I’m happy to be invited to share my peculiar tastes for Tomeric’s massive favorite film marathon over here at Guts and Grog. When he asked me to make a list of my top 10 favorite films, I didn’t realize just how difficult that would be. You really have to think. Ever meet someone who can’t name a few of their favorite movies, and just shrug and name a genre? I can’t put my mind around feeling that way. Movies are a passion of mine, and so I had to ponder my choices and go over my decisions very painstakingly.
I can’t say exactly that these are the best movies ever made. That’s all opinion anyway. But I have never been swayed by popular opinion. Most of the time if the majority likes something it is bound to suck. Look at it this way: Titanic, Forrest Gump and The English Patient all won Oscars for best picture, and those movies blow dog dick.
The movies I’ve picked may be snubbed by film snobs and too bizarre for mainstream audiences. Fine. To each their own. Go away. That’s why I call this the greatest flicks I’ve ever seen. It’s my list. Nothing’s going to change my choices.
10. LOST HIGHWAY
Lynch is hit or miss for me. I love his earlier work that is surreal and yet tells a clear tale (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks) but I can’t stand the gibberish of Inland Empire or Mulholland Drive. For me, his best work is Lost Highway, a very dark story of a mental breakdown that sends a wife murder into a spell of mental delusion that transforms his reality. But this psychogenic fugue state (Google it) begins to fall apart for him as the terrible truth about what he has done refuses to allow him to escape into fantasy.
While the film is very nebulous and leaves much for the viewer to assemble, I do believe this is still a straightforward Lynch film. It is beautiful nightmare created through creepy visuals, a bizarre cast, moody pacing and generous nods to noir and horror cinema.
9. THE WRESTLER
This is a down-to-earth portrait of a former wrestling superstar who finds his life in shambles now that he’s past middle age. He longs to regain his former glory and to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Even as his inner demons prove to be self-destructive, his desire for triumph carries his wounded heart as he presses on to an incredibly moving finale.
Mickey Rourke is one of my favorite actors, and this was a great comeback for the real life ex-boxer. He gives us some bone-breaking fight scenes in this, as well as moments that will make even the toughest dude tear up, such as this scene between father and daughter…
8. BATMAN RETURNS
I have been a Batman nerd for as long as I can remember. I don’t read the comics anymore but I still cherish the realm of Gotham and love the animated series and some of the films. I really enjoy Nolan’s saga. The Dark Knight is a powerful movie, and is in most regards the best Batman movie ever made.
However, I derive the most enjoyment from Tim Burton’s dark, brooding Batman Returns, with its fatalistic perspective, bondage references, child-killing mutants and a Christmas backdrop for circus-like violence. I appreciate the suggestions of split personalities, and the tragic Romeo and Juliet style approach to Batman’s relationship with Catwoman.
Michael Keaton is my all-time favorite man behind the mask and he outshines his other roles in this flick. DeVito is wonderfully repulsive and Pfeiffer has never been more delicious as the ultimate femme fatale.
This is the greatest movie about the human spirit ever made.
Most of you have seen this, and I’m sure you’ll agree that this film, like its protagonist, is all heart. It is inspiring, moving and the grueling match climax is just about the most suspenseful thing you’ll ever see on screen. If you haven’t seen this you need to get your shit together, bro.
I am a horror writer because of John Carpenter’s Halloween. When I saw this classic for the first time I was 12 years old and it completely changed my life. I became obsessed with horror films and books and began to devour as much of the culture as I could. I wanted to tell stories as scary as this, and have spent my entire life since perfecting my craft and studying the genre.
Telling the seemingly simple tale of a psychotic murderer coming home for Halloween (and the anniversary of his first kill) this remains one of the most tense and incredible pieces of horror movie history.
5. TRUE GRIT
This is an excellent Coen brothers’ film that is much truer to the book than the John Wayne version. Jeff Bridges is marvelous as the surly U.S. Marshall, Rooster Cogburn, in this classic western tale of revenge out on the open range.
In this film, a young girl hires the help of the aging gunman, Cogburn, who teams up with a Texas Ranger so they can hunt down the man who killed her father. The retribution-focused film is not just a celebration of bravado, but rather a powerful and moving film that deals with the bond of family as well as the integrity of even the most scruffy, drunken cowboy.
