Welcome to the penultimate edition of my Top 125 Films of All Time. It feels as though it has been a long process, but I hope the wait will have been worth it as we take a look into the Top 20, and tomorrow the Top 10!
#20 – Up in the Air (Jason Reitman, 2009)
The inclusion of Up in the Air is certainly a personal one. In another life, I was a travelling software consultant. Having lived this life, I can tell you it was not a fancy or exciting lifestyle, but there was an edge to it which I approached with caution. Had I gone over that edge, I very well could have ended up like Ryan Bingham here. This scared me, and I left that career behind.
#19 – Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1984)
The madness and power of art is palpable, and what Amadeus accomplishes by showing us the story of Mozart through the eyes of rival completely breaks down any convention of appreciation. “Wolfy” is not a nice guy, not a guy you would imagine would be in possession of such a gift, but like Salieri, we all remain endlessly impressed and in awe.
#18 – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
This is a film of great artistic achievement. The cinematography is endlessly barren and beautiful. The film score is iconic and everlasting. The performances from Eastwood, Van Cleef, and Wallach are unforgettable. Perhaps the quintessential Western with everything indicative of greatness in the genre.
#17 – The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
Speaking of performances, there is perhaps no greater example of a lead actor and actress giving the performances of their lives in the same film. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins embody these characters in a creepy film where the villain is not even the villain.
#16 – United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
There is nothing more terrifying then the frenetic pace and reality of this film. Paul Greengrass delivers a film that is far too real and far too perfect an homage to this day by showing us the events as they were, devoid of politics or commentary. We each bring with us our own baggage to the film. That is powerful.
#15 – Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
The first time I saw this film I enjoyed it, but didn’t see it’s greatness, and thought the ending was the opposite of what should have happened. ADAM, YOU HAD NO IDEA! If I could go back and tell my past self about the true perfection of this film, I would say that is is far closer to perfection than any film really deserves to be.
#14 – Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson, 1981)
Often beguiled for having beat out Raiders of the Lost Ark for Best Picture in 1981, Chariots of Fire is an immensely personal experience for me for reasons unknown. I’m not British, and I’m certainly not a runner, but there is something unseen in these men that is instantly relatable to me. For their drive deeply personal, in each of them, for many different reasons.
#13 – 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
This film is devastating. Devastating performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o. Devastatingly haunting cinematography. Perfect pace, impactful storytelling. Steve McQueen has improved with each film, which is astounding given the effectiveness of Hunger, his debut film. But that only goes to say how great a film 12 Years a Slave truly is.
#12 – Night and Fog (Alain Resnais, 1955)
It seems as though I have traveled down the sad and depressing road of my list with these last few films, but their impact and importance cannot and should not be denied. With Night and Fog, Alain Resnais has given us as haunting and beautiful a tribute to the lives lost during the Holocaust as will ever be created, in any art medium. Truly devastating.
#11 – Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
The final Alfred Hitchcock film of this countdown, it only seems fitting, at least to me, that it would be the most perfect of his films, of which he had a few. Rear Window builds suspense from nothing, leaving little clues for our hero characters to gobble up, as James Stewart, Grace Kelly and Thelma Ritter all shine on screen. The most perfect of the master’s masterpieces.