Top Tens: Films

Last week, I tweeted a question asking if readers could more easily list their top ten films, books, albums, TV shows, or restaurants. Since I miss LiveJournal and love making list, I thought I'd share mine. All of these lists are subject to change at any moment, and they're personal favorites as opposed to what I think are the "greatest" works in the media.

We'll start with the films because we have to start somewhere. In no particular order:


I've never seen music used as well in a film as in Trainspotting. The whole film has a filthy energy to it and somehow makes heroin look horrible while at the same time making it look like a perfectly reasonable alternative to living without it. The performances are uniformly amazing. I've seen Trainspotting dozens of times and I've never grown tired of it.

The Princess Bride

If I had to recommend one film to a person I'd never met, it would be this one. It has a little something for everyone. It's sweet without being cloying, it winks without taking you out of the story, and everyone seems to be having a marvelous time. How was Cary Elwes not the go-to lead for romantic films for the next decade? 


I had to see Brazil three times before I understood what had happened at the end. It's darkly hilarious and utterly brutal. Funny thing is that the themes are not totally dissimilar to those in Atlas Shrugged, but the telling of the tale couldn't be any more different. 

The Shawshank Redemption

For sheer storytelling, this is as good a film as I've ever seen. Frank Darabont's laconic pacing is perfect, letting the story unfold slowly and powerfully. Instead of just painting by numbers, every emotion and every plot twist is earned by laying painstaking groundwork. It's a work of quiet genius.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Whether or not the quirky style is your cup of tea, this is an unflinchingly honest look at the bravery required in relationships. I happy to love Gondry's unconventional way of telling a story, so this one is a win/win for me.

Princess Mononoke

The art isn't quite up to the standards of Spirited Away, but the story is stronger and the message is incredible. As a child, I don't think I ever saw a story where the hero's task was to bring about a conclusion that serves all parties. No, the stories I was given were all about overcoming evil. This is a better fable and I wish I'd been exposed to it as a youngster.

Bottle Rocket

When you've seen everything at your local Blockbuster, back when they still rented VHS tapes, you sometimes have to reach for something you know nothing about. I'd never heard of Wes Anderson or the Wilson brothers before I saw Bottle Rocket. This is probably the least "Wes Anderson" of the Wes Anderson canon, but it's still a marvelously unique and funny film.


It should have been cloying, but it wasn't. It starts with a sweet, grandmotherly voice narrating a sweet tale of porcine mythology over images of a slaughterhouse, so you know immediately that this isn't going to be just any children's film. It's just dark enough to make the peril seem real and the triumphs that much more triumphant.

Dr. Strangelove

Funniest. Apocalypse. Ever. It turns out that I have a thing for black comedy. Who could possibly have seen that coming?

Star Wars

There is only one Star Wars. There will only ever be only one Star Wars. The other films come and go, but Star Wars is eternal. We'll never see anything like it. This film was still selling out shows more than a year after its release. There were two things in my life when this came out: Star Wars and not-Star Wars, and I tried to spend as little time on not-Star Wars as possible.

Looking back on it, most of my top ten are films that left some sort of a mark on me. I wanted so badly to put Lawrence of Arabia on this list because it's a much better film than most of these, but in the end, it didn't stick with me the way any of these did. 

Movies were easy. It turns out that if you change the number, different categories get easier or more difficult (thanks Fred!), but ten is "about right" for me in terms of films. We'll pick up the other categories...soon.