Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Top Ten Tuesdays: Johnny Depp Performances

Later today, I'm seeing the recent film Black Mass, which has already earned Oscar buzz for its leading actor Johnny Depp. Many are calling it a return to form for Depp, who despite a series of rather lackluster films (starring in Mortdecai and The Lone Ranger back to back doesn't help things) is still one of the most highly regarded actors of our time. And so, in honor of this return to form, I thought I'd spend this Top Ten Tuesday counting down my picks for the top ten Johnny Depp performances. Depp is an inherently interesting performer, one who first became known for his quirkiness, and then became somewhat reviled for it due to a series of downright weird performances and what some would call an unhealthy penchant for working with Tim Burton.

But, despite recent Depp backlash, he is still a beloved figure, and consistently the coolest guy in the room. When looking at his filmography, one is struck by the number of challenging roles he has taken on for himself, many of which are roles it's hard to imagine anyone playing. I feel like his recent performances have been underrated due to his oversaturation. Take his work in Dark Shadows, a flawed but nonetheless underrated film that people wrote off before it even came out. But if you watch it objectively, Depp does great work. That performance, by the way, is not on this list as there are just too many great performances to choose from. Depp is prolific enough that I had a lot of selection, but these are my personal choices for the best Johnny Depp performances. And, no, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is not on this list. Despite being one of the three performances for which he got an Oscar nomination, I have some problems with his performance and the film, which I think does some things well, but also missed the mark on some crucial elements. And also, Black Mass isn't on here because I haven't seen it yet (although it very well might have made this list had I chosen to compile it tomorrow). Okay--let's get to the list!

10) Donnie Brasco, as Joseph Pistone

This is an excellent film, and features an intense performance from Depp. In Donnie Brasco, he plays an FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate the mafia. Roles where a character is undercover are tough. Because you have to believe that the "real" character and the undercover character are the same person, but you also have to believe that people would actually be convinced by their undercover persona. Depp pulls it off beautifully--his role is heartfelt, emotional, magnetic, and at times even scary. So, why is this only number ten on my list? Well, because it doesn't fell like a Johnny Depp performance. He's very good in it, but it's a role that I could see other actors stepping into and doing an equally good job, while many of the other roles on this list strike me as more distinctly Depp. Also, as good as Depp is in the film, his co-star Al Pacino steals the show as aging gangster Lefty Ruggiero.

9) The Libertine, as John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

In this film, adapted from the play of the same name, Depp plays the infamously rakish lewd poet the Earl of Rochester. It's an uneven film--it has a very cool aesthetic and some moments of brilliance, but ultimately gets a bit plodding as the film goes on. But, the strength of Depp's performance is undeniable, and any bit of magic the film finds is mostly due to his charisma. Check out this prologue--the very first thing that happens in the film--where Depp literally just delivers his lines to the camera. And it's GREAT! This clip, I think, demonstrates the signature magnetism that permeates Depp's best performances, including this performance as the Earl of Rochester.

8) Cry-Baby, as Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker

Like all films directed by John Waters, Cry-Baby is not going to be everyone's cup of tea (although, this one is perhaps a bit more accessible to the mainstream than, say, Pink Flamingos). I happen to think the film is a lot of fun, and Depp's performance was a bit of a turning point in his career. At this point, he was best known for the television series 21 Jump Street. Established as a heartthrob, and wanting to transition into film, Depp could have easily coasted and simply played typical romantic leads and never been out of work. But, Cry-Baby is a clear parody of the typical romantic comedies of the time, and was the first film to establish that Depp was an actor with a penchant for taking on more off-kilter roles (which he followed up with Edward Scissorhands, which I'll get to in a bit). His performance is cool, while still being a bit goofy, and is quintessential Depp.

7) What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, as Gilbert Grape

 This is Depp's most understated performance on this list. For a guy who tends to play the weirdest character in whatever movie he's in, here he shows he can ground a film and let others take the spotlight. As a result, when people talk about this film, they tend to talk about Leonardo DiCaprio's excellent performance as Gilbert's mentally challenged brother Arnie. DiCaprio really is wonderful--I still think this is his best performance to date--but Depp's quiet performance as the introspective titular character is why this film ultimately works. His portrayal is lovely. You sympathize with the frustrated, flawed, and ultimately goodhearted Gilbert Grape, and it's due to the subtlety that Depp (an actor not exactly known for his subtlety) lends him.

6) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as Raoul Duke

One of the most divisive films of all time, it's a film everyone has a distinct reaction to, whether you love or hate it. I'm, frankly, undecided on the film as a whole, but  Depp's performance is undeniably strong, and suitable for such an experimental and out-of-the-box film. Playing an extremely thinly-veiled representation of author Hunter S. Thompson, Depp's ability to make any character engaging is on full display here. Without the most distinct of plots, the movie would feel aimless without a strong performance from Depp (and also Benicio Del Toro), but Depp's portrayal of Duke is so interesting, we're willing to see where the movie is going. He makes the film feel complete.

5) Finding Neverland, as J.M. Barrie

There's not much to say here, as its easily one of Depp's most straightforward roles. In Finding Neverland, Depp plays the writer of Peter Pan as he becomes acquainted with the family and the children who would eventually inspire that work. Barrie is more, for lack of a better word, "normal" than most of Depp's roles, but he is nonetheless able to instill in Barrie a sense of magic and wonder. It's not a coincidence that this role earned Depp one of his three Oscar nominations. Depp's performances are often off the wall and outside the box, but with Finding Neverland, he proved that he has the chops to deliver a solid, more traditional performance with the best of them.

4) Edward Scissorhands, as Edward Scissorhands

Earlier, I said that Cry-Baby was Depp's first foray into roles who are off slightly off the beaten track. Well, right after Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands was released. This film launched Johnny Depp's career, and also marked the start of his long collaboration with Tim Burton. Today, the fact that Johnny Depp is in every Tim Burton film is a bit of a punchline, and people are tired of it, but I actually continue to welcome Depp's appearance in Tim Burton films. Because if they have even the possibility of recapturing some of the magic the pair of them found in Edward Scissorhands, then they should keep making films forever. As performed by Depp, Edward Scissorhands is such a wonderful and odd creation. For those somehow unfamiliar with the character (if you haven't seen the film, do so immediately) it focuses on Edward, a young man who literally has giant metal blades for hands. But Edward is not a monster, he is a kind soul, and the film explores his attempts to find a place in a world and gain acceptance. It's a beautiful film, and its success is rooted in Depp's performance. We sympathize with Edward, but that's not what makes Depp's performance so great (the writing is strong enough that anyone's portrayal of Edward could have evoked sympathy). What makes Depp's performance so great is simply how natural it feels. Don't get me wrong, his portrayal of the shy and often silent Edward is certainly strange and unnatural, but in Depp's capable hands (er, scissor hands) we completely buy the ridiculous premise that such a character could even exist. He ends up feeling real to us, something a less distinct actor would not have been able to pull off.

3) Ed Wood, as Ed Wood

Another collaboration with Tim Burton, Depp is once again playing an oddball, but this time it's a portrayal of a real person named Edward: Ed Wood. Wood was a cult filmmaker known for movies like Plan 9 From Outer Space, and many have referred to him as the worst filmmaker who ever lived. If you haven't seen the film, it would be tempting to think that the film is a comedy about how awful a filmmaker Wood was. And....yeah, it kind of is. But what I love about this film (one of my all-time favorites) and about Depp's performance is how loving a tribute it is. The film's thesis is not that Wood was bad at making movies, it's that he had a vision that no one else could possibly understand, and that it might not be our place to judge art just because we perceive it to be bad. Depp's portrayal of Wood is simply joyous--it's a loving portrayal of a man who is passionate about movies, and who you ultimately grow quite fond of as the film goes on. With Ed Wood, Depp takes a role that he could had treated as an idiot, and his performance shows a tremendous amount of respect for the role. It's a surprising interpretation, and Depp's strongest "natural" performance to date.

