There has been a lot of these lists going around on Facebook lately and I have been nominated to do said list. Well for me picking just 15 films over the thousands of movies that I have seen over the years is nearly impossible. There are a lot of lists that are done of the best and important films done by magazines, websites, groups and critics. Doing one that consist of ones that left a major impression on you are more difficult to come up with. I was lucky that my parents would take me to the movies when I was young and that consisted of lots of Disney animated and live action films. As I got older I could choose the films that I wanted to go see. I still remember the first R rated movie that I ever saw was Saturday Night Fever and my mom was so worried that it was going to warp me. I told her that there is none of that language that I didn’t already know. For me going to the movie theater was going to a world where anything was possible and was in the sweet spot of modern visual effects films because I was 12 years old when Star Wars was released and it literally blew my mind. I was too scared to go see Jaws when it was release and swore that the shark was everywhere including pools. The great thing about coming up with a list of film that hold a special memory for you is that nobody else may like a certain film but it means something to you. Quality is not an issue because we all have guilty pleasure films that we love to death and defend them to everyone.
So of the thousands of films that have had a lasting impression on me, I will include a short reason why it has stuck with me over the years. They are in no particular order and I will run way over the 15 limit. Why because I can.
I was an avid comic book reader and to find out that they had made a Superman movie truly was a dream come true. The tag line for the movie was “You’ll believe a man can fly” and they were right. I to this day still believe a man can fly. That man was Christopher Reeve and every time he take that first flight to save Lois to this day I still get goose bumps and it still amazes me. Over the year many other superhero films have been made but none have ever topped this one.
Streets of Fire (1984)
This film is one of those films that just clicked for me. I loved that it was set in a non specific period but modeled after the 1950’s but with some modern touches. Walter Hill created stunning visuals for the film and both the songs and Ry Cooder score blend so amazingly well together. The tag line is “A Rock & Roll Fable” and it was described as the Queen of the Hop was kidnapped and the lone rebel has to come back to town to save her. It also has a great cast. Was supposed to be a trilogy but after the film tanked at the box office that sadly never happened.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
I probably saw Akira as my first Japanese animated feature but it was Hayao Miyazaki’s modern fairy tale that to this day is one of the best animated films that has ever been made. The shear innocence of the film and the magical themes of nature and spirits make this a film that if you show any child they will fall in love with it as much as you have. It has a wonderful music score that is also worth owning. This film will make you feel the wonderment of being a child every time you watch it.
Star Wars (1977)
Before it was episode IV or a New Hope It was just Star Wars. This movie was the one time that I remember that I took my parents to see it because it blew my mind that it was a moral imperative that they see it too. While they were not as impressed as I was I vividly remember seeing it 7 times on its initial release in the theaters. Back then there was no home video and Star Wars played in some theaters for an entire year. I bought the toys and t-shirts and as a 12 boy my life was truly changed by this film.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
While I was older when I first saw this film it was probably a good thing. I would have never understood half of the insane stuff that Mel Brooks put into this film. There is so much going on in the film that when you watch it multiple time it seems like you will always something new. Sadly this film could never be made today because it would be deemed to politically incorrect. This is a real comedy and so-called comedies of today pale in comparison to this epic. Great cast and the beans scene still gets me to laugh so hard I nearly cry every time.
It’s probably a really good thing that I didn’t see this film as a kids because Halloween is my favorite holiday and I would have been scared shitless to ever go out trick or treating again. This is the film I always say that no matter how small of budget that you have making a horror film, this is proof that money is not the key to a great horror film. This film still creeps me out because John Carpenter used suspense instead of gore or blood. The thing that made this film so great was it had a fantastic script to start with. It’s a tradition to watch this every Halloween season at my house.
The Iron Giant (1999)
I think that this is the best animated film that has been produced in the last 20 years. Yes even better than Toy Story and many others that I do love. The first time I saw this film was a special screening at a local comic convention before it was released and I was so moved by the film I literally took everyone I knew to go see it when it was released. I saw it 5 time when it was released. I still cry every time that he sacrifices himself to save the town. I can’t even listen to Michael Kamen’s stunning score during that scene without tearing up. This is one of those films that is perfect in every way. I always take away the one line “You are who you choose to be” it is so true in life.
I have another story. At the time it was released on laserdisc I was working at Image Entertainment and we had the license to do all of Warner Bros. titles on laserdisc. I wanted to do the chapter stops but they had sent over the ones that they had done for the DVD and they really sucked and had no emotion to them. My boss said if I could contact Warner Bros. to do our own chapter and to see if they cared. I contacted them and they referred me to Brad Birds office and so I explained to his assistant the story and she put me on hold. Brad Bird got on the phone and I about died. I told him I was a huge fan of the film and wanted the laserdisc to have better chapters. He not only didn’t mind but he didn’t like the chapters that Warner Home Video had done and was happy that someone cared to put extra effort into it. He called the Home Video Division and had them give the OK to do out own chapter stops for the laserdisc. To this day I am proud to have done that for this truly amazing film. It a little rough to read but I found a photo of the back of the laserdisc that has the chapter stops that I did.
