9. Funny Games (2007)
Original Version: Funny Games (1997) (Germany)
This movie is an example of a film that simply hurts its viewers. There is a beauty to breaking the fourth wall. Doing it to take away what little solace a viewer can find in the victims of a crime getting away from their attackers? Well that is just deranged. However, this film doesn’t let up from beginning to end with the suspense. Not only do viewers get to feel the visceral pain and anguish of futility that the characters do, but they get to take the role of helpless bystander.
The two blond young men are simply terrifying in their callousness. Intelligence, premeditation, calculation, sport, and a certain advantage taken of trust make the antagonists of this film colder than dry ice. The fact that they are simply annoyed by brutally murdering a child in front of its parents makes the film fall off the tracks of sympathy, only to wreck into the mind of every viewer that stood watching till the end, hoping there was a consolation.
This film is simply masochistic to anyone that wants to connect with hope or the human condition. Great film, better acting, suspense that could kill.
8. Victor Victoria (1982)
Original Version: Viktor und Viktoria (1933) (Germany)
Oscars are not actually that effective a measurement of how well a film is made. The performances, the production, the story, the grandiosity, all can be independently epic. And they all come together in this film. The story is reminiscent of classics such as Some Like It Hot (again), and it came out at the same time as the Dustin Hoffman vehicle, Tootsie. The sets are grand with influences that can be found in big studio Hollywood of the by-gone era of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Yet, the performances are the gem that tops the crown of this film. Such legendary names as Julie Andrews (not her only entry in this list), James Garner, John Rhys-Davies, Lesley Ann Warren, and Blake Edwards all being attached to a single project nearly guarantees a fabulous piece of cinematic perfection. It’s refreshing to know that an amalgamation of such talent didn’t run the flat road of such other similar attempts as Nine (2009).
7. True Lies (1994)
Original Version: La Totale! (1991) (France)
At first glance, this film is simply an epic action movie led by the world’s greatest, biggest action star ever, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jamie Lee Curtis has a striptease, which is nice, but, the true big picture of the film is a course in how to make a piece of cinema that embodies the word grandiose. The star is huge, the explosions are massive, and the stunts are mind boggling.
If there was a movie that could define the world Blockbuster, it would be this one. Not that there isn’t redeeming factors about its more technical nature, though.
The story is fast paced and effective in helping keep tabs with the action scenes. The performances are as well done as they could be hoped for. The action? One could go on forever. True Lies is a Cameron film. ‘Nuff said.
6. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Original Version: Seven Samurai (1954) (Japan)
Akira Kurosawa is most definitely one of the finest talents ever to grace film in any fashion. His writing, directing and cinematographic style are all staples and historically significant benchmarks in film. He made 31 films, 16 of which are part of the elite Criterion Collection. That means that roughly one out of every two movies he made is considered among the greatest achievements in cinematic history. If that doesn’t give credence to how good this film is, then nothing can.
The Magnificent Seven brought together many of the greatest male acting talents in American cinema at the time. They each were a universe in their own right as they played out their characters, just as the actors in Seven Samurai were. Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Charles Bronson, the list goes on. All were superb performances and each man gave the film a special something for themselves.
This film also influenced a young George Lucas. So, it has credit in the creation of the modern science-fiction film as well. If that doesn’t sell this remake of possibly the greatest film ever made anywhere, you’ve got something wrong with your tastes.
5. The Sound of Music (1959)
Original Version: Die Trapp-Familie (1956) (Germany)
It doesn’t take a lot of depth to make a successful musical. We’re looking at you, High School Musical. They are generally money making machines geared towards memorable viewing experiences as pieces of interactive cinema. However, this is one of the most successful stage productions of all time and it is deservedly so.
Julie Andrews in one her most important and memorable performances created a production that is both moving and epic. The choreography and the music are not to be missed and her acting is always an augment to a film. The combination of her with Christopher Plummer and Rogers & Hammerstein was pretty much a bought-and-paid-for ticket to film legend.
