Welcome to the first official post of my Top 125 Films of All Time! You can find my list of Honorable Mentions here, films which just missed the cut. I will start with the last 25 films to make the list (making this a fairly lengthy post), and then have daily posts of 10 each all the way until #1 is revealed! Enjoy!
#125 – Dumb & Dumber (Peter & Bobby Farrelly, 1994)
There is no more perfect place to begin my list than with Dumb & Dumber, as it represents so many things about my tastes and my cinematic origins. It is likely a film that will forever remain on my list. Call it nostalgia if you want, but it remains perhaps my favorite slap-stick comedy, even if the humor will not necessarily appeal to everyone.
#124 – Big (Penny Marshall, 1988)
Bridging the gap between comedy and drama, Big is the perfect example of the genre, and how it is possible to be funny and moving at the same time (although Big is mostly funny). It reminds me of what it is like to have a childlike spirit and wonder, something we must not forget, even, and perhaps especially, when we are adults dealing with adult problems.
#123 – The Natural (Barry Levinson, 1984)
Having recently rewatched this film for my ongoing Baseball marathon, I was reminded of the charm of not just this film, but the game of baseball in general, which is why it makes my list. The Natural is so proficient at expressing the lore and myth of baseball history, and Robert Redford as the shy and rural Roy Hobbs is perfect.
#122 – The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
Music and movies have long been two of my favorite hobbies, with sports being a third. The Blues Brothers is one of the better modern musicals which blends popular music with the comedic stylings of two Saturday Night Live veterans to create a memorable experience full of fantastic cameos from some of musics legends.
#121 – In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008)
In researching a quote to use for this film (see above), I am reminded just how laugh out loud and non-stop hilarious this film can be. It is also vulgar and violent, so not for the faint of heart. But what the central cast in Brendon Gleeson, Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes are able to accomplish is endlessly entertaining from start to finish.
#120 – Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961)
Last Year at Marienbad is the first true “art house” selection on my list, and one which I have not seen in some time. I would wager that it may rise in my estimation with another viewing, as its charm is its denseness, which unravels itself over the course of the run time with great beauty and structure.
#119 – Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
Woody Allen has been a prolific filmmaker most of his career, and his filmography shows many mediocre films, but it also boasts a couple outstanding films. Annie Hall is likely his best for not only managing to be very funny, but for speaking to the ups and downs, highs and lows of relationships.
#118 – Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)
Jane Campion’s film is a visual splendor, marrying the beauty of the poetry of John Keats with the beauty delivered on screen. One of the most visually appealing films I have seen, and yet the performances from Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw in the lead romance is enough to break your heart all the way through.
#117 – Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953)
Roman Holiday is just a joyful cinematic experience. To get to spend time with the incomparable Audrey Hepburn in such a setting as Rome, as a princess no less, is an opportunity better not passed up. Her glee and innocence really fuel this film.
#116 – Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
Star Wars is such an iconic film that there really isn’t much to say or argue why it finds a place in my Top 125. The question, in fact, may be why it sits so low on my list. After a recent rewatch, it remains the same joyride of a film, but there are films on this list I appreciate more, and enjoy more. But Star Wars remains a must see for sure.
#115 – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, 1958)
The energy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is palpable. Like A Streetcar Names Desire or The Lion in Winter, much of the film is contained to static sets with loads of dialogue, but the play by Tennessee Williams is more than exciting enough to maintain interest. Performances from Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman are the main attraction in such a richly penned story.
#114 Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)
Being a huge James Bond fan, who has read all of Ian Fleming’s original novels and marathon-ed the Bond films (found here), it only serves that a Bond film make my list. In past iterations it has been On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a film I still hold in high regard. But this time it has to be Casino Royale. A slick, sexy film which launched the series back in with new Bond Daniel Craig.
#113 – Das Boot (Wolfgang Peterson, 1981)
I’ve tried to include a varied list that includes a wide range of old and new films, English and foreign language films. That is not to say Das Boot is an arbitrary inclusion. In fact, quite the opposite. Never have I seen such a tense and powerful war movie as Das Boot. Pure adrenaline powers through this three hour cat and mouse game full of suspense.
