1. E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial
In “E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial”, a lonely boy named Elliot befriends a stranger from another world, dubbed “ET”. His emotions psychically bonding with the alien, Elliot and his family are changed forever in an incident involving government agents.
ET makes number one on my list for many reasons, but I’ll state the most obvious ones. The film is a modern day fairy tale with a childlike sense of naiveté that actually makes you feel something. The whole point that you will see in this list from here on out is that all my movies, one way or another, make me or other people feel something. Whether it’s laughter, sadness, or disgust, a great movie should always make you feel something and that is what ET does best of all.
2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by John Hughes 1986
In “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, in his last few weeks of high school, a kid named Ferris Bueller uses his wit and charm to skip school with his friends. Endlessly pursued by the ruthless dean of his school, Ferris not only evades the dean, but shows his friends how to have a genuinely fun time.
A lighthearted tale that we would probably love even if it wasn’t funny, Ferris Bueller’s day off is a charming love letter both to the city of Chicago and teenage life as it is. Not the typical teenager running away from evil slashers or monsters, Matthew Broderick shows himself to be youthful charm incarnate. The charming acting coupled with the humor and relentless buffoonish ness of the adults around him make this a pleasant 1980’s flick. To quote Broderick’s character; “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once and awhile, you could miss it.”
3. Captain America: Civil War by Russo Brothers 2016
See Logan’s radio piece for the full movie review!
4. The Terminator by James Cameron 1984
In “The Terminator”, a young woman named Sarah Connor must evade a device called the Terminator, out to get her. Aided by Kyle Reese, she must not only evade the device from the future, but deal with her future as the mother of Humanity’s last hope from the machines.
The Terminator is one of those sci-fi flicks the 1980’s embodies. While the special effects are only okay in some regards, it’s the way they’re used that’s well-done. Coupled with acting and complicated storytelling, this film will forever be the precursor to any sci-fi action movie you’ll ever see in the modern day. It will forever remain a surprisingly timeless and well-executed classic.
5. The Dark Knight by Christopher Nolan 2008
In “The Dark Knight”, the people of the city, Gotham, are more or less at peace due to the war on criminals the masked vigilante called “Batman” initiated years earlier. When a psychotic clown-themed villain calling himself “The Joker” comes to town, Batman’s alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, may need to make philosophical compromises in his personal and professional life to help himself and the city’s District Attorney Harvey Dent inevitably defeat the Joker.
The Dark Knight shows firsthand how a big budget hollywood blockbuster can still be a great movie. One of few award-winning Batman-related films, the antagonist is nasty and larger-than-life, while philosophically making you wonder about the truths he allegedly tries to convey. While the acting is a highlight, the films favoritism of practical effects over CGI is a rare sight to behold in modern Hollywood, and it makes the film both realistic and (better yet) believable. Ultimately, whether you’re a fan of the Batman legend or just learning about the character, a gritty crime film acting like a superhero film may be a great place to start.
6. Star Wars by George Lucas 1977
In “Star Wars”, as part of a larger trilogy, a young boy named Luke Skywalker, coupled with a wise old man named Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi, must team up with smugglers and “droids” (robots) to not only save a princess, but to save the galaxy from the ruthless Galactic Empire. Faced against the menace of Darth Vader, Luke must learn about the mysterious energy called “the force”, a religion that will likely help him restore freedom to this vast galaxy of creatures.
Star Wars is another great example of both a departure point and an homage. One of the most innovative films of the 1970’s, Star Wars not only starts a vast money-making saga but also shows how a relatively big budget film for it’s time can be both quality and (at the time) visually dazzling. Visuals, charming performances/characters, and world building of a galaxy far far away make this film another fantastic and humble beginning. This is definitely part of one of my favorite (for a good reason) sci-fi series of all time.
7. Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell 2012
In “Silver Linings Playbook”, a man with bipolar disorder, Pat Solitano, is released from a mental hospital after having a major episode. Now free and living with his parents, he attempts from a distance to get back with his estranged wife, using tips from a friend, Tiffany, to get her back, only to learn new things about love in general along the way.
Silver Linings Playbook is one of those rare dramas that’s not only funny, but actually accurate. The disabled characters is not only not meant to be comically portrayed (although their are some funny moments), but they are genuinely and realistically portrayed. A lot of the humor and dialogue is natural, and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence not only have good rapport, but become honest representations of disabilities and loneliness. If I had to choose a favorite drama film, this one is up here on my list for a reason.
8. Monty Python and the Holy Grail by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam 1975
In “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, in a parody of the Arthurian legend, King Arthur and his knights of the round table go on an alleged mission from God to find the mythical holy grail. In their decidedly ludicrous and deluded quest, they not only have various bizarre adventures, but slowly alienate the modern world for a plethora of confusing reasons.
