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. Blade Runner: The best science-fiction movie ever made. What a spectacular view of the future of Los Angeles, great accompanying sound track by Vangelis, and adaptation of a short story by one of the greatest sci-fi authors ever, Philip K. Dick. One of the last movies made with entirely in-camera effects, before CGI took over.
  3. 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.
  4. Crash: I like movies which weave seamingly-disparate stories into a unified theme, and this one does it superbly, with a compelling soundtrack that builds to the climax.
  5. Fargo: Jeez I hate that I like this movie so much, but a lot of people do so I guess it's all right. Crime mystery, great likeable cops, terrible awful murderous criminals, the climactic scene has stuck with me for a long time now, makes me squirm in my chair as I write this. Maybe that's part of what makes a movie great?
  6. Hunt for Red October: A great submarine thriller filled with suspense.
  7. 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!
  8. 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!
  9. (subtitled) Run Lola Run: Lola run through Berlin to help her criminal boyfriend, and you gotta love it. Rinse & Repeat. All with fast-paced nearly non-stop action. My favorite non-war-related German movie.
  10. (subtitled) A Separation: Superb story of a married Iranian couple in which the wife decides to separate, setting off a chain of events that might destroy her husband. Prepare for intense drama from start to finish.
  11. A Simple Plan: Three guys happen upon a stash of lost cash and decide on a simple plan to keep it for themselves. Things unravel and become less and less simple as time goes on.
  12. Wait Until Dark: This thriller about a blind lady (Audrey Hepburn) and a band of thugs builds ever so slowly into one of the best horror climaxes of all time.

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. Advise and Consent
  2. (subtitled) Amores perros: A Spanish film similar to Crash. Three interwoven stories: a young man who wants to make enough money from dogfighting to steal his brother's wife away, a model who gets in a car accident and falls apart from her husband, and a hired murderer who wants to avoid his last assignment.
  3. Angels & Demons: A thriller at the Vatican
  4. Arlington Road: A spy thriller
  5. Arsenic and Old Lace: Comedy about a newlywed man who learns, while leaving on his honeymoon, that his two maiden aunts are serial murderers. Then his serial killer brother arrives on the scene.
  6. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead: Brothers decide to rob a jewelry store since the insurance will cover the losses and no one will get hurt, but things go terribly wrong.
  7. (subtitled) Black Book
  8. Bridge of Spies: During the Cold War in 1960, an American lawyer is assigned to defend a Soviet spy in his trial, then to arrange an exchange of that spy to obtain Francis Gary Powers from the Soviets. This movie features some interesting shots of 1960 Berlin.
  9. The Butterfly Effect
  10. (subtitled) The Captain (Der Hauptmann): In the last days of WW II, a German soldier who is deserting finds an abandoned Captain's uniform. He puts it on to save himself from pursuit, other solders see him and follow him as a leader, and we watch as he commits a series of atrocities as more and more people follow him and no one steps forward strongly enough to stop him.
  11. Colossus: The Forbin Project: Those damned computers! Give them superior intelligence and ultimate power -- what could go wrong?
  12. 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.
  13. Conspiracy Theory: Seemingly-crazy and paranoid cab driver Mel Gibson thinks everything around him is evidence of a conspiracy, and he loves Julia Roberts.
  14. Crimson Tide
  15. Dark City
  16. Deadfall
  17. The Devil All the Time: A young boy is surrounded by evil through his entire life with disasterous results.
  18. The Disappearance of Alice Creed
  19. Don't Breathe: An intense suspenseful thriller / horror movie set in an abandoned neighborhood of Detroit.
  20. Eye in the Sky: How to deal with civilians during wartime?
  21. 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.
  22. Fail-Safe: 1960's tale of military’s control of nuclear weapons going wrong. A real thriller.
  23. (subtitled) Fermat's Room
  24. Firewall
  25. Foul Play: Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase foil a plot to murder the pope, with lots of terrific comedy mixed in.
