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Criticism: My top 10 movies of all time

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In the past, I’ve written about my favorite sports movies of all time. As much as I enjoy that genre, I have found myself enjoying other types of movies as I’ve gotten older. After watching a plenitude of movies from different genres and time periods, I thought I should make a list of my favorites.
Here are my personal picks for the 10 best movies of all time and other honorable mentions. 
Honorable Mentions:
“Sicario,” 2015

The first of many crime thrillers on my list, “Sicario,” directed by Denis Villenueve, is one of the best films of the last decade. The film features Emily Blunt, an FBI agent, working with a government task force that fights drug cartels using “gray tactics.”

 From minute one, the movie is incredibly entertaining and doesn’t have a dull moment. I appreciate the fact that there are no true heroes in the movie, and it has the potential to climb this list the more times I watch it. 

The acting from Benicio del Toro and Blunt is superb, and the movie manages to get great performances from Daniel Kaluuya and Jon Bermthal in smaller roles. Kaluuya is probably the best actor in the industry right now, so the fact that he basically plays Blunt’s partner in this movie is insane to me. 

“A Few Good Men,” 1992

“A Few Good Men ” will always be a special movie for me because it’s my dad’s favorite of all time, and one of my mom’s as well. For the longest time, I never watched it in its entirety but always seemed to catch scenes as I grew up. The number of times I’ve seen Jack Nicholson yell “You can’t handle the truth” is countless. I finally watched it around a year ago and it is just incredible. The final courtroom scene is an all-timer and features some of the most subtle acting from Tom Cruise and Nicholson while also having some truly iconic lines. 

Outside of that iconic scene, the rest of the film is about an investigation into the death of a soldier. Cruise’s character is tasked with defending the people accused of the murder. 
The film is truly one of the best investigation movies ever made. It also kickstarted Aaron Sorkin’s illustrious screenwriting career that would later result in works such as “The West Wing”’ and “The Social Network.” There have been many movies set in a courtroom, and A Few Good Men is the best I’ve ever seen. 

“Zodiac,” 2007

“Zodiac,” directed by David Fincher, doubles as both a great true crime and journalism movie. The film concerns the investigation into the Zodiac serial killer of the 1960s and 1970s by the police and San Francisco Chronicle. While there are certainly some violent and disturbing scenes, the movie has actors such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. doing some of their best work. 

Looking at their performances in this movie, it’s a shame Ruffalo and Downey have only seemed to make Marvel movies in the last decade. I enjoy the Marvel franchise, but they are both incredible actors and could have done so much more. Gyllenhaal’s cartoonist, Robert Graysmith, is the most important character in the movie because the plot revolves around his character becoming obsessed with the case at the expense of his family and sanity. Fincher is one of my favorite directors working right now, and this movie is the perfect example of why. 

 

“Heat,” 1995

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in a movie directed by Michael Mann? Sign me up! 

“Heat” is the epitome of the bank robbery genre. The cast is star-studded. Outside of the main two, Pacino and De Niro, other actors in this movie include Val Kilmer, Danny Trejo, Jon Voight, Natalie Portman, Ted Levine (Buffalo Bill from “Silence of the Lambs”), Tom Noonan (the Tooth Fairy from “Manhunter”), Dennis Haysbert (the guy from all the Allstate commercials) and Tom Sizemore. However, the best part of the movie is the performances of De Niro and Pacino. De Niro’s serious Neil McCauley is juxtaposed with Pacino’s utterly insane Vincent Hanna. In regards to which performance I prefer, I lean toward Pacino because he’s my guy, but De Niro is also incredible in this movie. The scene where their characters finally interact is great and directed excellently by Michael Mann. Mann does a great job of balancing some of the smaller character moments with some great action sequences. Heat is simply an all-time way to spend three hours.

Top 10:

10. “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” 2007

“The Assassination of Jesse James” is possibly the best-looking movie I have ever seen. There are numerous iconic images throughout the run time. Even though the title gives away the plot, it is still riveting. Brad Pitt is great as the iconic outlaw Jesse James, but the best part of this movie is the performance of Casey Affleck as Robert Ford. 

