Five is an impossible number. Agreed. There is a bit of solace in adding silly categories to numb the wounds caused by cutting off great pieces of cinema for such arbitrary reason. Here are my five:
5) Rashomon – no offense to Ran or The Seven Samurai, but Ran isn’t quite perfect enough, and I’ve only seen The Seven Samurai twice, and I wouldn’t be able to defend it as carefully as I’d like. But I needed a Kurosawa picture. Enter Rashomon which, like Citizen Kane, weaves a complex narrative so easily, and unforgettably, that the audience is never confused by the style, but rather by the central question of the film: what is the value of truth?
4) Casino – Martin Scorsese is a modern-day tragedian. He is our Aeschylus, our Sophocles. Casino is my favorite of his perfect movies (others include Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and Raging Bull.)
3) There Will Be Blood – My jaw was open for the entirety of my first viewing of P.T. Anderson’s film. Daniel Plainview is the second most complex, complete, and tragic character in all of cinema (all that I’ve seen, anyway.) Number one is Charles Foster Kane.
2) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – I don’t understand why John Ford’s The Searchers (a grossly flawed and uneven picture) takes precedent over his 1963 western tale with James Stewart and John Wayne (or his 1939 John Wayne picture Stagecoach.) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is an accessible, honest, and careful question about justice, peace, violence, civility, freedom etc…you name it.
1) The Thin Red Line – “If it can be written or thought it can be filmed.” – Stanley Kubrick. The cinema of Terrence Malick proves that Kubrick was correct. The Thin Red Line is his finest example of scholarly philosophy, an elegant and emotive style, effective and subtle performances, and engrossing characters.
0) Citizen Kane – this light-hearted romp through a post-Reagan Administration Rhode Island pits a young Polish sausage sandwich shop owner against a small-town celebrity street-chalk cartoonist.
Best Movie to Watch at The Music Box
The Third Man – by all rights this deserves a spot in my top 5.
Best Kung-Fu Movie
Drunken Master 2 – while there are more than 5 great Jackie Chan movies, this one is his funniest, and has some of his best fights.
Screw a still image:
Sean of the Dead – comedies don’t deserve to be separate from drama, but I couldn’t set Sean of the Dead next to any of my top 5, and I couldn’t leave it off entirely, either…
Best Movie to Watch By Yourself
Back to the Future
Can’t Choose Just One
Buster Keaton. The Best.