Here’s a list of films I like listed in order of year it came out:
The Great Race (1965)
There are few comedies I have seen in my life that are as ambitious as The Great Race. The premise is incredibly simple on paper (some arrogant jerk wants to show up a “perfect” dude by beating him in a race across the globe, amongst other things), but the scope utilized to bring the premise to life is just massive and I love how much creativity the movie puts into each scene to the point that you’ll even laugh at the cheap punchlines. The old-school vaudeville style isn’t for everyone admittedly, but as a guy who enjoys that sort of stuff, I can say with the utmost confidence that The Great Race is one of the most consistent gut-bustingly funny films I’ve seen.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
It’s pretty much a law that every favorite movie list has at least one Kubrick film and mine is A Clockwork Orange. Why? Well why not? It’s funny. It’s violent. It has Malcolm McDowell as the main character/villain. It has some interesting things to say regarding humanity and free will. It has a really sweet soundtrack. It’s practically as perfect as Kubrick can be.
The Holy Mountain (1973)
For a while, I didn’t quite get The Holy Mountain. It was the first Jodorowsky film I’ve ever watched and I’m not exactly the biggest fan of religious fiction to begin with, so it sort of washed all over me at first. However, multiple analyses describing the film’s imagery combined with numerous rewatches caused the movie to eventually worm its way into my heart as one of my all-time favorites. This is a film bursting to the seams not only with all sorts of religious themes, but all sorts of criticisms against religious faith itself whilst being tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing. Utena wishes it could be as complex and open to interpretation as this thing.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Mel Brooks’s satire on the western genre is everything I love about his style of satirical filmmaking wrapped up in one of the most offensive films to ever become available to the public. It gets how to deal with racism, it gets how to do dirty humor, and it gets that just because you’re a satire doesn’t mean you don’t have to exist solely as a joke, especially regarding the charming duo of Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder. I was sold on this movie as soon as the Camptown Ladies bit occurred. Pretty much the hardest I’ve ever laughed at a movie, and everything that happened afterwards is master-class too.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
I’m not the biggest Sidney Lumet fan. And by that, I mean that I tend to like his films, but they never really stick with me for too long. But Dog Day Afternoon is the exception to that rule. What starts as a simple bank robbery soon turns into a full-blown analysis of news manipulation, Stockholm’s Syndrome, transsexuality, peer pressure, and all sorts of social issues that are still relevant to this day. Plus, even though anyone with knowledge of the real-life events this movie is based on can see the ending coming from a mile away, Al Pacino plays such a likable guy that you can’t help but want him to succeed even though he’s the person threatening people with a gun. And man was that ending a gut-puncher.
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Every time I think about this film, it just gets better and better to me. It’s recognized in certain circles for being “that one movie where John Travolta dances to disco” and I think that does it a great disservice, because Saturday Night Fever is about sooooooo much more than that (its sequel on the other hand…). It’s about running away from your troubles to do what you’re good at, only to realize that what you’re good at isn’t enough in the end. It’s about realizing that your life is crap and what you choose to do with said realization. It’s about other people’s lives affecting yours in both good and bad ways (mostly bad though). It has my favorite climax ever. And all whilst the Bee Gees sing in the background. Coming-of-age stories just don’t get better than Saturday Night Fever.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The original Dawn of the Dead has been my favorite traditional horror film since college and a recent rewatch has proven that to still be the case. It takes the excellent formula established in Night of the Living Dead, increases the scope in all the right ways, and delivers on all the camp, scares, and social satire that makes Romero’s zombie films the cultural icons they are today. Its appeal may have faded with the current generation due to how we treat zombies now, but whilst it’s true his recent stuff isn’t up with the times, Dawn of the Dead still remains the most exciting horror classic to grace my eyes.
To me, watching Caligula is the final step to fully integrating yourself into the world of exploitation. It combines everything great about the genre and everything great about operatic storytelling with the production of a big budget movie, making for a real nasty Legend of the Galactic Heroes-tier like product. Everything about this movie is pitch perfect from the constant fucked-up Roman sex to Malcolm McDowell’s performance as the doomed emperor as he rises and falls from power. Nevertheless, I’d never recommend it to anybody. Because just like LoGH, only you will know when you’re ready for it.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Nostalgia-bait at its finest. Of course I love the original trilogy like most kids who grew up watching it. And just like them, Empire is my favorite iteration for all the darkness it introduces to the franchise whilst still maintaining everything that is fun about Star Wars as a whole. Do I really have to describe what’s considered one of the most influential movies of all-time? Hell, I’d be surprised if you never watched it period.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
An orphanage needs money to stay open. Two men wearing dark hats and sunglasses decide to put on a concert in order to raise money. In their quest to do so, they enrage many different parties and encounter many famous jazz artists, resulting in amazing covers of classic blues songs and hilariously destructive car chase scenes culminating in me constantly busting a gut whilst dancing to the music the entire time. As you probably guessed from my movie choices, I’m a big fan of when simple stories get large in scope. And no other movie does it as well for me as The Blues Brothers.
