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October 01, 2006

Andy Horbal's Best-Of Poll

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

At his movieblog, Andy Horbal is running a "What's the best American fiction film of the last 25 years?" poll. Lots of fun nominations in the comments. Anne Thompson muses a bit and finally casts her vote for "Unforgiven." I pitched in with a couple of semi-meant / semi-spoofy candidates: "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective" (because I couldn't think of another movie from this stretch that made me laugh as much, and because I think comedy is always undervalued), and "Basic Instinct," mainly because, critics be damned, I think it's pretty great. I wrote about "Basic Instinct" here. Go here to place a vote in Andy's poll yourself.

I had two main thoughts on following the posting and the nominations. The first was how out of tune I've grown with the kinds of American movies that today's filmbuffs prefer. I nearly always don't care for them. It's really remarkable how consistently I diverge from typical film-buff opinion: the Coen Brothers; Steven Soderbergh; Todd Haynes; "Fight Club"; Todd Solondz; the Charlie Kaufman movies; most David Lynch (some sexy scenes excepted); all of Erroll Morris; 99% of Spike Lee; everything Wes Anderson has ever done, thought, or touched ... I just haven't had a good time at these movies. Well, perhaps the time has come to consider the possibility that I no longer qualify as a filmbuff.

My second thought was the usual one I have when encountering such a poll: What's really meant by it? Incidentally, I like following such polls, and I'm a fan of arts-lists. But part of the fun of them for me is fretting over them, not to say nitpicking. So this posting is intended as an extension and elaboration of Andy's poll, not as a refutation or critique of it. Go, go, entrepreneurial bloggers!

What's really meant when someone says, "This is the best film of the year?" Is some lofty Considered Critical Judgment being laid on us? That just makes me want to burp, fart, and throw mud. Or is filling out best-of lists simply another way some people have of saying "Hey, here are some films I enjoyed a whole lot"? If so, then why not be more direct about the fact that personal preference is at work?

I find myself wondering about the psychology of critics. What on earth could motivate anyone to even want to elevate personal response into historical ranking?

Doesn't scrambling the "Is it good?" question with the "Did I enjoy it?" question do a disservice to many other potentially rewarding culturechats? I can, after all, recognize that some films (or paintings, or symphonies, etc) are "good" or even "great" without caring for them much myself. That's a fun conversation I'd hate to see fail to take place.

And isn't another super-common culture-life experience that of having a blast at a, say, movie that you can't imagine anyone calling "good," let alone "great"? For me, keeping in touch with the junk I enjoy (and musing about it, and teasing it, and comparing notes with others about it) is a huge part of the having-fun-with-culture adventure.

Shhhhh: Because of these thoughts and misgivings, my own -- Highly Considered, of course -- policy at this blog is to dodge and discourage all attempts at arguing over What's Best, to be frank about my personal responses, and to encourage others to yak about the arts in terms of their own personal responses. History, after all, will take care of the ranking-thang, and will then likely change its mind anyway. Why let anxiety and pomposity about What-Really-Deserves-to-be-Called-Great get in the way of a good conversation?

Speaking as an eager reader and a lover of artsyak, I find people's personal responses soooooo much more interesting than their Considered Opinions anyway, don't you? When people start to get self-conscious about their tastes, pleasures, and judgments, the only thing I want to do is slip away to someplace where the drinks have a little more kick and the conversation is a whole lot livelier.

So, as my 2Blowhards enhancement to Andy's poll, I'm proposing an alternative one on the theme of: "Your favorite American fiction movies from the last 25 years that you can't imagine anyone making a respectable critical-intellectual case for." The hell with worthiness, let alone greatness. This poll focuses only on the films you really-really enjoyed, all questions of worth -- of goodness and badness, and of potential for historical importance -- be damned. Rule #1: If you can imagine a Serious Critic making a Serious Film-History case for your film, throw it off your list.

