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
- 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.
- A Clockwork Orange: Every Kubrick movie is great, but a few are even greater than the others. This one's about violent youth, and society's way to deal with them, with a typically-superb Kubrick soundtrack. (if you haven't already watched every single movie that Stanley Kurbrick directed, you should stop here and watch them all. Every Kubrick movie is exceptional. After you've watched them all, please continue)
- 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.
- 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 likable cops, terrible aweful 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?
- The Godfather: The life of a New York mafia boss and his sons.
- The Green Mile: A faithful adaptation of a Stephen King book about the inmates and guards on death row. One of the inmates has a special power which the guards discover.
- (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.
- (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.
- Se7en: Detectives chase a serial killer who picks his victims according to the seven deadly sins. Terrific thriller. Shocker of an ending.
- 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.
- To Kill a Mockingbird: A father teaches tolerance to his children by example. If only this lesson had been learned back in 1962 instead of still not yet...
- Twelve Angry Men: No color, no special effects, almost completely one setting, but superb acting and great storytelling combine to show how a great movie was made back in the day.
- 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.
- West Side Story: Superb music, dancing and storytelling in this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in 1960s New York where teenage gangs oppose each other due only to their ethnic differences and prejudices.
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)
- Arlington Road: A spy thriller
- Arsenic and Old Lace
- 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.
- Breach: An aide in the Pentagon is charged with exposing his boss as a spy.
- Dancer in the Dark: Wow, I watched this for the first time in December of 2016, and it's the most unique musical I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot of them). I recommend this one very highly if you want a unique instance of the genre, along with some superb music and dancing.
- The Dark Knight
- The Devil All the Time: A young boy is surrounded by evil through his entire life with disasterous results.
- (subtitled) Les Diaboliques: The wife of a brutish schoolmaster and a teacher who was his former lover, join forces to drown him in a bathtub then dump him in the school’s swimming pool. But when the pool is drained, he is not there. A police inspector keeps hounding them for clues to the man’s death.
- The Disappearance of Alice Creed
- Dog Day Afternoon: A suspenseful bank robbery goes bad and becomes a media circus
- Dogville: This one offers a fresh way of storytelling, and is worthy of a watch if only to enjoy great art expressed through creative filmmaking. If you have the attention span for this one, there is a nice pay-off.
- Don't Breathe: An intense suspenseful thriller / horror movie set in an abandoned neighborhood of Detroit.
- Falling Down: Michael Douglas, a successful engineer, suddenly snaps.
- Femme Fatale: Erotic thriller
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- 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.
- Grand Canyon: A study in friendships, especially an unlikely one that lasts.
- (subtitled) Headhunters
- (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.
- A History of Violence: A small-town family man is visited by people claiming to be from his criminal past
- I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang: Returning vet looking for a career falls in with bad friends and participates (at gunpoint) in a $5 robbery. He's sentenced to a chain gang, and we follow his life as he tries to rehabilitate himself.
- In Bruges: Can murder in a picturesque city be high comedy? Yup.
- In Cold Blood: Two drifters murder a rural family because they think that family has a stash of cash in their home, then the police try to catch them.
- 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.
- (subtitled) Infernal Affairs: This is the original version of 'The Departed", and is a much tighter film than the remake, being more cinematic, with a great succinct plot. A gangster infiltrates the police and a policeman infiltrates the gang. Each team wants to find and eliminate the traitor.
- Inside Man: Can the bank robber walk right out the front door of the bank and get away with it all?
- 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.
- Kind Hearts and Coronets: Great comedy about a man who’s aristocratic family has snubbed his mother and himself, so he decides to murder them all. Then he is accused of murdering is first love’s husband and while on death row, where he writes his memoirs, including the story of all the murders he really performed.
- The Killing: A superb early-Kubrick movie about a heist at a racetrack, what can go right, and what can go wrong.
- 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.
- Lolita: A middle-aged man goes to all lengths to win the heart and the body of a teen-aged girl who is the daughter of a woman who takes him in as a boarder for the summer.
- (subtitled) M
- Man on a Ledge
- The Man Who Wasn't There: Superb black-and-white film-noir about barber who bumbles his way into setting off a chain of events which has tragic consequences for everyone involved. Great cast, great acting, great photography. Didn't like the ending, but still, its a great movie.
- Marnie: Hitchcock thriller about a man who gets involved with a disturbed woman
- Minority Report
- Monsieur Hire: Erotic thriller about an unpopular middle-aged man suspected of murdering a young woman, and peeping at another woman across the courtyard of his apartment building.
- The Next Three Days: Wife is arrested and convicted of murdering her boss after work, and husband attempts to break her out of prison and reunite the family.
- 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.
- On the Waterfront: Good story about bad boy Marlin Brando rebelling against the crooked shipping bosses. He gets the babe, too.
- 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.
- The Place Beyond the Pines: Relationship between a cop and a robber transfers 15 years later into a relationship between their children
- (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.
- 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.
- (subtitled) Rififi: The perfect heist.
- (subtitled) Le Samourai: A hitman evades capture despite the police suspecting his alabis are faked
- Seance on a Wet Afternoon
- 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.
- (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
- Strangers on a Train: a Hitchcock thriller – can you be coerced into a murder?
- (subtitled) Stray Dog: Excellent Kurosawa detective thriller with a superb view into life in postwar Japan.
- Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
- 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.
- Taxi Driver: A socially-inept taxi driver deteriorates into a psychopath in his attempt to woo a campaign worker and save a child prostitute, but somehow gets away with it all after being proclaimed a hero in the newspapers.
- 3:10 to Yuma: (2007)
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- The Usual Suspects
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Good Wife
- Homeland: Especially the first 3 or 4 seasons, subsequent seasons are not as intense
- 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.
- The Practice
- The Sopranos
- Twin Peaks
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