Confessions of a Film Junkie: The Top 20 Most Important Films that you will ever see in your life time.
A Joint Review by: Brian Cotnoir & Lauren Ennis
Let us start out by saying that this review was no easy task. Normally on this site, we only do Top 5’s, but then the Film Junkie got the Idea to do a list of The “Top 10 Most Important films you will see in your life time”. That was too difficult because there are way too many good movies out there. So we decided to bump it up to a Top 20 List. We each came out with our own Top 20 List; of the forty films we selected we only agreed upon 5 of them. So then came two days of debates, arguments, and compromises and eventually we agreed upon the rest (without killing each other no less). So after that came the monumental task of how we were going to rank them. Surprisingly enough, we agreed on the Top 6, and then after that it was back to more turmoil and arguments, but by day’s end we had agreed upon our list.
This list was compiled by the two of us (The Film Junkie & Miss-E) and these are what we believe are the Top 20 Most Important films you will see in your life time. This is our opinion on what we feel are the 20 Most Important films that you will see in your life time. We hope you enjoy our countdown and if you haven’t seen any of the films we mentioned in our countdown we would seriously recommend all of them.
#20- The Dark Knight (By: Brian Cotnoir)
“The Dark Knight” is more than deserving of the #20 Spot on our list. Director Christopher Nolan took characters created by comic book writer & artist Bob Kane decades ago and managed to completely re-invent them, while at the same time keeping them true to their roots. This was the first superhero film that I can remember seeing that was a straight-up for adults only type film. Before this “superhero films” catered only to young children, but this film went to some dark places and dealt with a lot adult content and situations. Heath Ledger was absolutely terrifying as “The Joker”, and is one of the few villains in films that might actually have a bigger fan base than the actual superhero. This film changed the genre of the “superhero film”. Every “superhero film” that has come out since “The Dark Knight” aspires to be just like it, and many other strive to be even better. This film was a game changer and helped revolutionize an already popular film-genre.
#19- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (By: Brian Cotnoir)
This film is the kind of stuff that dreams are made of. Based off of the popular children’s book by Roald Dahl, “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” is an ideal film not just for kids, but for everyone. It has laughs, it has scares, it has drama, it has mystery, it has songs, where can you go wrong. Just looking around the chocolate factory you see all this amazing and almost magical seeming objects. The characters all have their own distinctive personalities that range from likeable to memorable. Every time I watch it I am sucked into its creative story and enchanted by this world of “pure imagination”.
#18- Fantasia (By: Brian Cotnoir)
This spot was actually a toss-up between this and another Disney animated film (“The Lion King”) but Miss-E and I eventually agreed that “Fantasia” was a much more important film than “The Lion King”, though I still feel obligated to give “The Lion King” an honorable mention. This animated Disney feature took a number of different chances that could have ruined film animation forever, but when the ideas of and animations of Disney Studios came together with the music performed by conductor Leopold Stokowski and Philadelphia Orchestra it was magical. Walt Disney was the first person to ever have the idea of a having a “Feature Length” animated film, so this idea was still pretty new in 1940. Fantasia was a wonderful collection of short animated films accompanied by great works of classical music and featured no dialogue whatsoever. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get young children to sit through an entire film where there is no talking? Not only did, Walt Disney and his crew create a cinematic masterpiece with “Fantasia”, but they also managed to resurrect the career of Disney’s most beloved character, Mickey Mouse. “Fantasia” is a film continues to inspire and entertain generations of people over 70 years later.
#17- Bonnie & Clyde (By: Lauren Ennis)
The moment that Faye Dunaway gleefully informs a local gas station attendant “we rob banks”, the viewer knows that we are not in standard gangster film territory anymore. 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde proved to be one of the most violent, rebellious, and fascinating films not just of the decade, but of film history. The film traces the rise and fall of bank robbing lovers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow as they trek across the 1930’s mid-west in search of fame, fortune, and the latest thrill. Although the plot contains various historical inaccuracies, it remains true to the anarchic spirit of the Barrow gang and views its anti-hero’s with the same ambivalent fascination that the Depression-era public once did. The film broke new ground in technique as well as narrative by utilizing the editing and cinematography techniques of French New Wave films. The film marked a turning point for the careers of stars Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, and Estelle Parsons (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role) as well as for post-studio system. From its opening frame to its inevitable conclusion, Bonnie and Clyde is an all-American thrill ride that still manages to shock and awe today.