I'll go first. Some of the movies from the last 25 years that I loved but that are unlikely to appear on the cover of Film Quarterly include: "Internal Affairs," "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective," "Dumb and Dumber," "Basic Instinct," "Wild Things," "The Wrong Man" (key viewing for Rosanna Arquette fans!), "Night Shift," "Starship Troopers," "Zorro, the Gay Blade," "Summer Lovers" (there's no denying camp pleasures), "Threesome," "8 Million Ways to Die," "Sea of Love," "Bound," "Devil in a Blue Dress," "Galaxy Quest," "Citizen Ruth," "The Fugitive," "The Hot Spot" (the initiator of many a Jennifer Connelly obsession), "Die Hard," "Speed," "Point Break," "Soapdish," "Back to the Future" and "Back to the Future 3." Recently The Wife and I have been enjoying the B movies of the talented J.S. Cardone. I wrote about "8 mm 2" here; and this modern-vampires / road-movie was snappy and intense too. Imperfect, sure -- but we had a very nice time.

I haven't in any way been comprehensive about scouring lists of films from the last 25 years, btw. No reason you should be either. I'm betting that precisely none of my choices, though, will appear on respectable Best-Of lists, and that none will make much of an appearance in film-history books either. I could be wrong! I'm certainly no better at predicting the future than anyone else -- critics included -- is. But I can say for absolute certain that I enjoyed watching all of these movies a whole lot, and that I'd be happy to watch any of them again.

Related: In a posting a while back, I proposed yet another film game: movies I liked a whole lot and recommended to other people, who then made fun of me. The results of that poll can be thumbed through here.

* I go on at greater length about my reservations about "Best-of" lists here.

What's on your own list of American fiction movies that you enjoyed a whole lot, respectability be damned, from the last 25 years? Nothing "good," let alone important, in the critical/film-history sense allowed.



UPDATE: Agnostic is conducting a very GNXP kind of movie poll: He's asking for the names of films that "showcase an important evolutionary dynamic in a way that even those who couldn't handle college-level courses could understand."

posted by Michael at October 1, 2006


As far as enjoyable but unlikely to garner any critical respect, I'd have to vote for "Night of the Comet" and "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" from the '80s, the two movies based on the "Mortal Kombat" video game and Mel Brooks' "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" from the '90s, and "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" and "Dodgeball" from this decade. I applaud your placing "Ace Ventura" and "Dumb and Dumber" on your list, but why not "The Mask"? Still the highlight of Ms. Diaz's film career.

When I grow up, I want to be Kumar, BTW.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 3, 2006 2:11 PM

Your 25-year cutoff doesn't allow me to list "Animal House", but that's always one of the first that comes to mind in situations like this.

I'd also like to speak up for "My Favorite Year", "Mad Max 3", "Highlander", and "The Whole Nine Yards". I'd put "Fargo" in the arty-but-good-anyway category,

Posted by: Derek Lowe on October 3, 2006 2:15 PM

This poll focuses only on the films you enjoyed most, all questions of worth, of goodness and badness, and of potential for historical importance be damned. If you can imagine a Serious Critic making a Serious Film-History case for your film, don't include it.

Terminator 2, Rumble in the Bronx, Pretty Woman, Back to the Future, The Shawshank Redemption, Austin Powers, Forrest Gump, When Harry Met Sally, The Karate Kid.

Posted by: JewishAtheist on October 3, 2006 2:18 PM

You've listed a lot of good ones already. "Dumb and Dumber", "Die Hard", and "Bull Durham" would all be runners-up for me, but, number one - no contest - is "To Live and Die in L.A.".

Posted by: Jon Hastings on October 3, 2006 2:21 PM

I'll vote for the comedies "Supertroopers" and "Wet Hot American Summer" as two of the best movies I've ever seen.

...ya know, I think Ace Ventura is recognized more widely than you might realize. I am 24 years old and I think most people around my age think of Ace as the start of an outrageously funny era of early 90s comedies.

Posted by: Brandon on October 3, 2006 3:04 PM

40 Year-Old Virgin
Old School
Raiders of the Last Ark
Night Shift
Prince of Darkness (that is one scary fucking movie)
Starship Troopers
Big Trouble in Little China
The Kill Bills

All of these are movies I can watch over and over. As is always the case with these kind of lists, I know I'm missing some.