  26. Gattaca
  27. 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.
  28. Gone Girl: A woman disappears mysteriously, and all the clues, uncovered slowly, lead to suspicion that her husband killed her.
  29. Gravity: Two astronauts working on the Hubble Space Telescope during an EVA from the Space Shuttle work together to survive after an accident leaves them stranded in space.
  30. (subtitled) Headhunters
  31. A History of Violence: A small-town family man is visited by people claiming to be from his criminal past
  32. The Hurt Locker
  33. Joker: The back-story of the Joker’s life before he became Batman’s arch-enemy. Disturbing bio of a failed clown and commedian, ignored by society, and his downward spiral of attempts at gaining acceptance, understanding his childhood, and commiting horrific crimes.
  34. The Life of David Gale: An activist against the death penalty is convicted of rape and murder and placed on death row, where he gives interviews to a reporter to explain his life story. And more.
  35. (subtitled) The Lives of Others: The East German habit of spying on each other
  36. (subtitled) M
  37. Man on a Ledge: An escaped convict who claims his innocence uses unusual means to attempt to prove it while he’s out on a ledge threatening to commit suicide.
  38. Marnie: Hitchcock thriller about a man who gets involved with a disturbed woman
  39. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
  40. Niagara: Hitchcock-like thriller about two couples vacationing in Niagara Falls, one (with Marilyn Monroe) having deep marital problems, and the other playing the part of the innocent young kids that get mixed up in the misbehavior of the first couple, all set against the scenery and tourist sites of Niagara Falls.
  41. Nightcrawler: An intelligent misfit begins filming accidents, fires and crime scenes when he sees another crew making a living doing that. He sells them to a local news station desparate for ratings. He goes too far.
  42. No Country for Old Men: Horror chase thriller about a man who discovers a drug transaction gone bad and tries to steal the money he finds on the scene.
  43. Nocturnal Animals: A woman’s ex-husband from 20 years ago sends her a book manuscript to review about a violent and disturbing attack on their family by a car of young thugs at night along a deserted west-Texas highway.
  44. On the Waterfront: Good story about bad boy Marlin Brando rebelling against the crooked shipping bosses. He gets the babe, too.
  45. (subtitled) Persona: Gorgeous abstract film something like Last Year At Marienbad in that there is no way to make complete sense of the movie, you can attempt several theories but none of them work correctly to explain the entire film. The closest, for me, is that an insane woman actress, who didn’t want children and wished her newborn son would die, goes crazy, and splits into two personalities who argue the facts of her life to try and reconcile her insanity. Roger Ebert, on the other hand, argues for a literal interpretation: the actress Elizabeth suddenly stops talking in the middle of a play, is committed to a psychiatric hospital, and nursed and cared for by the chatty Alma at a summer house on the water, where the two women somehow merge. Regardless of interpretation, this movie contains many many gorgeous photographic compositions and is an interesting romp through unreality. Plus, we get to watch two beautiful women for 90 minutes.
  46. Pickup on South Street: A pickpocket unknowingly steals film that’s being smuggled to the Soviets and becomes a target for the smugglers and a sweetheart of his beautiful victim.
  47. The Place Beyond the Pines: Relationship between a cop and a robber transfers 15 years later into a relationship between their children
  48. 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.
  49. (subtitled) Purple Noon: The original French version of "The Talented Mr Ripley", interesting to see the differences in interpretation of the story. I like both, but probably the American version better.
  50. Rear Window: Jimmy Stewart witnesses a murder but has a difficult time proving it
  51. Red Sparrow: The masochist in me loves the training of this Russian agent.
  52. Rendition
  53. Reservoir Dogs: A jewel theft goes very wrong and the gang members suspect one of them tipped off the cops, in this very brutal film that features great storytelling technique.
  54. (subtitled) Rififi: The perfect heist.
