Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: An Award-Winning, Emotional Ride
In 2004, director Michel Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman joined forces to create Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The movie centers around a man named Joel Barish, played by Jim Carey, who starts up a romantic relationship with Clementine, an outgoing girl portrayed by Kate Winslet.
Their relationship eventually takes a turn for the worse, and to end things, they decide to use a procedure that will erase their memories of each other. Naturally, a procedure that out-there is not an easy process. It’s an emotion-filled film that culminated in the script being awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Another Anderson Success
This was the first film to earn director Wes Anderson a nomination from the Academy Awards for best director. It’s not surprising, then, that it was also his highest-grossing film. He’d had plenty of good films prior to The Grand Budapest Hotel, but this one was a combination of all the great aspects of his previous films. It’s shot beautifully with clever characters and snappy dialogue.
The plot centers on Zero, a lobby boy played by Tony Revolori, who accepts a job working at the Grand Budapest Hotel. His boss is the slightly-crazy Monsieur Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes. Like Anderson’s other movies, this one is quite unpredictable.
Jaws: A Movie That Continues to Inspire Fear
With its action-packed plotline and special effects, Jaws could easily have faded from memory when it first came out if it hadn’t been the product of the masterful Steven Spielberg and those who worked with him. Instead, it’s an icon that continues to inspire fear of the ocean.
The way the shots build tension combined with the ever-recognizable musical score created a movie different than most people had ever seen. And today, 40 years after it was released, those who have seen the movie still look at the ocean with hesitation as they remember the child on the raft and the story of the USS Indianapolis.
Unforgiven: A Realistic Look at a Bloody World
Actor Clint Eastwood is perhaps the most well-known star of Western movies, but he was more than just a cowboy. Unforgiven, which he starred in and directed, is proof of his many talents. The story focuses on Eastwood, who plays a reformed outlaw who has turned into a law-abiding citizen for his children.
But his law-breaking days have one last hurrah when he needs money. This movie, unlike others, does not glorify the lifestyle of gunslinging cowboys riding off into the sunset on their horses. It shows the violence of that lifestyle and just how devasting killing and dying really are. It’s a realistic look at an often-unrealistic genre.
There Will Be Blood: A Look at the Dark Side of Capitalism
This social commentary on capitalism directed by Paul Thomas Anderson focuses on the hunt for black gold, or oil, at the end of the 19th century. There Will Be Blood stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. The two men fight to control oil, and as the film rolls, Day-Lewis’s character gradually becomes more and more unscrewed.
It’s an honest look at both how capitalism affects American society and how crazy people can become when money is on the line. Day-Lewis delivers a stunning performance that is only enhanced by the beauty of Anderson’s script and Robert Elswit’s shooting. The film is as dirty as the oil the men are fighting for.
John Wick: An Action Film That Embraces Emotion
John Wick is one of the more beautiful films in the action-film genre. It stars Keanu Reeves at his best from having spent four months training eight hours a day, five days a week, for the role. It’s Reeves’s intense dedication to the film and his role that helped the movie turn out so beautifully.
The movie has stunning special effects and lighting, and the plot is mesmerizing. The film is more than a simple story of a killer who goes on a murderous rampage after his own dog is killed. It’s much deeper, with the plot focusing on a man who is grieving his last connection to his wife who recently died. Most action films avoid emotional depth, but this one embraces it, making it stand out from the crowd.
You Were Never Really Here: A Plot Twist Takes This Film in a Beautiful Direction
Joaquin Phoenix, playing Joe, stars as a hitman with a hammer who has been hired to rescue the daughter of a senator from a ring of sex traffickers. Unsurprisingly, he quickly realizes that the story is much more than a sex trafficking ring.
Admittedly, it’s not the most original plotline, but the film goes against expectations, and the actors portray their characters brilliantly. Phoenix does a beautiful job playing a man who tries to be a good son while working as a killer. The film really takes off because of his acting and the unexpected plot twist.
The Witch: A Reawakening of the Horror Genre
The Witch focuses on a family in the 1630s who have been banished from their Puritan community in Plymouth. The father and the rest of the family build a new farm on the edge of a forest. When the baby boy vanishes under mysterious circumstances, the family goes mad looking for the child. At the same time, they’re manipulated by the evil forces in the forest.