Posted by: the patriarch on October 3, 2006 3:04 PM

Oh also, I think the purpose of labeling these lists as "Best of" instead of "My opinion" is to spark discussion.

Posted by: the patriarch on October 3, 2006 3:05 PM

FvB -- I think you long ago achieved Kumar-hood! But "Pee-Wee" ... Hmm. Isn't Tim Burton mighty respectable? Maybe not ...

Derek -- It takes a real man to list "Highlander"!

JA -- Good list. You've reminded me that I should add "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Terminator" (the first) to my own list. Also "Breakdown."

Jon -- Perfect. The Wife and I re-watched "To Live and Die in LA" just a few weeks ago. Stood up well, in its sleazy and low-down way. I can't recommend the Friedkin commentary track, though ...

Brandon-- "Ace Ventura" is now part of the canon? I ... Well, I don't know what to make of that. I liked "Wet Hot" too. "Supertroopers" I know nothing about. What is it?

Patriarch -- Nice work on that list, though with "Aliens," the "Kill Bills" and "Trainspotting" I think you're starting to take part in Andy's poll, not this one. I should probably go easier on critics, eh? But still : why don't they just say "I enjoyed this"? Too ... human? Or are they involved in some kind of "my opinion is bigger than your opinion" kind of antler-clacking competition?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 3, 2006 3:20 PM

I bet a key factor in determining what goes on the film buffs' list -- Coen Brothers; Steven Soderbergh; Todd Haynes; "Fight Club"; Todd Solondz; the Charlie Kaufman movies; most David Lynch (some sexy scenes excepted); all of Erroll Morris; 99% of Spike Lee; everything Wes Anderson has ever done, thought, or touched -- versus what goes on your list is that you watch movies with your wife while the average (male) film buff goes to the movies alone.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on October 3, 2006 3:29 PM

Ah, I actually didn't click on over to Andy's list. Ha.

Sailer, I, too, watch movies with my wife. I think you'll find women (my wife included) as some of Wes Anderson's, Todd Haynes', Charlie Kaufman's, and the Coen Brothers' biggest fans. In fact, I see no gender split among any of the directors mentioned except for Tod Solondz, and that's only for his movies after Welcome to the Dollhouse.

I don't think you can dismiss the work of these directors as just for ineffectual, unmanly film geeks, as you comment seems to suggest. Your's and Michael's dislike for them is more likely due to some differences in sensibilities between yours and my generation. Oof! The dreaded generation gap! But I thought you Boomers had made that obsolete. Ha.

Posted by: the patriarch on October 3, 2006 3:54 PM

Guilty pleasures ?

Blues Brothers - out by two years: damn.
The Big Lebowski - my top film.
Jackie Chan - genius who should have been born in the silent era ? (First Strike more than worth seeing for the stepladder sequence alone...)
Bound - yeah !
Two Days in the Valley (Danny Aielo, Jeff Daniels, Terri Hatcher & Charlize Theron ! Sex, violence & gags...)
Ace Ventura - please, no. (Proves that there ARE limits to bad taste.)
Die Hard - wonderful. Sequels woeful & woefullerer.
Raiders - ditto.
(Mad Max was more than fine, but again the sequels sucked.)
Aliens - Sigourney rocks, but the tech. doesn't.

And you suggest another category: performances that transcend the film (eg My Best Friend's Wedding - R. Everett) which may well apply to several of the above.

Posted by: Nigel on October 3, 2006 4:14 PM

You stole my precious Galaxy Quest! Others could be "Bean", "This is Spinal Tap", "Trading Places", "Meet the Fockers", "History of the World, part one" ("run, with Mucus!"), "True Identity" (does anyone over here even know who Lenny Henry IS?), "Without a Clue" (w/ Ben Kingsley brilliant), the Murphy "Nutty Professor" for the dinner table fart/colon cleansing dialogue ("Hercules! Hercules!"), and others I'll think of the sec I hit Post.

