Tag Archives: Favorite Films

My 50 Favorite Films, 2022 Edition

It’s that time of [even] year where I reflect on the many films I’ve seen and perform that most Internet of activities: ranking them. I mean, I’ve done an offline sort of my favorite films for about 30 years, but the past 10 year online have been right at home here on the Intertubes. You can see my previous entries here (including how I do the sort by pairwise comparison).

There were many new movies in the sort this year. Some were better than others.

This year, the total of films sorted was probably close to 600. This is, in part, due to all the films I watched in the past two years where I added new cards for the films. Many of these did not even make the first cut, but it was only fair that they go into the sort, even if they were doomed.

Just as with two years ago, there are many changes to the previous list, while many of the longstanding films remain… and there is a new #1.

Subject to the requirements of the service, of course!

Hush! What part of “Surprise is on our side” do you not get?

Anyway, here are the ground rules:

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an alternate version of me, possibly allied with Jobu Tupaki.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) Arrival
49) Guardians of the Galaxy
48) The Godfather, Part II
47) A Few Good Men
46) The Court Jester
45) Casino Royale
44) Pan’s Labyrinth
43) The Princess Bride
42) Galaxy Quest
41) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
40) The Grand Budapest Hotel
39) The Milagro Beanfield War
38) Field of Dreams
37) Midnight Run
36) A Quiet Place
35) North by Northwest
34) Gattaca
33) The Truman Show
32) Everything Everywhere All at Once
31) Ran 
30) The Hunt for Red October
29) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
28) Big Fish
27) Aliens
26) Once Upon a Time in the West
25) Children of Men
24) The Count of Monte Cristo
23) The Namesake
22) Rob Roy
21) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
20) Citizen Kane
19) Singin’ in the Rain
18) The Little Prince
17) Groundhog Day
16) Casablanca
15) The Lives of Others
14) Minority Report
13) The Empire Strikes Back
12) Amélie
11) Star Wars
10) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
9) Spotlight
8) Black Hawk Down
7) 2010
6) Dune
5) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
4) Schindler’s List 
3) Raiders of the Lost Ark 
2) The Shawshank Redemption
1) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World

And, as always, here are some…

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total Comedies: 12
  • Total Dramas: 28
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 27
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 24
  • Total Westerns: 1
  • Total War Movies: 10
  • Total Musicals: 2
  • Total Animated Films: 1
  • Total films with Mister Liam Neeson: 2
  • Number of films dropped/Number of new films added to the Favorite 50 (compared to 2020): 12
  • Number of films new to the sort and added to the Favorite 50(!): 2
  • Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1992
  • Decade with the most favorites: 2000s (13 films), followed closely by the 1980s (11 films)
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

All right, here’s some other thoughts…

Feeling a Bit Lighter… Kinda

There are ever-so-slightly less dramas and more comedies, though some of those are arguably action-comedies or comedy-dramas, which usually don’t have the same jokes-per-minute as, say, Airplane! (#69, naturally). Still, the list doesn’t feel as grim as two years ago… though perhaps I should do a list of top 10 outright comedies sometime.

There’s Something About the New

I love older films, our dad showing us “the classics” before the existence of Turner Classic Movies. However, looking over my Favorite 50 over the past 10 years, both with the average year of the 50 films and the decades with the most selections, I like a lot of films that came out in my lifetime… and new films may resonate with me stronger.

18 of the films I watched for the first time got into the top 200, including entries from this year like Prey and the newest version of All Quiet on the Western Front along with recent films I’ve finally had a chance to watch, like Crazy Rich Asians.

Oh, and speaking of the extended sort, Die Hard (#81) has retaken its place as top Christmas movie from Klaus (#89)… for now.

But back to “the new,” I think of the two films new to the sort which made it into the 50. Everything Everywhere All at Once is right up my quirky, genre-bending alley and I’ve loved the story of Dune for decades. I’ve watched it seven times since it came out, for crying out loud!

So it easily gets a good “watchability” score, but clearly there’s “resonance,” too. Resonance and watchability also explain A Quiet Place. Some readers may have noticed a number of scary, scary-adjacent, and creature features in my list of films included in this sort, thanks to one of my kids interest in the macabre. A Quiet Place stands out as a wonderfully scary film that doesn’t rely on being a splatterfest.

We’ll see how all of these rank in two years. The impetuous Hamilton, for instance, pushed its way into the Favorite 50 in its first sort two years ago and has since fallen off (though at #62, not too far). This leads me to…

Rethinking the Ranking

My brother mentioned he prefers to rank films in more fluid levels versus a strict ordinal ranking and this year’s sort made me think about that. In fact, we sort of ranked films that way growing up, something I’ll write more about next week. I mean, I can honestly say I love many of the films that, in the sort, would be ranked 100-200. Ask me next month and will they still be there? How much of an ephemeral snapshot is this? How much can I quantify the criteria of Quality + Watchability + Resonance (clearly, it’s kind of like PERT where “Resonance” gets more weight in the average. Something to think about.


So there you have it. Another biennial sort completed. Who knows what 2024 will bring? In any case, if you’re tempted to check out or revisit some films on this list, my job here is done.

GIFs Out of Balance

Earlier this week, I mentioned doing the sort of my biennial favorite films list. My favorite film for a few years back in the pre-Internet era (well, pre-Netscape Navigator for sticklers) was the experimental, non-narrative film Koyaanisqatsi.

