I'm back with the finale to my Top 100 Movies countdown. Throughout this list, I've been counting down my 100 favorite movies. The order is by no means in concrete but I did try my best to sift through every movie I've watched and try to pick out my all-time favorites. One hundred may say sound like a huge number, but there are actually quite a few movies that I really like that didn't quite make the cut at the time I made this list. Here are some key honorable mentions:
- Die Hard
- Jurassic Park
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Kiki's Delivery Service
- Stand By Me
- No Country for Old Men
- The Revenant*
- Captain America: Civil War*
* Did not watch until after I organized the list
So yeah, some real heavy-hitters there and I could even go on. Looking back, there are a few movies from that list I would have included on the list. Just as there are movies on the list that I wish I placed higher/lower. Again, 100 is a difficult number to work with when you are ranking your favorite things. Well, here's the complete list:
100. The Descendants
99. The Grand Budapest Hotel
98. X-Men: Days of Future Past
97. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
96. 2001: A Space Odyssey
95. Inglorious Basterds
94. The Aviator
93. Napoleon Dynamite
92. Reservoir Dogs
91. The Fast and the Furious
90. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
89. 3:10 to Yuma
88. Catch Me If You Can
87. The Godfather Part II
86. Blade Runner
85. Man of Steel
82. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
81. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
80. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
79. American Psycho
78. A Clockwork Orange
76. Captain America: The Winter Solider
75. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
74. Inside Out
73. Casino Royale
72. Saving Private Ryan
71. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
69. Fight Club
68. I Love You, Man
67. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
66. Full Metal Jacket
65. True Grit
64. Rebel Without A Cause
63. Iron Man
62. Cast Away
61. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
60. The Shining
57. X-Men: First Class
55. The Lion King
53. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
52. Dumb and Dumber
51. Mad Max: Fury Road
50. Finding Nemo
49. Princess Mononoke
48. Raiders of the Lost Ark
47. Django Unchained
46. Shutter Island
45. The Place Beyond the Pines
43. My Neighbor Totoro
42. Toy Story 2
41. Guardians of the Galaxy
40. Monsters, Inc.
39. Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire
37. Raging Bull
36. The Dark Knight Rises
35. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
34. The Illusionist
32. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
31. (500) Days of Summer
30. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
29. Rear Window
28. The Wolf of Wall Street
26. Spider-Man 2
25. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
24. The Godfather
23. Toy Story
22. Pulp Fiction
20. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
19. The Incredibles
18. Toy Story 3
17. Midnight in Paris
16. Batman Begins
15. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
14. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
13. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
12. Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens
11. Forrest Gump
10. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen
Why It's a Favorite: Return of the King is the perfect ending to a flawless trilogy of films that still amaze me today, thirteen (!!!) years after ROTK was my first IMAX experience. I was nine years old when I entered an IMAX theater for the first time, getting ready to say what I thought was my goodbye to Middle-earth. I will never forget being mystified by the gigantic screen and thunderous surround speakers. I try to re-watch the six Middle-earth movies as often as I can and every time I do, Return of the King is always the highlight. The series' epic scale reaches its peak in the movie and argument can be made that cinema reaches its epic peak here too.
Favorite Scene: People joke all the time that Return of the King has more than a few endings and while the pacing might feel different, there is no denying that the overall ending to the final LOTR film is perfect. The destruction of the ring, Aragorn becoming King, Aragorn and his whole kingdom bowing to the hobbits, the hobbits returning to the shire, Frodo and Bilbo leaving.
Favorite Character/Performance: Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins. While Ian McKellen's Gandalf is my favorite character from the trilogy and while the title of this movie bears Aragorn's namesake, to me, ROTK is about Frodo facing his demons and ending his adventure. That's part of what got lost in the shameful ending chapter of the recent Hobbit trilogy. But ROTK comes full circle and Elijah Wood absolutely nails his emotional part.
9. Gangs of New York
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz
Why It's a Favorite: Gangs of New York was well received at its time back in 2002, although losing its 10 Academy Award nominations, but I can't help but think this movie doesn't get enough love today. It may be Martin Scorsese's most ambitious film he ever made and it's certainly one of my favorites of his. The set pieces that bring a post-Civil War New York City to life, the grand fight scene that kicks off the movie, Day-Lewis' legendary performance as Bill "The Butcher" Cutting, the complex tale of revenge, the memorable final shot and all that it stands for. It's the first film of what is already a legendary series of collaborations between Scorsese and DiCaprio.
Favorite Scene: The aforementioned marching/fight scene is really just a kickass way to start a film as epic as Gang of New York. I mean, we get to see Liam Neeson and Daniel Day-Lewis fight to the death with melee weapons.
Favorite Character/Performance: Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill "The Butcher" Cutting makes this movie. It would be on my Mt. Rushmore of favorite acting performances next to Heath Ledger, Robert De Nino, and Marlon Brando.
