My Best Friend’s Top 25 Movies

Recently, my best friend took some time, thought for a while, and eventually performed the liberating task of making a list of his top 25 favorite movies. I made one a while ago, Top 25 Movies. It’s quite the experience to establish to yourself exactly what movies you love and just how much you love them. My friend made his list and I thought it would be fun to post his list of favorite movies just to show a differing opinion. Part of the fun of movies is discussing them and what they mean and it’s all subjective so why not look into someone else’s cinematic opinion?

25. The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs is a modern classic. It’s a dark and thrilling movie about murder and the mind. The Silence of the Lambs tells the tale of an ambitious FBI in training as she tracks the whereabouts of a psychotic killer. However, the killer you become more fascinated by is the intelligent, charming, and sinister, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In order to catch her killer, Clarice Sterling gets into the mind of a one through Anthony Hopkins’ chilling Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter.

24. The Shining

The Shining is a masterpiece of a horror movie and an epic as only Stanley Kubrick could make. It’s a fascinating haunted house story that makes you feel as isolated and uneasy as its main characters. As the evil that is The Overlook Hotel subtly consumes a family, you can’t help but be enthralled by the madness and the drama. The Shining offers an unreal and completely memorable experience that makes for arguably the greatest horror movie ever made.

23. Schindler’s List

It’s a hard task to deny that Steven Spielberg is an incredible director. There may be movies he’s made that you don’t enjoy, but the man has made many movies. Schindler’s List is “the beard’s” greatest feat. It’s a dark and poignant masterpiece that tells a story as inspiring as they come while enveloping a definitive story of the darkest point in history. It’s some how able to be realistic and operatic. It’s a flawless and prominent film that was crafted by a man who knows how to make good movies.

22. Amadeus

Amadeus is just one of those classic art house films. It has all the makings a masterpiece in it’s beautifully epic tale of rivalry, obsession and artistry. Structured to perfection, an old, bitter rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart recounts the “murder” of Mozart himself. It’s a vast excursion into music through mystery. It’s also about a devotion to one’s craft. Behind this dark drama of murder, there’s quite the witty side to Amadeus, but more importantly a thrilling side. You really become consumed by the magic of it all.

21. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the most inspirational pieces of cinema ever crafted. The futile, yet necessary battle between the free spirited R.P. McMurphy and the tyrannical Nurse Ratched is a thrilling one. It is very much a story about freedom and a fighting the want to simply conform. Randle McMurphy is quite the fish out of water when it comes to the tight shift the Mildred Ratched runs. He sure as hell isn’t going to stand idly by and let the man get him down and change him or his new friends from the fun-loving people they are.

20. Skyfall

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Skyfall is tells the greatest story that will ever be told about one of the most iconic characters in all of fiction, James Bond. This is, in part, due to the fact that Skyfall touches on so much more than just a story about 007. Skyfall tells a beautiful constructed tale of duty and betrayal, past mistakes and future consequences, the old and the new, but in its simplest form Skyfall is a movie about a hero and a villain. Daniel Craig’s raw and perfect turn as a grizzled Bond proving his worth even after so many missions really meets his match against the slithery and savage, Silva (Javier Bardem in another flawless portrayal as a villain).

19. Kill Bill

Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill is one the most memorable epics ever filmed. It’s a blood-soaked masterpiece about love and revenge. Any chance he gets as he tells his most epic tale of all, Tarantino pays homage to the samurai, kung-fu and even spaghetti western movies that he loves and respects to no end. Kill Bill is exciting and poetic. It’s a simple enough tale of vengeance and it’s told to perfection. We are brought on a very hectic journey and we know where it will lead but it’s hard not to enjoy the ride until you get there and when you do get there, there aren’t that many movies that are as satisfying.

18. Gladiator

Ridley Scott is often associated with the science fiction genre. He has defined and redefined the genre with some of the masterpieces he’s made. Scott’s sword and sandal epic, Gladiator, is arguably his greatest feat. The general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator and the gladiator who defied an empire is quite the striking story. Maximus is the kind of hero you want to watch prevail while his nemesis, Commudus is the kind of villain you want dead. Gladiator is a through and through a story of not just revenge, but justice.

17. Boogie Nights

Through a timeless tale of rise and fall, Paul Thomas Anderson explores the porn industry (70s through 80s) and its own rise and fall. It was with Boogie Nights that Paul Thomas Anderson began his reign of masterpieces. Boogie Nights was the first of five flawless, and very different, films. Boogie Nights is filled to the brim with vivid characters and memorable moments. It’s a colorful, yet dark film that’s hard not to be consumed by. Paul Thomas Anderson is just a man who knows how to make extraordinary movies and Boogie Nights is a perfect example of his expertise.

