The New Year has dawned upon us and the site must go on to strive with a new series and original content, but before any of that, I want to do something I have not done in a long while. What is that something? Share a little insight on myself and what I love. What better place to dive into than what films I loved to return and revisit. I am not going to try and be pretentious with these films nor try to attempt to impress the reader with choices as these choices are not the “greatest films or all time,” but rather the films I loved and admire. Film is about escaping into a new experience and these films help do that just right, at least, in my opinion. Just consider this the epilogue to Film A Week before I move on to bigger projects.With that said, here are 30 of my favorite films, part one.
30. Jurassic Park (1993) Directed by Steven Spielberg
As a kid, I was practically in love with dinosaurs. These marvelous creatures that did not exist for millions of years where on my mind as I watched We’re Back: A Dinosaur Story and The Land Before Time religiously. It got to the point that my stuffed animal I slept with was a brontosaurus from a claw machine I affectionately called Little Foot, which I still have a love to this very day. So when I saw Jurassic Park on video (I was one when it came out in theatres), you can probably guess my reaction…I was fuckin’ scared.
Seriously, the first five minutes freaked me the hell out, but I stuck with it and loved it. For me as a kid, seeing what I loved come to life on screen was nothing short of awesome with the T-Rex chase being the ultimate thrill and making raptors invade the kitchen one hell of a terrifying scene. As I got older, I fell in love with the story and how serious they take the tale. I eventually read the original novel by Michael Crichton and this film adapts what is needed to be adapted and leaves out some parts that would not have worked on screen (or got saved for Jurassic Park III, an underrated entry in the series). Hell, it even saved Dr. Ian Malcolm from utter despair with Goldblum having a blast in his role.
Spielberg knocks it out of the park (pun intended) by creating a world that was both terrifying and marvelous while showing the dangers of new technology and man’s misunderstanding of how it works. I recently saw this film this year in 3D twice, one at a press screening and the other time I took my little brother as he is going through “Dino-mania” as well. I’m impressed that the film works so well in 3D by having moments where I actually jumped out of my seat. I never got to see it in the theater, so I felt like a child all over again hearing the T-Rex roar loud and proud in the cinema was sheer joy and, yes, gave me have a huge smile rather than fear.
29. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
The Harry Potter series is not only one series of books I admire to this very day, but the films have been a part of my life as well. From reading the first book to seeing the first film, I was always going to love this series, but the series really hit its pinnacle with Prisoner of Azkaban. For those who have the book, you would know it’s kind of a short read and the story seems to be more of a side venture even if it has crucial story to the main series’ plot. The film see this concept and makes a film that actually could standalone for anyone who has never seen a Harry Potter feature.
Writer Steve Kloves, writer of every film in the series (save for Order of the Phoenix), put a ton of fun and adventure into this one with director Alfonso Cuaron making the series not only take a darker route, but manages to make a serious adaptation without ruining the fun of the book itself. As Harry, played by Daniel Radcliffe, must deal with the newly escaped Sirius Black, played wonderfully by Gary Oldman, who wants to come and kill Harry under the wishes of Voldemort. Of course, Harry and his friend head for another adventure giving more of the wizardry world life, exposure and even time travel to past moments in order to save the day. This story to me is, in the words of Bender from Futurama, “fun on the bun.”
Maybe I might be a bit bias as Azkaban is my favorite book of the series, but Cuaron managed to get everything right with it. The characters we are familiar with start to grow in the process as they know danger is waiting for them and they could be killed every step of the way. The one that grows the most out of all of them is Hermonie, played by Emma Watson, by using her wits, smarts and caring nature to help Harry on his quest. Also, anyone who punches out Malfoy, played to a tee by Tom Felton, deserves a mention. It’s not anything life changing, but it did manage to make the series have one kickass moment of fun before it got a bit too serious.
28. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Directed by Terry Gilliam
If you read my review of Life of Brian, then you probably know what I think about Monty Python and their brand of humor. These men are legends and genius by giving a smart look and satirizing take on topics. Never have I grown dull of their humor and never do I feel like it falters, even if some Flying Circus episodes I do not revisit. With the Pythons taking on the Arthurian legend, not only are you in for a treat, but you are in for a whip smart and perfectly paced comedy.
I watched this film in high school and, admittedly, I am a bit of a fantasy nerd so this was ripe for me. My pal Joey let me borrow it and from the credits alone with Swedish subtitles promoting the country to film goers I knew it was going to be hilarious. In fact, I think I have quoted this movie more times in my group of friends than any other film, save for about two more films on the list. It’s hard to pinpoint one scene that made me bust out laughing because the film is chock-full with belly laughs from Castle Anthrax to the Holy Hand Grenade, but it is all worth the ride to the abrupt and out-of-nowhere ending.
Holy Grail may not be the pinnacle of their comedy, but is easily the most accessible to anyone. It was first exposure to the comic troupe and got me to love them more than ever. Heck, it is even surpringsly that the strange mind of Terry Gilliam came from here, and while his direction may not be obvious in here as with other films, he knows how to film a broad comedy well. This is one quest for the Holy Grail that is funny in every general direction.
27. The Thing (1982), Directed by John Carpenter
I have already made a short post on my I like The Thing on this site, so I will keep this entry very brief. John Carpenter is known for his cult appeal and his status in the ‘genre film’ game. The Thing remains one of his more serious films by harnessing the power of isolation, paranoia and the sense of something unknown waiting to take over. The special effects work is nothing short of spectacular and the performances are astounding with Kurt Russel’s Jack MacReady easily being his defining role, at least in my mind. Carpenter skillfully created a horror masterpiece that I still get the shivers during every time I watch it.
If you want to read more of my thoughts with Wilford Brimley going insane and a deeper look into the aspects I enjoyed, head over to this link: Film A Week SHORTS! The Thing (1982).
26. Mary Poppins (1964), Directed by Robert Stevenson
I will be willing to accept I am a sucker for Disney. I would literally worship the ground that evil corporation stands on and admire their persistent vision to practically own every major franchise they can get their hands on to please their frozen overlord. Yet, before the terrible jokes about the company, Walt Disney created amazing films and none more amazing than the feat captured in Mary Poppins. The film is a marvel of Disney and the pinnacle of what they could do in live action by adapting a unique story and creating a world that carefully combines the marvel of magic and the humanity of kindness (even if the author P.L. Travers thought it was utter shit).
Julie Andrews as the titular character is perfect in the role covering both the stern nature of her nanny ways and the charisma of a loving mother all the same. She comes in and treats the Banks children with care that their father George, played by David Tomilson, cannot provide. From the antics with the magical chimney sweep Bert, played by Dick Van Dyke doing a questionable accent, going on a Jolly Holiday and getting in trouble at the bank, Mary Poppins makes Mr. Banks and the kids learn the error of their ways and show that life can be fun and free, as long as you still have a stable grasp on what it at hand.
The music is phenomenal with the Sherman Brothers writing their trademark songs like “Feed the Birds” and “Chim-Chim Cheree” with huge set pieces and small moments encapsulating their music. The performances are astounding with Andrews and Van Dyke coming out on top as always alongside a wonderful supporting cast. Watching this growing up was always a treat during the Jolly Holiday sequences with Andrews looking radiant and Dick Van Dyke acting goofy as hell with penguins, but their was a certain chemistry between them. I would have ship the heck out of this two if I knew what that meant when I was five. Anyway, we all know it’s a classic, so why say anything you haven’t heard before. This film is practically perfect in every way.
25. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Directed by Tim Burton
Pee-Wee Herman is always a nostalgic choice for those who managed to see him way back when. I never got that experience when I was young since I was a late 90’s/early ’00s kid of watching Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, but thankfully, their was Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Tim Burton (yes, THAT Tim Burton) started his feature film career with this film and created a surreal and fun comedy that only Paul Rubens would come up with. This film is one of those rare films like Holy Grail above that is hard to describe due to being so fun and entertaining.
Pee-Wee loses his bike and must venture out to the world in order to receive it back at the basement in the Alamo under the wishes of a shoddy fortune teller. That is as simple as can be, but the voyage is fun with Pee-Wee hanging with a rebel and a loner, meeting the adorable Simone at a diner, encountering the terrifying Large Marge and going on the most epic of bike chases throughout Warner Bros. studios. One particular scene that stands out is the biker bar scene that feature Rubens doing the most awkward yet fascinating strut dance to The Champs’ “Tequila.” Heck, in the end, Pee-Wee even goes on a date with his friend Dottie, played by E.G. Daily, and it’s kind of cute they do not end up together and just appreciate each other.
Burton’s direction is awesome and manages to capture the zany and bizarre, but that could be said for any film of his, except maybe Alice in Wonderland. Rubens is awesome and carries the film and the comedy and humor may be a bit random to some, but for me, it works wonderful. It’s a cult classic with a nice comic edge to it and that is something I can get a bowl of Mr. T cereal and watch on a lazy Sunday morning.
24. Beauty and the Beast (1991), Directed by Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise
As with every kid growing up, Disney animated film were essential in childhood just like Mary Poppins was. Thanks to the Disney Renaissance for also being during my childhood because then we would not have the fun and wonderful Beauty and the Beast. This is arguably one of Disney’s best outing in the animated feature, but this is only the third film on the list for me. Virtually everyone has seen it, so not much in the way of plot to explain.
