In the pursuit of drafting Top Ten Lists — or Top Five, Top 15, Top 132, whatevs — there’s a lot of self-discovery to be made.
It always starts the same… someone, for some reason, asks you to list your favorite albums, movies, books, or sock brands, then slaps a finite number on it. You start out confidently enough, but then the list either hits a brick wall or boards a runaway train, and getting to your assigned ‘number’ becomes panic-inducing.
Such was the case this week as I tried to list my Top 15 movies, as challenged by the folks over at the Geek Salad Radio podcast.
A few film titles flew into my head right away, only to be followed by a litany of questions, starting with What constitutes a favorite movie? Is it one I’ve seen several times? Do nostalgic picks count? What if I love it ironically, a la The Poseidon Adventure? Should I open the non-fictional Pandora’s Box that is my love of the documentary genre? Is it really one of my favorite movies, or do I just think it is supposed to be…My Own Private Idaho comes to mind?
I decided to list all the films with a special place in my heart that I could think of, and whittle down from there, which has its pluses and minuses as list-making tactics go. I still feel like I have completely forgotten about a few that I honestly do love, while at the same time, knew a few I did remember weren’t going to make the final cut in the end. I listed them anyway — it felt like The Bachelor of Top Movie Lists. So here we go … these 15 films get my rose.
- Say Anything… Still my favorite, from age 15 on. What can I say — I’m a bit of a romantic and a sucker for witty banter. That’s what writer/director Cameron Crowe does best, and his work appears on my grand list more than once. Fun fact: I actually referenced Lloyd Dobler in my high school yearbook as my perfect man.
- Dazed and Confused There’s a strong nostalgia factor here, but I also just plain love the movie. We started discussing the possibility of outdoor movies on our lawn recently, and decided this had to be the premier showing without a doubt. Even if there are ruffians about.
- Casablanca Despite my admission that I’m a little hopeless in the romance department, I don’t actually see Casablanca as a true romance. It’s more of a war film, a political comedy, and even a buddy flick. My favorite scene is the bar spontaneously singing the French National anthem … chills.
- Closer In my opinion, one of the best written films of recent memory, though not the most uplifting. Excellent ensemble cast, great twists, plenty of character study. Hearing Clive Owen’s pronunciation of the word ‘Lobster’ is a particular high point.
- A Fish Called Wanda A fantabulous comedy and another great ensemble cast — although Kevin Kline is my hands-down favorite character. We all know that guy … the dumb guy who thinks he’s smart. Accountant or assassin, they’re all the same.
- The Princess Bride As I write this list out, I’m noticing the ensemble cast thread, here … you? This is easily one of the most quotable films of all time (HELLO), but its place in history as one of the best Hero’s Journey movies ever can’t be overlooked.
- 28 Days Later I’m a huge horror movie fan, and this one makes my overall favorites list because it sticks to its story so damn tightly it’s nerve-wracking to watch, even during the fourth or fifth showing. There’s also an alternate ending available that’s just as good as the theatrical release, making it truly a movie you can watch for the first time twice.
- Beetlejuice I don’t think I can ever get sick of this movie … I haven’t yet, and it was released when I was 11. It’s still one of the best soundtracks in my collection (Belafonte-heavy) and I always see something on the Other Side that I hadn’t noticed before.
- Office Space This is a movie that falls under the ‘I’ve seen it 500 times’ category. I even attended an Office Space-themed party once and won an Initech mug, and years later went to a Halloween party dressed as Joanna at work, complete with pieces of flair. It’s required viewing for anyone with a crappy job, which is pretty much everyone.
- Across the Universe Behold – the musical of the list! This is a Julie Taymor film – a sixties musical starring a bunch of unknowns and two-hours of Beatles tunes. As I recall, the reviews were mixed, but I like the bright, psychedelic look of the movie, its soundtrack, and its fun smattering of cameos — keep an eye out for the guy playing Timothy Leary. You might be surprised.
- Four Weddings and a Funeral Poignant and funny, I only waivered on this choice once, in college: my favorite professor deemed it insipid and terrible, and I died a little inside – knowing I’d never become his protege or muse. But a few days later, I decided ‘no, it’s a great flick, and suck it Professor Crawford.’
- Pretty in Pink It can be tough to choose just one John Hughes movie, and it’s not that I had to, but I spent an inordinate amount of time weighing Pretty in Pink against other Hughes films; particularly The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The bottom line though is this is the movie I watch on rainy days. It’s the soundtrack I recreated myself because the retail version lacks a lot of the good stuff, and I still want to dress like Andi (and sometimes do).
- Trainspotting Choose Life. And choose the fucking sequel, coming soon from Danny Boyle.
- The Big Lebowski I think attending Lebowskifest as a journalist puts this on my Top 15 list by proxy. But I can also appreciate the natural, zesty enterprise that is The Dude.
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? Great film, great soundtrack, great adaptation of what is one of my favorite books/poems/stories (The Odyssey). Again with that ensemble cast-hero-journey-musically-inclined-movie thing…I think I may have found my niche.
And the Runners-up…
Waiting For Guffmann
Best in Show
Romancing the Stone
The Never-ending Story
Star Wars: Episode 7
The Fifth Element
Little Women (1938)
Robin Hood (Disney)
Dead Man Walking
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
The Wizard of Oz
The Full Monty
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Little Miss Sunshine
Harold and Kumar go to White Castle
Shaun of the Dead
The Sixth Sense
The Last of the Mohicans
The World According to Garp
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Bowling for Columbine
Super Size Me
It’s a Wonderful Life
Born into Brothels
The Poseidon Adventure