My 6 Favorite Movies of All Time (This Week)
I’ve put off writing this list for a long time because I simply don’t think I can rank my favorite movies. I love a lot of films across all genres, and it would be all but impossible to pick a #3 and then compare or contrast it to a #5. And if we’re talking favorite movies of all time, how do I compare the favorite movies of my childhood versus the films I love now that my tastes have matured? Do those childhood favorites even still hold up, or are they basking in the glow of nostalgia? Whereas the newer movies are basking in the glow of newness?
The answer is to rank my Top 6 Favorite Movies based on how I feel about them right now. Maybe next week it’ll be different, or maybe next year. But right now, these are my 6 favorite films of all time.
Another reason why I don’t like ranking my favorite movies is that I’m no film scholar, and most of my films are probably going to seem a little silly. You won’t see anything on this list even resembling Citizen Kane or The Godfather or any other movie that the rest of the world considers greatest ever. No pretentious French films, sorry. In fact, as a general rule of taste, I don’t really like movies that came out before the 1970s. Something about the cinematography has always just rubbed me the wrong way. I like modern films, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I like the films I like – and these are the films I like this week.
Also, apparently my favorite genre ever is quirky, heartfelt films starring famous comedians in dramatic roles. That’s weirdly specific of me…but here we go!
6. Little Miss Sunshine
What is it about: A quirkily dysfunctional family makes the spontaneous decision to load everybody up in the family van to drive the precocious youngster Olive to California to compete in a local beauty pageant. Along the way, through a variety of mishaps and adventures, the family bond and learn to get over their individual hang-ups and love one another. In the end, they come together in the realization that modern day beauty pageants are hideous affairs, where manipulative mothers turn their daughters into sex tarts; and their new bond unites them in an attempt to save Olive from the pageant in the most awesome way possible. This family is happy being freaks.
Why do I love it: I love movies with heart, magic and more than a little quirkiness, and Little Miss Sunshine is brimming with all of those things. The Hoover family is made up of a lot of fascinating characters – from Alan Arkin’s coke-snorting grandfather to Paul Dano’s nihilistic older brother to Steve Carrel’s academic and suicidal uncle – and I really enjoy the way they bond and banter with one another. You can really feel the family weirdness between them, even when they’re supposed to dislike each other. There are a lot of great scenes between these characters, especially the bombastic ending. And I love the ice cream scene early on at the diner. Little Miss Sunshine is a great ensemble film that has a lot of heart, with a stupendous cast that is having a lot of fun.
5. The Truman Show
What is it about: Truman Burbank was born and raised in a reality TV show about his life – but he doesn’t know it. Master filmmaker Christof has built an entire town and filled it with actors playing townspeople all in an effort to keep Truman in the dark, in order to make the show as realistic as possible. But now Truman is an adult, and he’s starting to see the cracks in his fake world and fake life. At first he thinks he’s going crazy, but in time he comes to realize the truth, and that’s when he mounts his escape from the only world he’s ever known.
Why do I love it: The Truman Show was probably one of the first quirky, dramatic films I ever saw growing up, when it was time for my tastes to mature from kiddie films into real entertainment. And it was a powerhouse of a transition. I love TV, especially as a kid, so the subject matter was of particular interest to me. I also loved Jim Carrey, and the idea of him playing a dramatic role after all those comedies piqued my interest. Sure enough, the film blew me away. I loved the majesty of the fake world and the ways in which it started to unravel. Truman was a very likable lead, and I was there with him step-by-step as he started to see the truth and mount his escape. It was a fun, weird journey, culminating in a powerful showdown between Truman and Christof. This it apparently the exact genre I love, and The Truman Show was the first of its type I ever saw.
4. The Avengers
What is it about: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Incredible Hulk – must team up to save New York City and the world from the evil Loki and his interstellar army. Aided by government agency SHIELD – including agents Nick Fury, Black Widow and Hawkeye – the Avengers must learn to put aside their egos and their attitudes to work together if they hope to stand a chance.
Why do I love it: This may come as a surprise to many of you – it definitely did me – but I don’t really love any of the past decade’s superhero movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love that superheroes have become this big, glorious spectacle, and I really like a lot of those movies, but none of them have been so great as to earn a slot into my favorite movies of all time. The X-Men films, the Spider-Man films (new and old), the various Batman movies or even the Avengers build-up films; none of them has the magic or the heart that truly makes a movie for me. But I wanted to include at least one of this list, and I’ve chosen The Avengers. It’s a great film and a lot of fun, and the achievement of bringing together all the other movie stars into one film is historic; but there’s just something about superhero films where they are just ‘fun to watch’ as opposed to being personally beloved. Possibly because none of them are particularly quirky or star a comedian in a dramatic role…but also because none of my personal favorite characters has ever really been portrayed well in films, or at all.
The Avengers is a great movie, which isn’t a surprise since it was written and directed by one of my creative idols, Joss Whedon. He absolutely nailed the bickering and bantering between the heroes, and then rose to the challenge of creating one of the largest, most dynamic action movie climaxes of all time. The Avengers may not be quirky, it may not be all that dramatic or deep, but it is still arguably the greatest superhero movie ever.
3. Hot Fuzz/Shaun of the Dead
What is it about: In Shaun of the Dead, actor Simon Pegg plays a 30-something loser in London who must save his girlfriend, mother and friends from a zombie invasion. By the end, he learns what it means to be a proper boyfriend, son and friend, just in time to survive the attack and live happliy and lazily ever after. In Hot Fuzz, actor Simon Pegg plays a 30-something cop who brings his hardcore police ethic to the small rural town of Sanford, where he begins to uncover a murderous conspiracy! By the end, he learns what it means to be a proper human being, just in time to arrest the murderers and live happily and efficiently ever after.
