So you can get a better idea of my tastes, and thus my critical trustworthiness, it might be helpful to know my top 10 movies, and why. This list was much harder to assemble than My Top Ten Books, simply because it is harder for me to discern between great entertainment and masterpiece.
1. Lord of the Rings (including The Hobbit)
2. Star Wars*
3. Indiana Jones*
5. Mary Poppins
6. The Court Jester
7. The Godfather
8. Sound of Music
-Star Trek (new ones and odd old ones only. This would be in my top 10 if I included TV shows and not just movies.)
-Jurassic Park (I and II)
-The 6th Sense
-Back to the Future (a majorly fatal flaw in Doc’s timeline theory keeps this from the list.)
*See descriptions for disclaimers
1. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings
I already am in love with the story, but seeing it well-done on the big screen was a dream come true. This is truly an epic masterpiece, complete with a beautiful story, perfect casting, expert cinematography, and a powerful music score. It stands on top of my list for any one of those categories (except for perfect casting– that one is a bit more common!). I should also mention that, despite some negative fan backlash for Radagast the Brown in The Hobbit, I love his presence in the movie because it is important to the mythology, and he is one of my favorite characters from the supporting text outside of the actual epic. Since only part I of the Hobbit is out, I am also assuming that the final two installments will be as great as the first four.
2. Star Wars
Star Wars not only revolutionized film, but it also revolutionized culture. Whether a fascination with the Force, Darth Vader, the Death Star, or Yoda, Star Wars impacted me just as much as the next kid, if not more. While I am nervously optimistic about the upcoming Disney additions to the saga, this is one of the few movies that if seen on the TV Guide, will be on, even though I have them all on DVD. I even loved the Clone Wars animated feature, even though the animation style annoyed me. The one caveat: my placement at number 2 does not include any scene with dialogue between Anakin and Padme, puns told by C3PO, or Anakin whining to anyone. I may have gotten past the whole “will to live” statement though, because that is an actual factor for some terminally ill patients today. Other than those above scenes, I love the saga, and like Lord of the Rings, I am in love with the music.
3. Indiana Jones
Sometimes this beats out Star Wars on my list of favorite movies; the only reason why it is currently below is the ending of IV. I love the stories in I and III, and the “feel” of the movie– the comedic action and dialogue– is ideal. Although I really am only interested in the biblically-based supernatural elements and quests, I still appreciate enough parts of II and IV for this to be high on my list, enough that I am even tentatively looking forward to the next installment.
Can you say, “wow”? I am a sucker for movies with an incredible twist for an ending, and Inception defines that feature, even more than The 6th Sense or Fight Club. No other movie has left me thinking so long and so hard about its ending, trying to interpret what just actually happened. The cinematic features are pure genius and the plot is clever, but the thought-provoking ending stole the show in this one. I even rescinded my disdain for DiCaprio (temporarily set aside in Catch Me If You Can), brought about by my female classmates gushing over his role in Titanic.
5. Mary Poppins
Every time I watch this movie, I discover something new, leading to a newfound appreciation, either for the story, Julie Andrews’ amazing voice, or even in the cinematography as I admire a movie that was technically ahead of its time. The acting is fantastic (how could you ever go wrong with both Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke?), the songs timeless, and the story touching. I still get nervous every time Jane and Michael are in the bank, and I still cringe every time the board at the bank confronts Mr. Banks.
6. The Court Jester
Danny Kaye’s masterpiece, The Court Jester is a silly-but-timeless movie centering around The Black Fox, a Robin Hood-esque character bent on restoring the real king (an infant heir) to the thrown after an usurper tried to kill off the royal line. Filled with acrobatics, magic, sword fighting, political intrigue, and the humor you would expect from a movie about a jester, The Court Jester deserves its accolades.
7. The Godfather
Copola’s epic masterpiece, the Godfather combines a riveting plot, beautiful musical score, and expert cinematography to tell the story of Michael’s rise to power in the New York mafia. Entire books have been written about this film, so I will not attempt to cram much else in this paragraph except to say that the baptism scene is, technically speaking, one of the best scenes ever put into film. (I especially love the tribute to the Odessa Staircase scene from the Soviet propaganda film The Battleship Potempkin. (disclaimer: I have not seen the second installment of this story, but I have heard it is even better than the first, and enhances the first as well.)
8. The Sound of Music
While Mary Poppins was enhanced by Julie Andrews amazing voice, Sound of Music is defined by it. The story is well-done as well, but her masterful performance is what steals the show. I also appreciate the film’s choice to tweak the song order, improving upon the Broadway hit.
Most people find it surprising that this modern fantasy makes it to my top ten, but it is absolutely one of my favorites. The musical score is vastly under-appreciated simply because it is in a lesser-appreciated film. The story line is indicative of the kind of magical fantasy I love, and I love it enough that my wife is tired of it. It is cast well, even if one particular scene with Robert Di Niro is a bit disturbing! It may not be an epic masterpiece, but it will remain one of my favorite movies because of both the plot and the music.
This silent film from 1926 is obscure outside of film history circles, but I really enjoyed it. An early full-feature during the silent film era, Sunrise deals with the ethical dilemma facing a man who must choose between a vile seductress and his estranged wife, and features a romantic trip into the city where he rediscovers the meaning of love.