My top 10 movies

Admittedly, I am not a movie geek.  I fall into the category of book geek.  I much prefer books to movies, hands down.  And movies based on books?  Don’t get me started, you do not want to watch most of those with me.

However, I am married to someone who is a movie geek (and a pretty cute one at that).  So I make concessions.  My movie watching time has increased in the past several years.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I still think books are better, but the screen is a valid artistic medium.  There is no denying that.  Some tell stories with pen and paper, and some use film.  Both can give rise to some great works.

With all that being said, here is my list of my top 10 favorite movies of all time.

10)  The Stand

Yes, I know this never hit the theaters.  And I know its technically a mini series and not a movie.  However, it is about 6 hours long, so I count it as 3 three movies.

With all this being said, The Stand is one of the best adaptations of an author who has too many books that have become the victims to horrible adaptations (Running Man, anyone?)  The Stand is one in a long line of movies that can be categorized as “dystopian”  However, The Stand has a few things to make it stand out (no pun intended).  The casting was brilliant, for the most part.  Who can forget Bill Fagerbakke in the role of Tom Cullen, a mentally challenged man who risks life and limb to fight for the side of the good?  Gary Sinise was also memorable as Stu Redmond, the quiet man from east Texas thrust into the role of the leadership that he did not really want.  And then there is Rob Lowe’s (before his fame as Meathead Rob Lowe on the Direct TV commercials) role as Nick Andros, a deaf mute.  Lowe only had few lines of dialogue in the entire movie, but it is the non-speaking performance that will be remembered for years to come.  The Stand was also limited by network TV and the lack of any real CGI technology (this was 1994 after all) but was still an overall great (and faithful to the source material) adaptation to what many consider to be the greatest Stephen King book ever written.  And it has rightfully earned its place on my list.

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9) Carrie (1976)

Poor Carrie…why can’t she catch a break?  She was just trying to be a normal teenager for once.  Her mother tries to ruin it for her but wildly underestimated Carrie’s…talents, shall we say?  And those horrible girls at the prom then tried to ruin it again but then they became victim to Carrie’s,..uh…talents.  Don’t people ever learn?  Do not mess with someone endowed with telekinesis…it just doesn’t pay!

As someone who has been the victim of bullying for most of her natural life, there is no way that the 1976 version of Carrie does not deserve a place on this list of all time great movies.  Not only did I completely identify with Carrie (I was her, minus the religious fanatic mother), I was blown out of the water by the performance of Sissy Spacek in the title role.  However, even though Sissy Spacek was great in her role, Piper Laurie stole the show in her role as Carrie’s fanatically religious mother Margaret White.  Many say she was robbed of the Oscar for that role.  I can’t really argue against that.  And this was made in 1976, so Sissy Spacek and company could not rely on CGI.  In other words, all acting, baby.  And some really great acting at that.

Myself and all the other bullied children should have a special place in our hearts for Carrie White.  And this movie indeed has a special place on this list as well.

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8)  Nightmare Before Christmas

So, its Halloween and things are feeling autumn-like.  Time to watch…Nightmare Before Christmas!

The snow is in the air and the holiday spirit is a-flowing.  Sounds like it may be time to watch…Nightmare Before Christmas!

What a dichotomy!  Halloween movie or Christmas movie?  How do we choose?

Well, it doesn’t matter…its Nightmare Before Christmas, the movie of dual functions!  And also yet another example of the genius of Tim Burton.  The special effects were ahead for the time and helped pave the way for many other movies.  The soundtrack was catchy too, and the characters were cute but cute in a nightmare-ish different sort of way (it is a Tim Burton film after all).  After all, who can forget Sandy Claws, The Pumpkin King, Lock, Shock and Barrel and all the rest of the charmers?

Actually, it doesn’t really matter when you watch Nightmare Before Christmas.  It is a treat no matter what time of year it is!