Technically a documentary, I suppose, but really more of a visual essay. It uses a variety of slow-motion, time-lapse, and regular speed, but breathtaking, cinematography resulting in a film unlike anything I had seen before. It may also have been my first exposure to the music of Philip Glass, which is integral to the piece — and Philip Glass music alone is quite the discovery. I also benefited from seeing it on the big screen with an audience, where the collective experience also proved integral, especially at those few points where Glass’ mesmerizing score stops and you could hear a pin drop in the theater.

Its impact has been diminished with the omnipresence of visual media, including the ubiquity of slow-motion and time-lapse video. In fact, I recall a designer friend not being impressed by the film, possibly because of their ready access to stock footage libraries which included countless slo-mo and time-lapse video clips. In short, they felt they could create their own “Qatsi construction” with ease.

Well, thanks to the Internet, we have reached peak “Qatsi.” No, I’m not talking about Alvin and the Chipmunks singing the whole Koyannisqatsi soundtrack, though that’s awesome. I’m talking about the existence, alerted to me by friends and Boing Boing, of Gifaanisqatsi: an algorithmically generated set of GIFs set to Philip Glass’ iconic score. The version I saw included someone in an inflatable T-Rex costume pole dancing. And, of course, cats.

It is truly beautiful and terrible to behold.

I will leave it to you to decide how out of balance we all are.

My 50 Favorite Films: Prep for the 2022 Edition

Another Thanksgiving weekend has past, which for our family meant seeing how many meals the Thanksgiving leftovers would last, how many board games could be played, and who wanted to put what ornament on the Christmas tree. But it was also Thanksgiving weekend on an even year, which means it was time to start prepping for my biennial Favorite Films sort.

I’m a lifelong movie buff and have watched literally thousands of movies. Not all of them are good. Some of the good films are, nonetheless, not my favorite films. As I discuss elsewhere, I rank the films by the criteria of quality, watchability, and resonance.

A Venn diagram of the films I've seen, films I love, films most people consider good, and other films I'd like to rank.
You have no idea how many bad films I’ve seen. So, so many…

The entire stack of films I sort through every few years numbers around 500 films or so. There’s usually something of a lag between when a film comes out and when we get to see it. No longer can I see every film when it first comes out in the theater (even more so this year) and I’m also no longer a film completist. This is one of the reasons I term this a list of “favorites” not a “best of.”

In truth, I try and start forming that list of 500 in October, so that if there are films that have been in the Favorite 50 that I know I haven’t seen in a while or others that I think I need to revisit, I have time to rewatch them. As with the new films, I’d rate this as rigorous, but not precise — and so another reason I term these favorites and not a “best of.”

Here are films I’ve either watched anew –or for the first time in a long time– and made sure were in the sort as part of the 500-odd films:

  • Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
  • The Adam Project
  • The Addams Family (1991)
  • The Addams Family (2019)
  • The Addams Family 2
  • Addams Family Values
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)
  • Amazing Grace (2006)
  • American Assassin
  • Aquaman
  • Army of the Dead
  • Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
  • Avatar (2009)
  • A.X.L.
  • Babe
  • Batman (1989)
  • The Batman (2022)
  • Batman and Robin
  • Batman Forever
  • Batman Returns
  • The Battle of Britain (1969)
  • Battleship
  • Beetlejuice
  • Beyond the Lights
  • Black Widow (2021)
  • The Blind Side (2009)
  • The Bodyguard (1992)
  • Borg vs. McEnroe
  • Brute Force (1947)
  • A Call to Spy
  • Chappie
  • Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers
  • Collateral (2004)
  • Come From Away
  • Contagion (2011)
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Creation
  • The Curse of Frankenstein
  • The Darkest Hour (2011)
  • Darkest Hour (2017)
  • Death on the Nile (2022)
  • The Dig (2021)
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
  • Dora and the Lost City of Gold
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Don’t Look Up (2021)
  • Dune (1984)
  • Dune (2021)
  • Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Elysium (2013)
  • Encanto
  • Eternals
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once
  • Firedrake the Silver Dragon (aka “Dragon Rider”)
  • Four Hours at the Capitol
  • Free Guy
  • Frost/Nixon
  • The General’s Daughter
  • Geronimo: An American Legend
  • Get Smart
  • The Giver
  • Gladiator
  • The Goonies
  • Gravity
  • The Gray Man
  • Gremlins
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch
  • Greyhound
  • Gunga Din
  • The Guns of Navarone
  • Himalaya
  • Holes
  • The House with a Clock in Its Walls
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  • The Hurt Locker
  • The Ice Road
  • In the Heights
  • Johnny Mnemonic
  • Jungle Cruise (2021)
  • Jurassic Park
  • [Zach Snyder’s] Justice League (2020)
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space
  • The Lake House
  • Level 16
  • The Lost City (2022)
  • Luca
  • Luck (2022)
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
  • The Marksman (2021)
  • Marshall (2017)
  • Mary Poppins Returns
  • The Mask of Zorro (1998)
  • The Matrix Resurrections
  • Men in Black
  • Men in Black II
  • Men in Black 3
  • The Midnight Sky
  • The Milagro Beanfield War
  • Miracle at Midnight
  • The Mitchells vs. the Machines
  • Mobile Suit Gundam
  • Mobile Suit Gundam II: Electric Mecha Boogaloo
  • Mobile Suit Gundam III
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack
  • Moonfall (2022)
  • The Most Hated Woman in America
  • Mulan (2020)
  • The Mummy (1999)
  • The Naked Gun
  • Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind
  • The Negotiator (1998)
  • The Net
  • News of the World
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • No Time to Die
  • The November Man
  • Operation Mincemeat
  • The Pelican Brief
  • Persuasion (2022)
  • Point Break (1991)
  • Pokemon the Movie: Secrets of the Jungle
  • Prey (2022)
  • A Quiet Place
  • A Quiet Place, Part II
  • Quigley Down Under
  • Raya and the Last Dragon
  • Red Notice
  • The Resistance Banker
  • The Return of Martin Guerre
  • Return to Oz
  • Robin Hood (2010)
  • Robin Hood (2018)
  • Safe House (2012)
  • Safety Not Guaranteed
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)
  • The Sea Beast (2022)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings
  • Shutter Island
  • Sicario
  • Sicario: Day of the Soldado
  • Silverado
  • Snatch (2000)
  • The Social Dilemma
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Sommersby
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Soul
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Spirited (2022)
  • Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge on the Run
  • Stan & Ollie
  • Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars
  • The Suicide Squad (2021)
  • Tears of the Sun
  • Tenet
  • The Thing (from Another World)
  • Things to Come (1936)
  • 13th
  • 13 Hours
  • Thor: Love and Thunder
  • Thunder Force
  • Time Bandits
  • The Tomorrow War
  • Total Recall (2012)
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
  • Treasure Planet
  • Turning Red
  • 12 Strong
  • The Two Popes
  • Under Siege
  • Up in the Air
  • The War of the Worlds (1953)
  • Wendell & Wild
  • West Side Story (2021)
  • Winchester ’73 (1950)
  • Wind River (2017)
  • Wish Dragon
  • Wolfwalkers
  • Woman in Motion
  • Wonder Woman 1984
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Zone 414

