So, after making a list of my favorite horror films, my favorite of the 2000-2009 decade, and my favorites of the year 2009 – I’ve finally come down to making the most important of them all. A list showcasing the films I think are the very best I’ve watched. I understand, however, that there will be many disagreements with some of my choices… I guess that has something to do with my enjoyment of trashy cinema. But I think, all in all, this list is the most personal I’ve created and one I’m gonna stick with from now on. And let’s get started!

Check back every day as I edit in the next entry (or couple of entries) in the list. Yep, it will take many days to get this list out there for you to see complete, but its kinda worth it, isn’t it? Hehe.

50.) THE PIANO (Jane Campion, 1993)
Jane Campion is, alongside Chantal Akerman and Kathryn Bigelow, possibly the best female director working today. Campion’s 1993 film The Piano is, to me, the most expressive of the accomplished director’s profile; oozing with the heavy doses of sexuality that is the nature of most of her works while, unlike her 2003 film In the Cut or 1999’s Holy Smoke!, creating one of the more beautiful love stories ever filmed. The lyrical way in which Campion tunes the magnificent score by Michael Nyman hand-in-hand with the gorgeous cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh helps create a very personal bond to the lead character of Ada, allowing us to see and hear the poetry the woman does while playing on those black-and-white keys.

49.) HOUR OF THE WOLF (Ingmar Bergman, 1968)
No other Ingmar Bergman picture feels as rich, personal, and captivating as this one. (Except for maybe Wild Strawberries. Hehe.) Of course it’s easy to get lost in the brilliance of Persona, the complete entertainment value that comes in Scenes from a Marriage, or the truly macabre nature of The Seventh Seal – but it’s Hour of the Wolf that is the true Bergman film that has stuck with me the most. It could be my uncontrollable geeky impulses for the horror genre, or it could be that, well, it really is one of the darkest and scariest studies in human fear and the guilt of man. And Max von Sydow’s career-best performance doesn’t hurt much either.

48.) SHOWGIRLS (Paul Verhoeven, 1995)
Showgirls is a film that, like its seductive and sexy antagonist Cristal Connors, goes both ways. While Paul Verhoeven’s Razzie-sweeping spectacle is a showcase for some very enjoyable camp dialogue, it is also very easy to argue that Verhoeven is actually duping the audience with his wicked satirical edge. When you pay attention to the film’s obvious All About Eve story and the numerous slams at American culture’s views on sexuality as nothing more than a cum-quick fix, then you have a film that works for those looking for fun trash as much as those searching for genius social finger-wagging. As one character most notably points out while watching the sexy (tehe.. uhmm) Nomi Malone strip to Prince’s “319”: “In America, everyone’s a gynecologist.” And Cristal Connors is in room 319 in the film’s final scene? Brilliant!

47.) PICK-UP (Bernard Hirschenson, 1975)
Wrongly distributed as a drive-in Grindhouse flick at the time of its release, I can’t imagine what one thought when they actually went to see it. Looking at the advertisements, including the theatrical poster, you would see that they claim the plot is about a girl hitching a ride from a bunch of sadistic psychos. In actuality, this short and quick-paced piece of mindfuck is far more surreal than it leads you to believe, focusing more into the sexuality of its two (yes, ads don’t mention the other girl) lead female characters and a man they hitch a ride from in the middle of the Everglades. The deeper they go into the swamps, the deeper the three characters arrive at the mechanical and supernatural corners of their promiscuous desires and urges. What makes it even more creepy is the chilling presence of a clown wandering the lands. Outrageous in story, but absolutely terrifying in delivery – Pick-Up may be a guilty pleasure of mine, but it’s surely well-worth the look if you’re into the supernaturally unknown.

