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  • Writer's pictureJohn Hansel

Top 10 Favorite Films of All-Time

I get bored at home and enjoy writing, so I thought it would be fun to make a list of my top 10 favorite movies of all-time because I never actually gave it true real thought. Sure, I have a bunch of favorite movies, but narrowing it down to 10?! That's a little more of a challenge for me.

What do I classify as a top 10 movie? How many times I've seen it? How memorable it was? How well it's ranked in the world of cinema? And what about including movies that I used to love? My taste has evolved substantially over the last 10-15 years, but 2 Fast 2 Furious used to be my favorite DVD if that says anything. I had my mom drive me to Wal-Mart for it after it came out, and it was a big deal.

The way I ended up choosing my top 10 was how much they influenced me and the way I watch movies as a whole. As cool as cars with NOS, underglow neons, and Tyrese's acting were, that movie didn't carry over and age well with me at all (or anyone). These are films that I have watched multiple times and have stuck with me to this day. In my eyes, they are crafted brilliantly in every way, and if you haven't seen or heard of any, then I highly recommend giving them a watch if you want to get lost in perfect acting, cinematography, and scriptwriting. Here we go:


10. (500) Days of Summer

Narrated by Richard McGonagle, impersonating Morgan Freeman, (500) Days of Summer is a story that follows a pair of co-workers turned couple across their 500-day rollercoaster relationship.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of my favorite actors. He can do it all, from being a pilot fighting off terrorist, to a tightrope artist walking between the Twin Towers in the 70's, to a hopeless romantic. His versatility is unmatched (except to Tom Hanks, my #1). I can't say the same for Zooey Deschanel, --as she is pretty cemented in her quirky, adorkable act, --but in this movie, she plays that role to a tee and fits in like a puzzle piece. The story jump around between the 500-day relationship, following Tom (JGL) falling for a girl he meets at his job named Summer (ZD), and Summer is unsure exactly what she wants in life. It's based on a real-life situation that happened to writer/director Marc Webb, and it's a tale that I feel most humans can relate to, no matter which side you are on.

I love the movie immensely because it takes a simple love story, and turns it on its head. There are so many creative ways in showing you Tom's thoughts, like when after sleeping with Summer for the first time, his walk to work turns into a brightly colored animated musical with the city dancing along with him. Or showing a side-by-side split-screen of Tom being at a party with Summer with his high expectations of a great time vs. the harsh reality of it not going very well. And the end scene is a major crowd-pleaser that really is the cherry on top of everything.


9. Uncut Gems

I know this movie just came out in 2019, but holy ****, it is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Directed by brothers Benny and Josh Safdie, and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, you know you're in for a wild ride with an air-tight screenplay and award-winning acting. Adam Sandler gives a performance of a lifetime, one I will seriously never forget, along with Idina Menzel and newcomer Julia Fox.

Howard Ratner (Sandler) is a gambling-addicted jewelry dealer that constantly puts himself in awful predicaments with risky bets. His family hates him, his co-workers can barely stand him, and goons are constantly after him for money that he owes them. You can't look away at the mess created on-screen. And don't get me started on how good the sound design is. The Safdie Brothers purposefully make you uncomfortable by using very loud layered audio and dialog to make you squirm in your seat, and from one scene to the next, the tension is nearly unbearable. The film comes to a boiling point that is unlike anything I've ever seen, and for that, I consider it a must-watch. I can't wait to see what the Safdie Brother's have up their sleeve next.


8. The Dark Knight

The best "superhero" movie of all-time in my opinion, --and yes, it's not from Marvel. This helped continue the movement of superhero movies not being so damn cheesy and campy. It grounded them in reality and made them actually believable, and with Christopher Nolan behind the wheel, you know the movie is in meticulously good hands (especially after the success of Batman Begins).

Christian Bale returns as Batman, and you can actually envision him as a real-life Bruce Wayne. But the real star of the show is Heath Ledger as Joker, who arguably will go down as the greatest villain ever on screen. His performance is legendary, and unfortunately, lead to his death from him being so in character and taking painkillers. What makes the movie stand out as being so great is that it isn't just good guy vs. bad guy, but rather a look into the psychology of how people act together in the face of imminent danger. Are they selfish and only look for the immediate effect of saving themselves, or do they sacrifice and look ahead to see the greater good and safety of everyone? And the stunts and set pieces are unreal and completely unmatched to this day. The entire Batpod and semi flipping scene still give me goosebumps every single time I watch it. Christoper Nolan strips away music during the action scenes and relies only on sound effects, to a chilling effect. If you haven't seen this yet, what are you waiting for?


7. The Shining

The Shining, based on a bestselling book by Stephen King, is about a writer who is secluded in an empty hotel with his wife and son for the winter. Jack Nicholson plays this role as a tormented author named Jack Torrance, and he does it so well that it is uncomfortable to watch, which is REALLY tough to actually do in a movie. The atmosphere of the giant hotel even acts as its own character, with strange sightings and occurrences happening around every corner.

The production of the movie is also infamous, with Director Stanley Kubrick asking for 50+ takes from the actors, trying to get them purposefully exhausted and their stressed-out emotions as real as possible. Shelley Duvall, who plays Jack's wife, also gives an incredible performance throughout the entire movie, but especially once the shit hits the fan. The pacing and build-up are masterfully done, making it a universal classic of suspense and horror.


6. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

I really do remember watching all three Star Wars movies as a kid, but The Empire Strikes Back left the biggest impression on me. My parents bought me the gold boxed full-screen special edition VHS tapes, and I would bring them over to my friends' sleepovers and insist we watch them. I was probably annoying, but dammit, I had to show all my buddies the greatness of Star Wars! It had action, great characters, and an awesome story.

