My Fifty Most Favorite Movies
1. The Godfather (The Director's Cut) (1972, 1974) It's a little bit of a cheat
to list the director's cut since it's really both The Godfather and The Godfather II together with a little
more besides, but they do belong together. The story of these two films is one of the most archetypally important in the history
of cinema, telling of the immigrant and imperial experience as none other ever has. Perfectly cast, brilliantly composed and
edited, and an incomparable source of cinematic details and memes, The Godfather (The Director's Cut) is the greatest
movie ever made.
2. Full Metal Jacket (Jun 1987) First of all, Stanley Kubrick is the greatest filmmaker
ever. It just so happens that this particular movie, of all his movies, has had the biggest impact on me. It's really
two movies and they're both masterpieces. I've always identified with Private Pyle and his physical and mental obstacles.
For me, he is reborn as Animal Mother in the second half. This is a smart-assed beauty of a movie, even if it's about heartlessness
and futility. "All I ask is that my men obey my word as they would the word of God."
3. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1967) This movie is the story of Western Man,
with Eastwood as Christ, Angel Eyes as Satan, and Tuco as you and me, baby. Notice that, when any of them shoot, they
never really miss, except when they are deliberately kept from shooting. It's a hugely incredible movie and you haven't lived
until you've seen it. Ennio Morricone's score is majestic, noble, and haunting, most especially in the penultimate scene.
If you can get through that one without goosebumps and a tear in your eye, you're a braver man than me. "There's two
kinds of people in this world, my friend: those with guns and those who dig. You dig."
4. Citizen Kane (1941) This movie is so far ahead of its time that it still has
the power to startle you. Orson Welles was 25 when he made this thing and that's only one of this movie's amazing aspects. The
basis of the tale is the life of William Randolph Hearst, and Welles' ambition to create this masterpiece got him into
a lot of trouble, not the least of which was with Hearst himself. But the story it tells of human vanity and sentiment is
extraordinarily powerful. My favorite scene may be when Kane's old partner tells of his own memories of seeing a girl passing
him on a ship when he was a young boy and how he hadn't let a month go by in all those years that he hadn't thought of her.
5. This Is Spinal Tap! (1982) This is the funniest movie ever made (unless No.
6 on my list is). They say that most of the dialogue was ad-libbed, but surely the situations were sketched out somehow.
With not a wasted moment, nor an unmemorable line, this "rockumentary" has loads of cameos, lots of hair, and savage parody.
"Oh, and the Boston gig's been cancelled, but it's not much of a college town."
6. Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Jan 1964)
This may be the only movie you need to see about the Cold War. Peter Sellers plays three different roles with three different
accents and Sterling Hayden delivers the deadest deadpan madman ever filmed. I heard that George C. Scott didn't like having
to overact, as he saw it, but Kubrick told him to. And it's perfect. "Fortunately, I was able to interpret these feelings
correctly." Ha, ha!
7. The Empire Strikes Back (Jun 1980) This movie completely owned my 11 year-old
ass from the first frame. What an amazing vision Lucas once had. Who knows where it went? I didn't even bother to see the
last installment of this series. Ewoks? Jar-Jar Blinks? Fuck that shit, yo.
8. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Jun 1982) I absolutely love this movie and
I don't care who knows it. The only guy who can overact more magnificently than Bill Shatner is Ricardo Montalban ---and he
is just incredible in this movie as Khan. This movie is high tragedy and Shakespearean in its scope and grandeur. And, no,
I'm not kidding.
9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) This movie may not be as polished
or fancy as Life of Brian or The Meaning of Life, but it's a hell of a lot more entertaining. The Black
Knight is the shizznit. Aquatic tart. Tee hee.
10. A Clockwork Orange (Dec 1971?) The story of this movie is all the argument
you'll ever need against the machinations of government and its obsession with political correctness. There's a lot about
free will and determinism in this thing, too. Kubrick is such a master! "You are invited."
11. Airplane! (1980) My eldest brother took a date to this movie
and, despite that, claims to have actually gotten out of his chair and onto his knees at one point in an unsuccessful
effort to contain his "laughment." Airplane! is, in fact, an incredibly funny movie. I'm sure I've seen it a hundred
times. To this day, I can recite whole scenes of it. "When Cramer finds out about this, the shit is really gonna hit
12. Apollo 13 (Jun 1995) This movie makes me proud to be an American. Is there
something else I should add?
13. Amadeus (Sep 1984) A beautiful movie made especially for all of us who recognize
genius, but may not have or demonstrate it. The casting is perfect in a physiognomic sort of way. My favorite scene: Mozart's
mother-in-law bitching at him metamorphoses into the famous aria "The Queen of the Night." Milos Forman is the best.
So are Elizabeth Berridge's nipples of Venus. Bravissimo!
14. Bananas (Apr 1971) Even if you think Woody Allen is a perv, this movie will
make you laugh out loud. This is him at his goofy best, being a fine piece of anti-communist agitprop, Marx Brothers-style.
"From now on, the official language of San Marcos shall be...Swedish!"
15. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Jun 1981) This is probably the funnest adventure movie
I've ever seen. I love Harrison Ford's work, but here most especially. His ad-libbed reaction to the scimitar-wielding assassin
is one of the most perfect expressions of the Occidental spirit ever captured on film.
16. Star Wars (May 1977) It may not make much sense to rank the first Star
Wars film so far below its sequel and, in fact, you may hold that against this list; nevertheless, this is a terribly important
movie. The acting and dialogue were never the crowning jewel of this series, but the story and its characters are the stuff
17. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) I love this movie dearly. Frank Capra was an absolute
genius and this movie proves it. Watching it is an annual ritual and an act of reaffirmation. Yep: it's that important. "So,
what do you know about that?"
18. Sunset Boulevard (1950) Sunset Boulevard is one of the hippest and
shrewdest films ever made, if you want to know the truth. It is a condemnation of Hollywood's Golden Age before that age was
through. That and its plot dynamics are way ahead of their times. Watch it to see what I mean.
19. All the President's Men (Apr 1976) Even though I am a great admirer of Nixon's
(yep), I have always found this movie irresistible ---even when I was a kid. The interaction of all these real-life figures
is so natural and realistic, you almost forget that it's a dramatization. What it is is an object lesson on the power of the
press and a brilliant corrective for cynical times.
20. The Shining (May 1980) This is the most beautiful horror film ever made. Kubrick
takes the most banal dialogue and cliches and transforms them into this sort of loaded and sinister language, compelling
you to read the subtext. Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance is just incredible. The conversation between him and Mr. Grady will
freak your shiznit: "I'm sorry to differ with you, sir, but you are the caretaker. You have always
been the caretaker."
21. Groundhog Day (1993) A terribly underappreciated movie. Bill Murray is a genius,
frankly. For a selfish man caught in a loveless circle of professional and social frustration, this movie gives me hope. Actual
hope. Oh, and Andie MacDowell's face is another reason to see this one.
22. Apocalypse Now (1979) This movie is a waking nightmare about the disintegration
of human conscience set against the backdrop of the Viet Nam War. It's got comedy so black as to be appalling and a great soundtrack
(including some Wagner to scare the gooks). Most people would probably say that this is the definitive movie about the war
in Viet Nam, although I say Platoon holds the better claim, even if it's a lesser movie. Charlie don't surf,
22. After Hours (Oct 1985) Part of the charm of this movie is the emotional
dissonance of its many characters. It doesn't make them unlikeable, but, instead, exactly like the characters you might find
in a dream, the feeling of which this movie evokes as few others have.
23. The Fugitive (Aug 1993) Yep, it's a mid-1990s blockbuster, but it's damn good
film-making, too. The balance between Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford is just great. Lots of tension, a few implausibilities,
and a smattering of cheese. I love this movie.
24. Macbeth (1971) This was Roman Polanski's first movie after the murder of his
wife Sharon Tate and I think it shows. Bloody and brutal and as dark as the play itself, this is a cinematic vision
that Shakespeare would have recognized as his own. Check it out.
25. The Last Temptation of Christ (Aug 1988) The rectal cavities who stood outside
of theaters and protested this movie are suckers. They missed a truly important interpretation of Jesus of Nazareth's life.
I truly love this movie. It is neither disrespectful or blasphemous; rather, it is a joy.
26. Catch-22 (1970?) Here's another amazing cast of characters put together in
one of the best surrealist movies ever. I've never read the book like everyone is supposed to before seeing the movie, but
Alan Arkin is Yossarian. Is there any sequence in all of cinema more depressing than Yossarian's desperate midnight
flight through the streets of Rome? What a carnival of depravity. "Help the bombardier!" "But I'm the bombardier!"
"Then help him. Help him!"
26. Saving Private Ryan (Jul 1998) The intensity of the first half-hour of this
movie is everything you heard it was. I can't imagine that there's a more realistic depicition of the violence done to the
human body in combat. Beyond that, it's a very solid movie, plot-wise and has lots of excellent characterizations. The young
translator GI and his struggle against cowardice is a particularly important aspect of this movie, even if it makes you mad.
A worthwhile piece of art.
27. Rocky (1976) I remember seeing this with my whole family at the Fox Theater
on 25th Street in Waco, Texas. We thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you don't feel a surge of soul-satisfying
self-confidence by the end of this movie, you're an irredeemable old fussbucket.
28. A Man For All Seasons (1966) Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More is about as perfect
an example of dignity and principle as you may find. This is also a great period piece. My favorite scene is probably when
More's daughter speaks Latin with Henry VIII and shows him up. Good stuff.
29. Vertigo (May 1958) Hitchcock is a weirdo and I love him for it. There is always
some anti-hero or dark quality to his heroes and Jimmy Stewart turns out to be a tad creepy. Great colors, cool duds, and
a tasty Kim Novak.
30. Diner (Apr 1982) There aren't too many movies I can think of with more
perfect casts. Everybody's in this thing. These are a bunch of guys that you want to hang out with.
