Top 10 Movies (2014)

I meant to write this last week, but then after my last rant, my week got horrifyingly busy, so this got pushed...

This seems like a good time to discuss the movies I like best, the ones that have somehow made it to the top of my list. Since I already went on a little discussion about how some review sites I used to like annoy me, and then followed it up with why you should pay attention to my opinions (which seems to boil down to "because" and "I'm funny, right?"), I figure I should just follow it up and list what I like so everyone else can then go "jeez, he likes that?!"

It's odd picking my top 10 movies just because my top 3 haven't changed in YEARS, yet I also can't remember the last time I actually watched any of them. These will also be movies I doubt anyone else has in their top 3 or 5. One was an Oscar-winner that no most people are like "it's trite and pretentious", another an action movie with terrible sequels that ruined its reputation, and the last was a action-drama that seems to speak to 19-year-old males and no one else (including those same people ten years later).

Oh, and there will be minor spoilers for movies that have been out for years. Be warned.

#1: American Beauty

The story of a sad-sack husband who hates his life, dreads being around his family, and then dreads being at work also. He ends up changing his life and finding his bliss by regressing to the person he was when he was 17 (presumably before he had to make all the life decisions he made to end up becoming the adult he hated).

And yet, despite the fact that the movie doesn't sound that great, it communicates an existential dread of living in the suburbs that speaks to me, as I grew up in the suburbs. Maybe I just dread ending up like the main character (and secretly hope that, if I do, I can get a job at video store -- my 17-year-old self's career of choice -- to find my bliss again). Plus, the cinematography is exceptional, and it features one of Kevin Spacey's best performances -- really, if just about anyone else had played the main character, this movie just wouldn't have worked.

#2: The Matrix

Revolutionary at the time, The Matrix boasted jaw-dropping (for 1999) special effects as it told the story of Thomas Anderson, a office drone that's going through the motions of his life, expecting something greater. That better life (sort of) finds him when he comes face to face with Morpheus, the leader of a band of rebels that reveal to our Mr. Anderson that the world we see isn't the real world, that it's all a simulation and that humans are slaves to our robot overlords. With his world destroyed and his eyes opened, Mr. Anderson learns to find the power within to fight the robots back and try to free humanity from within the Matrix itself.

It's hard to watch the first movie in the Matrix series without thinking of the two films that came afterwards. The first flick boasted such promise for the main character, how he was going to change the world for the better, but the sequels kind of squandered that potential. Still, on its own merits the first film is amazing. Even now, fifteen years later, it's a great flick to just pop on and let the awe-inspiring action and stunts wash over you.

#3: Fight Club

Suffering from insomnia, the main character (played by Edward Norton) seems to just sleepwalk through a life he barely wants. Why? Because that's what society seems to want him to do. He has a job, he works the job. Get an apartment, get furniture, get a life. He goes through the motions, but he doesn't really want it. The life he didn't know he wanted (maybe because he was too afraid to look for it) ends up finding him when he meets Tyler Durden on a plane. Tyler is everything our protagonist wants to be, and life starts to change with one violent change: Fight Club. The passive hero becomes an aggressive anti-hero, and he seems happier (even has his life crumbles around him).

Of my top 3 films, I know most people won't like this one as much anymore. I still do, from the performances (Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden is oddly kinetic on screen) to the cinematography (I once heard is described as a movie that wasn't so much seen as directly downloaded into your brain, and I still agree with that statement). Sure, the characters in the movie are not the sort of people we should aspire to be (and all the dumb bros that decided to have Fight Clubs after watching this movie missed the point of the movie), but the film still strikes a chord with a part of me that could see how destroying your life to rebuild it would seem ideal.

And it occurs to me that my top three flicks are all about heroes overcoming their mundane lives to really find themselves. Huh...

Past my Top 3, the rest of the list are more eclectic, movies I like to go back to time and again. Many are popcorn flicks, but there are a few more arty flicks in the list.

#4: Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

Although many people disliked this movie when it came out (either because Michael Cera was "so over hyped" by this point in his career, or just because Scott Pilgrim is immature and still finding himself and isn't the "ideal" hero), I dig it. It's funny, it's quirky, and it's another one of those movies with so much going on on-screen, you keep being rewarded by watching it again and again.

#5: Star Trek (2009)

The thought of a Star Trek reboot made me cringe at the time, but the 2009 reboot was one of the best Star Trek movies. Hands down. Although not everything works (as I've mentioned in previous articles), as a whole the reboot makes Star Trek watchable again, something seemingly impossible after the release of Star Trek: Nemesis. Plus, Karl Urban is amazing as Doctor McCoy. I could watch the Many Adventures of Doctor McCoy all day, damn it.

#6: Road to Perdition

Another little-loved movie, I really dig this film. I know it's not exactly true to the comic it's based on, and many of the themes from the comic are downplayed (or excised)... but I didn't read the comic, so who cares? The film is beautifully shot, and Tom Hanks gives a solid performance in this 1920's era gangland tale.

#7: Primer

I've watched this movie six times so far, and I'm still trying to work out everything that happens. A short, mind-bending flick films on a scant budget (something like seven grand, I believe), Primer starts slow and then suddenly you're just trying to keep up. What the fuck just happened?

#8: Stranger than Fiction

I apparently like arty movies with weird stuff going on on-screen and really odd twists. This movie fits perfectly into that mold. Plus, it has one of the few performances by Will Ferrell that I actually don't hate (because normally I can't stand that dude's films).

#9: The Avengers

I almost didn't put a Marvel flick on the list, just because I figure it's expected. It's one of the highest-grossing movies of all time and everyone has seen it at this point. But, if the qualification for a "favorite" movie is my desire to watch it over and over again, then this movie goes on the list. It's fun, it's action-packed, and it's well put-together. Sign me up for the sequels.

#10: Batman Begins

Speaking of superhero movies, this is the other cape-and-cowl flick on my list of must-rewatch movies. Although I like Heath Ledger in the sequel better than the main villain of this flick, I think the story in the first movie is better (without needing weird techno-babble climax the sequel seemed to need to finish its story). And, like Star Trek in at #5, this movie did the impossible in making Batman worth seeing on the big-screen again (because no one will ever forgive Joel Schumacher for Batman & Robin).