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).
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.
Hush! What part of “Surprise is on our side” do you not get?
Anyway, here are the ground rules:
- These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
- Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
- TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
- TV mini-series are not included.
- Regular TV series are right out.
- 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.
- There is no rule # 7.
So, without further ado, counting down from 50:
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
33) The Truman Show
32) Everything Everywhere All at Once
30) The Hunt for Red October
29) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
28) Big Fish
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
15) The Lives of Others
14) Minority Report
13) The Empire Strikes Back
11) Star Wars
10) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
8) Black Hawk Down
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.