If this trailer doesn’t entice you, nothin’ will, son:
4. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Based off of one of my favorite books of all time, this Coen brothers epic deals with subject matter as topical as drug smuggling on the border while also tackling themes as profound as the nature of fate, embodying death, facing a changing world as one ages, and what is to be man in today’s America, as well as yesterday’s.
Focusing on a trio of cowboys in 1980 (one a welder/antelope hunter, one an aging sheriff, and one a relentless, ghost-like manhunter), this is the story of bad money found by a desperate man, which leads to an ultraviolent chase across Texas. Particularly memorable is the character of Anton Cigurh, played by Javier Bardem, who - in my opinion -is easily the most frightening character in a non-horror film.
Poetic, intense, chilling, and extremely thought provoking, this is easily one the greatest films I have ever seen and the most interesting to debate the true meaning of.
3. THE THING
John Carpenter is one of my favorite filmmakers. He has a style that is uniquely his own and he has given us some of the most incredible films in the genres of cult and horror (In the Mouth of Madness, They Live, Prince of Darkness).
In this apocalyptic nightmare, a shape-shifting creature slowly begins to infiltrate a remote research team in rural Antarctica. It takes over the men, kills them, and then replaces them. One by one we get to watch the men unravel, turning against each other as the alien being shuts down their only safe-haven.
This movie deals with so many terrors: the fear of losing one’s identity, the fear of contagion and plague, claustrophobia, the fear of the cold and the dark, xenophobia, the fear of mistrust and betrayal. All of this and more makes it a glorious sci-fi horror achievement.
2. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST
Most people hail Sergio Leone’s fantastic Man With No Name trilogy. While I love those films, they don’t come anywhere near the majesty of this epic western saga. Often hailed as an opera of violence, this movie centers on a lonely widow and the three different men who enter her life: all of them men of the gun.
Charles Bronson shines as Harmonica, the mysterious stranger who is fast on the draw, Robards is filthy and fantastic as the outlaw Cheyenne, Fonda is pure evil as the villainous Frank, and the gorgeous Claudia Cardinale really mystifies in her role as the headstrong widow, Jill.
The film’s hypnotic style and exceptional cinematography capture a movie as big as the Wild West itself, bursting with all the passion, bloodshed and determination that encompassed that lost age.
Just watch this mesmerizing opening scene:
And number one for me is…
- BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA
Sure it’s not the most intense, gorgeous, or cinematically stunning or anything like that. But this Carpenter vehicle has everything: comedy, monsters, sorcery, martial arts, big trucks, intense action, gun fights, knife fights, gang wars and, best of all, the greatest movie character of all time: Mr. Jack Burton.
He’s the big-rig trucker who found himself in the wrong place at the right time to help save the day in his own bumbling way.
Kurt Russell should have gotten every award in the world for his portrayal of the hero who lets his sidekick do most of the ass-kicking against an ancient demon who must marry a girl with green eyes to become flesh. Sound like the best plot ever? Damn right it does!
John Carpenter scores again, and having three of his films on this list, I think it’s safe to say he’s my favorite filmmaker. The reason I love his films so much is presented best with Big Trouble in Little China. It is a film that stands up to an exceptional amount of viewings without ever getting old or boring. I have been watching this almost yearly since I was 8, and for the years ranging 8 to 12 I watched it monthly, at least.
Big Trouble in Little China is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful freakin’ movie. Simply the best flick ever to bless my old TV set.
So there is my top 10 list, but as I mentioned in the opening you didn’t read, picking a top ten was difficult. So here are some very honorable mentions: The Proposition, Angel Heart, Broken Flowers, Unforgiven, About Schmidt, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Big Lebowski, Inside, Behind the Mask, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Bad Santa, I Saw the Devil, They Live, National Lampoon’s Vacation, First Blood and almost all horror movies from the 80’s.
Kristopher Triana is an author and the head of Tavern of Terror. His book, Growing Dark, is scheduled for publication this winter. Be sure to look for it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and in bookstores everywhere.