This was the debut of Robert Eggers in a directing role, and he dedicated four years to researching the film and ensuring it was as historically accurate as possible while maintaining the horrifying aspects of a horror film. There is a near-constant sense of doom in the air, and that, coupled with the performances of the actors, creates a horror film that revitalizes an often-tired genre.
Manchester by the Sea: A Heartbreaking Masterpiece
Manchester by the Sea isn’t a movie that will leave you feeling happy or satisfied at the end. The film, which was directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan, focuses on loner Lee Chandler, played by Casey Affleck. After his brother’s death, Lee must return to his hometown, which he fled years ago.
When he arrives, he finds out that he has been given custody of his brother’s teenage son. Lee must also face the past that he had tried to run from. After watching the film, it’s easy to see why Affleck and Lonergan both won Oscars (Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay, respectively). The film is a beautiful tale that you would never want to live through.
Mad Max: Fury Road: A Wonderful Use of CGI and Special Effects
CGI is no longer something special that few movies use, and it is easy to become numb to the same action scenes that play over and over again in various movies. But Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth part of the Mad Max series, uses CGI at its best. It centers on Max Rockatansky, played by Tom Hardy, who is nearly feral and lives in a post-apocalyptic society. He joins forces with Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, to rescue a group of five women from a warlord.
It’s an interesting plot, but this movie’s action scenes and artful use of CGI are what make it a true masterpiece. Most of the crazy stunts are real, as are the car chase scenes. The cinematography used to create the post-apocalyptic world appears almost real as if that world truly does exist.
Mulholland Drive: The Century’s Best Film
For years, movie directors have produced films that are experiments in surrealism. Perhaps one of the best uses of surrealism in a film is Mulholland Drive directed by David Lynch. The movie plays like a very upsetting dream where it’s hard to tell the difference between dreams and reality.
Robert Eggers, a famous film critic, said that film ‘works directly on the emotions, like music.’ The movie itself is full of memorable scenes that keep the audience mesmerized throughout the entire thing. BBC even named it the best film so far of the 21st century.
Her: A Sad and Possible Future
This science-fiction movie combines romance with the near future. Spike Jonze wrote, directed, and produced it, and it stars Joaquin Phoenix. The film focuses on Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a lonely writer whose life is in turmoil as he goes through a divorce. In an effort to end his loneliness, he purchases a piece of technology (played by Scarlet Johansson), who he starts to fall in love with. It’s a beautiful movie with pale colors, gray cities, and enchanting music that keeps the audience right by Twombly’s side.
Phoenix pulls off a great performance that gives the audience the chance to experience Twombly’s inner turmoil and sympathize with him. At times, the storyline seems a little too realistic, as if that reality may come true.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: A Beautifully Fresh Take on the Classic Western
This is an extremely underrated film, and it tackles the genre of Western films in a unique way. While many Westerns have lots of gunfights and violence, this movie tries to focus on the actual characters instead of the glory of the west.
Each frame was shot so well that it could truly pass as a painting. The storyline follows the infamous Jesse James, played by Brad Pitt, who is struggling with mental illness while maneuvering a relationship with one of his unstable fans, played by Casey Affleck. Roger Deakins, the cinematographer, went so far as to invent a new set of lenses to shoot the movie in the way he imagined. It’s been called a cross between ‘tintype and an oil painting’ by critic Scout Tafoya.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: The End to an Amazing Trilogy
Turning the massive Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien into a set of three films was a huge endeavor, but Peter Jackson was able to successfully do it. And while the first two movies are good, it’s the third that truly met its mark. The film was huge and included multiple battles, amazing cinematography, and a breathtaking score that brought it all together.
It’s no surprise, then, that it is the second-highest-grossing film ever and that it won 11 Oscars, including the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s even been called the most influential film in the fantasy genre. Can any films really compare?
The Thing: Originally Unappreciated, This Film Is Now a Classic
This science-fiction film directed by John Carpenter and written by Bill Lancaster centers on several researchers located in a very isolated area of Antarctica. While they are there, they come across a parasite called ‘The Thing’ that is able to transform into the shape of any organism. As a result, it can assume the shape of any of the researchers, so the group is quickly overcome by paranoia and fear as they realize they cannot trust each other.
The film at first received fairly negative reviews because of the graphic special effects and its cynical tone. However, people began to eventually understand the value of the film. In fact, today it is seen as one of the best horror films made.