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7) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

When the news came out that Lord of the Rings would be made in a live action movie consisting of three films, the nerd world collectively jumped for joy.  Well, at least this nerd did.  Finally, we were going to get what we had been clamoring for and the technology was advanced enough to do it justice.  Gandolf, Frodo, Boromir and the rest of the gang were going to come to life, and we gleefully rubbed our hands in anticipation.  And it did not disappoint.  I saw Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring on opening weekend and was already counting down the minutes to the next movie when I left the theater.

And I was right to be counting down the minutes to the release of The Two Towers.  In one word:  Ents.  For those who don’t know, Ents were the sentient tree creatures that chose to fight evil along with Gandolf and co.  And that fight scene was one for the ages.  Hands down, one of the best battle scenes in cinematic history.  Of course, the movie consisted of much more than that particular scene.  We were also introduced to Grima.  Gandalf the White reunited with his friends.  But I will never be able to get images from the battle fought by the Ents out of my mind, especially the scene where one dies in battle…still sends shivers down my spine.

A movie with sentient trees making the list?  Crazy, huh?  Well, wait til you get a load of the rest of the list before you jump to any conclusions!

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6)  Masters of the Universe

I am married to He-Man’s number one fan.  I don’t think he would ever capture He-Man and try to hobble him but check out his shelf dedicated all things Masters of the Universe sometime…its a beauty!  And if its not a sign of dedication then I don’t know what is.

When someone says “He-Man”, most people’s minds automatically conjure up the 1980’s cartoon, or maybe even the 2002 remake.  Only the extremely dedicated will also conjure up the 1987 live action film titled Masters of the Universe.  And that’s a shame.  The cartoon was campy.  And it taught morals!  What would He Man do was the guiding light to every 80’s kid when he/she faced a moral dilemma.  Well, I may be exaggerating, but there is no denying the impact of that cartoon show on the 27-40 year old demographic.  But the live action film also has its place.  True, there were some pretty significant deviations from the cartoons.  And we didn’t get any lessons on morality at the end.  Actually, the very end has one of the best endings to a film ever but I will not spoil it here.  But it has that campyness similar to the cartoons.  As for the special effects…well, they tried.  And Frank Langella as Skeletor?  My 9 year old self had to hide her hands behind her eyes, although she still peaked between her fingers.  That performance easily makes the movie.  Plus, its He-Man!  How could anyone ever go wrong with He-Man?

This was also the first movie I saw when my family and I moved back to the United States after living in Japan for several years.  It got me re-introduced to the good old USA. I will always remember that.  And rank it number 6 on my list.

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5)  Burnt Offerings

Movies about haunted houses are nothing new.  They were not really even new back in 1976, as works such as Haunting in Hill House firmly established themselves as standards.  However, one with a really scary chauffeur, Bette Davis and Burgess Meredith tend to stand out.  This is where Burnt Offerings comes in.  In my opinion, this is one of the greatest horror movies of all time, and is also one of the most underrated horror films of all time.

CGI effects have been par for the course for quite some time now.  Almost any action or horror film relies on them for story telling.  And this is both a blessing and a curse.  Movies like The Avengers would not be the same with out CGI effects.  However, CGI effects can make for extremely lazy story telling, especially in modern horror movies.  When filmmakers rely on the special effects, the acting and the creation of the atmosphere take a back seat.  Therefore, horror have the “gross factor” but often fail to be genuinely scary.  However, this is not so with Burnt Offerings.

The character that will always stick out in the mind is that chauffeur in Burnt Offerings.  This character is actually only a memory of Ben Rolf’s at first, as his mother died at a young age and the chauffeur was present at the funeral.  However, this character actually comes to life when Ben and his family move into an old house that is actually haunted.  This character actually has no lines to speak of, but is very frightening.  Ben sees this apparition before his elderly aunt passes away and the ghost acts as a psychopomp (harbringer between the living and the dead).  This is one the scariest scenes I have ever witnessed.  The effects that the director was able to create with the haunted house also added to the movie, but the ghost of the chauffeur truly made the movie.

