In July 1998, the relatively-obscure American Film Institute released a "Top 100 Movies" list to celebrate a full century of motion pictures. Before long, everyone and their dogs were making their own Top-100 lists. Being notoriously unable to resist mass hysteria, I decided to join the fun.
This being said, keep in mind that this isn’t a "100 all-time best" list. I’m generally clueless about films that predate me (I was born in 1975, a few days before THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW came out) and haven’t started paying attention to films until 1995. Consider the following list, then, as a bunch of movie I really, really like. Some of them are awful, and some of them are definitely bad in an "objective" sense, but I wish you’d see all of them to make up your own mind.
I have chosen a thematic approach to the list, and so the numbers besides each movie title do not necessarily indicate a formal rating. In many cases, I have chosen a "representative" title from a series or a genre, which may skewer the statistics a little. This is why, for instance, there’s only one James Bond or Jackie Chan movie in the list although I have tremendously enjoyed most of them.
No film after 2001 has been chosen, to ensure some kind of historical perspective on the list. Titles from 2002 which may make an updated list are listed at the end.
Last Update: January 2003
This list will (eventually) be updated with newer titles.
The Internet Movie Database and Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide were invaluable resources in the making of this list.
- [DVD] indicates a film I own.
- [x2], [x3] indicates a film I’ve seen again since its inclusion on this list.
Here are a few good choices from the pre-1975 era.
[DVD] [x2] 1. CITIZEN KANE (1941) is probably the most respectable movie of this Top-100 list. Incredible direction, story, script, acting and effects make this a memorable movie, even to modern audiences. Often imitated, never surpassed. Conceived by Orson Welles et al. to be a great film, and they succeeded admirably. Justly considered a masterpiece. See it now.
[DVD] 2. CASABLANCA (1942) wasn’t supposed to be a classic movie. Coming out of the formulaic wartime studio system, the stars were second choices, the script was being re-written even after the production was over, the production values were average, the love story wasn’t conventionally satisfying and the directing was unspectacular. In spite of this, CASABLANCA may very well be the most beloved movie of all time. I can only concur.
3. DUCK SOUP (1934): There isn’t much of a plot to this Marx Brothers gem, but don’t worry: You’ll be so busy laughing that you won’t care. Exhibiting a fantastic variety of comic approaches in a single film, this is one 1930s motion picture that still feels as fresh seventy years later.
4. THE GAY DIVORCEE (1934) was made at a time where "gay" still meant "happy" and Fred Astaire comedies were among the finest movies you could see. This one is as good as anything of its period. Incredible dance numbers, good music, funny lines… what more do you want?
5. MODERN TIMES (1936) exemplifies the comedy of Charlie Chaplin, but also remains surprisingly current with its hilarious depiction of technology gone wrong and worker dissatisfaction. But don’t over-analyse it too much; it’s hilarious.
6. THE BIG SLEEP (1946) exemplifies the classic noir film, without which no top-100 list would be complete. A likeable hero (the inimitable Bogart), lush femme fatales (including a lovely librarian), gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, hard finale and steady pacing. The wonky plot doesn’t make complete sense, but you can’t have everything, right?
7. SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) brings together everything you want for a classic movie: unconventional plot, strong characters, superb narration, sharp wit, crunchy dialogue and a willingness to do more than the usual with a film. A courageous, completely enjoyable motion picture.
[x2] 8. REAR WINDOW (1954) has a brilliant premise: A wheelchair-bound man can see the entire side of another building. Before long, he notices strange happenings… A brilliant suspense movie, and an exceptional introduction to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. See it again; you might not remember how enthralling it is.
9. THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961) bitch-slaps almost every so-called "adventure" film made since then with its dangerous heroes, exotic locales, cool treachery, slam-bang finale and overall sense of fun. This is how they used to make’em!
10. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) caught me by surprise as it played on TV one night. This tale of brainwashing, assassination, family conflicts and high-stakes politics kept me riveted to my seat until the harrowing climax. Even today, I still shudder thinking of the "Twelve Queen" line. Good stuff.