2001: A Space Odyssey: A Space Film That Delves into Existentialism
This science-fiction film was based on ‘The Sentinel,’ a short story by Arthur C. Clark. Stanley Kubrick directed the film that follows a journey to the planet Jupiter after it was discovered that a Monolith was affecting human evolution. The journey includes an artificially intelligent computer named HAL, and the plot itself is quite interesting. What’s most interesting, however, is the use of evolution, AI, space travel, and existentialism.
The breathtaking film is unique in that it uses special effects with a little sound and dialogue to create the vast emptiness of space. It has been included on several top ten lists and is viewed as one of the best films made.
The Big Lebowski: A Witty Film with Engaging Dialogue That Remains a Hit
This hit by the Coen Brothers tells the story of a man called ‘The Dude,’ played by Jeff Bridges. He gets caught up in a tangle of misunderstandings and failures all while trying to get a new rug. The plot goes everywhere, and the audience is often confused just like the main character.
Despite the confusion, it’s an entertaining storyline with characters that make it stand out from other movies. The dialogue is unique and witty, which is part of why so many quotes have been pulled from the movie itself. They tend to be quotes that only fans of the movie will understand, but it’s a movie worth seeing.
Pan’s Labyrinth: A Unique Combination of the Real and the Fantastical
Guillermo del Toro’s twisted fantasy film focuses on a time period a mere five years after the civil war in Spain. It combines history with a magical world when Ofelia, the protagonist, finds magical creatures that take her to her future.
The film is known for the fantastical storyline, brilliant acting, and beautiful cinematography and visual effects. The film can be violent and emotional, but it’s beautiful to see and has been ranked on multiple top ten lists. It is widely thought to be del Toro’s best film and is renowned throughout the film world.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.: Perhaps the Best Film of a Stunning Universe
The Marvel films are still being churned out at a fast pace, so it’s impossible to say which one will be remembered as the best one, but in terms of a flawless film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers everything Marvel promises with an engaging plot and beautiful film.
This is the sequel to the first of the Guardians series. In this film, the space defenders must face the abusive pasts they have tried to escape. This includes Gamora and Nebula’s father and Rocket’s past as an experiment. The character Peter Quill is a victim as well in the film when he meets his dad. Everything fully lives up to the Marvel Comic Universe standard.
Hot Fuzz: A Great Showcase of How to Expertly Combine Genres
This British comedy from 2007 focuses on two police officers tasked with uncovering the answers behind a series of unsolved deaths in the area. Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote it, and Nick Frost play the two cops, and it was directed by Edgar Wright. It’s a great look at how jokes that are set-up well can pay off.
The film is known for its tight screenplay because of how well foreshadowing is used in the script to hint at the crazy plotlines that are to come. With its great jokes, the movie shines as a mixture of mystery, action, horror, and comedy.
Spider-Man 2: A Sequel That Impressed the Critics
Renowned film critic Roger Ebert referred to the 2004 movie Spider-Man 2 as ‘the best superhero movie since the modern genre was launched with Superman.’ Even as a sequel, it shines, and Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire both did a great job producing a light-hearted film that continues to keep audiences engaged.
The film makes the audience want Spider-Man to beat the villain and find happiness in his own life outside of his life as a hero. Maguire did a great job making the character relatable, and the production of the film is great.
Evil Dead II: An Unexpectedly Crude Masterpiece
Sam Raimi created another flawless film when he produced Evil Dead II. Critics might claim it’s a little too crude to be ranked as a film masterpiece, but the film does what it was designed to do, which was leave the audience laughing and screaming. It’s rare that a film so expertly fulfills its purpose like Evil Dead II does.
In this sequel, Bruce Campbell is constantly covered in blood and guts. He gives a great performance, and critics have ranked his acting in this movie as being comparable to the greats Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Pulp Fiction: An Undeniable Cult Classic
This cult classic directed and written by Quentin Tarantino featured a group of stars including Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, and Samuel L. Jackson. It focuses on crimes in Los Angeles. The unique name comes from crime novels that happened to be very popular during the 20th century.
The acting is understandably brilliant with such a talented cast, but the non-linear storyline makes it truly unique. The audience can never tell what will happen next in the film, but all the storylines do eventually come together at the end in the culmination of a great film. The acting, storylines, and signature Tarantino music make it a classic.
