I love lists. I also realize that, when it comes to ranking films, lists can be somewhat silly. I mean, how can you rank a comedy as compared to a heavy drama? But hey, I can't help that my brain works this way. I actually keep a running list on my phone of my 100 favorite films, and the list is constantly changing. I decided that, rather than keep it to myself, I should share it with you. So, over the next few weeks, I'll be posting my 100 favorite films of all time. They'll come in increments of 25, with this post featuring numbers 100-76. Keep in mind a few things: 1) these are my personal favorites, so I'm not saying these are the 100 objectively best films ever made and 2) I am not giving a blanket recommendation for every film on this list. You should certainly keep in mind age and content maturity when viewing some of these films (for more info on that, check out this post). Also, this series will only focus on feature films, so you won't see any documentaries. Finally, for any films that I have previously reviewed, there will be a button below each title for you to click through to the original review. My plan is to post this series every year to see how my rankings have changed. But enough intro, let's get to the list! Here are numbers 100-76...
100. Winter Light
100. Winter Light - Ingmar Bergman (1963) I've had an interesting relationship with this film. The first time I watched it, I certainly did not appreciate it as much as I do now. I watched it again recently, and its power overwhelmed me. This is Bergman at his darkest, which is quite dark indeed. Here, he uses the story of a doubting minister to wrestle with his own conflicted feelings about faith and religion. But even amid all the darkness, the film's title is apt. There are moments where light breaks through. It is up to us to parse the relationship between light and dark. I also reviewed this film for Filmotomy, as part of their Ingmar Bergman series.
99. Synecdoche, New York
99. Synecdoche, New York - Charlie Kaufman (2008) Have you ever watched a film, not fully grasped it, yet simultaneously felt that it was a monumental achievement? That's exactly how I felt after watching Synecdoche, New York for the first time. One thing is plainly clear upon your first watch of this film - Philip Seymour Hoffman was at his absolute best, which is saying a lot. He was such an incredible actor, and he gives an otherworldly performance here. Charlie Kaufman's writing and direction are also of high quality. The film's mind-bending plot is a lot to take in, but there is no doubt of its unique achievement.
98. Bicycle Thieves
98. Bicycle Thieves - Vittorio De Sica (1948) This is a film that routinely gets mentioned in lists of great classic films from around the world. To me, it highlights one of the best uses of the art form of film - to help us empathize with the viewpoint of someone in a different walk of life from us. This film achieves that in a twofold way. We as the audience experience this, but the characters onscreen experience it as well. They think one way about the people around them at the film's beginning, but the hardships of life change their perspective in nuanced ways as the film continues. This remains one of the great Italian films, and one of the great films from any country.
97. The Passion of Joan of Arc
97. The Passion of Joan of Arc - Carl Dreyer (1928) This classic is one of the great examples of the unique power of silent films, and it begins and ends with the monumental performance from Renee Jeanne Falconetti as Joan of Arc. She expresses so much with her eyes - there are entire worlds suspended there. This film is also legendary for the story of its restoration. A fire at UFA studios destroyed what many thought to be the only copies of Dreyer's original cut of the film. Years went by with the original version being considered lost forever. Then, in 1981, several film canisters were found in the janitor's closet of a mental institution in Oslo. Though there were no records of the film ever being shipped to Oslo, historians believe that the former director of the institution requested a special copy. Thank goodness for that! There is no musical backing to this film, but I don't find that to be a deterrant. In fact, I went with my father to see a showing where they had live music accompanying the film, and I found that the music took a bit away from the experience. This film needs nothing other than its images to communicate its story, and that makes it one of the great examples of what a film can do.
96. Boyhood - Richard Linklater (2014) This film is famous for its unique production, because it took 12 years to film. Director Richard Linklater filmed his cast *as they actually aged* which definitely puts a unique spin on the coming-of-age drama. Setting aside the incredible feat of scheduling this group of actors and actresses over the course of such a long period, this film is just a bona-fide great movie. It is long, coming in at 2 hours and 46 minutes. But it never feels boring. You really feel like you're watching Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grow up. And Patricia Arquette's Oscar-winning performance as his mother, Olivia, is one you don't want to miss. This film was passed up in the 2014 Best Picture race for Birdman, but I think this is a far superior film.