2) The Pirates of the Caribbean series, as Captain Jack Sparrow

Johnny Depp was already a star, but when The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl premiered, it was a game changer for his career. Some would argue it was a change for the worst, but whatever your opinions on the movie series (opinions like "How is it possible for them to be making ANOTHER movie? Just let the franchise die please) it's undeniable that the pirate captain Jack Sparrow instantly became one of Depp's most iconic roles. With so many sequels, which offer diminishing returns, it's easy to forget just how exciting Depp's performance in the first film was. The film was a massive success almost exclusively because of him. The wild glint in his eye, the physical comedy, the precise delivery of every line, his ability to come across as both a fool and the smartest guy in the room--even as the films themselves fail to live up to the novelty of the first, Depp's character work is always bold and masterful. And many forget that he even got an Oscar nomination for his work--which is especially impressive considering that the Academy tends to shy away from both comedic performances and blockbuster films. While it's tough for me to place it above, say, the subtle work Depp shows in Ed Wood, there's no denying that, when most people think of Johnny Depp, Captain Jack Sparrow is probably the first role that comes to mind. And when you watch the movies--even the lesser ones--it's not hard to understand why.

But there's one performance of Depp's that I like even more.

1) The Lone Ranger, as Tonto

No, I'm just kidding. Everything about this is terrible. Here's my real number 1:

1) Benny & Joon, as Sam

This movie is such an underrated gem. While it was actually a surprise hit when it was initially released in 1993 (and popularized the song "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers, which is now stuck in your head) it feels like now it's not discussed too much, and has been lost in the shuffle among some of Depp's more grandstanding performances. And that is a real shame, because this movie is absolutely delightful. Depp plays Sam, a young cinemaphile who moves in with Benny (Aidan Quinn) and his sister Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) who suffers from a disorder which many believe to be schizophrenia. Sam and Joon soon fall in love. This is not usual romantic comedy fare. The film's tone is quirky, while still remaining incredibly earnest. And at the center of that is Johnny Depp as Sam. Sam is sweet, smart, and odd--all traits that Depp can showcase with ease. But what stands out to me is simply how impressive a physical performance this is. Sam is a lover of all films, but especially old silent films, and throughout the movie, goes through spontaneous physical comedy routines, like this one in a local diner. Depp pulls these off perfectly--which is difficult to do. These moments of clowning are absolutely magical. It's impossible to watch Depp's performance without smiling.

Ultimately, a recurring trend in most of the performances I've listed here is the idea of humanity--Depp has a knack for bringing out the inner goodness in whoever he portrays, and make us root for them. Be they a hack filmmaker, a drunken pirate, a rakish poet, or even a boy who could cut your arm off if you try to shake hands, Depp is able to effortlessly create characters that you want to watch. You want to get to know these characters. You want them to end up okay. More than any other performance on this list, that quality is epitomized by Depp's work in Benny & Joon. And that is why it's my pick for his very best performance.

Depp was also in Mortdecai, a movie that you forgot existed even though it came out in January of this year. You didn't see it. Nobody saw it.

So, those are my thoughts. How about yours? What's your favorite Depp performance? And was there any film that I missed? Are you angered that I didn't even mention Sleepy Hollow once?! Well, now you can't be because I'm mentioning it now. Ha! Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and I always welcome suggestions for future Top Ten Tuesdays!

Join us in two weeks for The Top Ten Christopher Walken grunts in Sleepy Hollow! Unless I get a suggestion first.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesdays: The Films of Alfred Hitchcock

Announcing a new series for this blog, it's Top Ten Tuesdays, where I compile a Top Ten list on a given theme! Everyone loves lists, and everyone who reads this blog loves movies, so lists about movies seems like a recipe for success. And I can think of no better top ten list to start off this series than my picks for the top ten best films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitchcock, preparing to not like this list at all.
Hitchcock is one of the best filmmakers of all time, and one of my personal favorites. He was a visionary, and one of those rare filmmakers who can actually be considered iconic. To this day, we describe films as being Hitchcockian--how many directors actually have an adjective named after them? The well-reputed master of suspense, Hitchcock's movies are distinctly thrilling, and often a lot of fun. There's a certain degree of whimsy to his take on horror, be it through his use of MacGuffins (a plot device he popularized) to trick the audience, or his signature cameos which I would argue qualify as the first ever cinematic easter egg. He made films that he wanted to make, and famously fought with studios over choices in his films. The end result is a series of films that have remained relevant and hold up today, as opposed to dated films which feel stuck due to what was popular in their era.