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And there is a bonus to this movie:  We are treated to an appearance of Burgess Meredith aka The Penguin in the 1960’s Batman TV series…how much better can it get?

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4)  Boondock Saints

Long before Norman Reedus became known as the sex symbol Darryl Dixon on The Walking Dead, he was Murphy McManus aka 1/2 of the Boondock Saints in the movie with the same title.  Many may associate him with Darryl Dixon.  And that’s fine.  But to me, he will always be Murphy McManus.  In other words, Darryl Dixon can’t hold a candle to Murphy McManus.

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Movies about vigilante justice are nothing new.  After all, Batman is the original vigilante.  However, Boondock Saints features the Every Man (the McManus brothers), who become accidental vigilantes when they kill Russian mobsters in self defense.  And they have to do it all without any special Batman gadgets.  The Saints are also able to bring local law enforcement to their side, especially Agent Paul Smecker, a conflicted FBI agent.  The Saints are able to accomplish their mission, after much bloodshed.  The movie is also laced with black comedy and is extremely quotable as well.

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In other words, this is a perfect movie to watch on an early date with your future husband…doesn’t get more romantic than that.  Or is that just me?

3)  Pulp Fiction

Note to self:  when your grandparents offer to take you to a movie when you are 16, its probably best NOT to choose Pulp Fiction.  In fact, choosing Pulp Fiction is just not good decision making.  Believe me, I did not hear the end of that one for a while.

But I never forgot the movie either.  Who would be able to forget this one?  Like the previous entry, it is extremely quotable.  Royale with cheese, anyone?  That metric system is so overrated, after all.

And then there is Samuel L. Jackson.  Or should I say Samuel Motherfuckin’ Jackson.  His performance as Jules Winnfield is the stuff of legend.  Jackson is also able to pull off quoting the Bible verses without sounding forced.  And the chemistry between Jackson and his co-star John Travolta is something special too.  While Travolta, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman give great performances, Jackson’s performance is what makes the movie.  And is one of the reasons why he will be a legend for a long time.

This is another great date night movie.  Trust me, it is…hunny bunny!

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2)  The Shawshank Redemption

I have made my feelings on movies based on books pretty well known.  Most of them are pretty bad.  And movies based on Stephen King books are usually a particular brand of awful (Firestarter, anyone?)  And The Shining…I could do a separate blog post on that one.

But The Shawshank Redemption is a rare exception to the rule.  Everything about this movie is simply perfect.  The casting is spot on, especially with Tim Robbins.  Robbins brings Andy to life perfectly.

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And we have Morgan Freeman as Red.  If I see any internet meme with Morgan Freeman in it, my mind reads the words in Red’s voice.  His role was that iconic. In fact, this movie has inspired the extremely talented Frank Caliendo so much that Caliendo is able to tie it in to Lebron James and the NBA.  Talk about iconic.

Speaking of iconic, Family Guy (of all shows), has done a takeoff on this movie.  Now, that must mean it is something special.

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Books are almost always better than movies.  No contact.  But that’s almost.  Sometimes a movie can actually exceed the book, as rare as that it is.  And The Shawshank Redemption is a perfect example of a film able to exceed its source material.

And now…drum roll please…my number 1 movie of all time…

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1)  The Dark Knight

Yes, it all came down to this.  If you are still here reading this, then yes indeed it did.  You slogged your way through this list just to come to a Batman movie at the number 1 spot.  So it goes…are we really surprised?

Ok, put your eyeballs back in your head (you know you were rolling them way back) and let’s talk about why this movie is number 1.

Batman is kind of like pizza (or maybe sex, for those of you with dirty minds).  Even when its bad, its still kind of good and you just really can’t resist.  Even the bad Joel Schumacher Batman movies are still kind of good.  The cheesy 1960’s Adam West Batman is spectacular.  And The Dark Knight is good…after all, its Batman!

