My Top 100 Movies – Part 9: #20 – #11
About the list
Please note that these are my favourite films, and as such some choices will be based on a personal sense of nostalgia (especially the top 5, once we eventually get there). There are movies that I have connections to that may rank them higher than you might expect. That being said, if there are films here you disagree with, don’t hesitate to argue them in the comments, and if there are choices you do agree with, feel free to show your support. If you think something it too high or too low, let me know. I’m not going to resort to the “well its my opinion” argument.
Keep in mind that this list is not made in stone, and some films in the future may go up or down in my estimation, as is wont to happen. Also, there may be films that I haven’t seen yet which may take a spot on the list later. I guess what I’m saying is that this is my 100 at the present time, though its a pretty good indicator of my taste in films.
I’ve mentioned a few times on this list that I love historical dramas, and Braveheart is one of my favourites in this regard. It looks great, the story is accessible and heartfelt, and it can really be a thrill rush. There’s a great mix of castle intrigue and great battle action. It draws me right in from the very first note of score.
WallE took me by surprise with just how much I would end up falling in love with it. This is the best film from an animation studio known for putting out great films. WallE is simplistic, touching, and poignant. WallE and Eve are very cute characters, and we really come to love WallE in the first half of the movie where he’s pretty much alone on Earth. The animation here is visually striking, both the gritty Earth scenes and the iPod-like spaceship scenes. But its more than just a great look, cute movie. It deals with themes like lethargy and environmentalism, and, even deeper, the primal core of the human spirit.
18. The Matrix
In 1999, I expected The Matrix to suck. Boy was I wrong. Walking out of that theater I was blown away not just by the visuals but mostly by the ideas. The twist that comes in the middle of the film completely took me by surprise, and from then on it was a roller coaster ride. The Matrix was a defining movie of its time. The cinematography was carefully and meticulously crafted, visual effects and sound of the action scenes were mind-blowing, and the tone and atmosphere matched the deep themes of reality and existentialism.
17. North By Northwest
Hitchcock’s most entertaining, most thrilling film. North By Northwest tells his usual mistaken identity story but does so to perfection. Cary Grant plays the lead this time and his charisma is a large part of the success of this film. We great some great scenes of suspense like the famous crop duster scene, the chalet, and the auction. Hitchcock even goes grandiose by having the finale set on Mount Rushmore! Hitch’s best.
16. Planet of the Apes
Don’t be fooled; Planet of the Apes is much more than a bunch of people in monkey masks and Charleton Heston chewing scenery. Its a brilliant analogy of how society works, of discrimination, and of the nature of human beings. It truly is great science fiction. I love the scenes in the courtroom and, well, pretty much any time Dr. Zaius is arguing something. And that ending is the best twist ending of all time. It says so much in a single frame.
15. Return of the Jedi
Many will agree that Return of the Jedi is the lesser of the Star Wars trilogy, but that doesn’t mean its still not an awesome movie. I think people get a little too blinded by the Ewoks, but there are a ton of other parts that more than make up for their incessant cuteness. The beginning of Jabba’s palace is great adventure, the space battle at Endor is an incredible rush of sight and sound, and the final showdown between Luke and Vader in the Emperor’s throne room provides us with a very satisfying conclusion.
I think I’ve said time and again that creating just the right atmosphere plays a big part in a film’s success. And Alien has a very unique atmosphere. Its dripping in dark, moody tone. And it has a visual production style all its own. Not to mention its just a great, simple thriller at its core. Alien is a straightforward monster movie when it comes down to it, but there is so much surrounding that essential core that makes it the master film it is today. The crew feels like they are real regular people, the alien ship they discover is incredibly creepy, and the horror beats are right on the money.
13. Schindler’s List
Steven Spielberg’s prestige film shows just how brilliant of a filmmaker he can be. His brilliance here is not only how well he portrays the horror and despair of the Holocaust, but how he is able to do so by also making a very watchable film. He injects characters that are both easy to care about and easy to loath along with a story that shows a small glimmer of hope, and even has some humour thrown in now and again (but not the obvious broad strokes). This is a beautiful and touching film which is hard to watch, but not as hard as you may think.
12. Lawrence of Arabia
Film epics don’t get any bigger than this. Honestly, David Lean’s masterpiece work of film-making just blows me away. It feels so real, because it is. It feels authentic because it is. Every grain of sand on that beautiful 70mm film is the real thing. This movie is just gorgeous, almost every frame in that dessert is stunning. Just the grand scope of the picture is enough to get your heart racing. Think of when Lawrence is walking on top of the train, or when they finally reach the Suez canal, or when we cut to the first Arabian sun. And underneath it all is a brilliant character study of this man who believes himself to be truly great and a lifetime performance by Peter O’Toole.
11. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Adventure thy name is Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark has pretty much become the template of exotic, thrilling exploits. It has become so iconic, you wonder if the film can actually live up to its reputation. Yet it does every time. There’s just something so pure about its spirit and goals that makes every minute of it work. And Indy himself is such an excellent character that you love to spend time with and cheer for. Not to mention it probably has the greatest of all movie opening scenes.