I will introduce my top 5 by saying that this will be formatted like Looper does their YouTube videos. I really like how they break down their top ten lists with major categories then break each category down into many honorable mentions that lead up to the main selection for each.
My categories are a bit different though. Growing up, I was most influenced by horror, sci-fi and Schwarzenegger action flicks so you’ll notice my first three categories really cover those realms and are what I call the “formative years” for my taste. Now the last two categories are going to be a bit different.
I watched a lot of movies over the years and with the help of Letterboxd I think I tallied up that I’d watched somewhere around 1500 movies over forty years. In the last few years though, I’ve tacked on another thousand which have included a lot of films I never thought I’d watch. So I’m going with one category for what I’m calling “classic cinema,” which will be anything before the year 2000 that would be considered a masterpiece. Then the “modern cinema” category will be for any film from this century that is also outside my norm but what I’d call modern classics.
So without further ado, here is my FilmEra top five:
In the Mouth of Madness and Possession are a good start here. Army of Darkness and Idle Hands have the comedic elements covered. Repulsion and M satisfy the classics. The VVitch, Train to Busan, and I Saw the Devil cover some modern horror I have enjoyed. Cannibal Holocaust, the Italian horror scene, the Friday the 13th series, most things John Carpenter, and a lot of other awesome horror movies have crossed my path. Far too many to name them all. Needless to say, I love horror films. I also love sci-fi and there are really only two contenders here. I’ll say that Alien is my second which leaves:
Somehow I remember seeing this way back in 1983 or 1984 on cable I think. I was only nine or ten so you can imagine a young kid seeing this ultra-violent movie. It didn’t scare me though. Probably because I saw Alien a few years before, and it scared me pretty deeply, which I did get over thankfully and have enjoyed both of these films ever since. I would rank The Thing as my number one movie of all time in pretty much any movie list that comes up. Quite honestly, I can’t think of anything I would rank it at this point. The blend of horror and sci-fi is perfect.
My parents tell me I slept through Star Wars in the theater when I was a very small child, but that was definitely too long ago for me to remember. What I do remember what I think is my earliest movie at the theater was seeing The Black Hole with my uncle. I also remember seeing TRON way back when, and years later Lawnmower Man was very influential to my taste. 2001, The Terminator, Total Recall, The Matrix, the original War of the Worlds, and The Fifth Element factor in as well. Modern sci-fi I have enjoyed includes Passengers and Annihilation. However, there is only one movie I will put on the top of this category:
I remember going to see this the day it came out and what a movie! I have a review I want to post at some point detailing why I think this is a perfect film. That isn’t to say this doesn’t have flaws so much, but out of all the sci-fi I’ve watched, I would put this up with every one of them. The Matrix and The Fifth Element might come close to unseating this champ, but for now, Independence Day gets my nod for the top sci-fi film.
What list can I make that wouldn’t include things like Die Hard, Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan, selections from the Bond series, Total Recall, Conan, The Terminator, Pulp Fiction, Memento, Logan, and Predator? You’ll notice that a lot of these cross over into sci-fi territory and with good reason. I love genre-bending, but there is really only one film I will put on top and that is:
Yet another film I saw in the theater when it came out and yet another that has stuck with me all these years. This is another film I consider flawless, and yet another that I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it. I would add that the sequel sucked, and I still hate that movie to this day, but contrary to popular opinion, I did really love watching the latest incarnation from a couple years ago. Seeing that in the theater really brought back memories of seeing the original as a kid. I am definitely a huge fan of this movie to this day.
Now we’re getting to films that are a bit older. Some of these I saw as a kid like Wages of Fear and 12 Angry Men, which both stuck with me over the years. Others, like Arsenic and Old Lace, were more recent watches. I’ve put a review for The Night of the Hunter here and recently sat down to the sprawling epic of the original Ben-Hur for the first time.
Getting this one narrowed down is going to be very difficult. Taxi Driver was a film I only watched in the last couple years, and it was incredible. Then you have Sorcerer, which is a retelling of Wages of Fear, but that bridge crossing scene still makes my butt pucker just thinking about it. Winding down my list, I got to Chinatown which just absolutely took me by storm. I actually had to take a break from movies for a while because everything just paled by comparison. So what film could manage to top Chinatown?
I knew absolutely nothing about Kurosawa up until a few years ago. I started going through his filmography but got sidetracked and haven’t gotten back to it. The man has an absolutely incredible filmography, and I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I watched from him. Seven Samurai though is iconic. There are so many movies this has influenced over the years, and it’s just an incredibly well-told story. I’ve only watched it once, but that is all I needed to put this one on top of a list like this. I will revisit this one someday and maybe do a proper write-up, but for now, this will do.
So far my list has focused on what my taste in film is built from over my first few decades of viewing, but this category is based on films that have been released in recent years which, in my opinion, show just how strong modern film can be. These have the potential of being eventual classics or at least should still be highly regarded down the road.
Just looking at some recent favorites like Shin Godzilla, Moonrise Kingdom, Room, Inherent Vice, Whiplash, Gone Girl and The Wailing, I think modern cinema is doing just fine. La La Land actually got a good nod from me even though I typically don’t care for musicals. I guess getting older is really starting to expand my horizons. Things like Arrival, mother!, and The Dark Knight have ensured that my first three categories are still being well fed in the modern age, but there is only one film I would put at the top of this list and that is:
The Grand Budapest Hotel
I really like Wes Anderson’s style, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is a very good culmination of that style. When I was a kid, I used to love drawing and looking at cutaway images of things like boats and buildings, which is something Anderson’s films do quite a bit. Besides that, his overall style of color and shot quality plus comedy just sits right in my sweet spot.
That’s it. Those are my top five films. Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did making it. I wasn’t exactly sure where things would end up when I started, but I’m pleased with how this turned out.