Note: I started this post back in April of '08 and never got around to finishing it (yay, me!). I started thinking about it lately and finally decided to rework it and post it. I kept the original list (more or less) intact, fleshed it out, and added 5 'honorable mentions' at the end. Here it is, two years in the making:
This isn't a list of the greatest films I've ever seen. This list is of those films that I just love. Some are truly great - some I just think are great. This is my list of films that I can't get enough of, each one of these films I've watched multiple times and will probably watch numerous more times. I'm sure that I missed a couple of films that should be up here - those ones that were so awesome that I forgot them entirely, but I think that this is a damned good list as it stands.
1) Dr. Strangelove (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) - 1964
Hands-down my favorite movie of all-time. Leave it to Stanley Kubrick to craft a jet-black comedy about nuclear war right at the apex of the Cold War. Peter Sellers turns in one of the great performances in the history of celluloid by playing three separate characters flawlessly. George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, Keenan Wynn, and James Earl Jones round out the exemplary cast. This an absolute pitch-perfect film from start to finish.
2) Kamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma Monogatari) - 2004
I LOVE this film - It's like catnip to me. I could watch this film three times in a row and still consider putting it in for a fourth viewing. The tagline for this film was: 'The extraordinary adventures of a Lolita-look aficionado and a tough biker gang chick', but that only scratches the surface of this frenetic blender-ride of a movie. This might not be Akira Kurosawa, but it's my favorite Japanese film.
Note: Just watched this one again last night with Jake & Maria & it's still awesome-as-all-hell.
3) Hedwig and the Angry Inch - 2001
Easily the best transgendered rock-opera of all time. Before this film hit the theaters, I got a free pass to preview this film in DC. I had no idea what it was all about. I just knew that it was a chance to see an indie-film for free, and that was good enough for me. This film hit me upside the head like nothing I'd seen before - Great film, incredible soundtrack, and possibly the most fun movie of the last 20 years.
4) Kwaidan - 1965
This film is truly a work of art. Masaki Kobayashi's stunning expressionist stylings make this not so much a a movie, but rather a moving painting of indescribable beauty. This collection of four separate Japanese folk tales is eerie and stunning with incredible visuals and surprising depth. Truly a superb film.
5) The City of Lost Children - 1995
Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet create a beautiful Jules Vernesque dystopia punctuated by a wonderful Angelo Badalamenti score. The dreamlike nature of this film lies between the worlds of Caro's Delicatessen and Jeunet's Amélie - A perfect middle-ground for an outstanding film.
6) The Man Who Laughs - 1928
This was one of the last great expressionist silent films directed by Paul Leni. By the late '20s the industry was moving away from the surreal styling of German expressionism toward a more realistic portrayal. Too bad. If you look at the Lon Chaney film of the same year, 'Laugh Clown, Laugh", it's amazing how two films of similar subject matter and released in the same month (April 1928) could be so different. Huge props to William T. for turning me onto this gem.
7) Altered States - 1980
This might not be a great film. Hell, it might not even be a good film, but I love it. Take the script from some forgotten Universal monster film from the '40s, load it up on psychedelics, add the overly verbose hyper-technical dialogue of Paddy Chayefsky, and stir. Not for everyone, but it suits me perfectly.
8) Kung Fu Hustle - 2004
I really wanted to include one of Zhang Yimou's wuxia films (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower) on the list, but the more I thought about recent Chinese period dramas, the more I thought about how much I love this film. Sorry Zhang. Roger Ebert described this film as "Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny". Yeah, that sounds about right.
9) Santa Sangre - 1989
I saw this movie in its limited US theatrical release back in 1990, and it changed my perception of what film could be. Alejandro Jodorowsky's films led me into the films of Werner Herzog, David Lynch, Luis Buñuel, Kenneth Anger, and countless others. This film still has a lasting hold on me, but it's influence has far exceeded its scope. I just wish that they would release a half-decent DVD of this film (ie: not the R-rated Blockbuster cut, or Chinese bootleg). I'm waiting.
10) The Iron Giant - 1999
Back in 2008 (when I started making this list) I was hard-obsessed with this movie. I was going to bump it, but the picture (left) was just too damned cool. Brad Bird directed this film after his work on the (golden-age) Simpsons and before his reign at Pixar. This is a smart, funny, touching movie that far exceeds expectations. Too bad Warner butt-fucked-up the release and tanked the movie out of the gate. Which left Bird to move on and make a bajillion dollars for Disney. Way to go, guys!
The Fog of War
Giants & Toys
The Night of the Hunter
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?