16. Inception

Inception is a masterpiece through and through. With a fantastic cast on his side, the brilliant Christopher Nolan tells a beautiful story of grief and redemption all while crafting an exhilarating science fiction setting where true reality is always in question. The setting for Inception is that of dreams and this world that Nolan has confidently explored is one that’s hard not to visit and revisit over and over again. Inception is a beautiful drama filled with vibrant characters and perfectly executed action sequences. It’s a compelling film that both entertains and makes you think from beginning to end.

15. The Social Network

2010 was an incredible year in film and arguably the greatest movie to come out of that year was The Social Network. Using the story of Facebook, David Fincher delves into broad themes of morality and betrayal what is easily one of the greatest films ever made. The Social Network tells a compelling human story that’s unmissable. Fincher defines a generation of technology and punks. It’s a film that manages to establish itself as a classic before it even passes the test of time. There’s no question I’ll be watching this movie in years to come. The Social Network is masterpiece in every way.

14. The Godfather (Part I +II)

The character arcs of the father and son that make up for the masterpiece that is The Godfather (Part I + II) are two of the greatest in film. The Godfather just tells this perfect story about family, while The Godfather Part II is more about character and the tragedy of Michael Corleone is fully realized. It utilizes the gangster genre, yet it’s so much more. Francis Ford Coppola was just ahead of his time in terms of how good he could make a movie, he proves that with this dark and operatic drama. The story is a powerful one and worthy of every bit of praise.

13. The Departed

Martin Scorsese is simply one of the greatest filmmakers to have graced this planet. He’s made countless masterpieces and The Departed is his greatest feat. The Departed tells a flawless intertwining tale of cops and criminals. It’s completely gritty, it’s relentlessly enjoyable and poetic. Leonardo DiCaprio gives an extraordinary performance while Jack Nicholson chews through every scene he’s in. Martin Scorsese has told many stories of crime, but never did he tell one so masterfully. The Departed is an unforgettable masterpiece through and through.

12. Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic is the greatest film he’s ever made. Captain Benjamin Willard is a sent to kill Walter E. Kurtz, a rogue Colonel who has fancied himself a god among the aborigines in Cambodia. We’re brought down the river with Willard and we learn more and more about Kurtz along the way, the anticipation to his first appearance is palpable as we go deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. Apocalypse Now is a masterpiece about life’s journey and madness.

11. There Will Be Blood

The dark, emotive and gorgeous There Will Be Blood just barely misses his top ten movies of all time. There Will Be Blood was created by a movie mastermind. Paul Thomas Anderson hasn’t made that many movies, but every time he does he manages to make completely captivating masterpieces. He also manages to get the best performances out of his actors which is quite the accomplishment when your main character in this case is played by the great Daniel Day-Lewis. There Will Be Blood is a beautiful and archaic excursion into greed and the american nightmare as it studies the ruthless and despicable oilman, Daniel Plainview.

10. American Beauty

Kevin Spacey expertly portrays Lester Burnham, the father and center-piece of American Beauty. As he goes through a midlife crisis he slowly begins to realize how beautiful life is and how it deserves to be appreciated. Lester is just one in an assortment of characters that make up for a fantastic story of the lives of others. The film opens and you learn that Lester will die by the end, but it’s the journey that matters. The film got a well-deserved Best Picture Oscar back in 1999 and it lives on still as one of the greatest films in history. American Beauty asks you to look closer and what you find is something quite beautiful indeed.

9. Pulp Fiction

Told through vignettes, Pulp Fiction offers a mosaic of the lifestyle of criminals. Genius in its execution, Quentin Tarantino offers up the greatest gangster movie ever made. Whether you’re watch diner thieves, hitmen, a prized boxer or a crime boss’ coveted wife, it’s hard not to find endless enjoyment in the oddity of it all. Tarantino has crafted a puzzle piece of a movie filled with imagination and innovation. Many have attempted what he did, but nothing ever came close to Quentin’s vastly original and gorgeous masterpiece.

