The 251 Best Damn Films of All-Time (Part Eight)

Part One |Part Two |Part Three |Part Four |Part Five |Part Six |Part Seven | Part Nine |Top 25

75. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Director: John Schlesinger (1)

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy is all over the place thematically, but that’s the beauty of this story and film. Jon Voight as the oddball Cowboy traveling to the big city, alongside my favorite Dustin Hoffman performance, makes this experience so bizarre and special. The way each plot point is framed and presented is different and no aspect of this film is the same. It’s absolutely brilliant. Few films have a spirit to it like Midnight Cowboy that can’t be replicated.

“Whoopee-tee-yi-yo. Get along little dogies. It’s your misfortune and none of my own.”

74. Hoop Dreams (1994)

Director: Steve James (1)

William Gates in Hoop Dreams (1994)

Hoop Dreams is a deeply personal story to me, considering my background as an AAU basketball player and quite frankly the best documentary ever made about real people. A film about hopes and dreams, dealing with the socioeconomic climate in Chicago, the public school system, and the reality of reaching for those hopes and dreams and coming up short. It also shows that the real story is oftentimes as entertaining as the stories we tell each other and life plays out in peculiar ways.

“That’s why when somebody say, “when you get to the NBA, don’t forget about me”, and that stuff. Well, I should’ve said to them, “if I don’t make it, don’t you forget about me.”

73. Raging Bull (1980)

Director: Martin Scorsese (6)

Robert De Niro in Raging Bull (1980)

Raging Bull is a masterfully made film that hits on every aspect of the production. It’s not my favorite Scorsese, but it’s undoubtedly his best directed as the intensity and passion never cease throughout the film and Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Jake LaMotta feels like a ticking time bomb, never knowing it when he’ll go off. The message at the heart of the film is so meaningful while exposing the dangers of a person like LaMotta. It’s a great Schrader script, but Michael Chapman’s cinematography is some of the best ever.

“You’re a sick bastard, I feel sorry for you, I really do. You know what you should do? Try a little more fucking and a little less eating, so you won’t have problems upstairs in the bedroom and you pick on me and everybody else. You understand me, you fucking wacko? You’re cracking up! Fucking screw ball ya!”

72. Opening Night (1977)

Director: John Cassavetes (2)

There are few things in life as intoxicating as watching Gena Rowlands act, and her performance as the aging, alcoholic star of broadway stands alone. Cassavetes uses a familiar rough structure and pacing but that only enhances what Rowland’s is doing in this otherworldly performance. Arguably the greatest performance of all-time.

“I thought that small talk was too small, I thought big talk was too pretentious, I thought music was noise, and I thought art was bullshit.”

71. Vertigo (1958)

Director: Alfred Hitchock (4)

Hypnotizing as the spiral down this intricate and maddening story through this wonderfully stylized and lush film permeates throughout this complicated story of desire. In terms of the craft, it’s striking what Hitchcock was able to accomplish. The detail on each scene, specifically with color and shocking editing, makes it an all-time great. A perfectionist film.

“Here I was born, and there I died. It was only a moment for you; you took no notice.”

70. Taste of Cherry (1997)

Director: Abbas Kiarostami (2)

Image result for taste of cherry cinematography

The introspective nature of an Abbas Kiarostami script is what makes his film experiences so lasting and memorable. In Taste of Cherry, there’s a unique dichotomy and direction each conversation takes and the film grasps an entire worldview based on the variety of people Homayoun Ershadi encounters on his distressing journey through his past life and the final decision he’s made. The course of each conversation is beyond fascinating and the responses to Mr. Badii’s request are so measured and authentic. It’s not only that these conversations took place, but the context of when and who they took place with that makes the subject of their conversations so enthralling. The conversational direction is flawless.

“If you look at the four seasons, each season brings fruit. In summer, there’s fruit, in autumn, too. Winter brings different fruit and spring, too. No mother can fill her fridge with such a variety of fruit for her children. No mother can do as much for her children as God does for His creatures. You want to refuse all that? You want to give it all up? You want to give up the taste of cherries?”

69. Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi (2)

Yoshiaki Hanayagi and Kinuyo Tanaka in Sanshô dayû (1954)

The fall from grace into the loss of freedom in stark contrast, putting the audience in that state of mind of the idea that our freedoms were stripped and the horror of that situation. Mizoguchi’s masterful direction from standstill yet violent cinematography to the period set designs immerse us in their suffering in a way that’s never felt so real. Fantastic film with some of the best cinematography of all-time from legendary DP Kazuo Miyagawa, the beauty of the world shrouded in misery is at the heart of this story and is its cinematic language.

“Zushio, I wonder if you’ll become a stubborn man like me. You may be too young to understand, but hear me out anyway. Without mercy, man is like a beast. Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others. Men are created equal. Everyone is entitled to their happiness.”

68. Adaptation (2002)

Director: Spike Jonze (1)

Nicolas Cage in Adaptation. (2002)

Charlie Kaufman can write layers on top of layers in a screenplay better than anyone in history, and Adaptation is all layers. Two Nic Cages playing Kaufman himself where he writes a story with the intent of nothing happening, no falling resolution of tension to the narrative. It’s brilliant meta-writing that I find almost intoxicating. Nic Cage is on another level here, and while the whole cast is phenomenal, Cage turns this into something special playing two roles. Ultimately endearing but an incredibly confusing dive into the psyche of Kaufman.

Charlie Kaufman: Sir, what if the writer is attempting to create a story where nothing much happens? Where people don’t change, they don’t have any epiphanies, they struggle and are frustrated and nothing is resolved. More a reflection of the real world.
Robert McKee: The real world?
Charlie Kaufman: Yes, sir.

67. Memories of Murder (2003)

Director: Bong Joon-ho (1)

Kang-ho Song, Sang-kyung Kim, Hee-Bong Byun, Roe-ha Kim, and No-shik Park in Salinui chueok (2003)

Bong Joon-ho’s first masterpiece is the incredibly meaningful and tense mystery thriller Memories of Murder. A frustrating investigation following the two seemingly mindless but overly dedicated leads, one played endearingly by legendary Korean actor Song Kang-ho, gives us the full gamut of commentary and emotional connection to this story. Bong’s control over tone is second to none. He can make this important story feel childish and small and then massive and crucial. He balances it all so well. And it’s just a gorgeously shot and edited film.

Detective Park Doo-Man: What did he look like?
Schoolgirl: Well… kind of plain.
Detective Park Doo-Man: In what way?
Schoolgirl: Just… ordinary

66. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola (2)

Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now (1979)

Francis Ford Coppola’s journey through the psyche of a broken man, metaphorically and literally represented through the Vietnam war and the river that guides them through to the heart of darkness. Coppola’s dreary and devastating dive into Marlon Brando’s (Colonel Kurtz) escape from reality and this is shown beautifully in a visual sense. Some of the most incredible cinematography ever.

“Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell? The whole hill. Smelled like… victory. Someday this war’s gonna end.”

65. Pather Panchali (1955)

Director: Satyajit Ray (2)

Subir Banerjee and Uma Das Gupta in Pather Panchali (1955)

Satyajit Ray’s masterpiece on familial bonds in the face of a hateful community that doesn’t try to understand from this family’s perspective. Extremely touching film despite its simplicities and there’s an overwhelming sense of beauty through filmmaking towards people and nature. The performances don’t feel like acting, more like existing and reacting. A hard film to watch on the surface level, but an essential watch to understand deeper human complexities and our struggle to understand. Shows Satyajit Ray’s special talent as a craftsman.

