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Favorite Movies of All Time

These are the movies I simply love and admire the most. All are fantastic films in their own way and have somehow impacted me as a movie fan over the years. With a favorites movie list like this remember that it’s completely subjective — though I do I like to think I have good taste.

There are hundreds of movies that I love, but there’s only so many spots and these select few are more important to me. I could keep rearranging the order of these movies forever, and I’m constantly trying to find new favorites.

However, the top 25 I have listed are special and I feel they represent my taste well. I didn’t rank the top 25 because it’s impossible to pick from this group, but I share a mini analysis on each of them and explain why I love them so much.

Apocalypse Now – The last great film of its era made the nihilism of the 70s concrete and operatic. A helicopter flies above the Vietnam jungle and we enter an idyllic hell; a sprawling rock’n’roll painting of war that journeys into the self. Coppola described the film saying “What happens if you took a lightbulb called morality and put too much electricity in it?” He calmly answers with a film of haunting, near religious moments as America descends down the Vietnam wasteland like rockstars only to turn around and forget where they came from. We still don’t remember.

The Graduate – The french new wave makes its way into Hollywood and carves out the soul of a silently battling 60s America. The summer of love burns with passion — until it doesn’t. Gorgeously edited montages build a sea of time that coalesce with Nichol’s isolation of Ben as he floats aimlessly, searching for meaning. Simon & Garfunkel’s 60s-in-a-nutshell soundtrack coats the comedy with an overwhelming layer of sadness. As “The Sound of Silence” plays you can feel the uncertainty of life descending upon an entire era. No one knows where that bus is going.

Don’t Look Now – Nic Roeg’s elegiac horror masterpiece has guilt coursing through its impressionistic veins as John and Laura grieve in Venice, a purgatory for their mental state. A supernatural rabbit hole of symbolism and foreshadowing create a pageantry of connections assaulting our notions of what this story is and where it’s going (this is the best edited film of all time). The shadow of death looms over the drowning city like the grim reaper. Grief’s mysterious presence lurks in every dark alley. It’s prophetic in its tapestry of images and motifs. Chasing that sinister red coat… is one of cinema’s most haunting moments.

Eyes Wide Shut – A mystery of dead ends, double edged ironies, and wrong answers. A voyeuristic machine that dissects amoeba-like forms of human identity, sexuality, and psychology. Tom Cruise, in his greatest performance, has a desperation for answers as he wanders into the midnight abyss of New York City, which may also be his own mind. The recurring colors, imagery, and narrative symmetry make the film blossom in your mind’s eye long after the film ends. It’s dreamlike, but not enough that you can engage with it as abstraction. You’re left dangling between the unknown and the rational. I deliriously watch Kubrick’s opus over and over hoping to see what Bill sees, but the film ends before I can.

Casablanca – Hollywood’s golden age was fresh and new and it meant something. No film bottles that aura better than Michael Curtiz’s tale of lost love. The stars! The sets! The lighting! The romance! Set during WWII, Casablanca is a purgatory with the possibility of freedom in a prison of isolation. Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa (the greatest actress of all time) staring at Humphrey Bogart’s Rick feels like the most important moment in the history of time, and I believe it. Casablanca is what movies were made for.

The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese’s disgustingly rewatchable tale of high-class greed has a thunderous swagger that drowns the audience in a sea of satire to show the American sin for what it really is: fun, luxurious, and worth it. Scorsese directs like a rogue Fellini as he electrifyingly shocks us into the surrealism of men who live in the clouds. Dicaprio’s greatest performance comes in the form of a despicable Citizen Kane figure for the 21st century. In refusing to explicitly condemn Belfort, Scorsese reveals the insidious and alluring soul of the American dream. In the final frame it stares right back at us and cuts to black. “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”

The Thing – Existentialism looms over John Carpenter’s THE THING like a Lovecraftian specter, an alien force reckoning with humanity. Carpenter stealthily explores his subjects like a mad scientist. Kurt Russell’s MacReady — and his luscious flowing hair — lead a group of scientists into Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness.” After the carnal battle between man and the beyond, all of the paranoia and fear crescendoes as two men stare into each other’s eyes unsure of their true identity. Cue Ennio Morricone. Fuck, that’s great.