46.) THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (Martin Scorsese, 1988)
Everyone knows of Martin Scorsese’s religious background and the way he incorporates that Catholicism into his films. The entire character of Max Cady in his Cape Fear remake, for example, is a manifestation of the protagonist’s sins; just as Matt Damon’s character in The Departed is given an even more disturbing character arc with the simple suggestion of his Catholic upbringing. The Last Temptation of Christ isn’t necessarily based on Catholic symbolism as much as what is believed to be true. That truth being that Jesus Christ was, in fact, a man which means that he suffered the temptations that an everyday person would as well. Scorsese’s epic direction, and Willem Dafoe’s fantastic title performance, really puts you on edge for an entire 163 minutes as we intensely watch the suffering of a man who had the choice not to suffer.

45.) THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (Jim Sharman, 1975)
As soon as that nostalgic 70s logo for 20th Century Fox fades to black, The Rocky Horror Picture Show begins immediately with the sensual and subtle zoom-in to a pair of lipstick-covered red lips surrounded by nothing but darkness. This opening sequence brilliantly conveys what the famous cult classic is ultimately about. The lips symbolizing lust, and the black screen letting us know that nothing else matters here. And then when the lips open and begin to sing, we get a whiff of the over-the-top and hilariously disturbing satirical nature of the entire production. From Tim Curry’s fearless, and at times terrifying, performance as the lusty main character, to Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon giving wonderful support as a newly engaged couple being sexually toyed with by Curry’s maniac, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a rare film that is fun to watch, but still deeply unsettling beneath it all. There is more to this campy film than first meets the eye.

44.) CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles, 1941)
Some feel objected to stick this film (along with The Godfather) on their favorite movies lists. Is it because the pictures are consensually considered the greatest American films ever made? Does it make the list-maker feel like they are films that have to show up? Or is it that they naturally just love the films to death for personal reasons? When it comes to my appreciation of Citizen Kane, I’d say I’m in the latter category. The movie is one of my very favorites, not because it’s some kind of ritualistic “have to add” circumstance, but because I truly am emotionally-attached to it. The story of Charles Foster Kane is so effective and tragic that I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t devastate me whenever I think about it. From the first scene to the last, Orson Welles gives a masterclass in direction and performance by giving us a mystery that begins to seem irrelevant, and finishing it all up to a draining final shot bruising with heartbreak. Citizen Kane really deserves every inch of praise that is placed upon its shoulders.

43.) THE HITCHER (Robert Harmon, 1986)
Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher begins and ends with the lighting of a cigarette. The first one, that of a homoerotic order; the last one, that of a masculine revelation. What happens between these two smokes is a rollercoaster of psychosexual, hyperactive, and illogically corrupt fantasy horror. Watching as the over-the-top nature of the “plot” bleeds into a wild and crazy animated-like cat-and-mouse game is not only loads of fun, but some sort of miracle seeing that everything remains completely and thoroughly believable in the end. What The Hitcher succeeds in most of all, however, is what it holds deep down within its neo-western roots. Managing to be a wallop of an entertaining frenzy, yet a psychoanalysis you wouldn’t have ever expected from a flick of this nature, The Hitcher reminds you that subtly can still exist in the chaotic aesthetic of a horror movie.

42.) THRONE OF BLOOD (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)
Kurosawa’s made some fabulous films in many different genres, but why do I keep coming back to Throne of Blood instead of something like, say, the depressing but ironically uplifting Ikiru? I guess it’s got to do with the fact that Throne of Blood is not only the best film adaptation ever from a Shakespeare work, but also because it’s the only film Kurosawa directed that perfectly and genuinely felt like his own. From the menacing cinematography, pitch-perfect editing, and incredible lead performance, to the film’s final scene that is as hauntingly beautiful as any the cinema has offered. Throne of Blood resonates like a ghost, never leaving your memory; and that’s what makes it so damn easy to watch it over and over again.

41.) THE GRADUATE (Mike Nichols, 1967)
It is exceptionally rare to watch a film and fall in love with it without even rooting for any of the lead characters, but that’s just what’s so wonderful about Mike Nichols’ sophomore effort The Graduate. Of course, you are allowed to root for the weird Benjamin or the weird Mrs. Robinson, but the true heart of the picture belongs to Elaine, the daughter of Mrs. Robinson and the girl Benjamin believes he loves. Instead of just showing us the weird journey of the title character, we are presented with that of the supporting one caught between the conflicts of the two leads. The final shot of the picture, in which Benjamin and Elaine sit on a bus full of staring passengers, is a seriously beautiful moment in which everything is stated without uttering a single word. Elaine’s face says it all. This is a genuinely bittersweet love story…. Or is it?

