May 21, 2020
I was challenged to do a daily posting of favorite movies, but I’d been thinking of doing this list for a while now, so here it is, all in one day: (If you want to double-down on boring topics, I did a top-25 albums last year.)
• Gladiator: This is one where I always get emotional at the end; It’s not some typical big, Hollywood tent-pole film with a predictable plot; It’s a Ridley Scott film, one of his best!
Braveheart: Like Gladiator, it’s one of those films that so many others try to emulate yet come up short.
• 300: A film like no other. It’s not politically correct, which makes it even better.
• The Count of Monte Cristo: I was originally a big fan of the television movie from the early 1980’s with Richard Chamberlain, however after recently viewing that, this more recent version is so much better; a great tale of revenge. Justified revenge, at that.
• The Last Samurai: One of Tom Cruise’s best movies, hands down. And he has a lot of good movies.
I like all of franchises here, although in each case the first movies is usually the best. They aren’t perfect franchises, the last Die Hard having great action sequences, but other than that it wasn’t too remarkable. All of the Jurassic Park movies are great fun, as are the Pirates of the Carribean films. I’ve noticed that people who don’t like the supposed repetition of the sequels end not to notice the very obvious differences between the originals and the sequels just to make their point that “sequels are bad!” No, sequels aren’t bad, but bad sequels are. All of these films could have Gladiator-level stories, sure, and that would make them better, but that isn’t easy to do. Even Ridley Scott has tried more than once to outdo his Gladiator, and came up short each time. As it is, these franchises are so much fun and no, the sequels are far from unwatchable. (The teenage girl avoiding the velociraptor by performing gymnastics in Jurassic 2 was dumb, though.)
Heat: I re-watched this recently; the bank robbery is the best part of the film, but as a whole it’s a perfect crime movie.
Goodfellas/Casino: These movies are a lot alike, and that’s a good thing. Casino is three hours long, but that’s also a good thing. Both are movies that I always find something new that I’ve missed, and I’ve seen them both many times.
Sopranos: I had to put this in here although it’s a television series. It is it’s own thing, yet it belongs with Goodfellas and Casino.
Scarface: Not for everybody. One of those movies where there isn’t a likable character in it, but Pacino is great, and it’s interesting to see a rags-to-riches-to-ruin story like this.
I don’t have to say anything about these; You all know why they are great!
The Marvel movies, like them or not, are very well done and entertaining. If you look at the success rate of comic book movies from pre-Spiderman 2003, what they’ve pulled off is amazing, and on top of that, they mix the characters throughout multiple movies which can’t be easy to do logistically. That said, I’ve only got three that I like more than all the others.
Iron Man: The one that started them all.
Iron Man 2: I keep reading on how this is one of the worst Marvel movies ever made, but I don’t see what they are talking about. I like the character of Justin Hammer quite a bit, especially when Tony upstages him.
Iron Man 3: Not on the list as I haven’t seen it enough yet, and I don’t own it yet.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: More of an espionage thriller than comic book
movie. My favorite scene is the elevator fight, and the attempt to grab Nick Fury.
John Wick: Another film series that sets a new standard, like Die Hard, Predator, Alien, etc. obody can outdo it. It’s really interesting to watch the YouTube videos of Keanu Reeves training or it; he actually knows what he’s doing. It is best to remember when watching, that he’s not just some really good fighter; rather, he’s the BEST IN THE WORLD. He’s not John McClane in Die Hard, an average cop in an above average situation; John Wick is the best in the world at what he does, and that helps make the fight scenes more believable. And those fight scenes are not just fun to watch, but interesting in how they put it together, what kind of training did they have to do, how real is that kind of move, etc.
Nobody: From the makers of John Wick; the same, but different enough to be it’s own thing.
