5. Gran Torino
Clint is an icon. There’s no questioning that. Whether you like him now thanks to his off-the-field politics, that’s beside the point. The man is a beacon of old Hollywood masculinity and is a true legend. Not to mention, he’s a great filmmaker to boot with some great works under his belt.
This is a movie that has its moments and has some great acting work from Clint, but it is not one of those iconic pieces of film. Trying to have Clint play an old, grumpy racist of a man who’s learning to accept those who are not like him before he goes off into the great beyond is not one that is inherently bad.
The movie works in a way as a reflection of the Dirty Harry rogue cop persona he had cultivated in between his cowboy movies. Go up against the right wing politics those movies had and show that Clint has listened and understands some of the criticisms laid at his feet. Sadly, it’s not executed perfectly, as the script is a little rough around the edges and the acting outside of Clint is truly atrocious.
The script is weak in that it has a lot of easy dramatic flourishes that feel false, while the acting is mostly comprised of actual Hmong immigrants who clearly had never acted before.
The movie is funny as hell, as it never holds back in how cantankerous and racist Clint’s character is. And the sacrifice at the end works, thanks to the iconography of Clint. But as a whole, the movie is sloppy as hell and very clearly does not represent the best work Clint had done that decade, so throwing it in the top 250 is just incorrect.
4. Infernal Affairs
This movie was a rote crime film import before it was remade by Scorsese in “The Departed.” Now that the remake exists, why do we need this movie?
Especially when “The Departed” managed to take the first movie and its two sequels and fit them into one masterful package helmed by a master director who also manages to rope in some real life American crime stories to make the package feel more alive. Like, this movie is fine. But why place it in here when it can’t help but feel like a first draft of a much better movie that is also on this list?
3. The Dark Knight Rises
Nolan helmed two great movies with his first two Batman movies. The second one being a next-level classic that changed cinema. A follow up to that movie was gonna be a hard proposition, even if Heath Ledger didn’t die. But Nolan would be able to follow it up, right? He’s a smart filmmaker and he’d craft something that would be able to reflect the world we live in while delivering some great Batman cinema. Alas, that’s only kinda true.
There’s some great moments here. Tom Hardy is amazing as Bane, a classic villain right up until the moment that script betrays him and makes him just a henchman with no real skills. There’s some really great action, the climax in particular. Until the very silly death of Talia. Talia herself is just a big ole problem in this movie.
The movie is a mess. Details don’t add up, it doesn’t properly build upon what the prior two movies had set up. It builds up an arc for Joseph Gordon-Levitt that just doesn’t work and is propelled by bullcrap script logic.
And even ignoring some of the script issues like Gordon-Levitt’s entire arc, it feels like it was a much longer movie that cut down to be a more accessible length. But the biggest sin is it mishandles the Bruce Wayne/Batman arc and turns Batman into a big baby. It’s the weakest movie in Nolan’s oeuvre by a long shot. Its placement on this list is a clear sign that release date bias has occurred as well as an online bias toward Batman.
2. The Help
This movie is just another movie about black women told from the POV of the white women they take care of. It’s fine and it’s charming, but it is overall a very mediocre and forgettable movie.
The cast is fine and have gone on to do real great work afterward, thanks to the spotlight this movie threw on them. But despite being nominated for an Oscar, it wasn’t even in the top 10 of the weak ass year that was 2011.
1. Life Is Beautiful
Tone is an interesting thing. It’s very hard to nail tone, especially when you’ve got a movie that wants to balance more than one. “Life is Beautiful” wants to be this lighthearted family movie that then turns into a Holocaust movie that still is lighthearted, but also a movie about widespread and systematic genocide. Roberto Benigni is not the filmmaker to handle that.
The very idea of trying to be a goofy and charming story in the midst of the Holocaust is such a bad idea it forced Jerry Lewis to scrap an entire movie and hide it from the world for decades. Roberto is not even a Jerry Lewis.
The movie is just a goddamn travesty, an offense to good taste and watchable cinema. Grating and cloying and just downright insulting on every level. This movie is the complete opposite of “Schindler’s List,” the best fictional Holocaust movie that was helmed by a filmmaker talented enough to sneak a few laughs in without succumbing to the clowning antics that Benigni traded in.