I recently discovered this fascinating but useless Web site (and aren't they the best kind?): YMDB.com. Basically, you enter your top twenty favourite movies. That's it. You can look at other people's lists, I guess, and see the meta-list of the site's users top twenty movies, but you can see all that data on IMDB.com. I couldn't resist creating a list of my favourites.
In trying to generate a list, I surfed through the various top-x lists on IMDB. Here are a few observations:
- There is surprisingly little difference between the top films selected by men and women. Women seem to like more comedies.
- People like new action movies, but old comedies. Only one of the top ten comedies was made more recently than 1964, and that was Amelie (a pretty light-weight entry, comedically-speaking) Are old comedies just better? Or do people just have a warm, fuzzy "It's a Wonderful Life" love for comedies? That's the way I feel about the Princess Bride, actually.
- The masses beat out the film snobs every time. Of the top ten films overall, nine are in English and most of them would qaulify as action films. Sorry, film studies majors, you can take your Atanarjuat and your Koyaanisqatsi and shove it.
Here are my top-twenty films, with a brief comment as to why I like them. Let me point out that these are my most loved films--not necessarily the films I consider the best ever or most meritous artistically. In short, if one of these films is on TV, I'll watch it even though I may have already seen it five times.
The order is only somewhat meaningful--I couldn't be particularly bothered to be precise about which films I liked more than others. Mind you, I do like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" better than "Hamlet":
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
A joyous romp of an adventure film. Lucas and Spielberg at their best.
2. Ran (1985)
I've got a hidden love of samurai movies. A cinematic masterpiece. "Only the birds and the beasts live in solitude."
3. Kakushi toride no san akunin (1958)
The inspiration for Star Wars. A charmingly human epic.
4. Apocalypse Now (1979)
The best war movie ever made. Also the most sophisticated. "Hey, man, you don't talk to the Colonel. You listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind."
5. Fargo (1996)
Wacky, off-beat, pseudo-Canadian, spot-on acting, boldly directed. "Ah, hon, ya got Arby's all over me."
6. American Beauty (1999)
A satirical masterpiece and a razor-sharp script. "I feel nothing but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life."
7. Unforgiven (1992)
A fantastic post-modern western with exceptional acting. The last, best western ever made? "It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. You take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have."
8. Blade Runner (1982)
Invented the noir sci-fi. Harrison Ford comes of age. It bleeds style.
9. Princess Bride, The (1987)
Genre-defying, hilarious and some of the most inspired casting in history. Great adaptation from the book as well. " I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you."
10. Fight Club (1999)
Under-appreciated, I think, for its commentary on how modern society emasculates men. Exceptionally directed and a great plot twist.
11. Manhattan (1979)
For my money, the greatest modern comedy ever made. Allen films have a unique pace and tone, and this is Woody at his finest. " How much can you know about yourself, you've never been in a fight?"
12. Being John Malkovich (1999)
Exceptionally prescient, satirical film. The bravest Hollywood film of the nineties.
13. Star Wars (1977)
Good old-fashioned space opera. To understand its impact, see the post-apocalyptic Reign of Fire, in which, to entertain children, survivors tell the Star Wars plot as melodramatic dumb-show/bedtime story. "The Force is strong with this one."
14. Magnolia (1999)
Original, complex film. Anderson is, in my opinion, the finest director of his generation. "Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven. And sometimes they need to go to jail."
15. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
A bold statement on war from Spielberg. Contains the intense twenty minutes of cinema I've ever seen.
16. Wo hu cang long (2000)
Gorgeous, skillful convergence of Western and Asian cinematic styles. Simultaneously epic and personal. "A faithful heart makes wishes come true."
17. Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993)
Small, unassuming, Canadian, but utterly original and a masterful performance from Colm Feore.
18. Truman Show, The (1998)
Astonishingly prescient, visionary with a bold style. Accurately predicts the rise of reality television.
19. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)
Some of the best art-about-art I've ever seen. An extraordinary documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now.
20. Hamlet (1996)
The definitive modern version. Classical, but with exceptionally meaured performances. "For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."