Wednesday, October 8, 2008

That Tabor Guy's Top 50 Films of All-Time

(Above Picture: Donnie and Frank take Gretchen to the movies)

I have always intensely enjoyed movies. I think my earliest memory was going to see Return of the Jedi in the theatre when I was 3 years old. A great film can always touch a spiritual cord in me that I can't get from day-to-day life or even football for that matter. I usually avoid blockbusters. (Movies that are created for making money rather than being genuine or creative.) I tend to lean towards movies that hinge on symbolism, tragedy, and the human condition. Most of the great movies that fit into this group for me have been created within the last 15 years or so. So that means you aren't gonna see many classics, musicals, or dumbass comedies from the 80's. I hope my readers will give this list a chance and perhaps give you some rental ideas for a rainy day. I recently had to expand this list to 52 in order to make room for the new additions from 2008 (Gran Torino and Revolutionary Road)

Mulholland Dr. (2001)
starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Haring, Justin Theroux

Darker than any horror movie even though it's a drama. Every scene is so tense we always know that something wicked is brewing even though it can't be seen. Naomi Watts owes her carreer to this film. This movie is part dream, part nightmare, but the events that take place in the real life section of the story are the darkest of all. Metaphors and symbolism are strewn throughout so multiple viewings are nesscessary to truly grasp its genius.

No Country for Old Men (2007)
starring: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones

A perfect blend of dialoge, violence, and symbolism. There is no question why this film cleaned up at the 2007 Oscar's. Anton Chigurgh is easily the greatest villain in film history, and his cat and mouse chase with Josh Brolin is phenominal. Many are turned off by its abrupt ending but I applaud it for being so bold and true to the novel. The Coen Brothers have made it impossible to top themselves after this masterpiece.

Munich (2005)
starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig

The true story of the 1972 Israeli Olympic team that was kidnapped and eventually executed at the hands of a terrorist group named Black September. The story follows the aftermath of a 5 man Israeli assassination squad to hunt and kill the Palestinean leaders responsible. We never really know whether the main characters are doing good deeds or bad...and neither do they. The duality of man is the focus. Speilbergs best work, and definately his most controversial.

Donnie Darko (2001)
starring: Jake Gylenhal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gylenhal, Patrick Swayze

Hard to explain, but that's what makes it work. I still find new twists with every viewing. Is it about time travel? Maybe it's about death and what happens after we die. Either way, Jake Gylenhal's troubled teen Donnie keeps us intrigued, entertained, and guessing way after the credits are done rolling. Gotta love the cheesy 80's soundtrack too.

Magnolia (1999)
starring: Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Maybe the best ensemble cast ever assembled. The kaliedescope of characters and their insecurites power this movie. Trenmendous performances by John C. Reilly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise, William H. Macy and basically everybody else involved. Paul Thomas Anderson first earned his noteriety for "Boogie Nights" and "There will be Blood" but "Magnolia" is the film that puts him in my highest regard.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
starring: Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Harvey Keitel

Stylish, gripping, sensual. An innovative masterwork from Quentin Tarantino. Filmakers still steal from this movie to this day. Perhaps the most influential movie of the last 20 years. A plot summary wouldn't do justice due to the fact that there are about 7 separate plots throughout the film.

Bug (2007)
starring: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon

Beautifully tragic. Desperation never felt more haunting. Odds are, if you didn't like this movie, then you didn't understand what it was really about. Meth addiction, codependant psychosis, and the clouded judgement that can occur when tragedy and lonliness are all that a person has left.

American Beauty (1999)
starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Chris Cooper, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari

"You're never too old to get it back" --Lester Burman. It's a great movie for people that find themselves in the rut of the daily grind. Also has a great sense of dark humor. I truly hope that director Sam Mendes is able to duplicate that type of suburban magic again. Winner of the Oscar for best picture in 1999 as well as many others.

Requiem for a Dream (2000)
starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayons

What would have been just another drug movie was directed flawlessly by Darren Aronofsky to bump it up to masterpiece status. Also shows the parrellels of illegal drugs and perscription meds in the fact they are equally dangerous if not moderated properly. I still think it's a crime that Gladiator beat this movie in the Oscar's for best picture in 2000.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
starring: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen

The original 1974 version is the greatest and most terrifying horror movie in american film history. Insane, brutal, and disturbing. Anyone that thinks the remake was better should have their movie viewing privledges revoked. The sequels all sucked ass, it's better to remember the original 3 crazies from this first installment before Tobe Hooper shit all over his legacy.