Mulholland Drive – The best film of the century (maybe all time) is everything David Lynch — my favorite filmmaker — had built towards. A surreal nightmare sent directly from Lynch’s subconscious onto the screen and into our minds. His 1950s aesthetic lights up the Hollywood desert until the nightmare begins to seep into the dreamy city. Diane Selwyn walks into a dreamy Wizard of Oz Hollywood hoping to achieve her dreams. Lynch throws Diane and us into a möbius strip of elliptical dreams that lodge themselves in our subconscious only to then lead us in to an even deeper realm. Always hidden behind Diane’s high aspirations is a curtain masking emptiness and evil. Lynch’s Hollywood dreamland is an elegy for all the souls that go to Hollywood longing to be known.

Blade Runner (final cut) – At Blade Runner‘s shadowy center is a devastating exploration of our time limit. As textured and mesmerizingly photographed as it is, the greatest accomplishment is that you feel like you’re only following one man in this entire world. We never reach the end of the shadowy cityscapes and tundra rooftops. There’s no answers. It’s about the textured feeling that the film unearths as we fall into the drowning architecture that grows larger and larger until it’s been forgotten what once was and now lays hidden below. The spectacularly ambiguous ending cuts to Vangelis’ score and we’re left with a faint glimmer of understanding.

Mirror – In the early 70s, Robert Altman said that cinema had yet to really be explored. Well, I must assume he had not seen this film. Mirror is Tarkovsky’s greatest, most concise work; a personal waking dream told from the perspective of a dying man as he reflects on his life and his parent’s lives. It conjures the totality of the human experience at its most aching, unreachable places. Tarkovsky’s prose is architectural, enlightening and feels systematic, but fluid, in its drifting of memories. This is not a film, but rather an organism of art that I long to reach out and touch, but it’s hidden behind my TV.

Koyaanisqatsi – No other film so grandly displays the power of the medium. No point in describing it; Koyaanisqatsi can only be experienced.


Nashville
 – I don’t love country music. For the entire run-time Robert Altman makes it my favorite music. This bright and shining opus is a cornerstone of American culture weaving through a giant ensemble of character’s lives to create a timeless tapestry of social and political turmoil. The camera runs around like a drunk country fan who cannot believe he’s in such a place; neither can I. Elliot Gould as Elliot Gould is awesome. Altman chooses Nashville to be the epicenter of American dreams, fame, and fortune. Equal parts comedy, musical, and tragedy capturing the American experience. What exactly is America? Politics? People? Culture? It’s Nashville.

Dazed and Confused – My favorite film. What happens when school is out? Richard Linklater answers with an elegy rolled up inside a yearbook of teenage energy. He creates an ecosystem of adolescence swimming with love, drugs, bullies, lost potential, Freshman, Seniors, acceptance, and uncertainty. Drift through the stoned conscious of the film unsure of who you’ll meet—like a real high school night. Wooderson walking into the Emporium while Dylan’s “Hurricane” plays is the epitome of when young men think they’re the kings of the world—and they are. It’s my favorite moment in all of cinema. As the nostalgic high wears off there’s a sense that these days are about to end and we’re watching a memory. Hidden in this tapestry of alcohol, drugs and rock’n’roll are moments where characters stare off like they’re having an epiphany, and…. living in the moment. Fleeting, intangible and the defining characteristic of Linklater’s work. 