8. Fight Club

Fight Club defines a bored generation and the insanity that can result from that boredom. Our narrator needs something more out of life. He can’t just go through the motions anymore, he’s lifeless and he can’t take it anymore. Thus begins Fight Club and a chance meeting with the charismatic Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden is chaos incarnate. What begins as brawling to release angst eventually leads to rising anarchy. There’s a Tyler Durden in all of us and to attempt to hide that fact is futile and only serves to drive yourself crazy. Fight Club is cerebral, pertinent and entirely fascinating.

7. Django Unchained

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Quentin Tarantino can do no wrong. With his seventh directorial outing he makes what he was always meant to make, a spaghetti western. Django Unchained also happens to be a rollicking and epic excursion through the south when slavery was still at large. The film follows a freed slave on a journey to rescue the woman he loves, now tell me that’s not a story everyone can get behind. Props also goes out to Leonardo DiCaprio for his first and riveting performance as a villain, a sadistic and slimy plantation owner. With Django and his new friend, Dr. King Schultz, Tarantino has crafted a pair of heroes of mythical status. We’re just left to enjoy the ride as in their wake the bodies pile up, villains who represent clear symbols for exactly what was horribly wrong with that point in American history.

6. The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is the ultimate in fantasy. It has dragons, wizards, goblins, magic, a giant flaming eye on a tower and an evil ring that can only be destroyed in the dark fires of Mt. Doom where it was forged. The epic journey that unfolds and the vivid characters you meet along the way leave you awe-struck and breathless. There’s just so much to the film to appreciate; the friendships, the battles, the countless inspirational moments, the creatures, the monologues, etc. The Lord of the Rings is simply one of the greatest stories ever told and it’s told masterfully and with grace.

5. Inglourious Basterds

With Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino takes the darkest period in history and tells an epic fantasy filled with blood and bullets. Every moment is so important to the story as a whole, while each scene just commands your attention. We get to know three very different characters before their adventures culminate in a glorious final chapter that solidifies Inglourious Basterds as one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s a movie made by a man who knows what a movie can be and what a movie can be is whatever the director wants it to be. It’s a story that deserved to be told and it was told to perfection. Inglourious Basterds is just as much a piece of art as it is one of the greatest times you’ll ever have at the movies.

4. Barton Fink

Barton Fink is the unspoken Coen Brother masterpiece. Most think of Fargo, No Country for Old Men or The Big Lebowski, but Barton Fink deserves to be held right up there as one of their masterpieces. As Barton’s writers block consumes him in the Hotel Earle a friendship begins to take shape between Fink and his next door neighbor. Charlie Meadows offers a little distraction in the form of innocent conversation. This is that everyman that Barton tries to capture in his writing. Little does Barton know that there’s more going on than he initially thought. Barton Fink is a thought-provoking masterpiece.

3. No Country for Old Men

A man finds drug money, while another man pursues him. It’s a simple story of cat and mouse that used to touch on important ideas of violence and malevolence. Llewellyn Moss attempts to get away with the money, while the cunning and emotionless killer, Anton Chigurh, is hot on his trail. Wise, old Sheriff Ed Tom Bell feels helpless on the sidelines as he watches this onslaught of blood unfold. No Country for Old Men is the Coen Brothers’ magnum opus. It is directed flawlessly, every choice made with such purpose. Nothing is out of place; each shot, line, performance, scene, etc. All of them are simply perfect. No Country for Old Men is a masterpiece in every sense of the word.

2. Drive

Drive is proof that the way you tell your story is just as important as the story itself. It’s just this perfect clash style and substance. It’s honest, it can be brutal and it’s consistently satisfying. Our nameless and quiet protagonist progresses along in stylishly sleek and cool tale. Drive is a spectacular film about what it means to be a hero and about what drives a man to do the things he does. Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks steal the show, but everyone is on their A-games and the includes off screen. Nicolas Winding Refn hasn’t done much, but he could’ve only made Drive and it would be hard not to consider him an extraordinary director. Drive is a masterpiece and one of the highest caliber.

1. The Dark Knight Legend

The Dark Knight Legend (or The Dark Knight Trilogy if that tastes better going down) is the greatest movie ever made. It’s filled to the brim with characters of the elemental variety to tell a vibrant, exciting and deep tale about heroism, villainy, legends, good, evil, despair, but above all else, hope. If I had to describe this single story in one word, that’s what it would be; hope. At the end of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight there is still much work to be done, but there is hope for a better tomorrow. In The Dark Knight Rises, hope in the form of the greatest hero in existence, triumphs in the face of despair.

