Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Top 101 Movies Part X: 10-1

Here it is folks, just in time for New Years, my top 10 movies of all time. If you haven't seen them already, then go out and watch them any way you can.

10. Singin' in the Rain 1952
Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelley
Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen
Synopsis: A silent film star falls in love with a talented fan as Hollywood makes the transition to talkies.
Review: Quite simply the best musical ever filmed with great song and dance numbers across the board, a good sense of humour that pokes fun at Hollywood, and terrific performances from it's four leads. It's to forget songs like "Make 'em Laugh", "Good Morning", and of course the title song which most everybody has heard regardless of whether or not they're seen the movie. It's also a delicious satire of the Hollywood studio system and it's desperate struggle to keep up with the new technology with much of the humour coming from Don Lockwood's (Kelly) primadonna "love interest", Lina Lamont (Hagen), and his ever-optimistic and acrobatic best friend, Cosmo Brown (O'Connor). It's a clever film with creative and memorable musical numbers, plenty of laughs, and Gene Kelley showing off his smooth moves which all make for a fun-filled couple of hours.

9. The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957
Director: David Lean
Starring: Alec Guiness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa
Synopsis: The Japanese force some POWs to construct a bridge in poor conditions during WWII while the allies endeavor to destroy it.
Review: Easily my favourite war movie despite the fact that it doesn't feature a single battle. It has a great opening with a ragged squad of POWs whistling the "Colonel Boogie March," as they are herded into the prison camp and it's only gets better from there right up to and including the maddening finale. Holden does a fine job as the American escapee from the prison camp and is a cool character is his own right, but it's the interactions between Col. Nicholson (Guiness), and Col. Saito (Hayakawa) that really make the movie. They start off as enemies, but end up working together in an unusual fashion as they drive one another insane. They're both well developed characters and Lean doesn't make it clear as to who is the hero or who is the villain. The acting is spot on, the plot is pretty intense, and the commentary the film provides on honour in war is insightful though it may not be as heavy on action as some people might like (Damian!).

8. The Big Lebowski 1998
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman
Synopsis: A laid back hippie and his loudmouth conservative friend get embroiled in a kidnapping.
Review: The plot to this film is twisted and insane, but by the end you'll realize that the story doesn't matter all that much and that it's really about the relationship between Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski (Bridges) and his best friend Walter (Goodman). These two form the greatest on-screen duo I've ever seen that put even the most famous of romantic leads to shame thanks to sharp writing and stellar performances from Bridges and Goodman who fit into their respective roles so easily it almost seems like they're not acting at all. They're hilarious together and I can't pick a favourite between them as they function as a perfect whole. There's also a talented supporting cast of unusual characters that includes Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julianne Moore. It's a delightfully mad and incredibly quotable film that I consider to be the greatest of the Coen bros' films.

7. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 1966
Director: Segio Leone
Starring: Eli Wallach, Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef
Synopsis: Three gunslingers work with and against each other in search of hidden gold.
Review: The title of this film is a tad misleading as all of the characters are fairly amoral. At best they are slightly different shades of gray. They are all violent, greedy men who have no qualms with killing, torturing, or backstabbing. Each is an interesting and cool character in their own right with Eastwood normally receiving top billing, but it's Wallach as "the Ugly" who steals the show. He plays his brash and greasy character with relish and instantly likable despite the bandito's violent nature. There are also many great scenes and set pieces such as the civil war battle culminating with a bridge blowing up, the forced march through the desert, a torture scene set to the violin, and of course the epic standoff finale. It's also worth mentioning the brilliant score from Ennio Moriconne which has become the music that plays in my head whenever I think of Westerns. The entire film is slick, stylish, and bloody and it's easy to see how Leone has influenced modern day directors such as Quentin Tarantino with his classic spaghetti westerns.

6. Network 1976
Director: Sidney Lumet
Starring: William Holden, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall
Synopsis: Executives at a television network stoop to new lows for higher ratings.
Review: I consider this to be the best written movie I've ever seen, though it may not be as quotable as Casablanca or The Godfather. Whenever a character opens their mouths they always seem to have something smart or meaningful to say without sounding unnatural or preachy. Sometimes, when you think about it, they sound insane, but that's the whole point to this movie. Virtually every character goes mad as they turn the evening news into a freaskshow. With the possible exception of The Daily Show, you'd be hard pressed to find a more damning condemnation of the media and it's tendencies towards sensationalism. The issues dealt with in the movie are as relevant as ever today, if not more so, and it's easy to draw comparisons between Howard Beale and Glenn Beck (or just Fox News as a whole).