Blood Diamond (2006)
starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Dimjon Honsou

Leonardo Dicaprio's character Danny Archer has to be one of my favorite characters in any film. There is enough action to keep the plot moving at a breakneck pace. Dont let the film's title mislead you, although blood diamond's are shown as being corrupt on a certain level. Even more unsettling is the use of Africa's children stolen from their homes at a young age and being forced to kill entire villages of innocents.

12. Gran Torino (2008)
starring: Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood stars and directed this ghetto masterpiece. So often movies that take place in ghettos focus on the gangsters but this film takes that idea and flips it. Showing instead a man that has lived in Detroit since the 1940's in a predominantly white neighborhood but over the years has been transformed into a mostly Asian neighborhood. Eastwood's Walt Kowalski is rascist and onery and he doesn't care who knows it. However he finds friendship and peace in his life from some very unlikely people and his transformation isn't over the top with sentiment but subtle and realistic.

The Godfather (1972)
starring: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton

Best mafia movie ever. Michael Corleone as the reluctant son and his eventual rise to power. One of the most complex and layered characters to ever be put onto film. Out of Francis F. Copolla's many masterpieces, this one stands out at the best. Other great performances by the always great Robert Duval, Marlon Brando, Diane Keaton, and James Caan.

21 Grams (2003)
starring: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro

Before Babel and after Amores Perros, Alejandro Innaritu peaked out with this out of sequence downer complete with a bravura performance by Naomi Watts who loses her husband and 2 little girls in one tragic accident.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Sonny Chiba

Most critics seem to like vol. 2 more, but vol. 1 had so much more to offer. Better cinematography, anime sequences, more fighting, and great original songs by the RZA. Everything about this film is first rate. Quentin Tarantino proves he can do more than the typical american crime flicks with guns and switches gears seemlessly to swordplay with a great sense of Japanese feel.

Casino (1995)
starring: Robert Deniro, Joe Peschi, Sharon Stone, Don Rickles, Frank Vincent

Not quite as critically acclaimed as the Scorcese film that came before it, "Goodfellas". Perhaps because Joe Pesci's character seems nearly identical in both films. But I promise if this movie came out before Goodfellas this is the one that would go down as a better acheivement in film. My personal favorite of Martin Scorcese, perhaps the greatest American director in history.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buschemi

Jeff Bridges slacker protagonist "The Dude" is one of the more memorable characters to ever grace the movie screen, not because he's a hero, more because of his loser qualities and indifference to everything. My favorite comedy by far!! Long live the Coen Brothers who consistantly prove they are more than a one trick pony and can do drama, action, comedy, or even the occasional arthouse flick.

Juno (2007)
starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Olivia Thirlby

A unique and bubbly 16 year old girl played by Ellen Page has found out she's pregnant. All the baggage that comes with the pregnancy is explored through a modern viewpoint rather than the usual hellfire and brimstone approach. However, this films true power comes from the dialog and interaction between characters due to Diablo Cody's amazing screenplay. The soundtrack also creates a great atmosphere for the film.

House of Sand and Fog (2003)
starring: Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly

Depressing? Sure. But no movie better illustrates the price that can be paid when petty squabbles spiral out of control. Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly have an unparalleled chemistry on screen as neither one will back down. They argue over who is the true owner of a small house in Pennsylvania. Tragedy insues, and it stays with you for a while especially because of Ben Kingsley's greatest performance to date, even better than his Oscar winning role in Ghandi.

There Will Be Blood (2007)
starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano

The most recent film from director Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Boogie Nights) is unlike any of his other films. It's dark and brooding both from the soundtrack and the ominous cinematography. The story focuses on an oil mogul that gets his start in the late 1800's named Daniel Plainview played flawlessly by the always spectacular Daniel Day Lewis. He draws the audience in with his underhanded politicking and desire to accumulate money no matter who he hurts or kills.

Apocalypse Now (1979)
starring: Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Marlon Brando, Harrison Ford, Dennis Hopper

To me this was always more of a horror movie than a war movie. I think Copolla's point was to make war seem like horror. I've always thought Brando was ovverrated in this movie and Martin Sheen was overlooked. But the eery symbolism and madness captured by Francis Ford Copolla is what makes it a triumph.

