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 Adventures of Robin Hood: This is a movie from my own Dad's childhood, almost 20 years before I was born. Wow, could they ever make a fun movie back then. When you think today's action movies are spectacular, sit down with this one and watch how they did it just as well back then. Plus, you get to enjoy a soundtrack by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, one of my favorite modern composers.
- The Best Years of Our Lives: Three World War II veterans return home after the war with difficult adjustments to make. This movie touches a lot of people, including me, and shows a time capsule of an America long gone. Plus, geez, that musical score is just delicious.
- (subtitled) The Big Parade: In my opinion, this silent film is the best ever made demonstrating the horrors of World War I, especially after the innocence and idylism of the first two acts. Difficult to find, but if you come across it, don't miss it.
- Brief Encounter: The story of an affair, proficiently told with beautiful photography, perfect pacing, great acting by two every-people, and accompanied by Rachmaninov's great Second Piano Concerto. Sit down and enjoy 90 minutes of well-told romantic indulgence.
- 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.
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Another wierd sci-fi masterpiece. Can you erase someone from your past? Are you sure you want to?
- Forrest Gump: One of the few best movies of all time. We just weave through Forrest's life, the mundane, the improbabilities, the impossibilities, and all the while we admire the plain and simple value of being good.
- It Happened One Night: An early romantic comedy from the 1930's that holds up pretty well 80 years later.
- (subtitled) The Piano Teacher: A young student falls in love with his much older sadistic and masochistic piano teacher.
- (subtitled) Raise the Red Lantern: Wicked treachery between the four wives and servants of a Chinese prince, with the real star of the show being the superb photography, especially of the gorgeous palace.
- Roman Holiday: This one's just the ultimate feel-good romantic comedy for me. I love the scenery, I think I've been everywhere except the police station and inside Joe's apartment, and wow, Audrey Hepburn's first movie! Gregory Peck and her enjoy a romantic weekend in my favorite city.
- (subtitled) Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans: This silent film tells the story of a farmer and his girlfriend who plan to murder the farmer's wife. Be careful what you wish for! This is a great example of a well-done silent film: the musical soundtrack is perfect, and the story is so well told visually that very few intertitles are needed.
- Titanic: Spectacular disaster film meets love story meets standing on the bow of a ship and flying through the air. What could be better? If you're the person who hasn't seen this yet, you should watch it.
- (subtitled) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: A musical (actually an OPERA, since all words in this movie are sung, none spoken) about idyllic young love interrupted by separation due to war, and the long-term impact of that separation on it’s young lovers.
- White Christmas: One of the two greatest Christmas movies of all time, with "It's a Wonderful Life". But the advantage has to go to White Christmas, since it's an upbeat musical. And wow, what a great set of songs (and dances) are in this movie. Two army buddies team up to give their old General a great Christmas, and to find romance and snow in the meantime.
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)
- American Beauty: Disturbing drama of suburban America
- Annie Hall
- The Apartment
- (subtitled) Ashes and Diamonds
- 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?
- Breakfast at Tiffany's: Audrey Hepburn falls in love with George Peppard in the New York of 1960.
- The Bridges of Madison County: All right, maybe it's a glorified soap opera, but it sure did leave a silky milk chocolate taste in my throat.
- (subtitled) Carmen: Bizet's opera Carmen features great music and a story involving a soldier who falls into unrequited love.
- Conspiracy Theory: Seemingly-crazy and paranoid cab driver Mel Gibson thinks everything around him is evidence of a conspiracy, and he loves Julia Roberts.
- (subtitled) Cranes are Flying
- Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- (subtitled) Divorce Italian Style
- Foul Play
- The Good Earth
- Good Will Hunting
- His Girl Friday
- (subtitled) La Jetee: The precursor to Twelve Monkeys
- Little Children: Sarah & Brad and their small children, and their spouses and friends, and the town pervert and an ex-town-cop intersect and build to a crashing climax.
- 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) Love Me If You Dare: Childhood friends taunt each other through life. The final 15 minutes will leave you reeling.
- Manhattan: A Woody Allen romantic comedy about friends in New York and a midlife crisis.
- Marriage Story: Couple (director and actress in New York plays) with a young child, decides to get divorced. Wife and child move to LA for her to act in a TV show, and the divorce turns ugly.
- Moulin Rouge!
- My First Mister
- My Man Godfrey
- The Notebook: An old man reads his demented wife the notebook that detailed their love.
- (subtitled) Le Notti Bianche: Romantic story of a love triangle, with superb filming and compositions, beautiful sound track, and some unforgettable scenes, set in a small neighborhood of Venice.
- The Painted Veil
- A Place in the Sun
- The Railway Man
- The Reader: Young man in Germany is seduced by a 30-year-old woman who turns out to have been a Nazi guard, who is subsequently tried. The movie probes the guilt felt by the after-WWII generation in Germany due to their love for parents, teachers and clergy who they later learned might have done terrible things during the war.
- (subtitled) The Secret in their Eyes
- Seems Like Old Times
- Seven Pounds: Will Smith's character donates his organs to seven deserving people
- Shop Around the Corner: Jimmy Stewart is a clerk in store in Budapest, and falls in love with a pen pal he writes to, who he learns is a fellow clerk in the store. Lots of good comedy in this feel-good Christmas movie.
- (subtitled) The Soft Skin: Married middle-aged author meets single young stewardess and they have an affair. They spend more and more time together and this takes a toll on his marriage and also their relationship.
- Some Like It Hot
- Sophie's Choice
- Splendor in the Grass
- Spring: A young man, down on his luck, visits Italy and has an intense love affair, but then it seems like she changes...
- (subtitled) A Very Long Engagement
- Water for Elephants
- What Dreams May Come
- (subtitled) Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
And finally, a few TV series which I've especially enjoyed, again in alphabetical order
- (subtitled) Deutschland 83
- Downton Abbey: I can't believe I was suckered into this soap opera, but darn if I don't love every character and wish they were still on my TV set
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