#16- The Artist (By: Brian Cotnoir)
It’s not a question of “did you like ‘The Artist’”; it’s a question of “how much did you freaking LOVE ‘The Artist’”. This 2011 French Film took the world by storm by winning a number of prestigious awards. Including Academy Awards for “Best Picture”, “Best Director” (Michael Hazanavicus), “Best Actor” (Jean Dujardin), “Best Score”, and “Best Costume Design”. What makes this film so great is that it is glorious homage to the early days of film and cinema, and even though it is a French Film it still widely represents what many consider to be “The American Dream”. The idea of coming from a small town and going to Hollywood, USA to become a star on the big screen is a dream and fantasy that practically everyone has hoped for, and “The Artist” is a perfect representation of that dream.
#15- Snow White & the Seven Dwarves (By: Lauren Ennis)
This film is the one that started it all; at least as far as animated films are concerned. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ release in 1937 marked the start of a new era in filmmaking, and cemented Disney’s reputation as the leader in family entertainment. Despite the fact that is based upon a children’s fairy tale, the film held the title for a surprising number of firsts including first full-length animated feature to be released in the United States, first film to have a soundtrack album, first film to have merchandise available at its premiere, and first animated film to be selected for the United States’ National Film Registry. The story follows the familiar plot of the fairy tale as the wicked Queen tries to assassinate her step-daughter, Snow White, in order to remain the fairest in the land. The film even includes the more gruesome aspects of the original story such as the Queen’s hiring of a local Huntsman to kill Snow White on the condition that he return with her removed heart as proof of his success. The film’s animation remains as lush and sophisticated today as it was upon its initial release, making modern CGI animation pale in comparison. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a prime example of quality family entertainment and the magic of Disney.
#14- Pyscho (By: Brian Cotnoir)
Director Alfred Hitchcock took Horror film making to the next level when he made “Psycho” in 1960. “Psycho” was a Horror film unlike any other. No longer were the “Universal Movie Monsters” the only frightening thing on screen. Hitchcock had the brilliance to make his villains they every day things and every day people, and he sent terror into audiences across the land when this film was released. The films antagonist, Norman Bates was largely inspired by American Serial Killer Ed Gein, and was wonderfully portrayed by actor Anthony Perkins. This role was no easy task for an actor especially for when he played this role. To this day, I still say that Anthony Perkins gives the best acting performance I have ever seen in a film in “Psycho”. If you are a fan of Horror films and you have not seen it “Psycho” you simply must, and please, for the love of your God, do NOT see the 1999 re-make with Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates...You Have Been Warned @_@.
#13- Spartacus (By: Lauren Ennis)
In 1947 the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began an investigation into the influence of communism in the film industry. This investigation included a series of hearings which lasted through the remainder of the 1940’s and entire 1950’s. Ultimately, these hearings caused a massive panic which led several prominent professionals to turn against their colleagues and report them as communists. Although there was often little to no definitive evidence to support the claims presented to HUAC, numerous professionals were exiled from the film industry. In order to maintain employment despite their blacklisted status, many screenwriters would submit their scripts under false names or the names of other, politically acceptable, writers. One such screenwriter was Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted in 1947 and forced to write under pseudonyms and other writers’ names in order to continue working. Upon completing the script for the gladiator epic, Spartacus, Trumbo planned to go about his usual practice of writing under another writer’s name. Star and producer Kirk Douglas, however, had grown frustrated with the stifling working conditions in Hollywood and determined that Trumbo would receive full screen credit for the script. The title hero’s revolt against his Roman enslavers can easily be viewed as a stand in for Douglas and other film professionals’ stand against HUAC. The film’s role in history directly parallels its themes of sacrifice, loyalty, and freedom as the film’s cast and crew joined together and risked their careers for professional freedom, in much the same way that Spartacus and his comrades risked all that they held dear for personal freedom. Despite initial protests, the film went on to become a critical and financial success and encouraged other films to utilize the work of blacklisted professionals, effectively breaking the blacklist, and beginning a new era in Hollywood history.
