The next 20 movies are here. It’s happening! If you missed the bottom 20, check them out here. And now, on with the show.
80. A History of Violence
Well, why don’t you ask “Tom” about his older brother Ritchie in Philadelphia? Ask “Tom” how he once tried to rip my eye out with barbed wire. And ask him, Edie… ask him how come he’s so good at killing people.
A History of Violence is Cronenberg relaxed, not as focused on the body horror that he built his name on. That isn’t to say there’s no horror elements here as the violence from the title is brutal and not masked at all. But this is a movie about a man and his family, the steps he would take to protect them. It’s really good at what it does.
79. The General
If you lose this war don’t blame me.
Buster Keaton makes his second appearance on this list as a rejected fighter in the Civil War who gets mixed up in a crazy train thing. Less inventive than Sherlock Jr., The General must rely on a stronger story and even crazier action setpieces for its thrills. And they are spectacular thrills indeed.
Oi! Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck.
Aladdin was the first film I ever saw in theaters. It began my lifelong love of film thanks to its beauty, songs, and one-of-a-kind performance by Robin Williams as the wish granting genie with pop culture references and fireworks blasting off at any given moment. It is very likely my most watched movie of all time, and I can still hear all of those great lines in my head as if I were watching the movie.
77. The Wicker Man
Don’t you see that killing me is not going to bring back your apples?
While this is often lumped under the category of horror films, it’s more of a kind of nutty musical with a little ritual sacrifice thrown in at the end for good measure. Edward Woodward (which, until Benedict Cumberbatch, was the best name to say out loud) is a proud Christian confronted by all kinds of pagan nudity and insane happiness. His counterpart, the “evil” Lord Summerisle is played delightfully by Christopher Lee. Forget the dumb remake, this one is crazy and good.
76. This Is Spinal Tap
Well, I don’t really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It’s like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how – what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what’s stopping it, and what’s behind what’s stopping it? So, what’s the end, you know, is my question to you.
There may never be a mockumentary as good as This Is Spinal Tap. A fantastic combination of dull wits and silly music, it’s a dumb comedy made very clearly by a bunch of intelligent guys. Nearly every element of the rock world is skewered perfectly.
75. The Proposition
Mr. Murphy, Russia, China, the Congo, oh, I have traveled among unknown people in lands beyond the seas. But nothing, nothing could have prepared me for this godforsaken hole.
The dirtiest, most unsettling western I’ve seen. It takes the harshness of the American West and ratchets up the grime and heat a few notches by setting the tale in the middle of the Australian summer. And the mission at the center of the film is a rough one, too, with one brother sent out to reign in another brother while yet a third brother is held ransom by the town sheriff. Existential, evolutional angst is on full display in this gorgeously ugly film.
74. Rear Window
Now, Doyle, don’t tell me that he’s just an unemployed magician amusing the neighborhood with his sleight of hand. Don’t tell me that.
A marvelous movie which creates the majority of its tension at a distance. Jimmy Stewart’s wheelchair-bound photographer catches on to some shady business and is helpless to do anything about it. Hitchcock is obviously a master and Rear Window is a perfectly constructed example of his ability to instill anxiety in his audiences.
Then the music begins to suggest other things to your imagination. They might be, oh, just masses of color, or they may be cloud forms or great landscapes or vague shadows or geometrical objects floating in space.
A fantastic (ha) marriage of sound and image, Fantasia is an early masterpiece from Disney. Each work of classical music is paired with a really great story or environment which has cemented the importance of music without lyrics for generations. At once a starters guide and an experimental art film, Fantasia will never lose its hold on the young and old alike.
72. Never Let Me Go
We didn’t have to look into your souls, we had to see if you had souls at all.
A heartbreaking beauty of a film. Never Let Me Go is a sci-fi love story that leans away from both of those elements into a melancholic meditation on loss and friendship. It’s a quiet little movie that packs a serious emotional punch.
No more of these informal chats! If you have a disciplinary issue with me, write me up or suspend me and I’ll see you at the parent conference.
Rian Johnson has gone on to make bigger movies (both The Brothers Bloom and Looper are larger in scope than this little film) but never has he matched the audacity of Brick, a movie set in a normal high school which just so happens to be populated with a student body that talks like they’re in a film noir. As out there as the premise is, the characters are grounded in an emotional reality that sells the film as a whole.
70. The Mortal Storm
I’ve never prized safety, Erich, either for myself or my children. I prized courage.
The first Frank Borzage movie on this list is one of his better known works. An early example of movies decrying the Nazis, its historical importance often overshadows the sheer beauty of it all. Each scene is powerful in its own way and the cumulative effect of all the love and hardships is staggering. A career highlight for all involved (Stewart, Sullavan, Young, and Morgan), this is a devastating movie.