In Batman Begins, you get the perfect hero’s journey with a tale of how Batman became Batman. In The Dark Knight, you get the perfect story of good (Batman) and evil (The Joker (Heath Ledger gives the greatest performance in the history of film)). Then the trilogy is defined flawlessly in its last chapter as, like I said before, hope triumphs over despair. This icon is utilized to perfection to tell a real story with so much meaning and emotion. What Christopher Nolan and friends have crafted isn’t just the greatest movie in existence, but the greatest story ever told.

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Top Ten Movie Heroes

A very long time ago I posted my list of Top Ten Movie Villains. I love a good villain and a great villain almost always makes for a great movie. Just recently, I posted my Top Ten Movie Antiheroes and I’ll certainly I’ll edit those lists as I see fit, but before that I decided this was a list I had to make. Heroes are the kind of characters you love to see prevail because they do the right things when the right things need to be done.

Like many lists, this was a difficult one to come to a conclusion to. First off, I didn’t exactly know how to go about this list. Should I judge the heroes based on how much I personally enjoy the character or should I judge the heroes based on their intentions as a hero. I ultimately chose to make a list with both of those ideas in the back of my mind and this is the result.

10. Driver

Nicolas Winding Refn’s masterpiece is an allegory of the events and relationships that can drive a person to do the things they do. The nameless hero at the films core is a true hero and one for the ages. He’s mysterious, charming and most of the time he needs no words. He simply puts himself in danger for the people he cares about. Ryan Gosling plays the character masterfully.

9. Rooster Cogburn

One of my favorite genres in film is the western. In terms of the western genre most of the time the protagonists of the story can be considered antiheroes especially in my favorite Clint Eastwood westerns. You’ll find one of my favorite western heroes in the Coen Bros. masterpiece, True Grit. Jeff Bridges just may have given the greatest performance of his career as the alcohol chugging, foul-mouthed, trigger happy U.S. Marshall Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn.

8. Catwoman

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The Dark Knight Rises tells the perfect story it does because it’s made up of so many rich and meaningful characters. I love the part that Catwoman plays in the war that transpires between Batman and Bane. You never know what to expect from her. By the end she’s right where she belongs in this epic. Catwoman fits right in the middle between Batman and Bane in this story of hope. It’s a little reminiscent of the part Harvey Dent played in The Dark Knight only this time with more inspiring results. By the end, Catwoman can’t run away and fight what she truly is, a hero.

7. Sanjuro

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Sanjuro simply epitomizes the idea of a lone warrior and wandering samurai. Sanjuro is an enigma, but it’s hard not immediately side with him as he causes chaos in a village ruled by rival gangs. The clever ronin pits the two gangs against each other and the result is intense and completely enjoyable. Sanjuro is a cool, level-headed and wise samurai. He can’t be rattled and if he draws his sword with intent to kill then death is inevitable. He’s one of if not the most iconic samurai in film and he’s one of the greatest heroes to boot.

6. Gandalf

The Lord of the Rings tells one of the greatest stories in all of film and in said story there are many characters you can’t help but despise and many characters you can’t help but love. My favorite character in all of Middle-Earth is the great wizard, Gandalf. Where as some may argue that the shoes of the hero are filled more by Aragorn, Frodo or Sam I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you. However, the wise and powerful Gandalf is a hero on all accounts and he’s my favorite character in the tale so making this list with out him would be a sin. If you want a true showcasing of heroism just watch Gandalf battle the Balrog in the Mines of Moria.

5. R. P. McMurphy

At the heart of the masterpiece, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is a beautifully woven relationship between a hero and a villain. The power-hungry establishment is personified in my most hated villain (in a good way) ever put on screen, Nurse Ratched. The rebellion to think and act freely is led by one of the greatest heroes put on screen. Jack Nicholson gives his career-best performance as Randall Patrick McMurphy. The character is unbelievably likable regardless of his crazy antics. No matter the case, he has respect for the people that deserve it and though it may mean he stays in the looney bin forever, he’ll take a stand and do the right thing when no one else will. R. P. McMurphy is a truly magnificent character and one the greatest heroes in film.

4. James Bond

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James Bond is one of, if not the most, iconic character in existence. He is the definitive secret agent and he is an awesome movie character. My favorite incarnation is Daniel Craig. He takes the realistic world he’s been presented and dances circles around it. He’s a dutiful hero and a reactionary. His charm and charisma are second to none. Never was James Bond more masterfully explored than in Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. Not only are Bond’s roots examined, in the same film he meets his match. James Bond always has his fun with women and his drinks that are shaken rather than stirred, but at the end of the day he does his duty as secret agent, 007.

