14. Before Sunset
Love stories at the movies might be the biggest cliché since a dozen roses and a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day, but no one tells an ordinary story in extraordinary ways like Richard Linklater. Before Sunrise is a whimsical tale of romance between two strangers on a train, but what really fleshes out the first and third installments of this beautifully human trilogy is Before Sunset.
Now we see Jesse and Celine in their mid-thirties as grown-ups with professional careers, adult lives and fully formed opinions on the world around them. This film truly roots the story in reality while continuing the story to make the first film not seem like another 90’s movie about a couple twenty-somethings figuring out their lives while they fall in love.
Before Sunset makes the story of the entire trilogy more believable, but it’s refreshing to see a grounded story reflect the reality of romantic relationships much more accurately than the typical Hollywood fare onscreen. As we see Jesse and Celine fall in love again, their story seems much less like a fairy tale and much more like fate.
With the beautiful landscapes of Paris serving as the backdrop to this enchantingly simplistic concept for a story, Before Sunset acts as a reassuring reminder that there is still room for human stories in Hollywood.
13. Die Hard With a Vengeance
John MClane is a cop straight out of the Dirty Harry mold, with a silver tongue, a heart of gold and a chip on both shoulders that’s having a bad day. The only thing worse than his hangover is having to go head to head with the brother of his enemy in the first installment portrayed by Jeremy Irons.
You throw Samuel L. Jackson in there kicking ass alongside Bruce Willis and that’s a recipe for success like fishing with dynamite or cooking with gasoline. The only thing John needs other than a couple aspirin, one more cigarette and another clip of ammo is to figure out how to save New York City from being blown to kingdom come.
The amazing thing about John McClane is you can throw him in literally any situation and he never fails to make it exciting, entertaining and humorous. He even manages to turn the scene in the elevator within the Federal Reserve into a shoot-out. Although the rest of the Die Hard sequels lacked the franchises trademark bite, Die Hard With a Vengeance is the closest thing fans have gotten since the original.
12. Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
The Star Trek series is notoriously known for their wide array of evil villains, but none of them quite topped Khan’s personal vendetta for vengeance against Kirk.
Although many people might remember Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke from Fantasy Island or Armando from The Planet of The Apes franchise, he will always be eternally immortalized as the ruthlessly relentless Khan. Kirk was his nemesis for decades, so when Khan steals the highly coveted Genesis project to return his lost civilization to glory after being stranded on a dead planet, his revenge will be exacted.
Although many Star Trek movies are usually about intergalactic geo-politics or philosophical civilizations, this film is much more about Kirk as a man. Kirk is retiring from Star Fleet, facing his ex-lover Carol Marcus and his son David in charge of the Genesis project, and his sworn enemy once thought to be dead has returned with a vengeance.
This film contains the famous line of Shatner screaming “KHAN!!!!” into the vast depth of space that has been meme’d to death as well. The film also features one of the most epic onscreen deaths in Star Trek as Spock selflessly sacrificing his life after delivering his signature line, “The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few”. The Wrath of Khan still stands strongly as one of the most action packed Star Trek films to date while still acting as a fable that no mere mortal should try to play God.
11. Evil Dead 2
Never has Bruce Campbell looked so badass with a chainsaw for one hand and his boom-stick in the other while he lays flesh-eating demons to waste. The magic of Evil Dead 2 is that unlike ninety-nine percent of horror films, it fully embraces its low-budget nature with open arms and brings out the laughs in its campiness. It takes the typical “haunted cabin in the woods” story and transforming it into one of the funniest horror flicks ever made with its satirical tone.
Audiences are never sure it’s so good because it’s bad or it’s so bad it’s great, but either way, it never fails to entertain with its hilarious special effects, laughable one-liners and ultra hammy acting. Bruce Campbell steals the show as the handsome but hilariously clueless leading man that is about as equipped to become an action hero as the Dude is to solve a mystery in The Big Lebowski. Not only does this generate a ton of laughs along with the bloodshed, but the jokes are laughing with the filmmakers and not at them because the film never takes itself seriously.
Director Sam Raimi lets audiences know right off the bat that his tongue was firmly embedded in his cheek the whole ride through and just wants people to have a damn good time. Anyone who hates on this movie for that can choke on their popcorn!