But on top of the general quality of his films, Hitchcock's greatest strength was that he had ambitious ideas for what one could convey through film that others could not match. He would dive into newer cinematic inventions with gusto, embracing bright colors and previously unseen tricks of cinematography which give his films a striking look which still stands out today. Although, to be fair, not all of his ideas work--his liberal use of green screen far before the technology was fine-tuned looks awkward in comparison to today's effects, and one wonders what brilliance he would have been capable of were he making movies today. But we were lucky that he was making films when he was so that he could influence so many of today's filmmakers.

When I look at Hitchcock's filmography, I think that his films fit into two categories. There are the films where he really plays with the storytelling, finding innovative and unexpected ways to provide something the audience has never seen before. Then there are the films that are impeccably-made traditional thrillers--cases of mystery and intrigue and mistaken identity and murder. Most of his filmography would fit into this latter category; Hitchcock does those types of standard thrillers better than just about anyone else. They're certainly worth checking out--they were Hitchcock's MO, and demonstrate his qualities as a filmmaker. But, this list is not the best Hitchcock films, it's my favorite Hitchcock films, and I tend to gravitate towards the films in that first category. They just stick out to me more. This means that many of Hitchcock's greatest thrillers which often appear on such lists will not be appearing on this list. But I'll give them an honorable mention--be sure to check out The 39 Steps, Suspicion, Spellbound, Notorious, Dial M for Murder, and Marnie for some of the best thrillers that Hitchcock has to offer.

Suspicion, a great film excluded from this list because I can do what I want.

And now, finally, onto my list!

#10: Family Plot

Here's one you don't see on a lot of lists, Hitchcock's final film was well-received but is often forgotten when talking about the director's work. And that's a real shame because it's absolutely wonderful, and a surprising late addition to Hitchcock's filmography. One of the most surprising things is that it's a comedy, and a very funny one at that. At times it feels like Hitchcock is making a parody of his own films, but in doing so, all of his signature effects and touches are still there. What we get is Hitchcock's usual themes of intrigue and deception and suspense, but with a wonderful element of silliness. It's an underrated gem that certainly deserves to be discussed and features some great performances by Bruce Dern, Karen Black, William Devane, and especially the incredible Barbara Harris as a fake psychic who is thrust into the role of detective.

#9: Rebecca

As beloved as he is, the Academy Awards were never too kind to Hitchcock. He himself never won best director (although he did receive an honorary Oscar later in his career) and only one of his films ever won Best Picture. That honor goes to Rebecca, a psychological mystery whose creepiness sneaks up on you as the film progresses and the twisted nature of the scenario becomes more clear. The film is about an unnamed woman (Joan Fontaine) who falls in love with and marries widower Max de Winter (Laurence Olivier). The problem is that he continues to be obsessed with his first wife, the titular Rebecca. Fueled by the conniving and equally-obsessed housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson, whose performance was named one of the best movie villains of all time by the American Film Institute), the film showcases Hitchcock's deft hand with restraint. As the extent of Max's obsession becomes increasingly horrifying and damaging to the second Mrs. DeWinter, Hitchcock mines every ounce of drama from the unusual scenario, and offers one of the best book to screen adaptations in film history.

And if you know and love this film like I do, then be sure to check out this parody made by the wonderful comedians Mitchell & Webb. It's excellent.

#8: The Birds

Some of Hitchcock's premises can get convoluted, with unlikely scenarios and lots of twists and turns. The Birds is incredibly straightforward: what if all the birds in the world decided to attack humans? That's it. What we get is a beautifully done horror movie whose appeal is kind of hard to understand, but apparent nonetheless. The plot isn't much of anything, and neither are the characters. But this is Hitchcock's most definitive dive into horror, and it is certainly terrifying. The birds make great, and convincing villains. Ultimately, The Birds succeeds because it's uncomplicated (hell, even the title is as simple as it possibly could be). With The Birds, Hitchcock takes one idea and executes it better than it could be done by anyone else. The result is an undeniably scary movie that will make you wary of birds for months.

