Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Randomness

My Top 15 Favorite Films. Period.
(at this point in my life)

What makes a film a favorite? Regardless of creative/redemptive value, regardless of timeless value, regardless of whether it's received critical acclaim or constant shunning, these are the films that I can watch over and over again and still love them. I'm sure these will change over the years, but most of these films have been my favorites since I first watched them. These are in no particular order--they're all my favorites:

Casablanca (1942): It's a classic. Humphrey Bogart is the man, Ingrid Bergman is stunning, and there are so many classic lines and scenes it's unreal. It's a love story and a WWII period piece that withstands the tests of time.

Jurassic Park (1993): I have probably watched this film more than any other over my lifetime. When it first came out, I was terrified of the dinosaurs. But now having seen it well over 30 times, I have nearly every scene memorized. This film is 15 years old, yet still have some of the best CGI in film, period.

The Thin Red Line (1998): Terrence Malick's WWII film is all about atmosphere; the cinematography is haunting and the human condition is revealed in subtle but profound ways. It takes discipline to appreciate Malick's slow pacing and visually driven films, but I love 'em.

Memento (2000): For me, this is one of the most ambitious and original concepts for a film ever done. The story is told both backwards and forwards in alternating scenes. It could have been a complete disaster if the directing and editing had been any less than perfect.

Dumb and Dumber (2000): It's an incredibly dumb, but this is one film that makes me and Katie both crack up every time we watch it. We watched it on our honeymoon, and we've watched it for our anniversary ever since. "Big gulps, huh?...........whelp, see ya later!"

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986): Out of all the John Hughes 80s teen classics, Ferris Bueller is my personal favorite. Maybe I just love the idea of a spontaneous day off filled with fun and adventure. And Jeffrey Jones as principal Ed Rooney is hilarious.

Lost in Translation (2003): I watch this film any time I'm feeling lonely or nostalgic, and it affirms my mood. While some might criticize the story of an older man and a younger woman finding a connection in Japan, I think the film speaks to the deeper truth of the human longing for relational connection. We all need community, and we'll create that in our lives even if we don't know how to.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Out of all the Star Wars, this has some of the best action sequences and performances of the entire sci-fi saga. This is where we meet Yoda. This is where we find out the dark truth about Darth Vader and Luke. This is where Boba Fett arrives. This is where Luke and Leia awkwardly smooch before they know that they're twins. This is a film that doesn't end on a happy note, but is still amazing.

Amelie (2001): I love how this film celebrates life through the stories of quirky and very human characters living in Montemarte. Having been to Montemarte this past summer with my wife, this film holds a special place in our hearts. This film makes me want to move to Europe and buy a Vespa.

Good Will Hunting (1997): I love this film both for the fantastic script and for the deeper truths it reveals about discipleship. The mentoring relationship between Sean and Will in the film is a powerful narrative about unconditional love in a very concrete setting. It's a beautiful film that every person who involved in youth ministry should study.

The Matrix (1999): If you had asked me five years ago what my favorite film was, this would have been it. I've since changed in my movie tastes, but this film deserves to be on the list. I used to like it because it was just "cool." Lots of action, lots of slow-motion bullet sequences, lots of kung fu. But I now appreciate it for its concept of a new dimension of reality. It's truly a postmodern movie in every sense--every religion is represented, authority is seen as deceiving, and the electronic community is given a new twist (we're all connected because we're all batteries).

Magnolia (1999): This film boasts on of the best ensemble casts I can remember. Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the best directors of our time, and the truths tackled in this film are powerful. This is the best "we're all connected" films I've seen.

Secrets and Lies (1996): It's a film about a dysfunctional family and adoption. Having been a part of both--I'm adopted--this film strikes home in a way that many films do not. The raw and authentic performances only add to its powerful narrative. Mike Leigh is a great director, pulling some great performances out of underrated actors.

Batman Begins (2005): I know that The Dark Knight is probably a better film overall, but at this point in my life, I really love Christopher Nolan's character study of Bruce Wayne and how he becomes something more than just a playboy billionaire. I think I agree with the themes presented in this film more than those in Dark Knight--that fear can be crippling if not conquered with love, that our actions can define our identities, and that Christian Bale is a stud.

Blade Runner (1982): This final spot was a toss-up between this and Ridley Scott's other sci-fi epic, Alien (1979). Blade Runner just has so many layers to it. On one level, it's a sci-fi action film, with Harrison Ford chasing down replicants in a dystopian future. On another level, it's a film about identity and love, asking the question "what truly makes us human?"

I know that there aren't too many films on here from before 1980. While I love a great deal of classic films, I simply haven't seen them enough to determine whether they're truly my favorites. It takes time (and multiple viewings) to fully appreciate and fall in love with a film.

What's your favorite film? Do we have any films in common?


  1. I was saddened to see that Braveheart did not make your list.

  2. Ryan, if I had made this list about 7 years ago, it would have included Braveheart, Gladiator, and probably The Princess Bride. Love all those movies!

    There are so many that I could have included: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Die Hard, Office Space, Gandhi, Little Miss Sunshine, etc. But there is a difference between what I think are the "best" movies and what are my "favorite" movies. Jurassic Park would not be on my "best films" list, but it's one of my favorite films ever. Mostly because I'm a dinosaur Ross on Friends.

  3. If I had to make a list right now, Memento, Lost in Translation, The Matrix, and Magnolia would all be on there. But I think all of your picks are worthy.

    My favorite film of all-time is still Oldboy. I really want something better to come out and amaze me, but it just hasn't happened yet. That movie has everything.

  4. Jurassic Park, The Matrix, Dumb and Dumber, Casablanca, and Batman Begins are the same.

    Others on my list would include The Last Samurai, The Goonies, The Saint, Saving Private Ryan and Spy Game.

  5. Chris, I love The Goonies! Been to Astoria in Oregon just to see where it was filmed.