11. GOLDFINGER (1964) isn’t my favourite James Bond (for a reason or another, the Roger Moore era is more to my liking), but it exemplifies everything the series stands for: A suave James Bond, lovely girls, an over-the-top villain, fun gadgets, unlikely stunts, dark humour and a tense finale. A good introduction to the series, and a memorable movie.
12. I might have a better memory of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971) than the film actually is, (It was a childhood favourite) but I remember an impressive premise, a few visually arresting scenes and a tense finale.
Gun-toting heroes and heaps of stuff blowing up doesn’t necessarily mean inferior movies. Here are my choices for the most exciting action movies ever.
[x2] 13. ALIENS (1986) is a rarity: A sequel that does not only cover different ground than its illustrious predecessor, but is as good as the original movie. This is the film that made me a James Cameron devotee. Exceptional production values, crackling good script, multiple original visuals and pulse-pounding action… ALIENS simply rocks.
[DVD][x3] 14. DIE HARD (1988) seemingly created a new genre of action pictures, heavy on explosions and wisecracks. Despite the years and the multiple rip-offs, the original DIE HARD remains fresh, joyful, original and impressive even after being exhaustively imitated. The two sequels (DIE HARDER and DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE) are also worthy.
[DVD][x3] 15. TERMINATOR 2 (1991) contains not only Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best performance, but has a fairly solid story at its core. Slam-bang action from mayhem-meister James Cameron, great performances, revolutionary special effects and memorable scenes ensure this film’s greatness. Don’t forget the first film.
[DVD] [x2] 16. SPEED (1994) keeps it simple, but tense. Dennis Hopper is great as the maniac and Keanu Reeves is good as the protagonist, not to mention Sandra Bullock, who was propelled to stardom by her role. SPEED understood something that most other "bomb expert" movies didn’t: A bomb is made to explode. An illogical but gripping thrill-ride.
[x2] 17. DESPERADO (1995) is the kind of outrageously over-the-top movie that’s missing from most moviegoer’s repertoire. Sure, it’s not as great at it tries to be, the climax is missing and the story could be better, but on the other hand, you’ve got Antonio Banderas, sultry Salma Hayek, quirky direction by Robert Rodriguez and one of the most incredible gunfight in the history of cinema.
[DVD] 18. THE ROCK (1996) is the epitome of the stupid action film blockbuster. It’s got a car chase, gunfights, explosions, military hardware, nick-of-time escapes… p
lus brilliant performances by Nicholas Cage, Sean Connery and Ed Harris. The pulse-pounding direction by Michael Bay gives additional energy to the narrative. THE ROCK is almost completely soulless, but absolutely entertaining.
[x2] 19. FACE/OFF (1997) combines John Woo’s superb action-movie abilities with two superb actors (John Travolta and Nicolas Cage) and a better-than-average script for a truly masterful action film with some heart.
Heroes, monsters, pursuits, war and natural disasters.
20. JAWS (1975) is a rarity: An exciting, prototypical summer movie that also took care to develop great characters. It was the first of the blockbusters; it’s also still among the greatest. Its influence is hard to overstate.
21. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1982) is a roller-coaster. Nothing more; nothing less. It tries to be a "serial-type" movie and succeeds admirably; try to watch "just five minutes" and you won’t be able to stop. Harrison Ford in one of his most memorable role, Steven Spielberg at his most capable self, but most of all, an all-fun attitude that has rarely been duplicated. The two sequels (INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE) are also essentials.
22. FULL METAL JACKET (1987) is a harrowing experience. From the relentless training the soldiers have to go through in order to prepare for Vietnam, to Vietnam itself, FULL METAL JACKET makes no excuses and takes no prisoners. I couldn’t make it through my first viewing; it’s only later that I could stomach the whole experience.
[x2] 23. THE ABYSS (1989) falters when it tries to save the world, but most of the movie is still a gripping underwater thriller. Again, what sets this movie apart are the usual James Cameron staples: Tense direction, good script, great characters, excellent acting and ground-breaking special effects. The latter special edition (1992) is so much better that is locks this film’s presence on this list.
