My next younger brother (Who, has stated repeatedly, that he was just trying to make conversation.) asked me, what has turned out, to be THE most thought-provoking question, of my entire life: What are the top 10 movies of all time?  Firstly—how does one even define the question?  I mean . . . there are SOO many types of movies. . . .  As a friend of mine (He's actually the Webmaster [of this page].  :) ;) ) once quipped, "If one were to judge The Bridges of Madison County as a monster movie, it would get a zero—as it doesn't have a monster.  (!)" He makes a good–and eminently salient–point: What about the best of each genre?

      What about a horror movie?  Rest Stop was about, the most intellectual horror movie I have ever seen—if you don't see why, you just didn't get it.  (I have yet to communicate, with someone who has.)  I seriously considered both Godzilla, and Shin Godzilla (both for the same reasons)—and the The Babadook.  (They're THAT good.)

      Okay, then—how about a comedy? –an action film? –a porn?  Ultimately, no.  Aside from being sidesplittingly funny, there were none I could take that seriously.

      My next younger brother, took a very simple approach to the problem: Just list the movies that YOU most enjoy.  That . . . just . . . wouldn't . . . work.  I genuinely ENJOY watching "The Beast of Yucca Flats," "Mystery Men," and "Krull."  (And I strongly expect, I'm going to seriously enjoy "An American Hippie in Israel."  :) ;) ) Finally, it came down to . . . QUALITY.

      There were some near misses, I really feel I should mention—"The African Queen" and "Life is Beautiful" amoung them.

      Okay. And I find that I can't move forward, without addressing the MASTODON in the room.  There's one that didn't fit the list.  I don't know what to call it, but it is NOT a film; were it so, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," would be at number one.

      So . . . after a year and a half, of introspection, research, and hundreds of hours of viewing, here is my FINAL list, of the top ten movies of all time.

1) Blade Runner

Arguably one of the most thematically dense, and analyzed works of the 20th century, "Blade Runner"–even after the passage of decades, and the most extraordinary increase in special effects technology imaginable–stands without equal.  Noirish, mezmerizing, beautiful—it makes us question what it is to be us.  And the magical score by Vangelis, stands as perhaps the best movie score, of all time.  (Just drive the QEW, at night, with it playing—if you don't (immediately) see what I mean.  ;) ) –Without parallel, watching this film, is very nearly a "religious experience" for me.  Having seen it over 26 times (I try to limit myself, to once a year. . . .), and after several years of researching it—I feel that I don't even yet fully understand it.

Taking over 25 years, for it to even make AFI's 100 Years . . . 100 Movies—when I saw this film, for the first time, in 1986, I KNEW what we had.  I predicted, then and there, that there would be classes taught [on Blade Runner], in twenty or twenty-five years hence.  And there are.  Blade Runner, stands head and shoulders, above any movie I have ever seen.  I'm just waiting for the rest of the world, to come to the same (inevitable(?) :) ;) ) conclusion.

2) The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

A late addition [to this list] . . . when I first tried to watch [it], I couldn't even get through it.  (The deliberately–almost comedically–frenetic pace, at the beginning of the movie, was just too much.)

Where to even begin?  This film portrays–exquisitely–the illusion of the passage of time; the sets are incredible; and the cinematography—the scene, of the duel, alone—passing out through the roof and snowstorm: Timeless. . . .

Further, the thoughtful, sympathetic—even, portrayal of a German officer. Addressing the dichotomy of a culture that started two world wars (MILLIONS dead)—yet so appreciates high culture. (Usually they are just portrayed as monsters, c.f. "Le Roi de cœur (The King of Hearts).")

–And the COURAGE of filming this, during the height of the Blitz. (!!!!)

I find that I just can't do justice to this amazing film, with my review.  Please take the time to read Roger Ebert's review.

Just one excerpt from said:

That led to an encounter between Churchill and Walbrook, recounted by the British film critic Derek Malcolm: "Churchill's reaction was furious. He is said to have stormed into Walbrook's dressing room when he was appearing in a West End play demanding: 'What's this film supposed to mean? I suppose you regard it as good propaganda for Britain.' Anton's reply was quite telling, he said 'No people in the world other than the English would have had the courage, in the midst of war, to tell the people such unvarnished truth'."


7/9/2020 Thursday

And be sure to check out Martin Scorsese's take, on this amazing film: Martin Scorsese Introduces The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.


And on top of all this, this is the story of a gentleman's gentleman, sticking–flawlessly–to a higher code, through UNIMAGINABLE challenges. . . .  This film shows us the best we can be—in the worst of times.

I like this film, "Very much."

:) ;)

3) Citizen Kane

Okay. Grudgingly, I put this here.

