So here we are…the end of the Top Ten Greatest Films of All-Time Series. My outstanding group of writers brought forth some wonderful films to highlight. The argument has been made among the community, and even the staff, asking what this series really is? Is it the “best” made films of all time? Is it my “favorite” films of all time? Is there a difference? Is there a right answer?
I’ll attempt in the best way I can, which is comparisons to own life. My relationship with film has been one of, if not, the most emotional and stable connection in my life. At 27-years-old, I’ve experienced hundreds of films in different capacities. One of my earliest “theater” memories is watching James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). I remember being in complete awe of the visual effects and even wanting to have long hair like Edward Furlong so I can flip it around while riding a motorcycle. I watched the film with my mother and older sister in a packed theater. I remember sitting next to a young boy about my age, and we shared popcorn and even more, shared a cinematic connection. It was as if we knew what each other was thinking and connected as if we were friends all our young lives. He wasn’t even the type of kid I’d normally hang out with. Blonde hair, glasses, he actually looked liked Luke from Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches (1990). I never saw the boy again. We didn’t exchange phone numbers to go play, watch movies, or play stickball in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. We made a connection to a film together and shared our feelings on-screen. Is Terminator 2 the single best film ever made? Not by a long shot, but it plays a part in a happy time in my childhood. A six-year-old kid from the Bronx, sitting in a theater, just wanting to be in the movies is a miracle. I grew up in a drug-dealing neighborhood, my father was M.I.A., we struggled for a good portion of our up-bringing and despite all those things, I found solace and comfort in the feel of a VHS tape or the cool, sometimes near freezing temperatures of a movie theater. I am and always have been in love with cinema. She’s beautiful, ugly, smart, stupid, crazy, and perfectly sane. While she can be unstable, disappointing, and even offensive, she treats me well and I can never deny our love and how it continues to blossom more maturely and spiritually throughout my years.
I have and always will respect film. I know what love can be thanks to Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) or know what real fear is because of William Freidkin’s The Exorcist (1973). I know laughing until it hurts everywhere because of Tom Shadyac’s Liar Liar (1997). I know a cool cowboy spanking a pretty, spoiled, young brat in Andrew McLaglen’s McLintock (1963) with John Wayne. I know that words don’t need to be spoken to move mountains because of The Red Balloon (1956). I know the feeling of loss because of Bambi (1942). I know that children can express pain (Taxi Driver, 1974), torment (Radio Flyer, 1992), unrestrained youth (Lord of the Flies, 1990), and maturity beyond their years (Stand by Me, 1986). I know that film can be a love letter to a lost friend (Dear Zachary, 2008), mother (Stepmom, 1998), father (My Life, 1994), or an entire culture (Schindler’s List, 1993).
Cinema can change from time-to-time but she always has the same agenda, entertain. It doesn’t matter if this is the “greatest” films of all time or if you attempt to tear me down with the technical merits or unwarranted obsession that I don’t have this or that on my list. My ten greatest films all have special meanings, anecdotes, and lessons that have shaped the person who took a chance to become a film critic for a little website called The Oscar Igloo and make it evolve into a place where any guy, girl, or person can come in, feel welcomed, and alive in a realm of cinema-goers everywhere. I am proud to be a part of this family. I hope my daughter, when she’s older, will find a passion and a love for something the way I have about cinema. And I’ll be honest, I really hope she loves cinema like her daddy. Either way, this list is mine:
10. Good Will Hunting (1997)
Written by: Ben Affleck & Matt Damon
Sant’s Oscar nominated film for Best Motion Picture had every element for a beautiful piece of cinema. Beginning with the basics, it showcases career best performances from Matt Damon, Robin Williams, and Minnie Driver. Ben Affleck is pitch perfect and is as charismatic as I’ve ever seen him before and after. Little brother Casey Affleck, irritatingly inspiring Stellan Skarsgaard, and subtly impressive Cole Hauser are sprinkles on a touching sundae.