24. I saw JURASSIC PARK (1993) on opening night, my last day at High School. I knew even then that this movie marked a departure from the old world of movies. The aftershock of the visual effects revolution made by JURASSIC PARK are still being felt years after the movie. The visuals are gorgeous, the dinosaurs are terrifying and Spielberg’s direction is expert.
[x2] 25. EXECUTIVE DECISION (1996) suffers from a radical change of tone in the five last minutes, but for the most part remains a tense claustrophobic thriller of terrorism and covert warfare on a 747. What pushes this movie over its peers (most notably the latter AIR FORCE ONE) are a couple of terrific set-pieces, and an inspired bit of casting that has the marvellous effect of putting the audience in the same situation as the characters.
[x2] 26. TWISTER (1996) is, for the most part, a rotten movie. Script-wise, character-wise and sentiment-wise, it’s below average. On the other hand, the visual effects are awe-inspiring, the direction is dynamic and the sequences are nothing short of extraordinary. Best seen in theatres, where it will leave you drenched in sweat by the time the end credits roll.
[x2] 27. THE MASK OF ZORRO (1998) updates the swashbuckling adventure film for a new era, with irresistibly charismatic leads (Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and the luscious Catherine Zeta-Jones), a no-frills story, some cleverly staged actions sequences and a sense of thrilling adventure that knows few equals.
[DVD] 28. SNATCH (2000): This British crime comedy is the epitome of coolness. Cool music, cool characters, cool actors, cool story, cool moments and cool film. Anything missing? Yeah; you watching it.
SCIENCE-FICTION / FANTASY
Filmed Science-Fiction most often sucks than anything else, but a few gems can be found here and there:
29. STAR WARS (1977), depending on who you talk to, is either the movie that destroyed serious film-making, or one of the best popcorn movie ever. Interestingly, these two descriptions are not exclusive. Shoddy and unsubtle story, but fairly well-done. The sequels (THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI) are also classics.
30. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) is about UFOs, government conspiracies and mysterious happenings, but without the depressive tangent those type of stories took in the nineties. In any case, Spielberg’s direction is top-notch, and the influence of the movie on the collective unconscious of America is still present today.
31. BLADE RUNNER (1982) is completely different from its source novel (Philip K. Dick’s Do Android Dreams of Electric Sheep), but created a vision that influenced Science Fiction, written and filmed, for more than fifteen years. Intriguing, challenging film. Superb conclusion.
32. My opinion of BRAINSTORM (1983) might be higher than its worth (it’s one of the first SF movie I recall enjoying) but it’s still amusingly pleasant, with its transcendent ending, early-eighties high-tech and bizarre plot twists.
33. DUNE (1984) remains -I’ll argue- one of the greatest SF movies of all time, even despite the rather cold critical reception it had. Surprisingly faithful to the novel (which might account for the frosty reactions), it packs an impressive visual punch and isn’t afraid to be weird.
34. RUNAWAY (1984) is another guilty pleasure. Michael Crichton’s direction is only adequate, the finale has been seen elsewhere, the robots are a bit silly, but it’s still an entertaining techno-paranoid thriller.
35. THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION (1984) looks a lot like the sequel to the best and most original SF movie ever made. Unfortunately, the prequel doesn’t exist and we’re stuck with this quirky SF adventure that’s far too weird for its own good.
36. BRAZIL (1985) comes from the 1984/BRAVE NEW WORLD tradition of dystopian future, but one-ups them by being a fiercely cinematic work. A few unforgettable scenes and some devilishly twisted dark humour -not to mention Terry Gilliam’s visuals- make this an unarguable classic.
37. BATMAN (1989) is good stuff, despite the comic-book origins and plotting. Jack Nicholson’s villain is memorable, Tim Burton’s direction is suitably dark and atmospheric and Batman itself is wisely kept mysterious. The immediate sequel (BATMAN RETURNS) is darker but okay. The two other sequels are embarrassments.
38. STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991) isn’t so great for non-Star Trek fans, but contains good stuff for the show’s fanatics. Personally, this was the first movie I saw in theatres after E.T. (1983), on opening night… you can bet this movie has a special significance!
39. 12:01 (1993) is best remembered today as "that TV movie with the same plot than GROUNDHOG DAY", and that’s terrible, because not only did it predate the Bill Murray film, but it’s also a bit better, with a good little script, surprisingly sympathetic characters and great individual scenes.
40. STRANGE DAYS (1995) deserved a much, much better fate than the relatively modest success it enjoyed. An intriguing look at "virtual reality" under a backdrop or racial tension and millennial fever. Angela Basset is gorgeous and Ralph Fiennes is suitably sympathetic. Written by James Cameron.
41. TWELVE MONKEYS (1996) is a rarity; a low-key, low-hardware, sophisticated science fiction movie. Surprisingly great performances by Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt complement a superb script by David Peoples. Not everyone can follow the time-traveling plot and the conclusion’s a downer, but hey–it’s artistic.
42. GATTACA (1997) is, all things considered, a bit cold, but still one of the best SF stories ever to be filmed. An intriguing exploration of the possibilities of genetic engineering, but most significantly a tale of human spirit and a touching love story. I loved the conclusion.
[DVD][x2] 43. DARK CITY (1998) easily stands as one of the decade
‘s best SF films. Not only is it impressively cinematic in its direction, but the script is unexpectedly top-notch, the set design is eye-popping, the performances work well and the charmingly retro-looking special effect serve the story as they should. One of the great underrated films.
[DVD][x3] 44. THE MATRIX (1999) mixes adequate SF with superlative action inspired by Hong-Kong films to create a wonderfully polished, unbearably exciting motion picture that hails as a best-of-genres and an unforgettable experience. Exciting and beautiful, but also deeper than the average entertainment film. Whoah!
45. THE LORD OF THE RINGS (2001-2003): I won’t bother separating the films or even quibble with the changes to the plot; This is (so far) the ultimate fantasy story put on film. No other superlatives required. It may never be equalled. Critic-proof.
Good fun, all of them:
46. GREASE (1978): Ah! Prefabricated nostalgia of the fifties viewed through the seventies! The youthful charm of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta! The soundtrack! Those inspired dance numbers! The inane, disjointed plot! The fun of it all!
47. AIRPLANE! (1979) was the first of the "rapid-fire satire" type of comedy, and still one of the best. Various hilarious incidents happen on a fateful plane flight during a comedy that will leave you gasping for breath. The Science-Fiction-flavoured sequel (AIRPLANE 2) is also loads of fun.
48. THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) is a comedy classic. Period. The laughs are plentiful, the acting is delightful, the stunts are impressive, but it’s the fantastic music that pushes this in Top-100 territory. The sequel (BLUES BROTHERS 2000) is a considerable disappointment.
[x2] 49. TOP SECRET! (1984) represents the apogee of the "rapid-fire satire" concept, parodying Elvis movies crossed with… WW2 flicks. Laugh-a-minute fun. Even non-fans of the sub-genre should like this one.
50. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) was a breath of fresh air when it came out, and still retains part of its undeniable charm. Michael J. Fox gives one of his best performance as a 80s teen time-traveling back in the 50s. The sequels are best watched immediately afterward.
51. REAL GENIUS (1985) exemplifies a sub-sub-genre of the eighties that could be called "teen genius" comedies. It’s bit creaky today, but has its moments. A true popcorn movie, especially at the end…
52. FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986) is another teen comedy, but definitely not about geniuses. Still, it has a goofy, adolescent charm that’s very hard to resist. Charlie Sheen has a small role, and the constant references to Ferris by the unlikeliest people still crack me up.
53. SPACEBALLS (1987) takes up the rather thankless task of parodying STAR WARS and a bunch of other bad SF films. The bathroom humour’s a bit useless, but the remainder is a hoot, especially for casual SF fans.
54. THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987) is a delightful take-off on all those fairy tales you were told when you were young. The movie is filled with quotable dialogue, wonderful moments, but a slow second half. It’s still worth it, if only for the swordfight sequences.