The movie itself is about someone dealing with the guilt and ramifications of their actions, and this is portrayed beautifully by Affleck. Affleck’s character knows that history will always remember him for shooting James in the back of the head, and it slowly destroys him. It’s a very long movie, but is definitely worth a watch. It’s unlike any western I have ever seen, and I mean that in a good way.

9.  “Blow Out,” 1981

I always enjoy a movie or a story where a character has to unravel a conspiracy. Other examples include “JFK” and “All the President’s Men.” For me, the best movie in this genre is “Blow Out” starring John Travolta and directed by Brian De Palma. The plot revolves around Travolta’s character witnessing the assassination of a political figure. The problem is there are only two witnesses: Travolta and an aspiring makeup artist played by Nancy Allen. Travolta, a sound engineer by trade, managed to record the murder, but is being pursued by people who want to keep the assassination from being unveiled to the public. 
The rest of the movie is about Travolta’s character trying to reveal the truth while being targeted by outside forces. Travolta is incredible, but the best part of this movie is the direction from Brian De Palma. He does a great job of making every scene feel important. In my opinion, “Blow Out” is one of the best and most impressive thrillers ever made.

8. “Pulp Fiction,” 1994 

“Pulp Fiction” remains director Quentin Tarantino’s standout achievement. The sound track remains one of the best and the cast is loaded with star power. The most interesting part of the movie is the non-linear storytelling. My first time watching this movie was a great experience, but also confusing because for most of the time it was difficult to understand what was going on. After revisiting it, it became apparent just how well-crafted the movie is. 

Pulp Fiction, like most Tarantino movies, is explicit and very violent, but also features incredible performances from Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis. If you have the stomach for it, Pulp Fiction is just an iconic and enjoyable movie from start to finish.

7. “The Shining,” 1980

“The Shining,” directed by Stanley Kubrick, is by far the weirdest movie I have ever seen, and that’s actually a good thing. It’s my favorite horror movie ever. The film is about the Torrance family watching over a hotel in Colorado during the winter. Jack Nicholson’s unhinged performance as struggling writer Jack Torrance is amazing. Shelley Duval is also equally impressive as Torrance’s spiraling wife Wendy. Over the course of the movie, Nicholson’s character loses his mind, and the ultimate reveal of his book being the same sentence written repeatedly is a great twist. The kid in this movie, Danny, is great and probably the smartest character. 
What separates “The Shining” from most horror movies is the direction from Kubrick. He is without a doubt one of the best of all time and puts his skills on full display in this movie. This is the same guy who basically created modern science fiction with “2001, A Space Odyssey,” so he is overqualified to be directing a horror movie. Also, the conspiracy theories associated with “The Shining” are all equally crazy and interesting. 

6. “Creed,” 2015

As I’ve written in the past, the Rocky franchise is important to me because I basically grew up with them. Before “Creed’s” release in 2015, I honestly didn’t know how to feel about it. Still, I saw it with my dad for my birthday, and it is without a doubt the best theater-going experience of my life. Specifically, I remember getting chills hearing “Gonna Fly Now” at the start of the 15th round in the final fight. 
The movie does a great job of honoring the original films while also making it more modern. The fights are more realistic, and that’s in large part because the fighters actually try to use defensive tactics during fights. Director Ryan Coogler does a great job crafting the best sports movie of all time. Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone are also great as Adonis Creed and Rocky Balboa, respectively.

5. “The Godfather,” 1972

Watching “The Godfather” as a freshman in college is what got me interested in movies outside of the sports and superhero genres. It lives up to its reputation and then some. The Godfather is filled with iconic lines and characters. Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone created an archetype in the gangster genre and was deserving of a “Best Actor” Oscar. However, the best part of this movie is the progression of Al Pacino’s character, Michael Corleone.  At the beginning of the movie, he’s a war hero and at the end of the movie, he is the head of the Corleone crime family. The entire arc makes complete sense. Specifically, the restaurant scene toward the middle of the movie is some of the best use of tension ever and a lot of it comes from Pacino’s performance. 
Other great performances include Robert Duval’s Tom Hagen and James Caan’s Sonny Corleone. On the other hand, Talia Shire is laughably bad in this movie. It doesn’t help that she happens to be related to director Francis Ford Coppola. However, The Godfather is still a classic that any movie fan should see. 

