Saving Private Ryan (1998)
If you’re a movie-watcher, it’s probably not hard for you to pick out an all-time favorite – a film that has affected you, and still affects you, in a uniquely powerful way. For me, that special film is Saving Private Ryan. Nothing else I’ve seen has quite matched it in terms of sheer magnificence. It’s brutal. It’s heartbreaking. It’s inspiring. And there’s a reason it’s often considered the greatest war film ever made.
Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors, and science fiction is one of my favorite genres. Put the two together, and what do you get? Inception – a thoughtful, stimulating, and utterly gripping Sci-Fi film that ranks among the best of this decade or any decade. To borrow the words of another critic, “Inception is proof that people are not stupid, that cinema is not trash, and that it is possible for blockbusters and art to be the same thing.”
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2000-2003)
Rich, captivating, epic, and breathtaking – just like Tolkien’s books. With a perfect cast, brilliant special effects, and energetic storytelling, this is a masterful fantasy film trilogy. Director Peter Jackson’s book-to-screen adaption is one of the best I’ve ever encountered, and he is to be highly commended for staying so faithful to Tolkien’s vision.
The Bourne Trilogy (2002-2007)
My one word review of this brilliant action trilogy would be simple: Wow. Impeccably casted and perfectly paced, it brings a superb sense of gritty reality to a genre that’s too often over-produced. The story is intelligent and believable, the characters are well-conceived, and the action sequences are absolutely stunning to watch. Expert cinematography, smooth pacing, smart script. Seriously, what’s not to love?
The Dark Knight (2008)
Another Christopher Nolan film in my top five. For those old enough to handle it, The Dark Knight offers a breathtakingly rich and thought-provoking viewing experience, mostly because it’s so much more than just a well-done superhero film. It’s a piece of art; an explosive morality play on an epic scale. Despite succumbing to neo-existentialism toward the end, it concerns itself with a number of profound and weighty themes, and I guarantee you’ll find yourself thinking about it long after the end credits have finished rolling.
District 9 (2009)
An exceptional movie. Harsh and brutal though it is, Neill Blomkamp’s envisioning of the “alien vs. human” scenario offers an intensely powerful story of redemption and self-sacrifice; by proxy, we also get a thoughtful exploration of mass persecution, segregation, and genocide. If you’re a Sci-Fi fan, you’ve simply gotta give District 9 a look. It has potent allegory, ambitious sci-fi action, and emotionally-wrenching drama thrown together in a spectacular combination.
The Matrix (1999)
A classic, and it’s not even 15 years old. With a one-of-a-kind premise, fabulous execution, and mind-blowing special effects (most notably “bullet-time”), The Matrix is complete and utter awesomeness. The action sequences will leave you stunned and the themes will get you thinking. I can’t recommend this one enough. Now, excuse me while I choose between the blue pill and the red pill…
Despite some flaws in its historical accuracy, Gladiator is a magnificent epic: thoughtful, stirring, and poignant. It’s a thrilling story that also functions as an indictment of the bloodlust of the Roman Games. Plus, it’s not hard to see why Russell Crowe garnered an Oscar for his role. He plays the heroic protagonist brilliantly: his Maximus is a man of honor and unflinching resolve, a man who loves his country, loves his family, and never backs down from fighting for what is right.
Cinderella Man (2005)
This became a favorite of mine when I first watched it, and it has been ever since. Fantastic stuff. By the time I got to the end credits, I wanted to stand up and cheer. Why? Because Cinderella Man isn’t merely the story of a great boxer: it’s the story of a man fighting for his family. I’ve seen it 3 or 4 times now, and it still packs a tremendous punch. (And yes – that pun was totally intended.)
Not only one of Michael Mann’s best thrillers, but also one of the best thrillers, period. Collateral is a gritty crime film that requires your brain to come along for the ride – and believe me, it’s a ride you won’t soon forget. The script is brilliantly written, the plotting is superb; and best of all, the raw performances of Cruise and Foxx provide ample opportunity for rich, thoughtful character studies that will provoke plenty of intelligent discussion long after the film is over.
The Road (2009)
A top-notch adaption of Cormac McCarthy’s brilliant novel, The Road is a remarkable film. Ugly, yet beautiful; touching, yet devastating; poignant, yet terrifying. The story, though grim, offers an incredibly powerful depiction of sacrifice, devotion, and the bond between a father and his son – all against the backdrop of a ravaged world. I’m not joking when I say that this should be required viewing for older male audiences.
So there you are: my top 10 (okay, 11) favorite films. Now, what are yours? Share your thoughts down below in the comments section!