Good Will Hunting possesses excitement, adoration, and enrichment. It bares its soul, all good, bad, and ugly without skipping a beat. It enables the viewer to be accepting to its character’s flaws but still finds the wiggle room to fall head-over-heels in love with all. Gus Van Sant directs with passion and integrity while writers Affleck & Damon create some of the most authentic American characters in our modern-day cinema.
Cinematographer Jean Yves Escoffier gives a first person feel as if we are a part of this tale. Pietro Scalia edits and cuts the film with remarkable pace and even more, it makes for breathtaking story-making. In his most tender and inspired scores of his career, Danny Elfman digs deep into subtlety and restraint to let music add instead of guide a film of this nature.
First Time I Saw It: Senior year of high school, sitting home on my brother’s 42″ TV on DVD. It was 11:30 at night on a school night.
9. The Truman Show (1998)
Written by: Andrew Niccol
The Truman Show is an exploration of the mind and what you can find when you look a little deeper. Weir directs this film with precision and intense suspense as it goes from shot-to-shot. This film, nominated for three Academy Awards, tells the story of Truman Burbank, a seemingly normal man who sees the world around him may or may not be real. Many may remember that this was Jim Carrey’s first swing at a dramatic role. After giving brilliant comedic turns in Dumb and Dumber (1994) and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), Carrey was stretching his acting legs out and attempting more daring and innovative works. While his performance was not near perfect, I can surely applaud the effort. Truman’s scene with Marlon at the dock is a perfect example of how Carrey wasn’t quite there yet. Despite all its imperfections, Weir’s film still made a massive impact on my cinematic mind. It opened the door for Carrey to work in Man on the Moon (1999) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), two of his best portrayals. The great Ed Harris shows up as the “god-like father” of Truman’s world, Christof. Harris, who was nominated, gives one of his most polarizing and striking turns of his illustrious career. Co-stars Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, and the beautiful Natascha McElhone are all superb.
The real star is Andrew Niccol, whose wonderful script stands as one of the most innovative and creative written works of the 90s, perhaps all decades. And don’t forget the unsung hero, Burkhard von Dallwitz, the beautiful composer whose score, unbeknownst to me, remains one of Oscar’s dumbest omissions.
First Time I Saw It: On DVD, sophomore year of high school. I borrowed the DVD from my older brother and watched it with my best friend at the time. He hated it. I loved it.
8. The Odd Couple (1968)
Written by: Neil Simon
The most natural and dynamic duo, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were at the top of their game and showcased, along with an outstanding cast ensemble, one of the best comedic films in history. Despite the characters being completely bizarre, writer Neil Simon adapts his play with precision and wonderful detail. The film is light, well-mannered, and exceptionally acted by Lemmon and Matthau.
Nominated for two Academy Awards, Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing, the film has resonated so profoundly landing itself as a staple in comedic cinema. Oscar missed the boat.
The scene with all the guys playing poker is one of the most clever and crisp comedy scenes almost in existence.
First Time I Saw It: I was 7 years old. Channel 11 (which is now the CW where I live, formerly the WB…remember the WB frog?) was showing it on a Saturday afternoon with what felt like millions of commercial breaks. I thought it was the movie version of the TV show. I had no idea that this came first at the time. How naive a 7-year-old can be.
7. Dial M for Murder (1954)
Written by: Frederick Knott
Alfred Hitchcock has one of the most singular yet brilliant styles of directing probably ever seen in film history. Films like Psycho (1960), Rear Window (1954), and Rebecca (1940) were all highly considered. Dial M for Murder exhibits an identity and ability that Hitchcock never showed in his other films throughout his career.
This story, which later got “remade” into the abysmal A Perfect Murder (1998), has the most intricate and well-constructed mystery script probably ever written. Opening the same year as Rear Window probably explains its absence from nearly every award show, but it’s a classic that has resonated so fondly over its lifespan.