Silence: An Artful Examination of Faith
Films can focus on a variety of topics, and some of the most difficult topics center on your life’s purpose, religion, and morality. The film Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese, is one of the more successful films to tackle these topics. The plot hinges on the journey of two Jesuit priests, played by Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield, who illegally enter Japan in an attempt to find their mentor, played by Liam Neeson, who allegedly has given up his religion.
Garfield’s character is eventually caught, and as punishment, he must give up his faith, which would also mean eternal damnation, or watch as his friends are killed. Rodrigo Prieto shot the film, and the scenes are a brilliant mix of stunning beauty and horrible cruelty. It successfully looks at how faith, pain, and doubts are intertwined.
Titanic: James Cameron’s Masterpiece
James Cameron created a masterpiece when he decided to tackle turning the story of the doomed ship into a film. He was intimately involved in the entire film, working as the writer, co-editor, co-producer, and director of the film, which was released in 1997.
The film received 14 Academy Award nominations and won 11 Oscars. This tied it with the 1959 film Ben-Hur for the most Oscars won by any one film. Of course, that record could one day be broken, but Titanic will always be the first film to reach and surpass the billion-dollar mark when it earned $1.84 billion.
West Side Story: A Classic You Just Can’t Skip
This is definitely a must-see classic film. Robert Wise directed it and turned it from a story into a film. However, he didn’t have any experience making a musical, so he had to rely on the talents of Jerome Robbins, who had extensive experience directing musical and dance productions. Although Robbins may have often had to work behind the scenes after being pushed away by the Mirisch Company, it was the combination of the two of them that made the film so great.
It was an immediate hit when it came out in 1961, and film critics praised its drama and dance sequences. It took audiences right back to the cast in Manhattan in 1957 when the play was first released.
The English Patient: An Expertly Done War Drama
There’s nothing better than a well-done war drama, and The English Patient is just that. It was directed by Anthony Minghella and expertly shows just how devastating World War II was to those who didn’t live through it. It also does a great job being a voice for those who had to survive the war.
The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and went on to win nine. It was also nominated for seven Golden Globes and won two. It was the first film that was edited digitally to win the Oscar for Best Editing.
Slumdog Millionaire: Americans’ First Look at the Indian Slums
Very few Americans were familiar with the slums in India before Slumdog Millionaire was released in 2008. The drama film focuses on two brothers who grow up in Mumbai’s slums. To make the film as authentic as possible, the screenwriter Simon Beaufoy surrounded himself in the culture to adequately portray it.
It won the most Academy Awards of any film during the year it was released. This included the award for Best Picture. It grossed around $377 million.
Schindler’s List: An Adapted Piece of Art
A film cannot be a masterpiece if it doesn’t have a stellar script, and it should be pointed out that a lot of the movies on this list were based on novels. This movie, Schindler’s List, falls under that category. Steven Zaillian’s script paired wonderfully with Steven Spielberg’s unmatched ability to direct, making this 1993 film a masterpiece.
Oskar Schindler is the focus of the movie as he works during World War II to save the lives of Polish-Jewish refugees who are affected by the Holocaust. To save them, he hires them to work in his factory. The movie includes the beautiful music of violinist Itzhak Perlman and is nearly perfect.
Forrest Gump: A Film Full of Humanity
This film, released in 1994, truly stands alone. Tom Hank nailed his performance as the slow but sweet Forrest, and he may have done the world some good by bringing a little bit more humanity out of it.
The film was a huge success and grossed over $677 million around the world. It also won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Picture. It has surprising depth that many films lack, and audiences around the world loved it.
The Godfather Part II: An Example of an Equally Successful Sequel
The Godfather Part II shines despite being a sequel to another classic. It was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and includes the stars Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. The first one, The Godfather, was such a success that Paramount Pictures didn’t hesitate to sign on for the creation of a sequel.
It’s a classic gangster movie and is recognized as one of the best gangster films ever. The Library of Congress even went so far as to officially recognize it for how accurate it is. But not everyone believed the sequel would be so great. This included Al Pacino, whose lawyers reached out to Coppola with dissatisfaction about the script. Coppola was able to rewrite it in 24 hours, and Al Pacino remained with the project.
Get Out: A Film That Showcases a True American Horror
This is by far one of the best films of this generation. Director Jordan Peele successfully represented the African-American experience and put the viewer in their position. It is already widely acclaimed.