Naked – The greatest script ever written, though a “script” doesn’t do justice to Mike Leigh’s process. His films, and Naked in particular, are skeletons with organs of ideas and the DNA of the artists that he creates these worlds with. Thewlis’ Johnny is one of the greatest characters ever created, a nihilistic misanthrope with a disarming charisma. Thewlis briefly lets us glimpse inside his tortured soul, only to then turn on the charm and wander deeper into the heart of London’s midnight abyss. “Do you think that the amoeba ever dreamed that it would evolve into the frog?”

Once Upon a Time in the West – The sound of a harmonica carries the loss, myth, and weight of an entire genre in Sergio Leone’s grand and operatic magnum opus. Somewhere in the whistle of the wind and the sound of gunshot you can feel the world changing. By encompassing all the symbology of the western, the genre reaches its majestic pinnacle with two men who are in a soon-to-be-forgotten world; one of them hiding from revenge and the other trying to be a businessman, but they know what they are. As the last of an ancient race, they fire the last shot for an entire genre.

Paris, Texas – The great American playwright, Sam Shepard, dives into the mythology of the American west while European director, Wim Wenders, elevates that myth into the stuff of Greek legend. As Stanton’s Travis leaves the crumbling vastness of the Texas canyons, neon reds and greens are symbols that grow stronger as he comes closer to his past. The first section is a good “man returns home” story, the second is a great father/son film, and the third might have the best written & performed scene of all time (Nastassja Kinski is heartbreaking). Each line filled with decades of regret and lost love; you can feel all of the pain and ecstasy of these two people’s lives.

Inherent Vice – Into the rabbit hole we fall and land in an era where hippie optimism is a spectre. Call it a stoned sequel to The Graduate. Dreams and phantasms are rays of sunshine and mist in this Alice in Wonderland Californian odyssey. The film’s drugged up conscious jumps into poetic farces and then climbs back out for contemplation. Like a late 60’s jukebox we go from a chat with Bigfoot to a gang of motorcycle nazis to a drink with Sancho and then back to Doc’s for a joint. Sadness protrudes the lunacy like a postcard of the past. This melancholic detective yarn is one of the definitive films about America, and my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson film.

Heat – The ultimate cops and robbers movie and cinema’s finest depiction of dueling men. The pulsing, synth score suggests these lonely men are living through a system that’s inescapable. Meticulously plotted like a city maze and with streets painted through sorrow, Heat builds its expansive LA playground of characters with precision and depth (there’s over 70 speaking roles) for nearly 3 hours until the climax that treads into silent cinema. Two men only understood by each other share an intimate moment alone. The LA night covers them and the city consumes them with shadow and sound. Cut to black. Directed by Michael Mann.

Pulp Fiction – I saw Pulp Fiction in 6th grade and it was like seeing a new color for the first time. Really. Quentin Tarantino chops up celluloid like a serial killer and reorders it while listening to K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70’s. This is the “Tarantinoverse,” and it’s a pop culture theme park. Take a shot of the French New Wave and a hit of the gangster film. Quentin’s landmark flick is an intoxicating pop culture drug of nonstop classic scenes, lines and moments. Pulp Fiction is the film that introduced me to CINEMA in big flashing lights and shot Tarantino into the movie heavens.

Blue Velvet  An aural fever dream drifting through Reagan’s suburbia and into the nightmarish secrets that hide behind closet doors. It’s the greatest tale of good and evil because Lynch genuinely believes in a 50s Apple Pie America and he’s terrified by the evil that hides inside of it. Dennis Hopper is one of the great villains as the void manifested as a Pabst drinking maniac. Isabella Rossellini *SWOON* as Dorothy (Wizard of Oz!) finds an inexplicably perfect meeting between vulnerability, perversion, and innocence. Nobody is better at capturing a feeling than David Lynch and here he brings to life the iconographies and shadows of the American experience. The best film of the 1980s is a boy scout’s journey into adulthood that finds the haunting aural nexus between the normal and the strange.

