Jun 03 2010

Five Movies

Jerry Coyne and PZ did it, so I might as well hop on the bandwagon. Here what I consider my five favorite movies, ones that I could watch over and over again:

Clerks: I like Kevin Smith, even though his movies can be hit or miss, but Clerks is more than just an entertaining movie to me. I first watched it when I 15, and I think it was a catalyst in developing my more perverted, dark sense of humor. Sex stopped being such a taboo topic for me. Between the sex jokes, nerd humor, and bizarre parts, it’s pretty much a perfect comedy to me.

Contact: I know people love to make fun of this movie, but I still love it. When I was little, I liked it for two reasons: 1) It was about outer space (which I was obsessed with at the time), and 2) Deciphering the alien message was basically figuring out a bunch of neat puzzles. But now that I’m older, I like it for totally different reasons. The main character is a strong female scientist who loves searching for the truth – how can I not love that? Then there’s the whole atheism/religion discussion, especially in terms of science and politics… And while Ellie gets a love interest, she’s still independent enough to follow her dreams first and not feel obligated to be tied down by a man. How many movie romances have that?

Hero: I’m usually not into the whole Chinese running around having battles thing, but this movie is so much more than that. I love the storytelling nature of the movie, and can’t really say more than that without giving away a major part of the plot. But more of all, I love it because it’s so goddamn beautiful. The way they use color makes it seem like you’re watching a living painting. Hero makes the artist in me very happy!

Pulp Fiction: It’s Pulp Fiction. What more is there to say? I love this dark sort of humor.

Y Tu Mama Tambien: This movie is so brilliantly complex. One minute you think it’s a comedy, the next you find yourself going quiet at a heart wrenching scene – but they meld it together perfectly. On top of that you have social commentary on class differences in Mexico that’s really eye opening. Oh, and did I mention that it’s really erotic? I mean, this movie is hot. I accidentally watched this for the first time on a first date, and boy was that awkward. One of the final scenes doesn’t show you anything past kissing, and I still think it’s the sexiest scene I’ve ever seen.

What would your five be?


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  1. 1

    I agree, a woman should never ” feel obligated to be tied down by a man”. Men should always seek permission first, although I’m not really into the whole bondage thing. Frankly, I never forgave Contact for its ultimate lack of, well, contact, or at least contact with an alien entity that did not feel like a cheap manipulation and cop-out at the end. Pulp Fiction is definitely in my top-5 list though. I have never seen the others you list, but I will add them to my queue based on your recommendations.

  2. 2
    Philip Pangrac

    At the end of 2004 I considered Hero the best film of the year, even though I seemed to be in the minority considering the film more than adequate or if it was better than House of Flying Daggers (which came out the same year and got better critical acclaim). Since then my opinion of it has mellowed a bit (I’d say Spider-Man 2 and The Incredibles were better films, just from that year), but it still placed on my Best of the Decade list (high 20′s, but still there).And it’s still a very underrated film. I think it’s arguably better as an artistic take on the martial arts genre than Crouching Tiger, which seems the more acceptable choice among cinephiles, for whatever reason. So it’s nice to see I’m not the only person who loved it.Anyway, on the opposite end of the spectrum I think Y Tu was incredibly overrated, I had no empathy for the main characters, and I may never understand why all the critics in the world genuflected before it.But don’t get me started on talking about movies. I don’t claim expertise in many areas, but I know cinema.

  3. 3

    1) Hard Core Logo2) Juno3) The Odd Couple4) Empire Records5) SnatchIf I wasn’t supposed to be working, I’d go into the ‘why’s’ of it all.