First Time I Saw It: I’ve been with my wife for about four years. She’s a Hitchcock fanatic! She told me this is one of Hitchcock’s most underrated. She couldn’t be more right. I was sitting in her parents house. Her cat Rusty laying on top of us, her mother walking in and out of the living room, and a midday dusk that added to the eerie nature. It was smart, reminiscent, and even more complex. A real treat. Guess that’s why I married her.
6. The Lion King (1994)
Written by: Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts & Linda Woolverton
Ugh, I could cry just thinking about all the great scenes in this Disney classic. Before Pixar was stealing our hearts with Finding Nemo (2004), Toy Story (1995), and Monster’s Inc. (2001), Disney was creating genuine souls like Timon, Pumbaa, Nala, Mufasa, and our central character Simba. All wonderful, all heart-warming.
Hans Zimmer composes the best score of his career while Elton John and Tim Rice write three of the finest songs for a film…ever. “Hakuna Matata,” “Circle of Life,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” inhabit fine lyrics, beautiful music, and pitch-perfect vocals. The Lion King is magical beyond any animated film I’ve ever seen and even more meaningful as I watched it eighteen years ago with a crying mom in a very cold theater.
First Time I Saw It: 1994, nearly ten years old. A mother, who knows the meaning of the loss of a parent all too well, takes me to the movies and bares her soul. I never knew my grandmother. Because of The Lion King, I think I did.
5. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Written by: Leigh Brackett & Lawrence Kasdan
Star Wars was groundbreaking. It was something special, something we’ve never seen before. How could George Lucas’ film ever be topped? Enter Irvin Kershner. I didn’t find out until college that Lucas hadn’t even directed the 1980 film. Kershner wasn’t, and even after his death in 2010, an iconic director. His resume has the likes of Robocop 2 (1990) and Never Say Never Again (1983). Kershner brought the return of Darth Vader, meaner and even more relentless than ever to stop the rebellion. Luke and Leia kiss (which if you know Return of the Jedi turns out to be completely gross), we meet the masterful Yoda, and we are given the most surprising and ultimate twist in movie history. What makes the film so dynamic is where we all watch the epic battle between good and evil in countless movie tales, this is one of the few films where the bad guy actually wins. And we like it. Han Solo frozen, Lando betrays the rebellion, and Luke loses his arm. Simply awesome!
First Time I Saw It: Don’t ask, but I watched the first three Star Wars films in reverse order. I was five, I was stupid. When I got to The Empire Strikes Back, my VHS tape was already worn out from my siblings but it had a significant impact on my weekend. When I saw it, I had to pop in Return of the Jedi to understand what I thought I already knew. Parents should supervise their children while attempting a franchise.
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
While many will cite the entire series as an achievement, Jackson’s final installment was an achievement in filmmaking that I haven’t witnessed before. I’ve never been one to typically fall for long-winded films, especially clocking in at over three-and-a-half hours long. I’ve never been that involved and enthralled by a story and ALL of its characters. Where Oscar recognized the film as Motion Picture of the Year and totaling eleven Oscar wins, its Cinematography and Supporting Actor Sean Astin were left nomination-less. I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful ending to a wonderful tale.
This is one of the rare occasions where I can see the blood, sweat, and tears in every frame. Jackson’s signature stamp, Ian McKellen’s wise old Gandalf, worn like an old blanket, and Viggo Mortensen, creating a unity among men, elves, dwarfs, and more importantly, every movie lover around the world.
First Time I Saw It: Sophomore year of college. I went to the movies with three other students, Frankie, Mike, and Andrew that were large fans of the franchise. Andrew thought we would see Frodo die. What sticks out significantly is the nightmare that followed that night of a huge spider running after me. Yuck!
3. American History X (1998)
Written by: David McKenna
Edward Norton came onto the scene with Primal Fear (1996), delivering a breakthrough performance that stands at the top of the 90′s. I couldn’t imagine he would burst out with such a raw, intense, and forceful performance. As a neo-nazi skinhead Derek, Norton gives us all two extremes of good and pure evil. While Edward Furlong as the temperamental Danny doesn’t even hold a candle to Norton’s work, but he lays his work subtly and confidentially.
