy, which is why his boss hires him a call girl named Alabama (Patricia Arquette), a pretty, sweet, southern belle in Detroit who falls head over heels for Clarence, and vice versa. They rush out to get married and to start their life together. But a mix-up in suitcases sets them on a rocky road riddled with the Italian mafia, die-hard Hollywood bodyguards, and an angry pimp named Drexl (Gary Oldman), who leaves a lasting impression despite his minimal screen time. True Romance is a cult movie that's as tender as it is brutal. 

15. The Godfather (1972)
My parents had this one recorded on VHS when I borrowed it and gave it a watch. This is finest mafia movie ever made to never even mention the word mafia. Before it was even cool, Francis Ford Coppolla pulled off the same idea that saw the word zombie never mentioned in The Walking Dead. That kind of mentality is what made this this such a timeless classic, with fantastic storytelling, realistic characters, and a look at the anti-hero before the concept was even really a concept.

Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), born Vito Andollini in Sicily, has made a path for himself in Little Italy, NYC, and created an organized crime dynasty. The heir apparent is Sonny (James Caan), but he's hothead with a linear vision for "the family." Youngest son Michael (Al Pacino), is a military vet who's returned home to get roped into the family business. Soon, he learns to take that rope, fashion it into a noose, and literally strangle the competition, all to the chagrin of his girlfriend come wife, Kay (Diane Keaton).

14. The Lost Boys (1987)
Based on the idea of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan, this one takes the concept and flips it on its head. introducing a group of young, nihilistic teenage vampires. It featured the Coreys (Haim and Feldman), Keefer Sutherland, and Jami Gertz, who was one of my first celebrity crushes. The soundtrack is excellent, the storyline is solid, and the scenes are bloody and sexy and intense, a horror movie meshed with a comical teen drama. It's one of the '80s movies that influenced the adventurous kid angle of Stranger Things.

Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) travel with their mom to Santa Carla, CA, the "murder capital of the world." As the brothers attempt to experience the boardwalk nightlife, Sam gets sucked into a comic shop and its owners, the Frog brothers, and Michael gets sucked in by Star (Gertz), who literally moonlights with David (Sutherland) and his heavy metal friends. As it turns out, David and company are vampires, responsible for the city's unfortunate moniker. Star is only half vamp, and after foolhardily drinking David's blood, Michael becomes one too. Only Sam and the Frog brothers can save the day, or, the night, from the encroaching bloodsuckers.

13. Red Dawn (1984)
We stay in the '80s with Red Dawn, one of the most influential films of my childhood. I played war in the woods with friends, and I wanted to be John Rambo, and Robert Morris (C. Thomas Howell) from Red Dawn. This had every little boy's dream in the '80s loading their BB guns and filling their canteens, ready to defend their town against Soviet and Cuban invaders in World War III. Well, not really, but we could pretend, failing to see just how scary the concept really was in the first ever movie to receive a PG-13 designation.

Jed and Matt Eckert (Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen) are brothers in the fictional Colorado town of Calumet, driving to school on a normal day that quickly turns into anything but. Communist forces of the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Nicaragua invade the town and particular portions of the US in what is essentially the start of World War III. Jed, Matt, and other high school students flee to the mountains, and after some of their parents are killed, they start to fight back. The commandeer the guns, the vehicles, and the explosives to mount a guerrilla offensive under the moniker of their school mascot, the Wolverines.

12. State of Grace (1990)
Before there was The Departed or The Town, there was State of Grace, a highly-underappreciated movie that was overshadowed by the release of Goodfellas. It features Sean Penn and Gary Oldman at their absolute finest, chronicling the little-known Irish-American mob in Hell's Kitchen New York City. They drink, they fight, and they have a tendency for unpredictable violence, especially the character portrayed by Oldman.

Terry Noonan (Penn) is a Boston cop who's agreed to go undercover inside the Hell's Kitchen Irish mob, led by brothers Frankie and Jackie Flannery (Ed Harris and Gary Oldman). Terry grew up in the Kitchen, and grew up alongside the Flannerys, so he's welcomed into their clandestine group. The Irish are trying to put together a deal with the Italians, which pits the brothers against one another, and the Irish mob itself against Terry. The whole thing culminates in a barroom shootout in the middle of a St. Patrick's Day Parade.

11. The Crow (1994)
This was my favorite movie for a few years after high school. It was so different from anything I'd ever seen before, a superhero movie for people who don't like superhero movies. The Crow is romantic, gritty, and dark, an urban Gothic thriller featuring Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, who died tragically toward the end of filming. It was released to honor Lee in what would have been his breakout role, one that he was born to play.

