Well, this is the week when everyone’s talking about what movie is better than another, so why not revisit my list of all-time favorite films?
Notice I say “favorite,” not “best,” because the only real way to measure something like a movie is by the effect it has on you personally.
My favorite four movies have been locked in place for 30-odd years now. Every so often I might watch E.T. again and think, “Wow, have I grown to love Elliott’s story more than Rick and Ilsa or even Dorothy?” but the emotional resonance the older films have with me is hard to shake.
As I noted Monday, this weekend’s exposure to Arrival was a delight on a level I haven’t experienced in many years, probably going back to 2005, when I discovered the great television series Firefly just weeks before its film sequel, Serenity, came to theaters. I haven’t seen any of the other nine films that were nominated for Best Picture this year, and if any of them tickle me more than Arrival did, I guess I’m in for a treat or two.
This tells you more about me than about the films, but for what it’s worth here’s where my all-time favorite list stands after the weekend shakeup … And yes, Arrival is that good. You gotta see it!
1. It’s a Wonderful Life – which I watched at exactly the right time in my life to etch George Bailey’s story into my heart for eternity.
2. The Wizard of Oz – simply the great fantasy movie ever made; oh wait, I guess It’s a Wonderful Life is a fantasy, isn’t it? You know what I mean …
3. Casablanca – great love story, great dialogue, great characters, a simply perfect film.
4. E.T. The Extraterrestrial – a tremendous story of love and transition, backed by the greatest movie score ever composed.
5. Arrival – solving an interstellar puzzle solves so much more in a beautifully written, beautifully acted, beautifully produced film.
6. Serenity – the best TV show ever gets a proper denouement.
7. To Kill a Mockingbird – Until The Martian, the only book that ever made a transition to the big screen that absolutely captures the core material.
8. Raiders of the Lost Ark – the action adventure that showed once and for all how it’s done.
9. Gojira – the original Japanese version of Godzilla is a haunting triumph that more than transcends the guy in the rubber suit destroying a miniature city.
10. A Christmas Story – Jean Shepherd, a genius storyteller, collects his best stories in a family comedy for the ages.
Other films that have moved in and out of #5-10 (or tied for #11) at various times over the years, all of which blew me away on first and subsequent viewings: Glory, Contact, Singing in the Rain, The Best Years of Our Lives, Joyeaux Noel, John Carter, The Empire Strikes Back, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Shenandoah, Ikiru, The Martian, Doctor Strange, Field of Dreams, Meet John Doe, Dances With Wolves, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It Happened One Night, Marvel’s The Avengers.
What do you make of this top 10? What am I forgetting? Why would anyone try to rank his favorite movies in order?