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.
# 45: 'Barfly'
Charles Bukowski is my 2nd favorite author to ever have lived. Sadly, he is no longer with us.... but he left an amazing legacy of brilliant books behind. During his lifetime, he wrote a film that is somewhat based on his life. Mickey Rourke was cast as Henry Chinaski, the on screen alter ego of Charles Bukowski. The end result of this was a sadly beautiful story of an everyman. This film may not be nearly as good as one of Charles Bukowski's books, but it's the closest thing to bringing one of them to life that you could get. 'Barfly' tells the story of a man who spends his days drinking in a little dive of a bar and ends up getting in fights and writing in his 'spare' time. He eventually meets a rather disturbed woman and they start a relationship of sorts. Soon after that, he is 'discovered' by another woman. The rest of the flim deals with his change in life after a little taste of fame or his lack of change in life.
I love this flim. It's a dirty little slice of life that reeks of realism. The characters are far from perfect, as a matter of fact.... they're completely flawed. There's nothing shiny or pretty about this story. It is gritty.... that doesn't make it any less poetic. Charles Bukowski was a poet of the streets.... of the gutters of human tragedy. He turned the ugly into the beautiful. He lived what he wrote, it was just that simple. This film is a 5 out of 5 star piece of poetry. Sadly, it's not easy to find on DVD or VHS. I'm not sure why that is, but I dream of the day when I can add it to my collection. Unitl then, I have Charles's books to keep me warm at night. Thank you Mr. Bukowski, wherever you are. And thank you Mr. Rourke for bringing a man to life that not everyone would have known without your talents.
# 44: 'Gangs Of New York'
This film was not originally in this position on the list. I made a last minute decision to change where it was located after re-watching it. I still think it's an amazing film and I still believe that Daniel Day-Lewis gave the most amazing perforamce of his career. He may have even given the greatest performance by an actor, ever. This film had problems though. The ending still bugs me to this day. It's like it was an after thought. I also have trouble with Cameron Diaz's character and Leonardo DiCaprio's character. I think they're both fine actors in their own right, I am just not sure that this was the right vehicle for them. Something just feels off about it all, like they were miscast in these roles. Despite all that, this film is epic in scope. It tells a story about the birth of our nation and makes it entertaining to modern audiences. Everyone in this film seems to want to be involved and they all put forth their best efforts. I think a little time might have been shaved off of this to make it a little tighter, but that may just be me. It's still impressive, none the less.
'Gangs Of New York' tells the story of all of the rival gangs in New York back in the day. How they all compeated with each other and how they all ruled over the streets.... even over the law. The main story focuses on Bill the Butcher and his former enemies son, Amsterdam. Bill doesn't realize who Amsterdam is and takes him under his wing. Soon, Amsterdam is his right hand man and things are going well.... until the weight of everything brings it all crashing down and the two must confront each other to finish off old rivalries. I gave this 5 out of 5 stars, mostly because of Daniel Day-Lewis's performance as Bill the Butcher. He was so amazing that I even had dreams about the character. (not anything really strange, just him in character) This film, despite its flaws, still deserves to be seen and deserves a place on the 'Top' lists of film reviewers. It's a unique film and a great film. A masterpiece in its own right.
# 43: the 'Die Hard' series
What action movie lover doesn't have a soft spot in their heart for John McClane? He represents the 'everyman' of the action genre. In the original 'Die Hard' film, he was just a cop put in a bad situation where he has to become the action hero to save the day. Despite his heroics, he's still just a guy who's not indestructable and he proves that over and over again in the original film. As a matter of fact, he gets the living crap beat out of him for almost the entire film. It's a wonder he didn't die or just give up. But I think that's why everyone loves him, he's not a superhero. Granted, in the films that followed, he became more and more superhuman, but he could still get his ass kicked. I personally love these films because they blend action, humor and Bruce Willis's charm into a nice big bowl of coolness. I could watch any of these films anytime and love them no matter what. The original 'Die Hard' is a holiday staple. It is a fantastic Christmas film. Now you're asking me, "Why in the hell did you pick the other three films in the series too?" Let me explain. I believe that 'Die Hard 2: Die Harder' is a perfect example of how to make the ideal sequel. You take your hero, throw him into a similar situation, kick the action off within the fist 5 minutes, make everything bigger and VIOLA! instant success. "What about part 3?" Once again, they made the perfect follow up to the over the top sequel.... you take all of the original elements and put them into a new environment. Everything feels fresh again, even if it takes place in the summer and you add a silly sidekick. It's like a reboot of the entire franchise. "Okay. Good points. What about part 4?" Well, you take your main character, add elements from the past and give him a hip young partner for the young folks and once again you have a practical reboot of the franchise. Can this semi-reinvention continue onto a 5th film? I can honestly say that I don't know, but I'd like to find out.