Suspiria – Dario Argento’s ballet academy murder mystery is a phantasmagorical fairy tale. Horrors hide behind the walls as our princess, Suzy (the amazing Jessica Harper), navigates the supernatural. The neon red hallways and Goblin’s LALALALA score creates an expressionistic atmosphere that bleeds all over the lush Italian stylings. Argento’s demonic eye-candy death sequences are so elaborate and unforgettable that they’ll return to you in your nightmares. He lights his fairy tale aglow with bleeding color and music that seeps together to create a sensory overload that dazzles with bloody beauty as much as it terrifies. My favorite horror film.

The Right Stuff – A 3 hour plot-less circus of American gusto. In the California Desert, cowboys climb out of the heartland to once again become heroes. Tom Conti’s iconic score transports us to a time when an entire nation gazed up at the sky. Kaufman crafted the first arthouse epic; as intellectually engaging as it is entertaining. Tip of the hat to Raiders, Empire Strikes Back, E.T., Back to the Future, and Die Hard, but this is the greatest blockbuster epic of the 1980s, and maybe of all time. Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager is THE coolest guy in film history. The Right Stuff is alive with bravery, sacrifice, and wonder from the first frame until the very last as Gordo Cooper sails across the ocean sky. “Go.”

The Big Lebowski – The Coen’s were the first filmmakers I became aware of and obsessed over. Cinema offers few mazes as batshit insane and hilariously fun as following The Dude through a film noir, western, dry comedy, Cowboy narrating, kidnapping, Tara Reid, porn kingdom, nihilist plot circus that manages to be some kind of hilarious, absurd, and ultimately poignant masterpiece. Laying below the absurdity is a fixed eye on modern America, a western, an allegory for the gulf war, Buddhism, a film noir deconstruction, and an essay on gender roles. After all of the gonzo plot, subtext and bizarre characters, the Coen’s happily reminds us what life is all about in the most Coeny way possible. The Dude Abides.

Days of Heaven – Terrence Malick’s magnum opus is many things: the modernization of the west, a young girl coming of age, a tale of tragic love, the cold heart of the industrial era, a ghostly memory, a biblical epic… I could go on, but why even try when Roger Ebert said it perfectly: “What is the point of “Days of Heaven”—the payoff, the message? This is a movie made by a man who knew how something felt, and found a way to evoke it in us. That feeling is how a child feels when it lives precariously, and then is delivered into security and joy, and then has it all taken away again—and blinks away the tears and says it doesn’t hurt.”

The Master – A film so richly soaked in post war America that you can reach out and touch it. Phoenix’s Freddie Quell is the animalistic ID unleashed onto the 70MM ambition of Paul Thomas Anderson. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in his greatest performance, attempts to control Freddie in what seems to be an eternal conflict. The final confrontation is the stuff of Pynchon, a tone so far out there that it boomerangs back and hits you in a part of the heart that you didn’t know existed.

Vertigo – Maybe the greatest film ever made. Directed by maybe the greatest director of all time. Haven’t we been here before? Haven’t we done this? A haunting exploration of lost love that asks the terrifying question “Can it ever be found again and did it even exist?” This is told—or rather, felt—through visual poetry and sound of the highest order. Hitchcock directs like a marionette mastermind, luring us into his own dream. An enigma of a film that mythically explores identity, obsession, love, and death. Bernard Herrmann’s score is so powerful it tells the story itself. What’s at the end of that vortex? Nothing.