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However, The Dark Knight has a lot more going for it than simply being a movie about Batman.  It is well directed and well written.  And it also has some phenomenal performances.  The most well known of these performances is Heath Ledger’s Joker.  The Joker has always been a disturbed character, but Ledger takes it to a whole new level.  Some of his lines as The Joker are very quotable (Wanna know how I got these scars?)  It is also true that Ledger improvised much of the role in the movie (a little known fact).  And the character’s story is not very well fleshed out.  This makes The Joker even more terrifying, as its plausible that anyone could become him.  Ledger received a posthumous Oscar for his performance.  The only bad thing about this particular Oscar winner is that he won the Oscar posthumously and was never able to enjoy it.  Truly the stuff of legends.

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The Dark Knight is associated with The Joker.  And for good reason.  However, the movie also incorporates Two Face, another outstanding performance credited to Aaron Eckhart.  Eckhart is able to convincingly portray Harvey Dent and Two Face.  And the incorporation of Two Face into the story is very slick, as the viewer is caught up more with The Joker story line.  However, the slow transformation of Harvey Dent into the madman known as Two Face is seamlessly woven into the film, and once Two Face is officially introduced, the results are nothing short of spectacular.  The Dark Knight did receive one Oscar (Heath Ledger, supporting actor) but really should have won more Academy awards, especially for the writing and the performance of Aaron Eckhart.

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I have always loved Batman.  I always will love Batman, for better or for worse.  The Dark Knight has everything that I love about Batman:  Alfred, the Bat himself, the Commish, and some great villains.  However, the writing, acting and directing takes it to another level, making it into a true work of art.  And therefore number 1 on my top 10 movies of all time.

There they are.  The top 10 movies of all time, from the perspective of someone who normally prefers to read books. Tune in next week: same bat time, same bat channel.

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3 thoughts on “My top 10 movies

  1. Don’t even get me started on The Shining. I too could write a whole post (or three) on why it’s literally the worst thing ever.

    I don’t watch most Stephen King adaptations because frankly I don’t want to see that shit on the screen! It’s scary enough in my head, thank you very much. Carrie and Misery fall into this category, though I’ve seen bits and pieces of both. (Plus, I just tend to hate adaptations in general, especially after The Shining.) However, I do like what I’ve seen of The Stand miniseries! Loved Gary Sinise and Rob Lowe in it, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it. Also, if you haven’t seen the miniseries of The Shining, you should check it out. It’s actually really good—a much more faithful adaptation. (King commissioned it in the 90s after hating Kubrick’s version.)

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    • I acknowledge that Carrie is quite different from the source material. However, I don’t think the book in its format would have worked on the screen, since its written in documentary style. I agree with most of the changes made, and I love the camera work and the acting in it. So its a successful adaptation in my mind.

      I do not like The Shining. Yes, its a good movie. But it strayed so far from the tone of the book. Jack is crazy starting out. The writing of Wendy is misogynistic and Shelly Duval was miscast. Danny is a little wimp (he was not this way in the book). And the killing of Halloran was completely unnecessary. The movie just lacked any warmth. I wanted both Jack and Wendy dead from the get go. The movie missed on the family theme of the book (I have talked about that in a couple of other posts).

      I have seen the mini series. I thought the acting was pretty good and I liked how it was more faithful to the book but I felt it was too limited by network TV. HBO or Netflix needs to give The Shining a go as a mini series. I think then we would get a good adaptation (like Game of Thrones).

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      • Agreed with your assessment of Carrie. However, I’ve only seen one scene: the blood-dump and subsequent horror show at the gym (electrocutions, etc. etc.) and it was all just too gory for me! As far as Misery goes, I think Kathy Bates was perfectly cast as Annie Wilkes, which is why I won’t watch it—I think Misery is one of his scariest books ever.

        I agree with everything you say about The Shining. I can see how it’s a decent movie on its own, but I’ve always maintained that if Kubrick wanted to make a movie that was so different from the source material, he should have just gone a little further with the differences and not called it The Shining at all. The worst part about it for me is that I rented it for a sleepover for my birthday one year, and was SO DISAPPOINTED in it. 😦 Let’s petition HBO to make that miniseries 🙂

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