Alien/Aliens: I read the novelizations to both Alien and Aliens several times before I ever saw the movies. On VHS. In the dark. The books were fantastic, and the movies didn’t disappoint! There is no better movie monster in all of film history than the xenomorph from Alien. Not even close. H.R. Gieger’s designs set a standard and like his Alien, was unlike anything anybody had ever seen when Alien came out, and on top of that, Ridley Scott directed it. Perfect movies. James Cameron came next and made the perfect sequel on top of that, which shatters the idea that sequels are always bad and every movie should never have a continuation. There are a lot of great sequels out there, it’s just that there are a lot of bad ones out there too. Just like original movies aren’t good just for being original, (Jupiter Rising, Valerian) if a movie is good, it’s good, regardless of whether it is a sequel or not.
Prometheus: A lot of people don’t like this one, but I like it more each time I watch it. It’s a deeper movie than it comes off as on the first viewing, which is what Ridley Scott was shooting for. It is an actual science-fiction movie, something we don’t get a lot of. I’ve read and watched a lot of analysis that breaks the movie down, and it really is fascinating stuff. Scott wanted to expand the Alien universe beyond “The Monster,” which is the correct thing to do, after all, how to you make a unique sequel with a monster that, as good as it is, only does one thing? (See Alien 3 and Alien 4) I look at Prometheus as a bonus movie; It’s not as good as the first two, but it is not bad and visually, wow. It’s sequel, Alien Covenant, is also very watchable but not good enough to be on this list. It’s by far better than both Aliens vs Predator movies, though. For me, the above three are my cannon Alien films. I could go on for a long time about Star Wars. The short of it is that after two decades, we got prequels that, although production-wise were fantastic and met expectations, the story was… not that great. An example of bad prequels.
Star Wars was a religion to us kids back in the day for a number of reasons, but I’m not going to get into all that. It’s enough to say that after making three great movies, (Ewoks aside) we waited forever, and it was very unexpected that the sequels would be so bad. And so we wait ten more years, to get a new film that had it’s problems, but was okay, setting up the next films for so much more.
And not to get too deep into it, but the next two films (in the Sequel Trilogy) weren’t just bad; they purposely (see: Kathleen Kennedy) ruined the classic characters without developing the new ones, and added social politics on top of it, all at a pace that was way, WAY too much. And there were many other problems. There is just so much wrong with the sequel trilogy that I am not watching them again if I can help it. And I’ll say it again; they RUINED the classic characters, and on top of that, the three classic leads (Han, Leia and Luke) never shared a scene together, after waiting thirty years we should have at least seen them together. I’d get into more of this but I don’t want to type all night.
But it’s enough to say that Star Wars isn’t a static thing anymore; It’s dynamic, it’s always changing and there’s new stuff coming out all the time. So instead of just expecting more great movies, I have to just take the good stuff, and let the mediocre and bad stuff go. (I will say that even the worst of it has great design, music, special effects; The problem I have is with the stories.)
Also, these bad prequels and sequels have changed how I feel about this franchise; They are just movies now. I’ll like the ones I like; the rest, I don’t have to watch ever again. But they were fantastic fun back in the day, and I’m glad I was at the perfect age to experience the good ones and everything they brought into my young life!
James Cameron Films (select): James Cameron, in my eyes, made perfect movies… until Avatar. But I won’t get into that one. The Abyss is a movie that just blew my mind when I saw it in the theatre; but a few years later, Cameron was able to add thirty minutes of cut footage which consisted of an entire plot-line that made the movie that much better. I re-watched it recently, and it’s still good. It is one of those movies that you have to turn the lights out, turn the phone off, and just watch it with surround-sound, otherwise it loses a lot. The story behind how they made it is interesting, too.
The Dark Knight Trilogy: Before watching this trilogy, I’d recommend watching Batman & Robin; the difference between the previous Batman movie and the first of this trilogy is unbelievable. Batman & Robin is one of the worst movies of all time, and then Christopher Nolan comes along and shows them how it’s done. It’s better than any of the Marvel movies, too, although those are true comic book movies, and this series is more crime/action. It’s got serious character development, great characters, music… everything about these films is spot-on. Another of those series that always has more to notice every time I watch.
Interstellar and Inception, I’ve only seen them once. They were great cinematic experiences, for sure, and should only be viewed without interruption. Blink during Inception, and you’ll be lost. Dunkirk is another fantastic Christopher Nolan film (It’s listed in elsewhere in this page.)