4) Casablanca

This film has worked its way into our very culture, with a record number of most memorable movie quotes, from AFI's 100 Years . . . 100 Movie Quotes (6, compared to 3 each, for "Gone with the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz" (I considered both for this list.))—lines from a 60-some year old film, which EVERYBODY knows.

One of the most amazing things about this film—is that it was never meant to make it.  It was a B-rated, low budget, pulp moneymaker.  Just why and how this rose to one of the greatest films of all time, well . . . watch the film.  Humphrey Bogart Rules.  I had no idea he was such a class act—both on and off the screen.

Of note, this is my Father's all-time favourite film.

5) The Tree of Life

      Four decades, into an already legendary career, Terence Malick ("Days of Heaven," etc, Etc, ETC. (!) ) graced us, with the absolutely STUNNING "The Tree of Life."

      Okay. I missed this, but. . . .

      A column in The The New Yorker (which I have been reading for, I'm not going to admit how many years (. . . .)) made note of the fact that the film credited Thomas Wilfred's lumia composition Opus 161, as the source of the "flame" at the beginning and the end of the film.

      So, I took the time, to track it down.  The first one is silent (as it was meant to be), and 20:01 minutes.  The second one is 1:02 minutes, and "noisy"—but will give one "the idea. . . ."  (I–of course–recommend the first.)

Opus 161 (20:01) minutes

Opus 161 (1:02) minutes

      An experimental film, here is the way I interpret the movie—at least on a "first pass. . . ."  The movie contrasts two "life philosophies"—the way of Faith, and the way of [one's own] nature.  It is also implied, that those who follow "the way of Faith," "never come to a bad end."

      Now, the way the film communicates, these two ways of life—are through some of the most stunning visual allegory, I have ever seen.  Ironically enough, when the "way of Faith" is being portrayed, one is shown scenes, from nature.  Thus, when Sean Penn's (extraordinary casting choice, BTW) character, is contemplating "the way of Faith," it is communicated to the viewer, by scenes from nature.

      With these two things in mind, most of the film "falls into one's lap."  But, not all.  What does the scene, where he walks through the door, in the desert mean?  How does one interpret that?  On the first viewing, I thought that that meant, that the character had died.  (!)

      I also think, the film provides, a shockingly personal view, into Terence Malick's own childhood.

      And I'm convinced I know how Terence Malick did this movie.  He just took a WHOLE bunch of shots, that HE liked—and then strung them all together, into this opus.  Had anyone else attempted this, it would have been (at best) presumptuous; however, with Malick, it is Pure Magic.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough.

6) Shojo Kakumei Utena Aduresensu Mokushiroku (Adolescence of Utena)

(At first) Both mystifying and mysterious, elegant and elegaic—stunningly beautiful, Shojo Kakumei Utena Aduresensu Mokushiroku, is probably the least accessible [film] on this list.  Although at times quite chatty, the film communicates–primarily–through incredible visual allegory.  The film exists on many levels, and invites the viewer to interpret them as they will.  Critics (and detractors abound) of the film may argue, that this is all "dreamy, phantasmagorical nonsense"—however, people who've taken the time and energy to work all the way through (and there aren't many), invariably come to the same conclusion(s).  An absolute masterpiece—a gem of such polished allegorical wonder, that the passage of a rose petal through the air, provides the (determined) viewer, with a major plot point.

Worth noting–unlike the above [entry (#4)]–when I showed my Dad this film, at the end, he said, "That's the stupidest movie, I ever saw!"

7) Koyaanisqatsi

Wow. Where to even begin? [Koyaanisqatsi] "redefines the potential of filmmaking" (The Hollywood Reporter).  Images flash past, too quickly for thought—too quickly for analysis; they just flow in, into one's very soul.  THE most stunning cinematography, I have EVER seen.

(No. I have not seen Baraka.)

8) The Night of the Hunter

The WAY this film was shot . . . extraordinary.  Charles Laughton employed the harsh, angular look of German expressionist films of the 1920's.  To quote wikipedia:

"The film was shot in black and white in the styles and motifs of German Expressionism (bizarre shadows, stylized dialogue, distorted perspectives, surrealistic sets, odd camera angles) to create a simplified and disturbing mood that reflects the sinister character of Powell, the nightmarish fears of the children, and the sweetness of their savior Rachel."

And the lighting . . . incredible.  Also wikipedia:

"A lighting arrangement in The Night of the Hunter. Note the placement of the key light off the subject, (Lillian Gish), to create a silhouette while illuminating Robert Mitchum in the background. This plays off the conventional association of light with good and darkness with evil."

The film has proven to be extraordinarily seminal, influencing David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Terrence Malick, Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, and the Coen brothers—to name a few.

