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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. I do like to think I have good taste and I very much appreciate great craft and different types of filmmaking.

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. On this list you’ll find a varied selection of styles, genres, decades, and directors but there’s a heavy dose of stoner comedies, mystery noirs, spectacles, and odysseys. In a few cases they’re rolled up into one. I’m also constantly watching new films to find new favorites so please give me suggestions!

However, the top 30 I have listed are special and I feel they represent my taste well. I didn’t rank the top 30 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. I do cheat by doing a few ties, but it’s my list so fuck it.

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 with images that are forever seared into my mind. 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. Mrs. Robinson is funny, sexy, and charismatic, but she’s also cinema’s most tragic woman. 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 – Nicolas Roeg’s elegiac horror masterpiece has guilt coursing through its impressionistic veins. John and Laura grieve in Venice, a purgatory for their mental state. A supernatural rabbit hole of symbolism, foreshadowing, and tangential ideas 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 city and John like the grim reaper. Grief’s mysterious presence lurks in every dark alley. It’s prophetic in its connected images and recurring motifs. And that red coat… the sinister realization that we’re all going to wander those corridors is one of cinema’s most haunting moments.

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. Every line, edit, sound, movement, and frame in Casablanca matters. 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. My pick for the best film ever made.

Phantom of the Paradise – What is the hardest genre of film to make? What is the most impressive style of filmmaking? What era was the greatest? There are many answers but all roads would at some point intersect with Phantom of the Paradise‘s inimitable expression of campy sonic horror. There are a handful of rock/horror/musicals but only this one fully pulls it off. A lightning strike of genre electrifies Brian De Palma’s magnum opus of 70’s Frankensteinish style. No one else has made a film like this. No one else can. No one else ever will.

After Hours – My fave Scorsese. After The Last Temptation of Christ failed to go into production, Scorsese turned to this midnight movie to rekindle his love for cinema. The result has the satire of The King of Comedy, the craft of Taxi Driver, and the entertainment of Goodfellas. After Hours is secretly the hardest that Scorsese ever Scorsese’d. All that Griffin Dunne’s Paul wants to do is return to his apartment and desk job on wall street. Like a modern Theseus, he enters the strange New York underworld with a skull headed key and then sprints through the maze full of demonic sculptures, nazi and cold war symbols, SNM, an ice cream truck, a lynch mob, and Cheech and Chong.

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. In the darkest parts of our mind we all have been to the back of Winkies’s Diner… 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 elusive, shadowy center is a devastating exploration of our time limit. It’s got the best combo of lighting, production design and cinematography ever, but 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 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, deeply 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 thunderously 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 high and low notes of 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 an orgy 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. 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. For just a few seconds… they’re living in the moment. 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 operatic 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 will end the west and fire the last shot for an entire genre.

Re-Animator – Stuart Gordon’s interpretation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story about the mad scientist, Herbert West, is a stitched together monster of tones. It’s gruesome and comically over the top, hilarious and horrifying, earnest and satirical, a B movie plot with the thematic subtext of a European art film. Re-Animator chops up its comedy & horror and mashes them together so you can’t tell which is which. Beneath the comedy, blood and gore is a reckoning of the Lovecraftian abyss where man’s traveling into the unknowable leads to a battle that he’ll never understand. It’s fuckin awesome.

Doctor Zhivago – After the 200 minute runtime you feel as though you’ve just experienced someone else’s life. It’s the never-ending fields; sun peering through the forest; empty, snow filled Moscow streets; leaves flying through the air; a train traveling through the blue of night; footprints heading into an icy wasteland; the look of longing on Julie Christie’s face as the light hits her.

“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.

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.

Heat – The ultimate cops and robbers movie and cinema’s finest depiction of dueling men. McCauley and Hanna’s ideologies burrow into LA’s infrastructure and the film’s form. 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. A Michael Mann film.

Pulp Fiction – I saw Pulp Fiction in 6th grade and it was like seeing a new color for the first time. Really. It’s the movie that made me crazy about movies. 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. The movie’s non-linear structure jumps from cool location to cooler location like a jukebox of cinema. 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  “I close my eyes then I drift away…. into the magic night…….In dreams… I walk with you.” 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 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, sexual 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 Hardy boys 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 doused with colors that drip off the screen and into your living room. 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. The first 15 minutes is the greatest horror filmmaking of all time. The rest is pretty damn glorious as well. Argento’s demonic eye-candy death sequences are so elaborate and unforgettable that they’ll return to you in your nightmares. Argento 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.

Back to the Future  Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown are two of the greatest characters ever; when paired together they have the best chemistry in the history of cinema. Seriously. It’s perhaps unfair to both Zemeckis and Spielberg to say this is the greatest film to come out of Spielberg’s blockbuster reign, but I intend it as a compliment to both. Their partnership reminds me of the great studio entertainments of the 30s and 40s. Back to the Future is a joining of John Hughes’ teen flicks, Spielberg’s adventures, and Sci-Fi pulp comics. As the definitive Reagan era film it explores two different cultures seamlessly—making it THE ultimate pop culture touchstone. There’s a zany elegance here that I have no idea how Zemeckis captured. I’ve never seen it since.


PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON TIE
– Look, I love Boogie Nights but the leap PTA takes in 2007 is like the cut in 2001: A Space Odyssey from the bone to the nuke.

The Master – A film so richly soaked in post war America that you can nearly reach out and touch it, taste it, smell it, feel 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.

There Will Be Blood – This may belong on cinema’s Mount Rushmore. Citizen Kane, Vertigo, Apocalypse Now….. 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 Madere‘s greed. As usual, there is no sign of Daniel Day Lewis; there is only Daniel Plainview. He 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.

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 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 group of mysterious dentists to a drink with Sancho and then back to Doc’s place for a joint. Sadness protrudes the lunacy and lies at the bottom of the film like a postcard of the past. This melancholic detective yarn is one of the definitive films about America.

Days of Heaven – Terrence Malick’s magnum opus is many things: the modernization of the west, a young girl coming of age, a doomed tale of tragic love, the cold heart of the industrial era, a ghostly memory, a biblical and shakespearean epic, the greatest photographed film, the greatest voice-over… 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.”

Vertigo – 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, but the great accomplishment is that he equally messes with our minds AND heart. It’s as if we’re watching 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. The Right Stuff

25. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

26. Persona

27. Taxi Driver

28. Chinatown

29. Halloween

30. The Thin Red Line

31. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

32. Badlands

33. 2001: A Space Odyssey

34. Ed Wood

35. West Side Story

36. Stalker

37. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial

38. Die Hard

39. McCabe and Mrs. Miller

40. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

41. The Wizard of Oz

42. The Social Network

43. Jurassic Park

44. The Godfather Part I/II

45. The Black Cat

46. Citizen Kane

47. Evil Dead 2

48. Seven Samurai

49. LavVentura

50. This is Spinal Tap

51. A Clockwork Orange

52. Memento

53. Spirited Away

54. Sunset Boulevard

55. M

56. Inception

57. Carol

58. Naked

59. The Searchers

60. The Road Warrior

62. Lost in Translation

61. Donnie Darko

63. JFK

64. Rosemary’s Baby

65. No Country For Old Men

66. The Tree of Life

67. Raiders of the Lost Ark

68. Do the Right Thing

69. Harold and Maude

70. Total Recall

71.  Paris, Texas

72. Repo Man

73. The Public Enemy

74. Rebecca

75. An American Werewolf in London

76. The Double Life of Veronique

77. Carrie

78. The Red Shoes

79. The Blair Witch Project

80. Dunkirk

81. The Wild Bunch

82. The Shining

83. The Wolf of Wall Street

84. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

85. Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back

86. Battleship Potemkin

87. The Matrix

88. Ghost World

89. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

90. Interstellar

91. Laura

92. A Serious Man

93. The Truman Show

94. A Hard Day’s Night

95. The Dark Knight

96. Red Desert

97. The Kid

98. Rashomon

99. Blow Out

100. Point Break

101. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

102. Drive

103. Goodfellas

104. Dogville

105. Audition

106. Superbad

107. Inglourious Basterds

108. The Fearless Vampire Killers

109. Night of the Living Dead

110. The Prestige

111. The Young Girls of Rochefort

112. Groundhog Day

113. Gas, Food Lodging

114. Rear Window

115. Haxan

116. Boyhood

117. La Jetee/Twelve Monkeys

118. Reservoir Dogs

119. It’s A Wonderful Life

120. City Lights

121. Crash (Cronenberg)

122. True Romance

123. Zodiac

124. Boogie Nights

125. The Wicker Man

126. The Lord of the Rings

127. The Hateful Eight

128. Watershed Down

129. Titanic

130. Gone With the Wind

131. Lost Highway

132. Breaking the Waves

133. The Fugitive

134. Eyes Wide Shut

135. Lawrence of Arabia

136. Wild Strawberries

137. The Talented Mr. Ripley

138. The Devils

139. Wild At Heart

140. Kill Bill

141. Rio Bravo

142. Scream

143. Field of Dreams

144. Wet Hot American Summer

144. Rebel Without A Cause

145. Toy Story

146. The Breakfast Cub

147. Night of the Hunter

148. Singin’ In the Rain

149. Terms of Endearment

150. Being There

151. The Terminator

152. The Grapes of Wrath

152. Aguirre the Wrath of God

153. Diabolique

154. Possession

155. Cabaret

156. Rocky

157. Before Sunset

158. Princess Mononoke

159. Jaws

160. Andrei Rublev

161. Faust

162. Double Indemnity

163. The Sound of Music

164. A Nightmare on Elm Street

165. Jules and Jim

166. Belle de Jour

167. Last Year at Marienbad

168. Mad Max: Fury Road

169. On The Waterfront

170. In the Mood For Love

171. Fargo

172. Stand By Me

173. Alien

174. The Long Goodbye

175. The Cranes Are Flying

176. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

177. A League of Their Own

178. The Princess Bride

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. Casino Royale/On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

186. My Dinner With Andre

187. Gojira/Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah

188. The Fifth Element

189. Everybody Wants Some!!

190. Fright Night

191. The Red Shoes

192. The Great Silence

193. L’argent

194. Night Moves

195. Basic Instinct

196. Step Brothers

197. 3 Women

198. Brazil

199. If

200. La Dolce Vita

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