Flash Gordon (1980)
I didn’t really know much about Flash Gordon beyond the Filmation animated series that was aired about a year before the film came out. I was however a huge fan of Queen and was excited to find out that they were doing the music for the film. While the film is more campy than the serials or the Alex Raymond comic, it was a candy colored joy for myself and I still love the whole thing. There is just something about the film that it just fires on all cylinders. And when it came out I must have worn that record album of the soundtrack out because I played the hell out of it.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
While Star Wars was all the rage there was another film that changed me in 1977. While I had seen some of the James Bond films on HBO because they had made a deal to show them. I was familiar with Bond at that point because my brother liked the films. But this was my first Bond film in the theater that I popped my cherry with. I still think that Roger Moore was a very good Bond because he was a lot closer to Bond in the novels than Sean Connery was. This film was spectacular to see on the big screen and really cemented my love for James Bond.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
While all of Stanley Kubrick films leave a major impression on you, Full Metal Jacket was for me his last great film (sorry Eyes Wide Shut). While there were a lot of films about the Vietnam war because of the success of Platoon in 1986 it was Full Metal Jacket that really sticks with me. The film is almost 2 separate movies. The first part is basic training and the second half is the war itself. Kubrick was a master storyteller and this film had such an impact on me because of the way that he told the story about the war.
Rock & Rule (1983)
This is one of those films that was never really released theatrically but became a cult hit when it was released on laserdisc and VHS back in the day. I remember going to a Creation Convention in Anaheim before the film was supposed to come out and the studio had a presentation on the film to get interest going. What I saw really blew me away. The studio who did the animation Nelvana who had done some amazing shorts for Canadian television that did air in the US as specials, took the leap to make an animated feature. The animation was stunning and they got some of the biggest names to do songs for the film. Deborah Harry, Cheap Trick, Lou Reed, Earth Wind & Fire, and Iggy Pop made the best unreleased soundtrack of all time. While the story is simple the characters and visuals are some of the most original in an animated film.
While most people think of Fandango is about buying movie tickets for me Fandango is a great coming of adulthood of four great friends that want to have one last adventure together. It’s Director Kevin Reynolds first film and Kevin Costner’s first starring roles. This little gem of a film hits every note just perfectly. It’s funny, sweet, touching and a great story about friendship. I remember watching this on VHS and was blown away by this sweet little film.
Princess Bride (1987)
I remember seeing this film while it was it was in limited release and saw it at the Big Edwards Newport Beach that was the largest screen in Orange County and it was pretty packed considering that the film went on to modest success at the box office. I liked the idea of the film and Rob Reiner had directed the wonderful Stand By Me. That night I saw the most amazing modern fairy tale that touch my heart and soul. I knew how special that the film was but as with some things it take a bit of time for everyone else to catch up with you.
Jackie Brown (1997)
I think for me this is Quentin Tarantino’s best film and is the one that stays with me the most. I think it’s the perfect blend of him and Elmore Leonard’s novel that make this one shine. It’s the one film of his that I can watch over and over and still feel as if it’s the first time. The cast is what makes this film work because you can write a great script but the actors need to bring it to life and this is one where every single role is important.
David Fincher was coming off the disastrous Alien 3 that nearly derailed his career before it started. But he was able to find the amazing script by Andrew Kevin Walker and created one of the most beautifully terrifying thrillers that has ever grace the modern screen. A rare modern crime noir that was a rare film that was able to stick to the no happy ending that New Line Pictures wanted and Brad Pitt used his newfound clout to help it happen. This movie is the perfect storm of story, acting, directing, and cinematography that will stick with you long after you have finished the film. The other thing is the look of the film while conceptualizing and shooting the film, it was the goal of director Fincher and his DP, Darius Khondji, to achieve a very specific look. A very DARK look, where black was not only abundant, but truly black…not grey, not green…BLACK. What they settled on was a bleach-bypass process (Deluxe’s CCE process), which retained the silver nitrate in the print stock, thereby providing the color image from the negative with the dense blacks and luminous highlights normally associated with black & white photography. Of the initial 2,441 release prints, only 10-15% were CCE prints, but this was always Fincher and Khondji’s preferred look for the film. The Blu-Ray release is the best home video version of the film (finally besting the stunning Criterion Collectors Laserdisc set) that is the closest you will get to seeing in the theater.
Mad Max (1979) /Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior)(1981)/Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Ok I’m going to cheat a little here on this one because it is a trilogy and because they fit together so well. As with most everyone else my first exposure to Mad Max was the second film that was retitled in the United Stated by distributor Warner Bros. because the first film was a very small release in the US and most people had never seen it. So it was a little strange to see the first film and not get the impact of the second film as originally intended. If you watch all three films in the correct order you then will get a sense of the overall scope that George Miller intended. While I will be the first to say that I wasn’t fond of Thunderdome when it was first released, I did however learn to view it as the third act in the trilogy and Max has matured as a character from the first two films and has become older and wiser. The films almost redefined what an action film could be.
Watership Down(1978)/The Plagued Dogs(1982)
While the films are totally separate they are very much related in two ways. The are both based on novels by writer Richard Adams and both films are directed by Martin Rosen. They both are very powerful films and are definitely not kids films. They both use animals in place of people to tell stories about subjects that are difficult to tell. They are exceptionally emotional and the ending of The Plagued Dogs is one of the most powerful and hardest ending in a movie animated or live action. Both have wonderful animation.
Blow Out (1981)
Brian De Palma was on a roll after doing Carrie and Dressed to Kill and decided to remake the 1966 Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up and change the photographer to a sound mixer. The film is still in his Hitchcock homage phase but is still a stunning film that considering when it was made the sound design of the film is quite stunning given the limitations of the period. John Travolta was a huge star by the time he did this film and it is a very interesting role for him. If you are a film buff then this is a great film to see because it’s a film within a film. Rounding out the great cast is nancy Allen and John Lithgow. This is probably one of my favorite films of De Palma during this period of his films.
Well 15 is now 18 and there are many more that will hopefully make for more lists soon. What are your 15 films?