If you consider yourself a movie buff like I do, you probably make an effort to see the films noted by critics and filmmakers as the best. In the last few years, I’ve made great strides in expanding my horizons in that regard. As of my most recent count, I’ve seen 248 of the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (albeit the now slightly outdated 2005 edition), and I feel like I’m relatively educated on the subject of cinema.
That is, of course, until I saw the British Film Institute released their once-a-decade Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time list yesterday. Looking at the top 10, I felt I’d done pretty well. I’ve seen Vertigo, Citizen Kane, La Regle du jeu (The Rules of the Game), 2001: A Space Odyssey, and 8 1/2. Quibbles about the worth of La Regle aside (Maybe I’m a dumb American for not appreciating it, but I think Robert Altman did a far more interesting version of the rich-people-and-their-servants-stuck-together-in-a-big-house story with Gosford Park — “BLASPHEMY!” I can hear you all yelling at me), I felt pretty good about myself. Then I read choices 11 through 50. In total, I’ve seen a meager 16 films on the list, and haven’t even heard of a large portion of the entries. Once again, I’m humbled, and for the umpteenth time in my life, I feel this is appropriate.
What should you take away from this? I guess it would be the un-profound, “Don’t be a know-it-all, because you don’t.”
And now, I’m left wondering what my own top 10 would be. I’m too indecisive to rank them by worth, so it will have to be of the “in no particular order” variety. This is something that could change by the hour, and some of these don’t necessarily reflect my feelings on the “best” cinema has to offer; rather, they are the ones I most enjoy and can watch multiple times. Entertainment value plays a huge role. So, here is my list of favorite movies (Thank you, Josh, for the formatting idea).
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – dir. Stanley Kubrick. I could really go with 2001, The Killing, Paths of Glory, or The Shining here, but this one is the funniest, so it makes the cut today.
Boogie Nights – dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. This is the movie that made me say, “I want to make those.”
Ghostbusters – dir. Ivan Reitman. It’s both sentimental — when I was a toddler, it served as my babysitter while my mom took care of my little sister — and still really funny.
Raiders of the Lost Ark – dir. Steven Spielberg. This week, it edges Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Ask me again next week and it’ll probably be the opposite.
Ran – dir. Akira Kurosawa. This is the newest addition, as I only saw it a week and a half ago; see what I mean by the evolving nature of this list?
Goodfellas – dir. Martin Scorsese. Like Kubrick and Spielberg, this could be any number of Scorsese’s films, particularly Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – dir. John Huston. Bogart goes unhinged and gets desperate while Huston explores the depths of human greed without neglecting entertainment.
Bronson – dir. Nicolas Winding Refn. This is my generation’s (improvement on (here come the “BLASPHEMY!” charges again)) A Clockwork Orange and features Tom Hardy’s portrayal of an earthquake of a character. Perhaps the finest film of the last five years.
Chinatown – dir. Roman Polanski. A movie without fault. Its story, characters, and themes create one of the greatest stories ever put to celluloid.
Fargo – dir. Joel and Ethan Coen. In this, the Coens show a rare affinity for a character — Marge — and play with noir conventions in an Elmore Leonard way. I watch it every six months or so, which is what helps place it above Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink on my list.