#12- Star Wars (By: Lauren Ennis)
Due to its pulp fiction roots and numerous failed entries into the genre, science fiction is often maligned as juvenile and cliché. In the 1970’s, science fiction was largely considered a fringe sub-genre aimed towards children. In 1977, however, Star Wars became a surprising smash hit that brought science fiction into the cinematic mainstream. Merging themes and motifs from such diverse sources as Greek epics, Christian-Judeo traditions, and modern history, the film weaves a tale that is thematically familiar despite its aesthetic innovation. The story begins as Princess Leia sends resistance plans with a desperate last resort plea to exiled Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi before being arrested by agents of the Galatic Empire. The message is inadvertently received by desert farm boy Luke Skywalker, who sees the princess’ plight as a way out of his dreary rural life. After his aunt and uncle are found murdered by Empire agents seeking the princess’ secret plans, Luke accompanies Obi-Wan (now a retired recluse) on a quest to rescue the princess and stop the advancement of the Empire’s army. The film was a box office smash hit that was followed up by two sequels and three prequels. The characters, costumes, and quotes have since become integral parts of American popular culture that are regularly referenced, parodied, and imitated. Since its initial release, Star Wars has become a sci-fi icon that continues to influence the genre and remind audiences of the wonders that can lie in a galaxy far far away.
#11- Titanic (By: Brian Cotnoir)
When this movie was released in 1997 it was huge! Director James Cameron nearly bankrupted 3 Major Film studios trying to make this film, and even after it was completed many film critics were under the impression that this film was going to be the biggest film flop in history. Oh, how they were wrong. Upon it’s release, “Titanic” became the Highest Grossing Film of All-Time (only to be outdone by “Avatar”, another film by James Cameron) and it was the first film to eclipse One-Billion and unheard of and un-thought of amount of revenue for a film to make. Not only that, but it won a record tying 11 Academy Awards. It is a film that takes one of the biggest disasters in World History and adds a great fictional romantic story that continues to fill it’s audiences with awe an inspiration.
#10- The Godfather Parts I & II (By: Brian Cotnoir)
Okay, so it might be cheating to count two films as one, but in all seriousness both of these films are fantastic. For me, personally, I think the Godfather Part II is better than Part I, but I knew if we left “The Godfather” off this list that it would be something we’d never hear the end of, so we decided to include both of these films for the #10 Spot. “The Godfather” Parts I & II are the detailed accounts of the Corleone’s—an Italian American Family that’s primary business is organized crime. “The Godfather” Parts I & II are fantastic Gangster/Crime films and feature many great actors including Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, and a slew of other talented actors. These are ideal films for anyone who is a fan of the “Gangster Film” Genre. This is the Gangster Film that all other Gangster films aspire to be like, and for me personally, I have started a tradition with my family that we watch at least one of “The Godfather” movies on Thanksgiving.
#9- Metropolis (By: Lauren Ennis)
Today, dystopian tales are rampant in science fiction and fantasy. These films generally depict a not too distant future in which one group of people is enslaving another through the use of ultra-modern technology and mass manipulation. The successful formula for dystopian fiction has been utilized so many times that it seems as old as fiction itself. In reality, these tales in many ways owe a creative debt to a more recent source; the 1927 silent classic Metropolis. The film relates the epic struggle of upper class elite and lower class workers for control of the futuristic city of Metropolis. The city is run by Joh Frederson, whose son, Freder, has recently been exposed to the plight of city’s workers after meeting reform minded worker Maria. Horrified by what she tells him, Freder determines to learn about the workers and their hardships by posing as a worker himself. While Freder is leading his double life in the city’s slums, Joh concocts a plan to turn the workers against Maria so that his elite class can maintain control of the city. The plan quickly spirals out of control, leaving it up to Freder and Maria to unite the city’s classes and prevent a civil war. Despite its sometimes predictable plot that echoes the biblical tale of Christ, Metropolis manages to tell a convincingly futuristic story, which also comments on the issues of its day. In many ways, the film parallels the social and economic unrest of 1920’s Germany, and foreshadows the strife that was to come in the 1930’s. Interestingly enough, despite its warnings against totalitarianism, the film was a favorite of Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler, who saw its message as a parallel to his own skewed world view. The film’s set designs and visual effects are just as stunning now as they were in 1927, and enable viewers to become completely engrossed in the film’s futuristic world. The film’s exploration of technology as both an enslaver and a liberator also remains relevant in an increasingly technology reliant world. Although today’s dystopian stories feature digital inventions that are far more advanced than the machines envisioned in 1927, Metropolis remains a truly innovative work of art that, though often imitated, cannot be replicated.