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24. Persona

25. Stalker

26. Badlands

27. Taxi Driver

28. Chinatown

29. This Is Spinal Tap

30. Citizen Kane

31. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

32. The Thin Red Line

33. 2001: A Space Odyssey

34. Re-Animator

35. The Godfather Part I/II

36. The Double Life of Veronique

37. There Will Be Blood

38. Die Hard

39. McCabe and Mrs. Miller

40. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

41. No Country For Old Men

42. Seven Samurai

43. JFK

44. Doctor Zhivago

45. West Side Story

46. Spirited Away

47. Back to the Future

48. The Tree of Life

49. LavVentura

50. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial

51. A Clockwork Orange

52. Memento

53. Repo Man

54. Black Narcissus

55. Sunset Boulevard

56. Boyhood

57. Phantom of the Paradise

58. The Prestige

59. Goodfellas

60. The Road Warrior

62. Red Desert

61. The Lord of the Rings

63. Wet Hot American Summer

64. Do the Right Thing

65. Jurassic Park

66. The Searchers

67. Raiders of the Lost Ark

68. The Silence of the Lambs

69. Harold and Maude

70. Notorious

71. All That Jazz

72. La Dolce Vita

73. The Public Enemy

74. Total Recall

75. An American Werewolf in London

76. Evil Dead 2

77. The Shining

78. Brazil

79. The Blair Witch Project

80. The Wizard of Oz

81. The Wild Bunch

82. Interstellar

83. Inglourious Basterds

84. The Devils

85. Titanic

86. Battleship Potemkin

87. The Matrix

88. Terms of Endearment

89. A Serious Man

90. Point Break

91. Laura

92. Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back

93. If

94. The Young Girls of Rochefort

95. The Dark Knight

96. Lost in Translation

97. Donnie Darko

98. Rashomon

99. Inception

100. City Lights

101. A Hard Day’s Night

102. Blow Out

103. Breathless

104. Halloween

105. Groundhog Day

106. Ed Wood

107. After Hours

108. Zodiac

109. Night of the Living Dead

110. Drive

111. The Fearless Vampire Killers

112. Rosemary’s Baby

113. Mad Max: Fury Road

114. Rear Window

115. The Red Shoes

116. Superbad

117. La Jetee/Twelve Monkeys

118. Alien

119. It’s A Wonderful Life

120. Audition

121. Crash (Cronenberg)

122. Fast Times At Ridgemont High

123. Blood Simple

124. Carrie

125. The Wicker Man

126. Dogville

127. Bad Timing/Performance

128. Watership Down

129. Gas, Food Lodging

130. Gone With the Wind

131. Something Wild

132. Breaking the Waves

133. The Fugitive

134. Inside Llewyn Davis

135. Lawrence of Arabia

136. Wild Strawberries

137. Boogie Nights

138. Everybody Wants Some!!

139. Wild At Heart

140. Lady Snowblood

141. Rio Bravo

142. The Talented Mr. Ripley

143. Field of Dreams

144. In Bruges

144. The Terminator

145. Toy Story

146. The Breakfast Cub

147. Night of the Hunter

148. Singin’ In the Rain

149. Carol

150. Being There

151. The 25th Hour

152. The Grapes of Wrath

152. Aguirre the Wrath of God

153. Diabolique

154. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

155. Cabaret

156. Rocky

157. Before Sunset

158. Princess Mononoke

159. Dunkirk

160. Andrei Rublev

161. Bride of Frankenstein

162. Double Indemnity

163. The Sound of Music

164. The Social Network

165. Jules and Jim

166. Belle de Jour

167. Last Year at Marienbad

168. Jaws

169. On The Waterfront

170. In the Mood For Love

171. Fargo

172. Stand By Me

173. Melvin and Howard

174. The Long Goodbye

175. The Cranes Are Flying

176. Picnic at Hanging Rock

177. A League of Their Own

178. Brief Encounter

179. The Third Man

180. L’argent

181. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

182. Saturday Night Fever

183. Zabriskie Point

184. Glengarry Glen Ross

185. Ghost World

186. My Dinner With Andre

187. Gojira/Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah

188. The Truman Show

189. M

190. Scream

191. Street of Crocodiles

192. The Great Silence

193. L’argent

194. Night Moves

195. Basic Instinct

196. Step Brothers

197. 3 Women

198. Pan’s Labyrinth

199. Cleo From 5 to 7

200. The Princess Bride

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