Vice Squad (1982)
Wing Hauser’s role as a psychotic pimp is probably my favorite villain role in all of film. The determination he has to kill the woman who caused him to be arrested, along with the police always being one step behind him and said woman not having a clue she’s being chased makes for some of the greatest cat-and-mouse scenes you’ll ever see. It also helps that Vice Squad takes place in a setting that practically encapsulates everything I love about sleaze. The streets were never safe to begin with, but that doesn’t mean things can’t get worse.
The Toxic Avenger (1984)
Some people would pick Die Hard as their favorite action movie of all-time. Some people would pick The Dark Knight as the best thing to happen to the superhero genre. My personal favorite of both categories is The Toxic Avenger, that Troma film you’d only know if you hung out in certain circles that loves cheesy B-movies. This movie is just pure camp, taking its “ugly is good” moral to the most hilarious extreme and not giving a fuck about logic as long as it’s not required to understand what’s going on. And nothing says “fuck you” to logic more than a giant monster teleporting to the most convenient of locations whilst having his voice change from a nerdy whiner to a deep voiced guy who was obviously reading the script when his lines were recorded.
Meet the Feebles (1989)
Before Peter Jackson turned towards the big-budget epics, he was a small-time horror director who directed some of the trashiest entries you’ll see in the genre, including this nastily dark satire of variety shows and what goes on behind-the-scenes. I just love seeing how in the span of a day, these dark versions of the Muppets go through so much underground shit whether it be drug-dealing, snuff videos, or Vietnam War flashbacks, as well as the consequences they have to pay for their actions before the show starts. I won’t dare spoil the results, but let’s just say it’s violently hilarious.
Blue Velvet (1986)
This film is not so much a story as it is a pure psychological experience. Of course, the same can be said for Lynch’s other films, but Blue Velvet encapsulates the feeling better than any of them with a compelling mystery knee-deep in psychological horror techniques and noir-ish atmosphere. It is an ugly movie that revels in everything disturbing about humanity in general, and that’s why I get a kick out of watching it.
Ed Wood (1994)
Ed Wood should be required viewing for anyone looking to entertain an audience, whether it be through directing, stand-up comedy, or even blogging. Because no matter how good you think you are and how many fans you have, there’s always the possibility that your work is complete crap and you don’t see it. Whilst I’m not sure how true that is to the real Ed Wood, Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the guy is just so damn chipper that you tend to ignore the fact that he’s wasting people’s money on horrible projects. Add in a hauntingly funny direction by Tim Burton and you’ve got pretty much the most engaging biopic ever made.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Best film of the 90s? Best film of the 90s. Even though he’s improved tremendously as a director since he made this, Pulp Fiction still remains my personal favorite thing to come from Quentin Tarantino. Everything about it worked for me when I first saw it, and it continues to work for me even now. Not much else I can really say other than I doubt the exploitation genre will ever be able to produce something that can top this masterpiece.
Michael Mann has a reputation amongst crime movie fans for bringing his settings to life whilst allowing them to house some of the complex human ideologies imaginable, criminal or otherwise. And Heat is by far his magnum opus, pitting two of the greatest actors (Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro) against each other as a work-obsessed cop who’s wrecking his own life and a well-off criminal who will do anything to live the high life short of when something more personal comes his way. The chemistry between these two and their lifestyles, along with how it affects everything around them, is pretty much what makes this film. Is it to movies what Monster is to anime? Probably.
Battle Royale (2000)
Yeah, I know it’s a bit of a cliche to have one of my favorite Japanese films to be probably the most well-recognized movie amongst the current generation to come from overseas. But every time I watch this movie, I always feel this huge rush of energy that starts early in and never leaves until the film’s resolution. Something about seeing these kids being forced to play this deadly game and ending up killing each other no matter how many times they try to find a way out just fills me with adrenaline. Can’t really say that about most other things.
Suicide Club (2002)
Anyone who wants to get in on the Japanese horror scene should see two films: Audition and this. Whilst Audition defines most of what makes I love about atmospheric horror and Japan’s tendency towards mindfuck, Suicide Club practically breathes it whilst also throwing out some good commentary regarding the relatively high suicide rate within the country. The opening scene where the huge group of schoolgirls throws themselves in front of a train is one of the best hooks I have seen in anything fictional as well as defines why Sion Sono is one of my favorite foreign directors of all-time, and the rest of the movie doesn’t let up either.