After all is said and done, I gave all 4 of these films 5 out of 5 stars. Are they going to change the world as we know it? No. But sometimes a film isn't just about having something important to say. Sometimes it's just about checking your brain at the door and having a good time with old friends for a couple of hours. These 4 films accomplished that every single time. They are 4 seperate films with the same lead character and the same basic premise, however, each one is independent of the other. You don't have to watch them all, you can just watch one and feel satisfied that you saw a great little action film. I would love to see them make a 5th one, just to see where that film would end up taking us. But until that happens, if it does, I just have to say, "Yippie Ky Yay" Well, you know the rest.
(fan made tribute trailer to all 4 films)
# 42: 'Shaun Of The Dead'/ 'Hot Fuzz'
Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are geniuses.... need I say more? You could write just that one sentence as a review for these films and that would be enough to put asses in seats. These three men have created two of the most perfect comedy films ever made. They nailed both the zombie and buddy cop films so well that no one ever needs to make another attempt at it, these cannot be topped. From the music to the script to the cinematography to the characters to the.... well, everything. They are both spot on perfection. I kind of wonder if these should have ended up higher on my list, but I think that them just being on this list is probably enough. They should be on everyone's list of films that you must see before you die. It helps if you're a fan of zombie films and buddy cop films, but you can still watch either one of these without the previous knowledge of their base films and still love them. I don't know how these three guys ended up together, but I kind of think it was a perfect storm created by the film gods. It is so rare to have something like this happen, so you really have to hold on tight when they do. I own both of these films and watch them fairly often. They never grow old, I always find something new in them when I watch them and I always laugh. Pitch perfect films.
'Shaun of the Dead' revolves around two 'slackers' who are a little slow in realizing that a zombie outbreak has occured and that most of the world is now the walking dead. It's a film about them trying to keep the few of their loved ones that are still alive, together. But to also keep their lives as normal as they used to be. 'Hot Fuzz' is about a "super"cop who is basically driven out of his job because he's too good at it. He is transferred to a little town where not much happens. He struggles to find his place, but soon realizes that there is something more going on and he sets out to uncover a massive conspiracy. Hilarity ensues in both films. By now, I am guessing that you have already come to the conclusion that I gave them 5 out of 5 stars each.... well, you're right. How could I not? I only hope that when they're next project emerges that it can stand up to these. It has to be a hard thing to make lightning strike 3 times in the same spot, but if anyone can do it.... I am pretty sure that they can.
# 41: 'Seven' aka 'Se7en'
Up to this point, 'The Silence of the Lambs' had set the standard for what a serial killer film should be. As a matter of fact, it was so good that it was brought into the mainstream and even included in the Oscar's.... and won. I don't know that anyone ever saw the possiblity of another serial killer film ever taking a shot at 'The Silence of the Lambs' title, but in 1995.... an up and coming director named David Fincher, took a shot at the championship belt. He took an established genre and put it on its ear. He used a somewhat unknown actor for his primary character of the killer. He put A-list actors in the lead roles as the two detectives on the case. He didn't give up the identity of the killer until almost the end and he created an ending that not only satisfied the audience, but left them wanting more. Maybe 'Seven' didn't earn the awards that 'The Lambs' did, but that didn't make it any less of an amazing film. It's a disturbing masterpiece that you can't really say you love.... because then you feel 'icky', but instead you say that you think it's incredible and original. I know that when I left the theater after seeing it, I felt like I'd seen a shift in film. A shift in the genre. A shift in what the audience wanted to see. This was a new page in the lexicon of crime thrillers.
In 'Seven', we focus on a seasoned detective about to end his career and a young detective just trying to get his started. Of course, they butt heads. Despite that, they start working on a case where a killer is using the 7 deadly sins as a roadmap to kill people. It's a race against time to find him before he completes his masterpiece. One of the things that's subtle, but very effective about this film is the use of rain. It rains for the entire film, until our killer is captured and it doesn't rain again for the rest of the story after that. It is a great use of the environment to reflect what we see on the screen. It's like using color to alter moods. I couldn't help but give this 5 out of 5 stars and it sealed the deal on my love for David Fincher films, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman and for the amazing talents of Kevin Spacey. If you only see two serial killer films in your lifetime, you must see 'The Silence of the Lambs' and 'Seven'. They are the stick against all other films are measured in this genre.