  4. 4
    Philip Pangrac

    Oh, and the other three movies. Clerks is OK, but it feels like as I’ve grown up Kevin Smith and his movies haven’t. And I don’t have to say I like Pulp Fiction, that’s pretty standard. The unique thing is if someone out there didn’t like it.As for Contact, I’ve never seen it. Netflix has it, but not for instant viewing and I’m making my way through Dr. Who for the foreseeable future. And I also turned up this (http://j.mp/cYESzg), so it’s a toss-up which I should watch :p

  5. 5
    Ryan Schneider

    Hm. Five doesn’t seem like enough, but twenty may be too many. Hrm…Well, in no particular order:Pulp Fiction, Memento, District 9, Saving Private Ryan, Evil Dead II, F for Fake, Cashback, and probably many others that just aren’t coming to mind.F for Fake is an Orson Welles documentary about an art forger that’s just fascinating, both because of Orson Welles’ narration and the forger’s story itself.Cashback is about a guy who develops insomnia after his girlfriend dumps him, and uses his newfound free time to work nights at a grocery store where he discovers the ability to stop time. On top of that, there’s plenty of nudity.

  6. 6
    Ryan Schneider

    I just realized how weird that description of Cashback sounds. To be clear, he stops time to undress supermarket patrons and sketch them, but out of a fascination with beauty more than a perverted desire to undress women.

  7. 7

    Young’ns…sigh…Let’s see…Wizard of OzAnimal HouseJawsStar Wars (the first one)Shawshank is goodjust to name a few

  8. 8

    Add Bull Durham

  9. 9
    Ben A. Varkentine

    I liked Contact, too, but I also think Penn Jillette had some good points when he wrote about it:http://tinyurl.com/2e3vdru

  10. 10

    How about the best atheism movie of all time?http://www.infidels.org/famili

  11. 11

    Let’s see. Some of my favorite films are ones that I could not watch over and over–they are too serious and too wrenching–to watch all that often, but I love them anyways. Two of these films would be American Beauty and the Danish film “Festen” which has the English title of “The Celebration.” Both are exceptionally excellent films and I’ve only seen The Celebration once, and it struck me so hard that I’m still waiting to watch it again (and that was about 5 years ago..)As for 5 really awesome films that I watch again and again.. Fight Club–As a study in how to create your very own fascist organization to destabilize a materialist society–it’s pretty damn entertaining.Grosse Pointe Blank–Who doesn’t want to go to their 10 year High School Renunion and tell people that you are a professional killer and have it be true.The Dark Knight–Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker is just pure awesomeness. The Joker as a representation of the evil side of the Trickster archetype is just fabulous.Memento/The Prestige–just pure awesomeness in fucking with your head and telling a tragic and beautiful story at the same time. Christopher Nolen is the Man. (I alternate between these two..)I’ll leave it at that… There are more–but those are the ones in a semi-regular rotation.. I also love Hero and Pulp Fiction, but don’t watch them quite so often..

  12. 12

    Chasing AmyI give props to Kevin Smith for his inaugural “Clerks”. It was excellent first film, and an enjoyable movie in general. I just feel that “Chasing Amy” had more heart, and that he definitely had something to tell.Garden StateZach Braf’s directorial debut was a doozy. The problem? After this everything will seem like a letdown.SidewaysI’ve always been a Paul Giamatti fan, and Virginia Madsen is just HOT! Great story about relationships, deceit, infidelity, and good wine. Remember, the best pinot is grown in the NW.The Green MileOne of the best screenplay adaptations of a Stephen King novel, and yes, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” is a close second–I’ve never figured out how he turned a short story into a three-hour movie. Heart-wrenching, and it took me over a year to be able to watch it again.Sin CityAction, traction, sex, nudity, love, betrayal and gore. What more could you ask from a Frank Miller work?

  13. 13
    Andrew Hall

    Have you seen Clerks II? It’s is a crime against humanity.

  14. 14

    That was great :-)

  15. 15
    Andrew Hall

    I can watch these movies over and over.1. Crimes and misdemeanors2. Citizen Kane3. Yojimbo4. Magnificent 75. Fight Clubhttp://laughinginpurgatory.blo

  16. 16

    @Libraboy – Garden State just barely didn’t make my top five. I love the idea of fundamentally flawed people finding love without some grand metamorphosis of character.And you’re right about disappointment. The Last Kiss – a movie I looked forward to with great anticipation – was basically crap.