You know some of these films won’t get very far, don’t you? Every year, hundreds of films don’t make the first cut. But hey, somebody’s gotta don the red shirt.

Expect this year’s list right around Yule.

My 50 Favorite Films, 2020 Edition

It’s an even year, although the nicest thing you can say about 2020 is that it was odd. But, in any case, even years mean it’s time for my Favorite Films sort, something I have done offline for about 30 years and have done online for the past eight years. You can see my previous entries here (including how I do the sort by pairwise comparison).

You’ll have to read on to determine if The Godfather was deemed better or worse.

This year, the total of films sorted was a little over 400. Two years ago, it was around 570, but I was able to do a deeper culling as I added cards for the newly watched films for this year.

Just as with two years ago, there was some major shakeup in the top 10, along with 15 additions to the top 50 that were either new or sorted lower on a previous year. Some of the results are shocking. Why, Die Hard isn’t even my favorite Christmas film any more!

What?!? How does Smeerensburg replace Nakatomi Plaza?

Hush, you. One Christmas movie delivered because it clearly had correct postage.

Anyway, here are the ground rules:

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an evil doppelganger/replicant/host.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) The Hunt for Red October
49) Tangled
48) A Few Good Men
47) Casino Royale
46) The Court Jester
45) Koyaanisqatsi
44) Inception
43) Gattaca
42) Black Panther
41) Arrival
40) Hamilton
39) Big Fish
38) Ghostbusters
37) Das Boot
36) Amelie
35) The Godfather
34) Midnight Run
33) Minority Report
32) Never Cry Wolf
31) Breaker Morant
30) Rob Roy
29) The Godfather, Part II
28) The Count of Monte Cristo
27) North by Northwest
26) The Namesake
25) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
24) Schindler’s List
23) Citizen Kane
22) 2010
21) Children of Men
20) The Princess Bride
19) Singin’ in the Rain
18) Galaxy Quest
17) Once Upon a Time in the West
16) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
15) Guardians of the Galaxy
14) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
13) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
12) The Little Prince
11) Spotlight
10) Black Hawk Down
9) Field of Dreams
8) The Empire Strikes Back
7) Casablanca
6) The Lives of Others
5) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
4) Ran   
3) The Shawshank Redemption
2) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
1) Raiders of the Lost Ark   

And, as before, here are some…

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total Comedies: 7
  • Total Dramas: 30
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 27
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 23
  • Total Westerns: 1
  • Total War Movies: 13
  • Total Musicals: 4
  • Total Animated Films: 3
  • Total films with Liam Neeson: 2
  • Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1992
  • Decade with the most favorites: 2000s (13 films), followed closely by the 1980s (12 films)
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Sense & Sensibility (1995)

All right, here’s some other thoughts…

What a lot of war

Okay, I guess it’s not the majority of films, but 13 is “nontrivial.” You pair that with all the dramas, and it does seem heavier. I’ve also noted that, in general, though I inhale TV shows these days — thanks to the omnipresent streaming services — really none of them are sitcoms. Evidently I get my comedy in the ‘quippiness’ inherent to many an action-adventure (the majority of the films in the 50).

Perhaps I should revisit a few more comedies for next time.

No Trek and Star Wars goes Rogue

In perhaps a strange turn of events, considering my epic Star Trek TV sorting earlier this year (whose sorting methodology I adapted from here) no Star Trek film is in the top 50.

Trek films 2, 4, 6, and 8 are all in the sort and “Wrath of Khan” has been in the Favorite 50 frequently. I guess the familiar is no longer the favorite.

Similarly, The Empire Strikes Back, perhaps always in my favorite list, has retired to a lower place behind young upstart Rogue One.

