My Top 10 Movies of All Time

This post was published more than a few years ago (on 2009-01-27) and may contain inaccurate technical information, outmoded thoughts, or cringe takes. Proceed at your own risk.

On Twitter tonight, John Gruber asked the (facetious) question:

"Fletch": Great movie, or the best movie?

I responded that while perhaps not my favorite, it would probably be in my top 10. I realize, though, that I say that a lot. I toss a great number of wonderful movies into my top 10 willy-nilly, but I'm not sure I've ever decided to sit down and figure out what exactly is in my top 10.

Incidentally, what a bullshit title that is — "Top 10 Movies of All Time." Really, like I could distill my vast and inclusive love of film down to only 10 representative samples, especially when I'm as fickle about my movie loves as I am.

Still, I'm going to try. But I sure as hell am not going to rank them in any sort of order. I will probably soon be reminded of movies that should have gone on here in place of the ones that made it; but this is my list right now, for better or for worse, from my 2-hours-of-sleep-in-the-last-48-hours brain.

  • Back to the Future — Completely discounting what I said a moment ago — this may, in fact, be my numero uno, favorite film of all time. Sure, there's plot holes you can drive a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float through, but it's fun in a way that films don't often get to be anymore. Plus, I still want a DeLorean.
  • Ghostbusters — Like BTTF, It's one of the movies I saw early enough in my love of film (and at just the right moment that I was able to watch them over and over, thanks to the magic of VHS) that I learned the entire script, by rote. Ghostbusters is seared into my brain. And it's still pretty damn funny. (Also, I think proton pack lust figures into it somewhere.)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark — I remember watching James Bond movies on the ABC Sunday Night Movie, and I really enjoyed them, but I'm not sure that I ever wanted to be James Bond. But Indiana Jones? Oh man, did I ever. This film strikes a perfect balance for me in so many areas that every adventure movie since has had to live up to the magic that is Raiders. Plus, I still have a crush on Karen Allen.
  • The Empire Strikes Back — As much as I prefer to distance myself from the new Star Wars prequels (which could be a whole 'nother discussion), I do have a special place in my heart for the original trilogy. I wanted to be Han Solo (I think that's a recurring theme in this Top 10), and this film is the most touching of the three. Two words: "I know."
  • Fletch — Indeed, Fletch does make it onto my Top 10. I just watched it again recently, and it is hugely dated now, but it's a good script, and it stars Chevy Chase back in the prime of his funny. The dialogue here was quoted amongst my friends for years, including my favorite gem: "Manure splitter jackknifed on the Santa Ana. Godawful mess. You should see my shoes!"
  • The Hudsucker Proxy — With the Hud, we move into flicks that I discovered a little later on in life (at least after high school). I do enjoy a number of Frank Capra's comedies, and I love the Coen Brothers' films; but mash the two together? Hoo boy, this is one awesome homage. The production design is to die for, and Paul Newman's performance here is the one that made me love him as an actor. Brilliantly funny stuff.
  • Tucker — I admit — I'm a sucker for a guy in a sharp suit and a fedora, and this movie has that in spades. Of course, it also has Francis Ford Coppola's sharp directorial sense, an inspirational story of an underdog who almost makes good, a beautiful automobile, amazing production design (and post! — check out all the inventive transitions between scenes in the montages), and it introduced me to one of my more serious movie crushes: Joan Allen as Vera Tucker. Rowr.
  • Hudson Hawk — Written and directed by the team that brought you Heathers, Hudson Hawk has been badly maligned by everyone and their dog. But I bet you 80% of them have never even seen it, and base their assessment on vague reports of a "vanity project gone out of control." That's as may be, but it's got great dialog, impressive comedic performances all around, and a script that hits dead center on the fun & goofy scale for me. For those who would put it down, I ask you to give it another try — but this time, instead of expecting a Bruce Willis action vehicle, watch it as if it were meant to be a live-action Warner Bros. cartoon.
  • Vertigo — Yeah, sure, everybody loves Vertigo. It's not an inventive Hitchcock choice for my Top 10. So what? Like the rest of this list is any less populist. I like Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. I love Barbara Bel Geddes. The plot is just bizarre enough and caught me at just that right time in my life that I really latched onto it. And I first saw it during the restoration re-release at the Uptown Theater in DC, on their enormous screen. This is the film that made me fall in love with San Francisco without ever having been there in person.
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang — The most recent entry in my Top 10, I only saw this a year ago, but it immediately rocketed to the top. The plot is a fun mystery, and the script is full of the kind of whip-smart dialogue that I love, with pitch-perfect performances by Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, and my latest movie crush, Michelle Monaghan. If I could direct a movie half as well as Shane Black, this is what I would aspire to.

Honorable mentions (11-20):

  • The Third Man
  • Casablanca
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • The Lion in Winter
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Solaris (2002)
  • The Hunt for Red October
  • The Thing (1982)
  • A Knight's Tale
  • Trading Places

What's your Top 10?

2 thoughts on “My Top 10 Movies of All Time”

  1. I’ve seen four and a half of your top five (I only saw part of Fletch, recently) and loved those four. So I suppose I should rent the rest of your list.

    I’d put Wrath of Kahn somewhere in my top twenty. No other Star Trek movies, just that one.

  2. Hmmmmm….What would my top ten be? I’d say these:

    (1) Jumanji (2) Wallace & Gromit: curse of the were-rabit (3) Dinotopia (4) The Incredibles (5) A series of unfortunate events (6) Batman & Superman movie (7) Yellow sub (8) Muppets from space (9) Spiderman 3 (10) BTTF

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