This is a list of movies that I recommend without reservation.
It's a list-in-progress. I expect to update this post for many months to come, maybe longer.
They are imho as close to perfect as movies get. They're the movies that I would feel I was doing you a disservice if we were friends and I didn't tell you how important these stories are to me. I've been meaning to do this for a long time. It's not something you write and then are done with. It's something you evolve, discuss with others, add things to, and maybe, although it's never happened, take something off. These are the kinds of movies that really are so good it would be wrong to even think about removing them.
I started this list in an email exchange with my movie-loving friend, NakedJen. She has told me some of hers. I will happily share the editorial tools I'm using for this so she can do what I'm doing, in her own style of course. :-)
I've included spoilers, but they are collapsed. So when you see a blue wedge with stuff underneath it that isn't expanded, if you haven't seen the movie, don't expand it.
The need for this list became apparent when walking in the park with a friend who had not seen The Big Lebowski. This is someone who must see it. Whose life is incomplete without it. That every year spent living without seeing this movie is a year spent without proper context and grounding.
Starring Jeff Bridges as The Dude. John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman. And so many great lines!
Then I started thinking about other movies he may not have seen. The one that always pops into my mind when this question arises is the great Martin Scorcese film with the fantastic plot, acting, scenery, stars and of course editing. The first time I saw the movie I sat upright in my chair, eyes straight forward, every sense activated. i didn't want to miss one thing. Yet, a few years later, after having seen it at least five times, I'm still tuning into big themes in the story.
Spoiler: Last time I watched it, I picked up that Matt Damon's character is saying his last line in the movie all through out the movie in one way or another. It seems his main idea is resignation. His message is "I'm ready to die now." He says it all the time!
Look, let's get real -- we live in the Matrix. Aside from being a fuck-you-up great movie with acting, action, love, heroism, ego, soul (excessive amounts of it) and being sci-fi, and dark bordering on goth -- it's a true story!
Another movie I can watch over and over. The whole thing is done in uff-dah Wiscowtown talk, which I love. I totally had the hots for Frances McDormand. Almost any Coen Brothers movie is great. But this is the one where imho everything came together for them. Also the first big movie with Steve Buscemi (for me at least). Every single part of the movie is great. Tons of laughs, but also sweetness.
I think Tim Burton is great, except of all his films, only Beetlejuice makes this unqualified-great list. Two others come close: Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. His early movies had an edge of darkness and cruelty to them, beneath the humor. They took risks, and didn't follow anyone's formulas except for Burton's. But over time his movies have lost their originality and have become more standard Hollywood drek, as original as a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel (one of the very small number of movies I've walked out on). Until recently I'd go to every Burton movie, hoping to see another Beetlejuice, but after so many disappointments, these days I don't even go. Last one I saw was Dark Shadows.
But enough about the drek. Beetlejuice!
All the great characters, the NY socialites, the country bumpkin, the goth daughter, the gay decorator, the rich real estate developer. And dead people! And the actors. Oh my god. Geena Davis who I would give it all up for. A young Alec Baldwin. Winona. And music and comedy, and really tacky special effects. It's the best, a laugh a minute.
The third Coen Brothers movie on my list. Another movie I can watch from beginning to end any time and never get tired of it, because of the pure evil of Javier Bardem playing the assassin.
Spoiler: The scene near the end of the movie with Carla Jean, the wife of the protagonist where she says "You don't have to do this," and the killer explains that they always say that. And then of course he kills her. But before that he gives a speech that chills, that explains a lot about the roles we play in other people's lives.
It's a perfect movie, like all the others on this list. Every character supports a story which is both typical Coen Brothers (life is random) but also funny in a fatalistic way. You never laugh at the jokes in this movie, but you're left with a lot of feelings of humor at the end of it.
The Sixth Sense
Hannah and her Sisters
Silence of the Lambs
There Will Be Blood
Any Given Sunday