What’s up, /Film readers? My name is Ben Pearson, and I’m new here. Talking about movies is clearly a huge part of what we do on the site, so a fitting way for me to introduce myself is to present you with my 15 favorite films of all time so you can either appreciate or scoff at my choices. Let’s get started
As with all lists of this sort, a few caveats must be laid out beforehand. Sorry, it’s the law. There’s no way around it. First, this is a list of favorite movies, not ones I consider the best. That’s an important distinction because, like all of you, my tastes are varied. But my absolute favorite films lean more toward mainstream American fare. Just because a certain type of movie doesn’t appear on the list, don’t let that give you the impression I don’t love or appreciate that kind of filmmaking. (Example: I don’t have a single animated movie on the list, but I’m a big fan of animation.) Second, narrowing down a lifetime’s worth of loving movies to 15 favorites is admittedly a fairly ludicrous concept, and ranking them seems even crazier, with the order largely depending on how I feel at any given time. But hopefully, each entry will tell you a little bit about me as a movie lover.
15. Lucky Number Slevin
Yep, this is a serious choice. Have you ever seen this movie? As far as I’m concerned, it’s wildly underappreciated. The trailers made it look like forgettable crime movie nonsense, but there’s a lot to love about Lucky Number Slevin. Josh Hartnett delivers the best performance of his career and it’s one of the rare films that knows how to properly utilize Lucy Liu, who plays a fast-talking, capable, intelligent woman that feels like she exists beyond the edges of the screen. It features big screen titans Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman deliciously chewing scenery left and right, and contains gorgeous production design (those wallpapers!). I love the witty, rat-a-tat dialogue, and the plotting is smart and satisfying. Some claim it’s nothing more than a Tarantino knock-off, but I contend that this film stands on its own as a slick piece of storytelling.
14. 12 Angry Men
Sidney Lumet’s feature directorial debut is a masterclass in building tension using only one location. It’s my go-to example to counter claims that adaptations of stage plays can’t be cinematic, and the way Lumet slowly turns up the heat as the deliberation intensifies puts the audience inside the jury room so clearly that we can practically smell the sweat coming off these characters. The fact that it’s still astonishingly relevant 60 years after its debut is impressive and depressing at the same time. Plus, I once played Juror 8 (Henry Fonda’s character) in a high school production of the play, so I have an extra personal connection to this story.
13. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I may have never seen a more powerful exploration of love, loss, heartbreak, and joy than Eternal Sunshine. It’s a blazingly original piece of cinema – and what else would you expect from a collaboration between Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman? – and it carves through barriers to reach the truth about relationships in a way that few films manage. Jim Carrey proves without a doubt that he can deliver a knock-out dramatic performance, and with apologies to Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby, Kate Winslet’s stellar work here should have won her the Best Actress Oscar in 2005. The production design is whimsical enough to be easily pinpointed as something from a Gondry film, but the emotional wallop is pure Kaufman; that pairing results in a painful, vital work that stands as one of the best of the century thus far.
Los Angeles at night has never looked as cool as it does in Collateral, a crime thriller that seems to be pulsing with energy at every minute. I don’t particularly like Jaime Foxx very much as an actor, but he’s undeniably tremendous in Michael Mann’s love letter to the sprawling metropolis, and it’s a pleasure to watch Tom Cruise playing against type as a vicious, gray-haired hitman with ice water in his veins. By the time we realize that Cruise’s Vincent is killing off witnesses in a grand jury trial and that Jada Pinkett Smith’s Annie (who we meet in the film’s opening minutes) is the last person on his list, we can only hang on tight as this movie barrels toward its unexpectedly poignant conclusion.
11. The Fountain
Darren Aronofsky’s meditation on death and forgiveness is a film that grows on me every time I watch it. Hugh Jackman’s struggle with the impending loss of his beloved (Rachel Weisz) is heartbreaking to behold, and gives him a terrific showcase to flex some acting muscles he doesn’t normally get to exercise. I also love it because the movie doesn’t look down on its audience – it expects you to follow along, drawing parallels between multiple time periods while presenting everything as one coherent story, all with breathtaking visuals. The fractured narrative admittedly took me a little while to wrap my head around, but once I did, I found this to be a bold, touching movie that continues to enlighten me with each viewing. When people talk about how Hollywood doesn’t make movies for adults anymore, this is the kind of thing they’re wistfully remembering.