So talk of how the Oscars are supposed to be honoring the best that movies gave us in the past year has got me thinking about the best that movies have ever given me, as in: creating a top ten of all time. Naturally, since I've seen literally thousands of movies, it's difficult for me to pick ten. I think I've done a pretty decent job, I'll put any of these movies up against any measure of masterpiece that anyone wants to throw out there. So, let's dive right in.
Also, since I only wrote one entry last month, I'm going to break these up into separate posts like I did for my top ten movies of the decade. That way it gives me more motivation to write something, and a bit of extra focus for whoever reads this onto each movie.
Also just like my top ten of the decade, I simply couldn't pick just ten, so I gave a jury prize. But since I'm choosing from 100+ years of filmmaking instead of 10, I gave myself 10 spots to give as Jury Prizes (deal with it). I've written about 4 1/2 of these previously, so I'm just going to do this entry as a standard list, though in no particular order, with release years and directors in parenthesis and just a sentence or two of justification:
On the Waterfront (1954, Elia Kazan)
Brando giving the greatest performance I've ever seen, not hard for me to put it on here. The "I coulda been a contenda" scene has lost none of its emotional power over 50+ years and endless parody. The movie that convinced me of Brando's genius.
Fanny and Alexander (1982, Ingmar Bergman)
The notoriously dour Bergman retired after making this wonderfully brilliant movie that was originally a 5 hour mini-series for Swedish television that he then edited down into a 3-hour theatrical film for international release. It's like the great story Dickens never wrote, with unexpected humor and warmth, mixed with some traditional Bergman supernatural elements and philosophical pondering.
Children of Men (2006, Alfonso Cuaron)
What's to say? My #1 of the past decade, and in my top list of all time.
Unforgiven (1992, Clint Eastwood)
I never thought that westerns could get better than the endlessly fascinating (if heavily flawed) The Searchers, the high point of the careers of legends John Ford and John Wayne. That, however, was before I saw Clint Eastwood's tour-de-force, which has all the power of the Ford masterpiece, with none of the flat humor or worthless side characters. I actually got chill bumps during the film's climax, and that almost never happens.
Rififi (1955, Jules Dassin)
I wrote about it before, and it's still the best French film I've ever seen. The tense-tastic 30-minute silent heist sequence is one of the great slices of film ever given to us.
The General (1927, Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman)
I once thought this was Keaton's greatest achievement, then I delved deeper into his oeuvre and found further genius. This, though, is still obviously one of the great movies.
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog)
A movie that haunted me like only one other has (and it's going to show up in the list proper). Herzog gives us the king of the Heart of Darkness films (which, naturally, includes Coppola's Apocalypse Now). The bat-shit crazy Klaus Kinski gives one of the best performances I've ever seen as the, well, bat-shit crazy Don Lope de Aguirre. He plays a different brand of crazy though, I assure you.
Dead Man Walking (1995, Tim Robbins)
This is the movie I always first think of when asked what movies have affected me the most emotionally. I cried like I've never cried before during the last 30 minutes or so of this movie. Truly some of the greatest filmmaking I've seen.
Pan's Labyrinth (2006, Guillermo del Toro)
I don't see my love diminishing for my #2 of the decade. I watched it again recently and was still blown away by it.
Seven Samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa)
Like The General, I once thought this was the pinnacle achieved by one of my favorite directors, but that was not the case. Kurosawa will undoubtedly show up in the real top ten, with his real masterpiece.
So, 5 foreign movies and a silent? Oh, that's right. I'm a nerd. And proud of it.