“Those who came before have passed on. And I’m left behind. A penniless beggar. Not a cowrie to my name. Look, my purse is empty… Lord, the day is done and evening falls. Ferry me across to the other shore…”

64. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Director: John Frankenheimer (2)

Laurence Harvey, Khigh Dhiegh, and Richard LePore in The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

John Frankenheimer is an unbelievable director and Manchurian Candidate is his masterpiece. A platoon of captured US soldiers gets brainwashed in one of the most compactly and impactful edited scenes in film history. The editing done through perspective leads this film down interesting paths and structurally speaking, allows the narrative to play out in a specific sense. The film also features an all-time great performance in a supporting role from Angela Lansbury, but Frankenheimer is the sole focus here and he tells this story with an emphasis on the aesthetic. Grand film that is stunningly memorable with an all-time great score from David Amram.

“Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”

63. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Director: Quentin Tarantino (2)

Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. A script that constantly keeps you guessing and a story that comes full-circle in an obscurely satisfying way. It’s mired in distinct style and sprinkled with Tarantino’s sharp and momentous dialogue. A film made up of individually great moments that come together. It’s amazing what happens when everything comes together succinctly. A beautifully stylish painting of masculinity and violence.

“Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?”

62. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Director: Alexander Mackendrick (1)

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Every line muttered, shouted, sternly discussed, whispered under the breath, or simply said out loud is quotable in Sweet Smell of Success. The deeper meanings going into tabloid journalism and the toxicity that follows, but it’s the amazing script and specifically the dialogue that turns this great script into something legendary. Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster as the leads, playing sleazy newspapermen is what they were born to play. A larger than life film with just an old-school, quick speaking Hollywood script that checks every box.

“I love this dirty town.”

61. Throne of Blood (1957)

Director: Akira Kurosawa (7)

Toshirô Mifune in Kumonosu-jô (1957)

In one of Mifune’s most eccentric roles as the Macbeth figure, his unconfident, bold, easily influenced portrayal alongside the powerful and brilliant Isuzu Yamada makes for some of the best drama put on film. In the best film adaptation of Shakespeare ever conceived, the use of dreams and nightmares play right into Kurosawa’s idea for the narrative. It’s absolutely genius and is beautifully directed, shot, and produced by Kurosawa and company.

“Men are vain and death is long, And pride dies first within the grave, For hair and nails are growing still, When face and fame are gone, Nothing in this world will save, Or measure up man’s actions here, Nor in the next – for there is none, This life must end in fear, Only evil may maintain, An afterlife for those who will, Who love this world – who have no son, To whom ambition calls, Even so – this false fame falls, Death will reign – man dies in vain.”

60. Spirited Away (2001)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (3)

Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001)

Spirited Away overflows with creativity. One of the most vibrant and beautiful films in existence. Miyazaki’s meticulously crafted fairy tale is a truly unique experience. Each place, character, and story element is overflowing with life and color. It’s an extraordinary oil painting that tells an extraordinary story of coexisting. It’s not Miyazaki’s best film, but undoubtedly his most exquisite.

Chihiro: You don’t remember your name?
Haku: No, but for some reason I remember yours.

59. Akira (1988)

Director: Katsuhiro Otomo (1)

Akira (1988)

The stunning visual storytelling through the world-building of a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo, a world destroyed by Akira and rebirthed through Tetsuo. The hallucination images and dark undertones caught through the colors and tone are remarkable. The editing organically fits a large chunk of the story seamlessly into a two-hour film. It’s a very memorable experience and one of great artistic value. The first anime that showed me the potential stored away in this medium.

“The future is not a straight line. It is filled with many crossroads. There must be a future that we can choose for ourselves.”

58. Days of Heaven (1978)

Director: Terrence Malick (2)

Days of Heaven (1978)

Malick’s most concise and interconnected narrative feature and a beautiful one at that. Combining his grandiose approach to the imagery by grounding the narrative heavily in the lives of a loving couple. It’s Malick’s swan song, able to convey the relatable of suffering through all people with the sheer amount of extraordinary beauty in the world. Scored through Ennio Morricone’s epic theme that is flowing with life. Masterfully edited, shot, and writing. A story looking back on better days.