As with other longstanding films on the list, I guess the personal resonance only goes so far and I’m ready for new things, which may explain why…

Hamilton did have the votes

Because I maintained a strict personal blackout on the play, I didn’t know most of the details or any of the music about Hamilton (musicals not being my thing anyway, despite working on dozens of them in a former life). And then it came to Disney+ and blew us all away.

But Hamilton was a damn fine musical and if “concert films” like The Last Waltz and Woodstock are eligible for the sort (which they are), then Hamilton certainly was. And I watched it several more times after my wife and my initial watch just to be sure. I wasn’t going to throw away its shot.

Besides Hamilton and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being brand new entries to the sort that also got in the top 50, I also noticed the average age of the top 50 went from ‘1986’ in the 2018 sort to ‘1992’ now. I suspect that average will continue to rise in 2022.

As with the comedies, should I delve into the deeper trove of classic films? Maybe.

No Christmas in the Favorite 50

There’s always a few films that are undoubtedly favorites that, nevertheless, fail to break the top 50 — and that seems frequently the case with both spy-fi and holiday films.

While a Bond film actually broke into the top 50 this year (Daniel Craig’s debut in Casino Royale), Die Hard, which supplanted the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street as my favorite Christmas film, was itself supplanted.

The interloper, Klaus, narrowly missed out by coming in at #54, so perhaps it’ll get in next time, as The Little Prince did this time. Die Hard is still in the overall 100 at #80. You really should check out Klaus though. It’s delightful.


So there you have it. Another sort in an altogether too long two year interval, this year being at least 14 years long. Here’s hoping there’s more joy in 2022, and if I’ve inspired anyone to check out some films, my job here is done.

My 50 Favorite Films: Prep for the 2020 Edition

This past weekend was Thanksgiving weekend, which meant it was time to rediscover how to make Thanksgiving leftovers last for multiple meals, play more board games than usual, and set up the Christmas tree. But it was also Thanksgiving weekend on an even year, which meant time to start prepping for my biennial Favorite Films sort.

I’m a lifelong movie buff and have watched literally thousands of movies. Not all of them are good. Some of the good films are, nonetheless, not my favorite films. As I discuss elsewhere, I rank the films by the criteria of quality, watchability, and resonance.

A Venn diagram of the films I've seen, films I love, films most people consider good, and other films I'd like to rank.
You have no idea how many bad films I’ve seen. So, so many…

The entire stack of films I sort through every few years numbers around 500 films or so. There’s usually something of a lag between when a film comes out and when we get to see it. No longer can I see every film when it first comes out in the theater (even more so this year) and I’m also no longer a film completist. This is one of the reasons I term this a list of “favorites” not a “best of.”

In truth, I try and start forming that list of 500 in October, so that if there are films that have been in the Favorite 50 that I know I haven’t seen in a while or others that I think I need to revisit, I have time to rewatch them. As with the new films, I’d rate this as rigorous, but not precise — and so another reason I term these favorites and not a “best of.”

Here are films I’ve either watched anew or for the first time in a long time and made sure were in the sort as part of the 500-odd films:

Yes, as in previous years, some of these films will about as far as the character who “just goes to check out that noise” in a creature feature, but hey, somebody’s gotta don the red shirt.

Expect this year’s list closer to Yule.

My 50 Favorite Films, 2018 Edition

It feels like it’s been too long, but really, it’s only been two years since my last 50 Favorite Films. This is my biennial tradition that, honestly, I’ve been doing offline for about 30 years, but now is available for online navel gazing. You can check out the 2012, 2014, and 2016 editions should you care to. For those who are interesting in how I sort films based on criteria of quality, watchability, and personal resonance, I have a post about that too.

This year I went through over 570 films in the sort, though importantly, I did not bother to do a detailed sort of all of the films, just what turned out to be about the top 100 or so. That saved tremendous time.

All the films sorted with the top 50 in the stack on the right.

Boy howdy was there a sea change in the ranking versus 2016. No less than 19 films in the Favorite 50 were not in the 2016 edition. Pretty much all of the “new” arrivals have been in the sort before and many have been in the top 50 before… and then there was the shakeup to the top 10 itself.

I always knew you’d come back one day…

Hush! I don’t want any spoilers. I do, however, have some ground rules: 

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an evil doppelganger/replicant/host.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

Not stated in the ground rules is the obvious note that this list, like all subjective lists, is incredibly well-reasoned. So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) Die Hard
49) A Few Good Men
48) The Namesake
47) Memento
46) Heat
45) Breaker Morant
44) The Godfather, Part II
43) The Bridge on the River Kwai
42) Aliens
41) The Incredibles
40) Big Fish
39) The Court Jester
38) Midnight Run
37) Never Cry Wolf
36) Galaxy Quest
35) The Count of Monte Cristo
34) Minority Report
33) Star Wars
32) Arrival
31) The Princess Bride
30) Citizen Kane
29) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
28) The Lives of Others
27) Sullivan’s Travels
26) Airplane!
25) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
24) To Kill a Mockingbird
23) Cinema Paradiso
22) Sense and Sensibility
21) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
20) Saving Private Ryan
19) North by Northwest
18) Rob Roy
17) Unforgiven
16) Children of Men
15) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
14) Das Boot
13) The Shawshank Redemption
12) Field of Dreams
11) Once Upon a Time in the West
10) 2010
9) The Empire Strikes Back
8) Singin’ in the Rain
7) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
6) Black Hawk Down
5) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
4) Schindler’s List
3) Casablanca
2) Ran         
1) Raiders of the Lost Ark    

