Alright then. After a tumultuous period of academics and life plans, I now find myself with some unusual amounts of spare time on my hands. Don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I find this a most wondrous opportunity to crank out another batch of ten movies as we proceed closer and closer.
#60: “Schindler’s List” (1993)
We start off with a film that, while great, wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind on many “favorites” lists. For some reason, though, I frequently find myself drawn to Schindler’s List time and again, particularly when my faith in humanity needs a little shakeup. With the exception of the end, Spielberg offers almost no room for Romanticism here in an extremely personal film about a former Nazi who decided to do good for the Jewish people during the Holocaust. And considering recent events in the United States, I can really only think of one thing: Screw Nazis.
#59: “Titanic” (1997)
Eff all y’all, this movie is amazing. I don’t think a lot of people will fully understand the genius of James Cameron until long after he is gone. More than just a doomed romance, Titanic is a visceral exploration of what of humans do when confronted with their inevitable death. In fact, that big pivot is perhaps what makes it such an emotional and captivating film to watch, despite its three-hour runtime. And of course, I cried. A handful of times, actually.
#58: “Interstellar” (2014)
If for nothing else, I admire Christopher Nolan for having the balls to actually go through with this movie. In an era where we are literally surrounded by superhero franchises and IP recognition in the studio system, he and his brother Jonathan set about crafting an original sci-fi space epic. It was always bound to probably be divisive, but I honestly love every second of Interstellar. Hans Zimmer’s ethereal musical score is one I regularly listen to for when I’m studying or working. The visuals prove that A) IMAX tickets are actually worth it every once in a while and B) Practical effects are almost always preferable to CGI. This is the kind of movie that makes me wish that N.A.S.A. would have the funding to go explore the cosmos once more.
#57: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
How can you possibly argue with a classic? The main reason why The Wizard of Oz isn’t any higher on my Top 100 is that, from a perspective on both dialogue and storytelling, it has noticeably aged. And yes, it does take considerable artistic license from L. Frank Baum’ original book. But all of the beautiful Technicolor visuals and costumes still look amazing today. In fact, I’d argue that it’s the most important American film in history, but probably not the best one.
#56: “Vertigo” (1956)
Gotta love some Alfred Hitchcock shenanigans every now and then. The late English auteur made so many masterpieces in his lifetime that saying he’s the most influential director in all of cinema isn’t so far fetched. In fact, depending on what time of year it is, I might actually tell you that my favorite of his was North By Northwest or Psycho or maybe even Rear Window. But it’s unlikely I’ll ever change my mind about how much of an unprecedented experience it was for watching Vertigo for the first time. I felt so warm from the anxiety and tension and spent weeks thinking about it afterward.
#55: “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002)
And we start with what is, in my most humble opinion, the greatest and most awe-inspiring film trilogy ever conceived. We’ll get to the other two entries later on in this Top 100, but one shouldn’t forget to admire the second installment. The image above is from one of my favorite scenes in cinema. I’ve seen all of these epics enough times to put it on in the background while I’m doing something mundane, but I literally drop everything when it comes to the jaw-dropping Battle for Helm’s Deep. What really impresses me is how well The Two Towers flows through without a real end or beginning to the story; it’s a literal midway point.
#54: “The Truman Show” (1998)
One of the signs of truly great sci-fi satire is when you can honestly take the film’s concept and apply it to multiple different sociopolitical fields. In the case of The Truman Show, a wholly original and beautiful film, it has reached topics such as politics, media consumption, and even religion. It all works, from Andrew Niccol’s fantastic screenplay to Peter Weir’s direction to Jim Carrey’s career-best performance. At its basic core, though, we have a really dark and emotional story about the world’s obsession with celebrity and one man’s search for happiness and freedom.
#53: “Drive” (2011)
I’m in awe of this film. It might seem like a stereotypical action-packed, Fast and Furious ripoff, but Drive is a whole lot more. The visuals, Cliff Martinez’s score, Ryan Gosling’s nameless antihero. Sure, its artistic flourishes are sure to send some people scratching their heads or even rolling their eyes. But for me, watching this hypnotic crime thriller for the first time was a real experience. Proof that action thrillers don’t have to all have a number pinned to them in order to attempt to stand out. And “A Real Hero” by College and Electric Youth is possibly one of the best song uses for any modern motion picture.
#52: “Annihilation” (2018)
It may have only been released in the last few months, but Annihilation has stayed with me ever since leaving the theater. What Alex Garland did here with just the backbone of VanDerMeer’s novel is something that only comes once a blue moon in science-fiction and actually challenged its audience to think. Paramount handing off the international reigns to Netflix is about the dumbest thing they could have done from a viewer’s perspective. To me, they should have gone full steam ahead with this and not looked back, seeing Garland for the wizard that he is. I just pray that more people will watch this movie now and in the future; we can’t have yet another Blade Runner 2049 or Edge of Tomorrow on our hands again.
#51: “Jaws” (1975)
I had already love Jaws the first few times I had seen it, but watching it at a Movie-on-the-Water event hosted by the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema enhanced my love for it even more. Most people might just remember that the shark looks really fake, but that’s beside the point. 43 years on since it began the modern blockbuster, and this film hasn’t aged a day. And it likely never will. That’s the beauty of Steven Spielberg back when he was in his prime; while his pictures always had groundbreaking visuals he never forgot to accompany them with compelling characters and stories.