Top 10: Movies

Last week, I managed to do something really, really difficult.  This week, I’m going to do the impossible: I’m going to list my ten favorite movies.

I’m one of those people whose mind goes completely blank whenever someone asks their favorite movies.  If I hear the question, I can barely think of a single movie I’ve seen, let alone a movie I love.  But I think I’m pretty much pleased with this list, and so, without further comment, my ten favorite movies are as follows:

10. Say Anything

What I really want to do with my life – what I want to do for a living – is I want to be with your daughter. I’m good at it.”

Oh, Lloyd Dobler.  I don’t know if there’s ever been a character quite like you.  Say Anything is about Lloyd (John Cusack), a gangly, loving, kickboxing boy who falls madly in love with Diane Court (Ione Skye), the school valedictorian who’s never said a single word to him before he calls her and asks her out.  No, seriously, that’s pretty much the plot.  Okay, there’s this whole sideplot with Diane and her father (John Mahoney), whose relationship gets tested after he’s accused of frauding the patients in his nursing home.  But seriously, if you’re watching this movie and paying attention to anything other than Lloyd, you’re watching it wrong.

I mean, I’ll just say this: Diane Court is a bitch.  She kind of doesn’t deserve Lloyd, though that’s not really a bad thing.  I think the reason I love this movie so much is because I don’t see it as a straightforward romantic comedy.  I want Lloyd and Diane to be together because Lloyd wants it so badly.  He adores Diane, and the way it fills him up and gives him meaning is just so endearing.  He loves her with everything he has, but interestingly, I don’t think their relationship is totally equal, or even healthy.  Diane doesn’t love Lloyd the way he loves her – she has her father, she has a job, she has school.  There are things in her life besides Lloyd Dobler.  She does love him – I’m not denying that.  Really, she’s the healthy one here.  But Lloyd gives up everything for her.  It’s the kind of adoration that can only exist and be celebrated in the movies.  It’s not the kind of relationship I would want, but on screen, yeah, Lloyd Dobler’s a pretty cool guy.

9. Donnie Darko

“Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.”

Donnie Darko might be the first movie I ever watched that I really had to think about.  The fifth time I rented it from Blockbuster, I ran downstairs and proudly proclaimed to my mom that I understood it.  She had no idea what I was talking about, of course, but it was poignant nonetheless.

The plot’s sort of complex, and I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers, because part of what makes it so great is that moment when you finally put all the pieces together.  So.  One night, Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is summoned out of bed by a mysterious man in a bunny costume.  While he’s gone, a plane crashes into his house, and the engine destroys his room.  When he wakes up the next morning on a golf course, he finds a countdown written on his arm: there are 28 days until the end of the world.

The rest of the movie is essentially Donnie’s obsession with saving the world and finding a way to stop whatever’s going to happen.  Oh, and there’s time travel.  Obviously.  It’s easy to follow the plot, but difficult to understand what it all means.  The most I can say without giving anything away is that it’s a story about heroism.  It explores what it means to be a savior – who gets hurt in the process?  Are you a hero even if you fail?  And if you do succeed, what do you have to give up?

Okay, it’s a weird movie, I know.  But.  Just go watch it, okay?

8. The Departed

“What Freud said about the Irish is: We’re the only people who are impervious to psychoanalysis.”

The Departed is just…a cinematic masterpiece.  Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) is a mob boss who earns the trust of a young Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon).  When he grows up, Sullivan becomes a cop, and secretly works as a mole for Costello.  After Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) graduates from police academy, he’s offered a job in the undercover unit.  His mission is to infiltrate Costello’s crew and slowly bring them down from the inside.  As the movie progresses, Costello and Sullivan become aware that there’s a rat in the crew, and Costigan realizes Costello has a police officer under his thumb.

No, seriously, this movie is fantastic.  This was Martin Scorcese’s first Oscar win, and the film itself won Best Picture.  It plays with the ideas of loyalty and identity, and just when you think you know how it’s going to end, the last 10-15 minutes twist in a way I never could have predicted.  The last scene just blew my mind.  It’s an intense movie, so much that I can’t rewatch it often without hurting my brain, but it’s just so enjoyable to watch.

7. Anchorman

“I’m in a glass case of emotion!”

Okay.  I know.  I’m five years old.  But seriously, if you can watch Anchorman without laughing, we cannot be friends.  Though I hope by now, everyone’s at least seen it – right?  I mean, even my mom has seen it, so if you haven’t seen it, that’s kinda sad.