Rambo: I’m actually new to Rambo but I’ve seen them all now. I’ve seen the first one the most, and every time I watch I am just blown away at what could have been avoided if the sheriff wasn’t such a jerk and just let Rambo eat dinner and walk through the town. What a knuckle-head. Also, knowing what Stallone went through in making this is very interesting, he really got beat-up for real in this!
Star Trek: Wrath of Khan: The best Star Trek movie ever. I’m not a Trek fan anymore, but I’m always going to like this one.
The Fifth Element: What a fun movie. Great music, too.
Falling Down: The best scenes are when he’s walking through the golf course and the one where he’s trying to rest in the empty field.
Fight Club: Another movie that has so much stuff I keep seeing for the first time every time I watch. A unique film all it’s own.
Black Rain: A really good crime drama by Ridley Scott.
Predator, Predator 2 and Predators: They actually made three good movies before hitting a stinker with the recent The Predator film. Of course the first one is the best, but the sequel wasn’t bad and Predators did a really good job as a third film. (Avoid both Aliens vs Predator films. Although these creatures could really fit well in the same movie together, those movies are not good examples.) Also, the fourth film, The Predator, is where the series dropps off in quality (in addition to the very bad Aliens vs Predator films)
Enemy Mine: I really like this, it is classic 1980’s but serious with a good story.
Robocop: Talk about bad sequels. Aside from the reboot a few years ago, Robocop 2 and 3 were bad. Really bad. The original is a classic though.
Kill Bill: Part 2 wasn’t bad, but wow. What a neat film.
I went nuts with this one, but there are just so many good movies in this genre. Some people can’t handle war movies because war is bad, therefore war movies shouldn’t be watched. (Not a good reason.) But not watching Band of Brothers, there’s just no solid reason not to. It’s so well done. The ending is so good.
Part of what makes these movies interesting is that, although they are movies and there are plenty of things that aren’t realistic about them for financial and logistical reasons, plus the things from reality they can’t get across on film, they are about real people and events, not made-up, unrealistic characters. There is a lot to be inspired by in that in these situations, a lot of people show not just how bad people can get, but how good they can be, how selfless they can be in the worst of situations. But if you watch just one, watch Band of Brothers, it’s fantastic. I did forget to add The Darkest Hour to this list.
I forgot these: There are three Punisher movies, and a series. I only recommend the Thomas Jane movie and the Netflix series. The movie is like a Dirty Harry film, and I really liked it as it followed one of the better graphic novels really well.
Tremors: Just so much fun, I saw this in the theatre with friends and it was such a good time. There aren’t that many, if any movies like it. The have done a series and a bunch of sequels, but I’m only a fan of this original, I don’t know if the sequels are worth the time.
V: This is one of my all-time favorites. I can’t say enough good things about it, but I have to clarify that, like Return of the Jedi’s Ewoks, it has a character at the end of the second miniseries that does something ridiculous that spoils the ending a bit. Other than that, it’s a great watch and an original take on an old trope. The movie Independence Day very much takes one of the basic ideas of V and uses it, which is okay. (Independence Day is a movie I’ve seen only once. I remember the first half was really fun, and I’d been excited about it because of V.
However, the second half was cheesy and it had an event that, like V’s own bad end-of-story character/event, ruined the entire movie for me although a lot of people will just have fun with it and enjoy it anyway. (Which, they did. That movie did very well.) V: The Series was awful. So awful that it was fun to watch as it degraded over nineteen episodes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The 2009 reboot had a nice first episode, but it was ultimately nowhere near as good as the original.
The V that I’m recommending here is V: The Original Miniseries and V: The Final Battle. Miniseries are kind of in the middle of television and movies, and this is epic enough to qualify as a movie. And although it was filmed in the early to mid-eighties, they shot it in wide-screen, so it especially looks the part of a movie.
Unhinged: What a great thriller with Russell Crowe. It’ll have you thinking twice about how to real with road rage!
The Outpost: Based on real events, the battle at the end is really well done.
Isle of Dogs: Original, stop-motion (I originally thought it was computer animated!) and a nice change of pace!