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Why It's a Favorite: Only one other film in my top ten is a completely original idea. Not a sequel, a prequel, a remake, a reboot, or an adaptation. A purely original film with an original story. The other film is at the very top of my list, while Inception settles at eight. Original is the word I keep coming back to to describe Inception. It's a movie unlike any other, besides maybe Nolan's Interstellar. Inception is a brilliant idea that is just as brilliantly made. I think it took me five viewings to fully understand its plot but that's not a knock on it at all, in fact, that's what I love about Inception. It keeps me guessing and thinking, even after I've watched it more than a handful of times. It never fails to amaze.
Favorite Scene: Out of all the great scenes, I would have to point to the famous, ambiguous final shot of Cobb's totem spinning on the table as he finally embraces his kids. Is it reality or just another dream? We will never know and I think that's more powerful than any other way the movie could have ended. I'm a sucker for "open for interpretation" endings.
Favorite Character/Performance: While not one of his legendary, award-nominated roles, Leonardo DiCaprio's Cobb is certainly among Leo's most iconic roles. Someone like Brad Pitt or Ewan McGregor probably could have taken his place and I would have the same reaction to the movie, but I just really like the mysterious nature of Cobb and DiCaprio pulls off that distant performance nicely.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
Directed by David Yates
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Why It's a Favorite: As I stated numerous times throughout this series, Harry Potter meant everything to me growing up as a kid. The books, the movies, all of it. I grew up with Harry Potter and I am so glad that I was able to. Seven of the eight movies appear on my list (sorry Chamber of Secrets), obviously the most of any series. Well, Deathly Hallows - Part 2 was the end of Harry Potter's story and it came at a time in transition in my own life, when I was 17 and ready to graduate from high school. The finale to Harry Potter was everything I had hoped for. The ultimate battle of good vs evil and a farewell to many unforgettable characters and adventures.
Favorite Scene: Snape's secret. It turned a seemingly evil character that everyone hated into the most complex character in the series who every fan adores.
Favorite Character/Performance: The late Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. I still stand by my belief that Rickman should have received an Academy Award nomination for his last, tragic turn as Snape. It also helps that his character defining chapter was beautifully written by J.K. Rowling.
6. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Why It's a Favorite: Empire Strikes Back is what takes a novel idea such as the first Star Wars movie and makes it into the complex, epic opera powerhouse that Star Wars is today. It made everyone care about Luke, Han, and Leia. It expanded the Star Wars universe into something special, throwing fan favorite characters our way such as Yoda, Lando, Boba Fett, and The Emperor. It's the gold standard for Star Wars and science fiction.
Favorite Scene: The confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader is one of the most iconic scenes in the history of film. The lightsaber duel, the revealing line, Luke's scream and fall. It was the ultimate turning point that left me anxious to switch out VHS tapes and watch Return of the Jedi.
Favorite Character/Performance: Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Luke Skywalker wasn't the only character to have a dramatic cliffhanger scene. Han Solo, now a completely reformed hero, still had to answer for the bounty on his head, collected by Boba Fett. I can't imagine leaving the theaters in 1980, wondering what was going to happen next, having to wait three years to discover the fate of Han Solo.
5. The Departed
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson
Why It's a Favorite: There's a lot going on with The Departed that makes it one of my absolute favorite movies. It all starts with Martin Scorsese, who has eight movies on this list (three in my top ten). With Scorsese comes all-star casts only he can assemble, stories with unforgettable twists and turns, bold direction and cinematography, and a use of music that always brings its setting to life. Then, there's its Boston, Massachusetts setting, a city I am very fond of. Many films take place in Boston, but I can't think of a movie that captures the city better than The Departed. The city of Boston is as much a character as the film's three main leads. What really makes The Departed unique apart from the other Scorsese classics is its hectic third act, featuring an ending that dropped my jaw the first time I saw it.
Favorite Scene: It has to be the ending. There's really no way to talk about it without spoiling the whole movie. Let's just say it's the perfect way to end the game of cat and mouse (or rat and rat) in which The Departed is all about.
Favorite Character/Performance: Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello. In likely one of his last performances, the legendary Jack Nicholson stars as the head of the Irish mob in Boston. Each scene that he is in is chilling, unsettling, and tense.
4. The Prestige
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine
Why It's a Favorite: Christopher Nolan is already well on his way to being the filmmaker of his generation. Anything he touches today is a must-see. Everyone likes to point to The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, and Memento as his defining works. The Prestige is often overlooked and it's one of my all-time favorites. The tale of two magicians obsessed with outperforming one another in 1900's London takes many unexpected turns, leading to the type of mind-blowing film Nolan is known for. The style of 1900's London is vividly brought to light on camera and features some of my all-time favorite shots. The Prestige is a pretty movie to look at, has a brilliant plot, and is led by an amazing group of performances from Hugh Jackman to Christian Bale to Michael Caine to David Bowie to Andy Serkis to Scarlett Johansson to Rebecca Hall.