Eric Draven, the singer in a rock band called Hangman's Joke, is the fiancee of Shelly Webster, who is attacked by a group of ruffians on Devil's Night, the night before Halloween. A year later, Eric is resurrected by a crow and reminded of the pain he went through to transform himself into a lethal, invincible killer. He then sets himself on the warpath to put the wrong things right, and find out why his fiancee was murdered in cold blood. Eric is helped along by policeman, Detective Albrecht, and Sarah, his skateboard-riding, pint-sized friend.

10. Bright Star (2009)
Bright Star features the final years of famous Romantic poet John Keats' life. I was introduced to Keats and the other Romantic poets in junior college, and found myself drawn to the young man whose poetry would be worth far more after his death than it ever was in life. His is a tragic story, especially once he met the love of his life, or his Bright Star, Fanny Brawne. The Regency-era costumes are spot on, the cinematography reflect the best of the Romantic mentality, and the romance is tender and brooding and ill-fated.

Romantic poet John Keats moves in with his fellow poet friend Charles Brown next door to the fiery young garment-maker, Fanny Brawne. He's given up a medical career to focus on his passion of poetry, though his work is met with anything but critical acclaim. Though he does have one fan. Fanny takes his words to heart and falls in love with them, and him. Keats also falls in love with Fanny, though he can't marry her, as he is nearly destitute and can't support her. In this way, and in the way that he develops tuberculosis, this is a very tragic love story.

9. Kill Bill (2003 & 2004)
I see the two Kill Bill films as interconnected, as they came out just months apart. The first has more of an Asian feel, while the second dabbles more into the realm of a spaghetti western. Tarantino is all about style, which certainly comes through in the saga of Beatrix Kiddo and her epic quest for revenge against Bill and the Deadly Viper Squad. Pictured is Vol. 1 and Uma Thurman's obvious homage to Bruce Lee in his final role, Game of Death.

After fleeing her past as a professional assassin for her top dog and lover, Bill, Beatrix Kiddo sets out to make a new life for herself. Bill takes offense to this and has Beatrix, who remains nameless throughout Vol. 1, severely beaten before being shot in the head. All this while she was pregnant. Once she recovers from her coma, she sets on a mission of vengeance against her former co-assassins, each with their own viper code name. Black Mamba takes on Copperhead and Cottonmouth on the way to Vol. 2, and on the way to an ultimate showdown with Bill.

8. Fight Club (1999)
This used to be one of my fall asleep movies. It was funny, it was familiar, and its great characters, as well as its great director in David Fincher, were like family to me. The Narrator (Edward Norton) remains unnamed in this movie adapted from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk about deconstructing artificial, society-driven concepts and feelings, but doing so to the point that it becomes completely destructive.

The Narrator eeks his way through life with his comfy desk job and his cushy apartment and his catalog-furnished living room. That is until life hands him a few lemons and he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), the man who changes his life forever by forcing him to be uncomfortable. The two form an unlikely kinship, which forces the Narrator to reexamine everything he's ever known. Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), a wacky, unsteady character he meets at the support groups neither of them actually need, provides a colorful character who lives for the moment, and really just wants to be loved.

7. Wicker Park (2004)
Wicker Park is an American remake of the French film, L'Appartement (The Apartment). It looks more like a psychological thriller from the trailer, but it's more of a psychological drama with a heavy dose of romance. This one fits into the same genre as films like Vanilla Sky, The Jacket, and Stay. While those branch out beyond the ordinary world, Wicker Park remains grounded, a brand new sort of cat and mouse game and a love triangle meshed as one.

Matthew is a young advertising executive who's literally lost his girlfriend, Lisa. The movie skips around in time quite a bit to show how Matthew fell in love with Lisa, how Alex fell in love with Matthew, and how Alex befriended Lisa in order to lead her stray and out of Matthew's life. Wicker Park is sad, mysterious, and set to the wonderful sounds of bands like Coldplay, Broken Social Scene, and Mazzy Star. It went under the radar upon its release in 2004, but I saw it in the theater then and appreciate it to this day.

6. Amelie (2001)
Amelie is not just a cute girl with a cute haircut and a cute smile. It deserves its international acclaim for its lead, Audrey Tautou, but also for its director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The music isn't too shabby either, every string, piano, and accordion composed by maestro Yann Tiersen. This features a lot of subtitles, and they're fast, but they're well worth the read, as Jeunet created colorful characters, snappy dialogue, and a directorial style flushed with lush, glossy color.

Amelie Poulain is an ultra-smiley, ultra-shy waitress at a corner cafe in Paris, one who begins to notice that through the little things in her power, she can begin to change lives for the better. All those but her own. She sacrifices her own true happiness for that of complete strangers, and it takes several instances for her to finally realize as much. Amelie is such an endearing film and an endearing character, putting Audrey Tautou on the map for American audiences.

