Roll the List #10: Top 5 Movies Free-For-All, Dalton’s Take
The free-for-all, in this sense, is essentially a category that is not genre specific. This means that we are choosing from all movie genres. These are our top 5 favorite movies. This is epic, but also I feel a lot of pressure. These types of lists aren’t really exercising creativity or research, but, in a way, defining my personality. That is why I am going to take this as seriously as possible. This list may be differently defined for me compared to others. My top 5 list is not merely based on entertainment, though it is in the criteria. It is also based on originality, creativity, effects, script, acting, and repeat watchability. Everyone is subjective when it comes to this kind of list, but I am going to attempt to be objective towards my subjectivity. A few of my favorite films I have watched too many times over the years and I simply don’t watch them anymore or very rarely. That is an unfair factor to hold against the final list. Unfortunately, this list is unlikely to cause much controversy or blow anyone’s minds, but it is what it is and I had too much reason behind each selection to disregard them. So, without any further explanation, my top 5 movies.
5. Jurassic Park – I couldn’t exclude my favorite film from my childhood. Though I have watched it so many times that I have the film entirely memorized (which, to its credit, I am not the only one), I still admire how well this film was made and its ability to stand up to the test of time. Jurassic Park is the perennial blockbuster of not only the 90s, but of every generation. It had an engaging story with mountains of action. It boasted some of the best special effects (both CGI and practical) of the decade that have somehow held up by today’s standards 2 decades later. The realization of the Earth’s most mysterious species of animals was nothing short of imaginative and informative at the same time. I wanted to be a paleontologist for the longest time because of this film’s effect on my life. I still can recall much of the dinosaur information I absorbed after pouring hours of research into my childhood free time. This film literally altered the course of my life, affecting my reading/writing skills (I couldn’t move on from a book until I could pronounce and spell each dinosaur correctly) and leading me down the path of 3D graphics and graphic design later in life. I was influenced by the imaginative production of known information of dinosaurs and the execution through special effects of those dinosaurs. This film was a childhood dream come true for me, and I know it had that impact for many others. What the equivalent will be for children today, I don’t know, but I am convinced it will not have the quality or the generational transcendence of Jurassic Park.
4. Fight Club – I love films that delve into the psyche, and no film in history does it quite like Fight Club. I feel like a cliche-crazy, unoriginal loser over here with my list, but the more I tried to work this film off of my list, the harder it became to come up with reasons to exclude it. Even with other psychological films that I love, like Identity and Primal Fear (another great Edward Norton film), I just could not justify their worthiness above the absolute perfection of Fight Club‘s execution. I don’t think any film with such a major twist has the repeat watchability of Fight Club. Once you’ve seen the twist the first time, most films lose their luster, and repeat viewings don’t have the same effect. Fight Club is so well written, so entertaining, and has so many psychological nuances and social commentaries that it is relevant and enjoyable on each viewing. The subtlety of the characters displayed in the bluntness and brutish nature of the script sets the movie in a constant battle with itself that plays like a 2-hour proverbial fight scene in the mind, choreographed in a ballet of masculinity and mental uncertainty. Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter give the performances of their careers, and despite their excellent track records, I believe this film will go down as the best of all three’s filmographies. Few movies have that thought-provoking depth that matches its addictive, magnetic entertainment value. Fight Club is the flawless amalgamation of both qualities that make a great film. Besides, it’s not every day the author of a book a movie is based on says he prefers the movie’s execution over his own novel.
3. The Dark Knight – I am a Marvel boy at heart, but I have little regret or restraint when I say that The Dark Knight is the best superhero film ever made. I am willing to listen to arguments that involve The Avengers, Iron Man, and Burton’s Batman from the perspective of what those films were trying to do and how well they succeeded at that, but nothing has bridged the gap between superhero film and grounded action/drama flick like The Dark Knight. It is just a superior film in nearly every way. It had amazing action sequences that bested the first film and lacked the dull, dragging moments of the third installment. As the Batman mythos is well established without Batman Begins, this film is a standalone masterpiece of the masked vigilante. Beyond superb performances by Aaron Eckhart, Christian Bale, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the film was stolen by Heath Ledger. I have heard the back-and-forth about who played the Joker better, Nicholson or Ledger, and I’m not even going to argue that now, but Ledger’s performance was spectacular and made this movie. I was not a Joker fan before this movie and I was instantly more interested in the character after this film. The truly mind-blowing thought is that this film is full of fantastic performances across the board, but they are dwarfed by Ledger’s Joker. The movie, as a whole, is incredible, but he definitely made the movie what it is.
