Andy over at Fandango Groovers Movie Blog recently started a blog project called A Life In Movies. The idea is that you pick your favourite movie from every year since you were born. I thought it sounded like a neat idea, so here's my list. No runner-ups, no honourable mentions, no mercy.
Star Wars - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Richard Marquand)While I'm certainly no major Star Wars fan, the original trilogy are really fun movies. Contrary to most, Return of the Jedi has always been my favourite of the series. It brings a satisfying end to the struggle between the rebels and the empire, closes out the various characters' personal story arcs, and does it all with a nice helping of action to boot. Plus, I've always been fond of the Ewoks.
This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner)Hilarious and highly quotable, this lampooning of heavy metal tropes is still the quintessential mockumentary. A comedy classic with a rocking soundtrack.
The Quiet Earth (Geoff Murphy)This New Zealand post-apocalyptic flick, about a man who wakes up to find that he's seemingly the last human being on Earth, deserves more recognition than it tends to get. It developes into an intriguing tale about the nature of man, sometimes bizarre, but always thought-provoking. Great atmosphere too.
Aliens (James Cameron)This list is disproportionately sci-fi so far. While I personally would give a slight edge to Ridley Scott's tension-filled first Alien film from 1979, James Cameron's effort is great in its own right. Lots more action this time around, but it's really the characters that make this such a memorable film. Who can forget space marine Hicks, corporate scumbag Burke, tough girl Vasquez or Bishop the android?
Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lyne)One hell of an arguement against infidelity: you might get a crazy stalker after you. This is an exceedingly well-crafted thriller with a timeless story, helmed by three strong performances from Michael Douglas, Glenn Close and Anne Archer.
Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata)To this day the only film that has ever made me shed a tear. A beautifully tragic film and, in my book, the greatest animated movie ever made.
Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee)Its perspective on the racial opposition going in one neighbourhood was one that was rarely seen on film at the time of its release. A movie that doesn't pull any punches in the way it deals with its subject matter, it also remains a stylistically rich film to this day with its vibrant use of colours and music.
Jacob's Ladder (Adrian Lyne)Adrian Lyne unexpectedly makes a second appearance on this list, as I wasn't aware this one and Fatal Attraction shared directors. This is another thriller, less grounded in realism than Fatal Attraction, but no less unnerving and paranoia-inducing. The gurney scene is one I'll never forget.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (James Cameron)One of the finest action films ever made, full of unforgettable scenes, lines and characters. Also, the CGI work remains impressive even today. Between this and Aliens, Cameron is the king of sequels.
Glengarry Glen Ross (James Foley)The story, theme and cinematography aren't anything mindblowing, but that doesn't matter. This is a movie you watch to see six amazing performers acting the hell out of each other for 100 minutes and providing the world with some of the greatest line readings ever. In particular, Al Pacino's thrashing of Kevin Spacey is magical.
Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis)A movie I've been in love with for a great many years. A fun premise and a poignant story makes for a movie that makes me both smile and laugh a lot. Bill Murray cements his spot as a comedy legend with his portrayal of the snarky reporter Phil.
The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont)Many people call 1994 one of the strongest movie years in modern history. I wouldn't disagree too harshly. Many films could have gotten this spot from me, but in the end, there's just something about Frank Darabont's prison film that makes it hard to resist. A movie that really tugs on the heartstrings and makes it work.
Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater)Romance taking shape through conversations and the occasional coy glance when they think the other person isn't looking. No movie makes me want to go on a train trip through Europe quite like this one does.
Swingers (Doug Liman)A film that really captures the feel of going out for a night in the city, drifting here and there, happening upon old and new friends, never knowing where you're going to end up. But it's so much more than just that. It's also a movie about knowing which of your dreams are worth hanging on to and which you should let go. There's also a star-making turn by a young Vince Vaughn to be had here.
The Ice Storm (Ang Lee)A dreadfully underseen Ang Lee film. Following the lives of two dysfunctional families in early 70s America, it expertly captures a slice of the cultural landscape at the time. An impressive ensemble of workhorse actors and future stars helps bring the story to life.
The Big Lebowski (Joel & Ethan Coen)"The first cult classic of the internet era", as it has been called. Part of the fun lies in watching the plot careen off the track and right into a concrete wall. Part lies in the crazy characters: The Dude (who abides), Walter (who does not roll on Shabbos), Jesus (who nobody fucks with) and Donny (who's out of his element).
American Beauty (Sam Mendes)Hard to believe that this was Sam Mendes' directorial debut on the big screen. An expertly made film in all regards, full of black humor and with a scathing look at the hidden darkness of suburbia. Even so, it's an oddly touching film. I love this one so much.
Memento (Christopher Nolan)Another ridiculously tough year to pick one sole movie from as there's so many great ones to choose from. But this one really blew me away when I first saw it. Its non-chronological mystery unravelling step by step had me hooked from first frame to last, and I wanted the film to never end. Even when I know all the twists and turns it takes, it remains a highly enjoyable film. One that everyone owes it to themselves to experience.
Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)A film with so much whimsical warmth on the outside yet with so much sadness carefully hidden beneath. Beautiful in all senses of the word.
Hero (Zhang Yimou)Speaking of beautiful, this is one of the most visually awe-inspiring films of the past decade. Every shot is eye candy, the action is spectacular and the Rashomon-like plot structure gives the movie a solid core to be built upon. So much more than just a martial arts flick.
Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)My opinion of this film has changed drastically as my taste in cinema has evolved. First time I saw it, I found it dull. Nothing happened, I thought. Oh, how wrong I was. My appreciation for this one keeps growing each time I watch it. Bill Murray at his best.
Before Sunset (Richard Linklater)Yes, this film deserves a spot here even though its predecessor Before Sunrise was tackled earlier. This is everything a sequel should be: it enriches the first one and is in turn enriched by it. The fact that it unfolds in real time, with Jesse having a plane he needs to catch, brings a sense of urgency to everything. And the film is better for it.
The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach)Nobody creates characters quite like Noah Baumbach does. Characters grounded in reality, not quite weird but just close enough, sprinkled with a quirky sense of humour. Watching the Berkman family in this movie struggle through a divorce is both funny, uncomfortable and captivating.
Crank (Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor)It's loud, it's dumb, it's absolutely brilliant. A film that's so preoccupied with cramming non-stop action into every minute that it has to provide its exposition during a high-speed car chase through a shopping mall. It's a crazy-fun thrill ride from the word go, and I'll never get tired of it.
Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie)In a time where cynicism is the new black, it's refreshing to see a movie such as this one that doesn't shy away from showing that yes, people can in fact be kind. Ryan Gosling's performance is heart-wrenching, and the film deftly sidesteps all pitfalls presented by its premise (it's about a guy who falls in love with a sex doll, you see).
The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)Sure, I admit: I'm a pro wrestling fan. That being said, this is a movie I would be enamoured with even if I wasn't. The wrestling stuff is merely a background for a touching story about a wreck of a man trying to find his way back to a normal life. Mickey Rourke is pitch-perfect for the lead, and it's hard to think that the role was at first set to be played by Nicolas Cage. That would have been quite the different film, I reckon.
In the Loop (Armando Iannucci)Political satire full of British wit and humour, with some of the greatest insults in modern cinema history. This one's sharp as a razor.
Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)"Breathtaking" is a word often used as a general positive adjective. When it comes to this film, I'd apply it literally. There are scenes of such immense tension and discomfort that I really found myself holding my breath and having to remind myself to exhale every now and then lest I just burst. Oh, and Natalie Portman is pretty brilliant too.