31. Tootsie (Dec 1982) "Oh, God. I begged you to see a therapist."
32. The Breakfast Club (Feb 1985) I remember seeing this as part of an area high
school "press junket" here in Austin, Texas. We were invited to see it at a newly-opened (maybe even soon-to-be opened?) cineplex
in South Austin with the "new" THX sound system. The manager was very proud of his system and they drew back the screen and
everything so we could see the speakers. Maybe it was the Southwood Theater near Interstate 35 and Ben White Boulevard? Does
that sound right? That area's so fucked up right now with construction, it looks like post-Visigothic Rome on acid. As for
The Breakfast Club, it was a seminal movie event for my generation. Is that too much to say? I have known people
my age in the nearly two decades since its release who can quote me whole scenes of it. That is a kind of success, certainly.
Oh, and I had such a jones for Molly Ringwald. Madness, madness.
33. Grease (Jun 1979) This is a very fun movie and one of the few musicals I can
bear to watch. My cousins and I always used to giggle at the scene at the drive-in movie where Travolta is singing with the
screen in the background and the little cartoon hot dog and bun are doing their thang. Very cute. I remember driving across
a bridge in east L.A. one afternoon and realizing that, below me, was where they shot the famous drag-racing scene. The chicks
is all delicious and the guys is all tough. See you at that malt shop in the sky.
33. Blue Velvet (Sep 1986) David Lynch has cooked
up some psychotic shit in his time, this film being a singularly palatable helping of it. It has a great mix of the innocent
and the sinister, the latter of which is best demonstrated in Dennis Hopper's Frank Booth. What a nut job. And Dean Stockwell
singing Roy Orbison's "Dreams" into a drop light? Sensational. "What are you doing in my apartment, Jeffrey Beaumont?"
34. Gimme Shelter (1970) Essentially a documentary about the Rolling Stones before,
during, and after the infamous free concert they gave at the Altamont Speedway outside of San Francisco in December of 1969,
this is a farewell to the 1960s. Is there any more iconic a moment than the very beautiful Grace Slick trying to mediate between
the Hell's Angels and the hippies? "Let's not keep fucking up, people." If you want to know how artists like Mick Jagger
were achieving the power of prophets in those turbulent times, just watch him and the world's greatest rock n' roll
band perform "Sympathy for the Devil." That ain't celebrity, baby; that's diabolism.
35. Fast Times at Ridgemont High ([Summer?] 1982) This classic film from my pubescent
years has one of the greatest casts ever, including Sean Penn before he went commie. It may be anathema to some I know, but
I'd watch Fast Times a hundred times in a row before I'd even watch the credits to Animal House. "Fuh-huhhh...Mr.
35. Beverly Hills Cop (Dec 1984) This is back when Eddie Murphy was my absolute
favorite comic. He was cool, subversive, and a likable chickenshit. And that is how I will remember him. "Is this the same
man who wrecked the buffet at the Harrow Club this morning?" Tee hee.
36. Romeo and Juliet (1967) Franco Zefferelli's movie of Shakespeare's most famous
high school reading assignment is simply beautiful in every way. The title characters are perfectly cast. I can think of two
times in my whole movie-watching life that the mere sight of a woman's face made me tear up ---and the first time Leonard
Whiting looks into Olivia Hussey's eyes is one of them. The score is beautiful, too, especially Mancini's title theme.
37. The Man Who Would Be King (1975) My friend Tim Covey turned me on to this movie
---and what a gem. Sean Connery and Michael Caine as a couple of travelers who stumble into a life a few ranks above their
pay grade, shall we say. Beautifully filmed in Morocco, it is based on a Rudyard Kipling short story. Directed by John Huston,
who, I have read, has also done some other movies.
38. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Apr 1968) I always thought it was funny that Kubrick
denied the psychedelic appeal of this masterpiece, as though all the hippies and wannabe hippies back in '68 were just getting
him wrong. In any event, this is a vastly curious film. Something like three-quarters of it has no dialogue. But lots of great
music, as ever with Kubrick. See it on the big screen, as they say. And, as in the words on a banner stolen from a spud dispensery
and hanged from the balcony of a student's apartment near the UT campus back in the early 1990s, "You'll love it baked!"
39. Night Shift (1986?) A very funny movie about two city morgue employees who
decide to become pimps. I don't think Michael Keaton has ever improved upon his performance here (and I'm certain
Henry Winkler never did), unless it was in Johnny Dangerously. "Hey, kid, you like rock n' roll?"
40. Raising Arizona (1989) Raising Arizona is pure genius. The dialogue
is brilliant and the performances are just as good. Jones always likes the part where John Goodman and is buddy come
up out of the mud while tunneling out of prison, like in some sort of perverse birthing experience. "I don't know!
It had Yodas and shit all over it!"
41. Johnny Dangerously (1987?) What a fun movie. "Oh, God! How
do you get laid in the 1930s?!"
42. Blade Runner (1985?) I rather prefer the original theatrical version with
the voice-over and the happy ending, but the Director's Cut is also fine. Science fiction at its best. And Roy Batty is a
patron saint to all who suffer panic attacks. Did you know that? Always hurting himself in some way to verify that he is still
in his own body. I can never watch his death scene without tears in my eyes: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those
moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." Beautiful.