By Brandon Matzke and Nevin Hooper
Well, the school year is coming to a close. We all had our ups and downs, but everyone wants their school year to end on a high note. Nevin and I decided to end our school year with our favorite movies; the films that inspired us, that we consider masterpieces, and the ones we’ve been all too excited to discuss for this wonderful school. Let’s begin!
10. Citizen Kane (1941) Rating: PG
Being a film lover, it was a truly exciting two hours when I was watching Citizen Kane for the first time. And let me tell you: despite those snobby film “professionals” trying to shove it in your face how great this film is, it truly deserves the honor of being one of cinema’s greatest accomplishments. For one, Orson Welles directed, wrote, and starred in this film, and he nailed every aspect he was involved with. Script? Phenomenal. Acting? Phenomenal. Direction? Phenomenal. Film? Legendary.
9. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Rating: R
Guillermo del Toro is one of the best filmmakers to appear in recent years; this man’s love of monsters has been shown to tell stories that can be horrifying, action packed, or, my favorite category of his work, heartfelt. I loved last year’s Shape of Water (which I finally saw long after my best of 2017 list), but I think his most powerful work is his dark fairytale 2006’s El Laberinto del Fauno, or Pan’s Labyrinth. The film is beautifully unique; it’s horrifying yet sweet, brutal yet childlike, and harsh yet heartfelt. It’s simple concern is making a masterpiece, and I’d say it nailed that.
8. Brazil (1985) Rating: R
My favorite novel of all time is George Orwell’s 1984, which is a major influence for Terry Gilliam’s bizarre yet important Brazil. How do you describe Brazil? It’s like a mix of Monty Python and Orwellian literature, showing a comedic yet smart take on the soul-crushing society we live in, with an over confiscation of paperwork being an excuse to ignore decent human morality. And it’s as darkly hysterical as it sounds; it makes you laugh, it makes you think, and it makes you want to listen to that darn catchy theme song.
7. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Rating: R
While many people see this film as a horror flick, I personally see it as a masterfully made thriller; and even the best in it’s genre. It’s thrills are genuine, and genuinely unsettling in a way that very few films have managed to accomplish. The performances are legendary; from Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling to Anthony Hopkins’ iconic Hannibal Lecter (who is really that darn good), to even the lesser appreciated roles. The direction? Incredible. Every shot has a perfect balance of dread and unsettlement, which hasn’t been replicated in any other film except Se7en (1995).
6. 12 Angry Men (1957) Rating: NR
It’s incredible to watch when the “less is more” strategy pays off: 12 Angry Men has only twelve characters for the majority of it’s runtime, takes place in one room, and is nothing but conversations and arguments. But you know what? I was more invested in it than any overblown big-budget blockbuster; and it wasn’t because Henry Fonda was in it. Everybody is incredible to watch; despite the only character names just being numbers, they all manage to be memorable and impactful in their own unique ways. The script is downright electrifying: when someone brings up a point, it can change everything. In fact, even just the simple concept of it raining outside can be a gamechanger, in the best way possible. This is a must-see for anyone: check your nearest library for a copy, because you won’t regret it.
5. Seven Samurai (1954) Rating: NR
Out of all the action films I’ve seen, this one managed to be the one I adore the most. It’s a simple story: one that’s been remade and retold to the point of exhaustion. But what makes Akira Kurosawa’s original classic the best telling of this story is quite simply, the characters and action. Each samurai is memorable and impactful, and I found myself caring about the fates of everyone. But what’s an action movie without action? Kurosawa was gifted with the ability to not just film action, but to nail it too. Even though this movie came out 64 years ago, I found myself trying to find out how he managed to make certain shots, or scenes, or just whatever kept blowing my mind. I highly recommend this film: sure, it’s three hours long, and in entirely Japanese, but you know what? It’s worth it.
4. Raging Bull (1980) Rating: R
Martin Scorsese’s long and masterful career has given us many great films, but the one I consider to be his finest is the one that surprised me the most: Raging Bull. I know I said that The Departed was my favorite a while back, but then I saw this. Is it about a boxer? Yeah, but don’t expect Rocky. This film is brutal; both physically and emotionally. Watching Robert De Niro portray the real-life boxer Jake LaMotta is the cinematic equivalent of watching your inner demons come to life. The black-and-white cinematography is a marvel to the eyes: and one of the best pieces of the art I have ever seen. Scorsese’s direction makes what could’ve been a mopey “don’t do drugs” story into a sort of meditation on the human mind, showing the violence in Motta’s career as an episode of care bears compared to what’s going on inside his head, and boy is it effective.