Posted by: Flutist on October 3, 2006 4:53 PM

Rising Sun
Cruel Intentions
I Know What You Did Last Summer
The Goonies
She's All That
Die Hard
The Pelican Brief
Sleeping With the Enemy

Posted by: ron on October 3, 2006 5:21 PM

Two movies jumped out at me immediately:

1. Dead Man on Campus - a goofy campus comedy, but a dark comedy rather than a sex romp. Two hard-partying roommates seek out a suicidal third roommate in an effort to exploit a loophole to nullify their failing grades. It's silly, and it's loads of fun. I wish it hadn't died at the box office; at the very least it deserves the success on cable and DVD that Office Space has had.

2. Me, Myself and Irene - It's ridiculous and juvenile even by Farrelly Bros. standards, and it is glorious. When Jim Carrey breastfeeds and comes up with a milk moustache, I just about bust a gut. "Dumb and Dumber" and "Ace Ventura" pale by comparison.

The Shawshank Redemption is an interesting case. It tanked in theaters, but its following success has made it, in some sense, an all-time great, but not an indie one. IMBD lists it as the #2 movie of all time, and, I have to say, it's one of my all-time favorites, but I suspect that film snobs wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. It's strange - well-beloved, not as lowbrow as most of the movies mentioned here, but certainly one that General Filmbuff Opinion would dismiss.

Does it count? I'd argue it does. It's middlebrow, and to most listmakers, middlebrow is lowbrow enough (or worse - it's not even campy!).

Posted by: Ned on October 3, 2006 9:16 PM

I don't go to movies much (as opposed to watching truly sexy 1930s Hollywood movies on DVD) but I saw "There's Something About Mary" twice on transatlantic flights, and super-weirdly it made me cry (in like an emotionally moved sort of way) both times.

Then again: As a 14-year-old film buff I was transfixed by the Sight & Sound polls. Because of them, I saw "Orpheus," "The Bicycle Thief," and "Les Enfants du paradis"--films that have given me as great an artistic experience as "The Magic Flute" (which in Bergman's hands was also a *great* film), "Bleak House," or Fragonard's "Progress of Love" have. I'd add to that list Kurosawa's "Dodeskaden," Bergman's "Smiles of a Summer Night," and Masayuki Suo's visually and aurally stunning "Shall We Dance?"--films of a distinctly "highbrow" sensibility that have enriched me like Shakespeare's plays or Plato's dialogues have enriched me.

As for pure pop, very few films of recent vintage strike me as attaining the pure perfection of Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps," or "My Man Godfrey," or "The Awful Truth" or George Cukor's "Little Women" as exemplars of the very best a popular culture can produce--with such musical exceptions as the Beatles and Bob Dylan.

As for Spike Lee, Michael, I think you underestimate him: "Crooklyn" and "Do the Right Thing" capture in a pitch-perfect way certain social realities that the scholars have ignored. I think film can do many, many things in a radically effective way that other forms of expression--whether a novel or a scholarly paper--can never get at.

Posted by: Francis Morrone on October 4, 2006 12:57 AM

This poll focuses only on the films you enjoyed most, all questions of worth, of goodness and badness, and of potential for historical importance be damned. If you can imagine a Serious Critic making a Serious Film-History case for your film, don't include it.

In other words, you're asking for a list of our favorite "bad" movies. Well, I can certainly provide that.

Hudson Hawk, Blade 1 & 2, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing, Austin Powers 1 & 3, The Rocketeer, Dracula 2000, Private Eyes, Zorro the Gay Blade
Without a Clue, Ishtar, Payback, Cloak & Dagger, D.A.R.Y.L., Airplane, The Goonies, The Hudsucker Proxy, Mission: Impossible, Last Action Hero, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Popeye, Darkman, The Boys from Brazil, The Black Hole, Condorman, Wargames, The Last Starfighter, Cromwell, Mr. Mom, Flight of the Navigator, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Clue, Dragnet, UHF, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Stargate, Gremlins, Innerspace, The Wiz, Young Sherlock Holmes, Tron, Atlantis, Starsky & Hutch, Dennis the Menace, Gross Pointe Blank, The Brady Bunch Movie

