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My Take On the Best of the Best Movies Ever, Part Four

View Chris Kavan's Profile

By Chris Kavan - 04/03/13 at 01:06 PM CT

Here we go with part four of my epic Best Picture-winning Oscar countdown. This is the penultimate list: number 20 down to 11 - and we're really getting into the cream of the crop. These are the movies I would not only recommend but have gone so far as to shape the cinematic landscape. It's getting near the end, but it's not over yet. But we're really getting into the good stuff now - let's see if you agree:


 photo SilenceoftheLambs_zps8f5903ad.jpg

Anthony Hopkins portrays one of the greatest and creepiest villains of all time in his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. The greatest part is he makes you sympathize with a man who thinks nothing of eating a fellow human. Add Jodie Foster and and Ted Levine (as the equally horrific Jame Gumb) and things just fall into place nicely. This is one thriller that lives up to its title and remains one of the best examples of modern horror in my mind.


 photo Ben-Hur_zpsf10b1819.jpg

There's a lot more to this epic film than just a wicked chariot race. The sweeping grandeur of the story combined with the excellent characters make this a film that truly lives up to its epic nature. Plus, it is concurrent with the life of Christ and that religious undercurrent adds to the deeper meaning of the film, even if you aren't a religious person. Long movies often get bogged down - but I think this one holds up quite well and it is one of those movies every fan of cinema should watch at least once.


 photo AllQuietontheWesternFront_zpsbb0dc818.jpg

This is the earliest film on my list. The concept that war is hell has been around a lot longer than Vietnam. All Quiet on the Western Front explores a group of German youths in WWI from their early fervor to slowly falling into disillusionment and despair. This is not a film that shows the heroism and honor of war but the opposite side of the coin - the soul-crushing bitterness and daily drudgery. It's honest and cruel - much like war itself.


 photo LastEmperor_zps952c876c.jpg

Biopics tend to get a bogged down and drag on - but Bernardo Bertolucci creates a tapestry that weaves a dramatic history of the last emperor of China - from young ruler to a obscure peasant - and he does it with compelling characters and indelible images. This is often considered one of the last, great epics and it lives up to that title just as much as Ben-Hur. Even if you're not a fan of history, I highly recommend this as it leaves an impression that is hard to forget.


 photo Amadeus_zps9c332e1b.jpg

First off, yes I am aware how grossly inaccurate the film is at portraying the life of legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Even though I slapped Gladiator and Braveheart for taking liberties - it's just that Amadeus is on another level than the two previous films and although I can't forgive the atrocious history lesson - I can appreciate this in a much better light. A lot of that credit has to go to F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce for their performances as Antonio Salieri and Mozart respectively. Plus you have the music - glorious music - worth to watch the film for that fact alone. Is it perfect? No - but even if the details are a bit muddled, it remains worthy of its Best Picture title.


 photo Rebecca_zps519b5925.jpg

Before Alfred Hitchcock lives up to his title of Master of Suspense here. A woman marries only to find her new estate - and husband - have yet to move on from the death of his first wife, Rebecca. But it is the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), whose presence truly wrecks havoc. Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier are simply perfect in their roles and Anderson shines. This is a film where you have to pay attention - but that attention is worth it - as the ending is magnificent and puts modern shocking ends to shame. One of Hitchcock's best in my opinion - and that's saying a lot right there.


 photo WestSideStory_zps5c0af137.jpg

You can find Shakespeare adaptations strewn across the cinematic landscape. As far as I know West Side Story is the only one that benefits from the fantastic compositions from Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. I'm not afraid to admit that I appreciate musicals. But that music has to be done right and it doesn't get any better to me than West Side Story. Add in the excellent choreography to go with the music - and the inspired casting (even if the singing was dubbed over) and you have a recipe for success. Even if you hate musicals, I don't see how you can hate this film. Despite the downer ending (we are talking Romeo and Juliet here) it's a quite uplifting film.


 photo Patton_zpsb6eb4d7f.jpg

Man - I just have biopics coming out left and right on this list. When dealing with someone as well-known and monumental as General George S. Patton - you better get the casting right. Thankfully Franklin J. Schaffner settled on George C. Scott and it's a good thing too. From that opening monologue (one of the best film openings of all time, in my opinion) you know this film means business. Scott may not have always felt his performance lived up to the real man, but from what I can see on screen, he did him justice. I'm sure things were glossed over - but this is a man's man - and Scott makes the role his own and the supporting cast is just as good.


 photo FrenchConnection_zps22731386.jpg

William Friedkin's crime drama, centered around Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (an excellent Gene Hackman) and his mission to stop suave crime boss Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) remains one of greatest examples of film in its genre. Just the overall attitude will win you over - the gritty, urban environment and characters that fit right alongside. Plus it has one of the best car chase scenes ever put on film - but, much like the chariot race in Ben-Hur - the movie is so much more than that. Action with attitude - this is how it's done.


 photo Platoon_zpse46c2245.jpg

I actually saw this film a lot later than some other Vietnam-era films, but it quickly moved up to the top of that list. Much like Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket - the movie isn't afraid to depict the horrors of war. But it goes much deeper as it presents a crisis that is both moral and psychological. The cast helps out a lot as Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger and yes, even Charlie Sheen, are all at the top of their game. Much like All Quiet on the Western front - it follows a group of young men as they go from naive innocence to disillusionment (and often death) - it holds a lot of power - power that has diminished at all since its release.

Next week I'll finally count down my top 10. I hope you'll stick with me until then - and I am more than happy to see your comments.


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Wrote on 04/04/13 at 09:22 AM CT

These last 20 films were surprisingly hard to rank because at this point they are are (in my mind) excellent films. I was rather late in watching Platoon (I'm sure I saw it when I was younger - but obviously tastes change greatly when you get older) - but I have to say it left quite the impression and I think it holds up better than many other so-called war films.

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Daniel Corleone

Wrote on 04/03/13 at 11:58 PM CT

Expectations for #12 and 18 were not for me in terms of being Oscar worthy or being a great movie. Silence should hve been rated higher in my opinion and glad to see Platoon rank so high, though not everybody on the site seems that it was all that great. Rewatching it again a couple months back shows how really well-directed it was. Ben-Hur is an epic and surprisingly refreshing after a rewatch as well. Can't wait for the top 10.

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