Lists of the top films of all time require a lot of time and thought to put together. There is no definition of "great." "Great" could be the entertainment value, the contribution to cinema, the pure spectacle, etc. In this continuing sequence of five articles, you will find some generic "top films" choices, but you will also find some others below that may not be on many lists. These lists all depend on the person. So without further ado, here are my top 50 greatest films of all time.
Psycho (Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) - Psycho is one of the top 10 films ever made. It has fantastic performances, especially by Anthony Perkins, no gore, innovative camerawork and a chilling Bernard Hermann score. Though made in 1960, Psycho is one of the scariest films of all time due to its use of it's-what-you-dont-see method of horror. Psycho is an absolute must-see for everyone, whether you like horror or not.
Rear Window (Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)- Another Hitchcock that is one of the greatest, this one has great performances from James Stewart and the stunning Gracy Kelly. Featuring brilliant camerawork and high levels of suspense, this is a movie to watch over and over again.
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (Dir. Peter Greenaway, 1989) - By far one of the most shocking films on this list, and one of the least known, this supposed allegory foe Thatcherism in England has it all: sex, cannibalism, gruesome murder, rape, child abuse, and a dose of rotting food thrown in for good measure. Michael Gambon starts as Albert Spicard, a vile restaurant owner who mistreats his wife (Helen Mirren). When the wife has an affair with one of the restaurant patrons and the dinners at the restaurant become increasingly disgusting, everything spirals out of control. Originally rated X (the rating was changed to NC-17), this is not for everyone, but for those willing to sit through it, it will be a total treat.
Brazil (Dir. Terry Gilliam, 1985) - Nominated for two Oscars including Best Original Screenplay, this is one film that must be seen to be believed. Brazil follows a bureaucrat in a dystopian society (it strangely mirrors ours in some ways) who becomes disgruntled and rebels. This is one bizarre, hilarious, and at times, disturbing film with crazy visuals, odd characters, and a pitch-black sense of humor. Again, this is not one that is for everyone, but for those
who love insanity in films and have that sense of humor, this will be perfect.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Dir. Robert Altman, 1971) - Julie Christie scored a Best Actress Oscar nomination for this film about an ambitious man, John McCabe (Warren Beatty) who opens a brothel in the middle of turn-of-the-century wilderness in the Pacific Northwest. With the help of Constance Miller (Christie), the brothel booms, but with growth and progress comes a price. Featuring Leonard Cohen's haunting songs, Vilmos Zsigmond's flash-exposed photography, and natural pace and imagery, this film is beautiful and tragic, sometimes simultaneously. Though slow-moving, this film is another piece of perfection from beginning to end, and completely underrated.
Sunset Boulevard (Dir. Billy Wilder, 1950) - Another one of my all-time favorites, Billy Wilder's movie-about-movies follows a failing screenwriter (William Holden) who begins to work for a faded silent film actress who wants a comeback (Gloria Swanson). The fantastic acting, sharp wit, and dark noirish edge combined with top-notch camerawork and lighting form a film for the ages.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Dir. Peter Jackson, 2001-2003) - This is one of few trilogies without a weak link. Jackson combines flawless visual effects, amazing acting, a great good-vs.-evil story, astounding cinematography, and a rousing score to great effect. This one of the few fantasy films that will give you chills and make you emotional by the end. Seeing these three films may equal over 9 hours, but whether seeing them together or apart, they create one story that will last for all time.
Pulp Fiction (Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 1994) - One of the few perfect films out there, Pulp Fiction has something to offend everyone and something for everyone to laugh at, whether you want to or not. John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Bruce Willis lead a cast of well over a dozen amazing actors portraying some of the most memorable characters in recent memory. Tarantino's dialogue is quite possibly the best ever written combining foul language and Bible verses. Many individual scenes have earned iconic status and the lines are among the most quotable. The non-linear approach is very clever and the 154 minutes that this movie runs whiz by.
The Incredibles (Dir. Brad Bird, 2004) - One of the best animated films ever, and one of the greatest films ever, The Incredibles follows a retired superhero called back into action after having settled down with another superhero and having a family. Not only does this film supply action, it provides a great human element too tackling the complexities of marriage and accurately portraying everyday home life. The voice cast led by Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter is perfect and the animation is beautiful. Combine that with Michael Giacchino's jazzy score and you have a true winner.
Tootsie (Dir. Sydney Pollack, 1982) - This is one of the greatest comedies of all time. Dustin Hoffman stars as Michael Dorsey, a bad-tempered out-of-work actor who takes a job as a woman on a soap opera while simultaneously falling in love with his co-star (Jessica Lange in a role that won her an Oscar). While the story sounds like a generic romantic comedy, this film is elevated way above that with its great acting (Dustin Hoffman is a very good woman), believability, and big heart. Heart goes a long way in films because not many films have it. Tootsie also works because of its script which gives its actors clever lines and its characters dimension. This is one film that must be seen. I have personally seen this so many times that I can recite the lines to many of the scenes.
The Lives of Others (Dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006) - Winner of the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, The Lives of Others follows an East German Stasi officer ordered to do a wire tap on a suspected "threat" to the state in 1984. But, as he listens to his subjects, he becomes increasingly drawn into their lives. What makes this story and film so special is that it shows that there can be good in the world. It never gets corny. The Lives of Others demonstrates each of the character's humanity. It also gives us, the viewer, a glimpse into a country that was entirely closed off to the rest of the world. On top of everything else, director von Donnersmarck finishes off with a finale so stunning, that only a master could have thought of it. And to think, this was only his debut film.