5. The Usual Suspects 1995
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne
Synopsis: The only survivor of a group of criminals gives his account of how they got together, pulled off some heists, and ultimately died.
Review: On one level this is a solid crime thriller where you become involved, just as much as the detectives in the film, in solving the mystery of what happened on that boat, how they got there, and who is Keyser Soze. On another level, this is story about storytelling and truth. Most of the film is told through flashback from the perspective of "Verbal" Kint (Spacey) who puts his own filter on events. But he sucks you in so deep that you don't see this filter until the very end, and though the mystery of Keyser Soze is answered, everything else that's been told to us is called into question and nothing is certain. This extra layer gives the film an extra oomph that sets it apart from other films of the same genre and turns it into one of the slickest, and smartest films ever made, supported by a stand-out performance from Spacey and a great ending.

4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail 1975
Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Synopsis: King Arthur and his knights seek out the Holy Grail.
Review: I am too lazy to re-review this movie as I've already done it, so instead here's a link to that review.

3. The Godfather Parts I & II 1972/1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Al Pacino, James Caan, Marlon Brando, John Cazale, Robert Duvall
Synopsis: Michael Corleone takes over his father's crime family and rises to power.
Review: Calling these films great gangster flicks would be doing them a great disservice, as there's much more to these movies than just crime and violence. They deal with notions of justice, the American dream, and power amoung many other themes, but when it comes down to it, The Godfather is really all about family. The relationships between Michael (Pacino), his father (Brando), his wives, and his siblings (and later his children) are the glue which hold the films together, from which all the other themes flow, and which define the actions and decisions all the characters take. It's a dark and moving portrait that Coppola paints, and yes it is bloody. There are so many great lines that you'd have to recite at least half the movie to get them all in, the cast is phenomenal, the direction superb, and not a scene goes by where I don't say to myself, "Oh, my god! I love this scene!" Part III may be lacking, but the first two jointly form a cinematic masterpiece.

2. Lord of the Rings Trilogy 2001-2003
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortenson
Synopsis: Elves, humans, dwarves, and hobbits must work together to defeat Sauron and his armies and destroy the One Ring.
Review: Jackson took on a mighty tall order when he decided to make Lord of the Rings, but boy did he deliver. Through creative use of special effects, make-up, set design, costumes, miniatures, and the New Zealand landscape he makes Middle-Earth come to life in ways that staggers the imagination. Of course it's more than just something pretty to look at. It features the most beautiful musical score in recent memory courtesy of Howard Shore, all of the major characters are interesting with a level of depth not often seen in the high fantasy genre and are played by an all around terrific cast, everything about the film is epic in scope, and it grapples with themes that goes beyond good versus evil. There are obvious themes such as the subtle corrupting influence of power, but there are also some which aren't quite as noticeable such as friendship which I feel plays an important and meaningful role especially between Sam (Sean Astin) and Frodo (Wood). Unfortunately most people have decided to joke about how gay they seem, but fuck that noise. I wish friendships were more like that. The world would be a much nicer and easier place to live in. Anyway, great films. Smeagol/Gollum is awesome.

1. Dr. Strangelove 1963
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott
Synopsis: Politicians and generals scramble to avert nuclear armageddon.
Review: I am too lazy to re-review this movie as I've already done it, so instead here's a link to that review.

Here are some movies that I either forgot about, didn't quite make the cut, or that I saw after I made the list that I feel deserve an honourable mention: Office Space, Pleasantville, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Inglorious Basterds, Toy Story, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Last Picture Show, Shoot the Piano Player, Modern Times, Boogie Nights, Roman Holiday, The 39 Steps, American Beauty, The Apartment.

There you have it. My top 101 movies. It took a while to get through, but I enjoyed making it. If you think that some movies shouldn't be on the list that are, or should be on the list but aren't, or that some movies should be higher or lower on the list then leave a comment and maybe I'll give you some bonus points.


  1. For the record, I have seen River Kwai and lived it so pbbbttttt! =P

  2. You lived it? What is that supposed to mean?

  3. Reading your comment about Sam and Frodo being gay is so great right after watching Clerks II.

  4. I think Kevin Smith put that debate in their deliberately to contrast with the friendship between Randall and Dante and their love for one another.