Many of the songs have become absolute classics, the sets are master classes in design, and the stage production is still running successfully to this day. This movie is beautiful and touching, both qualities of wonderful cinema. The fact that it takes place during the most tragic moment in human history (WWII) but still remains uplifting is a testament to how well one can make a story stay true to what human nature wants to see.
4. The Departed (2006)
Original Version: Infernal Affairs (2002) (Hong Kong – Cantonese)
Martin Scorsese is a genius when it comes to making people do things that get put on celluloid and then shown to people. That is, he is an absolute savant when it comes to making incredible films. This is just another entry in his already packed-with-classics resume.
The film is relentless with its modicum of peace. There is no way one can watch this and stay relaxed. Death, destruction and interpersonal relationship mayhem ensue in a world where there is absolutely no room for error. But then, everybody makes one. The movie is a tour de force in terms of its performances and basketful of talent. Career defining moments in such high profiles as Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio blow the lid off of the gangster movie genre.
Violence, murder and intrigue plague this movie with reckless abandon and give the viewer a of relief when the credits start to roll. Simply put, this movie will beat you down, drag you across the floor and smash a beer bottle over your head before letting you understand that you’ve been double crossed by the master Scorsese himself.
It’s a beautifully tragic tale of revenge and death set against the backdrop of a seedy-as-hell Boston underground. Jack Nicholson puts in his two cents in the form of a performance that could have books written about its mastery. Just run of the mill, crazy ass Nicholson, though. This movie will ruin your night with how good it is. Five Stars.
3. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Original Version: La Jetée (1962) (France)
Brad Pitt is a powerhouse of acting prowess. He is arguably one of the most famous actors ever and is deserving of his praise. He can act like few others can. This film, though, is his only Oscar nomination to date, but you know that old adage, “Fifth time is the charm,” or something like that. His performance in this film far outshines the star, Bruce Willis.
The film itself, a Terry Gilliam production, was obviously bound for artistic success. However, it is Pitt’s performance in this film that foreshadowed such masterpieces as Fight Club (1999) and Snatch (2000). He grew into his own in a cryptic, intense thriller that is equally about paranoia and the defeat of one’s own purpose. Willis’ performance was top notch, but the film was by and large a story about a crazy Brad Pitt.
The film shows viewers what the failing end of a worldwide disaster prevention effort looks and feels like. This is an absolutely necessary viewing for thought-provoking-film loving cinephiles.
2. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Original Version: Fanfaren der Liebe (1951) (Germany)
Possibly the greatest comedic film ever created, this film is one of the most grandiose old-studio Hollywood films one can find. Marilyn Monroe puts in her career defining performance. Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis tear apart the drag queen characters with flair that will never, and can never, be replicated. Every performance in this film is excellent. The final line of the film is one of the greatest endings in cinematic history.
The singing and dancing is stunning. The story is hilarious and well-put together. The dialogue is witty. The makeup, costumes, set design, cinematography, all good. So, this film is just an absolute through and through masterpiece of cinema.
1. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Original Version: City on Fire (1987) (Hong Kong – Cantonese)
It takes a lot to launch a career in Hollywood. Connections, money, skill, education, tons of luck. However, when a career is launched into the stratosphere immediately after a single piece of work, a reevaluation is necessary. Quentin Tarantino is one of the most consistently performing, well-known, most talented, highest regarded, highest grossing directors of all time. This film started that. That is some next level ability.
Of course, this film is reported to have been completely ripped off of a Hong Kong crime film starring Chow Yun-Fat called City on Fire. But despite the fact that is pretty much entirely true, and it still enjoys its place among the best films ever made, gives credit to Tarantino’s ability. He can make damn good movies. His damn good movies perform and deliver in damn good ways. He is a virtuoso if there ever was one.
With every movie he’s ever worked on being a classic in whatever genre it is in, his skill as a film maker is damn far beyond reproach. But, none of it would have happened or would be, without this precious diamond. (Oh yeah, the briefcase is filled with diamonds for those that like movie trivia.)
Author Bio: Colten Hartman is a former film student, current cinephile, and future professor. His writing covers all kinds of film topics ranging from cinematography to soundtracks. When he’s not spittin’ truth about film, he can be found shredding on a skateboard or on a guitar.