Sunday, October 31, 2010

Top Ten Movies

Top 10 (Favorite) Movies

The following are the ten movies that I like best. Please note that in no way am I claiming these are the best ever made. Instead I am merely saying that these are my ten favorite films and attempting to justify that opinion. You may agree or disagree and I would love to hear your reasoning as to why to agree or disagree or even what ten movies would inhabit your own list and why.

Number 10 - KING KONG (1933)

King Kong is a fairly simple story but it marks one of the first, and arguably still one of the best, monster movies ever created. Using stop-motion and giant puppets King Kong uses practical effects that were impressive for its day and weren't surpassed until the advent of CGI in the late 20th Century. The fact that such great special effects were implemented before WW2 seems utterly incredible to me.

The story is simple, yet fairly deep. The story is a metaphor of sorts. The barbaric animalistic Kong covets Ms. Ann Darrow and carries her away. I believe this is a statement about the animal within us all, the ape within, and our fear of where we came from or fear of the unknown, the darkness of the jungle.

I also feel that King Kong is more tragic hero than monster in the film. While he does kidnap Ann he does so only because she is offered as a sacrifice and she is beautiful. He spends the remainder of the film attempting to defend her as any man would defend his woman. King Kong battles badass dinosaurs and combats those who seek to take Ann away from him and in the end we are offered one of cinema's most enduring lines. It was beauty that killed the beast...

Number 9 - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Star Wars has always held a special place for me. As a kid growing up I could quote the original Trilogy by heart. There is something very alluring about the story. Lucas and his fellow filmmakers created a movie that mixed medieval magic with futuristic cities and a Father Son struggle that is pure archetype. It is this struggle between Father and Son, both physical and emotional, that makes Empire one of the best sequels ever made and one of my Top Ten favorite films.

Empire Strikes Back continued Star Wars' legacy of fantastic special effects, solid plot and compelling characters. It carried the saga to dark places with all the characters facing peril at one point or another and death just a misstep away at all times. Empire is a triumph of filmmaking and has kept the sci-fi nerd in me very happy.

Number 8 - The Dark Knight (2008)

When Chris Nolan took over the Batman franchise I had no idea who he was but Batman Begins had served as a solid origin story to a character I grew up loving. The Dark Knight, however, took that to a whole new level.

Heath Ledger - When I heard he was going to be the Joker I was flabbergasted. After all one of the "gay" guys from Brokeback Mountain hardly seems an obvious choice for a sadistic psychopathic arch nemesis. His performance turned out to be the best Joker ever. It helped, a great deal, that he was given some of the best dialogue I've ever heard from a villain. Joker truly is a rogue element in Gotham, he doesn't seem to desire anything and he considers society a joke. He's an anarchist and complete lunatic and he acts accordingly. Undoubtedly the Joker stole the show and upstaged Christian Bale by a mile.

Nolan delivered the best batman film to date with The Dark Knight and while not flawless the film is definitely one of my favorites.

Number 7 - Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the Apes has been a favorite of mine for years. It is a sci-fi lovers dream. Worked on by the likes of Rod Serling (Twilight Zone) The Planet of the Apes tells the story of what happens when a ship flying near the speed of light crash lands on a strange planet. As most of you hopefully know if the ship is moving near the speed of light time moves much slower for it than for those back on Earth.

The film features some of the best make-up work ever done and presents certain social dilemmas, such as the Science Vs. Religion issue, flawlessly. Ape society is much like ours used to be, science is a religious institution and religion is in bed with all levels of government. Those that seek to learn the "forbidden" truths that lie in the Forbidden Zone are looked down upon. Those that question the state religion, even if they have facts to back them up, are in deep trouble.

Planet of the Apes also has one of the best twist endings and while modern moviegoers will have no trouble seeing it coming (if they don't already know it) it still makes for one of the most iconic scenes in movie history. This scene serves as a warning of what might happen if we lose our grip on sanity and destroy ourselves.

Number 6 - 12 Angry Men (1957)

It might seem odd for a male in his early twenties to appreciate so old a film but 12 Angry Men has been a staple of my cinema diet since I was twelve. In fact I've probably seen this movie more times than any other movie on the list and I watch it every time I get the chance.

The story is simple but expertly told. 12 jurors must decide whether a man is innocent or guilty of murder. When they go in eleven of the men are voting guilty and one is voting not guilty. One by one, using logic and the evidence of the case itself, this one man, played by Henry Fonda, manages to convince the others that sending the defendant to his death, or to life in prison, is not worth it. The film touches upon prejudice, impatience, and other themes and helps illustrate the way the United States Justice System is meant to operate.

Number 5 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2 is the sequel to James Cameron's first Terminator film which, while also a big favorite of mine, did not make the top ten. Terminator 2 takes the things that made the first film great and multiplies them. The special effects here are fantastic and this is one of the first films to take full advantage of CGI effects.

The story here is sci-fi perfection. A Machine disguised as a human is sent back in time to exterminate humanity's savior, John Connor. This film helped cement the already popular Arnold Schwarzenegger as a staple of action films and switched him from villain (like he was in the Terminator) to hero. He delivers one of his best and funniest performances playing a machine that isn't meant to have emotion.

Number 4 - Groundhog Day (1993)

Groundhog Day is about one of those hypothetical philosophical situations that most of us have been asked about. What if you were stuck reliving the same day? This film explores many of the implications of just such an event and it does so with both humor and heart.

Bill Murray plays a self-centered sarcastic douche who is sent in, reluctantly, to cover the famed Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, PA. He gets himself stuck in an endless loop of Groundhog Days. Hilarity ensues. He attempts to kill himself, he attempts to seduce his co-worker and, in the end, learns a lesson about selflessness and bettering oneself. Bill Murray rules.

Number 3 - Inception (2010)

I'd rather not spoil anything for you since I know there are still people out there who haven't seen this one. Basically technology is developed that allows people to share dreams with one another. This leads to high-tech espionage where people attempt to infiltrate other people's dreams and steal information. Far harder than stealing ideas is implanting them... or inception.

This is the second film by Chris Nolan to be on the list and I feel it is his best film to date. The movie is both action packed, visually impressive and boasts a philosophically robust plot.

Number 2 - Star Wars (1977)

I think I've said plenty already about how much I love Star Wars. In 1977 George Lucas seemed to come out of nowhere. He delivered one of the best films ever made and revitalized and inspired both the science fiction and fantasy genres.

Number 1 - Aliens (1986)

Aliens is the sequel to Ridley Scott's excellent film, Alien (1979). Set more than five decades after the events of Alien James Cameron's sequel takes the film from gothic sci-fi horror to the realm of sci-fi action. The sequel introduces a team of Space Marines, mercenaries sent by the company, Weyland-Yutani, to investigate a rash of disappearances on the colony LV-426.

Aliens has one of the strongest female characters in cinematic history in Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) who helps the Space Marines in their struggle to survive. Aliens also showcases some of the best practical effects ever produced including the legendary Alien queen which looks better than any CGI I've ever seen to this day.

With good writing, memorable characters, solid acting and special effects that stand the test of time Aliens is undoubtedly number one in my Top 10 Films list. Thank you for reading and remember to stay frosty.

For those interested the next 10 movies (if I were to have a top 20) would be as follows:

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Matrix
The Terminator
Back to the Future
The Thing
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Shaun of the Dead
Children of Men
Ghost Busters