Playing out like the slow-burning, well-paced novel of which it is based on, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a brilliant piece of work that focuses so intriguingly on the mythology of mythology itself, the intense connection between fan and celebrity, and the hypocrisy of what determines the heroic and cowardice figures throughout history. Beautifully photographed, Andrew Dominik paints a canvas full of historical characters and creates a seriously complex and tightly-drawn western that never backs down to genre clichés. A scene in which Jesse James sits on a frozen lake discussing death is a haunting parallel to when Robert Ford finds himself flipping through a deck of cards. Which is the hero? Which is the coward? Are they neither, or both?

39.) BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Jean Cocteau, 1946)
Forget the 1991 Disney animated film and, yes, also the piece of horror erotica version of the story I’ve already mentioned on this list. “Beauty and the Beast” is my favorite fairy tale; one that really gets me involved with its simple romantic story. So it may seem cheap for me to include two versions of the story in my top fifty, but hey, there’s no denying they are two extremely different versions. Unlike Borowczyk’s The Beast, the erotic nature of Jean Cocteau’s visually beautiful (and more faithful) showcasing of the iconic story is of a much more subtle kind. Poetic and always fascinating, I can’t see another film capturing the magic and beauty of the story like Cocteau did that made a fairy tale seem as if it were alive and breathing. It made me believe.

38.) HALLOWEEN (John Carpenter, 1978)
Peering through the eyes of a killer is one of the scariest things imaginable, but we are allowed this opportunity in the very first shot of John Carpenter’s horror classic Halloween. The atmosphere of the film is, from the very beginning, drenched in the season feeling; the orange leaves on the trees and the jack-o-lanterns lit all around. Jamie Lee Curtis is sensational as Laurie Strode, a babysitter who finds herself being followed and chased by a demented serial killer on Halloween night. It’s a testament to director Carpenter’s abilities as a director that he makes such a simple, thin story work to such terrifying levels and making us realize, at the end of the movie, that it was pure evil whose eyes we were looking from.

37.) THE UNKNOWN (Tod Browning, 1927)
A fascinating group of emotions came out of me while I watched Tod Browning’s The Unknown. When it begins you get swept in, then as it goes along you get intrigued, but ultimately it all leads up to feelings of sadness, pain, and disappointment. A dark love story that happens to be thoroughly romantic, the chemistry that radiates between Lon Chaney (in his best performance) and Joan Crawford is nothing short of beautiful. The quirky nature of the romance really gives the picture that stronger punch in the gut once the heartbreaking final scenes come around.

36.) THE ICE STORM (Ang Lee, 1997)
The Ice Storm is a film set in November, but was shot during the spring. Green trees surround many scenes, but it never comes off as a flaw when watching it. Maybe that has something to do with how wrapped up director Ang Lee is in telling these interconnecting stories? An ice storm is coming, we know this, but what it does is exactly what we are on edge about. And upon multiple viewings of the film, the ice becomes the least of our problems when we come to the film’s moving conclusion. The always lovely Sigourney Weaver gives one of the strongest depictions of a sexually-stubborn woman I’ve ever seen; subtly getting many character arcs and developments across without saying a word. One of the best supporting actress performances, well, ever.

35.) OUT OF SIGHT (Steven Soderbergh, 1998)
Steven Soderbergh brought excellent style to mainstream Hollywood with his adaptation of this Elmore Leonard-based novel. Out of Sight is a gritty, sexy, romantic, funny, and surprisingly moving crime thriller that sparks Soderbergh’s finest direction, as well as some career-best peformances from George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, Don Cheadle… and the list goes on. The witty screenplay by Scott Frank lends helping hand to the actors, giving them some very playful and fun dialogue that also happens to shade the characters with depth. Clooney and Lopez, most specifically, give excellent performances; going in and out of an array of emotions while never boring the audience. A fine-looking, smart-as-hell summer popcorn flick that is easy to rewatch and always exciting to talk about.

