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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. 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 greatest 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 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. 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. 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 leaves the film 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 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 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 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. In refusing to explicitly condemn Belfort, Scorsese reveals the insidious and alluring soul of the American dream. In the final frame it stares back 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.

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, but falls like Alice into a möbius strip of elliptical dreams. 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 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.

 – 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. 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. Fleeting, intangible and the defining characteristic of Linklater’s work.

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. 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!) weaves 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 murder mystery is a phantasmagorical ballet 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 LALALA 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.

Doctor Zhivago

“Wouldn’t it have been lovely if we’d met before?”

“I think we may go mad if we think of all that.”

“I shall always think about it.”

The most epic film ever made.

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.”

Before Sunset – Linklater’s trilogy of love and time hits a painfully beautiful crescendo in the second installment. There’s never been a film that so achingly, and simply, portrays the unrelenting passage of time, and the small moments that we hold onto. Jesse and Celine’s conversation throughout a Paris afternoon has the suspense of Hitchcock and beauty of Fellini. I never want it to end. My heart races throughout and then stands still in the film’s final moments.

There Will Be Blood – A modern Apocalypse Now-esque epic that may belong on cinema’s Mount Rushmore. Citizen Kane, Vertigo, 2001: A Space Odyssey….. There Will Be Blood. I did not think PTA was capable of making a film like this. It was birthed out of Kubrickian form and bathed in the The Treasure of the Sierra Madre‘s greed. Daniel Plainview offers Daniel Day-Lewis’ unique acting method a character so rich that the rest of the film orbits around him. PTA crafts such a formally pristine world around him that there’s an immediate felling you’re watching a once-in-a-lifetime film. Daniel Plainview starts in a pitch black hole under the earth that will lead him to either death or fortune. In the end, they might just be the same.

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.



26. Chinatown

27. Taxi Driver

28. Re-Animator

29. Badlands/The Thin Red Line/The Tree of Life

30. Citizen Kane

31. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

32. Persona

33. 2001: A Space Odyssey

34. The Master

35. The Godfather Part I/II

36. The Double Life of Veronique

37. The Dark Knight

38. Die Hard

39. McCabe and Mrs. Miller

40. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

41. La Dolce Vita

42. Seven Samurai

43. Sunset Boulevard

44. Memento

45. Back to the Future

46. Spirited Away

47. This Is Spinal Tap

48. Stalker

49. LavVentura

50. The Devils

51. The Searchers

52. Mad Max: Fury Road

53. Repo Man

54. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial

55. Rashomon

56. A Clockwork Orange

57. West Side Story

58. Notorious

59.All That Jazz

60. No Country for Old Men

62. Red Desert

61. Inglourious Basterds

63. Phantom of the Paradise

64. Do the Right Thing

65. The Big Lebowski

66. Raiders of the Lost Ark

67. Goodfellas

68. Harold and Maude

69. JFK

70. Carrie

71. The Wild Bunch

72. The Shining

73. The Public Enemy

74. Carol

75. An American Werewolf in London

76. Battleship Potemkin

77. The Matrix

78. The Road Warrior

79. Rosemary’s Baby

80. The Prestige

81. The Young Girls of Rochefort

82. Working Girl

83. The Fugitive

84. The Blair Witch Project

85. Black Narcissus

86. Dunkirk

87. The Silence of the Lambs

88. Naked

89. The Social Network

90. Evil Dead 2

91. The Great Silence

92. Breaking the Waves

93. Fast Times At Ridgemont High

94. Ed Wood

95. Halloween

96. The Lord of the Rings

97. Breathless

98. The Wizard of Oz

99. The Swimmer

100. Superbad

101. A Hard Day’s Night

102. Point Break

103. After Hours

104. Rear Window

105. A Serious Man

106. Speed

107. If

108. Wet Hot American Summer

109. Night of the Living Dead

110. Alien

111. Before Sunset

112. It’s A Wonderful Life

113. Audition

114. City Lights

115. Boyhood

116. Groundhog Day

117. The Fearless Vampire Killers

118. Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back

119. Interstellar

120. Total Recall

121. Crash (Cronenberg)

122. Titanic

123. Blood Simple

124. Zodiac

125. The Wicker Man

126. Dogville

127. Bad Timing/Performance

128. Watership Down

129. Donnie Darko

130. Gone With the Wind

131. Something Wild

132. Terms of Endearment

133. Blow Out

134. Inside Llewyn Davis

135. Lawrence of Arabia

136. Wild Strawberries

137. Boogie Nights

138. Inception

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. Lost in Translation

150. Being There

151. Brazil

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. Drive

158. Princess Mononoke

159. Gas, Food Lodging

160. Andrei Rublev

161. Bride of Frankenstein

162. Double Indemnity

163. The Sound of Music

164. Picnic at Hanging Rock

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. The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1986)

174. The Long Goodbye

175. The Cranes Are Flying

176. Everybody Wants Some!!

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. Jurassic Park

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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