  17. 17

    I’ve always loved Contact, but my favourite has to be The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Fight Club, Dr. Strangelove, and Serenity are also great.

  18. 18
    Hugo Grinebiter

    he stops time to undress supermarket patrons and sketch them … out of a fascination with beautyWell, he can’t have been at MY supermarket then.

  19. 19

    I saw “Hero” in the theater with my family. For a few weeks afterwards we would randomly burst into high-pitched singing and then laugh hysterically.

  20. 20
    Hugo Grinebiter

    Second on the colour poetry of “Hero”. Re “Contact”, do you know Lem’s “His Master’s Voice”? An obvious influence, but a whole different take on the message-from-the-stars thing. Agree about the cop-out, which made me loathe the movie. If there is one thing I passionately hate about Hollywood movies it’s the way they can twist anything into family re-bonding. Emmerich, I’m looking at you.

  21. 21

    Ugh, I hated Juno. Forced jokes + humorously portraying teen pregnancy just annoyed me the whole time.

  22. 22

    I don’t know if I could pick only 5. It changes so often.Let’s see.Terminator 2: Judgment Day – simultaneously one of the greatest action movies and science fiction movies of all time. Epic action scenes, a great storyline, and even Arnold is pretty good. Heads and tails above any of the other films James Cameron has directed.The Blues Brothers – One of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and certainly one of the best musicals too. Yes, I consider this a musical. I can watch this film over and over without even pausing or blinking in between takes. Incredible.The Last King of Scotland – An amazing fictional retelling of one of history’s worst dictators and violent men. Forest Whitaker gives probably my second favourite performance in all movie history in this role. I was so scared when I watched it that I had nightmares for almost a week after. He was that petrifying as Idi Amin.The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – It’s my favourite Western of all time, and I really think anybody can appreciate the genius in this film. The soundtrack is incredible, the acting great. Sergio Leone is a superb director, and the cast was awesome, especially Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood. The final dual are six of the most intense minutes of cinema ever. Highly recommended to anyone and everyone.The Lion King – The 1980s-90s were a great time for Disney films. From The Little Mermaid through Lilo & Stitch pretty much every film they made hit it out of the park. But I think The Lion King is the best. It has an incredible cast and a great storyline. The animation is utterly beautiful and Scar is a scary villain – Jeremy Irons was fantastic. It makes you cry, laugh, and sit up straight at the movie’s climax. Awesome.

  23. 23

    So cool to see Clerks on your list. Kevin Smith is my favorite director!

  24. 24

    Groundhog DayA Clockwork OrangeCaddyshackThe first Matrixand for number 5 I’m going to say any porn that has anal

  25. 25

    Hero was vastly underrated I think. I have a chinese copy on dvd so I’ve never seen the US changes. And yes Clerks is something I love, being from NJ helps ;). I liked Contact, but I always felt it could have done more/been more.

  26. 26

    ehh, I’m a sucker for high school romance, especially involving gawky boys and vaguely insecure chip-on-their-shoulder girls.

  27. 27

    the big lebowskipulp fictionlife of brianraising arizonathe 7 samurai

  28. 28
    Philip Pangrac

    No, I was deployed when it was in theaters and I’ve never cared enough to Netflix it. From what I’ve heard, it supports my opinion that Smith hasn’t matured in any meaningful way.

  29. 29

    1. Boon Dock saints2. ….3. ….4. ….5. …. my top 5 changes like every 5 min except for boon dock saints but the Mash film, the starwars trilogy shawshank and mona lisa’s smile and the professional and all regulars

  30. 30

    Synechdoche, New YorkCommit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt09…More Shoes: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt11…Into the WildBarton Fink

  31. 31

    I liked Clerks – only one from your list I like. Here’s mine:O Brother Where Art ThouWaiting for GuffmanThe Dark CrystalTrading PlacesHot Fuzz

  32. 32

    The Wizard of Oz – awesome!Magnolia – 3 hours long…but for some reason absolutely fabulous.Anything Pixar puts out (except for A Bug’s Life). Really a toss up between Wall-E, Toy Story, Cars, and Ratatouille.Batman the Movie (the 1966 version). It still cracks me up after multiple viewings.The Star Trek movies, especially Wrath of Kahn, and Vogage Home (but so NOT the motion picture).I feel like I should like Contact, because I love Science Fiction and it has such a strong female lead (which is rare and I wish I saw more of), plus she’s an atheist for an extra carrot. But the movie itself bored me.

