This is a list of movies that I really love and recommend highly. They’re not in any sort of order, except maybe for Fellowship—even there, FOTR’s really not in competition with, let’s say, Duck Soup. But all of these movies have made a really big impression on me, and they’re my favorites as of now, I think.
(movie titles link to pages at The Internet Movie Database and will open in a new window)
- Fellowship of the Ring
Is it as good a movie as the book is a book? No. Is it a perfect adaptation? Not hardly. Is it, however the greatest fantasy film ever made? Yes. Very solid adaptation, a lot of good characterization and acting, and a number of scenes that are rather like hallucinating the book. Considerable emotional charge. Makes stuff like Star Wars look very feeble.
- Conan the Barbarian
Not very much like Howard, really, but in a good way. Great John Milius flick, well written. Very funny, among other things—the “Theology” scene is a hoot. Thulsa Doom is one of the best movie villains ever. A whole lot of seminal ultraviolence. Fabulous beheadings. The Basil Poledouris score is tremendous.
- Apocalypse Now
Platoon might be more realistic, but AN is a better piece of work—beautifully developed themes, lots of great stuff in the subtext. Dense atmosphere. Should be watched in close conjunction with Conan the Barbarian. Milius/Coppola screenplay is top flight, although it does fall down somewhat at the end.
- Quatermass and the Pit
One of the very few Science Fiction movies that’s actually good as Science Fiction—if the special effects were better, it would be the best SF movie ever, hands down. Extremely clever and creepy, with a tremendous premise—kind of a negative twist on Childhood’s End. The old black and white TV version of the same name is highly recommended too.
The mob movie. This is what these guys are really like, as nearly as I can tell. Completely divests them of the sinister dignity you get in the Godfather ficks.. Hilarious, harrowing, totally believable. Great use of long takes. Violence that really hurts, which is to say, just as it should be.
- Duck Soup
I’m a big Marx Brothers fan, and this is my favorite Marx Brothers Movie. The funniest flick ever.
- King Kong
Very important. I watched this movie over and over again when I was a kid. Story really rips. A lot of the special effects—particularly the matte paintings on Kong’s island—have never been topped. Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. The Max Steiner score is an all-time classic.
- The War Lord
Excellent blend of romance and action. Nonsensical as history, despite its pretensions, but very effective nonetheless. Best medieval fight scenes until Braveheart. Really cool costumes. What the hell happened to Rosemary Forsythe?
- Fight Club
Extremely well-written movie about the power of ideology. Funny, vicious, razor-sharp.. Kind of loses me a bit once the big secret comes out, but I still love it anyway.
- True Romance
My favorite Tarantino screenplay. Pulp Fiction may be better directed, but the pressure kind of goes out of it after the Bruce Willis segment, whereas the hotel stuff in TR is properly climactic.Very engaging characters. All the big scenes in this movie are absolute gems. Get the director’s cut.
Excellent, excellent western, extremely well researched and characterized. Vivid, funny dialogue. Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday is one of the best-drawn movie characters ever.
- Green Snake
If the climactic special effects in this movie were as good as the screenplay, this would be the best movie fantasy ever, not FOTR. Extremely intelligent meditation on Religion, sex, and the nature of humanity. Sexy and very beautiful—wonderful score. The ending is most unsettling. My favorite Maggie Cheung movie, and I do like my Maggie Cheung movies.
- Peking Opera Blues
went back and forth between this and Bride with White Hair. Both of them are dynamite Brigitte Lin films, but this one does more and deserves the edge. Very impressive mixture of comedy, politics and action. Splendid female protagonists. If you don’t know who Brigitte Lin is, find the hell out, dammit. See also Bride with White Hair and Swordsman II.
- Chinese Odyssey Parts 1 and 2
the Monkey King meets back to The Future. HK comic Stephen Chow is the funniest guy on the planet at the moment, and this is one of his coolest, a superb mythological fantasy.
- Rob Roy
No nonsense period flick, very plausible, not Hollywood at all. Just about everything makes sense, and when was the last time you got that in a movie? Astonishing bad guys—Tim Roth is particularly wonderful. He’s funny, disgusting, and scary all at once.
- The God of Cookery
Stephen Chow’s most impressive flick, and very very funny to boot. Nutty goings-on in Iron Chefsville, leading up to a cooking apocalypse. Chow directed this thing, and he does one smokin hell of job. The King of Comedy, Love on Delivery, and Tricky Brains are some other excellent Chow cmedies.
- Black Hawk Down
Yeah, some of it is hard to follow, and the characters don’t sort themselves out on the first viewing—this thing makes no concessions to the viewer whatsoever. Why the fuck should it? There is virtually no bullshit in this very savage war flick, which is a lot more than you can say for Saving Private Ryan. Doesn’t stop dead for characterization moments that don’t characterize. It just serves up real-time hell on earth, chock full of freaky little things that are so awful that you just know they had to have happened. Greatest war movie ever made.
- The Vikings
Beautifully photographed by Jack Cardiff, with an excellent Mario Nascimbene score, this is the best Viking movie. Gets a lot of details wrong, but it’s great fun anyway. Final fight between Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis is one of the all-time coolest climactic duels.
- Paths of Glory
Kubrick’s finest. All the things that are great about the guy’s filmmaking in a package of reasonable length, back when he still kind of cared about human beings.
- Jason and the Argonauts
My favorite Harryhausen film, and Harryhausen’s too, or so I understand. The scene where Talos looks back over his shoulder is one of the high-water marks of film fright, and the skeleton fight is simply classic, a perfect example of how good Harryhausen was as an action director.