Greg Nicotero and company created wonderfully goofy special effects that suit the story wonderfully and help it earn its crown for being the king of delightfully golden cheesy B-movies. PS would we have ever gotten the bodacious babe Cherry Darling in Planet Terror and her luscious machine gun leg without Ash getting a chainsaw for a hand first? Probably not!
10. Magnum Force
The man with the Magnum returns with a vengeance in what could be the best movie John Milius ever directed. Although Milius made his name co-writing the script for Apocalypse Now and Dirty Harry, Magnum Force proves to be his magnum opus. After the original installment received such scathing reviews, including a brutal one from Pauline Kael, accusing the character of being hypocritical, racist and a violent vigilante out to destroy what American democracy stands for.
Magnum Force addresses all of those issues head on by reminding the audience that Dirty Harry spoke to real life issues in a fictional context, which still makes him somewhat of a controversial character today.. People forget Harry Calahan is out for justice, not just enforce the law, he may bend the rules but he never breaks them.
Magnum Force has Harry going head to head with a squad of renegade crack-shot cops killing any criminals that escape courtroom sentences. Harry stands tall to cast a shadow in order to remind audiences that even though the system is broken, it is better than no system at all. Harry even dispels the idea that he’s homophobic after telling his partner, “I don’t care if the whole department was queer if they could shoot like that.” after being beaten in the annual bulls-eye competition.
Magnum Force tells us that we all might have our own ideas of what is right, but justice is blind and that’s what makes it objectively fair, which is why Harry is still cinema’s favorite filthy cop.
9. Kill Bill: Vol. II
Although many would argue that this film is just a continuation of the first, anyone could easily say the same about any sequel. Tarantino’s foray into modern samurai films is a bloodbath of revenge from start to finish as we see one of the most bold, lethal and daring female characters leap into action like a bullet out of a gun.
Vol. II revolves around the characters beyond Beatrix Kiddo, aka the Bride, as we gain a real glimpse into the lives of Budd, Elle Driver and Bill after they left her for dead more than once. The first film in the series is largely driven by watching the Bride allow herself to be reborn and begin striking people off her hit list in one of the most elaborate sword fights ever caught on camera.
The second half dives much more deeply into the back story of the characters and largely allows suspense to loom over the audience before leading up to the grand finale. Some fans think it is boring, but it would be worse if Vol. II didn’t set itself apart rather than imitate the first installment by continuing to be an hour long flash of the blade.
This film fleshes out each character to feel more human, despite the nasty deeds they carry out, it allows the action sequences to hit that much harder when they strike like a bolt of lightning. The battle between the Bride and Elle Driver and the final showdown with the Bride versus Bill are worth the wait along with Bill’s monologue about how people can’t fight who they are born to be.
Whether the rumors of Kill Bill: Vol III will ever come to fruition or not, but the world feels like a much better place knowing that The Bride is not YOUR ex-girlfriend.
8. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
After Albert R. Broccoli turned Steven Spielberg down for the chance to direct a James Bond film because the franchise exclusively hires British directors; Raiders of the Lost Ark became his next project. Ironically in this twist of fate, that is why Sean Connery was cast as the father of Indiana Jones considering the character was originally created as a fictional response to having an American James Bond.
Although Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is technically a prequel to Raiders, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade contains many more signature elements of the character and of the franchise itself. The story ties much more into the time period the story takes place in by pitting Indy and his merry gang of troublemaking historians against the Nazi’s as they attempt to rewrite history.
This film has Hitler lusting after more mythic religious artifacts like the Holy Grail, but not if America’s favorite gun-toting, horseback riding ladies man of an archeologist has anything to say about it. Spielberg segregates himself from many Hollywood blockbuster directors by not getting swept away with special effects and always sticking with great characters caught up in a wonderfully imaginative story.
The Last Crusade is no exception with the incredibly elaborate chase scenes on the boats in Italy, the motorcycles in Germany and the tanks in Egypt. The heart of the story revolves around humanity’s quest for immortality and looking for more links to become closer to God. What better way to go on a globe-trotting adventure than searching for the cup of Christ? Of all the babes Indy has met over his many cinematic adventures, Allison Doody who plays Elsa, who was also a Bond girl in “A View to a Kill”, has aged beautifully.
This film comes complete with daring action, subtle humor, forbidden romance, ancient mythology and great humanity as you see Indy and Henry truly bond as father and son after a lifetime of emotional friction. As far as action flicks go, it is only a hair behind Raiders, but is there a more satisfying ending than watching Indy ride into the sunset?