Se7en (1995)
starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gweneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey

Best ending ever? Maybe. Plus ya gotta love the chemistry between hothead Brad Pitt and even-minded Morgan Freeman. The characters dominate the story so much that the plot seems secondary, and it's a hell of a plot. "What's in the box?"

Grindhouse (2007)
starring: Rose McGowan, Kurt Russell, Freddy Rodriguez, Bruce Willis

A throwback to the exploitation double features from the 1970's that played in drive-thru movie theatres. Although it may not be fair to count this as one film considering it's actually 2 films with 5 trailers for false movies, I saw it at the theatre as one feature and I admit it was the most unique experience I've ever had at the cinema. I wasn't alive in the 70's but this feature made me feel like I had found a genuine time capsule.

The Constant Gardener (2005)
starring: Rachel Weisz,
Politcally driven story with great characters. Rachel Weisz proves she's a force in Hollywood, picking up a best supporting actress trophy in the process. Perscription drug companies finally get exposed for some of their attrocities. Basically a pharmaseautical company is intentionaly infecting africans with strains of AIDS, Tuberculosus, as well as others and trying out their cures on them like lab rats so they can be FDA approved. The pace is slow, but effective.

Raging Bull (1980)
starring: Robert Deniro, Joe Peschi, Frank Vincent

More than a boxing movie. Scorcese and Deniro team up once again to floor audiences with such a visceral portrait of Jake Lamotta that it leaves us breathless. A great fighter with more than his share of personal demons, Jake's life is a roller coaster ride that once it reaches its peak, begins to decline rapidly. One of the eeriest scenes in film history is when a 250+ pound Robert Deniro is reciting Marlon Brando's "contender" speech in front of a mirror, obviously punchdrunk.

Halloween (2007)
starring: Sherri Moon Zombie, Danny Trejo, Daeg Faerch

This is the more recent Rob Zombie version. It pains me to put a remake onto this list because usually I'm anti-remake 100%, especially because I have such high regard for the original. But because Rob Zombie is a director that truly understands and loves horror films he doesn't disappoint. It sticks with the qualities that made the first so great but adding a back story of Michael as a child and his sessions in the asylum with a passion for making masks are magnificent.

American History X (1998)
starring: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Charles S. Dutton

Few films have explored rascism in this depth. We have a chance to get inside the characters and see the perspective from every possible angle. Edward Norton shows us why he is a skinhead and speaks with such conviction that you start to feel for his cause. But in the 2nd half of the movie he moves us with equal passion back to tolerance and loving your neighbor. The ironic ending is tragic, however not necessary to get the point across.

Lucky # Slevin (2006)
starring: Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Bruce Willis, Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman, Stanley Tucci
Josh Hartnett plays Slevin Kelevra, a sharp tongued fella that seems to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is being pulled in 2 seperate directions by the citiy's 2 biggest crime lords, one played by Morgan Freeman the other Ben Kingsley. Complete with a brutal and brilliant twist ending. Josh Hartnett proves he's more than a pretty boy and the depth of his character's smart-ass nature is contrasted toward the end with perfect malice.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Rupert Grint

Saw this movie before I read any of the books...I've been a "Pott-head ever since" Goblet of Fire is my favorite of the books, but the first movie installment is the most loyal. So far this is the only film on my list not rated R...weird? A great leadoff movie for one of the highest grossing franchises in history, by the time the 7th film comes out, my guess is that only the Star Wars 2 trilogies combined will have grossed more.

Traffic (2000)
starring: Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Don Cheadle, Erika Christensen

The line of politics and family life are blurred in this dismal portrayal of the drug war. We are left feeling hopeless and more confused about what needs to be done about drugs in America, as well as the corrupt Mexican Drug Cartel but still eyeopening nonetheless. Traffic has an amazing ensemble cast featuring Benicio Del Toro, Don Cheadle, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and a breakout role for the young and talented Erica Christensen...who seems to have dropped off the map as of late

The Departed (2006)
starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Vera Farmiga.

Finally Scorcese gets his long deserved Best Picture and Best Director academy awards after being nominated what seems like every film he's done in the last 40 years. This movie is great, but it's not higher on my list strictly because it's a remake of a Japanese film called "Infernal Affairs". Therefore the creativity is second hand. But the plot is cool. A cop posing as a mobster vs. a mobster posing as a cop. The pace never relents.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
starring: Steve Buschemi, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen

Quentin Tarantino's first and grittiest film. It's currently ranked the #1 Indie film of all time by most lists. Doesn't offer the same humor filled violence of his other films. This one is realistic, brutal, sadistic, and doesn't seem to stop being so until everyone is dead. Steve Buschemi and Harvey Keitel both provide their best roles to date.