#7: Rear Window

When I mentioned before that I liked when Hitchcock finds unusual ways of storytelling, this is the type of film I'm talking about. In Rear Window, photographer Jeff Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart) is stuck in his apartment due to a broken leg. And just as Jeff is confined to his room, so to is Hitchcock. But, from a window overlooking a courtyard, Jeff witnesses what he believes could be evidence of a murder, and investigates from his bedroom with the help of his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly, stealing the movie in her scenes), his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter), and a policeman friend of his (Wendell Corey). The mystery that unfolds is a solid one--and a generic film investigating it would be an enjoyable movie in its own right. But by restricting himself to the one room and the courtyard, Hitchcock elevates this film beyond your standard detective flick. It's a revelation, and a film that only someone like Hitchcock could really pull off. Perhaps most impressive is his use of characters. Jeff and his three friends are the only major characters who actually speak, and yet the film is filled with the vibrant characters who Jeff spies from his window. Be it the dancer Jeff calls "Miss Torso," or a character referred to only as "The Songwriter," or of course the murderous Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr, who offers some very chilling moments from afar), they all come across as familiar and defined. Even when Hitchcock restricts himself to one location, he nonetheless gives the impression of a greater world existing outside of it. This contributes to the film's sense of claustrophobia and suspense, and keeps it from feeling small.

#6: Vertigo

It only makes #6 on my list, but Vertigo is considered by many to be Hitchcock's greatest film. In fact, in 2012, Sight & Sound named it the greatest film ever made. And it's clear why this film has received such acclaim. The story, a case of mistaken identity and double lives, is a good one, but it's the filmmaking itself which sets Vertigo apart. Hitchcock and his long-time cinematographer Robert Burks were clearly having a lot of fun here, with plenty of artsy shots and bright uses of color unlike anyone had really seen before. My love for Vertigo is held back somewhat because I feel the characters are a little undeveloped compared to some of his other works, but the actual camera work is Hitchcock at his peak and that's more than enough to earn Vertigo its highly-regarded place in the cinematic canon.


Not a lot of people know about Rope, but it has earned a bit of a cult following among Hitchcock fans. From 1948 to 1950, Hitchcock made three films, Rope, Under Capricorn, and Stage Fright where he was clearly playing with the idea of extra long takes. Of these three, Rope is undeniably the most successful as a complete film, and it's also the one where long takes are used most completely and effectively. With the exception of a brief shot at the beginning, all of Rope is shot to look as if it's a long take (much like the most recent Best Picture winner, Birdman). Rope centers around young intellectuals Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) who murder a former classmate, and then host a dinner party while the body is still in the apartment, all as an intellectual exercise just to see if they can get away with it. It occasionally feels like Hitchcock is approaching the project from the same viewpoint--like he's presenting it in one-take just to see if he can get away with it. At times, Rope comes across more like an experiment than a film, and the editing technology had not quite caught up to Hitchcock's ideas, meaning some of the transitions between takes, which Hitchcock tried to cover up, come across as really clunky and obvious to today's audiences. But despite this, the effect still comes across, and it's an undeniably successful experiment nonetheless. The technique, plus strong performances from Dall, Granger, and Jimmy Stewart, add a distinct flair to the cat-and-mouse game, making Rope one of Hitchcock's most fascinating, underrated mysteries.

 #4: Lifeboat

Before Rear Window and Rope, Hitchcock's first attempt at presenting a film set entirely in one location was Lifeboat. Set during World War II, after a collision between an American ship and a German U-Boat, a group of survivors are stranded aboard a lifeboat and must survive. The twist is that one of the survivors is from the U-Boat. What unfolds is a fascinating look at the nature of trust, desperation, and national allegiances. You get to know and care about these characters, even as they keep secrets about themselves hidden from the others. Of all of Hitchcock's twist endings, this one might be my favorite, completely subverting the direction in which the film seemed to be headed. It's a fascinating character study at sea, and an elegant use of a restricted space.

#3: North by Northwest

Referred to sometimes as the best James Bond movie that's not about James Bond, North by Northwest is a sleek spy thriller that is impossible not to enjoy. When Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant, in what I think is his best ever performances) is mistaken for a secret agent named George Kaplan, he ends up being kidnapped. Unable to prove to his kidnappers (James Mason and Martin Landau--both very creepy) that he's not who they think he is, he flees, setting in motion an exciting chase and compelling mystery where nothing is as it seems. This movie is the definition of thrilling--truly a joy to watch but with plenty of substance to back up the fun. It's an iconic film--the famous cropduster scene and the climactic chase across Mount Rushmore come to mind--and possibly Hitchcock's best executed film. It's one of those movies that everybody loves, and a reminder that you don't need today's special effects to create a fun and convincing action movie. A true must-see.