2. Aliens – I went back and forth with this one and the first one and I decided to go with the second installment of the Alien franchise for several reasons. Overall, I think the writing of the first film is better. It developed a stronger atmosphere that is very tense by the time we get the infamous chestburster. The first film is an iconic horror flick that any scifi/horror film should look to for guidance. Having said that, Aliens just packs more punch and diversity in its style. It has it all; horror, action, drama, even a little bit of humor and romance sprinkled throughout. I don’t think any film has ever done a better job of instilling a sense of fear in the audience with the horror genre as its driving force while still displaying solid action pieces. Yes, on repeat viewings, some of the grunt dialogue gets old, particularly Bill Paxton’s oft-annoying lines, but the rest of the film exudes addictive qualities. As a sequel, it sits up there with the likes of Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight, balancing just the right amount of scenes alluding to the first film while telling its own story. Aliens does an excellent job of this with the perfect combination of homage to the first and exploring new areas with the craft. This makes Aliens not only a pioneer and cornerstone of scifi-horror-action, but also a prime example of how a sequel should be. Lastly, I can’t bring up Aliens without addressing the incredible use of practical/special effects. The Queen/mech fight will go down as one of the most historically great action set pieces of all time.
1. Sunshine – So as it turns out, my list has one surprise that I saved for the number 1 slot, though this may not come as a big surprise to those familiar with my obsession for this film. And, no, this is not short for Little Miss Sunshine…I can’t tell you how many times this conversation has taken place: “Have you seen Sunshine before?” “No. Wait, do you mean Little Miss Sunshine? Because I love that movie!” “No, I mean Sunshine…with Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne…directed by Danny Boyle…” “Oh…you mean Sunshine Cleaning!” …Little Miss Sunshine is a great movie and Sunshine Cleaning holds its own too, but, frankly, I wish neither of those films had been made just to avoid this stupid conversation every time…Sunshine deserves its own recognition. It crosses all the spectrums of what makes an amazing movie to me. First, its premise is set in that of science fiction with a concept that isn’t terribly original, but plays out in an original fashion. It has flawless directing (even if the style isn’t consistent with everyone’s taste), a great script, solid acting, superb special effects, and an amazing score. It has a strong, tense atmosphere played out through the claustrophobic ship, the constant visual reminders of their likely imminent death, and the psychological undertones of their physical distance from humanity affecting their own perception of humanity. The last act is when the film really takes off. Building up a thick layer of tension, the film gives it all at once, launching into a horror-coated finale that really draws you into the “holy crap, now what?” edge of your seat. I love the mixture of scifi, drama, and horror/thriller that brought this piece together in a perfect amalgamation of various genres that have been known to clash in the past. Danny Boyle solidified himself as one of the best modern directors for me with his ability to execute a film with depth while giving us horror fans something to latch on to in the material. Sunshine will forever be one of my favorite films, both in watchability and the overall quality of the piece.
Honorable Mentions: District 9 (This movie was an example of what an original scifi concept can do with a great director and some excellent special effects, and it set the tone for how production companies saw scifi films going forward), The Thing (One of my favorite pure horror films that deserves major accolades for its incomparable practical effects, even by today’s standards), Rogue (One of the best low-budget horror films of recent memory, with a Jaws-like build and one of the best final acts I’ve seen in a long time), Collateral (A highly underrated action thriller, with Tom Cruise using an excellent script to portray a cold, sociopathic hitman on par with Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men), Snatch (I have never laughed harder in my life than during the flawlessly written/acted scenes of this movie), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (I didn’t fall in love with Robert Downey Jr. after Iron Man, I fell in love with him after this movie), The Matrix (I love the philosophical nuances intertwined in this great scifi flick, and it almost made the list if not for my child-like obsession with Jurassic Park).
Overlap: We didn’t have any actual overlap, but Kyle did put down The Thing, which was a difficult cut for me, but was brought up in my Honorable Mentions. He also listed Cabin in the Woods and Hot Rod, which are two films I absolutely adore and feel ashamed for not at least mentioning them.