Saturday, November 9, 2013

Carter's Top 40 Films (November 2013)

"Forget it, Jake -- it's Chinatown."

I was recently asked by a couple of my students to give them a list of my favorite movies. I usually resist composing such lists, for my "favorite" movies change quite a bit from day to day and year to year, according to the whim of the present moment. For example, I have been on quite a "Golden Age of Hollywood" and "Foreign and/or Art Cinema" kick over the past several months, so that is kind of where my tastes are at right now. Check back with me in six more months, and I will likely have drifted into other periods / genres / cinemas.

Furthermore, while I am pretty sure my students had in mind that I might give them a list of about ten "favorite" titles, once I actually decided to compose the list for them, I jotted down almost 100 films pretty damn quickly. However, I knew that giving them a list of 100 movie titles would be both ostentatious and unwieldy, plus I wanted this list to be "from the gut," not too thought-out or self-conscious. So I weeded my longer list down to the 40 titles below with great swiftness and without too much thought. In the end, this is NOT a list of "must-see" classics provided by a film scholar or "expert," but rather a slapdash list of my "favorite" films at the present moment, the main criterion of value being how much pleasure I take from viewing and re-viewing these particular movies.

Ryan O'Neal in the criminally under-appreciated Kubrick masterpiece Barry Lyndon.  

You will see that this "Top 40" list reveals my longstanding love for films noir and certain genres of horror.* Some of these movies -- ThunderballThe Terminator, Blade Runner, and especially Chinatown -- are the ones that made me fall in love with cinema in the first place, and a couple of the others -- Stranger than Paradise and Gummo -- date back to my 1990s love affair with low-budget, independent cinema. I put the entries here in no particular order, but if I had to single out a few as being my very top favorites, they would be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the two Kubrick films, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Barry Lyndon. 

Bubble (2005)
Heat (1995)
The Sting (1973)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Zodiac (2007)
Videodrome (1984)
Fargo (1996)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Blade Runner (1982)
Chinatown (1974)
Double Indemnity (1945)
Nashville (1975)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Psycho (1960)
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
Gummo (1997)
Rules of the Game (1939)
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Rio Bravo (1959)
Shame (2011)
The TV Set (2006)
Memories of Murder (2003)
Caché (2005)
The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
Lovely and Amazing (2001)
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
Melancholia (2011)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Chuck&Buck (2000)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Planet Terror (2007)
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Duel (1971)
Alien (1979)
Thunderball (1965)
The Terminator (1984)
The Parallax View (1976)

* I am not generally a fan of zombie films yet I rate Romero's Night of the Living Dead among my all-time favorites. I am a Rob Zombie fan. I love all Cronenberg's stuff but Videodrome is by far my favorite.


  1. Yay for Bubble on this (most excellent) list!

  2. Yes, it is hard to choose just one Soderbergh film, and both THE LIMEY and CONTAGION were close runners-up here, but BUBBLE is still my personal fave of them all.

  3. This reminds me that I need to revisit Out of Sight one of these days. I wonder if it as good as I remember.

    1. I have been meaning to revisit that one, too. I assume that it will be pretty good, given Soderbergh's overall track record.

  4. That's a really interesting list you have there, mister! I love that it goes all over the place, genre-wise, etc.
    I haven't seen BARRY LYNDON since it first came out, and for the past few years it's been re-surfacing in my thoughts at odd, and probably arbitrary, times which is fueling a desire to re-visit it again. But I do occasionally and persistently keep whistling parts of the soundtrack because I use to own it. In fact, one of the more common melodies I whistle is from the track that accompanies the robbery you have pictured.
    Also excited to see DUEL and THE PARALLAX VIEW, too! Surprised to see THE STING, but I do like that movie.
    But, man, I really haven't seen a lot of the films on your list! RULES OF THE GAME is certainly one I'll have to check out based on past conversations with you about it. And is MEMORIES OF MURDER the Korean film? If it's what I'm thinking of, I haven't seen it, but I read about it after seeing THE HOST (which I loved!) by the same director.
    But, a very cool list!

  5. Okay, I said "surprised" re: THE STING, but this is a "favorites" list, so nuts to me! Now you got me thinking what would go on my list of favorites right now...

    1. I'd like to see that list -- it is informative to read such lists when they are composed by a single individual.

  6. I never refrain from making lists of favorite films. It's a meditative mental exercise, like solving a Rubik's cube.

    1. That is a great way to conceive of it, thanks for that. I may have to do a revisit of this list soonish, too . . .