I would've listed a number of films that have already mentioned here because they are also favorites of mine (Die Hard, Galaxy Quest, The Fugitive, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, When Harry Met Sally, Fargo, Ghostbusters, Highlander, Starship Troopers, The Shawshank Redemption, Aliens, Gladiator, The Big Lebowski, This is Spinal Tap the first two Terminator films and the Back to the Future trilogy to name just a few), but I know I can actually make a respectable critical-intellectual case for those films, so I left them off my list.

Posted by: Damian on October 4, 2006 2:19 AM

I'm very keen on trashy action films with a satiric or dark comic edge: Eraser, Tremors, Robocop 1 & 2, Time Cop, Conan the Barbarian, Red Dawn. (I could've named many more in high school.)

But the official auteur of the disreputable favorite is probably Tom Shadyac. Bruce Almighty, Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar - all of them superbly crafted mixtures of vulgarity and sentiment. Sight & Sound prolly won't touch him with a barge pole.

As Flutist said, the dinner table scene from Nutty Professor will live as long as cinema does.

Posted by: Brian on October 4, 2006 4:03 AM

From looking at, it appears "The Wrong Man" (with Rosanna Arquette) is not available on's VHS only. Sob, sniff! Try going to Google Images (advanced image search) and search on the phrase THE WRONG MAN along with the single word ARQUETTE. Yow.

One film that went under the radar is Lawn Dogs. Severe script flaws such that it deserved to flop, even with a topless Angie Harmon, but remarkable acting by ten-year-old Mischa Barton and a damned good job by Sam Rockwell. Barton's dialog is adult (in the maturity sense, not risque), making her seem more like a lady than a child. I felt attracted, which made me feel weird on account of her age. I would guess that a) most men who see it react the same way b)hell would freeze before they would ever admit it (out of fear it could make them appear latent pedo).

Posted by: FrankFrankly on October 4, 2006 4:55 AM

I think Forrest Gump would have to be excluded given that a Serious Critic (Dave Kehr) has made a case for this movie a number of times.

I gave Back to the Future the nod over on Andy Horbal's list, but I think the case can also be made for that one.

For the purposes of this "poll", I'd have to nominate most of the oeuvre of Tony Scott, but especially Crimson Tide, Top Gun, Spy Game, and Enemy of the State. There are few redeeming qualities, but damn, those were fun.

Posted by: Gareth on October 4, 2006 9:28 AM

I second Tron and proclaim these other two:

First Blood (1982)
Southern Comfort (1981)

Posted by: Tim B. on October 4, 2006 10:16 AM

I don't know, Michael: You should read Andrew O'Hehir's review of Starship Troopers for Sight & Sound and decide if it still qualifies...

This was the first and most significant stumbling block that I encountered in my Quest For The Answer to your question. When there are people like Armond White running around making a "Serious Film-History case" for films like Little Man or Crossover (to name only two recent examples of his notoriously unpredictable taste) what's safe?

Many of my absolute favorite movies from the last 25 years, the movies that I watch over and over and over again aren't likely to top a Top Ten list. But I can see someone (myself, maybe) trying to make a convincing argument on their behalf. This rules out films like Elf or The Fifth Element, which I've been known to watch three or four times in a row.

And many of my "guilty pleasures" are out of the running, too. My guilty pleasures are typically popular, fairly well-regarded films that I watch over and over again despite the fact that I don't actually like them. It's embarrassing because I know that my fascination derives in large part from their respectability, from their popularity--a consideration that shouldn't matter at all. These are films like Sleepless in Seattle or Rent and, again, I think they're too respectible to really qualify.

And then there are actors like Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler (I love Billy Madison) who are in danger of making their early, "silly" films retroactively respectable and interesting to the academic establishment by dint of their later, "serious" successes. Directors like Peter Weir, Michel Gondry, Paul Thomas Anderson, and James L. Brooks have made a convincing case that the Carrey and Sandler "characters" are worthy of critical attention, and this potentially knocks all of their films out of contention, too.