3. Kikuchiyo

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If you’re looking for heroism in film, look no further than 1954 and you’ll find a gorgeous masterpiece entitled Seven Samurai. Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai tells the tale of seven brave warriors who join forces to protect a village of farmers from bandits. My favorite samurai I’ve had the pleasure to meet through film is the seventh samurai, the clown, the triangle, Kikuchiyo. Toshirô Mufine is the only actor that makes the list twice and how could he not? The man is a delight to watch every single second he embodied Kikuchiyo. He was a confident master of the sword and seemingly he’s also a bit of a buffoon, why not have fun? He was an odd one as the other six samurai point out, but aren’t we all.

2. Django

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He’s a freed slave, he’s a bounty hunter, he’s a vengeful gunslinger, but most of all Django is a hero. He’s a courageous and benevolent force driven by love. His journey is an epic one, the story is gorgeous and Django is a character you feel the need to root for. He’s the fastest gun in the south and nothing will stand in the way of him and the woman he loves. Django is the epitome of a badass and his heroism is the stuff of legend. The character is defined and portrayed flawlessly. Django Unchained is a wild and eloquent excursion into southern slavery in the form of a spaghetti western fantasy and at its heart is Django, without a doubt one of the greatest heroes in film.

1. Batman

My favorite movie, without question, is The Dark Knight. My favorite villain in all of cinema is Heath Ledger’s Joker. It goes without saying, but choosing the number 1 slot for this list was no difficult task. What Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale first crafted in one of my favorite movies ever made, Batman Begins, was nothing short of the greatest hero’s journey ever put on screen.

They also succeeded in crafting the greatest hero in existence. Obviously, Batman was first created in 1939, but never was the character more realized than with what Christopher Nolan has been creating in his Dark Knight Legend. Both Nolan and Bale just show a complete understanding of their character at hand. What Bruce Wayne is, is a man with no responsibility or agenda. He could’ve done anything he wanted to, whether that be a powerful villain or a lazy, rich playboy that he seemingly is. Instead, he became Batman.

The symbol for hope and good in Gotham is Batman, a character like no other who literally is good for the sake of being good. The character may best be defined by the final line of Batman Begins. Lt. Jim Gordon attempts to show his gratitude, “I never said thank you,” he says to which Batman immediately replies “And you’ll never have to.” Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman for the thank you’s or the praise. He does the right thing because it’s the right thing.

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Top Ten Gangster Movies

There will also be a special place in my heart for the Gangster genre because it was films like Goodfellas and The Godfather (among other movies on this list, but I don’t want to give the whole thing away) that in all honesty got me into the art of film in general. When done right a good gangster movie is filled with rich and vibrant characters, stories and pieces of dialogue. This is my list of the best Gangster movies I’ve ever had the honor to watch.

Before getting into this, I’d like to clarify what I mean by Gangster movie. I considered any movie that involves gangsters driving the central drama of the film. That means I could use movies that didn’t necessarily star gangsters as the protagonists. For the list, I could use movies like The Untouchables and The Usual Suspects because even though the main characters weren’t mobsters, there would be no drama with out them. I could however not use a movie like The Dark Knight because even though gangsters play a part, they most certainly do not propel the plot of the film. Well, here we go…

10. The Untouchables

There were a lot of movies battling for this tenth spot; Miller’s Crossing almost made it, as did Gangs of New York and if I had an eleventh slot on this list it would be the complex drug drama, Layer Cake. It ended up being The Untouchables if only for how gratifyingly fun the movie can be from beginning to end. Robert De Niro is fantastic as the antagonist, but what makes this one of my favorite gangster movies is Sean Connery as Malone.

9. True Romance

True Romance is a beautiful love story as only Quentin Tarantino could write it. It’s filled with violence, course language, drugs, tense scenes (particularly one of my favorites in film including Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken), but at it’s heart it is a full fledged love story. It was unfortunately not directed by the man himself, but his brilliant writing is all there making True Romance undoubtedly one of the most incredible stories of crime ever told.

8. RockNRolla

Other than the sequel to Sherlock Holmes, I’ve loved every movie Guy Ritchie has ever made. It goes without saying that Snatch is just an awesome movie, while Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is even better, but for  me my favorite will always be RockNRolla. It has all the fast-paced direction and zest of any other Guy Ritchie movie, but with the added bonus of the greatest and most compelling characters Guy Ritchie has ever created.