Light years ahead of its time, with Robert Mitchum giving the performance of a lifetime—this is a VERY disturbing film.  And if one "reads between the lines," just a little bit . . . it becomes even more so.  However, the movie is–ultimately–triumphant.

And–perhaps unique in the history of Hollywood–a realistic portrayal, of someone being shot.

Of note, John Kricfalusi–creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show–considers "The Night of the Hunter" as his all-time favourite film.

At first I couldn't place him (Although I knew. . . .)—a young (!!) Peter Graves, plays one of the most noble, tragic of characters—"I got tired of seein' children roamin' the woodlands without food, children roamin' the highways in this here Depression, children sleepin' in old abandoned car bodies in junk heaps. And I promised myself that I'd never see the day when my young-uns had want."

As I just got finished telling my next younger brother. . . .

See . . . this . . . film.  (!)

9) Gates of Heaven

This backwater gem–I wouldn't even have known about it, if not for my research into "top movie lists"–is . . . profound.  And here's the thing about this movie—it isn't even a movie.  (!!!!) The director just pointed the camera at some peeps, over a period of something like 2 & 1/2 years—and then edited it together.  –[It is] Perhaps unparalleled—in its potrayal, of the bond we humans, have with our doggies.  And listen to the line, said by an ordinary woman, at the end of the film.  You won't get that out of your mind any time soon; Steinbeck would've given his left nut for it.

And apparently, Werner Herzog DID eat his shoe. . . .

10) The Third Man

I had heard a LOT of "buzz" about this movie.  To be completely honest, I had expected it to be as overly-hyped, as Citizen Kane.

I am very pleased to note, however, that this film held up to the praise.  The "reveal" [of Harry Lime]—and how it was managed, is–I believe–one of the greatest moments of cinema.  –And the bit with the parrot.

:) :) :) :)

Atmosphere, cinematography, [musical] score—and a superbly acted plot, that just won't quit—this one has earned its berth, as one of cinema's greats.  Just some of the quotes, alone. . . .

In one scene (with some of the finest cinematography, I've seen—outside of a Kurosawa film), Harry Lime meets with Holly Martins on the Wiener Riesenrad, the large Ferris wheel in the Prater amusement park in Vienna.  From on high, Harry says,

"You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax - the only way you can save money nowadays."

(One could make a point, for a great movie—on that quote alone.)

And later, he says,

"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly."

I think that's one of the greatest movie quotes, well, ever.  And it makes a . . . beyond distressing point: War–for all its obscenity–speeds human progress, like nothing else.  Harry Lime, in an offhand, pithy, and dispassionate manner, so completely drives this home. . . .

11) Barton Fink

      Although technically displaced, when I added Terence Malick's The Tree of Life—I found I just couldn't, take this one down. . . .

      The most decorated film in the history of The Cannes Film Festival, this is one amazing gem.  The story of how it was created, its portrayal of the Hotel Earle. . . . I actually have a 'Web link on this one.  Please see it for more.

      Some of you, learned on the subject(s), may have noticed some "notable omissions"—"The Godfather" amoung them.  To be brutally honest, this may be a personal reflection, on my repugnance for organized crime movies.  When violence becomes REAL, I can't stand it anymore.  The thought of one human being, walking into a room, and ending the life of another–"Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have." (William Munny (Clint Eastwood), "Unforgiven")–is UNTHINKABLE.  Although I readily admit its quality, I can barely watch "The Godfather" (or any credible war movie, for that matter).

      The "notable omission," that absolutely STUNS me, however—is the absence of any films by Akira Kurosawa.  Akira Kurosawa, is–high and above–the finest director, of the 20th century—the age of the birth of film.  However, even "Ikiru" (STUNNING) didn't make the list. . . .  However, for body of work, non pareil.

      An *INCREDIBLE* amount of thought, went into the above list—the only ones that were easy, were 1 and 10.  (Which I guess is now 11. . . .)

      After I finished the rough draft of this page, (completely without planning to) I ran it past Paul—who works in the video department, at Nashua Barnes & Noble.  I have been told that there are two PhD's, who work in the video department (I applied–and was rebuffed–otherwise, there would have been three. . . .  :) ;) )—and I strongly suspect he is one of them.  Regardless, this guy is the real goods, when it comes to movies (Countless times, I have mentioned some obscure flick, from like the '70's and. . . .).  His response was, "Good list. It shows good balance."

      I take that as high praise indeed.

      And I'm sorry—but I'm afraid Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is not on the list.  It is important to note, that that film marked the first documented appearance of Mrs. Claus in a motion picture (played by Doris Rich).  [It was] Released just three weeks before Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

      :) ;)

      Raves for this page.