And, as before, here are some…

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total Comedies: 7
  • Total Dramas: 23
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 23
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 18
  • Total Westerns: 2
  • Total War Movies: 17
  • Total Musicals: 2
  • Total Animated Films: 1
  • Total films with Liam Neeson: 2
  • Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1986
  • Decade with the most favorites: 1980s (15 films), followed closely by the 2000s (13 films)
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Edge of Tomorrow

Viscerally, it feels like a huge shake-up — and seeing it laid out makes me realize a few things…

It’s an altogether grimmer list
There are less comedies, less animated films, and less musicals. Yes, those last two categories aren’t always lighter fare, but the musicals and animated films that left the list definitely were. There’s more war films on the list — I even have two military courtroom dramas for crying out loud! (That’s A Few Good Men & Breaker Morant, for those keeping score at home.) Just about every film in the top 10 either has war either overtly throughout or peeking obtrusively around the corner. Well, except for…

Singin’ in the Rain
My #1 film since at least 2008. It had a good run. Maybe it’ll return, but when we got to that part of the sort, I just knew it wasn’t going to claim the top spot this year. Instead, that distinction went to a film that hasn’t claimed that spot since it was first in theaters in 1981.

An Adventure for the Ages
I mean, Raiders has been a favorite since ’81 (along with many other great films from the year. Seriously, check out some of the top-grossing ones that were in theaters in 1981). It was a good year. It could be that I’m busy writing adventure stories myself and it could be it scratches that itch many of us are feeling of late to see Nazis punched, but regardless, it’s a rattlin’ good yarn.

I noted a few other trends or tendencies. While the top 50 remained at the average year of 1986, the top 100 averages to 1989. I’m pretty sure my favorites are getting newer overall.

I’m thinking that many a film is played out for me. This isn’t unprecedented as I noticed that with music ages ago. Some films may still be just as objectively good, but I’m not getting as much as I once did on repeated viewings. It’s also the best reason I have for Rogue One thundering in ahead of the original Star Wars. (The next highest film new to the sort was Spotlight, which came in at #55). Franchise films also did not fare as dismally as they did in 2016, though I noted the Marvel films did not do well (Guardians of the Galaxy did the best at #61).

So, there it is. A fun list… that hopefully has a couple titles you’ll want to watch or re-watch. For 2020, I’m probably going to see which of IMDb’s “top 250” I haven’t seen or haven’t rewatched in a while as well as whatever else filmmaker friends recommend. Happy Boxing Day! Hope you’re spending some of the next week in a cinema watching a damn fine film or two.

My 50 Favorite Films: Prep for the 2018 Edition

The holiday season is upon us and, since it’s an even year, it’s almost time for the biennial ranking of my 50 Favorite Films.

For those of you obsessed with processes or those of you waiting for an appointment and have exhausted old magazines in a waiting room, read on!

You have no idea how many bad films I’ve seen. So, so many…

I’m a lifelong movie buff and have watched literally thousands of movies. Not all of them are good. Some of the good films are, nonetheless, not my favorite films. As I discuss elsewhere, I rank the films by the criteria of quality, watchability, and resonance.

Ideally, I’d see all the “must-see” films of a given year that year. By “must-see,” I’d include the blockbusters and awards bait films that capture some pop culture consciousness — along with my personal druthers (I generally catch most sci-fi flicks and anything with a submarine, because come on! Submarines!).

Unlike one of my brothers, who is a fellow cinemaniac, I am not able to catch every film out in the theater — or even when it’s first out on video (e.g. DVD, BluRay, streaming). So that means I may go a couple years before seeing all of the a “year’s best.”

Some of these films will, under no circumstances, crack my top 50. They are Gallipoli-like machine-gun fodder for the sort.

But, he said we were going over the top into the sort…

It’s about as cruel to abstract concepts as you can be, but if you think this ain’t fair, you should see some of the films. All get their chance, but some are going to fall to the bottom. As you may recall, to save time on the sort, I don’t actually sort all the films in the bottom half because after 150 or so, the rankings really lose all meaning unless I were to include every film I’ve ever seen –or at at least a disproportionate number of them. For both my and my family’s sanity, that won’t happen. Still, adding new films with every sort, including films I know I don’t love, helps get the sort going as they contrast well with films I do love.

Here are the films that came out or I’m just first watching or I’m first adding to the sorting list:

The Adjustment Bureau
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
American Gangster
An American Werewolf in London
Ant-Man
Apollo 13
Avengers: Infinity War
Bait
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Beetlejuice
Bend it Like Beckham
The BFG
Big Hero 6
Black Panther
Blade Runner 2049
Bridge of Spies
Captain America: Civil War
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Coco
Conspiracy (2001)
Deadpool
Doctor Strange
Downfall
Dunkirk
Extinction
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Fiddler on the Roof
Finding Dory
The Finest Hours
Fury
Ghostbusters (2016)
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
The Girl on the Train
Godzilla (2014)
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
The Good Dinosaur
Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2
Hail, Caesar!
Hidden Figures
Incredibles 2
Infini
Innerspace
Ip Man
Ip Man 2: Sadly Not Wing Chun Boogaloo
Jason Bourne
John Wick
John Wick: Chapter Two
Kung Fu Panda 3
The LEGO Batman Movie
The LEGO Ninjago Movie (can you tell I have kids?)
Logan
London Has Fallen
Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Meet the Robinsons
Millenium
Moana
The Monuments Men
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Northern Limit Line
Outlaw King
No Escape
Paddington
Pete’s Dragon (2016)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Shooter
The Siege of Jadotsville
Sing
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Spotlight
Spectral
Spectre
Spy
Star Trek Beyond
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
Thor: Ragnarok
Train to Busan
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
The Wave
The Wolverine
Wonder Woman
X-Men: Apocalypse
Zorba the Greek

You can safely assume some of these are the aforementioned canon fodder films. They’re never going to be my favorite films, but can serve as a comparison for how much I like a particular film. For example, I have seen every cut there is to see of Apocalypse Now, usually in theaters with nice prints. It’s critically acclaimed and technically masterful in many respects.