Why do I love it: I may be cheating a little bit by picking two films for the #3 slot, but Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are virtually the same film in my eyes. They both star Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and are both directed by Edgar Wright. They’re both buddy comedies that feature the best the legendary dry British wit, of which I am a big fan. These two films are both perfectly made, and they are some of the few films I will gladly watch again and again and again. I’ll even watch the commentaries over and over, simply because I love everything about these films. The actors are great, the comedy is witty and funny, and the action is spectacular. If I had to pick one over the other, I think I would give Hot Fuzz the nod. I think it’s the much more complete film, but Shaun of the Dead was the first real zombie parody when the zombie genre was in desperate need of a parody. The two films are a package deal, I think, so I’m very excited for the upcoming third chapter of this unofficial Wright/Pegg/Frost trilogy.
2. The Royal Tenenbaums
What is it about: With rumors that his ex-wife is going to remarry, the narcissistic Royal Tenenbaum decides to try and get back in touch with his estranged family and children – by lying to them that he’s dying. Soon the entire Tenenbaum clan is back living under one roof and knocking heads like never before. It gets worse when everyone finds out that Royal is lying to them. But through sheer guts, determination and eventual understanding, Royal keeps his family from completely falling apart, and they all develop a new respect for him before he finally passes.
Why do I love it: The Royal Tenenbaums is the quirkiest film I have ever seen and it has made me a lifelong fan of director Wes Anderson. The cast is amazing, especially Gene Hackman as Royal, and the comedy is that dry, cool wit that I love. The film is whimsically cynical in a way that few films are, and not everybody has a cut and clean happy ending by the end. The characters all get endings, but usually they’re bittersweet at best. Still, the film has heart and it has whimsy, both of which are key for me. Even the music is whimsical, and it’s one of the rare occasions where I actually went out and hunted down the soundtrack to a film. I’m not a music guy, but even I know The Royal Tenenbaums has fantastic music. This movie is just off the wall with its quirkiness, while remaining very grounded in a cast of fantastic characters. And that’s exactly what I love most in movies.
1. Stranger than Fiction
What is it about: Harold Crick is an IRS auditor who lives a plain, boring life all alone. Then one day, without warning or explanation, he starts hearing a voice in his head narrating everything he does. Harold soon discovers that he is the main character in a book written by famous author Karen Eiffel, and she plans to kill him at the end of the story. But the twist is that both Crick and Eiffel live in the real world. Soon Harold is racing to not only find Eiffel and stop her, but also to try and squeeze as much life as he can into however long he has left.
Why do I love it: This is my favorite movie of all time, but unlike the rest of this list, there is no debate or discussion in my head about which film should hold the top spot. Stranger Than Fiction is it. One of the major reasons for that is because this film is about my chosen profession: writing. But it’s not about writers or the act of writing, it’s about the magic of writing, the wonderment of fiction. This film speaks directly to that desire inside me to become a professional writer so that I can be a storyteller, and tell stories as clever and as delightful as Stranger Than Fiction.
A lot of the credit goes to star Will Ferrell, who knocks it out of the park in this drab, serious role. There is no sign of his usual funnyman schtick in this film, but that doesn’t matter. Truth be told, I think Will Ferrell’s comedy has gotten stretched a little thin over the past few years. It’s good that he branched out into new and different roles. Ferrell is perfect as the boring and dull Crick, and then even better as Crick begins to experience more of the world, including learning to play the guitar and falling in love. He remains so incredibly likable and relatable throughout the film, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see some of myself in his character. So it’s much more touching when Crick embraces life – all to the delightful narration of Emma Thompson as Eiffel.
The movie also features my absolute favorite film romance ever. Maggie Gyllenhaal is both adorable and sexy as cookie-maker Ana Pascal, and her budding relationship with Crick is just too cute for words. His gift of ‘flours’ is the cutest pun in the history of cinema. The romance in his guitar serenade is scorching. I love this love story.
But, of course, the best part of the movie is the clever and fascinating plot. Maybe it’s been done somewhere before, but I’ve never seen it anywhere else. I love watching Harold as he tries to figure out what the hell is happening to him, with the help of a funny Dustin Hoffman. Then the movie really picks up when he finally comes face-to-face with Eiffel. That telephone scene gave me chills when I first saw it. And in the end, it all comes together in such a concise and practical way! Once both the viewer and Harold learn why he’s going to die at the end of the story, both you and he accept that he has no other choice. But then the true ending of the film is even more heartfelt, and even more likable.
This whole movie just clicks with me in ways that few movies do. The cast, the romance, the quirkiness, and the plot all come together to tell a fantastic story, reaffirming why I am the person I am, and why I want to be a writer. What more is there to want from a movie? Other than three-breasted women, I suppose…but I didn’t particularly care for Total Recall, new or old.
Honorable Mentions: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, 300, Sin City, Iron Man, V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Moonrise Kingdom, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ocean’s 11, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Incredibles, The Stupids, Tropic Thunder, Fight Club, The Usual Suspects, Serenity, Spider-Man 2, The Land Before Time, Signs, Armageddon, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Matrix trilogy, both Star Wars trilogies, and many more.
So that’s my list of my 6 favorite movies of all time (this week), what’s yours? Do you have a revolving top 6 or top 10? What about your absolutely favoritest movie ever? Share it in the comments, I would love to hear!