Revolutionary Road (2008)
Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates

Fans of marriage should steer clear of this one. The story centers on a young couple in the 1950's trying to be the perfect American family. They buy a house in a nice neighborhood with a picket fence and everything. They have two children but it doesn't take the audience too long to discover that their lives are merely a facade. Tremendous performances by Winslet, Dicaprio, and Shannon fuel this heart wrenching tale of people who get trapped in the rut of 50's culture when things like divorce, abortion, and mental disorders are judged with extreme predjudice. The director of this film, Sam Mendes (American Beauty) was criticized for this film for reasons I don't understand. Apparantly it wasn't subtle enough, but I thought the ferocious and passionate hatred the characters had for one another was the best part about it.

Halloween (1978)
starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence
Probably the best slasher film of all time. A definate "cut" above the Friday the 13th series. Most people are still creeped out when they hear the soundtrack some 20+ years later. Not to mention the Captain Kirk mask spay painted white of the expressionless Michael Myers. Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis is the type of protagonist that every horror movie could use.

Braveheart (1995)
starring: Mel Gibson, Brendan Gleeson
Yeah, it's official Mel Gibson is friggin' crazy! Has anyone ever noticed how every single movie he's directed has included some extremely depraved torture sequences? Nonetheless he's pretty good at his craft and the Oscar he won for Best Picture on this film is well deserved. Who cares how historically accurate it is? It keeps you enthralled for every second of the 3 hour feature.

The Godfather Part II (1974)
starring: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Abe Vagoda
Considered by many better than the original. Possibly the greatest sequel ever made but still not better than the original in my opinion. Jumps from the 1930's with Al Pacino as the top dog in the criminal underground as well as flashbacks of his father making a name for himself in Sicily and his eventual trek to America. Michael having no choice but to kill his dim-witted brother Fredo is one of the most tragic events in film history.

A History of Violence (2005)
Starring: Viggo Mortenson, Ed Harris, Maria Bello

Viggo Mortenson landed a great role for displaying he has range by literally changing his persona right before our eyes. In the beginning, his character is a mild mannered owner of a diner but as his past catches up with him and he accidently tastes blood again by saving a woman from killers we see him morph back into his former self leaving his family terrified of the man they thought they knew.

Taxi Driver (1976)
starring: Robert Deniro, Harvey Keitel, Cybal Sheppard, Jodie Foster

Not too many films can influence a presidential assassination but this Scorcese movie was the the catalyst for John Hinkley's bullet into Ronald Reagan. Robert Deniro gives such a great performance of a guy that has been shit on by life, one too many times finally culminating in a bloody rampage across New York leaving pimps dead, politicians dead, and Deniro just plain crazy, covered in blood, and with a shaved head.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
starring: Mark Hammill, Harrison Ford, Frank Oz, Carrie Fisher

The diamond of the 6 Star Wars films. We meet Yoda, We find out Luke is Vader's son, The Hoth battle is phenominal and best of all NO FUCKING EWOKS. Apparantley I went to the theatre to see this when it first came out, unfortunatley I couldn't see it because I was inside my mom's womb.

Thirteen (2003)
starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Holly Hunter

Evan Rachel Wood breaks out in a big way in this unsettling tale of teen angst and the price of popularity. The range of her character is so wide. She starts off as a loving daughter and good student. But quickly descends into a monster that her mother and brother dont even recognize. She shoplifts, picks pockets, does drugs, sells drugs, has unprotected sex, and when she gets really depressed, she cuts herself .The fact that it's the true to life tale of co-star Nikki Reed adds to it's power

In the Bedroom (2001)
starring: Tom Wilkenson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei

Nick Stahl plays a high school senior that falls in love with a divorcee played by Marisa Tomei. She has a child and an unstable ex-husband. When tragedy strikes and Stahl is killed, his parents are left coping with the loss of their only child. Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson are so believeable in their roles you can't help but shed some tears. The ending is rather shocking for a slower movie like this, but it feels completely natural. It's the only way the audience wouldn't have felt jipped.

Any Given Sunday (1999)
starring: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Lawrence Taylor, Dennis Quaid

I'm a huge fan of football, but normally I hate sports movies because they focus more on personal life than the sport itself. However this film focuses almost entirley on football. Even when we see the personal lives of the football players the story still seems to linger about the game itself. Al Pacino as the head coach is great, plus this was the breakout role for the future Best Actor winner, Jamie Foxx as the talented yet disillusioned starting QB that goes from 3rd string to starter.