It’s never going to be one of my favorite films.

So if I don’t like a film better than Apocalypse Now, how much do I like it, really?

On that note, and as I mentioned for the 2016 list, I’m dropping some films from the sort because they’re just not going to rank highly. That includes The Exorcist.

So are there some films I absolutely, positively must fit into the next two weeks? Let me know in the comments.

My 50 Favorite Films, 2016 Edition

It’s time, once again, for my biennial 50 Favorite Films. Okay, granted I’ve been doing it offline intermittently for about 30 years, but for comparison, you can also see my 2012 list and 2014 list. You can also read about how I rank the films via a pairwise comparison sort based on the criteria of quality, watchability, and personal resonance.

There were significant changes this year, something that convinces me this is a fun exercise to continue to do every two years or so. Many films plummeted in the rankings and there were even some shake-up in the top 10. I should point out, however, that just like in previous years, this list –like all highly subjective lists– is incredibly well-reasoned.

I find your lack of Star Wars disturbing

Yeah, well I made this list before seeing Rogue One. We’ll see if that makes the cut in 2018. Anyway, here are the ground rules:

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an evil doppelganger/replicant/host.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) The Straight Story
49) Rear Window
48) Stray Dog
47) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
46) Zootopia
45) Groundhog Day
44) The Lego Movie
43) Heat
42) Sense and Sensibility
41) To Kill a Mockingbird
40) Amadeus
39) Tangled
38) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
37) The Namesake
36) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
35) Captain Horatio Hornblower
34) When Harry Met Sally
33) Ben-Hur
32) Rob Roy
31) The Dark Crystal
30) Guardians of the Galaxy
29) Field of Dreams
28) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
27) The English Patient
26) The Blues Brothers
25) Once Upon a Time in the West
24) The Incredibles
23) Ocean’s Eleven
22) Black Hawk Down
21) The Princess Bride
20) Galaxy Quest
19) The Count of Monte Cristo
18) 2010
17) The Empire Strikes Back
16) Jaws
15) The Lives of Others
14) Unforgiven
13) E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial
12) The Godfather, Part II
11) The Court Jester
10) Das Boot
9) North by Northwest
8) Schindler’s List
7) Ran
6) The Shawshank Redemption
5) Amelie
4) Raiders of the Lost Ark
3) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
2) Casablanca
1) Singin’ in the Rain

And, as before, here are some…

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total films in sorting: 479
  • Total Comedies: 11
  • Total Dramas: 33
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 17
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 18
  • Total Westerns: 2
  • Total War Movies: 12
  • Total Musicals: 5
  • Total Animated Films: 4
  • Total films with Liam Neeson: 3
  • Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1986
  • Decade with the most favorites: 1980s (12 films)
  • The film at the bottom of the list (#479): The Exorcist
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Airplane!

Thoughts? Films I should be sure to watch in time for the next cycle? Leave them in the comments below.

In the meantime, there’s some things I noted…

Long-term Franchises Fell
Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings… all of these have been perennial residents of the top 50 for over a decade, and all took a hit. For example:

  • Fellowship of the Ring went from #2 to #28
  • Two Towers went from #10 to #47
  • Return of the King went from #11 to #38
  • Empire Strikes Back went from #13 to #17
  • Star Wars went from #16 to #69
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan went from #44 to #65

Incidentally, for further trivia, the highest rated James Bond is Casino Royale at #78. The highest Monty Python film is Life of Brian at #109 (though the “Python adjacent” films Time Bandits and A Fish Called Wanda come it at #68 and #79 respectively). The highest ranking Space-Opera-set-Primarily-on-a-Desert-Planet is Dune at #119 — and it’s not in danger of being displaced by any other Space-Opera-set-Primarily-on-a-Desert-Planet anytime soon.

I’m wondering if some of the fall in franchise films is because any itch that a film franchise used to scratch is now being scratched by various TV series. Science fiction and fantasy still play a big role. There are 18 in the Favorite 50, with Raiders of the Lost Ark being the highest at #4. And also, the Marvel Cinematic Universe certainly counts as a franchise, and it has an entry in Guardians of the Galaxy at #30 rocketing up from #121 in 2014. Still, there feels like a fundamental shift in what I look for in feature films this year.

There’s a slight uptick in animated films
It’s more than just having 4 films in the top 50 versus 3 films two years ago. There’s 23 films in the top 200 versus 16 films two years ago. And then there’s Zootopia. It’s a 2016 film that’s also in the top 50. Even the impressive Arrival didn’t do that (coming in at #63).