Riotously funny and very quotable, Holy Grail is one of the rare comedies the almost unexplainably ages well. Quality in direction while both beautifully written and executed, Holy Grail is perhaps Monty Python’s best satirical effort. The actors, while funny, also have an obscenely charming rapport that just makes it all the more lighthearted. Finally, not only is it worth the laugh, but genuinely worth the watch purely for being one of the best comedy films in all history.
9. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil by Eli Craig 2010
In “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”, two good-intentioned hillbillies named Tucker and Dale retreat to their “vacation home” (a decrepit cabin) in West Virginia. Meanwhile, a group of youthful college kids in the same area get accidentally and comically killed one-by-one, while the hillbillies inexplicably and equally accidentally appear to be the killers to the shallow and ignorant college kids, leading to a confusing form of warfare.
Lesser known than some of the other films on this list, this film is horror comedy at its greatest. With each imagined scenario slightly and progressively more absurd than the last, the acting rounds out the humor. Not only is it a comic round of performances, but also a very heartfelt one. The film, finally, also has important thematic elements regarding acceptance and friendship that are not only funny, but genuinely touching, earning itself a spot on my list.
10. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy by Adam McKay 2004
In “Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy”, a 1970s-era news reporter named Ron Burgundy and his “Channel 4 News Team” adjust to a woman, Veronica Corningstone, being on-air for the first time. While slowly falling in love with her, Ron struggles with both comical loneliness and struggles with simultaneous and contradictory sexist feelings.
Anchorman may not be a “quality” film in a technical sense, but that is the precise beauty of it. Not only is it not meant to be well budgeted or technically well executed, but it more than makes up for that in terms of both humor and the equally comical performances. Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, and the rest of “Burgundy’s” news team (especially Steve Carrel’s character) are hilariously well-written, their lines seemingly too absurd to be true. Ultimately, the humor, quotability, and acting make this intentionally silly comedy both pleasant and more quality than initially intended.
11. The Matrix by The Wachowskis 1999
In “The Matrix”, a man named Thomas Anderson aka Neo, a professional computer hacker, is pulled out of his mundane life by alleged terrorist Morpheus. Morpheus shows Neo the truth; that the “real world” is a shield pulled over our eyes by robot overlords using a system called the matrix, and that Neo may be the last chance to stop the machines.
One of the best (preferably standalone) sci fi pieces of all time, the Matrix not only plays with your eyes, but also your head. While the visuals and action sequences are definitely a part of the appeal, it’s the mind games that this film really plays. The idea of a world concealing us from the truth seems all too believable, especially in light of recent and past political events. In all comforts, the mind games are brilliantly executed and the film keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
12. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by Peter Jackson 2001
In “Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring”, the beginning of a journey across the land called “middle earth” begins. A creature called a hobbit who goes by the name of Frodo Baggins must travel with a band of unlikely allies to inevitably destroy a magic ring devoted to unspeakable evil.
This film is world building at its finest; descriptive, fantastical, and overwhelmingly detailed. In this world, it truly feels like anything can be possible; that nothing can surprise you. This medieval fantasy world, combined with a perfect duo of ensemble acting and storytelling, make this one of the best beginnings to one of the finest sagas in cinematic history. All cards on the table, this is a simply amazing departure point for a series.
13. Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino 1994
In “Pulp Fiction”, the exploits of Hollywood mobsters, drug dealers, hitmen, and a mysterious briefcase are documented in terms of the player’s philosophical and social ideals. From their conversations, we not only get vast character studies, but various tales and mishaps.
While director Quentin Tarantino has had many great and noteworthy projects, none has quite stood out as much as this time honored classic. Tarantino and lesser-known co-writer Roger Avary brilliantly conjure an otherwise nonlinear storyline in a somewhat hyper violent but very realistic and somewhat humorous film. The writing compliments the acting as much as the acting compliments the soundtrack and each compliments the others in endless permutations. When push comes to shove, there has never been a better love letter to film in general than this masterpiece of a movie.
14. Toy Story 2 by John Lasseter 1999
In “Toy Story 2”, a sequel to 1995’s Toy Story, toys belonging to the child Andy are in great turmoil. When one of their own is stolen by a mischievous businessman, the toys must help their friend escape before the businessman sells the friend as a priceless collectible.
A favored childhood memory of mine, Toy Story 2 is not only fun for all ages, but especially fun for those who grew up and connect with the colorful cast of characters. Actors such as Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have excellent vocal rapport, arguably developed during the previous film but nonetheless brilliantly executed. All the newcomers are greatly welcomed to the family of cartoon characters and also have you emotionally invested in what inevitably happened (or will happen) to them. Ultimately, Toy Story 2 serves as one of the best animated childhood sequels of all time; one with a heart, soul, and mind put together in marvelous fashion.
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