#2: Strangers on a Train

This is my absolute favorite premise for a Hitchcock film. Two people meet on a train. One, Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is a tennis star who is frustrated with his marriage. The other, Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), is...welll...a psychopath. Bruno proposes that he kill Guy's wife, and in return, Guy would kill Bruno's father. This way, they could both get an unwanted person out of their lives while they have an alibi, and neither would be suspected because they'd have no motive to kill the other person's intended victim. Guy doesn't take Bruno seriously and leaves. But Bruno takes it very seriously and tries to put the plan into action. The rest, I won't give away, but the film starts going down some dark and twisty turns.

This is a gripping film, with a brilliant villain in Bruno. So many of the best stories are battles of good vs. evil. And while Guy is not necessarily an embodiment of good, this film at the very least embodies a sense of normal vs. evil. Bruno is fascinating because of Walker's strong performance, but also because it is clear that he is out of line with how the rest of the world works--and his interactions with the other characters help highlight his own abnormality and villainous streak. Bruno is one of Hitchcock's absolute best villains, and his presence creates a sense of unease that is difficult to match. I absolutely love everything about this film. The characters, the story, the idea, the filmmaking, simply everything fires on all cylinders. This film is incredibly effective for me. But, there's one Hitchcock film that's even better, and I bet you can guess what it is.

#1: Psycho

Well, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Possibly Hitchcock's most famous film, Psycho is not only my favorite Hitchcock film, but my favorite horror film full stop. Everything about this is great--the score, the cinematography, the performances, it's all incredible. And I think that we underestimate just how original this film was. When Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, died in the now famous shower scene, people were genuinely unnerved. She was the film's biggest star, and everyone believed she was the main character. For her to be killed off so soon was something nobody had considered, and is an element of the film that I don't think modern audiences appreciate enough. Speaking of that shower scene, even if the rest of the movie was just okay, that scene would still be heralded as one of the best bits of filmmaking ever. The emotion and atmosphere that Hitchcock evokes through sight and sound in this montage is unbelievable. When it was released, the studio famously stated that it was too violent for theaters, and didn't believe Hitchcock when he informed then that at no point does he show a knife actually piercing skin. He doesn't, but you think he does because of how well he manipulates your senses.

And then there, Norman Bates, our villain played by Anthony Perkins. What a brilliant performance (one which I can't believe didn't receive even an Oscar nomination at its release). Bates is fascinating in that he has qualities of goodness. The guy is clearly odd, clearly creepy, and it becomes clear, clearly a murderer. But Perkins grants him an unnerving sense of boyish charm. He is endearing even as we fear him, and our sympathies with him make him all the more frightening.

There's a lot in Psycho that can feel outdated. For example, the doctor's long monologue at the end explaining what happened is a cringe-worthy bit of unintentional comedy (actor Simon Oakland overacts the everloving crap out of it). But it still excited and entertains far more than most films made today. It is a testament to good storytelling and good filmmaking that this film has endured, and has continued to grow in esteem over time. It deserves its place as one of the best films ever made, and Hitchcock's masterpiece.

There you have it--my top ten favorite Hitchcock films! Share your list below--what films did I miss? What films should I have not included? And let me know if you have suggestions for future Top Ten Tuesdays in the comments.

Give me suggestions, or Hitchcock might come after you.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Miles' 200 Favorite Films

Often when I meet new people, they eventually find out that I like movies and ask "Oh, what's your favorite movie?" It's a casual question. And it's a question that I proceed to answer in a three hour-long tangent.

Because it's an impossible question. How can one have a FAVORITE film? There are so many different types of films that it's impossible to compare them. I love Monty Python and the Holy Grail for very different reasons than I like, say, There Will Be Blood, but both are excellent movies in their own right. When you love, and I mean truly love movies, that enthusiasm is impossible to focus onto a few individual films. So, "What are your favorite movies" is an impossible question to answer. It's not so simple where you can just have a list where everything is ranked in order.

And so, that being said, here is a list of my 200 favorite films, with the directors included. Ranked in order. This isn't a definitive list--there might be days where some films are higher than others, but this is the first time I've been able to compile a list that I'm actually happy with and could stand by if confronted with it in a court of law.