Zootopia had a good shot at entering the top 50 anyway because it was both an excellent film (quality) and is also the first film we saw in the theater as a family (resonance). However, it certainly has been helped by being on streaming Netflix this Fall, and I’ve seen it a couple dozen more times thanks to my kids requesting it… and just like the Toy Story films, it holds up remarkably well on repeat viewing (watchability). And that’s the thing: my wife and I do get to watch films Not-Safe-For-Kids (NSFK), but we get a lot of kids or family programming. When I’m able to watch some PG and PG-13 films more frequently, I wonder if that will change. That leads to…

Frequency is a factor
If I were really wonky, I suppose I’d try and figure out the number of times I had watched each film, including partial views and views-in- completion — and also include the date I last saw the film. Then I could take those data and start hypothesizing on how the quantity and time of viewing influences rankings.

But seriously, this whole exercise is pretty nuts as is.

For right now, it seems sufficient to note where there are strong rankings and revisit films that rank highly and see if they still hold up… or if I’m clinging to memories. I re-watched long-time favorites Miracle on 34th Street and Like Water for Chocolate in the past year and while I still love both, they’ve both fell in the rankings. Miracle dropped so low that Die Hard is now officially my favorite Christmas movie! (albeit at #76)

Maybe I shouldn’t do quite so many films
Sometime, around recording the 250th film in the overall sort, I decided to curb my mania a tad in future sortings. I may still start with a sample size of 400+ films, but I’m probably not going to sort the first bottom half. The top 200+ films will just have to do. In other words, I assemble all 400+ index cards that seem like contenders, I pick the one card at random, and sort every film at either side of it (this year, the first pairwise comparison film was Kagemusha). Assuming my first or second pairwise comparison does elicit a stack of about 200 films on the bottom, I can merrily sort the top half, still getting the same thrill of seeing films race up and down rankings (and other stay steadfast in the Favorite 50).

Be a bit more rigorous on excluding films
Some films just aren’t contenders. I guess if I go ahead and don’t completely sort the bottom half of the stack of 400, this won’t be an issue, but I still think I should go ahead and be a bit more strict about booting films that don’t have a chance.

Readers with too much time on their hands will have noted The Exorcist ranked last in 2014 ranking as well. Yeah, I just don’t like this film, despite Max von Sydow. It’s getting the boot from the 2018 sort. There’s just no point in having it suffer any longer.

So, I didn’t think of a snazzy diagram last week, but this time I did. So the diagram below explains the film pool for the ranking, which is made up of films I love along with some films I’d like to rank. This often is the equivalent of a AA baseball team facing the New York Yankees, but the brutality is abstract, so I allow it. The pool of films is never meant to be “only the best films” — even the best films in their respective genres. And while I have seen a lot of films, there are many good ones that I have not seen, and good films I’ve seen, but do not love and will therefore not rank.

You have no idea how many bad films I’ve seen. So, so many…

For example, Apocalypse Now is a good film. Some might consider it a great film. I’m sure it’ll make it into many people’s Favorite 50. I’ve seen it multiple times, mostly in theaters with good prints, with every cut of the film there is to see. While there’s many parts of it that I admire –and I think it’s important we all remember that Charlie don’t surf– it will never be one of my favorite films.

It’s also interesting to see films rocket up the list or plummet, so I like adding “new blood,” but the comprehensive quality of the ranking dissipates after #250 or so. In other words, you might be able to say, “What about [Cool film not in the sort]?” and I’ll say, “I completely forgot about that.” But even so, the fact that I forgot about it means it won’t crack the Favorite 50 (I know this because I thought of 8 films after I began the sort this year and folded them all into the rankings — none fared too well).

There will be homework for 2018
In the run up to December 2018, I’ll look over this list and watch some films whose ratings I’m wondering about… as well as making sure to watch some films that didn’t rank and, again, some might rank high and some I just want to see where they wind up.

These films include:

  • Bloody Sunday – I remember it as a poster child for cinema verite docu-drama
  • Dave – It’s such a fun Capra-esque throwback. I wonder how it’ll land in the rankings
  • The Devil’s Backbone – I remember really liking this, but can’t remember much more than that…
  • Fearless – Exceptional performances and exceptional sound design
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – visually striking, but I thought of as emotionally disconnected when I last saw it
  • Ice Station Zebra – I remember it being interesting, but unremarkable. But hey, it’s a submarine movie…
  • Intacto – It has Max von Sydow and some really interesting world building. Maybe it’s a contender.
  • 1984 – It just might feel more relevant given our world of would-be Ministries of Truth
  • Omagh – This was a devastating docu-drama before I had children… so of course I need to watch it again now
  • Ronin – How will it have aged?
  • Time Bandits – Why is this not ranked higher?
  • This is Spinal Tap – Same question. Maybe if it was played in D minor…
  • Undercover Brother – I remember it having a high joke-per-minute ratio
  • The Visitor – There’s a special place in my heart for quiet films with great performances

Any other films that should be in the mix? Will Singin’ in the Rain finally be toppled in 2018? Tune in 24 months hence!

My 50 Favorite Films, 2014 Edition

Every two years, I do a sort to come up with my 50 favorite films. You can see the 2012 version here, and the 2016 version will go up tomorrow.

The actual pool of films I rank usually numbers in the hundreds. That’s because I’ve found that some films will dramatically change in ranking. For that reason –and the amount of time needed to do the rankings and write them all down– I only do the ranking every two years. You can read more about the pairwise comparison method I use for sorting films here.

What?!? No TV shows?