The main character Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya, is a black man dating a white woman. He goes to visit her family, and as soon as he arrives, he realizes that things are not what they seem. Racism is obvious from the start, but at first, it is casual. That is until Chris finds himself in a nightmare. The screenplay kept the audience hanging on for more, and Peele shines a light on the horrors found in America’s society.
Creed: Proof That Even a Seventh Edition Can Succeed
Plenty of people were disappointed to see that the Rocky series was getting another movie, but the 2015 film Creed showed that even a series with multiple films can still produce successful sequels. It is considered to be the best of the seven-film franchise since the release of the original in 1976, according to Cinefix.
The role of Adonis Creed was played by Michael B. Jordan, who, at the time, was just making it big in the acting world. In the movie, Creed asks Rocky Balboa for help in proving himself. There’s a new protagonist with new goals, and even though Rocky Balboa is back, it’s in a different light with a different point of view.
Shaun of the Dead: A New Twist on Classic Zombies
Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg teamed up before Hot Fuzz to create another classic called Shaun of the Dead. It’s a horror-comedy from 2004 that focuses on a man named Shaun who has to mature suddenly when the zombie apocalypse hits.
This film shines because it’s more than just gore, although that is present. It combines drama and comedy in a way that keeps the audience laughing and makes them emotional. It’s a perfect mix that keeps the audience hooked throughout the entire film and stands out from other classic gory zombie movies.
Fight Club: At First Under-Appreciated, This Film Now Shines as a Classic
Like many other masterpiece films, Fight Club debuted in 1999 to mixed reviews. But it has proven its critics wrong and lasted for nearly 20 years and become a cult classic. It’s based on a novel that has the same title.
In this film, Edward Norton is a white-collar man who gets caught up with soap salesman Brad Pitt. They create a fight club underground that grows to become more than what the audience could ever expect. It makes audiences uncomfortable while successfully preventing them from anticipating the plot twist at the end.
The Incredibles: A Disney Film That Breaks the Superhero Mold
It may seem odd to find an animated Disney movie on this list, but The Incredibles from 2004 stands out from other Disney films. The Pixar movie focuses on a seemingly average family in the suburbs who work hard to keep their superpowers a secret from the rest of the world. That all breaks down when the father falls for a trap to become a hero again.
This film differs from the normal Disney fare because there are no princesses or animals that can talk. Superheroes are portrayed in a different light, and with amazing computer animation and an engaging plot, the film lives up to its name.
Whiplash: A Movie That Provides New Inspiration
This fairly new film from 2014 received a lot of praise from critics when it first came out. Miles Teller plays Andrew Neiman, a jazz drumming student, who deals with an abusive instructor named Terence Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons.
The acting is phenomenal, as is the music, and Damien Chazelle, the director, was able to immerse the audience in the movie instead of having them just watch it. He also prevented the film from being another movie about overcoming hardships and following your passion. It is a truly beautiful film with amazing shots.
Vertigo: A Film That Introduced New Techniques
In this Alfred Hitchcock classic, James Stewart shines as a retired police officer who has a terrible fear of heights, or acrophobia. A friend hires him as a private investigator to follow that friend’s wife. She’s played by Kim Novac.
The film was released in 1958 and is a beautifully done film noir. The mysterious plot unfolds wonderfully, and the camera work does a marvelous job giving the audience feelings of vertigo. This film marked the first time an in-camera effect that messes up the perspective (called the dolly zoom) was used.
The Shawshank Redemption: Proof That Not All Masterpieces Need to Be Box Office Hits
This film has repeatedly been referred to as one of the best movies in the history of film. It came out in 1994 and is based on a Stephen King story. Film critic Roger Ebert said the film ‘is deeper than most films; about continuity in a lifetime, based on friendship and hope.’ Frank Darabont wrote and directed it, and the film did not fare well at the box office even though it received numerous nominations for awards.
The movie’s filming has been described as ‘well-crafted’ and ‘foreboding,’ and the man behind the filming, cinematographer Roger Deakins, won the Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography award from the American Society of Cinematographers. The film is so great that in 2015 it was added to the National Film Registry.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: A Lead Actor Highlights Supporting Actors
This was the second movie ever to win all five major categories at the Academy Awards. It’s ranked number 33 on the ‘100 Years…100 Movies’ list from the American Film Institute.
Jack Nicholson’s performance is described as ‘completely uninhibited’ and is said to dominate the movie while still managing to highlight the personalities of the supporting characters. Very few people will forget the performance of Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched.