Jeff's Favorite Movies
As of today, I've watched and rated 2,319 movies, assigning each a numerical rating 1 (a waste of life) and 10 (loved it). Of course, this rating took place over many many years and I can't claim that my ratings have been consistent over the long haul; I'm sure that my tastes have changed during this journey. But although I'd like to, I can't watch all 2,319 movies over again to try and be more consistent, so for what it's worth, here is the list of the 60-or-so movies I've rated 9 or 10, followed by the 300-or-so-next-best films I've rated as 8.
I generally favor movies that are heavy in the plot department; there are many movies which are highly regarded on the Internet Movie Database or by critics which I don't like at all. Breathless is one such example. To me, it felt like nothing happened, and I rated it a 4 (I've since re-rated it as 7, because I now better appreciate it's allure, but it's still not a favorite). Even the highly-regarded Citizen Kane falls into that category; I rated it a 7 since although it might have introduced lots of new film techniques and had many interesting perspectives, the plot itself was totally boring to me. I didn't ever really care what "Rosebud" meant, so the rest of the film's goodness was lost on me. So those are two movies that don't quite make it onto my list of favorite movies. If you strongly disagree with both of these non-recommendations, you might as well stop reading here because my tastes don't align with yours. But if you tentatively agree, keep reading.
To rate a movie highly (that is, rate it as if I'd really enjoy watching it again, which is what my rating of 8 means), it has to have at least one of the following: a great plot, gorgeous photography, be a musical, contain beautiful music such as the way Kubrick used music, be a great science-fiction movie, or include anything about Italy, or especially Rome, for which I'm a total slut. I'm not at all adverse to non-American films; many of my 300-or-so-next-best films are black-and-white subtitled films. So if you're still reading and these things also tickle your fancy, here are my favorite 300-or-so movies out of the 2,319 I've watched.
I welcome you to send me an email with any comments on my choices.
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My Favorite 60 or so Movies, listed alphabetically
- The Birds: A classic Hitchcock horror flick. It'll leave a lasting impression on you that you'll contemplate whenever you see an electric power line where a flock of birds are perching. Yikes it maes me shiver just to think about it. Watch this movie!
- Charade: A young woman’s husband is killed by a small gang who believes he made off with all the loot from their robbery. They assume she has the loot and they now want their fair share, regardless of who gets hurt. Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and other merely great actors in a who-dunnit with plenty of twists and turns.
- Donnie Darko: Wierd wierd wierd sci-fi, watch it a few times.
- (subtitled) Last Year at Marienbad: A movie with polarized reviews. Many people hate it, thinking it's the epitome of pretentious French cinema. I happen to really like the film as a beautifully-photographed black-and-white masterpiece that is a real brain-twister. Sit back, enjoy the photography, the sounds, the mirrors, the talking, the circles that don't quite return to their starting point. For me, this one's a blast! Past, Present and Future are mashed together seemingly randomly. Mantras of the narrator are repeated over and over, sometimes with slight variations. A man tries to convince a woman who claims she doesn't know him that they met here last year and had an intense relationship. My first time watching resulted in sheer confusion. During my next few viewings, I tried to piece together a coherent story, reading articles on the internet (like these) for ideas. But there is no coherent story - each potential explanation makes sense for 80% of the movie, then fails miserably for the other 20%. Eventually, I found I enjoy the film best if I just sit back and enjoy the photography, the narration, the bits of story, and accept that this is abstract cinema at its finest.
- Memento: Wow, I've finally found a guy with a worse memory than mine. Q: What happens if you can't remember a thing, and you tell the story backward? A: You get a great movie!
- North by Northwest: Hitchcock sure knew how to create a great entertaining thriller! This one will keep you enthralled from start to finish. If you've never seen it, you're in for a treat!
- The Prestige: Watch carefully to this rivalry between two magicians.
- (subtitled) Rashomon: Conflicting testimony of crimes of rape, murder and robbery are told by the three participants in these actions. Then they are recalled during a pounding rainstorm by three people taking refuge under the Rashomon Gate in 12th-century Kyoto, Japan. They seek to figure out the truth, but are frustrated in this effort. Perhaps each testimony is the truth that each witness would have been proud of? This 1950 Japanese movie, directed by Akira Kurosawa and featuring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura is a true classic, along with The Seven Samurai. So influential worldwide that the term 'the Rashomon Effect' has come to mean what occurs when an event is given contradictory interpretations by the individuals involved.
- Se7en: Detectives chase a serial killer who picks his victims according to the seven deadly sins. Terrific thriller. Shocker of an ending.