7. A Prophet

A Prophet is simply a magnificent film that never fails to captivate. What sets A Prophet above most other crime dramas is a sense of brutality and realism. A Prophet is unbelievably epic and from beginning to end, it never fails to leave you speechless from scene to scene. And it’s not just the tense violence the director never fears or fails to utilize, but also the tense and dramatic scenes that propels the beautiful plot of a man raising through the ranks in a crime-driven French prison.

6. The Usual Suspects

I don’t think much needs to be said about The Usual Suspects and that right there is a testament to how truly spectacular of film it is. The writing is unbelievably intelligent and never spoon feeds you. While The Usual Suspects is an enjoyable and fascinating tale of thieves and criminal masterminds, it is also an enthralling mystery. It’s the kind of film you have to pay attention to. You have to take the time to examine every detail and by the end, what you find is simply an incredible film.

5. Goodfellas

Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors who ever lived and Goodfellas is just one of the many films that showcase his prowess. Goodfellas is a masterpiece through and through and while never failing to be completely entertaining, it tells a tremendous tale that envelops everything you’d ever want to know about a life of crime. Ray Liotta is fantastic, Robert De Niro is just as amazing as ever and Joe Pesci gives an Oscar-worthy performance. It’s Scorsese that deserves the most praise for directing such an amazing movie.

4. The Godfather (Part I+II)

I’ve always had a constant argument with myself as to what I loved more the first two Godfather films or Goodfellas. It wasn’t until just recently when I realized that I have to give it to The Godfather (Part I+II) if only  for its beautifully epic tale of not only crime, but also family, loyalty and change. Francis Ford Coppola, with the first two Godfathers, creates one of the greatest movies of all time. It would be an absolute sin not to put The Godfather (Part I+II) on a list of my favorite gangster movies in existence. I mean, it’s The Godfather!

3. Drive

There was a dilemma for me on whether or not I should put Drive on this list. Yes, Drive is so much more than a gangster movie, but without the involvement of organized crime the film would have nothing to drive the plot or our protagonist to do the things he does. Drive is, to put it as plainly as possible, extraordinary.It’s the retro feel, it’s the tremendous music, it’s the stylized violence, it’s the minimized dialogue, it’s the spellbinding direction that takes its time  to tell its story, and it’s the way that regardless of how much tension, action and blood is in the movie, it never fails to have a pleasant moment of realistic affection. Drive is a profound film in its flawless creation and its relentless entertainment.

2. The Departed

It’s practically unbelievable that Martin Scorsese has made as many masterpieces as he has. He made the raw and rugged Raging Bull, he made the grotesque and hellish Taxi Driver and he even made another entry on this list, Goodfellas, but The Departed is Scorsese’s magnum opus. There are a lot of different opinions as to what Scorsese’s best movies are and that’s understandable, but for me it’s The Departed and I seriously doubt that will ever change. Scorsese holds nothing back, he pulls all the punches and the result is something miraculous. The Departed tells a fantastic intertwining tale of cops, criminals and grit. It is and forever will be a masterpiece.

1. Pulp Fiction

Take what may be the greatest writing in cinematic history, a handful of characters that individually could have their own movies centered around them, the direction of a mastermind, some of the stories that inspired said mastermind to make movies in general and then throw in that magical twist that Tarantino adds to all of his films and what you get is the greatest gangster film in existence. Pulp Fiction is and will always be one of my favorite movies that will ever be created.

What Pulp Fiction offers isn’t just beautiful, but refreshingly original. And this originality isn’t in the case of the stories that are being intertwined, the film is original in the way that the stories are told and the characters that are being followed. In Pulp Fiction, what you get are days in the lives of the kind of low-lives you wouldn’t expect to see as protagonists whether they be a pair of talky hit men, the wife of a crime boss, a low-rent boxer or even a couple whose hobby is robbing restaurants and liquor stores.

With Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino taps into a the vein that is the gangster genre to make something truly extraordinary. Pulp Fiction offers an experience that is nothing short of breathtaking from start to finish. Every single aspect of Tarantino’s crime masterpiece is not only a gorgeous piece of art, but it’s also a consistently entertaining piece of pulp. It is one of the greatest movies ever made and nothing short of the greatest gangster movie of all time.

