Back in university, I took German as my second language. And every Friday, our professor would ask us (in German, of course) what we’d be doing for the weekend, and we’d have to respond (in German, of course). 9 times out of 10, I’d say I’d be watching TV. One Friday, when this had transpired, my professor threw me a curve ball. She asked me what my favorite TV show was. I was floored. I was stunned. Here I was, a person who always spent a good chunk of the day in front of the TV, but I never stopped to ask myself what my favorite show was. So, that weekend, I took a pen in hand, and just began writing. I did a little piece of self-exploration. After 10 pages (handwritten, by the way) I came to the conclusion that my favorite TV show of all time is The Flash, the short-lived show about the DC comics character that was on for the TV season of 1990/1991. And in the grand tradition of deja vu, I find myself similarly floored.
It was several months ago when I got an e-mail from Chuck, living the life of leisure in Japan. Since I claim to be this big movie buff, he simply asked, “So, Mark, what’s your favorite movie? Could you maybe throw together a top 10 list or top 50 list or something?” I was stunned. Here I had bought this big fancy DVD player a year and a half ago and had amassed a library of over 50 DVDs, but I’d never stopped to think of what my favorite movies actually are. So as a stall-tactic, I told Chuck I’d turn my list into a column. I soon forgot, but Chuck didn’t. He was persistent. He’d occasionally fire off an e-mail saying “So, how’s that list coming?” And now, I just got my latest letter from him, in which he gives me his list. His list makes me feel kind of guilty, because he has more than a few small indie films, and well, my tastes have always been more mainstream. And I know we disagree on a few things. True, while Fight Club is good, I’ve never found it to be the life-altering experience he has. Well then, in the order that they pop into my mind, here are my favorite movies ever:
The Absolute Best
The Iron Giant (1999)
I LOVE THIS FILM. When I first saw this in August of 1999, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach when it was over. Never had any sort of film — live action or animated — made me feel anything like that. I’ve watched this movie over and over again and I still get misty-eyed at “Superman.” I remember when I got home after seeing this movie, I had to e-mail everyone I knew and tell them to see this movie. It was even as late as the summer of 2000 when people were still e-mailing me saying, “Wow. I just rented it. It is good.” So, yeah. I LOVE THIS FILM.
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
This was the first film that gave me a dream. A movie that genuinely inspired me. I first saw this film when I was 10 years old, and I walked out of the theater with just one thought in my head: “I want to be a radio DJ.” 9 years later, when I finally got to university, I fulfilled this dream. And I still dream of doing it. All because of this film. Plus, it’s just funny.
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
A lot of people have taken to ragging on Steven Spielberg. He revolutionized Hollywood a generation ago, but sadly, most say that his style had become overused and cliched. A lot of people ragged on A.I., mainly because, I think, they didn’t get it. This movie made me pose questions about the status of things and think thoughts I’d never thought. That’s exactly what good science fiction is supposed to do. And besides, this was the first time in a long time that Spielberg tried something different. It is different for a Spielberg movie. Go rent it.
Independence Day (1996)
Sometimes, I think I’m the only one who likes this movie. Yes, it was the #1 film of 1996, but a lot of people attacked it around the time it came out on video. Hell, Siskel & Ebert took not one, but two episodes of their show to say how much they thought it sucked. After this movie sank in, a lot of people really came to hate it. So then, why do I like it? Because this movie represents every reason why I like movies: it’s just fun. Clear lines as to who the good guys and the bad guys are. Heroes facing overwhelming odds and winning. Look at it for what it is: just pure fun.
Animation for the sake of animation. Music for the sake of music. Because of the costs involved, animation is generally not a field where one can get experimental. But when someone does, it’s amazing what can happen.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
I can’t explain it. This movie just haunts me. Especially Sally.
I knew there was going to be at least one Kevin Smith movie on this list. The problem was choosing which one. I ultimately went with this one because, well, it made me think that making a movie was in my grasp. That, and it’s just funny.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Although, the dilemma of which Star Wars film was a much simpler one. I remember in my freshman year, I actually stunned people with this answer. Most of my buddies from 2nd East generally said Return of the Jedi. I’m sorry, but “I am your father” is just classic.
A Bug’s Life (1998)
Computer animation spellbinds me. It’s a medium that I’m actually being allowed to watch evolve. I find all of Pixar’s films to be good, but this one just seems to stand out from the crowd. I really identify with Flick.
The book actually is better, but the movie is about as close to the book as you can get. If you’re never going to read the book, at least see the movie.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Being a trekkie, a Star Trek movie on this list should surprise no one. This choice, however, may raise eyebrows. I saw this on Boxing Day 1991, and it just blew me away. I love movies that blow me away.
The Next Best Thing
I love this movies, but not as much as the ones above. So I’ve got to mention them.
First seen when by me in the second grade, on a 16mm projector in my school gym. I had the toys. I had the video games. And it has a truly unique visual style.
Back to the Future (1985) and Back to the Future Part III (1990)
I was thinking about the whole trilogy, but #2 is kind of weak. Fantasy/comedies just don’t get better than this. And Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly is just cool.
I just think it deserved to be hear. A lot of people look at it and say “Clark Kent is a real geek,” but hey, that was pretty damn faithful to the comics in 1978. Yes, it’s based on a comic, but you buy into the fantasy.
Pretty Much Every Pixar Film
Toy Story has to be recognized as a milestone, but it was Toy Story 2 that really got to play with the characters. And Monsters, Inc. was just sweet. Sort of a softer Nightmare Before Christmas. The only movie I fear missing when I’m in Japan is their next film, Finding Nemo, coming in the summer of 2003.
Pretty Much Every Kevin Smith Film
Yes, even Mallrats! Dogma, while I think it’s the least of Kevin Smith’s films, still has more than enough good moments for me to love it. And Chasing Amy, well, that’s probably the best description of how love makes us do funny things.
I love Batman. This movie is what started it all. Yeah, Joker kind of steals the show, but it’s still the best Batman movie.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
OK, these movies were never big hits. But I gave them a chance, and I just like them. People will wonder what the heck my problem is when they see these movies, but I’m sorry, I just love them.
The Shadow (1994) – Alec Baldwin as a 1930s superhero. Just cool.
The Rocketeer (1991) – More superheroes of the 1930s. Something about heroes of that era.
Demolition Man (1993) – Sylvester Stallone as a future cop. What’s not to love?
Quigly Down Under (1990) – Tom Sellick as a cowboy in Australia. It rocks.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) – Funny as hell, but Kevin Smith’s other movies are prerequisites.
The Mask (1994) – Again, I just identify with Stanley Ipkiss. Besides, any movie where the geek gets the girl is tops in my books.
And I think that’s pretty much all of them. No other films are coming to mind. There you go, Chuck, I hope that answers your question. You’ll either think I’m weird or lose respect for me. But I don’t care. I don’t know art, but I know what I like. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve got a couple episodes of The Flash on tape somewhere.