34.) GUMMO (Harmony Korine, 1997)
Gross, repulsive, and thoroughly nasty bathtub scene aside; Gummo is a film of remarkably unremarkable beauty. Completely plotless from start to finish, the bizarre-but-always-fascinating Harmony Korine creates a palette of colorful and disturbing characters as we sit back and examine their decomposing lives. What makes Gummo so special, however, is Korine never once detests his subjects, but instead finds the strangely beautiful moments in their lives that exists under the ugliness. I’ve visited Xenia, Ohio and am proud to say it’s a nice and quiet town; so it’s completely a good thing that Gummo is a work of fiction. But when you finish it, you just can’t help but remember back on it as if it were a documentary. A very disturbingly beautiful documentary.

33.) HAXAN (Benjamin Christensen, 1922)
At first, Haxan begins as an informative documentary about witchcraft, dwelling deep into some very eerie territory. However, it’s not until the film begins incorporating fictional elements into the reality that it starts to take on a surreal and engaging life of its own. Featuring stories about Satan’s temptation of human beings, the possibly asinine conclusions that a sick person could be “possessed”, and touching on subjects of religion that would seem taboo back in 1922; the jumbled, but never messy, direction of Benjamin Christensen makes Haxan a truly one-of-a-kind experience. An analysis more thought-provoking and unsettling than most documentary and fiction films released today.

32.) FEMALE TROUBLE (John Waters, 1974)
It may come as a shock that this film is one of my all-time favorites, especially after I gave that scathing review for John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. But for everything I absolutely hated about that film, I certainly loved in Female Trouble. Vulgar, offensive, and disgusting, Waters really delivers his great trash aesthetic to the screen without getting too seriously wrapped-up in his intentions to repulse. Female Trouble has a lead character we really, well, for some amazingly unknown reason, care about. It also helps that, unlike Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble actually has something to say; brilliantly examining the sometimes devestating effects of teenage American girl rebellion. The “message” is showcased in a campy way, yes, but it still unsettles and haunts you with its final scene, even while your laughing at it.

31.) PIXOTE, THE LAW OF THE WEAKEST (Hector Babenco, 1981)
Some get quite confused when they find out that, while I quite liked Fernando Meirelles’ City of God, I could never really feel from it what I felt during a film with a more grittier and blunt approach to the subject of gang violence on the streets of Brazil. Pixote, the Law of the Weakest follows its title character as he finds himself completely drawn into the violent underworlds of Sao Paulo, while also digging deep within the young boy’s vanishing moral emotions. Pixote is played by Fernando Ramos da Silva, an eleven-year-old boy who, in reality, became involved in crime before and after starring in this film. The already haunting film gains an even more poignant layer when realized that da Silva himself was shot down by police at the age of nineteen. His performance in Pixote is an unforgettable one, shining such dark personality into a character that a more professional actor may not have dared touch upon.

30.) I LOVE YOU, I DON’T (Serge Gainsbourg, 1976)
As soon as Joe Dallesandro lands eyes on Jane Birkin for the first time, we feel this incredible tension. The way he looks at her is with some kind of erratic, guilty lust and the simply innocent gaze she gives back only feeds what his mind already considers a hungry beast. If I Love You, I Don’t is about anything, I’m thinking it has to be infatuation. The fact that Krassky (Dallesandro) lusts so much for Johnny (Birkin) is because she feeds him a temptation to cross a line without feeling as if he’s treading too far on the wrong tracks. Serge Gainsbourg’s approach to the story touches deeply on the sexuality of the characters, their thirsts for forbidden passion, and the guilt they accompany with it. A scene in which the two are seen dancing is the perfect moment in a film filled with perfect moments.