So here goes. Here are my three favorite films that I really, truly can't imagine anyone making a case for. It was harder than I thought!

3. Encino Man

Whatever brain defect I have that makes me think Pauly Shore is funny also negatively affects my perception of Carrot Top: Chairman of the Board could fit on this list as well...

2. Bloodsport

Donald Gibb's performance as Ray Jackson might be the worst supporting turn that I can think of--and I mean that with much love and affection and respect (i.e. - please don't hurt me Mr. Gibbs).

1. Rocky IV

There is no arguing on this film's behalf. It reduces a political philosophy I already disagree with to incomprehensible mush, it's poorly made, and it doesn't make any damn sense. But it might just be one of my favorite films...

Posted by: A. Horbal on October 4, 2006 11:39 AM

I just skimmed through, but has anyone mentioned Office Space? I know it was written by David Mamet, but The Edge isn't respectable, is it?

Posted by: Bryan on October 4, 2006 12:33 PM

Since I'm providing a list of "best movies", I think that makes me a critic. (We will leave aside whether I'm a good critic, since that doesn't seem necessary for anyone else with the title either.) Given that and the fact that I actually enjoy the movies I'm about to suggest, it would seem that anything I could suggest would be immediately disqualified.

So in spite* of all that I offer these (some of which have been previously mentioned:

Office Space (without question one of the most brilliant comedies of your specified period)
Black Rain
True Lies
The Princess Bride
Die Hard (nearly the platonic ideal of the adventure movie)
Rumble in the Bronx
Remo Williams
The Incredibles

and, because I like to watch the exploding heads,

Red Dawn

Outside the time range:


* An actual use of spite in its original meaning, mind.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on October 4, 2006 2:07 PM

Remember the Titans and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn

Posted by: Jimmy on October 4, 2006 3:35 PM

1. Pirates of the Carribean
2. My Best Friend's Wedding
3. Braodcast News
4. Postcards from the Edge
5. About Last Night (I remember liking it at the time, but saw part of again recently and must admit it was pretty terrible).
6. Stake Out
7. That sci-fi movie with William Hurt from the early eighties when he goes into that mindbender machine---can't remember.
8. The Fugitive
10. Tootsie

Posted by: annette on October 4, 2006 4:14 PM

First, I thought of Galaxy Quest.
Second, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Third, I was glad to see annette mention Tootsie. The year it was made, Ghandi was named the Academy's Best Picture. Boo Urn! Who watches Ghandi any more except church youth groups locked in a parish hall for an overnighter, forced to always equate big questions with fighting off sleep.
Tootsie embodied all I love about movies; Ghandi embodied all the self-importance and self-congratulation that wins awards but has the charisma and fun of a starved quail dying, in peace.

Posted by: raymond pert on October 4, 2006 6:16 PM

Raising Arizona

Posted by: beloml on October 4, 2006 9:25 PM

"Ace Ventura" may be a guilty pleasure. (It is for me as well, largely because I'm a huge fan of the Miami Dolphins.) But "Dumb and Dumber" isn't -- it's a truly brilliant comedy that apparently turned off critics who couldn't help but focus on the (relatively few) gross-out gags. Here are a couple of more characteristic bits from that film:

(making small talk at a gas station)
HARRY: Skis, huh?
WOMAN: Yeah.
HARRY: They yours?
HARRY: Both of 'em?

(Nearing their destination of Aspen, Lloyd takes the wheel from Harry so the latter can sleep. Gets on the freeway east instead of west. Cut to morning, driving through a cornfield, as Harry wakes up.)
HARRY: Hey, how long have we been driving?
LLOYD: Oh, about 8 hours.
HARRY: Hm, I figured the Rocky Mountains would be a little rockier than this.
LLOYD: Yeah, that John Denver was full of shit.