Favorite Scenes: Finding out the truth about Tesla's machine. It's quite the cinematic moment for a movie that is quite the cinematic achievement.
Favorite Character/Performance: Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier. It's so easy to get caught up in Jackman's defining role as The Wolverine and forget that he can act with the best of them. Prisoners and Les Miserables can also attest to that. But seeing Angier's insane drive to be the best magician in the world and the lengths he took to compete with Bale's Borden is really something else.
3. The Dark Knight
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine
Why It's a Favorite: Forget the title of "best comic book movie ever made," I think that an untouchable title, I think that The Dark Knight is one of the very best movies ever made. It's impossible to think that it wasn't even nominated for Best Picture back in 2008, especially given the extreme lack of quality among the nominees that year. It's an amazing tale of Batman and The Joker, how The Joker exists for the sole purpose of chaos and Batman exists for the sole purpose of justice. When chaos ensues, justice becomes blurred, pushing Batman to his limit. Holy s*** do I remember watching this movie for the first time in theaters. Its intensity hasn't since been matched and its hard to imagine that it ever will be.
Favorite Scene: The interrogation of The Joker by Batman. What else? It's one of the great movie scenes of all-time. The writing, acting, direction, music. It's chilling.
Favorite Character/Performance: Heath Ledger as The Joker. It's my favorite acting performance of all-time.
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci
Why It's a Favorite: Goodfellas feels like home in a weird way. It just hits all the right notes and is forever a movie I can watch over and over again. Many of Scorsese's movies have a rise and fall theme and Goodfellas plays to that theme the best. What makes Scorsese's rise and fall movies like Goodfellas, Casino, and The Wolf of Wall Street extra special is how they include the audience. They all are narrated to the viewer through the main character(s) and in a few cases, the characters look right at the camera and let you in on certain things. On top of the narration, Goodfellas started Scorsese's style of luring the viewer in to the lifestyle the main character is also being lured into. It's the music, the in-joke laughs, and even the way the movie is filmed. Henry Hill is lured into the life of a gangster as an outsider and, in a way, so is the viewer. It's all high times and good fun until things catch up to Henry. Realizing the people he called his friends and family for so many years are really just snakes in the grass, ready to cut him off at any point for their own sake. On top of the roller coaster of a plot, the movie is fun to look at and listen to with the long takes, montages, iconic shots and lines, and the best ever use of a soundtrack. Goodfellas is a rare movie that has everything going for it.
Favorite Scene: There are so, so many to choose from. "Funny how?," the dinner scene with Tommy's mother, "Go home and get your shine box," the uses of "Layla" and "Atlantis," the whirlwind of an ending... I'll settle on the iconic long take of Henry taking Karen on a date to the club, cutting a long line by coming in through the kitchen back door, tipping everyone he sees with a handful of cash and getting a table carried to the front row of the stage. It shows Henry's power while also glamorizing his gangster lifestyle.
Favorite Character/Performance: Joe Pesci as Tommy Devito. An Academy Award winning performance based on a real person, Pesci's character is explosive and unpredictable.
1. Spirited Away
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Starring Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette
Why It's My Favorite: On top of a long list of all-time favorites, Spirited Away will always remain at the very top. It's impossible to think anything will ever top it. There's one word I always come back to to describe Spirited Away and why it's my all-time favorite: imagination. There isn't a more imaginative movie than Miyazaki's Spirited Away, visually or thematically. When I look back at my childhood, getting this movie in my Easter basket all those years ago was an important moment in my life. This movie gave my childhood a boundless imagination and probably made me look at the world differently in some ways. Personal connection aside, Spirited Away is a creative and cinematic achievement. Its handcrafted animation is amazingly detailed and wildly original, Joe Hisashi's soundtrack is beautiful, the story has strong ties to Japanese culture but is thematically universal, and the English voice direction (the only version I know) sounds natural. I've watched this movie countless times yet every time I re-watch it, I'm taken back.
Favorite Scene: I love the start of this movie. The moving to a new town, getting lost, exploring what seems like an overgrown amusement park, and then entering a strange, at first terrifying new world.
Favorite Character/Performance: While Chihiro is my favorite character from the movie, I'm always impressed with Suzanne Pleshette as Yubaba and Zeniba. In a dual performance of similar looking and sounding characters, Yubaba and Zeniba are rival twin witches. Both act as mentors to Chihiro at one point while Yubaba ultimately acts as the movie's villain and Zeniba turns out to be a pretty interesting, complex character.
And that's that. I think I'll have a blog that breaks down my list posted pretty soon but after that, only my farewell blog remains. I'm thinking about setting up a blog through another site soon. I don't have any big plans for it at the moment, but I'll post a link for it nonetheless. Thanks for reading and please comment :)