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.
# 40: the 'Toy Story' trilogy
I don't know one single person who doesn't like the 'Toy Story' films.... not one. That doesn't mean there isn't one and that doesn't automatically make them the best films ever made, it does however make them worthwhile additions to any 'Top Films' list. I remember when I saw the original 'Toy Story' in the theater. I was a bit apprehensive and was one of the last people to jump on the CGI bandwagon. I was very anti-CGI back in the day. What 'Toy Story' taught me was that just because something was done on a computer, didn't meant that it couldn't still have heart. This film had so much heart it was overwhelming. Soon, a follow up was released. It was doubtful to me that they could capture that same sense of wonder a second time.... but damn it if Pixar did it. It felt like a bit of a different film than the first one, but it was still 'Toy Story'. I loved it and that was that. Then, it happened. The word came out that a third and final film was being made. I thought that it was going to ruin an amazing franchise. The idea that Andy was going off to college and that everything had moved on, made me sad. Initial reviews, once it came out, were that it was a fantastic way to end the series and that everyone who saw it.... cried. I was so hesitant to watch it, however.... Pixar has proven over and over again that their names stands for high quality entertainment for children of all ages. So, I watched it. What I saw was extremely moving, depressing and ultimately a solid ending to a solid series of films. I think that they sewed up all the loose ends in such a way that you couldn't help but feel like you lived a lifetime with Andy and the gang. And Tom Hanks proved once again why he's one of the Hollywood elite.
I may not have been a child when the first film came out, but I sure felt like a little kid again when I saw it. It was a wonderful thing to see the world through the eyes of Andy's toys. They taught us all a lesson in life, love and friendship. Despite the horrible song stylings of Randy Newman, I still think these films are some of the best CGI films made to date. I had no issues in giving them each 5 out of 5 stars. They possibly deserved even more than that, if that's possible. I loved sharing these films with my own kids and I hope they'll do the same when the time comes with their children. I think the lessons are ones that will always remain important ones. Not too mention that you can't help but love all of the unique characters we're introduced to in Andy's room. "To infinity and beyond!"
# 39: 'Night Of The Living Dead' (1968)
I love zombies. That is no secret to any person that knows me. Pound for pound, zombies are your best bet for horror entertainment. I love what they represent and every fear that they bring to the surface. However, a lot of people these days take for granted what zombies are compared to what they used to be. Way back in the day, zombies were more akin with the voodoo enduced slaves that we all heard about in scary stories. They weren't the walking dead that lusted after the flesh of the living. Then George A. Romero came along and changed the game. He wrote a brand new mythology that we all still cling to today. In 1968, this was a whole new concept.... you have to keep that in mind when you see the original 'Night of the Living Dead'. I think that a lot of folks miss that fact when they see it. It seems to me that even if you were to discount that fact, this is still an amazing film that holds up after decades of wear and tear. Another thing that gets overlooked with this film is the fact that the hero is an African American man. Put that in context with what was going on in 1968. Therefore, this film not only tells a cautionary tale about the living dead.... it also teaches us a valuable lesson about race relations and uneccessary stereotypes. These things all make this film amazing, but erase all that from your mind and just watch it. What you'll see is expert film making on a minimal budget with maximal effect. This film packs a punch that will hit you in the gut and keep hitting until you give up or punch back. It's gory, visceral and intense. There is nothing about this film that would tag it as a film from the 60's, other than the black and white film and the way the charcters talk and dress. It's timeless.
While I don't think this is the best example of the zombie genre, I think it's the most important. It is the grandfather of every other zombie film that's come after it. It wrote the book on everything you needed to know about zombies. Sadly, I think it kind of pigeonholed George A. Romero, but I don't always think he minds. We all want to leave a legacy so that people will remember us after we're gone. This is his legacy. It's a no brainer (all puns intended) to give this 5 out of 5 stars. It is the watermark that all other zombie films will hold themselves too until the end of time. I am only saddened by one thing.... Mr. Romero didn't handle the copyright issues correctly and he has since lost all rights to the film. It is public domain. That means anyone can market it, sell it and alter it without repercussions and people have taken full advntage of that. So beware when you go to watch it or buy it that you only get a version endorsed by George A. Romero or one that has reviews stating it's an original, untouched version.
# 38: 'Clerks 2'
So, you want to make a sequel to a film that doesn't need a sequel? You want to make a follow up to 'Citizen Kane' or 'Casablanca'? Sure, why not. That's kind of how I felt when I heard that Kevin Smith was actually making a sequel to 'Clerks'. The only bright shining part of the story was that he was doing it himself. It wasn't the studio doing it without his knowledge, he wanted to make it a reality.... he felt that there was more story to tell. What came out of this desire.... is one hell of an amazing film that is as good or better than the original. 'Clerks 2' picks up after 'Clerks' ends. Randall and Dante are older and wiser and take jobs at Mooby's after Randall burns down the Quick Stop. Dante is about to get married and move away, Randall is hurt and wants him to stay and Jay and Silent Bob are still hanging around outside making mischief. We're introduced to a few new characters who round out the cast and compliment the existing ones perfectly. It is an example of characters living on beyond the written page. The people Kevin Smith created live on their own now.... they don't need to be tended too, they tend to themselves. They are alive and are icons of pop culture for my generation.