So, for the fans of this blog who have heard my musings, THESE are examples of films I like. Some are here because I enjoy them, some are here because they make me think, some are here because I respond to them on an emotional level, and some are here because I simple admire their craft. Many of them are quirky and weird.

Pictured: quirky and weird.
And I enjoy talking about all of these movies, so if there are any films you want to hear my more complete thoughts on, let me know and I will produce a full review by request. So far, I've already written reviews for my #2 pick, my #9 pick, and my #80 pick, so you can feel free to peruse those as you wish. Anyway, enjoy and discuss!


1)      Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro)
2)      Twelve Angry Men (Sidney Lumet)
3)      Nashville (Robert Altman)
4)      In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
5)      Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock)
6)      Network (Sidney Lumet)
7)      Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris)
8)      The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick)
9)      Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
10)   Airplane! (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker)
11)   Best in Show (Christopher Guest)
12)   Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski)
13)   Dr. Strangelove… (Stanley Kubrick)
14)   Fargo (Joel Coen)
15)   The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen)
16)   The Truman Show (Peter Weir)
17)   Up (Pete Docter)
18)   Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Robert Zemeckis)
19)   Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot)
20)   Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill)
21)   Brazil (Terry Gilliam)
22)   Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks)
23)   The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
24)   My Cousin Vinny (Jonathan Lynn)
25)   The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton)
26)   MASH (Robert Altman)
27)   Zelig (Woody Allen)
28)   Adaptation (Spike Jonze)
29)   The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet)
30)   To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan)
31)   Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones)
32)   The Shining (Stanley Kubrick)
33)   Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock)
34)   The Producers (Mel Brooks)
35)   The World’s End (Edgar Wright)
36)   One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman)
37)   Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)
38)   Moon (Duncan Jones)
39)   The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen)
40)   Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow)
41)   Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby)
42)   M (Fritz Lang)
43)   The Player (Robert Altman)
44)   Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee)
45)   Phoenix (Christian Petzold)
46)   Babe (Chris Noonan)
47)   Once (John Carney)
48)   Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman)
49)   Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle)
50)   Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa)
51)   Amadeus (Milos Forman)
52)   Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen)
53)   The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella)
54)   Quiz Show (Robert Redford)
55)   There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
56)   Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann)
57)   Capote (Bennett Miller)
58)   Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise)
59)   Legally Blonde (Robert Luketic)
60)   Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron)
61)   Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
62)   The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme)
63)   North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock)
64) Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson)
65)   West Side Story (Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins)
66)   Aliens (James Cameron)
67)   On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan)
68)   Murder on the Orient Express (Sidney Lumet)
69)   Ed Wood (Tim Burton)
70)   Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro)
71)   Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
72)   Casablanca (Michael Curtiz)
73)   The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer)
74)   Zodiac (David Fincher)
75)   Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
76)   Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock)
77)   The Maltese Falcon (John Huston)
78)   Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)
79)   Chinatown (Roman Polanski)
80)   Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa)
81)   Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder)
82)   Zoolander (Ben Stiller)
83)   Short Cuts (Robert Altman)
84)   Shattered Glass (Billy Ray)
85)   Wall-E (Andrew Stanton)
86)   Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier)
87)   Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodovar)
88)   Mighty Aphrodite (Woody Allen)
89)   Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige)
90)   Chicago (Rob Marshall)
91)   Judgment at Nuremberg (Stanley Kramer)
92)   Hero (Zhang Yimou)
93)   2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick)
94)   Kramer vs. Kramer (Robert Benton)
95)   Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis)
96)   The Lion King (Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff)
97)   The Graduate (Mike Nichols)
98)   The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)
99)   Matchstick Men (Ridley Scott)
100)   Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino) 
101) Eight Men Out (John Sayles)
102) Inherit the Wind (Stanley Kramer)
103) Blade Runner (Ridley Scott)
104) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart)
105) Suspiria (Dario Argento)
106) Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa)
107) Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright)
108) Rope (Alfred Hitchcock)
109) A Wedding (Robert Altman)
110) Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry)
111) Toy Story (John Lasseter)
112) Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton)
113) Notes on a Scandal (Richard Eyre)
114) The City of Lost Children (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro)