4. “Se7en,” 1995

Simply put, “Se7en” is one of the darkest movies I have ever seen, but it is still a great movie. The lead performances from Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are great. Freeman does a great job of portraying a withered veteran detective, while Pitt is the young hotshot. The movie itself is centered around the investigation into a serial killer murdering people in ways intended to represent each of the seven deadly sins. As crazy as it sounds, the movie is actually enjoyable to watch, and that’s a testament to director David Fincher. “Se7en” was his first great movie and set the stage for later movies such as “Fight Club” and “Zodiac.” 

My favorite part about the movie is how the tension builds all the way up until what is one of the most surprising endings in movie history. The ending itself is heartbreaking, but also shows that no character in the movie wins. Also, the car conversation scene right before is the essence of the movie and arguably better than the final scene.

3. “Goodfellas,” 1990

“Goodfellas” is an important movie for me because it is A. great and B. set the stage for what is unsurprisingly my favorite TV show ever: “The Sopranos.” Goodfellas revolves around the characters played by Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and the late Ray Liotta. Liotta is the main character in the movie and gives the performance of his lifetime. Side note, Liotta’s wife, played by Lorraine Bracco, gives a great performance and has an entire arc of her own. Pesci won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his insane performance. However, the best part of this movie is De Niro. His performance adds so much to what is really a tertiary character in the story and continues to stand out to me the more times I watch. 

The first half of this movie is maybe my favorite stretch of any movie ever because it moves so well. It has iconic scene after iconic scene. The back half of the film is arguably just as great, but is not nearly as enjoyable. This is where all of the events from earlier in the film come back to haunt Liotta, Pesci and De Niro. As difficult as the ending of the movie is, it’s necessary because it doesn’t glorify the characters. Director Martin Scorcese does a great job of making an enjoyable movie about evil people. The craziest part about this movie is it’s based on a true story. 

2. “The Departed,” 2006

“The Departed” is not a better movie than “Goodfellas”, but it is much more enjoyable. Simply put, “The Departed” is just awesome. The cast is filled with incredible actors such as Leanardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Vera Farminga, Anthony Anderson and Alec Badlwin. In my opinion, this is the best performance of DiCaprio’s career because he spends most of the movie on the verge of having a panic attack and it’s very believable. Damon is also incredible as the dirty cop working for Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello. The movie manages to have a great pace even though its runtime is over two and a half hours long, and does a great job of building to a great twist ending. 

At long last, the film gave director Martin Scorcese his first Best Director Oscar and the film itself also won Best Picture. Scorcese finally got his recognition after being snubbed for films such as “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.”

1. “The Godfather Part II,” 1974

“The Godfather Part II” is by far the best movie I have ever seen. It acts as both a prequel and sequel to the original film. The rise of Vito Corleone played impeccably by Robert De Niro is juxtaposed with the fall of Pacino’s Michael Corleone. Give credit to director Francis Ford Coppola, as he refuses to take the easy way out and portray Michael as the hero in the movie. In actuality, he is arguably one of the villains and Pacino’s performance still manages to keep the viewer invested in his arc. The performance by Pacino is my favorite ever because of how subtle it is. The viewer has to figure out what Pacino’s character is up to as he tries to find who was involved in his assassination attempt.

Other great performances include Robert Duvall’s Tom Hagen, John Cazale’s Fredo Corleone, and Lee Strasberg’s Hyman Roth. The ending of the movie is also perfect and completes Michael’s evolution into a terrible person. The prequel sections featuring De Niro are great and help set the stage for the events of the first movie. In addition to being the best sequel of all time, the Godfather Part II is also the best movie of all time.

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