The true of beauty of this film is the music and the performances. Howard Ashman & Alan Menken brought on their Broadway style format to Disney features, but this one perfected it with memorable songs like the titular song to the infectious “Be Our Guest.” The performances by the voice actors are stupendous with Paige O’Hara giving her heart and soul into Belle, but the main scene stealer is always, and this may come as a shock, Richard White as Gaston. Holy hell, this guy is an arrogant asshole, a hilarious buffoon, obnoxious, but can sing with the best of them in his own song “Gaston” and becoming the intimidating monster he is in “The Mob Song.”
In essence, the story should feel like the old tired cliche Disney has brought on with the princess helplessly falling in love fast, but turns it around with Belle falling slowly in love with the Beast, voiced by Robbie Benson, rather than all at once. Pay attention to the time change in the background of the film for that, not even Frozen that changed practically every trope can say they did that first (Sidenote: Frozen is as good, if not better than this film). Belle is also one the first true independent Disney princess that knows what she needs, what she wants and is not afraid to stand up for her own beliefs which is a nice change of pace from the mundane princess types. Beauty and the Beast truly is a tale old as time.
23. The Princess Bride (1987), Directed by Rob Reiner
The simple story of a grandfather, played by Peter Falk, telling his flu-stricken grandson, played by Fred Savage, a fantasy story may not be a great selling point, but luckily we get to see the adventure at hand with the funny, romantic and daring The Princess Bride. I always heard about this movie and never watched it until my Freshman year of high school and I fell in love instantly. It has pirates, kings, sword fights, a great love story, it has it all. Sure, as teenager in high school I should have been like “That is kid’s stuff and not worth it,” but as an awkward teenager, this was totally for me.
Stable boy Wesley, played by Cary Elwes, falls madly for Princess Buttercup, played by Robin Wright, doing anything she wishes. Yet, Wesley leaves to return to marry her with a fortune until Prince Humperdinck, played by Chris Sarandon, comes to marry her after he is believed to be dead. And the rest, well, many film lovers know by now. The film is filled to the brim with a great supporting cast with Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya stealing every scene on screen, great moments of humor that does not deter from the story and handling the beautiful nature of romance with ease.
It’s a timeless film that serves as a tribute to the classic romance of cinema and the swashbuckling adventure films of the past while creating something new with the framing device, which in itself is unique in its concept. Director Rob Reiner put his soul into this film to create a classic work that is not only worth quoting, but worth watching time and time again. There is not much more to say about it, but this movie would be inconceivable not to miss.
22. Wall-E (2008), Directed by Andrew Stanton
Pixar, like Disney, is a force to be reckon with in animation and in their prime, Pixar could do no wrong and that theory was proven with the science fiction romance film Wall-E. Wall-E is a stunning film, both in its visual elements and in its story elements. It is an effort unprecedented in western animation and in the romance sub-genre as a whole. Funny, considering the last two entries also involved romance.
In the post-apocalyptic future (yea, kind of bleak for a setting, don’t you think?), Wall-E is on the planet Earth cleaning the waste, voiced by Ben Burtt, and comes across a robot named Eve (or Eva as Wall-E says it) and begins the most adorable love I have ever seen on film. It’s cute charming and told in complete silence for the first 20 minutes of the film and oddly entertaining. Luckily, this adventure gets away from Earth and goes universal by going into space to find Eve on her way back to a home ship inhabiting humans waiting to go home.
Visually, the movie is striking with breathtaking views of the galaxy above us passing stars, the rings of Saturn and nebulas undiscovered against the dusty consumed Earth stuck in the milky way that is beyond gorgeous. It is also admirable that the story is just as gorgeous by making the whole ‘meet cute’ romance become a simple concept into a grander idea showing that love is even greater than one can imagine. Andrew Stanton is one of my favorite directors in animation, creating a science fiction classic before the eyes of children and adults alike and one I thoroughly enjoy every time. He also gives great writing advice, but that is more of a personal thing.
21. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Directed by Peter R. Hunt
I have talked at length about this movie on this site more than once, but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is not a bad Bond film, Lazenby is not a bad Bond and nothing about this film is truly bad. In fact, it’s one of the Bond films that is a great action romp, a great romance and great performances, even if the villain’s plan is a little dull.
The thrills never grow to long on this film with set pieces like the battle on Piz Gloria and the epic ski chase scene, the Bond girl Tracy, played by the ever so beautiful Diana Rigg, is not only a independent gal by managing to kick just as much ass as Bond, both physically and mentally. The villain of Blofeld is portrayed with more of a calm and collective pace than previous actors by Telly Salvalas and Lazenby has, oddly, grown on me. The romance aspect is great with Bond falling in love for someone for once and the music of the film is one of my favorite film scores ever recorded with the theme tune being the centerpiece.
I may have been exposed to it two years ago, but the lasting power it has on me is worth all the time in the world. If you want to read my full review on this film, head over to this link: 007 in 23- Assignment #006: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As a bonus, it is also the first Bond film I ever bought and that is an honor worth mentioning.
STAY TUNED FOR PT. 2: #20-11