  55. Shadow of a Doubt: Uncle Charley comes to visit his small-town sister and the rest of the family, especially her daughter, but is followed by a possible scandal due to a crime he might have committed.
  56. Shutter Island
  57. (subtitled) The Silence: Crime thriller about the killing of 2 teenage girls, 23 years apart, in which the wrong man is blamed in the end
  58. The Sixth Sense
  59. (subtitled) Sleep Tight: Cesar, a miserable man who works as an apartment concierge, takes a special interest in an attractive woman who lives there. He goes to great lengths to trouble her and several other people who live in the building.
  60. Strangers on a Train: a Hitchcock thriller – can you be coerced into a murder?
  61. Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
  62. 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.
  63. 3:10 to Yuma: (1957) A small-time rancher suffering through a drought takes a job to deliver a captured outlaw to jail, but the outlaw’s gang is determined to free their leader at any cost.
  64. Tiger Bay: A precocious 12-year-old tomboy wants a toy gun so the boys will let her play with them. A 30-year-old sailor returns home to a fiancee who has abandoned him for another. He kills the fiancee, the tomboy witnesses the murder and ends up with his gun, the sailor convinces the tomboy to help him escape, and the tomboy thwarts the police in their murder investigation.
  65. 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.
  66. Unknown: Liam Neeson thriller, set in Berlin, with Bruno Ganz and Sebastian Koch. A scientist and his wife travel to Berlin so he can make a presentation at a conference. He is separated from his wife and another man takes his place; his wife disavows knowing the scientist; and then we learn there’s a lot more at stake here than a scientific presentation.
  67. The Usual Suspects
  68. Valkyrie: The story of the July 20, 1944 assassination and political coup attempt against Adolf Hitler by Germans Army officers who understood that Hitler was ruining Germany and Europe and attempted to do something about it.
  69. 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.
  70. (subtitled) The Wages of Fear: Four men are hired to drive two trucks carrying a half-ton of explosive nitro-glycerine over terrible dirt roads in South America without the necessary safety equipment. Slow start but very intense second half.
  71. Valkyrie: The story of the July 20, 1944 assassination and political coup attempt against Adolf Hitler by Germans Army officers who understood that Hitler was ruining Germany and Europe and attempted to do something about it.
  72. (subtitled) Wild Tales: An excellent Argentinian movie made of 6 unrelated short stories about people under extreme stress.

And finally, a few TV series which I've especially enjoyed, again in alphabetical order

  1. The Americans: Spy thriller series about a husband-and-wife team of Russian spies implanted into a Washington DC neighborhood.
  2. Black Mirror: a modern Twilight Zone
  3. Bloodline: Watch the first and second season, third season is terrible
  4. Breaking Bad: The best TV drama series ever, watch it start to end, it's the best series that's ever been on TV, IMHO.
  5. Chernobyl: 5-hour HBO documentary about the Chernobyl disaster, how it unfolded, the first responders, the attempt to prevent the disaster from becoming catastrophic, and the trial that uncovered exactly why the disaster happened.
  6. The Diplomat: A new ambassador to Britain is appointed as her tryout for the vice-presidency. A British carrier is sunk in the Persian Gulf and she tries to maintain cool heads and avoid war while finding out who sunk it, and her ex-ambassador husband both helps her and makes her job more difficult.
  7. The Fall: Ice Queen policewoman solves the cases of the Belfast Strangler, a serial killer in Belfast who tortures and strangles women, and has been doing so for 15 years.
  8. Fargo
  9. The Handmaiden's Tale
  10. Man in the High Castle
  11. Ozark: Another great show along the line of Breaking Bad. Accountant gets involved in money laundering, then has to scramble and get deeper and deeper into drug business trouble to launder enough to save his family.
  12. Ripley: A grifter named Ripley living in New York during the 1960s is hired by a wealthy man to begin a complex life of deceit, fraud, and murder.

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