Anchorman is the story of Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), a local newscaster and proud San Diegoite (San Diego…ian?  San Diegons?).  In the 1970s, he and his news team (played by David Koechner, Steve Carell, and Paul Rudd) are informed that a woman must be added to the show to add diversity (no, not the old wooden ships.  The other kind).  The new reported Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) and Ron eventually start a relationship, but when he’s late to report the news one night (his beloved dog was drop-kicked off a bridge.  It’s…kind of a long story), she gets to fill in for him.  Ron’s ego is bruised, and they break up – but Veronica did such a great job that she’s promoted to co-anchor.  From then on, the two set out to sabotage each other’s careers, culminating in Ron’s firing after Veronica changes the teleprompter to read “fuck you, San Diego” instead of his famous catchphrase “stay classy, San Diego”.

Okay, I know.  It’s not exactly Arrested Development levels of humor.  But this movie is still just as funny as it was the first time I saw it.  I probably have a good 95% of the dialogue committed to memory.  To this day, I don’t think there’s ever been a more quotable movie.  “I love lamp” will probably be on the next AFI list of memorable quotes (okay, probably not.  Work with me here).

I wanted to embed a scene from the movie, mostly to give myself an excuse to watch a bunch of clips on YouTube, but I thought of about seven possibilities.  The whole movie is just amazing.  When the sequel is released, I promise I will be the first person on line.

6. Inglourious Basterds

“Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France…”

Yet another cinematic masterpiece.  Inglourious Basterds has a few plot threads that eventually intertwine: there’s Shoshanna, now going by Emmanuelle, a Jew who’s gone into hiding after Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) had her family executed.  Then there are the Basterds, led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt, in the last few months of his attractiveness), an American military force whose mission is to take down the Nazis.  The Basterds start working with Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), a German actress, on a plan to blow up a movie theatre on the premiere night of a pro-German film.  It turns out the movie theatre in question is Shoshanna’s, and she has her own plan to kill the Nazis.

Okay, no, seriously.  I lose all verbal skills when I try to talk about this movie.  It’s divided into five chapters, and one of them takes place entirely in one location, while another has a few brief scenes but then settles into one long scene.  Both of these feature characters just sitting around a table and talking.  That’s it.  There’s action at the end of both, but even by that point, you’re already completely enthralled.

The entire movie is just beautiful.  The script, I’m convinced, is a work of art.  And in one of the few instances when an award actually went to the person who deserved it (shut up, Jon Cryer), Christoph Waltz won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and just about every other possible award.  Because he is that good.  Watch it and let yourself by completely creeped out by the amazingness of Hans Landa.

5. The Royal Tenenbaums

“Is it dark?”  “It’s a suicide note.  Of course it’s dark.”

This movie centers on the completely dysfunctional Tenenbaum family.  Its patriarch, Royal (Gene Hackman), gets kicked out of the hotel he’s been living in for twenty-two years, and finds out that his severely estranged wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston) is considering a proposal from her boyfriend.  Royal decides to get back into his family’s good graces and back into their townhouse, so he fakes a serious case of stomach cancer to gain their sympathies.

Their three children, all former child prodigies, are equally messed up.  Chaz (Ben Stiller) has been overly concerned with the safety of his sons Ari and Uzi ever since the death of his wife, and his adopted sister Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), a well-known playwright, has been locking herself into the bathroom for hours, much to her husband Raleigh’s (Bill Murray) concern.  And then there’s Ritchie (Luke Wilson), the disgraced former tennis champion, who’s in love with Margot (adopted sister, remember.  That keeps it from being weird).

This was the first Wes Anderson movie I ever saw, and it kicked off a slight obsession.  Just a little one.  Okay, so I think the man’s a genius.  Whatever.  The Royal Tenenbaums has his unique wit, the kind that’s subtle but laugh-out-loud hilarious.  Even though his characters have this stylized weirdness to them, the underlying emotions are real and, at times, heartbreaking.  When Chaz tells his father he’s had a tough year at the end of the film, it’s a release of all the emotion that’s been building over the course of the movie.

4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

“Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero.”

Okay, I’m not even going to pretend we haven’t all seen this movie.  If you’ve seen it, you know why it’s amazing.  If you haven’t seen it, fix that immediately.


3. The Princess Bride

“My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”

Again, hopefully we’ve all seen this movie.  If not, there’s something wrong with you.  A boy, sick in bed, gets a visit from his grandfather, who starts reading him a book.  The book is about Buttercup and Westley (Robin Wright and Cary Elwes), a fairly well-to-do girl and her farmhand, who fall in love.  Needing money, Westley leaves to go find work, but Buttercup eventually learns that his ship was attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and that Westley was killed.

