The Academy Awards Ceremony is only a few days away, which means it’s time for my annual top ten movies! The first list has my favorite movies for the year; it’s a completely subjective list, but I like to think my opinion accounts for a movie’s objective and technical standing. In this list, I am not predicting anything for the Oscars—I am two-for-two in guessing the winner the last couple years, but I won’t embarrass myself by venturing a guess online.
The second list catalogs my favorite movies of all time (at least as of today). The same subjective and objective qualifiers stand. If you haven’t seen any of these movies, I strongly recommend them.
Top 10 Movies this Year
10. Brooklyn – Where it lacks in novelty, this period romance makes up in sweetness and charm.
9. Bridge of Spies – This movie is entirely Spielbergian (with a little bit of Coen Brother flair in the dialogue), and that always makes for a great film.
8. Room – The movie advances beyond a neat concept or a teenage-esque, agony-absorbed film, and becomes genuinely heartwarming.
7. The Big Short – It borrows a lot stylistically from Wolf of Wall Street, but manages a feel of its own. It’s funny, emotional, creative, and—most of all—revealing.
6. Ex Machina – Ex Machina is a slow and eerie think piece (dealing with a range of topics including god-complexes, the meaning of life, information ethics, and feminism) that will leave you pondering the film’s meaning long after it’s over.
5. The Revenant – Though not a pinnacle of empathy or profound depth and at times hard to watch, The Revenant is both a riveting and dazzling film.
4. Spotlight – This is an important and intriguing news story. It achieves some emotion with Michael Creighton’s character, but you will have to wait until the end for the movie’s true impact.
3. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – There’s no doubt that this movie borrows a lot from its predecessors, but I think the widespread love for this blockbuster flick is a reflection of its impressive new characters and its fun and engaging tone.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road – This film is a strong addition to an already strong series. Technically flawless with a breakneck pace, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of those rare movies that is simply a treat to watch.
1. Inside Out – Taking on the universal dilemma—and gift—of growing up, Inside Out does what only the animated medium can. Through the parallel stories of adolescent girl Riley and the anthropomorphized emotions inside her head, we get a visual perspective on what it’s like and how it feels to grow up. A large share of the success of this movie is due to, as I said, its medium as well as the writing and performances for the Emotions (namely Joy and Sadness) who are almost more human than their real world counterparts. This is, yet again, another well-crafted, hilarious, and poignant film from Pixar.
There were a few movies that came out this year I wish I had seen and I bet would have made the list. Ant-Man, which I did see, I think deserves to be commended as an unexpected delight and a welcome addition to the MCU.
Top 10 Movies Ever
10. The Incredibles (2004) – Though the competition is stiff with some of my personal favorites, The Incredibles is perhaps the best superhero film to date, boasting witty humor and true emotion.
9. Mad Max & Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1979, 1981) – By the artful direction of George Miller, these films each stand as thriller-masterpieces with practical stunts and action to immerse their viewers.
8. The Searchers (1956) – Westerns have a history of simplification and, for a long time, needed a more thorough tackling of the genre. That is why John Ford’s darker undertaking starring the Duke himself is both a relief and the greatest revisioning of the heart of Westerns.
7. Decalogue (1989) – Greater than any of its technical achievements is its thematic word. Decalogue reimagines what it means to live out God’s revelation to humankind on Sinai, bringing it frighteningly closer to our hearts.
6. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – A wonder of cinematic beauty and grandeur, this move—in parts—may seem to be little more than a power-corrupts film, but Peter O’Toole’s unique and sensual performance makes it so much more.
5. Ocean’s Eleven (2001) – To the best of my knowledge, there is only one thing cooler than George Clooney, and that’s Brad Pitt. So for a movie starring both of them—and with Matt Damon and Don Cheadle to boot—Ocean’s Eleven easily stands as the coolest, wittiest, most stylish, most suspenseful heist film out there.
4. 12 Angry Men (1957) – I once heard someone say the biggest problem with this movie is that it is too perfect. That’s a slight I think Sidney Lumet would be willing to accept on behalf of his tightly scripted courtroom drama.
3. Raging Bull (1980) – Though rough on the edges and far from pleasant, Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull is a beautiful and clear window into the weightiest regions of a man’s being.
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – Though sometimes pigeonholed as a holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life should not be dismissed. It is a heartwarming tale whose message holds truth both for individuals and for societal values.
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – The Indiana Jones series is, admittedly, not a deep one. It doesn’t deal with Catholic guilt or wrestle with the problem of pain. However, the Spielberg and Lucas collaboration demonstrates the finest of movie-making magic. From start to finish, each film is a heart-pounding, laugh-inducing, technically-triumphant romp; they are fun, humorous, and at times even sweet. And as a story told perfectly—with characters that matter and clearly understood motivations—Raiders of the Lost Ark represents the best of the series and a movie we will not soon forget as we remember back to Dr. Jones’s fear of snakes, unconventional tactics in a knife-fight, and all of his exciting adventures.
Some Honorable Mentions include: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Airplane, The Avengers, Back to the Future, The Godfather Parts I & II, The Grapes of Wrath, Hot Fuzz, Inherit the Wind, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and any film by Nolan, Fincher, Guy Ritchie, or the Coen Brothers. There’s so many good movies out there, and it’s hard to pick just ten. I don’t know how the academy does it, but I’m excited to see which movies they choose to honor this year. Also, check out me and my brothers’ podcast for the Oscars.