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Top Ten Movies of 2011

I love movies. I love the art of film more than any other art form and I love discussing this art form. That’s why I spend time reviewing and discussing movies on this site. What I love more than reviewing though is making top ten lists. Don’t get me wrong, I love reviewing movies, but it is so fun to- from time to time- not just establish why I liked or disliked a film, but to also discuss a film within the context of other films. I haven’t posted a top ten list in a while (Top Ten Horror Movies) because I’ve been preparing for this list.

I look forward to posting a top ten list every year that allows me to discuss my favorite films of that year. I will say that this was a pretty lackluster year. It felt like a year in film where my favorite directors weren’t working. And that’s completely true; the Coen Brothers didn’t make a film this year for the first time in four years, Tarantino’s western, Django Unchained, is coming in 2012 as is my most anticipated movie of 2012, Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. However, like any year no matter how underwhelming it was, 2011 still offered a handful of films that I could not live with out. This is a list celebrating those films…

10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was not the masterpiece that I had hoped for. I can’t ignore the fact that I did get a lot of enjoyment out of this film though. This is a tale of espionage that needed to be told and what you get in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, instead of relentless action is a bleak and enthralling examination of loyalty, betrayal and what a man will do to carry out his duty.

9. Hesher

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is simply brilliant as the title character. This is dark comedy filled with anarchy, vulgarity and rage. Hesher is able to stand above a lot of black comedies and its of my favorite films of the year for one reason, it has a lot of heart. Initially, it can be ones first reaction to be as apathetic as the title character, but by the end you can’t help but care about these characters.

8. Moneyball

It’s rare for me to find a sports movie that really loved, but Moneyball is one of those exceptions. This film certainly didn’t affect as much as almost every other film on this list. Nevertheless, Moneyball is such a fantastic film all around that it was hard for me not to put it even higher on my list. Also, there was a lot of drama in this story for me because I- unlike most- had no idea how the events would play out.

7. 50/50

50/50 is quite the memorable film. It’s easy to remember if only for the way it mixes hilarious comedy with tear jerking drama. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives his best performance in a career of great performances. 50/50 offers up a completely unforgettable experience that’s more than comedy or drama that can make you laugh at times and cry at others. It’s a film I can’t wait to watch again because it is simply and unquestionably amazing.

6. Attack the Block

If you would’ve asked me five months ago what my favorite movie of the year was I would’ve said with out a doubt in my mind, Attack the Block. It just misses my top 5 because this year offered most of its glory in its final months. Attack the Block, unlike most films with similar subject matter, takes itself completely seriously. Instead of just throwing aliens in the mix, Attack the Block has a coherent and interesting plot. Joe Cornish’s first film is spectacular.

5. Shame

With Shame, director Steve McQueen looks at ideas of addiction, family and self-hatred through the unbelievably mature character study of a sex-addict. Michael Fassbender gives the greatest male performance of the year as main character, Brandon Sullivan. Shame takes the glamourous world of sex and shows exactly what it can be. Without hesitation, this is the most emotionally draining film I’ve seen in a very long time and I loved every single powerful minute of it.

4. Bellflower

Bellflower is a film that left me absolutely speechless. It was a film that stuck with me long after I watched it and the more I think about it, the more I find it extraordinary. The story is unique, fascinating and one meant to be savored, the interactions in this film are deliciously and incredibly palpable, the imagery can be beautiful and at other times be haunting, but  most of the time the film manages to blend the two together. That’s what happens when you mix ideas of apocalypse and love. There is a lot to take in when it comes to the film Bellflower and it’s truthfully something to experience for yourself.

3. Beginners

Beginners is a completely charming film about the moments and people that make life worth living. At its heart Beginners is a love story, but the drama isn’t in whether or not this man and woman will fall in love, it’s in whether or not these two can actually take a leap of faith and believe in love. Past the love story, Beginners has so much more to offer. This is an unbelievably breathtaking film about who we are and what makes us that way. While Beginners is incredibly meaningful, the filmmaking is gorgeous and the acting is flawless. All this to say, Beginners is and always will be a one of kind masterpiece.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher is an amazing director and my favorite to have made a film this year. Practically everything he makes is a masterpiece and yes, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is just that. Fincher is able to shine bright with dark tales of killers (SE7EN, Zodiac), but he is able to even surpass those two brilliant films with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo merely because there is more emotion and subsequently an attachment to the characters at hand.

Rooney Mara gives the greatest performance of the year, hands down, as title character Lisbeth Salander. Salander is damaged, she’s strong, she’s dark, she’s layered, yet she has a soul and Mara plays the character to perfection. There are so many pieces to this story, aside from just Salander, and Fincher manages to blend these pieces together to make for a relentlessly beautiful cinematic experience that never fails to keep you invested and entertained.

