After some discussion on Twitter, I’ve attempted to name my favorite 10 movies of all time, a daunting challenge considering the great expanse of film history that the phrase “of all time” embodies. Another obstacle in creating this register was rank. Usually I’d shy away from hierarchy, but that’s a cop-out.
As a whole, movies are a very emotional and subjective topic, so I’m not trying to tell anyone what their list should look like. I know that my list will differ wildly from many others, and that has mostly to do with my taste in film. Also, I’m not providing justification for why I feel this way about these films, I’m just telling you what I like. For me, these are the best of the best.
Say what you will about Quentin Tarantino; Kill Bill Vol. 1 is an exquisite film. The way it’s shot, the writing, the narrative, and the characters are all great. The story of a vengeful individual isn’t a novel idea, but Tarantino masterfully displays a new iteration. I could watch most of the movies on this list repeatedly, but there are only a few that I will always watch if they’re on. Kill Bill Vol. 1 is one of those films. The scenes with Uma Thurman and Sonny Chiba are flawless.
9 – Fargo (1996)
This is one of the best written dark comedies ever committed to film. Murder, bribery, and deceit are all in play and tied up brilliantly by a great script. This is definitely my favorite Coen brothers film, although No Country For Old Men comes close. Frances McDormand is absolutely stellar.
Grandiose? Yes. Over-the-top? Yes. Problematic plot holes? Yes. None of that matters in the grand scheme of things when it comes to The Matrix. I’m a diehard (no pun intended) fan of action movies, and usually they would be nowhere near the top of anyone’s best-of list, but The Matrix has to be respected. Not only because of the amazing visuals, but more so for the fact that it changed the way action movies were made ever since.
People often disagree with me when it comes to The Shawshank Redemption. Sure, it gets a little tacky toward the end, but it still brings a tear to my eye every time. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman give career-defining performances — although when it comes to Freeman, he seems to do this in every film he’s in. This is a story of prison life, friendship, corruption, and greed, and it’s told in a way that’s truly compelling.
Far and away my favorite of the Star Wars trilogy (let’s pretend those other three never happened, okay?). It’s fun, dark, and beautifully written. We arguably see the most character development in this installment as well. If you’re a Star Wars fan, and this film isn’t your favorite, I don’t know what to say.
Akira Kurosawa is a master storyteller, and Seven Samurai is arguably his best work. There is such a compelling story of honor and righteousness here that is unmatched by any other attempt. It’s 3½ hours that I gladly indulge in at least once a year. It’s a tough proposition for a movie to stand the test of time, but at almost 60 years old, this one does and does so easily.
There’s not much to say. It’s far and away the best movie sequel ever made. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Robert Duvall (among others) all give amazing performances. Not often do you see sequels that are better than most other movies. If you can stand it, I highly recommend watching Parts I and II back-to-back.
I don’t care what you say, I love it and always will. I feel like a kid again every time I watch it.
One of the finest films ever made. A relatively unknown Francis Ford Coppola gambled on behavioral wildcard Marlon Brando and a young kid named Al Pacino. What came of it was a movie that many critics place at number one on their all time lists. Over the course of this epic, it’s easy to forget that Michael — played by Pacino — started out as a young, smart, naive young man who rejected his family business. By the end, it almost seems as though Michael was played by two different actors. This speaks to both Al Pacino’s masterful abilities as an actor and Coppola’s brilliance — coupled with Puzo’s writing — in being able to show character development over time. On the surface, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather looks like a movie depicting the dynamic of the Cosa Nostra, but what we’re really seeing is a beautifully written coming-of-age tale.
Pulp Fiction is Tarantino’s best work. The script is something to marvel at, and the team of actors is fantastic. It’s rare to watch a movie chock full of stars and not see through the characters, but John Travolta is Vincent Vega and Uma Thurman is Mia Wallace. Pulp Fiction was also one of the first hit films to break up the traditional movie timeline, something that many have copied since. The soundtrack deserves a shout-out as well. It’s a wonderful mix that accompanies the film perfectly. Many cringe when something is called “perfect,” but guess what I think Pulp Fiction is…
Honorable Mentions (in no order):
- Do The Right Thing (1989)
- Saving Private Ryan (1998)
- Reservoir Dogs (1992)
- Goodfellas (1990)
- Léon: The Professional (1994)
I liked the process of compiling this list. I’m going to work on something similar for albums, movie soundtracks, and other media. While my writing isn’t terribly compelling, know that the process of choosing was.