Jeff's Favorite Movies

As of today, I've watched and rated 2,800 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 2,800 movies over again to try and be more consistent, so for what it's worth, here is the list of the 70-or-so movies I've rated 9 or 10, followed by the 320-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 email with any comments on my choices.

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My Favorite 60 or so Movies, listed alphabetically

  1. 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 makes me shiver just to think about it. Watch this movie!
  2. 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.
  3. Donnie Darko: Teen-aged Donnie Darko is spared from death in his bed by an evil angel in the form of a rabbit who predicts his world will end in a month and encourages him to commit a series of crimes, which sets Donnie on a journey to figure out what's happening to him and why.
  4. (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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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!
  7. The Prestige: Who will come out on top in this lifelong rivalry between two magicians, involving one-upmanship, stealing of trick secrets, injuring each other, and murder? Are you watching closely?
  8. (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.
  9. Seven: A retiring homicide detective and a young detective new to the area are thrown together into investigating a series of murders related 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)

  1. (subtitled) The Adventure (L'Avventura): First movie in the series about alienation (L'Avventura, La Notte, L'Eclisse, Red Desert) by Antonioni. A group of friends takes a yacht to a small uninhabited volcanic island. One of the women disappears. Her girlfriend and boyfriend hook up, but he's unwilling to commit. Loaded with gorgeous photography, superb compositions, and a quite beautiful leading lady.
  2. (subtitled) Alphaville: Fantastic mix of sci-fi, film-noir, comedy, over-the-top music, and the superb voice of the Alpha-60 computer. A secret agent posing as a reporter travels to Alphaville, a futuristic city in another galaxy, to destroy an evil scientist named Von Braun who has created the Alpha-60 machine which outlaws love and self-expression.
  3. Angels & Demons: A thriller at the Vatican
  4. Atonement: A young girl thinks her older sister’s boyfriend is a sex fiend and falsely reports him as having raped another girl. He is arrested, then released to serve in the British Army during WWII. The young girl comes to her senses later in life and has a difficult time atoning for her mistake. The 5-minute steadicam scene of the British retreat from the Germans at Dunkirk is spectacular.
  5. Blade Runner 2049: The sequel to Blade Runner, not as superb as the original, but still quite good.
  6. 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.
  7. Cloud Atlas
  8. The Conjuring: A modern haunted house / exorcist-like movie in which a couple moves into a house that seems haunted and asks paranormal investigators to check things out.
  9. Conspiracy Theory: Seemingly-crazy and paranoid cab driver Mel Gibson thinks everything around him is evidence of a conspiracy, and he loves Julia Roberts.
  10. 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
  11. Dark City
  12. Deceived: A woman’s husband is involved in swindling a valuable antique necklace from his museum, even after he dies in a car accident.
  13. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A search for closure after 9/11.
  14. Eyes Wide Shut: Kubrick's last film, a married couple plays with fire when they allow their marriage to be challenged due to temptation and fantasy.
  15. Femme Fatale: Erotic thriller about a woman involved in a jewelry theft who double-crossed her partners in crime and spends her future trying to keep her anonymity so they won’t find and kill her.
  16. (subtitled) Fermat's Room
  17. Finding Vivian Maier: A woman's lifelong street photography is discovered after her death.
  18. Foul Play: Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase foil a plot to murder the pope, with lots of terrific comedy mixed in.
  19. The Game
  20. 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.
  21. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Two detectives try to piece together a 40-year-old murder among a powerful Swedish family of high-powered businessmen, misfits and Nazis.
  22. (subtitled) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: The original Swedish version of this movie is superb, too. Two detectives try to piece together a 40-year-old murder among a powerful Swedish family of high-powered businessmen, misfits and Nazis.
  23. Gone Girl: A woman disappears mysteriously, and all the clues, uncovered slowly, lead to suspicion that her husband killed her.
  24. 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.
  25. (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.
  26. (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.
  27. 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.
  28. Inside Man: Can the bank robber walk right out the front door of the bank and get away with it all?
  29. (subtitled) The Lives of Others: The East German habit of spying on each other
  30. The Lost Room
  31. (subtitled) M
  32. The Maltese Falcon
  33. Marnie: Hitchcock thriller about a man who gets involved with a disturbed woman
  34. Minority Report
  35. (subtitled) Open Your Eyes
  36. Paranormal Activity
  37. (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.
  38. Prisoners: Young daughters from two families disappear, and one of the fathers is quite sure who did it. When the police find no evidence therefore release that man from custody, the father takes things into his own hands.
  39. 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.
  40. Rear Window: Jimmy Stewart witnesses a murder but has a difficult time proving it
  41. (subtitled) Le Samourai: A hitman evades capture despite the police suspecting his alabis are faked
  42. (subtitled) The Secret in their Eyes: A government investigator spends a lifetime trying to resolve his attraction to his superior while trying to solve the murder of a young woman, which devastated her husband, even after his retirement.
  43. Shutter Island
  44. The Sixth Sense
  45. Source Code: A soldier is in a time-loop trying to figure out who is going to detonate a home-made nuclear device in Chicago so he can be stopped in time.
  46. (subtitled) Stray Dog: Excellent Kurosawa detective thriller with a superb view into life in postwar Japan.
  47. 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.
  48. (subtitled) Timecrimes: A man becomes caught in a time loop with various copies of himself, and has to figure a way out so he can rejoin his real life.
  49. Twelve Monkeys: an edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thriller, based upon and greatly expanding La Jetee. A prison inmate is sent back in time to discover the roots of the man-made virus that has killed most of the human population on Earth.
  50. The Usual Suspects
  51. Vertigo: A man with a fear of heights becomes obsessed with the wife of a friend, a disturbed woman who he follows around San Francisco and falls in love with, only to witness her apparent suicide. Then he sees her look-alike and becomes obsessed all over again. Spectacular Tristan&Isolde-like score by Bernard Herrmann.
  52. (subtitled) A Very Long Engagement: The story of a young woman’s relentless search for her fiancee, who disappeared from the trenches of World War I, presumed dead since he was convicted of treason and punished by being pushed into the No Man’s Land.
  53. 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

  1. Alias
  2. The Americans: Spy thriller series about a husband-and-wife team of Russian spies implanted into a Washington DC neighborhood.
  3. 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
  4. The Good Wife
  5. Homeland: Especially the first 3 or 4 seasons, subsequent seasons are not as intense
  6. The Practice
  7. Twin Peaks

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