“Nobody’s perfect. There was never a perfect person around. You just have half-angel and half-devil in you”

57. Silence (2016)

Director: Martin Scorsese (7)

Ryô Kase, Andrew Garfield, and Nana Komatsu in Silence (2016)

Silence is stunning. Scorsese’s underseen magnum opus is an unnerving and brutal depiction of religion in feudal-era Japan, led by Andrew Garfield’s captivating beyond words performance of immense pain and bondage through his journey to understanding. The direction from Scorsese is immaculate as this film hits hard emotionally, philosophically, and spiritually unlike any other film. The actual use of silence in the film is masterfully done. Scorsese’s masterpiece.

“I pray but I am lost. Am I just praying to silence?”

56. Enter The Void (2009)

Director: Gaspar Noe (1)

Paz de la Huerta in Enter the Void (2009)

Enter The Void shows the true genius of Gaspar Noe and his decidedly distinct taste in narratives and finding new ways to tell stories. Benoit Debie’s perfectly shot cinematography coupled with Noe’s eye for evocative aesthetic set-designs makes this an ecstasy-like experience. It’s a devastatingly real human story led by two great, cerebral performances from Paz De La Huerta and Cyril Roy. An unrepeated masterpiece.

“Do you remember that pact we made? We promised to never leave each other.”

55. The Seventh Seal (1957)

Director: Ingmar Bergman (3)

Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot in Det sjunde inseglet (1957)

In Ingmar Bergman’s incredible exploration into the presence of death, Max Von Sydow leads a beautiful yet completely haunting journey into life. Bergman’s surrealism allows the narrative to go to unique places, as with Bibi Anderson delivering one of the great moments in film history, breathing her last breath, or Death showing up for a game of chess. It’s a film that is entirely unique to the medium and has never been replicated.

“I want to confess as best I can, but my heart is void. The void is a mirror. I see my face and feel loathing and horror. My indifference to men has shut me out. I live now in a world of ghosts, a prisoner in my dream”

54. Magnolia (1999)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (3)

Tom Cruise in Magnolia (1999)

One of the most audacious narratives ever made – six separate but interconnected storylines, all dealing with the inability to love or the contrast to that. It’s a balancing act of love and desire, life and death, all captured through these six diametrically opposed characters that all eventually reach the same narrative stopping point that is visually stunning and completely unexpected. It might be the most extraordinary end to a film in history. However, the cast is the strength of this film. Tom Cruise has never been better, and his hyper-masculine but the broken role was perfect for him. Julianne Moore, Phillip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman all at their emotional peak.

“What am I doing? I’m quietly judging you.”

53. Yojimbo (1961)

Director: Akira Kurosawa (8)

Yôjinbô (1961)

Toshiro Mifune. Tatsuya Nakadai. Facing off in the best pure western ever made. A duel for the ages, masterfully edited, acted, and shot. An almost perfect film.

“I’m not dying yet. I have to kill quite a few men first.”

52. F For Fake (1973)

Director: Orson Welles (3)

F for Fake (1973)
F for Fake a film about fakery and fraud. Told through the mouthpiece of one of the great forgers of our time, the indomitable Orson Welles, it’s a story that understands its own vision. A film that was not only trying to inform about the great Elmyr, or the subtle yet deceptive Cliff Irving: the author of the Elmyr book. F for Fake is a masterpiece of sight, sound, and a complete sham.

“Ladies and gentleman, by way of introduction, this is a film about trickery, fraud, about lies. Tell it by the fireside or in a marketplace or in a movie, almost any story is almost certainly some kind of lie. But not this time. This is a promise. For the next hour, everything you hear from us is really true and based on solid fact.”

51. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Director: Peter Weir (2)

Anne-Louise Lambert in Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Peter Weir telling the mystifying disappearances of a group of schoolgirls on a picnic seemingly escaping to another realm of existence. A journey into the unexplainable and the ethereal aspect to these girls and the sheer confusion of losing them without explanation. Weir holds your attention the entire runtime, and crafts the narrative to keep us as perplexed as every character. It’s hard to explain the alluring nature to Picnic at Hanging Rock.

“What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream”

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