This film makes me laugh, cry, feel sick and nostalgic all at the same time. It satisfies on every level that a film should. It's like 'The Empire Strikes Back' of slacker comedies. Granted, it doesn't have At-At's or the Hoth base, but it has 'Lord of the Rings' jokes and a donkey show.... what more could you want people?!?! I slapped a 5 out of 5 star rating on it the minute after I saw it. I wanted to thank Kevin Smith for doing what he wanted to do and what felt right. It took a lot of balls to overcome all of the negativity that was being thrown at him for 'going back to the well'. It puts a period on the sentence and allowed Mr. Smith to finally move on to other things and it allowed us to do the same.
# 37: 'Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn'
Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell. Say it three times while standing in front of a mirror and he will appear. Hell, he'll show up anywhere if it means he can make a film. The man loves what he does and doesn't care if it's a multi-million dollar blockbuster or a Sy-Fy original movie, he'll do it just to keep working. The man is an actor who loves to act. Bruce Campbell is also considered a god of the B-movies. He is a legend in his own time and I think that if it wasn't for Sam Raimi and his 'Evil Dead' films, Bruce wouldn't be the pop culture phenomenom that he is today. 'Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn' is the crown jewel in his collection. It is one of, if not THE, only film that was a remake of a film that was already made by the same cast and crew.... but instead of making it serious, they made it kind of over the top. The original 'Evil Dead' is a pretty dark and straight forward horror film. Whereas, 'Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn' is quite the opposite. It's more tongue in cheek horror with no real attempt to take itelf seriously. It's a fun little film for the geeks in all of us. It has everything you could ever want in a film, right down to the hand that's replaced by a chainsaw that was formerly in the 'WORKSHED!'.
Sam Raimi has gone on to become quite the toast of Hollywood and may someday end up in the same ranks as Peter Jackson, who also started out making low budget horror flicks. Until then, he continues to make a mixed bag of films. He makes big budget blockbusters, but then goes back to his roots and makes kind of cheesy horror films. (see 'Drag Me To Hell') Now, the plot for 'Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn' goes a little like this. A man named Ash ends up at a cabin where he finds an old tape recorder left by the former resident and a copy of the Necronomicon or the book of the dead. He ends up accidentially summoning evil into the cabin and is in a fight for his life. The end, well.... you have to ee it to believe it and you probably already know that they made a sequel to this. A good sequel. I own the two original 'Evil Dead' films and love the fact that I can watch them both at either time and enjoy the similarities that they have with each other. I highly recommend that if you haven't seen 'Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn' yet, that you take some time out of your busy schedule tonight and watch it. You will not be dissappointed. The only thing I ask, is that you don't expect too much. The lower expectations you have.... the more you're going to love this film. I think I'm going to go and watch it now! 5 out of 5 stars, baby.
# 36: 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'/ 'Better Off Dead'
The 80's were an ugly time. The clothes were horrific, the music had some pretty rough spots and some of the films were terrible. Despite those crappy odds, two films overcame them all and ended up becoming legends in the 80's comedy film library. Those two films are 'Better Off Dead' and Ferris Bueller's Day Off'. Each one of these films have a certain sene of absurdity, but they also are histerically funny and even touching at times. Not too mention, pretty damn funny. The icons of 80's films are all here or at least all involved. In fact, these two flims were instrumental in launching some careers. I know, for a fact, that anyone who's my age has seen these two films and probably counts them as one of their favorites. They are films that almost anyone can enjoy and that have universal themes that bridge time. In other words, they are just as relevant today as they were back in the 80's. I have lost count as to how many times I've seen each one of these films. It's like they're required viewing at least once a year. They're quotable and on cable all the time. These are films that will always be a part of the American psyche.
Back in the day, there were other films being made too. For example, 'One Crazy Summer' is basically the same film as 'Better Off Dead', but just a slightly different storyline. The actor is the same, the director is the same and the themes are the same. However, for some reason.... it never got the same recognition that 'Better Off Dead' did. That, to me, is a shame. And that is just one example. Despite all of that, 'Ferris Bueller' and 'Better Off Dead' are wothy of being in the Smithsonian as a time capsule of what films were back in the 80's. They also deserve the 5 out of 5 star rating that they received. I love them, own them and wil watch them at any given moment. If you need to be picked up from a slump and don't have the money for a therapist, just rent these films and I can promise that you'll be feeling a bit better when they're over. That and you'll want your two dollars.