1. Drive

Drive is profound film the offers up the definition to the word, masterpiece. When it comes to film, a masterpiece should be a piece of art because cinema is a beautiful art form and one that needs films like Drive to serve as a reminder of that fact. It’s not enough to just be technically beautiful though, a true masterpiece needs to be entertaining. A true masterpiece needs offer a form of escape because at the end of the day, that is the point of film. Drive is truly a masterpiece and the best film of 2011.

Drive proves that the way one tells a story is just as important as the story itself. From a filmmaking stand point, director Nicolas Winding Refn has made a perfect film. Both the mood and tone of the film are defined and never tarnished, each moment is made memorable through elegant editing and cinematography, the music is phenomenal, the violence is grotesque and somehow fitting, but what’s truly breathtaking is in the way the film seamlessly flows from one mesmerizing moment to the next.

I won’t even mention a single performance because it would be an insult to mention one performance without mentioning every single fantastic performance in this film. Drive has the ability to be so much. It can be thrilling, it can be heart felt, it can be tense, it can be inspiring, it can be dramatic, it can be frightening, it can be glorious, it can be gorgeous, but what it never stops being most of all is riveting. Drive is a masterpiece that flawlessly blends substance and style and resonates with the ideas of exactly why we go to the movies.

Drive Review

When you do something enough you find out what you’re good at, what you’re bad at, what you find difficult and what you find easy in regards to that something. Take for instance, writing a movie review. I’ve found that generally it’s rather easy to write a review for a bad movie, it’s fun to rip it a part. There’s those movies in the middle of good and bad that can be a little more difficult at times because you find you have to nitpick, but the true difficulty comes when you find you have to review a truly incredible film that you’d consider a gift to cinema. You find yourself wondering if you’ve given it enough respect and fully established why the film is as good as it is. This is a very difficult review to write because Drive isn’t just the best movie of the year so far, it’s one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen.

Where do we begin? The music? Not yet, we’ll get to that. The direction? We’ll save the best for last. The acting? Maybe in a bit. The writing? We’ll get to that soon. The violence? That will certainly be talked about. How about the characters? The mood? The setting? The subtleties? The action? The art? How about we just start with a bit of a plot summary? That works. Drive is a film about a man who drives for movies, but moonlights as a getaway driver. He becomes close with a beautiful woman and her son. When he finds they may be in danger, he stops at nothing to see to their safety.

Obviously I’m keeping a lot of key plot points out so that you can discover them for yourself, but yes the plot and story aren’t very complex nor is the writing. I for one don’t like to be spoon fed information and in Drive you find some of the greatest examples of showing and not telling. Every single piece of story that needs to be told is told, no more no less. Every single aspect of the movie is well thought out, fascinating, and put together seamlessly, making for the magnificent movie that it truly is.

In Drive you’ll find fabulous actors playing relentlessly interesting characters with depth and feeling. There is not an intense, dramatic or loving moment that doesn’t work because the moments are never forced, they’re honest. Ryan Gosling is fantastic as the hero for his time and place, Albert Brooks is amazing as the conflicted villain, with Ron Perlman as the brutish partner, it’s ridiculous how brilliant Bryan Cranston is in “Breaking Bad” and to see him acting here in a completely different part just makes you want to smile, and Carey Mulligan is equally as enticing as the pure and innocent female lead.

This is the work of a truly master director, Nicolas Winding Refn, who defines his direction from the moment the film begins and keeps it constant through out. He cares about his characters, he cares about the story he’s telling, he cares about every single detail, at the end of the day it’s clear to see that the man doesn’t care about the paycheck, he cares about his movie and it shows. Subtly, with a direction that is cool and calculated, Refn blends and balances the worlds of beautiful art and pure entertainment and the only way you can describe it is perfection.

Every supreme brush stroke that makes for the beauty that is Drive was slaved over and created to be savored. Whether you’re taking in the uniquely timed and surprisingly fitting music, the raw and honest violence that’s some how done tastefully even though it’s some of the most grotesque violence ever placed in an artistic film such as this, the specifically chosen and delectable shots, the palpable and real relationships between the compelling characters, or any number of the many aspects that make this a brilliant film because that’s just a few, than you’re simply taking in one part of the extraordinary big picture that is Drive, a film that is, by all definitions of the word, a masterpiece.

Grade: A+