55. YOUNG EINSTEIN (1988, Australia) is very, very silly, even more so if you know a few things about the life and times of Albert Einstein. This movie takes considerable liberties with the character, up to and including making Einstein invent rock-n-roll. Highlights include Marie Curie, "cat pie" and "Where’s my chisel?"
56. THE ‘BURBS (1989) isn’t that great a movie; I’ll be the first one to say it. Yet, it has a charm, a silly paranoia, a few scenes that make it re-watchable at short intervals. The characters are over-the-top, the ending is suitably apocalyptic, and the comedy often hilarious.
57. HOT SHOTS! (1991), along with its sequel HOT SHOTS PART DEUX!, are probably the last two good movies in the "rapid-fire spoof" genre. An endearing remix of TOP GUN, HOT SHOTS is funny, and has an actual story we can follow, rather than an unrelated string of gags. It’s also surprisingly non-offensive. A hoot for techno-thriller fans.
58. THE PLAYER (1992) starts off with an impressive self-referential eight-minute take that introduces maybe half a dozen separate threads. The remainder of this relentless comedy about Hollywood’s dark side isn’t as funny as it should be, but maintains a tone of irreverent sarcasm that’s memorable. Good performance by Tim Robbins.
59. FEAR OF A BLACK HAT (1993) probably won’t mean much to anyone without knowledge of the early-nineties rap scene. But for those who do, it’s an incredibly hilarious pseudo-documentary that cleverly comments on a whole bunch of related social issues. The fake music videos are worth the price of the movie alone. Great original soundtrack, too.
60. CLERKS (1994) is probably the single most incompetently shot film you’ll ever see: No camera movement, no color, no fancy sets. But the script! Hilarious, profane (originally rated X for language alone), memorable and touching. What really-low-budget films should be. Should also serve as an introduction to the films of director Kevin Smith, whose latter films (MALLRATS, CHASING AMY, DOGMA) would form a rather… unique body of work.
61. TOY STORY (1995) could have been a landmark event only for being the first entirely computer-generated animation film. They could have put the most inane plot, and it would have still made millions. But the guys at Disney and Pixar did even better, and used a script that approached perfection (and was nominated for an Oscar.) TOY STORY is already nothing short of a classic, and so is the 1999 sequel.
62. AUSTIN POWERS (1997) is a sly parody-in-disguise of all the bad James Bond rip-offs, combined to some fun social comments about then-and-now. Powers himself is a memorable comic character, and the film is simply enjoyable on its own terms. Don’t bother with the sequel, which merely recycles the first film.
63. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998) is a curious film; designed with intellectual pretensions yet surprisingly accessible, it combines often-obscure historical jokes with some low comedy and an extra-large helping of romance to create an sweet, funny and satisfying film.
[DVD] 64. DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? (2000): Anyone who dismisses this film as a stoner comedy is missing out on a consistently amusing absurdist comedy. The mix of dumb jokes, off-the-wall scenes and sci-fi digressions is worth your while; you may feel disappointed when it does finally ends.
[DVD] 65. MOULIN ROUGE (2001): Because you can-can-can! Postmodernism has never been so entertaining as in this blend of earnest romance and hip musical. The first forty minutes of the film is so tremendously perfect that it still makes me physically shake with goodness. The rest is certainly no less worthwhile.
I’m not generally a horror aficionado, which might explain why most of the movies in the category are hybrids.
67. ALIEN (1979) is far less impressive than its reputation might lead you to think. But it’s still the movie that inspired countless other imitators and revitalized the "monster" genre. Still fairly good, although the conclusion is disappointing. Standout performance by Sigourney Weaver.
68. TREMORS (1989) might very well be one of the most under-rated B-movie ever. It’s hard not to enjoy this excellent thriller. A rarity; characters actually react to the monsters with a degree of intelligence seldom matched elsewhere. A constant delight, and a precious gem.
