DISCLAIMER: Joel's 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' is a subjective list. This list can change at any time and is not set in concrete. As Joel watches films on a weekly basis, this list is a living organism. This current incarnation of the list is also only as of the time of creating it. Thank you for reading and enjoy! (I do expect some backlash from my decisions.)
On this list, you will find instances where more than one film is listed. This is because either there was a tie or the films somehow tie in with each other and make one selection in my mind. At each occurance, I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind my decision.
# 20: 'Let The Right One In'
I used to be a huge vampire fan, before I learned about the world of zombies. Slowly, I lost interest and with some of the things coming out lately, I begin to really question the direction of vampires in general. Then.... I saw 'Let The Right One In'. This film changed everything. I am a firm believer that this is the best vampire film ever made. I can't say enough good things about this film. It was so good that there was bound to be a re-make of it made for American audiences. 'Let Me In' is the American counterpart and I really found it to be quite good, but it's not as good as the original. I think a lot of what makes 'Let The Right One In' such a triumph is the script (which is based on a book), the pacing, the acting and the cinematography is like watching a moving painting. I've seen it multiple times and I've also added it to my DVD library. Now, a lot of people may be turned off a bit by the foreign language and subtitles. Don't let that keep you from watching this film.
5 out of 5. The film centers around a relationship with a young boy and (what appears to be) a young girl. He's picked on and not very well liked or respected. The little girl is new to his building and doesn't go out in the day time. He soon realizes that she's not like the other kids he knows. They form a relationship. The rest of the film is a slow burn to a big payoff and a satisfying finale. This is the way films should be made. I don't believe that you can make and/or watch films this good all of the time. If you don't watch a little crap every once in a while, then you can't appreciate the good stuff.... like this film. Same thing with people that make films, sometimes you just have to make films that are crap. If people didn't do that, then we wouldn't have classic films like 'Thankskilling'! (a real film, that i REALLY love.) Anyway, the point of all of this is.... watch 'Let The Right One In', you may not see vampire films in the same way again or you may not want to see another vampire film. I believe it's that good.
# 19: 'Hard Eight'/ 'Boogie Nights'/ 'Magnolia'/ 'Punch-Drunk Love'/ 'There Will Be Blood' - the Paul Thomas Anderson library
I don't know how much, if any, I've mentioned my love of all things Paul Thomas Anderson. Everything he touches is gold, in my opinion. I've seen every one of his films. I own every one of his films. I love everyone of his films. He is an auteur of the highest caliber. I always look forward to his next film and am continually surprised at the quality of what he puts out. He takes some things that seem so simple and strings everything together into a giant patchwork of amazing. His films tend to be epic in their scope, no matter how simplistic or complex the plot seems. He adds subtle twists and things that add that little bit of extra 'oomph' to the story that sets his films apart from other films. He rarely makes a film that has a run time that doesn't exceed the standard hour and a half length of most films. He likes to take a film to its ultimate end, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes I wonder if he should have been a novelist as his films feel like a novel when you watch them. A film based on a book that doesn't exist. (although 'There Will Be Blood' is loosely based on 'Oil!' by Upton Sinclair)
'Hard Eight' is about gambling in Las Vegas. 'Boogie Nights' is about a porn star with a huge penis and his rise and fall and rise again. 'Magnolia' is a film about multiple lives that all intersect, but are seperate. 'Punch-Drunk Love' is about a man who falls for a woman. And 'There Will Be Blood' is about a ruthless tycoon. All of them are amazing and all of them are 5 star films that can be watched repeatedly and you can find something new in them each time. If you don't like one of his films, don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, try another one.... you may be surprised. All of his films have similar feels, but are completely different. He has something to offer everyone.
Before I end this, I know you're saying "Paul Thomas Anderson isn't a film, he's a film maker!" You're right. However, I love all of his films, so rather than pick all of them.... I just choose him. I hope you'll all forgive me. Hey, it's my list, right?
# 18: 'Clerks'
I don't know how much more I can say about 'Clerks' that hasn't already been said. It proved that an amazing film could be made on a tiny budget and be, basically, just talking. It made Kevin Smith's name a household one. It set the wheels in motion for sequels, tie-in's and a whole lot of merchandising. It is a classic of the highest comedy caliber. Other than saying it's an obvious 5 star film, I don't know what else I could say.
