9. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
Hollywood takes a look at its own self, turning the camera to its world from an actor’s point of view. This actor saw the highs and lows and now he tries himself again in a Broadway play. You can feel the importance of this play’s success, and he can convey to us that he is doomed if it is going to be a failure.
This actor is Riggan, who is known for his blockbuster movie character Birdman. People loved him and still care about him as Birdman, but he wants them to love him as the new Riggan who writes, directs, produces, and stars his own Broadway play, which he adapted from Raymond Carver’s story. We witness his failed marriage, his love affairs, and his relationship with his daughter and fellow actors, who have all kinds of different demands from their director-producer.
This was director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s first Oscar win; the next year he reached one of the rarest groups in Oscar history with a consecutive Oscar win. The cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki is maybe the most important factor that makes this movie what it is, and he also won an Oscar for his work. The camera moves with the characters, so we feel like we move with them, too.
The film seems like one long shot; we could barely see the cuts. “Birdman” reflects the claustrophobic atmosphere of the theater well. Michael Keaton plays Birdman and Edward Norton plays one of his colleagues, who is a very demanding actor with a high opinion of himself.
As you know, Keaton is known as Batman, and they say that working with Norton on a film isn’t always easy. So these two actors decidedly plays parodies of themselves. Also in the cast are Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis and Andrea Riseborough. The film won four Academy Awards. Norton won a nomination, which was his third.
8. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
A fairy tale of a very young love, this movie takes its power from director Wes Anderson’s quirky and entertaining style. It is very colourful, very entertaining, and very witty. The characters are solid in a strange way; they make us feel sympathetic toward their actions, whatever they may be. A bunch of kids are the stars of this movie; they are not just a regular group of kids, they are boy scouts, behaving like adults in their own way.
When two children who fell in love with each other escaped from their friends and families, people of the little island started to search for them. This must come to you as an unassuming premise, but just wait until you see the movie.
The film is directed by Anderson with the usual names that he always work with. Alexandre Desplat is the composer, and it stars Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban and Edward Norton, who plays Scoutmaster Ward.
He is the depiction of the good old reliable Scout. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are the surprises of the movie. Writers Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola were nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA. As an interesting trivia note, this is the first film of Wes Anderson where he didn’t collaborate with Owen Wilson.
7. The Painted Veil (2006)
The year is 1925, and the setting is China. “The Painted Veil” is the real “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Edward Norton plays a doctor, Walter Fane. It was love at first sight for him when he met Naomi Watts’ character Kitty. Kitty agreed to marry Walter because she just wanted to move away from her mother.
Then comes the infidelity from Kitty’s side, which Walter noticed. So he decided to take his wife to a village with a cholera outbreak; he wanted to punish her in this way. As time passed, they started to see each other in a different light, with the help of the harsh and dangerous circumstances’ and loneliness.
Maybe the real love needs time, unlike its predecessor, love at first sight. There is also a political side: Walter and Kitty are English people in China at a time when nationalists assassinate foreign people, especially the English. There is a danger from every side and they are all alone except one friend, played by Toby Jones.
This film is an emotionally challenging journey, be it the relationship of the main characters or cholera epidemic. It is about love, death, forgiveness, hope, faith, and humanism. It is based on the book by W. Somerset Maugham, directed by John Curran, and the beautiful music is composed by one of the best living film composers, Alexandre Desplat, who won a Golden Globe for this work.
The soundtrack has two great songs as well: Erik Satie’s “Gnossienne No. 1” and the French lullaby “A La Claire Fontaine.” When the ending hits you with the last song above, you can’t sit still without crying. The film’s profound tagline is, “Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people.” Norton adopts an English accent for the film, and he also injured his back because of horse-riding.
6. 25th Hour (2002)
We witness the longest day of Monty Brogan’s life. At the end of these 24 hours, he is going to jail because he is a drug dealer. He sees his father for the last time, and he sees his friends, who throw a party for him. He doesn’t know the person who informed the police about the place of the drugs in his apartment.
There are two suspects, and they are the closest people to him. One is the girlfriend, and the other is the friend who worked with him for years. His dog that he saves in the opening scene and loves so much, he has to separate from him as well, and he leaves him with the friend that is the most reliable looking.
The situation is too tragic. He is clever and, apart from being a drug dealer, seems sensible and doesn’t look like a bad person. And that makes all the difference: we care about Monty. So the intense ending becomes more devastating for us.
Edward Norton plays the main character masterfully. One of the most fan favorite Edward Norton moments comes from this film, which is the long monologue about New Yorkers in the bathroom. Spike Lee is the director, and David Benioff wrote the screenplay from his own book. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Brian Cox, Rosario Dawson and Anna Paquin all star. Terence Blanchard’s award winning music is haunting, to say the least.
5. Rounders (1998)
A cult film among poker fans, this is like the “Rocky” of poker movies. You don’t have to play or love the game to enjoy this movie. Some of the ‘90’s best newcomer actors Matt Damon and Edward Norton make a good team in every way. Damon’s character Mike is the more sensible and smarter one, who is also a law student with a nice girlfriend; Norton’s character Worm is a childhood friend, a bit of a troublemaker. He is charmingly evil, not a man you would love to hate.