Some time later, having sworn off love, Buttercup is engaged to Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), but before the wedding, she’s kidnapped by Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and his cronies, Fezzik and Inigo Montoya (Andre the Giant and Mandy Patinkin).  They soon realize that a mysterious man is following them, apparently after Buttercup.

My mom showed my sister and I this movie multiple times when we were kids, and until I was maybe thirteen, I didn’t know it was considered a classic comedy; I just knew it as the movie my family liked watching together.  Then I rewatched it and realized why it’s so beloved by people who weren’t just my mom.  It really does have it all: action, romance, adventure, humor.  It’s one of the few movies I would dare to call perfect, and I really do mean it.

Anybody want a peanut?

2. The Social Network

“Sorry my Prada’s at the cleaners, along with my hoodie and my fuck-you flip-flops, you pretentious douchebag.”

Okay, yeah, I know.  It’s the Facebook movie.  But two things make this movie great: the gorgeous script and the relationship between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).  The two are best friends at Harvard, and after Mark, a skilled programmer, is approached by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) to develop a dating website exclusive to Harvard students, he comes up with the idea of a social website with a similar exclusivity.  Thus, The Facebook is born, the joint venture of Mark and Eduardo, an economics major who supplies the capital.  After they meet Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), one of the former owners of Napster, and he helps them expand The Facebook (and suggests dropping the “the”), Mark and Eduardo begin to have problems, mostly over Sean’s involvement in the company.  Soon, Eduardo is pushed out completely – his name is removed from the masthead, and his shares are diluted from 34% to .03%.

Really, Andrew Garfield is what makes this movie.  Eduardo’s anger and the sympathy the audience feels for him aren’t just because he lost his company – he lost his best friend.  After I first saw this movie, I had to google the real Eduardo Saverin because I was so overwhelmed with feels for my poor woobie.

And the script.  I read it online, and seriously, it is writing porn.  Aaron Sorkin rightly won the Oscar for it, and seriously, it’s just gorgeous.  I’d highly recommend it if you’re a fan of movie scripts, and the movie as a whole if you’re a fan of, you know, feeling things.


1. Moulin Rouge

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Set in 1899, Moulin Rouge is the story of Christian (Ewan McGregor), a writer who moves to Paris to follow his dream.  He meets Toulouse (John Leguizamo), a frequent patron of the Moulin Rouge, who is part of a group trying to put on a play at the famous dance hall.  When one of their actors, a narcoleptic Argentinean, falls asleep during a rehearsal, Christian fills in.  Upon hearing him sing and realizing that he could write the show, they come up with a plan to introduce him to Satine (Nicole Kidman), the Moulin Rouge’s star performer and courtesan.

The plan is for Christian to get a meeting and read his poetry to Satine, in the hopes that she’ll convince the Moulin Rouge’s owner, Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent), to put on their show.  But when they go to the club, a duke (Richard Roxburgh) is also in attendance.  Zidler and Satine want the duke to invest in the Moulin Rouge so they can convert it into a theatre.  Satine winds up thinking that Christian is the duke and attempts to seduce him; they’re almost caught by the real duke, and Satine, having learned Christian’s true identity, announces they’re rehearsing for their play, Spectacular Spectacular.

Christian and Satine soon fall in love, even though she’s been promised to the duke.  And then things happen, events follow, AND THEN THE CURTAIN CLOSES AND THE MOVIE’S OVER, AND IF YOU’VE SEEN THE MOVIE, YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.


If you couldn’t tell, I really love movies.  But this one is just…ugh.  It hurts me in all the best ways.

It’s a musical, and every song but one is a popular song, like “Like a Virgin” and “Roxanne” (“ROOOOOOOXAAAA –“ “No.”).  The one original song is “Come What May,” which Christian and Satine sing and put into Spectacular Spectacular (whose plot mirrors the film itself) as a reminder that, no matter what, they love each other.  They have countless reasons why they can’t and shouldn’t be together, but their love is just too strong to stay apart.

And then the curtain closes and the movie’s over.  You’ll know it when you see it, okay?  Just turn it off there.  Trust me.


2 thoughts on “Top 10: Movies

  1. The Departed and Say Anything and Moulin Rogue and Donnie Darko! Amazing list. Rushmore is my favorite Wes film, but Royal Tenenbaums is a close second. Have you seen Moonrise Kingdo yet? –S

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