69. Shaun of the Dead
Take car. Go to Mum’s. Kill Phil – “Sorry.” – grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?
Edgar Wright’s second appearance on this list is another doozy. Working in the zombie genre, he deftly blends a romantic comedy into the mix alongside a touching mother-stepfather-son triangle. Also, it is really funny. Wright can blend homage with his own style quite well and is one of the few directors working today with a definite sense of pacing and joketelling through his editing.
68. Paths of Glory
You are an idealist… and I pity you as I would the village idiot. We’re fighting a war, Dax, a war that we’ve got to win. Those men didn’t fight, so they were shot.
This is a strange half-war-film, half-courtroom drama hybrid which uses Stanley Kubrick’s impeccable eye for composition as its guiding light. The war scenes are a wonder, the predecessor to Saving Private Ryan‘s opening salvo, and the courtroom scenes are just as intense, albeit on a verbal and intellectual level rather than a visceral one. Kubrick’s cynicism shines through and, although I hesitate to indulge in those kinds of thoughts, his vision is so well defined that it’s hard to find fault with it.
67. City of God
A kid? I smoke, I snort. I’ve killed and robbed. I’m a man.
Here’s another organized crime movie. The unique setting is what elevates this above the drivel in the genre in addition to the captivating myriad stories being told at once. Participants include a young photographer, a maniacal teenage drug kingpin, and an apartment where everything goes down. Kinetic in style and broadly considering of its topic and scope, City of God is one of a kind.
I must get this crack mended.
The ultimate paranoia director takes on spooky apartments with even better results than his more well-known Rosemary’s Baby. Like some of the other horror films on this list, Repulsion isn’t crisp or smooth, instead it wallows in a creaky realism that keeps all the jagged edges in to great effect. An ever escalating thrill ride with a bit of feminist theory thrown in for good measure.
65. Out of Sight
It’s like seeing someone for the first time, and you look at each other for a few seconds, and there’s this kind of recognition like you both know something. Next moment the person’s gone, and it’s too late to do anything about it.
Soderbergh at the height of both his ultimate cool abilities and his experimental tweaking. He combines these two elements into one super great love story based on characters from the incomparable Elmore Leonard. Clooney and Lopez have such an intense chemistry and are surrounded by really great character actors in fantastic roles.
Having conceived Babel, yet unable to build it themselves, they had thousands to build it for them. But those who toiled knew nothing of the dreams of those who planned. And the minds that planned the Tower of Babel cared nothing for the workers who built it. The hymns of praise of the few became the curses of the many – BABEL! BABEL! BABEL! – Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a Mediator, and this must be the heart.
An early masterpiece of crazy expressionism and religious and social metaphor. Fritz Lang uses spectacular sets and direction to tell the tale of a populist uprising in a utopia of supreme architecture. Futurist in style and fable-like in story, this one really appeals to all of my little taste bubbles. It’s fun and heady and really beautiful.
63. Before Sunset
Maybe what I’m saying is, is the world might be evolving the way a person evolves. Right? Like, I mean, me for example. Am I getting worse? Am I improving? I don’t know. When I was younger, I was healthier, but I was, uh, whacked with insecurity, you know? Now I’m older and my problems are deeper, but I’m more equipped to handle them.
I watched all three Before movies this year, concluding with the recently released Before Midnight. This one, the middle in the trilogy, grabbed me way more than the idealistic Before Sunrise. Celine and Jesse are older and probably wiser nine years later, but no less infatuated, though they don’t often show it. It’s seen as the more cynical of the two first films but I feel like the ending really refutes that. It’s a romance that feels real and still like a storybook. I don’t know how that happened.
62. Funny Games
You’re on their side, aren’t you? So, who will you bet with?
Michael Haneke’s sarcastic indictment of horror audiences really gets to the point about halfway through the movie when something totally jarring happens and messes with the audience’s expectations entirely. Though I still enjoy silly horror films, this movie has forced me to at least think about the reasons why I do so. It’s crazy and the build-up is pretty slow, which makes for an even more intense film once it really gets going. The remake is a perfectly fine substitute, by the way, with the director returning and doing almost everything exactly the same as before, but in English.
61. The Prestige
The truly extraordinary is not permitted in science and industry. Perhaps you’ll find more luck in your field, where people are happy to be mystified.
Christopher Nolan’s only truly great film is, on its surface, a movie about jealous magicians and the terrible fates they bring upon themselves and their family and friends. Looking deeper, though, reveals that it’s a movie about movies, and the power they have to transport us away from ourselves and into unreality. It’s a puzzlebox like many of his other films that has (unlike those others) an emotional and thematic core that satisfies as much as the mystery, if not more.
That’s the end of round two. Let me know how you’ve been enjoying it, or if you hate a pick or something. PS, if that last part applies to you, you’re nuts. These are objectively awesome movies.