Being John Malkovich (1999)
starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Joan Cusack, John Malkovich, Catherine Keener

Charlie Kaufman is known for his overly strange screenplays and this one probably stands out as his strangest. John Cusack finds a portal in his office that lets him see life through the eyes of John Malkovich. It's like a drug and the more people he tells about it the more they want to stay inside Malkovich to escape their own boring lives. John Cusack's character is a puppeteer and after he realizes his only chance with the woman he loves is through Malkovich, he takes his body over with mixed results.

Boogie Nights (1997)
starring: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Paul Thomas Anderson's first film. Mark Walberg gets his breakout role as a shy teenage kid that is recruited by the ultimate porn producer of the 70's played by Burt Reynolds. It's fun and fresh and never loses its true message of how empty and shallow the life of the pornstar truly is.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
starring: Nick Cage, Elizebeth Shue

Nicolas Cage is a goofball, and usually he just picks any piece of shit script that comes to his house. But this particular role had me actually believing in him as an actor. He plays a man who is a hardcore alcoholic that decides to empty his saving account, move into a hotel in Vegas and proceed to drink himself to death. While there he befriends a prostitute played by Elizebeth Shue and continues to break our hearts with his own self destruction. Very Powerful film.

Schindler's List (1993)
starring Liam Neeson,

Speilberg's holocaust epic that won him an Oscar. A man who is so unnerved by the Nazi's genocide that he risks his life and huge sums of money to get Jews out of the death camps and into a factory where they can be treated as humans again. Liam Neeson's performance is a tour de force, especially toward the end of the movie.

Psycho (1960)
starring: Anthony Perkins

Considered by nearly every critic over 55 years old this is the greatest horror movie of all time. This film set the bar in the psychological horror rather than the saturarted market of monster films at the time. Thank you Alfred Hitchcock, every great horror movie of my lifetime has borrowed something from this film.

Apocalypto (2006)
starring: a bunch of tribesman

Another Mel Gibson work. This film didn't get seen by many people because it came out less than a few months after Mel Gibson's anti-semetic drunken ramblings. But make no mistake, this was one of the top 5 films of 2006. Nevermind the subtitles and unfamiliar subject matter. A great history lesson of the Mayan culture and its downfall.

Lord of War (2005)
starring: Nick Cage, Jared Leto

Nicolas Cage might not have been my first choice for the role of Yuri, but it seems to work for the most part. Arms dealers are exposed as well as the US government and their role of helping 3rd world countries continue their genocides. Once again Africa seems to be the main victim.

Clerks (1994)
starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith

Renegade filmaker Kevin Smith threw together this indie circuit gem for next to no money at all. Black and White cameras, no name actors, and absolutely no special effects made this a marvel in profit margin. In the process of making money, it also is one of the greatest cult classics of the 90's. The acting isn't that great but the conversations between Dante and Randall are some of the most shockingly funny conversations that true nerds as well as well as cool kids could all find the brilliance in.

My Life Without Me (2002)
starring: Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman

Sarah Polley shines in this touching portrail of a woman who has never really lived her life for herself. Living in a trailer with 2 kids and a husband that spends more time unemployed than working, she gets a drastic change in the form of tragedy. After being diagnosed with a terminal illness she is told that she only has 2 months to live.She decides not to tell anyone, but rather make a list of things she wants to do before dying finally discovering a lust for life that she has never known. It's the best role for an actress I've ever seen.

Memento (2001)
starring: Guy Pierce, Joe Pantaliano
Quentin Tarantino perfected the "out-of-sequence" storytelling with movies like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, but even he had to be in awe of Christopher Nolan's genius of filming the entire story backwards (the first scene of the film is actually the last event chronologically) The only way he is able to keep the audience guessing is to give the main character a rare type of amnesia that prevents him from remembering anything more than the last 5 minutes.


Lori said...

Definitely some great ones in this list. I've seen 4/5 of them, but I am going to make a note on some of these for a quiet weekend in.

TABOR said...

Wow, I'm actually surprised you've seen that many of those. So many of these films are indy pictures that most people I talk to have never even heard of. Especially girls, most girls I know only watch romantic comedies. Kudos to you for expanding your taste!! Feel free to ask me any specifics if you're looking for a movie to rent or buy.

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