95. Nosferatu - F. W. Murnau (1922) This is the oldest movie on my list, and it remains one of the most influential films ever made. I am not much of a fan of the horror genre, but it is undeniable that this film drastically impacted the next 50 years of horror filmmaking. It is also legendary for its production, as the studio did not get the rights for adapting the Dracula story from Bram Stoker's family. They simply changed names and places and basically copied the main story. As such, this film was mired in legal battles and was nearly obliterated from history. But a few copies were preserved and passed down through the years. It certainly is not as scary as many modern horror films, but it is far superior in quality. Max Schreck's performance as the vampire, Nosferatu, remains one of the most memorable performances in silent film history.
94. Wild Strawberries
94. Wild Strawberries - Ingmar Bergman (1957) I've already mentioned my love for Ingmar Bergman, and his career is simply astounding. Take the year 1957, for instance, when he created the all-time classic The Seventh Seal *and* Wild Strawberries, which shows up here at number 94 on my list. Swedish legend Victor Sjostrom gives a fantastic performance as retired doctor Isak Borg, a man who is on a trip to receive an award for his lifetime achievement. Along the way, he meets people that make him consider his past in interesting ways. This is one of Bergman's most accessible films and one of his most moving. In a career spanning decades and containing multiple all-time classics, Wild Strawberries stands up as one of Bergman's best.
93. Dead Poets Society
93. Dead Poets Society - Peter Weir (1989) Carpe Diem! The message at the heart of this film is brought out in moving and sometimes startling ways. At the heart of it all stands one of the best performances from one of my favorite actors - Robin Williams. He was a genius in every sense of the word - trained at Juilliard and imbued with unequaled talent. We all know about his skill for voices and impersonation, and those are on display here. But I wonder if his experience at Juilliard allowed him to reach something deeper, too, in this story about prep school students. In any case, his performance is one from which you can never turn away. The film simmers until it explodes, and it sticks with you long after it ends.
92. The Italian Job (2003)
92. The Italian Job - F. Gary Gray (2003) This was one of my absolute favorite movies as a kid, and I think it still holds up well as I watch it today. Mark Wahlberg is certainly in his element here as mastermind thief Charlie Croker. The supporting cast is incredibly talented, from Charlize Theron to Donald Sutherland to Jason Statham. It handles its action set pieces very well, especially the famous Mini Cooper car chase sequence. This film is fun and very rewatchable. Just don't say that it's "fine."
91. The Hangover
91. The Hangover - Todd Phillips (2009) I think this film has waned in acclaim in recent years thanks to its absolutely trashy sequels. Even this film gives hints at the lows to which the following films would go in its credit sequence (feel free to skip it, in my opinion). But it is not the raunchiness and the ludicrous plot that made the original film such a success. That's what the sequels get wrong. This is a great film because of its characters and its focus on friendship. I mean, what more can be said about Zach Galifianakis' performance in this film? It's one of the best comedy performances in recent memory, and he absolutely commands the film. But the other performances are strong as well, and it's really the writing of the film that takes it to places most other comedy films don't go. There's actual character work being done here. It is raunchy and ludicrous at times, but I think the story is redeemed by showing that the Vegas lifestyle so often depicted is not as rewarding as close relationships with friends.
90. It's a Wonderful Life
90. It's a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra (1946) Classic. What other word is there for this film? It was entered into the public doman in 1974 due to a clerical error which kept the film's original copyright owner from filing a renewal. Because of this, from the mid-70s on, it was routinely shown on network television around Christmastime. This gave it a second life after it was critically-acclaimed but not well-received by the public upon its initial release. In the years since, it has become an absolute classic. George Bailey (James Stewart) is simply one of the all-time great movie characters. And Capra's direction is, for lack of a better word, wonderful. Once you see this film, it is nearly impossible to keep from being enchanted by it.
89. Zodiac - David Fincher (2007) This is a long film, but the pacing of the story zips along. There are few better cinematic examples of obsession as Jake Gyllenhaal's portrayal of author and cartoonist, Robert Graysmith. It was Graysmith who was part of the original team at the San Francisco Chronicle who tracked the Zodiac killer in the late 1960s. For the next 20 years, he was obesessed with the case, and he wrote the book on which this film's storyline is based. The film's opening scene is one of my favorite uses of music to set the mood for a sequence, and it lays the foundation for the feel of the film as a whole. Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. are both solid in supporting roles, but this is Gyllenhaal's film. And director David Fincher's flair and style have rarely been better suited for a film than they are here.
88. Beauty and the Beast
88. Beauty and the Beast - Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise (1991) It is the best Disney film, in my opinion. This was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture, and it cemented Disney's resurgence. For the next 20 years, they would dominate the movie landscape, and it's hard to see any of that happening if not for the success of this film. I love that Belle loves books and reading. I love the music. I love the story. It is as enchanting as ever no matter how many times you've seen it. Disney has made some wonderful films since this was released, but I don't think they've ever topped it.