After his release, he gambles and he owes too much money to powerful people. To save his friend, Mike also gambles, and together they try to make the money to pay the debt. Even after Worm escapes, Mike tries and tries. Could he pay the debt and save his friend and himself from the mafia?
John Malkovich plays a Russian and adopts a thick Russian accent. John Turturro, Martin Landau and Gretchen Mol are the other actors in the movie. Damon and Norton joined the Texas Hold’em Championship at the 1998 World Series of Poker.
4. Primal Fear (1996)
In his first film, the Boston-born Edward Norton had to lie about who he was just to win the role; he acted like he was a Southern boy. He created one of the most important aspects of his character, stammering, which wasn’t in the script. The role that Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t want made Norton a newcomer actor with an Oscar and a BAFTA nomination, and a Golden Globe and many critics awards.
This is an exciting courtroom drama with a good screenplay and good performances from Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand and Alfre Woodard. It is also the directorial debut of Gregory Hoblit. Norton plays an altar boy who is accused of killing the archbishop. Is he the real killer who looks like an innocent Boy Scout, or was there another man in the room when the archbishop was killed?
The movie gets more and more exciting as we witness the courtroom scenes. And after the film ends, we can only ask, “How did he do that?” If this film is stuck in anybody’s mind, it is because of Norton’s excellent and shocking performance. When everything is revealed in the last scene, we are all Richard Gere’s lawyer character, feeling stupid.
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
This is one of the best films that’s come out in the last few years. It is like your mum telling you a fairytale, and as time flies by, the only thing in your mind is the world you imagined and the ending of the story. This time the world is already realized by writer-director Wes Anderson, who was inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig. This is the third collaboration of him and Norton, who plays a policeman.
The movie tells the story of the famous Budapest Hotel’s concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and the lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori). They become friends and go on a forced adventure together including a prison, kayaking on a mountain, and escaping from a crazy assassin who murders half of the cast, including a cat.
It is like all the movie industry’s talented actors starred in this. They probably wanted to be a part of this beautiful, fun story. Funny, delightful, and not boring for one second, this is a real crowd-pleaser. You just want to be lost in the atmosphere of the film. Academy members probably thought of it the same way, and gave the movie four Oscars for costume and production design, makeup and hairstyling, and music. This is Anderson’s career’s highest grossing film.
2. American History X ( 1998)
He won his second Oscar nomination with arguably one of the best opening scenes in movie history, especially with the infamous pavement moment. The hate and rage coming from his eyes is so palpable that it’s scary.
We see the swastika tattoo, and when the gang comes and tries to steal his car, we could all guess what is going to happen, and it’s not a good thing. Neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard, who belongs to a group called Skinheads, kills two black men and goes to jail. His brother Danny also starts to think just like Derek, while Derek starts to see things very differently in prison. He learns from the mistakes he made and tries to make Danny see that, too; this is the struggle of our main character.
Edward Norton transformed his body and gained 30 pounds of muscle in three months. He also shaved his head together with Edward Furlong, who plays Danny. Norton and director Tony Kaye argued about the demands of Norton, who wanted to change the script. This film is tough to watch, even for drama lovers. The ending just crushes you, it is so tragic and moving. If you want to watch Norton at full power, this is the movie for you.
1. Fight Club (1999)
We are going to break the first and the second rule of the Fight Club now. What ingredients could make a film a modern classic? The answer that comes to mind is the director, screenplay, talented cast and crew, etc. When we look at “Fight Club,” we can see that our answer is right. David Fincher directed the film just after the success of “Seven” and “The Game.” The screenplay is based on the book by famous underground literature writer Chuck Palahniuk. Electronic music by the Dust Brothers accompanies the film.
And then there’s Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. You just can’t take your eyes off from this duo, especially Norton the narrator, who is on screen for almost every second and demands your attention every single time.
In contrast to the dynamic and charismatic almost fiery Pitt, Norton’s narrator is subtle but not insignificant; you take a journey with him and you trust him somehow. The catalyst is Marla Singer, played in a manner that sticks in the minds by Helena Bonham Carter. You even can see the rock singer Meat Loaf and a very young Jared Leto.
“Fight Club” is about consumerist culture, nihilism, primitivism, anarchism, masculinism, anti-capitalism, aimlessness in modern men… these are really heavy words and these are the themes that people identify with this movie; it is that powerful and effective. If you watch this movie without knowing anything about it beforehand, prepare to be shocked by the beauty and cleverness of it, especially the ending, where it really hits you. Maybe we really shouldn’t trust the narrator in the beginning.
If Norton didn’t make any films after “Fight Club,” he would still be remembered and loved just for this movie alone. Tyler Durden is one of the most famous anti-heroes in movie history, a cool and clever character who seems like a man who’s solved life’s mystery. The film belongs to a group of ‘90’s films that have a surprise ending. If you call yourself a movie fan, you just can’t afford missing out on this modern masterpiece, which is already deemed as life-changing.