29.) SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
F.W. Murnau’s finest achievement is Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans which, yes, is saying a hell of a lot considering this is the same guy that brought Nosferatu, Faust and The Last Laugh to the screen. This beautifully-crafted drama tells the simple story of a man and his wife who wander a city after the man attempts to kill her. Those who write-off the “unrealisitic” nature of this story are thoroughly missing Murnau’s point. The twisted fairy tale-like essence of the film is what helps it gain a very dreamy poignancy. When the final scenes come around, in which a storm ultimately kills the wife, Murnau asks us to feel what the husband feels. He also gives us a complete look into the feelings of the mistress (who planned the murder) so that we also feel her pain and sociopathic guilt. And through these two points-of-view, and the termendously uplifiting, however bonkers, resurrection of the wife, we understand what Murnau is saying. True love never dies.

28.) JEANNE DIELMAN, 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
Chantal Akerman. Phenomenal director. The complete simplicity in her film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is what makes it such a powerful experience. That, and the lead actress. Delphine Seyrig’s performance as the title character is a revelation, keeping us thoroughly intrigued in the life of Jeanne Dielman for a full 201 minutes. Seyrig’s full-throttle amounts of subtle emotion (from boredom, to disappointment, to hurt, to happiness) are something to behold and a masterclass in acting. Akerman’s tight and creeping direction makes the film beautiful to watch, arriving to a point of such shocking and fascinating violence. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles isn’t a film for everybody, but for those who become fascinated by examining another person’s life… this is the best piece of that meat loaf.

27.) ACCATTONE (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1961)
Pier Paolo Pasolini seems to be playful with the direction of his film debut; although this really doesn’t come at the fault of the superb material. Accattone follows a character who, well, happens to be a pimp. His life is studied in an almost cause and effect manner following the arrest of his girlfriend, a prostitute. Pasolini would go on to really bring out some great, thought-provoking films like Teorema, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, and his most disturbing work – Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom. But it’s with his first film that I felt Pasolini was so vulnerable as a director enough to actually give us some raw grit to a story that deserves just that. The fact that he sets the proceedings to Bach makes the film particularly more sweeping. Little note of interesting trivia: Bernardo Bertolucci was assistant director on this film; his first real gig.

26.) GERRY (Gus Van Sant, 2003)
There is no doubt the influence of Bela Tarr hovers over Gus Van Sant’s Gerry, but there still exists Van Sant’s experimental flavor and a nice dive into the overtly allegorical. Anybody can watch Gerry and find their own interpretation of what it is substantially about. Gerry‘s plot, about two friends named Gerry lost in the desert, could very well be written-off as boring and pointless. But there is something beautiful, often funny, and completely devestating about the overall experience. When you get lost with these two characters, you surely can’t forget them or their journey. And I can’t help but, at this time, bring up how absolutely hilarious the picture is before slowly becoming a deep piece of depression. The scene in which Casey Affleck’s Gerry gets stuck on a rock in the first act compared to what happens in the climax? Definitely shows a high-low decrease, eh? But Van Sant makes it work, and makes it burn.


~ by jerkwoddjh on February 15, 2010.


  1. I haven’t watched “Showgirls” for years, but it never struck me as being as bad as most make out – and Eric Henderson’s review at Slant so brilliantly suggests an appeal to the film that it’s shot up on my list of “must” re-watches. I thought it was okay last time out, but Gina Gershon was pretty much perfect.

  2. Tom, I read Henderson’s review and it’s literally exactly how I feel toward the film, it’s just he sums it up so much better. Haha.

  3. Hey Brian. I like your blog, so I’m definitely following it.

    As for the list, like I mentioned in the second intro paragraph, it’s slowly coming to the finish line. It’s a slow process… kinda write about the next film whenever I feel like it. But I’m doing good. Went from 50-28 (and 27 in a minute) all in two days so the list will be complete by the end of this week.

    But I am following your blog. And yes, it’s had out here for small-time bloggers. 😦

  4. Ugh… I hate Awards Circuit… I don’t even know why I post things on there… Hahaha.

  5. Fantastic.

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