  33. 33

    Love Boon Dock saints!

  34. 34

    I’ve seen that movie a thousand times and never thought of it that way. I love it more now! (although if the Toys in my house started coming to life, I might begin believing in some super natural force).What about Toy Story 2? What’s the atheist theme there?

  35. 35

    You go, girl!

  36. 36
    Mike O'Brien

    Patton, because George C Scott was amazing!CasablancaBlazing SaddlesAliensSilveradoI tried to come up with one movie from each of the areas of film that I enjoy the most and these are in the top 5 of those areas. Lots of WWII movies are awesome including Zulu and Zulu Dawn but Patton is still great. Casablanca… romance, Bogie and Lauren Hutton plus classic lines.Blazing Saddles just because it either was this or Holy Grail. Aliens because I like it more than Alien and it was either this or 2001. Silverado because I had to include a Western and love this movie although there are so many great choices.

  37. 37

    1. The Fifth Element (I can’t help it. I love this movie more than anything!)2. V For Vendetta (Smart social commentary & sexy boy in a mask!)3. Sherlock Holmes (Mmmmm…Victoriana!)4. Howl’s Moving Castle (Anything Miyazaki, really. Brilliant.)5. South Pacific (I’ve seen the musical countless times, and I just love the movie too!)

  38. 38

    Hmmm…1.His Girl Friday (laser gags, plus she leaves the guy for the job! How often does that happen in the movies?)2.Empire Records3.Serenity4.Torch Song Trilogy (yes yes I know the play was better, but hey, it was formative)5.Aliens (the original Bechdel Test!)…and too many more to mention.

  39. 39

    Definitely agree with Contact. Even though it occasionally gets cheesy, the portrayal of a strong, scientific, atheist woman is so rare in cinema that that factor alone puts it in the top five for me – plus I truly enjoy watching it every time.My list:Lost in TranslationThe Boondock SaintsContactGattacaAmilie

  40. 40

    If you loved Pulp Fiction, watch “In Bruges”!

  41. 41
    Mike Brownstein

    1. Slap Shot2. The Big Lebowski3. Die Hard4. The Empire Strikes Back (really any original star wars movie)5. MST3k the Movie

  42. 42

    I’m down for Patton. It almost made my list, but was cut at the last moment.

  43. 43

    Lauren Hutton wasn’t born yet when Casablanca came out. You meant Ingrid Bergman.

  44. 44

    This could easily change if I thought about it more, but I’d list: (1) Casablanca; (2) The President’s Analyst; (3) A Clockwork Orange; (4) Groundhog Day; (5) This is Spinal Tap.

  45. 45

    “We made a lot of money the first time so let’s make a sequel”

  46. 46

    without putting much thought into it:1) Spaceballs (I’ve been quoting the movie since I was 12 and before I saw Star Wars)2) Life is Beautiful3) Shawshank Redemption4) Rotating Mel Brooks or Christopher Guest movie (Producers, Mighty Wind, Best in Show, Men In Tights….)5) Josie and the Pussycats (don’t judge me! I like stupid humor, rock/pop songs and dream of being a punk rocker)

