Five years ago, I posted a list of 20 fave films. They’re still among my faves but I thought I would add another 20. These are not necessarily all “great” movies. Sometimes, great movies are boring, or depressing, or confusing. These are my personal favourites, films I can watch over and over (and have) and still love.
Amelie— when I need a pick me up, I often turn to Amelie and grab my knitting. It’s subtitled, but I have seen it enough times that I know when my favourite sequences are coming up. It’s got a little mystery, a little romance, humour, and heart.
Big Fish — an atypical Tim Burton film while still squeezing in a lot of his hallmarks (though it does lack Johnny Depp. Not that this is a bad thing). Great performances by Billy Cruddup, Albert Finney, and Ewan McGreggor. A film as much about the art of storytelling as it is about the relationship between a father and his son.
Dark Crystal — Jim Henson put his all into this fable of good and evil, a quest to return peace to a shattered land. The muppets and other creatures were like nothing seen before, and pretty much nothing since. I still find this film touching and beautiful.
Demolition Man — as action films go, this one is average. As sci-fi films go, it’s cheezy. But somehow, the future it predicts seemed perfectly reasonable when it was released and some of the aspects still make me giggle.
Elf – I never expected this film to be worth watching let alone how it worked its way to pretty much the top of my Must See Christmas Films but there is so much heart in this movie that it melts any seasonal cynicism that has built up. I’ll even confess to watching this at other times of the year.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — we are all made up of that which has come before. Even before seeing this oddball surprisingly philosophical film I was totally opposed to the idea of completely removing someone from my memory — at least not someone I had a relationship with. The movie makes an interesting case for the repercussions of those actions.
Hell or High Water — four characters make up this film. It could almost be a stage play for the intimacy of the conversations and monologues that make up the most of the exposition but there’s also car chases and gunplay and bank robberies set against a backdrop that could be right out of Steinbeck’s dust bowl novels but are instead present day Texas. It’s not an easy film to watch, there is no winner here, no clear good guy, just a whole lot of ethical and moral grey area.
Inglourious Basterds — my current favourite Tarantino film because it’s extremely anti-Nazi and the world needs far fewer Nazis right now. Plus, using Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting out Fire)” during the fire sequence never fails to put a smile on my face.
Italian Job (1969) — to be clear, I love the original Michael Caine version, not the revamped one. I adore heist films and this one is as convoluted as you can imagine. It’s unapologetically British, and the ending is one of the best ever filmed.
Magnolia — this is an opus of ensemble cinema and includes outstanding performances by Tom Cruise (arguably both his best performance, and least likeable), William H. Macy, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Where the plots cross paths is at times surprising; at its core, this is a film about families and an examination of where unconditional love falls to the wayside.
Matrix — the original film far outshines any of the rest of the series and, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, I consider it a stand-alone film. It was initially a bit of a brain bender to me but once I started to understand concepts of Zen Buddhism, the film became much more clear to me. Add to that the ground breaking effects (which look a bit ho hum after years of copycats), and this movie is just all out win.
Notting Hill — Much like Groundhog Day, I am no fan of the leading lady in this movie but the ensemble cast here is stellar and the plot is so lovely; it is one of my go to romcoms. Plus it has one of my favourite sequences to show the passage of time as Bill Withers provides the soundtrack.
Playing by Heart — another ensemble piece where storylines come together, the cast here is pretty astounding and the romances each a little different — different stages of love, different ages, different situations and personalities. Some of my most oft quoted lines appear in this film. It is probably the least well known film on my fave lists.
Practical Magic — this is a rare case where I prefer the film to the book. There is something so forlorn about Sandra Bullock’s character that I was drawn in from the very beginning. A stern warning against messing with the darker sides of magic while embracing the power of women who gather to solve a problem is a wonderful message. This is very much a feminist film.
Secretary — I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film capture the dynamics of dominance and submission in kink as clearly as Secretary does. It is astonishing that this film had a theatrical release. If you were titillated by Fifty Shades but haven’t seen this one, go fix that omission immediately.
Southland Tales — I cannot explain why I love this film so much. One part apocalypse, one part parable, one part eye candy (Dwayne Johnson and Justin Timberlake). It has musical scenes but I would never consider it a musical. I bought the graphic novels to go with it because I just adore this weird, messy, sci-fi film with its unlikely cast filled with Mad TV and SNL alumni.
State and Main — this cynical look at how a big budget film production descends on a small town and everyone snaps to attention feels a lot like what happens when film crews show up in my region. The fact that it is written and directed by wordsmith David Mamet is just icing on the proverbial cake.
Stardust — I’ll admit, I haven’t read Gaiman’s original novel, but I adore this movie. It’s a little cheeky, it’s romantic, it’s magical, and the cast is brilliant all around. Add eye candy scenery and you have something that is a little more subtle than The Princess Bride but no less a classic.
V for Vendetta — this movie is problematic in a few ways but it gives me hope in this totalitarian era that people can rise up under the right circumstances. I always cry at the end of this movie.
Way Down Town — not quite the most Canadian film, but it is way up there. A bunch of office workers see how long they can go without going outside in a city where many buildings are connected by walkways.
You’ll note there is nothing from most of the big franchises — no Marvel, no Star Wars, no Harry Potter. It’s not because I don’t enjoy those films, I do, but those end up being sort of lowest common denominator films. The bigger the group of people trying to decide on a movie, the more likely I am going to suggest something from a big franchise because there is more likely to be a general agreement.
There are two franchises I won’t ever likely suggest, however: Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. If you know the person I used to be married to, and how much those franchises meant to him, you’ll understand why.