- Lost In Translation
- I know this is a drama that some don't share my love for. Yet I have always found something relatable about this story of lost souls trying to figure out life together in a foreign land despite being in very different stages of life. It also helps that it's a travel film. I love travel, and films about travel. This film remains one of my favorite films of all time.
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- This is another one whose particular style and peculiar characters doesn't appeal to everyone, but it did win an Oscar for best screenplay, so there's that. Confession time: call me a hopeless romantic, but I'm a sucker for a good film about relationships. I'm also a sucker for artfully done indie films that don't feel quite like anything I've seen before. This film is both of those things. This and Lost in Translation are films that every few months (or at least once a year) I get in an inescapable mood to see. As such they were the first two films to come to mind when making this list.
- The Royal Tenenbaums
- Anyone who has read this site in the past knows I'm a huge Wes Anderson fan. His style both in terms of aesthetic and sense of humor is right up my alley. He is the filmmaker that indie filmmakers look to for inspiration. For me, any of his films could have made this list, but I'm limiting myself to just one. It could have just as easily been Rushmore or The Grand Budapest Hotel, but as much as I love Rushmore, I prefer Tenenbaums and I haven't had quite as much time with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Tenenbaums won Anderson his first Oscar nomination for best screenplay and for good reason. It's a brilliant film that I have yet to tire of.
- Chungking Express
- The only director I talk about as much or more than Wes Anderson (I've even dedicated an entire page on this site to him and created a Google+ Community about him) is Wong Kar Wai. I have seen all of his films numerous times. Much like my last pick I could have easily gone several ways here, but I settled on Chungking Express. In The Mood For Love might be his best film. It's certainly his most critically acclaimed work. But Chungking Express is his most entertaining and fun-loving. As such it's easily his most accessible film, and the one most likely to be appealing over multiple viewings. It was a tough decision between this and his follow up, a part two of sorts, Fallen Angels. While I can't foresee myself tiring of either, when it comes down to it I've simply seen Chungking more times. So it gets the pick.
- I love classic black and white Hollywood films, and when considering which of them to put on a list such as this it struck me that Casablanca is probably the only one I've seen 10+ times (aside from Christmas classics that show up every year around this time like It's a Wonderful Life, which might also be deserving of a spot on this list). This the first Bogart film I ever saw, and because of this film I've sought out a good portion of his filmography. Bogart might just be my favorite actor of all time. Even for a film made so long ago, the script is perfect, and so are the performances. Everyone acknowledges Citizen Kane as one of the best films ever made. Technically and stylistically it is a masterpiece of brilliant filmmaking, but as a piece of entertainment it has nothing on Casablanca (does anyone outside of film classes watch Citizen Kane on a regular basis?). It remains an incredibly watchable film that for many is the poster child for classic Hollywood cinema. I'm not sure there's another film that has as many recognizable quotes as this one. Confession: I saw both Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre many times as Looney Tunes characters before I saw either of them in film. Casablanca was the first time I saw both of them on screen as themselves rather than colorful caricatures.
- Jurassic Park
- And now for a total change of pace, here's a film whose entertainment value and special effects have held up extremely well over the years. Steven Spielberg is arguably the biggest name in Hollywood. His filmography is unmatched in terms of diversity and sheer number of well made, highly entertaining, popcorn flicks. Really any number of his films could have made this list, but having already set aside Indiana Jones, this film jumped out at me considering I grew up watching this movie over and over. Every monster movie released these days is an effort recapture what Spielberg did with this movie. It's part adventure movie, part disaster movie, part horror movie, and all of it works.
- This film from French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet is an undeniably beautiful work of art. It's another film that stylistically serves as inspiration for indie filmmakers around the world. It's also a charming coming of age tale, of sorts, with an introverted girl finally finding love. It's another film that serves as inspiration for other indie filmmakers, and you've more than likely heard the soundtrack several times before.
- One of my favorite comedic actors, Richard Ayoade's directorial debut is a finely crafted coming of age tale based on the novel of the same name by Joe Dunthorne. Ayoade shows off his love of classic French New Wave film by making a film that feels like it could have been among their best. But it isn't just the style that's remarkable, there are some good performances as well, particularly from young actors Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige. I just love this film every time I see it.
- Hero is perhaps my favorite film from Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who is a filmmaker I like quite a lot. This film is not only a great martial arts film, it's a beautiful tale of humanity and it's presented in such beautiful scenes of eye candy that it's hard not to love this film. Each flashback (or version of the story they're telling) is done with a different color theme, and each one is beautiful. Even Wes Anderson would appreciate Yimou's elegant framing and eye for detail.
- Inglourious Basterds
- I don't know if I'd say this is Tarantino's best film, but it might be my favorite. It's a little on the long side, but it's so entertaining throughout you might not even notice. This is how WWII should have gone. Rare are the historical fictions that attempt to rewrite history with what we wish had happened. And also rare are war films that manage to be both fun and tense. Tarantino is doing some of his best work here. No one else can quite pull of a film like this. The opening scene is one of the best scenes ever put on film. The acting, particularly that of Christoph Waltz, is awe inspiring. His performance made Col. Hans Landa one of the best bad guys in film history.
Oh man! have I already made it to 10? That's a shame. I could have kept going, but let's not go overboard. Instead I'll just leave you with some honorable mentions:
- Midnight in Paris
- Likely my favorite Woody Allen film (or is it Annie Hall? Let's not start that debate!).
- The Graduate
- An inspring exercise in beautiful editing that I had to watch numerous times in both film history and film analysis classes. Nevertheless I still watch it, and love it every time.
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- People hate the second two (even if I think the hate is a little unjust), but the first is a classic action, adventure, swashbuckler that I grew up watching on repeat. It sparked a love and interest in Pirate history that took me years to get over.
- The Raid 2
- Holy cow are those action/fight sequences brutal. Nevertheless, this film has set a new standard for martial arts films. It's ruined me from watching other martial arts films, because I can't stop thinking, "it's not The Raid 2." And unlike the first one, there's a decent, even intriguing story to bridge those fight sequences.
- Mary and Max
- This Australian animated film is both touching and beautiful both in its aesthetic and it's story.
- Maybe my favorite Japanese director, Takeshi Kitano, takes a break from his yakuza films for this touching little family friendly tale of an aging wannabe gangster taking a young boy on a journey to see his mother. Needless to say, the trip changes both of their lives.
- Harold and Maude
- This is that Wes Anderson film before Wes Anderson started making films. It's become a cult classic. Anderson even cast Bud Cort in a small role in The Life Aquatic to pay tribute to this film's influence on his own work (not to mention the Cat Stevens heavy soundtrack that Anderson has frequently used in his own films).
- This is a lovely little Argentinean film that's not terribly dissimilar from Lost in Translation, even it's not about travelers in a foreign land. I always enjoy this film any time I get a chance to watch it.