Len’s 25 Favorite Films of All Time

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Having just completed watching, in order, the American Film Institute’s Top 100 American films of all time, it begs the question:  what are my favorite movies of all time? There’s really no logic to a personal favorites list – there are many reasons for why a film etches itself into a person’s psyche enough to make it a favorite. I can tell you this, I love to laugh and so many of my favorites are comedies (how else do you explain the fact that Stripes is one of my all-time favorites). I also came of age in the 1980s, so there are tons of films from that decade amongst my favorites.

I make no apologies for loving films that aren’t considered great by critics. Critics measure films differently, as do each of us. Sometimes I’ll love a film simply because of the mood it creates. I do tend to go for films with great scripts, which is perhaps why some of the films on my list may not even be that well known…the dialogue may have captured my heart. Interestingly, only six of my top 25 are also on the AFI list. Not sure what that says about my taste, but then again I tend to go for the indies and the comedies and the AFI has a very poor sense of humor and hardly notices smaller “art” films. Again, taste is a funny thing. After all, I didn’t like Citizen Kane, the top film on the AFI list, and for some reason the AFI left Borat off its list which would definitely be in my top 100!

So, in alphabetical order, here are my 25 favorite films:

All The President’s Men (1976) — Made me want to be a writer.
Almost Famous (2000) – Cameron Crowe is one of my favorite writer/directors.
American Beauty (1999) – Alan Ball is one hell of a writer (see this and Six Feet Under if you don’t believe me)
Annie Hall (1977) — Perhaps the best American movie ever made and still Woody’s best
Baby, It’s You (1983) — My favorite John Sayles film, and that’s saying something given his incredibly underrated filmography
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) — Newman and Redford in American classic. Defined “buddy” pictures
Casablanca (1942) – #3 on the AFI list for a good reason. Here’s looking at you kid.
Diner (1982) — Beginning of Barry Levinson’s great career. Best ensemble cast ever put together.
Diva (1981) — Best French film ever made!
Empire of the Sun (1987) — Spielberg’s best kept secret! Is that a young Christian Bale? Why yes it is.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) — Dude, that’s my skull!
Field of Dreams (1989) — If you build it, he will come! No secrets here…this is my all-time favorite film.
Five Corners (1987) — Jodie Foster, Tim Robbins and John Turturro in John Patrick Shanley written gem you’ve probably never heard of let alone seen.
High Fidelity (2000) — Hard to pick a better John Cusack film. Written by Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors so there you go.
Hope & Glory (1987) — Academy Award nominee for Best Picture by John Boorman.
Into the Wild (2007) – Incredible true story, great acting, great directing by Sean Penn and the most hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Eddie Vedder to go with it
Lost in Translation (2003) – Sophia Coppola is a genius.
Manhattan (1979) — Woody’s second best. You’ll fall in love with Mariel Hemingway.
The Philadelphia Story (1940) — Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart. Ahead of its time.
The Player (1992) — Have to watch several times to catch all the cameos!
Pulp Fiction (1994) – Quentin Tarantino is a sick fuck, but he’s brilliant.
The Right Stuff (1983) — Amazing cast, incredible screenplay and it’s all true!
Rocky (1976) – Invented the underdog story. Yo Adrian!
She’s Gotta Have It (1986) — Spike Lee’s hysterical first film is still my favorite, although I think Do The Right Thing is a better film. Either way Spike Lee is one of America’s top 2-3 directors.
Stripes (1981) — Don’t leave…all the plants will die!

This is my list and it probably contains some films you either hated or didn’t see. But that’s what makes film (and art in general) so great. These films speak to me. What films speak to you?

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9 thoughts on “Len’s 25 Favorite Films of All Time

  1. Great list, Len. Has some of my absolute favorites, and only one I hated (“Empire of the Sun,” which I haven’t seen since it came out).

    Inevitably I’m now putting together my own list in my head, and there are at least 3 directors who will have multiple entries: Wes Anderson, Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers. Maybe Cameron Crowe and David Lynch. (One slight nitpick: Amy Heckerling directed “Fast Times,” not Cameron Crowe, but he wrote it.) I could damn near have 4 Woody Allen movies on it.

    I may have to cobble mine together in a Facebook post in the next few days.

  2. What a fun project you set yourself up with on watching all those films.

    Since movies are one of my favorite topics, I have to comment here. It would take some seriously hard thinking for me to come up with my list. There would be some duplicates from your list, but it would also be very different. The theme would match – humor. I love funny, but I just usually prefer funny stories told through a different genre – love stories.

    I too did not like Empire of the Sun when it came out – like Colin said before me. But I watched it a second time years later and thought it was one of the best films I’ve seen.

    Another one that seemed to have received too much attention during its time was The English Patient. But then I watched it a few years after it won the Oscar for Best Picture and fell in love with it. It’s a beautiful story. I could watch it again and again.

    Regarding Citizen Kane – I took a film class for fun about 10 years ago, and we spent a lot of time on this film. I think originally it was lauded for all of its breakthrough film effects and first efforts. Plus it blasphemed a great power of the time. But I think now the critics and film teachers and other film experts hold onto it out of sentimentality. I say that because I think there are so many movies that are far superior to Citizen Kane.

    Thanks for the suggestions on movies, too. I’m going to have to check into Five Corners.

  3. Great list! I’ve seen all but three of these– Baby, It’s You, Diva, and Hope & Glory. (Yes, I’ve seen, and very much liked Five Corners. I was obsessed with John Turturro in the early to mid 90s and rented every film he’d been in up until that point.)

    Of the 22 films on your list that I did see, I like or love most of them. The only one I’m not too keen on is She’s Gotta Have It. I like most of Spike Lee’s films, but for whatever reason I just wasn’t a fan of that one. (And actually, it was Do the Right Thing, which is definitely my favorite Spike Lee film, that first brought the aforementioned John Turturro to my notice.)

    I’ve done Top 50 and Top 10 lists of my favorite movies, but it has been years since I’ve done an updated one, so I’ll have to ponder my current selections. Perhaps I’ll make it my next blog entry. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Colin, good catch on the Fast Times director… I updated it. Andrew, glad to find another Turturro fanatic. I almost put Millers Crossing on my list! Check out Baby, Its You and you may find yourself on a John Sayles kick…an amazing and underrated writer/director.

  5. Great choices, Len. Field of Dreams tops my list as well. My dad died when I was seven, he was from Iowa, I never “had a catch” with him … you get the picture. After seeing the movie, I resolved to reconnect with my Iowa relatives, and that’s been a great joy in my life.

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