Tony Kaye, who hasn’t shown much of a range after this, makes the most ingenious choices in delivery. Black and white for the past, color for the present, and pure blood for the future. Beverly D’Angelo is a return-to-form while Ethan Suplee and Guy Torry are expressive and pinnacle beings maneuvering through this tragedy.
First Time I Saw It: I was fifteen years old. It’s sophomore year of high school. Racism is not in the forefront of my everyday life. I do experience some prejudice, perhaps it was racism, I’m not sure. What I am sure is that in my living room, on a random day, I sat at the edge of my couch, marveling at this naked soul.
2. Forrest Gump (1994)
Written by: Eric Roth
Zemeckis’ film has a supernatural power I can’t explain. If it’s on TV, I must watch it. They show it a dozen times a year on TNT or TBS and it still feels like I’m watching it for the first time. Tom Hanks explodes into Forrest Gump unlike any actor portraying a person, fact or fiction. Sally Field walks on air as Mrs. Gump and shows the effortless range. Robin Wright as Jenny is one of the great tragic characters of modern-day cinema. Gary Sinise as Lt. Dan has never been better, before or after. Mykelti Williamson as Bubba gave a hint of what looked to be a promising career.
This film is utter perfection, front to back. I don’t know anything like it. It’s Zemeckis’ moment in history. Film schools will study this film. Some will disagree. I can’t ever find something that speaks more to my cinematic soul.
First Time I Saw It: I saw it in a packed movie theater. My mom and sister were there. I distinctly remember the scene where *SPOILER ALERT* Forrest is standing at Jenny’s grave, some young kids were laughing at Forrest crying. My mom screamed “shut the fuck up” (keep in mind, my mom is old school Puerto Rican lol). And they did. That’s power.
1. Dead Poets Society (1989)
Written by: Tom Schulman
I know what many of you are thinking…”really?”
I don’t care. This is the single, most important film in my life. I would not be a critic today without it. I wouldn’t have been in plays without it. I wouldn’t have found my love without it. I would not be alive. I’m not talking in a figurative sense. I mean it literally. This film saved my life.
Robin Williams is as inspiring as he’s ever been. Robert Sean Leonard is the heart and soul of the film. Ethan Hawke gave a glimpse to his promising future. This is Peter Weir’s moment in our existence. The story is timeless. Even in today’s society, where have much more freedom and free-will, there is always someone demanding and wanting more from us.
Have you ever dreamed? And I mean, REALLY want something more than you ever wanted anything? My mother always old me to do the best I can in school so I could be a doctor or a lawyer, or how she lovingly put often, “someone important.” When I was five, I wanted to act. That’s all I wanted to do. My mother hated the idea of it. She would say, “what’s your back-up plan?” That question followed me for years in my up-bringing. When I was seventeen, I was applying to colleges. I had applied to the likes of New York University, Dartmouth College, and Yale University. All rejected I might add. When it came down to landing in a school, I wanted to study film and acting. My mother asked me again, that fateful question that haunted me, “what is your back-up plan?” I had an answer this time. ”To be happy.”
Neil Perry gave me that answer when I was five years old. Mr. John Keating gave me that answer. Todd Anderson, Knox Overstreet, and Charlie Dalton gave that answer. I will thank them for that forever.
First Time I Saw It: I was five years old. For some odd reason, she brought it home for me. Why would she bring THIS movie home, I have no idea. Maybe her maternal instinct kicked in and she KNEW I would NEED it one day. I watched it and when it was finished, I went into my mother’s room and told her, “Mommy, I want to be in the TV.” My life would never be the same.
This is the end of the series. Probably my most personal piece. I hope this series gave you some insight into my wonderful staff and myself. Please include yours!
Tags: Dead Poets Society, Dial M for Murder, Disney, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Forrest Gump, Good Will Hunting, Greatest Films of All-Time, John Wayne, Peter Weir, Stand by Me, Taxi Driver, The Lion King, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Odd Couple, Top Ten Series