#8- The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (By: Lauren Ennis)
Long before a little boy saw dead people, Norman Bates covered up his mother’s crimes, and Keyser Soze ruled the criminal underworld, there were the exploits of a carnival barker and his clairvoyant somnambulist. 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is often considered both the first true horror film and the first film with a twist ending. By the first reel, the film sets itself apart with its surreal sets that seem more like something out of a nightmare than a living reality. In this bizarre world of twisted objects and jagged surfaces, Francis stares longingly at a woman who was once his fiancée. He then flashes back to when he and Jane were happily engaged and the mysterious Dr. Caligari’s carnival came to town. Francis attends the carnival with his best friend and former romantic rival, Alan, and they watch a show featuring Dr. Caligari’s somnambulist, Cesare. Caligari claims that Cesare is a psychic who has been asleep for his entire life, but can still answer any question correctly. Alan daringly asks if Cesare can predict when he will die, to which Cesare replies that Alan will be dead “at first dawn”. Though he and Francis initially laugh about the show, Alan is dead the next morning. Francis assumes that Cesare and Caligari are behind the murder and sets out to bring them to justice. After several twists and turns, a final twist is revealed that brings the entire plot into question. Prior to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, films were straightforward stories that inspired little discussion or debate. With its shocking final twist, however, the film led the way for other twist based films that continue to surprise, baffle, and frustrate audiences today. While the film’s extraordinary set design was too surreal to influence other films, its cinematography provided the basis for the play on light and shadow of German Expressionism, which would eventually lead to the invention of film noir. Although modern cinema may not be as innovative as the filmmakers of the silent era envisioned, it would certainly be a far less interesting medium if not for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
|Fantastic Sets and Cinematography|
#7- Casablanca (By: Lauren Ennis)
Here’s looking at you, kid; round up the usual suspects; we’ll always have Paris; play it, Sam; I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. These lines have become so ingrained in popular culture that audiences sometimes forget that they all came from one film; Casablanca. Despite the fact that it is one of cinema’s most popular romances, Casablanca is actually much more than a simple love story. The film chronicles the transformation of a jaded American expatriate into a passionate member of the Allied cause as he reunites with the love of his life, only to give her up for the greater good. The film serves as both an enormously entertaining story on its surface, and a fascinating political allegory as resistance member Ilsa inspires isolationist Rick to rejoin the cause. The cast and crew reportedly resented working on a film with an unfinished script that they assumed would be a flop. Through a combination of excellent writing, superb performances, and memorable atmosphere, however, the film went on to become one of Hollywood’s greatest successes and happiest accidents. As time goes by, it is clear that Casablanca is far more than a story of “three little people”, and it is little wonder why when audiences hear the word ‘classic’, they instinctively think of Casablanca.
#6- Modern Times (By: Brian Cotnoir)
Charlie Chaplin directed and starred in a number of important films in his illustrious career. With titles such as “City Lights”, “The Great Dictator”, “The Kid”, and “Limelight” Chaplin is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood History. His best film though has to be 1936, “Modern Times”. In the film Chaplin lovable “Tramp” character satires the rapid industrialization of World. Now you can look at this film as one of two ways, this is either Chaplin’s last “Silent” Film or his first “Talkie”. It’s tough to distinguish because it really depends on who you ask. The film doesn’t have actual dialogue, but it does feature sound effects and music. Not only that, but I’d say it’s more Chaplin’s last “Silent Film” because his only real dialogue in the film is a song he sings at the end of the film. “Modern Times” truly was the end of an era (at least for Silent Film making in Hollywood) and Charlie Chaplin struck cinematic gold with “Modern Times”.