In case you agree with my list of favorite movies, here are my 300-or-so-next-best films that you might also enjoy, again listed alphabetically
(The best 34 in this bunch are in bold font)
- (subtitled) Alphaville: A mix of sci-fi, film-noir, comedy, and over-the-top music
- Angels & Demons: A thriller at the Vatican
- Atonement: The 5-minute steadicam scene of the British retreat from the Germans at Dunkirk is spectacular, but the entire movie is a beautiful masterpiece. Maybe that's why it won an Oscar and was nominated for 6 others?
- Blade Runner 2049: The sequel to Blade Runner, not as superb as the original, but still quite good.
- The Box: Married couple receives the Box with a button inside. Push it and someone dies, you get a million dollars, and by the way your life will become hell.
- Cloud Atlas
- The Conjuring: A modern haunted house / exorcist-like movie.
- Conspiracy Theory: Seemingly-crazy and paranoid cab driver Mel Gibson thinks everything around him is evidence of a conspiracy, and he loves Julia Roberts.
- Contact: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence finally detects a signal; one with a difficult message to decode that leads to the journey of a lifetime
- Dark City
- Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A search for closure after 9/11.
- Eyes Wide Shut: Kubrick's last film, a married couple plays with fire when they reveal temptation and jealousy.
- Femme Fatale: Erotic thriller
- (subtitled) Fermat's Room
- Finding Vivian Maier: A woman's lifelong street photography is discovered after her death.
- Foul Play: Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase foil a plot to murder the pope, with lots of terrific comedy mixed in.
- The Game
- Get Out: Daughter entices black boyfriends, then brings them home to meet Mom & Dad, whose job it is to supply new bodies for aging relatives.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Gone Girl
- The Good Liar: Swindler old man romances an old rich woman to fool her into giving him her money. Things turn more serious than he’d hoped for.
- (subtitled) Harakiri: An aging ex-Samurai comes to a clan’s headquarters, asking them to let him commit suicide in their courtyard. They tell him the story of another Samurai who did the same thing a few weeks ago. He slowly reveals the family relationship between him and that prior samurai, and the revenge he’s extracted for the cruelty of that prior suicide. Gets a bit silly during the final battle scene, but other than that an intense drama.
- (subtitled) High and Low: An employee’s son is kidnapped, and the rich executive boss has to decide whether to pay to have the son recovered. Then the 2nd half of the film deals with the attempt by the police to find the kidnapper and bring him to justice.
- In the Heat of the Night: A talented black homicide policeman passes through a southern town during the 1960s and is arrested for a murder. He clears himself with the good-old-boy sheriff and goes on to lead the murder investigation, proving the worth of a black man to this town of bigots.
- Inside Man: Can the bank robber walk right out the front door of the bank and get away with it all?
- (subtitled) The Lives of Others: The East German habit of spying on each other
- The Lost Room
- (subtitled) M
- The Maltese Falcon
- Marnie: Hitchcock thriller about a man who gets involved with a disturbed woman
- Minority Report
- (subtitled) Open Your Eyes
- Paranormal Activity
- (subtitled) The Past: A man returns from Tehran to Paris at his wife's request for divorce finalization, and walks into a complicated family situation from events of the past year or so.
- Psycho: Really a very good horror movie that grabbed my interest from start until near the finish. Norman Bates or his Mother murders a woman who’s stolen $40,000 from her boss, then a detective who came around searching for the woman, then perhaps the couple who came around searching for the detective.
- Rear Window: Jimmy Stewart witnesses a murder but has a difficult time proving it
- (subtitled) Le Samourai: A hitman evades capture despite the police suspecting his alabis are faked
- (subtitled) The Secret in their Eyes
- Shutter Island
- The Sixth Sense
- Source Code
- (subtitled) Stray Dog: Excellent Kurosawa detective thriller with a superb view into life in postwar Japan.
- The Talented Mr. Ripley: Tom Ripley is hired by Dickie Greenleaf's father to convince Dickie Greenleaf to come back home from Rome to New York. Things in Italy get complicated.
- (subtitled) Timecrimes
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- Twelve Monkeys: an edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thriller, based upon and greatly expanding La Jetee
- The Usual Suspects
- (subtitled) A Very Long Engagement
- Witness for the Prosecution: Beautifully made crime/courtroom mystery with great acting and a few real twists at the end
And finally, a few TV series which I've especially enjoyed, again in alphabetical order
- The Americans: Spy thriller series about a husband-and-wife team of Russian spies implanted into a Washington DC neighborhood.
- The Expanse: Season 1 had a great story line and superb effects; shows great promise for a long-term great sci-fi show if they continue
- The Good Wife
- Homeland: Especially the first 3 or 4 seasons, subsequent seasons are not as intense
- The Practice
- Twin Peaks
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