115) Get Out (Jordan Peele)
116) Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet)
117) Jaws (Steven Spielberg)
118) Images (Robert Altman)
119) Pleasantville (Gary Ross)
120) Oldboy (Park Chan-wook)
121) The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont)
122) Clue (Jonathan Lynn)
123) Gregory's Girl (Bill Forsyth)
124) Contact (Robert Zemeckis)
125) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)
126) Prêt-à-Porter (Robert Altman)
127) The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming)
128) Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho)
129) Solo Con Tu Pareja (Alfonso Cuaron)
130) Gosford Park (Robert Altman)
131) The Music Man (Morton DaCosta)
132) Muppet Treasure Island (Brian Henson)
133) My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki)
134) You Can't Take It With You (Frank Capra)
135) The World of Henry Orient (George Roy Hill)
136) Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)
137) Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman)
138) Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner)
139) Witness for the Prosecution (Billy Wilder)
140) Little Voice (Mark Herman)
141) Begin Again (John Carney)
142) Wag the Dog (Barry Levinson)

143) Footnote (Joseph Cedar) 
144) Bedazzled (Stanley Donen)
145) Alien (Ridley Scott) 
146) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg)
147) The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola)
148) Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)
149) Mystic River (Clint Eastwood)
150) Paprika (Satoshi Kon)

151) Creed (Ryan Coogler)
152) Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott)
153) Doubt (John Patrick Shanley)
154) The Third Man (Carol Reed)
155) Arthur (Steve Gordon)
156) Mrs. Doubtfire (Chris Columbus)
157) A Mighty Wind (Christopher Guest)

158) A Very Long Engagement (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
159) Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg)
160) The Hustler (Robert Rossen)
161) A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen)
162) Take the Money and Run (Woody Allen)
163) Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau)
164) Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock) 

165) Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas)
166) The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone)
167) Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Frank Oz)
168) Letters From Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood)
169) The Tune (Bill Plympton)

170) Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)
171) Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud)
172) Amores Perros (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
173) Chocolat (Claire Denis)
174) Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore)
175) The Others (Alejandro Amenábar)
176) School of Rock (Richard Linklater)
177) Deconstructing Harry (Woody Allen)
178) Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh)
179) A Midsummer Night's Dream (William Dieterle, Max Reinhardt)
180) Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan)
181) Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
182) The Orphanage (J.A. Bayona)
183) Melancholia (Lars von Trier)
184) The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner)
185) The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks)
186) American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini)
187) Babel (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
188) The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
189) Minority Report (Steven Spielberg)
190) The Breakfast Club (John Hughes)
191) Glengarry Glen Ross (James Foley)
192) The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)

193) Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
194) The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)
195) Benny & Joon (Jeremiah S. Chechik)
196) Be Kind Rewind (Michel Gondry)
197) Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster)
London Road (Rufus Norris)
199) Whale Rider (Niki Caro)
200) A Single Man (Tom Ford)

That's right, Citizen Kane. You may be considered by many the best film ever made, but on my list, you only made it to #37. Suck it, Citizen Kane!
Directors with more than one film present:
8: Robert Altman
6: Alfred Hitchcock
5: Woody Allen
4: Joel Coen, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Sidney Lumet, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg
3: Ethan Coen, Clint Eastwood, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Robert Zemeckis
2: Darren Aronofsky, Mel Brooks, Tim Burton, John Carney, Marc Caro, Park Chan-wook, Francis Ford Coppola, Alfonso Cuaron, Milos Forman, Terry Gilliam, Michel Gondry, Christopher Guest, George Roy Hill, Charlie Kaufman, Stanley Kramer, Jonathan Lynn, Martin McDonagh, Hayao Miyazaki, Roman Polanski, Quentin Tarantino, Lars von Trier, Billy Wilder, Edgar Wright

The great Robert Altman at work.

And only 13 of the films on this list won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Zoolander is not one of them.

And how do I stack up to other lists? 24 of my top 100 films overlap with the list of 100 best films named by the American Film Institute in 1998 and updated in 2007. Only five of my top 100 films appear on Sight & Sound's most recent list of 50 Best Films ever made, compiled in 2012. At the time of this writing, 16 of my top 100 films overlap with the current rankings for the 100 Best Films on rottentomatoes (although this list changes constantly due to a wide range of variables).

Be sure to share your thoughts, and lists of your own, in the comments! As a note--this was originally a list of my 100 favorite films, which I have since expanded on, so some of the comments were written before seeing the full list you see above.