The Tramp Finds the Right (First) Words
#5- Gone With the Wind (By: Lauren Ennis)
Clocking in at nearly four hours and filmed in breathtaking Technicolor, this film truly is the mother of all epics. Gone With the Wind traces twelve years in the life of Scarlett O’Hara as she evolves from pampered Southern Belle to iron-willed woman against the backdrop of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The success of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel it is based upon, combined with the studio promoted ‘search for Scarlett’ guaranteed that the film would be a box office success. Even today, the film maintains the record for highest ticket sales, beating the likes of top grossers Titanic and Avatar. Gone With the Wind is far more than an example of fine marketing, however, as is evidenced by the way that it continues to inspire audiences. Despite its epic length and status as a period piece, the film never drags or falls flat, instead becoming more interesting as its characters grow and change in response to the obstacles that life forces upon them. Family saga, romance, war story, coming of age tale; Gone With the Wind is all of these and more, making it a film with something for everyone that is truly worth giving a damn about.
You Tell Her, Rhett!
#4- Birth of a Nation (By: Brian Cotnoir)
|America's 1st Blockbuster...how sad.|
#3- To Kill a Mockingbird (By: Lauren Ennis)
At first glance, it is difficult to understand how mild mannered lawyer Atticus Finch managed to surpass the likes of Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Rick Blaine to top the American Film Institute’s recent list of 100 greatest heroes. Upon closer examination however, it is clear that Atticus is the best man for the title. In the 1963 film To Kill a Mockingbird, Gregory Peck plays lawyer Atticus Finch as a man of humbleness, courage, and integrity. The film tells the tale of six year old Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch as she comes of age in rural Alabama in the early 1930’s. Throughout the film, Scout and her brother, Jem, turn to their father, Atticus, for guidance, advice, and an example to live by. In the film’s most notable sequence, Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a local black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Over the course of the trial, the Finch family is harassed by the local townspeople, who refuse to see past their prejudices to the truth of the case. While race remains a controversial topic even today, To Kill a Mockingbird was particularly daring for discussing racism in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. At that time, segregation still ruled the South and peaceful demonstrations were often met with violent retaliation. One of the most notable aspects of the film is its ability to convey the importance of justice and the horrors of racism without resorting to preaching or grandstanding. Through its understated approach to a complicated topic, To Kill a Mockingbird matches its Pulitzer Prize winning source material and sets the standard for heroism in film.
#2- Citizen Kane (By: Brian Cotnoir)
Orson Welles debut film “Citizen Kane” is considered by many to be the Greatest Film of All-Time. It has been ranked at the #1 on the list of the Greatest Films of All-Time by the American Film Institute (AFI) and the late Roger Ebert said that it was his Favorite Film of All-Time. The life story of a newspaper tycoon named Charles Foster Kane is loosely based off of the life of William Randolph Hearst. Orson Welles co-wrote, directed, and starred in this film and he was only 25-years-old. What a major accomplishment to achieve and at such a young age. This film was innovative and it was all surrounding the mystery of what did Charles Foster Kane’s final words mean (which, I have to be honest I was disappointed with the ending, but other than that it was great). The only thing that I find most amusing about this film is for all the praise it receives and all the people who decree it to be the “Best Film Ever”, the fact remains that “Citizen Kane” did not win the Oscar for “Best Picture” in 1941. That honor went to John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley”. Obviously, it wasn’t green enough because years later we are still praising Orson Welles and “Citizen Kane”, and you know what, I’ve never even seen “How Green Was My Valley”. I don’t even know what it’s about.
#1- The Wizard of Oz (By: Lauren Ennis)
MGM dedicated this film to “the young in heart”, and no film captures the innocence and wonder of childhood quite like The Wizard of Oz. From the moment that Judy Garland appears on screen with Scottish terrier Toto, the audience is transported back to the carefree days when we really could find any excitement we sought in our own back yards. The story follows restless Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale on a series of magical adventures in a land ‘over the rainbow’, as she attempts to defeat a wicked witch and return home. The film perfectly encompasses the desire to experience life beyond the confines of the familiar and the wisdom that comes from knowing that there truly is no place like home. With several generations growing up watching and loving The Wizard of Oz, nearly every aspect of the film from quotes, to costumes, to songs has become iconic to the point of entering the realm of national culture. Cinema is an art that is meant to transport viewers into another world beyond the one in which they are living. No other film transports its viewers as effectively as The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens her door to a colorful land and we all realize that we aren’t in Kansas anymore.
Sing Judy, Sing!