5. Good Will Hunting (1998)
Good Will Hunting is such a unique movie, showcasing the working-class neighborhood of South Boston under the lens of an academic opus. Director Gus Van Zant chose Robin Williams to fill the role of Sean McGuire, a psychiatrist who breaks through and finally motivates rudderless genius, Will Hunting (Matt Damon). The scenes with he and his knock-around neighborhood friends are fun and memorable, his relationship with Skylar (Minnie Driver) is endearing but elusive, and his budding relationship with Sean is filled with dirty jokes, laughter, and tears.

Will Hunting is a working-class nobody from Southie who just so happens to be a genius, mopping floors and solving quantum physics equations on the wall for fun. This brings him to the attention of Skylar, but he also can't seem to tear himself away from the Southie lifestyle, drinking too much and beating people up. This is a true man versus self scenario in which Will must find the motivation to overcome his troubled childhood and cope with his self-destructive patterns of behavior in order to carve out a better life.

4. 25th Hour (2002)
I never thought I would like 25th Hour as much as I did, and as much as I still do. It was directed by Spike Lee, and though I don't care for Lee, he made a great movie here, based on the novel by Game of Thrones screenwriter David Benioff. It portrays of the easy, criminal lifestyle and how it eventually catches up with us, no matter how much we love our friends, our father, and our girlfriend.

Montgomery "Monty" Brogan is not a bad guy. He just started selling drugs for Russian mafia boss Nikolai and got too used to the easy life, that's all. Now, he's busted by the police and has twenty-four hours left before he has to start his seven-year prison sentence. With little time left, he spends a final night with he best friends, whom he asks a massive favor of, his father, whose bar he began selling drugs to save, and his girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), who may or may not be responsible for his being arrested in the first place. Sometimes, we've done too much to go back and make it right, and this movie perfectly portrays that concept.

3. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2000)
Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte Des Loups) is like no other movie I've ever seen. It combines the French-speaking period piece with action, adventure, and even bouts of horror. I followed a group of friends blindly to this one, and likely left the most impressed with the stunning cinematography and the overall uniqueness the film had to offer. It chronicles the real life exploits of the Beast of Gevaudan, who ravaged the countryside in 1764, killing over a hundred women and children.

French knight and naturalist Gregoire de Fronsac and his Iroquois companion, Mani, are sent by Louis XV to investigate the killings in Gevaudan. They are introduced to the local aristocracy, and Fronsac is soon intrigued by the purity of Marianne de Morangias (Emelie Dequenne) and the classy debauchery of Sylvia (Monica Bellucci), a local prostitute with a secret. They must overcome the secrets of the aristocracy, the maniacal dealings of the local gypsy population, and the sniveling dangers of Marianne's older brother, Jean-Francois (Vincent Cassel), who has been mauled by the lion on one of his journeys to Africa.

2. Charlie Countryman (2013)
This movie helped me decide that Shia LaBeouf was one of my favorite actors. It doesn't have the strongest title on the planet, but man, is it the story good. It's one most people have never heard of, but I took a chance on when it was streaming on Netflix. It really should have made more of a splash for its solid characters, its comedic flashes, and its heartfelt overtures on the streets of Bucarest, Romania. What's most endearing about this one is the absolute beating Charlie is willing to take for Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), the love of his life.

Charlie Countyman is a young every man whose mother has just passed of a debilitating illness. Her spirit comes out to speak to him, telling him he has nothing going on in his life, that he should shift off to Bucarest and see the world. When he does, fate leads him to a grieving Gabi Ibanescu, a young, tortured cellist with a lot of baggage. Charlie doesn't seem to care at all, completely enamored with Gabi, and her father Victor, whom he met on the plane over. Charlie, far more of a lover than a fighter, does everything in his power to deliver her from the clutches of her former husband, dangerous criminal Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen). It also has a great soundtrack and score.

1. Drive (2011)
Speaking of great soundtracks and scores. It's because of this movie that I discovered not only a new genre of music that I fell head over heels for, but acts like Desire, Silver Swans, Com Truise, and Neon Indian. The music is really just an extra benefit of a movie like Drive. It's another superhero flick for people who don't like superhero flicks, the lead character acting selflessly to save the innocent, sporting a flashy scorpion jacket like a superhero's logo.

Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a Hollywood stunt driver by day and a criminal getaway driver by night, navigating the LA streets like the back of his hand. Or at least until he meets next door neighbors Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benicio. Driver instantly falls in love with both of them, and he's disheartened when he finds out that Irene's husband, Standard, is about to be released from prison. Driver is goaded into driving for Standard on one last job, but it's one that endangers the lives of Irene and Benicio. This is when he flies into superhero, or antihero mode, in order to save the day and protect the mother and son at all costs.

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