This list is in no particular order unless specified…
Easily my favorite film of all time. The acting from the three leads is perfect. The story is engaging and suspenseful. The score is iconic. The camera work is clever and unique. The horror…oh the horror. I still haven’t been able to swim in the ocean without being at least a little bit scared. The ending could have been slightly better but I love it for what it is. It also holds up better than any film I’ve ever seen. The story behind the making of the film is fascinating and I occasionally vacation to Martha’s Vineyard where it was filmed. It’s just perfect.
My favorite film from my favorite director. When I start to think of my favorite films, and as you’ll see below, my taste generally floats around films that are either based in horror or clouded in dark tones like a horror film. This film is the reason. The entire length of the film could only consist of the opening helicopter shot accompanied by the Wendy Carlos score and it would still be the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Kubrick was the master behind the camera. He made films in the style that I would make films. Everything he did behind the camera appealed to me in the utmost sense. The Shining is both terrifying and utterly peculiar capped off with the batshit insane performance by Jack Nicholson. It’s the pinnacle film for “what the fuck did I just see” and the details displayed in every shot are incredible. It’s a flawless horror film.
There Will Be Blood
This is the second coming of Stanley Kubrick. Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite living director. The way he frames his shots; the incredible long takes; performances he gets out of his actors; all incredible. The film is a masterpiece on greed and power and boasts probably the best acting performance of all time. His scenes with Paul Dano are just amazing. It may be a slow burn, but it’s a slow burn I can watch forever.
The Night of the Hunter
The best black and white film ever made. It’s a classic tale of good versus evil personified by the tattoos on Robert Mitchem’s hands that say Love and Hate. They story is great and features a fantastic performance from Mitchem, but that’s not why I love this film. It is the definitive film for how to use light and shadow. There are some images in the film that I would hang on my wall. It’s an incredible piece of art that got destroyed by critics when it was released causing Charles Laughton to never make another film again. Such a shame.
I love films that take place in one location. It is a challenge for a screenwriter and when they succeed they succeed well. It’s a murder mystery and a suspense film all rolled into one perfect film. The suspense created by Jimmy Stewart not being able to leave his apartment. The shots of the neighborhood going about its day. I get sucked into this film like no other. Plus, any film with Grace Kelly is a film I’m going to watch. She was a phenomenal actress that didn’t work enough during her short career. It’s my favorite Hitchcock, but not by much…
…Psycho is only just second to Rear Window as my favorite Hitchcock film. I still remember seeing it for the first time, in Bryant Park (NYC), on a huge screen while traffic and the city buzzed around me. It was pretty awesome. There are so many iconic shots and scenes in this film. “We all go a little mad sometimes.” The story behind it’s release and the cult following it has had ever since. It is like a fine piece of cheesecake…good anytime, everything. I still get chills when I hear that Bernard Herrmann score.
Is it a drama fest? Yes, it is. It is however one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen and pushed into my favorites of all time but an incredible cast and the direction of my man Paul Thomas Anderson. Tom Cruise, Phillip Baker Hall, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, and Jason Robards all would have taken home Oscars if I had my way in the voting. Yes I realize I named five people but they all would have won. Some of my favorite shots ever exist in this film and did I mention the frogs? The FROGS! There’s even a damn sing a long. A three hour movie with a song a long sounds horrid but it pulls it off and pulls it off perfectly.
This is a recent film but nonetheless one that still haunts me to this day. It was one of the most “Oh my god” moments I’ve ever seen couple by multiple shots and scenes that are as powerful as any. The opening shot uses Radiohead perfectly and the tension and mystery behind the film is just mesmerizing. The film takes place in the middle east but spans many different time periods and locations beautifully. See it for the gut punch twist at the end of a film full of gut punching. It really is that good.
This is more of a personal preference. That isn’t to say this shouldn’t be on my list of favorite films, but I can understand how somebody could not like the film for its structure and pretentious ideas being thrown at the viewer. I don’t find them pretentious. I find the engaging and thought provoking, but I can see the argument against it. This is a film I watch every couple of months to scrub my brain and revitalize it. I love movies that make you think and this may be the grand poo bah of them all. Richard Linklater is so damn underrated it’s incredible.
If I were to pick one film that says so much by saying so little, it would be this film. Michael Haneke is one of my favorite directors although it’s rare that I can watch his films a second time. I’ve seen Cache multiple times. The acting from Juliet Binoche. The stillness of nearly every shot. The mystery behind the video tapes. All of it paints a creepy film about secrets and past hauntings. It also boasts one of the more shocking scenes you’ll see in a film that isn’t really a horror film.
Children of Men
I still remember seeing this film in the theater. It’s something that changed the way I thought films could be made. The 360 shot in the car and the uprising long take scene made me fall in love interesting and unique films; films that break the mold of what is normal and called for in an average film. I began seeking out more experimental films and films that did creative things with the camera. The camera work wasn’t the only thing that made me love this film. The story, which gets a little muddy towards the end, is mostly solid as we are treated to a whole other world in which women can’t have babies anymore. The settings that are painted in this film are scary and realistic. It’s a film that just sucks you in. I love everything about it. Also, Michael fucking Caine.