  47. 47

    Batman the Movie”Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

  48. 48
    Never Was An Arrow II

    The Dao of Steve…true story…excellent, funny, movie. An obese man beats the odds, and becomes a successful womanizer. But, then, he falls in love… Now, is he ready for the demands only love will make?A Guy Named Joe Tearjerker. Steven Spielberg stated this 40s movie is in HIS top ten of all time. Filmed in an era when Hollywood wasn’t trying to destroy America. A deceased flyer has a hard time making the transition to being a helpful ghost.Jesus of Nazareth…wouldn’t it be nice if it were true? It is. Great, long, movie about Jesus the Christ featuring a cavalcade of all the best acting folk from 30 years ago. Superb. Not for atheists. Not for Baptists. Not for Jews, or Muslims.Tombstone…best western of all time. Period. Val Kilmour in his finest performance ever as Doc Holiday. Law men become men of peace. That, doesn’t last long.Falling Down A newly unemployed aerospace engineer has an existential crisis. By the end of the movie, you want one. A Michael Douglas best ever.Fearless For those who’ve always wanted to be in a plane crash, but never had the chance. Brooding.Trailer Park Boys, the Movie There shouldn’t be Canadians on the East Coast walking around like this…but, there are. Swearing, offensive, funny…Considering how many times the Canadian TPB series was cancelled by various American networks as being too offensive…not for Americans. Worldwide fan base…including the rock band RUSH, whose members even have minor parts in the movie!Seven movies. I know. But I never play by the rules anyway.

  49. 49
    Jack Pitsker

    Off the top of my head – it’s really difficult to pick just five:1. Brazil – I don’t know why this movie resonated with me so much. Perhaps because of all the beautiful flying dreams I never have anymore2. My Neighbor Totoro – I love all of Miyazaki’s movies, but this one has a special place in my heart because it reminds me of when my daughter was really young3. Life of Brian – Python’s best, IMHO4. Holiday – Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn just riff off each other in this movie – a classic of this style. Plus I like Cary Grant’s character and his life goals5. You Can’t Take it With You – Schmaltzy, I know, but what the fuck is wrong with schmaltzy now and then? Plus, Grampa Vanderhof is like Mr. Potter before he became a bitter old dickhead. :)

  50. 50
    Georgia Sam

    5 favorites that were not big box-office hits:Tender MerciesFargoBroadway Danny RoseWhat’s Eating Gilbert Grape?Ragtime

  51. 51
    Georgia Sam

    Eli Wallach was GREAT in The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly. One of my favorite performances ever.

  52. 52

    You’ve obviously never been to Nova Scotia if you think there shouldn’t be Canadians like the Trailer Park Boys.

  53. 53
    Vixen Strangely

    Hmm.1) Revenge of the Nerds had a big impact on me as a teen. Yeah, it’s a typical college-movie with misogyny and gross-out parts, but the idea of the nerds as a rag-tag collection of heroes waging a war against the faux-periority of pretty conformists spoke to me. The “Tri-lams” represented diversity, creativity, and they won with science! I dunno. The first one was good enough to almost make the other ones justified in existing….kind of.2) Clerks is on my list, too. For me, it’s the “talking ’bout my generation” movie. Us rootless Gen-x-ers in that period of history often found ourselves poured into McJobs and McRelationships that didn’t fulfill., and that movie, through bizarre twists layered over the totally mundane, rang really true to me.3) Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life This has nothing to do with the movie, but here goes: I had a strong crush on a boy in my Creative Writing class when I was 16. We read the same sf novels, had similarly screwed-up referential senses of humor. He asked me on a date (for reasons I will never understand) and we made out to a cassette tape of—Monty Python musical numbers. Also, I only saw “The Seventh Seal” like, twenty years after seeing this movie and only just then “got it.” Dur. 4) <star a=”” b=”” episode=”” i=”” in=”” iv–the=”” like,=”” saw=”” six<=”” theater=”” this=”” wars=”” was=”” when=””> This was the first movie I saw in a theater. This was a really, really good first movie to see. I was bummed for awhile that most movies weren’t this exciting. My favorite part was when the heroes were in the garbage compactor. Also, I think my first crush was Han Solo. That is my impression of a movie I saw when I was six. The end.5) All movies that are adaptations of Alan Moore comics that he actually really hates. Also, movies that have anything to do with Frank Miller. I’m not known for my exquisite taste, so I will break this down–I liked Watchmen because it was pretty faithful in visual feel and the soundtrack was awesome, I liked V for Vendetta because I think it actually improved on the story, (ow, sorry) and I even like TLoEG because, um, I dunno. Also, even if they are tacky, I like 300 and Sin City and The Spirit because they are sooooo very …bold. I like the noirishness (Spartan noir?) and machismo. I dunno. And also The Hellboy movies. And The Dark Knight because Heath Ledger….tore it up….so….much.</star>

  54. 54

    It’s funny you should mention The Lion King as being the best Disney movie, since it’s not really a Disney movie. By that I mean that it was originally meant to be a remake of Kimba the White Lion, but instead they just made it a total rip off and called it their own.