87. The Breakfast Club - John Hughes (1985) When you think of 80s movies, isn't this the first one to come to mind? The music, the iconic closing shot, the glorification of youth vs. adulthood - it has all become embedded in our cultural consciousness. When I watched this film for the first time, I was struck by the writing. John Hughes would either write, produce, or direct many of the most popular movies of this time frame, but this film seems to be the one that is most synonymous with his oeuvre. I love that this film lets teenagers talk, but then it does something even more transformational - it listens to them. It isn't so much that this film trashes adulthood, but that it pleads with adults not to overlook those younger than them. That's a powerful message, and this film communicates it beautifully.
86. Interstellar - Christopher Nolan (2014) Christopher Nolan is one of the most talented and influential directors of our time. Whether you love his films or not, a new Nolan film has become a must-see event. His 2014 film Interstellar is one of my personal favorites of his. I remember seeing it multiple times with my then-girlfriend, now-wife, Sarah, in the theater. We were both gobsmacked by it. This is a film with ambition, and I would always prefer such a film - even if it falls a bit short - over a vanilla film that doesn't try very much. But I don't think Interstellar falls short at all. Nolan's trademark time-warp storytelling fits perfectly into this space-time drama. Matthew McConaughey is great, as is Jessica Chastain. There's even a supporting role for current critic darling Timothee Chalamet. The whole cast is great, but it is Nolan's vision and direction that make this film so memorable.
85. Dumb and Dumber
85. Dumb and Dumber - Peter Farrelly (1994) So many quotes. Jim Carrey at the peak of his talents. Jeff Daniels showing why he's one of the most versatile actors around. And simply some of the great comedic scenes in movie history. Think of the diner scene where Lloyd (Carrey) throws the salt over his shoulder, which sets up the hilarious scene where Lloyd and Harry (Daniels) get pulled over. "So you're tellin' me there's a chance!" has to be one of the great comedic lines. Lloyd and Harry are an incredible comedic duo, and this film will still make you laugh all these years later.
84. Gangs of New York
84. Gangs of New York - Martin Scorsese (2002) You wanna know why Gangs of New York is such a good film? Daniel Day-Lewis. Surely Scorsese's skill behind the camera deserves a great deal of the credit, too, but Day-Lewis gives a mountain of a performance here as Bill the Butcher. It's titanic. From the moment he steps into view (which might just be the best character introduction ever), you know he owns the story. Look, Liam Neeson is an incredible actor, but the simple fact is that you could have put Marlon Brando opposite Day-Lewis in that first battle scene and it wouldn't have mattered. His performance overpowers everyone else, including a fine supporting turn from Leonardio DiCaprio. The film's ending is searingly emotional. The entire movie will make you consider the foundation of America - not the one we're taught in schoolbooks, but the one that came through the blood, sweat, and more blood spent by immigrants and natives. In many ways, we're still fighting the battles portrayed in this film. Gangs of New York will keep you thinking, and the talent on display will entertain you at the same time.
83. Lincoln - Steven Spielberg (2012) Speaking of Daniel Day-Lewis, he gives another incredible performance in this historical drama directed by the great Steven Spielberg. Every performance from Day-Lewis is breathtaking, but this one is astounding for how he absolutely embodies one of the most important and infludential figures in American history. As I've said before, I love David Strathairn; he's fantastic as William H. Seward. And any movie with Tommy Lee Jones in it automatically gets extra points with me. He's one of my all-time favorite actors, and his performance as Thaddeus Stevens is one of the best in his storied career. While this may not be Spielberg's most visually-ambitious work, I think it is the script from Tony Kushner that vaults the film into the stratosphere. The dialogue is beautifully written, and the script is well-focused when it easily could have attempted to cover too much of the enormity of Lincoln's accomplishments.
82. Million Dollar Baby
82. Million Dollar Baby - Clint Eastwood (2004) I tend to enjoy films that make you think they're about one thing and then reveal something else simmering under the surface. Million Dollar Baby is such a film, and one thing is for sure - once you've seen it you won't forget it. Clint Eastwood stars in and directs this film, but it is Hilary Swank's Oscar-winning performance as boxer Maggie Fitzgerald that steals the show. Morgan Freeman also won an Oscar for his supporting turn as Eddie Dupris, but it is Swank that makes this film not only work, but flourish. It may be most famous for its melodramatic plot twist, but the film as a whole packs a bona-fide punch (pun intended). All the acting performances are great, but you simply cannot turn away from Swank when she's on screen.