Thank you Kevin Smith for taking a chance on being a film maker. You have a unique comedic voice and one that spans across genre's into drama and now horror too. I look forward to an expansive career to come.
# 17: 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'
Another film that I purchased early on in my film buying career is 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'. I got it right before I went away to college and it was a staple of college viewing. I've lost count how many times I've seen it. It's one of/if not my favorite Jack Nicholson films. He was at the top of his game when he made this. It is the standard for which many other film adaptations of books would look towards for guidance. There isn't much about this film that isn't amazing. It deserved every award nomination and win that it received. The Acadamey loved it and I don't blame them. It jump started a lot of career's like Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Berryman, Scatman Crothers, Vincent Schiavelli, Brad Dourif and of course, Louise Fletcher. The director, Milos Forman, was on his 'A' game during the filming of 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'. It's not unlike watching 'The Shining' when you see it. A painting on film. The music and screenplay are extremely complementary to the storyline and only improve on both.
The storyline follows Randall P. McMurphy as he is put into a mental institution in lieu of jail. He has everyone believing that he is crazy, rather than a criminal. What he soon finds out is that he may have bitten off more than he could chew by going this route. We meet the cast of characters in the ward, including the evil head nurse, Nurse Ratched. R.P. and Nurse Ratched butt heads right away and it becomes a struggle for power which he cannot win. He continually pushes her buttons until soon she does something that will result in his ultimate end and the re-birth of his closest friend.
This film is not for everyone, but it has a little bit of everything for anyone who watches it. It's rare to find a film like this being made anymore. Everyone wants the ultimate happy ending and doesn't realize that you don't always have to have the good guy win in the end. 5 stars. One I recommend that everyone see at least once. (Little bit of backstory: Kirk Douglas starred in a version of this on Broadway in 1963, too some acclaim, and he owned the rights to the story. By the time the film came around, he was told old to play the lead. He passed the rights along to his son, Michael Douglas and he ended up producing the film version.)
# 16: 'Natural Born Killers'
The best way I can describe this film is: a million dollar student film. In no way do I mean that as an insult. I believe that Oliver Stone made this film with the open-mindedness of a student in school.... a person willing to take risks for either a successful payoff or huge failure. Either way, he wanted to make it the way he wanted to make it.... no matter what the critical outcome. Here is another of Quentin Tarantino's films that he ended up not directing. There is a bit of controversy as to if he should have directed it or not, however I think that this is Oliver Stone's best piece of work and I can't see how Tarantino could have improved upon it. Now, do I think Quentin would have made an amazing film? Yes. But I do think that we would have missed out on something really amazing if he hadn't given up the rights. It also was re-witten by Oliver and other people involved with the film making process, which worked well and took some of the Tarantino-isms out of it, thus making it more removed from his original script. (side note: Steve Buscemi and Tim Roth were both offered the same unspecified role and turned it down. Jane Hamsher claims in her book about the movie that they did so because Quentin Tarantino told them he would never cast either of them in any of his movies again if they took the role. Kind of a dick move, but a cool one at the same time.)
I think that Quentin has made enough amazing films before and after this one, that I think Oliver Stone is okay to get credit for this one. Besides, I'm generally not an Oliver Stone fan. If he made more films like this one, I just might be. I mean, who would've put Rodney Dangerfield in the role of an abusive father with a desire to do naughty things to his daughter? I certainly wouldn't have. Funny story about this film, I went to see it with several other guys.... after seeing it, we spent the next 30 minutes trying to decide if we even liked it or not.... after that time was up, we didn't stop talking about it for the next week. We looked at it from every angle possible and tried to pick apart all of the finder details of it. In essence, we fell in love. For me, that love is just as strong today as it ever was. As a matter of fact, I just watched it a week and a half ago. It holds up brillantly nd is still just as important a film today as it was when it came out. If you decide to watch it, bring an open mind and some free time. You don't want to be distracted when you're watching it.... it's a film you want to see from beginning to end with no breaks. This probably deserves more than 5 stars, but I have to limit myself in some way, right? Go. Watch. Now.