5. The Matrix/The Animatrix
No science fiction story excites me more than one that is grounded in realism. Every moment of The Matrix is saturated with über cool style and pizazz, matched with an intriguing story that brings the audience along for the ride through its bewildered protagonist, Neo. I adore The Matrix as much for its genre-defining action as I do for its visual chops and story-driven narrative. Characters we can truly root for, matched with some intriguing dialogue sprinkled with discussions of some basic philosophical questions, make this a movie no one should miss.
I know I cheated here, but I think it is absolutely worth mentioning The Animatrix alongside The Matrix itself. This animated anthology of stories set within the universe of The Matrix is an incredible look into the concepts that the original film was based on. From fascinating story of the rise of the machine in The Second Renaissance to the dazzling 3D imagery of Final Flight of the Osiris, every story has something to offer here. Any fan of The Matrix should check this out post-haste.
4. Dumb and Dumber
A dumb film for smart people – I cannot think of a better way to describe the Farrelly Brothers’ Dumb and Dumber than that. This movie has long stood as my favorite straight-up comedy, and for good reason. The timeless performances of both Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne resonated with audiences in 1994, and continued to do so for years to come as we re-watch the film over and over on VHS, DVD, and now Blu-Ray. In a movie rash with obvious jokes and gross-out humor, there is a certain brilliance to the subtlety with which the screenwriters (also in part the work of the Farrelly Brothers) include multiple references and homages to older films. In much the same of Zoolander, Dumb and Dumber is nothing short of a brilliant examination of impossibly stupid people.
I’m so glad they never made a prequel spin-off, that would have been a disaster.
3. The Boondock Saints
This is a film that has had the critical word in a turmoil since its initial release in 1999. Opening on a world ripe for the anti-violence campaign led by Bill Clinton himself later that year, The Boondock Saints met with little to no financial success initially. Those critics who did see the film derided it as a poor man’s Tarantino – a testosterone-addled vanity piece with little to no redeeming features whatsoever. And I will admit, a part of me must continually self-monitor my love of the film each year to be sure that my affinity for the film is not merely a product of my rage-filled adolescent masculine mind. As it stands, however, the movie remains an excellent piece of escapist fantasy that maintains a level of self-mocking B-movie humor and a strong sense of silliness throughout.
Never before, or since, has a movie been so stunningly beautiful that it actually moved me. To quote Terry Crews, “You could literally take each piece of that movie, frame it, and it would stand as a piece of art.” 300 has been criticized many times for its overly-macho themes and somewhat thin plot, but I have not found a movie that so accurately captures the work of a graphic novel and faithfully transfers it to the screen as well as 300. It remains to be seen if Zack Snyder can truly be counted as a masterful filmmaker due the inconsistency in quality of his other films – but as far as I’m concerned, 300 will always be considered a masterwork.
1. Withnail & I
Withnail & I can glibly be described as the tale of two out-of-work actors in late-60s London who have themselves a drunken stint in the countryside of England, as its synopsis most commonly states. However, the true beauty of this film, and why it has the top spot on my Top Ten list, is its intense examination of the strange, off-beat relationship between the eponymous Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and his friend (Paul McGann).
The movie revolves around Paul McGann’s growing success as an actor, something that is setting him apart from his roommate. As the film evolves, we are treated to an in-depth look at Withnail’s self-destructive tendencies and his increasinjly apparent sadness at the thought of his friend leaving him behind. So many one-liners came out of this film that one might consider it a black comedy, but I think “dramedy” is the best term to classify Withnail. It is absolutely hilarious, to be sure, but it is simultaneously a solemn and serious look at a man on the brink of losing his best and only friend.
It should be noted that aside from the protagonists, there are also absolutely brilliant performances all around from the secondary characters in Withnail & I. In particular, I found Richard Griffith’s portrayal of the flamboyant Uncle Monty and Ralph Brown’s sardonic drug dealer, Danny, to be incredibly memorable.
So? Good list? Bad list? List? Leave your thoughts in the comments!