69. [x2] ARMY OF DARKNESS (1994) is more comedy than horror, more camp classic than movie classic, more dependant on one-liners than coherent plotting, but! A high-energy performance by Bruce Campbell, an apocalyptic finale, some clever bits and odd special effects (
not to mention director Sam Raimi’s style) make this a must-rent for a fun video night. The prequels (EVIL DEAD 1 & 2) are also a lot of fun.
70. IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1995) enthralled me the first time I saw it (opening week) and hasn’t lost its fascination yet. A very clever self-referential horror movie, it can also boast of one of the most appropriate conclusion I’ve seen to a horror movie. Also the best screen adaptation of Lovercraftian themes ever.
71. THE FRIGHTENERS (1996) is an under-rated comedy/horror combo that goes in directions you wouldn’t expect. Fantastic special effects add immensely to the effort. A quirky, fun film.
72. EVENT HORIZON (1997) isn’t that special a horror film, but I really got into it like few other gore films. A lot of (badly mishandled) potential, some really creepy scenes and nice special effects. It made me lose some sleep, but then again I have a very active imagination.
73. You can watch THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (1997) for the wrong reasons (Pacino as devil as lawyer, every female gets naked, Keanu Reeves does a good job) or for the right reasons (nicely integrated subplots, efficient direction, absorbing story) but you will enjoy it no matter what. The last few seconds are nonsensical, but don’t let that stop you.
[DVD] 74. BLADE (1998) earns a honourable mention by its fantastic opening sequence, one of the most astounding character introduction / moodsetter I’ve seen in a long, long while. The rest of the film is an action fest in a fascinating alternate vampire-dominated world, with great special effects and an impressive performance by Wesley Snipes. The dumb plot mechanics aren’t as annoying as you’d think.
Also known as the "grab-all" category.
75. ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) is not only a faithful adaptation of a very good book, but possesses a native energy that also makes it a classic work in its own regard. Wonderful docu-fiction about one of this century’s most significant political event. Stunningly great final scene.
76. THE RIGHT STUFF (1983) is a wonderful adaptation of an already-superlative non-fiction book by Tom Wolfe. As a space nut, it was only natural that this, a docu-fictional representation of the early days of the American space program, would find a place in my Top-100.
77. WALL STREET (1987) is still, unexplainably, one of my favourite dramas. It took imagination to make an engrossing film about Wall-Street traders, but Oliver Stone’s direction more than complement Michael Douglas’ award-winning acting and the result is one good, unflinching movie that can not only be watched again and again, but also exemplifies the eighties in my mind.
78. SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993): Never forget.
79. PULP FICTION (1994) might be drama, comedy or over-indulgence from Tarantino, but if you’re willing to accept its outrageous quirkiness, it becomes something of an experience. I still can’t explain why I like it, but I do remember an awful lot of good scenes, quotes and performances from it.
[DVD] 80. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) was faithfully adapted from Stephen King’s best story and the result is a wonder of a film that is hypnotically compelling. A male equivalent of a tearjerker romance? Maybe, but no matter; it’s a great, great film.
81. QUIZ SHOW (1994) is another rarity: A smart film about smart people. The script is wonderful, and it’s the kind of movie that is so well-done that it sucks you in its story even if you don’t intend to. The movie that made me discover Ralph Fiennes.
82. NATURAL BORN KILLERS (1994) is insupportable for most people, and I can understand why: a mix of ultra-violence, strangely disturbing scenes, gory finale and cleverly amateurish editing, the movie practices what it condemns and obfuscate the rest of the message. Still, it is an unforgettable film.
83. APOLLO 13 (1995) is on this list for the same reasons than THE RIGHT STUFF. But it also adds a focused story, tense direction and fantastic special effects. If anything, it re-ignited my childhood dream of going into space.
84. BRAVEHEART (1995) is a realistic fantasy epic with a bigger-than-life hero, evil opponents, a damsel in distress and huge amounts of the melodrama, audaciousness and rousing battle sequences necessary for this kind of movie. At first, I didn’t expect to enjoy this but I did. A lot.