No, and quit trying to change the conditions of the test. Speaking of which, here are the ground rules:

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an evil doppelganger/replicant/host.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

Also, as previously mentioned for the 2012 edition, this is like any other highly subjective list: it is well-reasoned and eminently defensible. So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) The Court Jester
49) A Christmas Story
48) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
47) Ben-Hur
46) Captain Horatio Hornblower
45) Galaxy Quest
44) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
43) The Hunt for Red October
42) The Right Stuff
41) The Iron Giant
40) Big Fish
39) Toy Story 2
38) The Incredibles
37) The Milagro Beanfield War
36) When Harry Met Sally
35) Twelve Angry Men
34) Never Cry Wolf
33) Chariots of Fire
32) The Blues Brothers
31) Black Hawk Down
30) The Namesake
29) Miracle on 34th Street
28) Raising Arizona
27) Stalag 17
26) The Matrix
25) Minority Report
24) Das Boot
23) North by Northwest
22) Field of Dreams
21) Citizen Kane
20) The Lives of Others
19) Ran
18) To Kill a Mockingbird
17) Schindler’s List
16) Star Wars
15) Like Water for Chocolate
14) Children of Men
13) The Empire Strikes Back
12) The Princess Bride
11) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
10) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
9) Casablanca
8) Raiders of the Lost Ark
7) Rob Roy
6) 2010
5) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
4) Amelie
3) The Shawshank Redemption 
2) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
1) Singin’ in the Rain

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total films in sorting: 457
  • Total Comedies: 15
  • Total Dramas: 32
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 10
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 23
  • Total Westerns: 0 (I’m not counting Milagro)
  • Total War Movies: 10
  • Total Musicals: 3
  • Total Animated Films: 3
  • Total films with Liam Neeson: 2
  • The film at the bottom of the list (#457): The Exorcist
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: The Day the Earth Stood Still 

Comparing this list to the 2012 edition shows me how much the passage of time will change how I relate to a given film. For example, consider The Namesake, which I first saw in 2007. I always enjoy films that deal with the intersection of cultures, but besides that, this film has everything: coming of age, love, death, betrayal, hope, identity, and so on. And Norwegians may not get this, but when you’re an American named Bjorn, the weight of your name is palpable.

However while I still like the film, I haven’t seen it since 2007 — and the circumstances that gave it such personal resonance at the time have faded. Its rank was #16 in 2012 and is #30 for 2014. I suspect I will find something to reflect about in the film as I age, as I certainly do for films like Citizen Kane or Ran. The best films contain multitudes after all — and while these are my personal favorites, I think most in this top tier are also objectively good. Perhaps The Namesake will climb upward again, but maybe not. That’s why these biennial snapshots are so interesting.

I could see a music fanatic compiling a list of their favorite albums or songs or artists every few years to see what is moving them through the passage of time. In fact, you could do it for so much of the arts. I love books, but I’m not sure if I’d be up to doing favorite novels and authors — if for no other reason than it’s usually quicker to watch a feature film than read a novel.

So films it is. I’ll list my 2016 edition tomorrow.

My 50 Favorite Films, 2012 Edition

Earlier this week, I mentioned I spent last weekend sorting out my favorite films, circa 2016.

Some of your favourite things, you say?

Well, yes. And love ya, Dame Julie, but that film didn’t make the 2012 list.

Part of the fun of doing this biennial sort is to compare my current favorites to years past and see what has changed.

For that reason, I’m sharing both the previous sorts I did using my current sorting method of pairwise comparison.

As with any highly subjective list, it is naturally well-reasoned and eminently defensible.

I don’t think subjective means what you think it means.

Hush, you. Here are the ground rules:

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (though I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an evil doppelganger/replicant/host.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) The Godfather
49) Citizen Kane
48) Children of Men
47) The Thing (from another world)
46) The Straight Story
45) Little Big Man
44) Unforgiven
43) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
42) The Avengers
41) A Few Good Men
40) Amadeus
39) When Harry Met Sally
38) Alien
37) The Bourne Identity
36) Gunga Din
35) Alexander Nevsky
34) Never Cry Wolf
33) The Dark Crystal
32) 2010
31) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
30) The Court Jester
29) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
28) Midnight Run
27) Airplane!
26) Gattaca
25) The Wizard of Oz
24) Ghostbusters
23) Like Water for Chocolate
22) Field of Dreams
21) The Princess Bride
20) Stalag 17
19) Heat
18) North by Northwest
17) The Lives of Others
16) The Namesake
15) Rob Roy
14) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
13) Ben-Hur
12) Black Hawk Down
11) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
10) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
9) Raiders of the Lost Ark
8) Das Boot
7) Amelie
6) The Shawshank Redemption
5) Star Wars
4) The Empire Strikes Back
3) Ran
2) Casablanca
1) Singin’ in the Rain

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total films in sorting: 255
  • Total Comedies: 8
  • Total Dramas: 30
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 14
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 19
  • Total Westerns: 2
  • Total War Movies: 11 (I’d be shocked, Shocked, if people thought Casablanca doesn’t count)
  • Total Musicals: 3
  • Total Animated Films: 0
  • Total films with Liam Neeson: 1
  • The film at the bottom of the list (#255): Jabberwocky
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: The Matrix

If you’re like me, you’re wondering why there aren’t more films with Liam Neeson in this list.  Then again, he has been in some stinkers that aren’t going to ever make the cut.

Also of interest: no animated films. Well, that will change in 2016…

I’ll list the 2014 edition on Monday and the 2016 edition on Tuesday. Have a great weekend. Perhaps go watch that new space movie.