(Revealing his infatuation)
LLOYD: What's the chances of a guy like you getting with a girl like me?
MARY: Well... not good.
LLOYD: Not good like, one in a hundred?
MARY: More like one in a million.
LLOYD: So... you're saying I've got a chance!
(later, after her husband is rescued)
LLOYD: Your husband! What was all that one-in-a-million talk?

These are examples of great comedy dialogue, greater than you'd find in most of the Golden Age comedies making the major best-of lists. And the film is chock full of such gems. Therefore, at least one amateur critic is willing to make a straightforward case for its greatness.

Adding to your list, though, I'll suggest "Frankenhooker". :->

Posted by: J. Goard on October 5, 2006 2:10 AM

annette, you're thinking of Altered States.

I'll second Remo Williams, but I think Gremlins is my favorite as far as this category is concerned. Just the though of those little monsters singing 'Hi-ho' puts a smile to my face.

Posted by: Phil on October 5, 2006 5:54 AM

Gotta be Con Air. Nic Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi. It has a dream cast, and Buscemi defines irony for us stupid people.

Posted by: Dan on October 5, 2006 11:42 AM

I enjoyed the following.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
Shallow Hal
Dumb and Dumber (I'm a fan of the Farrelly Bros. Sounds like a lot of others are too)
Dave Chappelle's Block Party
The Triumph of Love
Kwik Stop
Mission to Mars
Looking for Richard
Babe: Pig in the City
Raising Cain
Basic Instinct
The Russia House
Two Girls and a Guy
Tin Cup
Black Robe (I know Michael is a fan of this one)
One False Move
Devil in a Blue Dress
The Stepfather
Nutcracker: The Motion Picture
The Best of Times
Personal Best
Quick Change
Point Break
Near Dark
Fly Away Home
Star Trek II
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
All Night Long
The Dancer Upstairs
Under the Cherry Moon
Hamburger Hill
Rough Magic
Mr. 3000

I guess some of these have decent critical reps...


Posted by: Ron on October 5, 2006 12:24 PM

Oh, I also really enjoy "Home Alone", more than several other prominent Christmas comedies that seem objectively better.

Posted by: J. Goard on October 5, 2006 2:03 PM

There are some excellent choices in your list and the above comments, so I'll add only one from my list: Overboard starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

One of my favorite lines: "I have a falsetto child?"

Posted by: jenny on October 5, 2006 4:59 PM

1. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
2. Devil In A Blue Dress
3. Galaxy Quest
4. Die Hard

I'm sure I could think of more, but those are the ones that come to me now. Comedy is king!

Posted by: RC on October 5, 2006 6:18 PM

Let It Ride
Babe: Pig in the City
Manhattan Murder Mystery
The Zero Effect
Intolerable Cruelty (Clooney's finest moment)
Happy New Year

Posted by: grandcosmo on October 5, 2006 9:25 PM

Some other good ones I don't think anyone's mentioned:

Captain Ron
A Very Brady Sequel
Dirty Work
Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Posted by: Phil on October 6, 2006 9:13 AM

The Frighteners

Posted by: the patriarch on October 6, 2006 11:01 AM

I enjoyed The Frighteners as well, Patriarch. Peter Jackson's foolhardiness as a filmmaker is kind of charming, isn't it? He has a lot of gusto, few pretentions to good taste, and he's never afraid to fall on his ass (which he does with some frequency). Michael J. Fox is very good in The Frighteners as well.

Three others that I'm sad to have left off my list: Judy Berlin, A Life Less Ordinary, and Don Juan DeMarco.

One thing that strikes me as I look at these lists is how influential many of these movies have been. Internal Affairs, Basic Instinct, Evil Dead, Die Hard, The Terminator, Point Break, Dumb and Dumber, Speed, Fast Times at Ridgemont High: for better or for worse, these movies have cast long, long shadows.


Posted by: Ron on October 10, 2006 9:08 AM

"The Frighteners" is a good one, I'll put that on my list too. Another couple of that have occurred to me: "Midnight Run" and "Falling Down." Ron, it's freaky the way your list and mine overlap. You wouldn't have grown up on Pauline Kael, would you? I certainly learned a lot from her ...