85. SE7EN (1995) is one of these movies where everything seems to gel, and explode. Directing (David Fincher), acting (Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey), script, cinematography… even the credit sequence is a classic. One of the few Hollywood movies that keeps punching until the end.
86. CASINO (1995) drew me in like few movies. Good narration, fascinating detours through the seedy underworld of Las Vegas, great writing and superb performances, not to mention Martin Scorsese’s gripping direction.
87. BOUND (1996) is the kind of film that doesn’t look too interesting on paper (woman seduces gangster’s wife and try to run away with her) but is somehow transformed into something far, far more interesting. Good sultry performance by Jennifer Tilly for starters, but the real strength of the film is in the directing, which is perfect in terms of atmosphere and always visually arresting.
[DVD] 88. L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997) contains everything a crime thriller fan could ask for: Flawed heroes, dastardly villains, complex plotting, superb action scenes, a lot of suspense and plain good writing. Crunchy good movie that gives back faith in Hollywood’s Dream Factory.
89. TITANIC (1997) has something for everyone, from mushy love story to eye-popping special effects. Through the mythical grandeur of the film is marred by lousy dialogue, the end result is still one of the best three hours ever put on celluloid.
[DVD] [x2] 90. FIGHT CLUB (1999) is hilarious and unsettling, perfectly attuned to the mindset of its times while sending up those oh-so-cliché coming-of-age stories. Dynamic direction, superb performances and a ceaseless visual wonder, this is a classic for the ages. Words fail to describe how right it all is.
91. MEMENTO (2001): Gimmicky story running in backward sequence. Wonderful premise well-exploited with a black sense of humour. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfectly entertaining. Worth seeing and worth discussing.
Most of these movies are available in English… or should be.
92. DAS BOOT (1981, Germany) Claustrophobic, tense, realistic war movie about German submariners during World War Two. This is one movie that does not suffer from subtitles. The 1997 Director’s Cut is even better. See it on the best audio/video system you can afford.
[DVD] 93. NIKITA (1987, France) is one of the very few French productions that is not harmed by the "dark-French" school of cinematography. Brutal, action-packed and surprisingly sentimental, NIKITA is far superior to the saccharine American remake (POINT OF NO RETURN).
[DVD] 94. HARD-BOILED (1992, Hong-Kong) remains the best example of John Woo’s incredible talent. A dazzling action ballet of guns, bullets and even more bullets, HARD-BOILED plays it at full throttle, and spares no one. Jaw-dropping work by the stuntmen and Chow Yun-Fat.
[DVD] 95. DRUNKEN MASTER 2 (1992, Hong-Kong) is, overall, probably the best thing that Jackie Chan has ever done. A sustained rhythm, solid comedy, original set-pieces and a really impressive fire-breathing climax: All of which make this film a perfect showcase for the impressive action sequences, ballet-like fights and goofy humour that characterize the work of Jackie Chan.
[DVD] 96. IRON MONKEY (1993, Hong-Kong): If you like your Hong-Kong action comedies to be amusing, thrilling, romantic and Jackie-Chan-free, take a long look at this masterpiece, an non-stop amusement ride with great characters and slam-bang action. Try to get the pol
ished (subtitled) American version.
97. LA CITÉ DES ENFANTS PERDUS (1995, France) is one of the visual masterpieces of the century. An endlessly inventive work of SF/Fantasy, this movie will astonish you as much as it will seduce you by its strange aesthetics. Memorable scenes. Nice story, too.
[DVD] 98. GHOST IN THE SHELL (1996, Japan) is the animated version of a fairly good Japanese Manga, and achieves remarkable moments of dramatic intensity. It not only offers spectacular visuals, but also has considerably more ambition than most Western SF movies. The conclusion combines symbolic relevance with action to cap an already quite great true Science-Fiction film.
99. KARMINA (1996, Canada) combines surprisingly good production values with the dark humour of one of French-Canada’s crudest comic to produce a vampire comedy that’s funny, satisfying and quite a bit thrilling too. Starring lovely the Isabelle Cyr (and a who’s-who of French-Canadian actors), this one is a must-see for dark supernatural comedy fans.