It was only after I grew up that I realized it was so much more than that. The influence and impact it had on the world of cinema were unparalleled. No one had confidence in George Lucas and his film crew, the story, the setting, anything about it. It was a band of misfits and outsiders trying to create a sci-fi space opera, and no one thought it would sell in the 70's. Now it's the 2nd biggest film franchise of all-time, next to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's a story of thinking outside the box, doing something different even if no one believes in you, and creating a kickass universe that could only be imagined by the craziest of minds.


5. The Florida Project

This movie made me feel something I never felt before. I'm not even sure exactly what the feeling was, but I got it. It may have been something to do with how intimate it was, by telling a micro-story of an incredibly poor family living in a motel right outside of Disney World in Florida. Maybe it was the different perspective it gave me about a place in the world that is supposed to be so magical, only to see so how much suffering and poverty is actually happening directly outside of it.

It follows a young woman and her daughter who badly struggle to keep their head above water while living in a rundown, yet vibrant motel community. The lead is played by Bria Vinaite, who was found on Instagram by Director Sean Baker, who had no previous acting experience. And the young lead, Brooklynn Prince, does an absolutely amazing job playing the part of an oblivious child who is slowly realizing the situation she's in. Lastly, it also shows the point of view of the sympathetic motel owner, played flawlessly by Willem Dafoe. This is one of those movies that people may say "has no plot and doesn't go anywhere", but watching The Florida Project is still worth the watch for the personal world it builds and the experience it delivers.


4. Goodfellas

What's there to be said that hasn't about the masterful mob classic Goodfellas? Directed by one of the greats, and my personal favorite, Martin Scorsese, I'd say this is arguably his best work. Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci are all on their A-game, and you get engrossed in their mob life almost immediately. It is a turbulently told epic saga of an up-and-coming mafia boss's journey that goes by quick, even at its two-and-half-hour runtime.

It's has everything: colorful characters who are constantly backstabbing each other, suspenseful dialog that makes you feel right there and uncomfortable, and mob movie violence that is still the gold standard today. If you somehow haven't seen this classic yet, then put it on your todo list. And don't watch the TNT made-for-cable version, it's a completely different movie when censored!


3. There Will Be Blood

I just recently watched this for the first time not too long ago, but it deserves its #3 spot. I try not to throw the word masterpiece around, but There Will Be Blood deserves the title: it is a true cinema masterpiece. Director Paul Thomas Anderson gives you a front-row seat to the life of an evil, twisted oil tycoon in the early 1900s.

It has poignant themes of family, religion, and capitalism, all of which had my mind racing for days after my first viewing. You see Daniel Day-Lewis at his career-best, balancing the highs and lows of trying to build an oil empire, the hardships of raising a deaf son that he doesn't connect with, and the battle of a town's religion being imposed on him, --all magnificently shot across the barren landscapes of Marfa, Texas. And don't sleep on Paul Dano's performance either. It is stellar, which is incredible because he didn't even know he was going to act in the movie until four days before the film began shooting. "I drink your milkshake!"


2. Toy Story

Toy Story is definitely my most-watched movie on this list. It was on repeat when I was a kid, along with Mortal Kombat and The Addams Family. It was the first 3D animated feature-length film to ever be released in the early 90's, making Toy Story a household name and setting up Pixar as a force to be reckoned with in the world of cinema.

Starring the voices of Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story is about a group of toys, owned by a young boy named Andy, that must save each other from a vicious neighbor named Sid (like you even needed a synopsis of this one). I know that I was too young to really grasp how big of a deal Toy Story was when it was released, but the fact that Pixar made you able to actually feel emotions for computer-graphic toys was revolutionary. Even as a kid, I knew I loved it and wanted to watch it again and again, and now as a dude in his 30s, it still holds up well today.


1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I remember the first time I watched this one. I didn't really know what I was getting into, besides that it was a more serious movie for Jim Carrey and supposed to be kinda weird. I'll even admit that I didn't understand it after finishing it for the first time. All I know is that I really enjoyed it, and that it needed a second viewing sometime soon so I could interpret it better. Like after most movies I watch, I also went on IMDB to look at the trivia. After reading that most of the VFX were done practically, I watched it again sooner than later. It was only after the second watch that I truly understood everything and had my mind blown. It's one of those films that after multiple viewings, you come to realize that this movie is pure genius. Writer and Director Charlie Kaufman wrote one of the best and most interesting love stories ever captured on screen (yes, more than Titanic, which Kate Winslet also starred in).

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are incredible together in this film. Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, and Elijah Wood all play superb supporting characters as well. The plot is intricate and moves at a perfect pace, with them slowly getting to know each other and fall in love, all while simultaneously being torn apart by a company that offers a service to erase someone from your memory called Lacuna Inc. The VFX were mostly practical too, which also makes this movie stand out above the rest. The cherry on top is that the soundtrack was performed by Jon Brion, who finds the perfect balance between whimsical and haunting melodies to play over scenes, like elephants walking in Time Square, or trying to outrun a memory at a drive-in theater. There is no other movie even close to it in my eyes, and it's truly the best. One of a kind.


Not that anyone cared, but there you have it, my top ten films of all-time. These are the movies that make me want to keep creating, learning, and evolving. They made a lasting impression that I will never forget and pushed the boundaries of anything else I've ever seen. They can make you feel certain emotions, or trigger a memory, or just provide entertainment (and there's nothing wrong with that.) But most importantly, they can make you contemplate aspects about your own life. Films can be that powerful, which will never cease to amaze me.


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