I sometimes think "Evil Dead" has been the most influential movie in the last 30 years. Has "Point Break" been influential? That one slipped by me.

Great nominees from everyone, btw. Though I can see I'm going to have to put a question up to a vote: can any movie by the Coens or by Woody Allen be said to belong on this list?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 10, 2006 9:31 AM

can any movie by the Coens or by Woody Allen be said to belong on this list?

Well, there's stuff like "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex" (very much akin to the second rank of Mel Brooks' films) and "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" The Coens: no, not as far as I can see.

Posted by: J. Goard on October 11, 2006 6:20 PM

Yes, Michael, discovering Kael in my teens was pretty important in my then-evolving movie tastes.

I recall she liked some of the '80s films I mentioned. I remember reading her Temple of Doom piece and thinking, Finally, someone else likes it!

As for Point Break being influential, I suppose it's more of a gut feeling than something I can verbalize. But there *is* something about the anything-goes, non-sensical plot (surfing + bankrobbing + Buddhism + whatever), as well as the overall athleticism and sexiness, that urges me to view it as a precursor of things like XXX.

Maybe I'm off the mark there. Still, there's something about Point Break that makes it feel different from the action movies of the '80s.


Posted by: Ron on October 12, 2006 4:31 PM


Posted by: Charlton Griffin on October 23, 2006 7:10 PM

Cinema Paradiso

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on October 23, 2006 7:14 PM

I'm astonished that no one has mentioned either of these yet:
Cherry 2000
Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on October 23, 2006 10:35 PM

Here’s my list. Just for fun, I tried to limit things to one film per director. There is also one film from 1980 and three foreign films (couldn’t help myself)

Adventures in Babysitting
Batman Begins
Beetle Juice
Being John Malkovich
Berlin Alexanderplatz
Blade Runner
Body Heat
Dazed and Confused
Do the Right Thing
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Fight Club
Finding Nemo
Ghost World
Groundhog Day
Lost In Translation
Minority Report
O Brother, Where Art Thou
Once Upon A Time in America
One False Move
Pulp Fiction
Sling Blade
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
The Age of Innocence
The Fly
The Fugitive
The Godfather, Parts 1 and 2
The Lion King
The Magdalane Sisters
The Matrix
The Ref
The Right Stuff
The Road Warrior
The Shining
The Sixth Sense
The Three Colors Trilogy
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Usual Suspects
There’s Something About Mary
Three Kings

Posted by: Alec on October 24, 2006 6:37 AM

Anyone still reading the comments after all these? Good.

I'd nominate several action films directed by Walter Hill: "48 Hrs.," "Extreme Prejudice," "The Long Riders," and "Wild Bill" in particular. None of them are high art, but they display great strength within their genre. In fact, I think Hill would be one of the best directors in the business except for an apparent lack of interest in making anything beyond commercial junk.

Posted by: Rick Darby on October 24, 2006 4:17 PM

Saved the last dance for me, did ya?

(Not a movie title)

Quigley Down Under
Fried Green Tomatoes
Steel Magnolias
Lost Boys

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on October 24, 2006 10:01 PM


Posted by: communicatrix on October 25, 2006 11:47 AM

How about a personal favorite that was put down by one of its own "stars," Tom Hanks? The mercilessly redoubtable "Joe Versus the Volcano" has been pilloried for lack of continuity to insipid dialogue, yet the film delights me with not only its fairytale plot but its best ever portrayal of the modern man's dilemma. The opening sequence of "Sixteen Tons" played over the the painful exodus of gray clothed workers into a large manufactory of proctology devices is the perfect metaphor for what is the plight of most of the workforce of large corporations. They make the things that are screwing them and, as a bonus, are dehumanized by their work.
I relate to this because I once worked as a designer for a company in Maine that made the M60 machinegun. As I walked across the muddy parking lot, the thumping sound of machine guns being tested marched me into the office. Within two weeks I developed a tick in my left eye which led to my realization that, although the work was very well paid for Maine, it was not worth my soul.

Posted by: Harry R on October 25, 2006 3:56 PM

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