81. The Dark Knight
81. The Dark Knight - Christopher Nolan (2008) Okay, so I'm assuming that I'm going to catch some heat for where this movie shows up on my list. I love this film, and it's in my Top 100 for a reason. I remember seeing it in the theater and the cultural tsunami that coincided with its release. It is simply undeniable that Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker is not only one of the best villains ever, but it's one of the best performances ever, bar none. I also enjoy seeing how Christopher Nolan pays homage to his influences, particularly a specific Michael Mann film that shows up later on this list. The action set pieces are fantastic, especially the opening scene (which is surely one of the great openers ever). There was a time when this film would have been much higher on my list. Maybe it's simply a byproduct of my film tastes changing, or maybe the film's length keeps it from holding up quite as well as I might have expected. In any case, I think this is *clearly* the greatest superhero film ever made, and I think it stands up quite well among Christopher Nolan's filmography.
80. Mrs. Doubtfire
80. Mrs. Doubtfire - Chris Columbus (1993) This film is incredibly nostalgic for me, as my family would routinely watch it when I was a kid. This is my favorite Robin Williams performance, as he runs the full gamut of his incredible talent - from dizzyingly-fast zaniness to dramatic intensity. His skill for voices is on display from the very first scene. There's simply nobody else who could have played this part. There are multiple scenes where Williams finds the comedy in juxtaposition - that his character must be in multiple places at once but, obviously, cannot succeed. This is simply one of the great comedic performances, and it will always be a favorite of mine. "Hellooooooo!"
79. Up in the Air
79. Up in the Air - Jason Reitman (2009) I am an unabashed George Clooney fan. He's a fantastic actor, and he's just so charming. He instantly makes any film he's in that much more interesting. Clooney has been called the modern day Cary Grant, and I think it's an apt comparison. Here, however, you can make the case that he gives the film's third best performance. Vera Farmiga (an actress who I think is vastly underappreciated) and Anna Kendrick were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress for their roles in this film. I think one of them should have won, and my vote would probably have gone to Farmiga. All three performances merge together to create a film that you can never quite size up because it's always one step ahead of you. This film has a high rewatchability factor, and it artfully considers the busy lifestyle that capitalism encourages.
78. The Apartment
78. The Apartment - Billy Wilder (1960) In the pantheon of great film writers, Billy Wilder must certainly be near the top. His skills are on display beautifully here. In fact, with The Apartment, he became the first person to win Academy Awards as writer, director, AND producer for the same film. Jack Lemmon is one of my all-time favorite actors, and this has to be one of his best performances. However, from an acting perspective, this film belongs to the legendary Shirley MacLaine as elevator operator, Fran Kubelik. The film's closing is just perfect, and although there's another closing line written by Wilder that places higher on this list, the last line spoken in The Apartment is truly classic.
77. Lady Bird - Greta Gerwig (2017) I didn't quite appreciate the power of Lady Bird's screenplay the first time I saw it. But then I saw it again...and again...and again. First off, it's an incredibly-charming film, one that invites repeated viewing. And each time you watch it, you catch more of the subtlety in the relationship between Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf). I love Jon Brion's music in this film, but - above all - it is Greta Gerwig's laser-focused screenplay that drives this film. It's so wonderfully-written, and I can't think of a movie that more artfully explores the mother/daughter relationship. I also appreciate that this film chooses not to frame its coming-of-age story around a romantic relationship, but rather a familial one. There are so many wonderful directorial choices from Gerwig here, and that is why this was one of the best films from 2017.
76. Mudbound - Dee Rees (2017) Though it wasn't quite as acclaimed as Lady Bird, I found Dee Rees' moving epic Mudbound to be one of 2017's best films as well. In fact, if I had a vote (which I most certainly do not), I would have given Dee Rees the Oscar for Best Director. She weaves so many storylines together seamlessly, and she finds the beauty in the landscapes of the Mississippi Delta. Thankfully, Mudbound's cinematographer Rachel Morrison was nominated for an Oscar for her work on the film, becoming the first woman to be nominated for Best Cinematography. The acting performances here are incredible, too. Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige (Oscar-nominated), and Jason Clarke all put in fine work. But it is Jason Mitchell who gives the film's best performance as Ronsel Jackson. It's a long film and it's tough to watch at times, but Mudbound has treasures in store at every turn.
So, there you have it. We are well into the main list! Check back next week for numbers 75-51. For now, leave me a comment below or tweet at me to let me know what films you think I missed. Thanks, friends!