#112 – Scenes From a Marriage (Ingmar Bergman, 1973)
This is not always a pretty story, though it ends up being a heartbreakingly beautiful depiction of a couple truly in love with each other, though that may be my naiveté speaking. It sounds like a boring three hours, but it is explosive in its use of heart, deceit, and most importantly, love. Ingmar Bergman is a master storyteller, so expect to see more of him later.
#111 – Up (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson, 2009)
For the longest time, my birthday tradition has been to see the latest Pixar release, as it almost always coincides with my summer birthday. While the tradition began with 2008’s Wall-E, it was solidified with this nearly perfect film which is beautiful, heartbreaking, funny, moving, and extremely heartwarming all the same. The marriage montage is one of the greatest sequences ever put to film. Bar none.
#110 – Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
One of the trends you may find in my list is that of visually striking films making a serious impact. Lawrence of Arabia is a perfect example of a visually astounding film that makes the cut first and foremost for its tremendous dedication to cinematography. It’s a long film, but one well worth seeing for the unmatched scenery on display.
#109 – The Bad News Bears (Michael Ritchie, 1976)
Irreverent films are not always my bag, but The Bad News Bears is a good example of one that is. Filled with memorable characters played miraculously by a great youth cast which includes Jackie Earle Haley and Tatum O’Neal, The Bad News Bears is both funny, and a remarkable commentary on the state of youth athletics, still relevant today.
#108 – Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
What Richard Linklater has been able to accomplish in his career is remarkable. He will likely be most well remembered for two separate projects which spanned long lengths of time (more on the other one later…). With Boyhood, Linklater took a risk that paid off, by making the film over a decade, showing true growth and character change/development using the same actors. This ambitious project is helped by the fact that the story, while fairly universal, is also engagingly real.
#107 – Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek, 2010)
I seem to have a certain affinity for what I would like to call hopeful, yet depressing, beauty. Never Let Me Go fits nicely into that category, as it tells a tale which reminds us of our humanity, even the most terminal aspects of it, while also highlighting some of the more lasting, hopeful, and joyful aspects, like love.
#106 – Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003)
For all the missteps someone like Will Ferrell has in his filmography, he also has some great comedy work sprinkled in there. Elf is probably his best film, and best performance. Each Christmas it comes on and it catches my eye and my attention. Buddy is perfect. Ferrell is perfect. His endless child-like joy perfectly encapsulates what Christmas is truly all about, even in a world where holiday cheer now involves greedy, raging shoppers trampling each other on Black Friday.
#105 – WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
Pixar has taken us on many magical journey’s, but for me, none has been more magical than WALL-E. The audacity to spend the first 45 minutes of the film in essentially silent era completely works, and is completely engaging. Once we are whisked into outer space, the majesty of the film only manages to grow.
#104 – Adaptation. (Spike Jonze, 2002)
Adaptation. is the type of film that shifted my view of what cinema was capable of. That seems like a hyperbolic statement, but there is nothing else out there like Adapation. Nothing as truthful while being so far from the truth. Nothing so personal. Charlie Kauffman and Spike Jonze showed me there are no limitations to what can be done, and done well, in cinema.
#103 – Braveheart (Mel Gibson, 1995)
Perhaps including a “frat boy”, macho film like Braveheart seems outside of my wheelhouse, but a war epic like Mel Gibson’s magnum opus doesn’t come around too often. The determination with which Gibson stars and directs is astonishing, and the finished product reflects this.
#102 – Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000)
It seems only fitting that I should place these last two films together, as they feel related in my mind, even further than their violent scenes. Great performances from a great cast, Gladiator maintains a pulse, all the way through, and is a great example of how to make a revenge film.
#101 – Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan, 1961)
For whatever reason, Splendor in the Grass, and Natalie Wood, with their poetic beauty, draw me in completely from start to finish for this fated love story. The falling in love and breaking of hearts is even more striking coming from the duo of Wood and co-star Warren Beatty. It’s a film which remains with me always.