  55. 55
    Hugo Grinebiter

    Revenge of the Nerds was a curate’s egg. It pissed me off how they assimilated the concept of “female nerd” to that of “fugly female” — American Pie and Alyson Hannigan did that so much better. It also annoyed me that the cheerleader was still the supreme measure of value. But I am forever quoting the chief nerd’s dictum that he was a good lover because “jocks think about the game, nerds think about sex”.

  56. 56

    All three of them were incredible in my opinion. It’s such a good movie. I love it, every second of it.

  57. 57

    Like every other Disney movie isn’t a huge ripoff? I am aware of that fact, but I still prefer the presentation by far.

  58. 58

    That sounds more like something out of the protestant ethic.

  59. 59

    Yes, Alyson Hanigan managed to be nerdy, awkward but still adorable.

  60. 60

    1) Amelie: can’t apologise for quite how romantic it is because it captures everything that is beautiful about Paris and French women. And they are both wonderful. Les Aimants du Pont Neuf would come in there too.2) I Went Down: classic Irish story line. Chilling, wonderful, compelling…3) Waking Ned Devine: more from the Irish. What a great plot – and even better execution! And is there a funnier scene anywhere ever than David Kelly naked on the motorbike?4) Shrek? (Why does that feel embarrassing to admit to?)5) Search for the Holy Grail perhaps? As has been noted above Brian was truly wonderful. But the Grail was superlative too. What were they smoking when they thought up the Knights who say ‘ni’? And Brave Sir Robin? And the rabbit?Top 5 films was a good call Jen.Close misses have to include La Grande Vadrouille (who says the French don’t have a sense of humour?); Delicatessen (ditto); the original Star Wars trilogy; Room with a View (Helena Bonham Carter – mmmmmm)… this could go on a while here… Bugger: I forgot the Playboys. Maybe Albert Finney’s finest performance. Spectacular.Right that will do…

  61. 61

    Argghhhh! It won’t do…I missed Lock Stock, and Snatch.And julieb: I’ve never met anyone who would say that publicly! I’m both scared and deeply in awe…I know it’s a bit 80′s to be shocked at that subject being mentioned publicly…

  62. 62

    Amelie! Wondeful film. Glad someone else out there appreciates it.

  63. 63
    D. Auyeung

    I love Contact too even though I know it was a bit cheesy.I have mixed feelings about Hero because I grew up watching Zhang Yimou’s movies and I usually love them, both for their cinematography and the way they challenge China’s strict censorship policies on anything that remotely criticizes China or its government. Hero felt like a beautifully-made propaganda movie about how important and great it was for the first emperor of China to unite all of China while glossing over the fact that he did that by banning and wiping out all other local dialects and cultures, burning books, closing down schools that taught anything besides Mandarin, and sending thousands of people to death for disagreeing with him. There was one tragic but beautifully filmed scene where soldiers shot thousands of arrows and murdered everyone in a school. I think it’s sad that the movie paints that as the price for a peaceful, unified country. It’s especially troubling given China’s human rights record.

  64. 64
    D. Scott Meek

    Fight ClubBlade RunnerBlack Hawk DownYou’ve Got MailSe7en

  65. 65

    1- El verdugo2- The bicycle thief3- Do the right thing4- Honkytonk man5- Deconstructing HarryJen, I think you might like El día de la bestia. Have you seen it?

  66. 66

    Wow. All you youngsters need to see more films.1. A Clockwork Orange2. Vertigo3. Casablanca4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail5. Double Indemnity or anything by Billy Wilder

  67. 67
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