3. Apocalypse Now (1979) Rating: R
Francis Ford Coppola’s magnum opus has always been in my head: you simply cannot forget Apocalypse Now. Is it a war film? Yeah, but war is only a backdrop for Coppola. The film is truly an apocalypse of the soul; a world where morality is a luxury, where sights that would make grown men cry for their mommy are commonplace, and where you just gotta learn to love the smell of napalm. And as great as the performances are, nobody shows this better than Marlon Brando’s insane Colonel Kurtz. He’s crazy, definitely, but he’s got some views that are a little too sane for comfort. If you haven’t seen any part of this film yet, I suggest that you start watching it…at least, the original cut.
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Rating: R
Films based on Stephen King’s work have a huge range in quality: some are masterpieces (Stand By Me), some are loose adaptations that manage to be masterpieces in their own right (The Shining), some are underrated (1408, The Dead Zone), and some are downright terrible (The Dark Tower, Sleepwalkers, Maximum Overdrive). But what I consider to be the finest film based on King’s work is none other than Frank Darabont’s Shawshank Redemption. Not only is this the finest film based on King’s work, but it’s also the greatest prison film ever made. It’s heartfelt, inspirational, and just a downright masterpiece.
1. Amadeus (1984) Rating: PG
Look, I already called it my favorite movie ever made, so I’m afraid I can’t praise it more. Here’s my article where I gush all over it: https://ghs-voice.com/tag/amadeus/
10. M (1931) Rating: NR
This film surprised me on so many levels. This film may not be for some as it is old, black and white, and it is a foreign film, so that means it is subtitled, but for those who are interested, this movie is phenomenal. A quick summary of the film is that it follows a child murderer, which has sent a city in Germany into a state of paranoia because no one knows who the killer is, to the point where both the police and the mob are in search of the killer. It’s suspenseful, masterfully directed, fantastically acted, along with having brilliant and revolutionary sound design, and a heavy moral that still applies to us today.
9. 12 Angry Men (1957) Rating: NR
The plot may be simple, but the overall conclusion of the film is morally astonishing as well as complicated in showing human determinism. This is one of the most suspenseful films I have ever seen, and this film never needs to use high stakes action sequences, or explosions, or kidnapping characters to gather suspense, all this film needs to do is grab a group of characters, set the mood, and the have them argue with each other, and we now have 12 Angry Men. And the payoff is extraordinarily good, and is one of the most impactful films I have ever seen.
8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Rating: R
Speaking of suspenseful films, let’s talk about Silence of the Lambs, a film that is not even close to being about sheep! Besides the fact that Anthony Hopkins gives one of the most memorable and unsettling performances in cinematic history, everything else about this film is spot on perfect. This film is exactly what I want out of a thriller, it has amazing characters (the chemistry between Foster and Hopkins is legendary), actual high stakes that truly make you feel that some bad things could happen, a phenomenal screenplay, an intriguing mystery, incredible direction (rest in peace Jonathan Demme), and everything else in between, which makes this one of my favorites.
7. Goodfellas (1990) Rating: R
Personally, I don’t think you can make a top ten favorite movies list without having at least one Martin Scorsese film, and for me, Goodfellas is that film. This is by far one of the best character pieces I have ever seen, this is an essential crime drama and a must see for film lovers and random movie goers alike. This film is entertaining, extremely energized, filled with masterful direction, and excellent editing, fantastic and memorable performances, which leads into fantastic and memorable characters, it is just a perfect example of a film that is a great blend of entertainment with many artistic qualities.
6. Apocalypse Now (1979) Rating: R
This film actually took me a second viewing to realize how much of a cinematic marvel this film is, and on my second viewing, I had my jaw hanging open throughout the entire watch. This is a must see for film lovers, and has some of the best cinematic storytelling I have ever seen in a film, and is also one of the most absorbing movie experiences I have ever had.
5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) Rating: R
Along with other films like Shawshank and Return of the King, this is one of my most rewatched movies. I can’t tell you how many times I have rewatched this film because I have lost count, it is just one of those films that I consider perfect. Not only does Jack Nicholson give one of the best performances ever in this film, but mind blowingly good performances also come from Louise Fletcher as the menacing Nurse Ratched, and Brad Dourif as Billy Bibbit. This film is powerfully directed (rest in peace Milos Forman), and has a heartfelt and memorable screenplay, while topping it off with an iconic score. Just watch this movie at least once in your life.
4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Rating: R
What hasn’t been said about this film that hasn’t been said before? It’s perfect, it is a masterful achievement that still baffles audiences today, and must be seen and appreciated by everyone, I mean come on, it’s Shawshank! What else is there to say?
3. Rear Window (1954) Rating: PG
I already did a review for my favorite Hitchcock films on my top ten list, so I’ll just link my reviews here. https://ghs-voice.com/2017/10/11/hitchcock-october-marathon-rear-window-1954/
2. Psycho (1960) Rating: R
1. The Godfather Rating: R
I have done a review of this film already, so I will provide my link for that, but overall, this is a perfect film that is a must see for film lovers.