[DVD] 100. LE FABULEUX DESTIN D’AMÉLIE POULAIN (2001, France): Blending quick-fire editing with a decidedly classical romance and huge amounts of quirkiness in the middle of Paris might not be obvious, but what is obvious is how perfectly fun it all becomes. There’s something for everyone in this film, especially jaded cinéma geeks.
EXTRA: NOT YOUR USUAL TOP-100 LIST!
Some films are so bad they’re good; other have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that make them irresistible despite numerous flaws. So, as a special bonus, here are my ten extra quirky choices: Movies everyone panned, yet I liked; movies I’m almost ashamed to say I liked; movies so bad that watching them becomes a strangely rewarding pleasure.
101. HUDSON HAWK (1991) is my favourite "but I like it" movie. It’s very uneven, granted, but it’s got some inspired moments in it, plus Andie MacDowell. Bruce Willis is clearly having too much fun, and the villains are irresistibly megalomaniac.
102. GHOST IN THE MACHINE (1993) is supposed to be a horror movie, but the handling of the script’s central premise (a serial killer becomes electronic) is so badly handled that the movie becomes a non-stop laugh-fest. I broke down completely at a shot of an electric plug covered with duct tape. See the film and you’ll understand what I mean.
103. THE LAST ACTION HERO (1994) flopped, I think, because people didn’t expect Schwarzenegger to poke fun at himself in such an outrageous way. Okay, so the kid protagonist is annoying and the last third of the movie is a huge let-down… still, the action-movie satire hasn’t been equalled since, and the jokes are funny if you’re a fan of the genre.
104. HEXED (1994) shares with PULP FICTION a very dark sense of humour, but is oriented toward the humoristic segment of the spectrum. A good performance by BABYLON-5 star Claudia Christian (her body double’s Shelley Michelle, though) and great one-liners ("We’re interrogating the mime, but he’s not talking!") make up for the relative inanity of the plot and characters.
105. ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE (1994) would be celluloid garbage if it wasn’t for the hyper-dynamo performance of Jim Carrey. Even the complete stupidity of the script becomes an asset when Carrey’s on-screen. The sequel (ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS) keeps the stupidity, loses the charm and becomes unwatcheable.
106. WILD THINGS (1997) is meant to be a totally titillating trash tale, and it’s so dead-on in its execution that you can’t help but to be charmed by this twisted faux-noir thriller. Hey; Denise Richards gets naked. Never a great film by objective standards, but one you’ll remember with great fondness.
107. KNOCK-OFF (1998) will definitely astound you, though not in any intentional way. Definitely so-bad-it’s-good, with a nonsensical plot, wild camera techniques, astonishingly bad dialogue, unsubtle product placement and limp action scenes. One of the best bad films I’ve seen.
108. FREDDY GOT FINGERED (2001): A breathtaking masterpiece of bad, bad, bad taste. This movie works hard to actively piss you off, and it succeeds beyond its wildest expectations. This is the worst intentionally bad film you’ll ever see: If only for that, it’s worth an awed viewing. An unforgettable experience.
109: SUPERMAN III (1983): Loved it as a kid. Now acknowledge that it may cause brain damage.
110. BATTLEFIELD EARTH (2000): Everything you have heard about this film is true; it’s the worst big-budget film ever produced, in every single aspect. Don’t watch it for fun; watch it whenever you think you’re being too generous with the usual Hollywood crap.
Among everything seen in 2002, THE RING, CHICAGO and BLADE II are shoo-in for inclusion, with BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, MINORITY REPORT and THE SUM OF ALL FEARS somewhere around the cut-off mark. Check the list again in January 2004…
Agree? Disagree? Marriage proposal? TV show offer? Want to tell me I’m on crack? Email Christian Sauvé now!
It’s also possible that I’ve forgotten a few titles here and there. Plus, if I learned anything while compiling this list, it’s how many movies I have not seen. If you think something’s missing from this list, write and we’ll talk. There’s a bunch of Blockbuster stores around here, you see…
Until next time… Many good movies to you too!