Hi, /Film. My name is Jacob Hall and my favorite movies are part of me on a molecular level. Cut me open and the films that have defined my life come spilling out in a great, red heap. So when I was asked to introduce myself to you guys, the community, via a list of my favorite movies of all time, I prepared myself for some gritty, Robert-De-Niro-in-Ronin-style surgery. This list is me being cut open for your amusement.
Read on all about my favorite movies after the jump.
Jacob Hall’s Favorite Movies of All Time
If I had a nickel for every time my list of favorite movies of all time changed, I’d have about $1.80. But right now, as of October 7, 2015, these movies best represent everything I love about cinema and inform my tastes in every way. I’m ashamed that there’s no Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, or Coen brothers. I regret to inform some of you that there’s no Christopher Nolan or David Fincher. I love all of them. Great movies had to be axed to make room for great movies that are a little closer to my heart. This was tough. However, I can promise you that this list is 100% honest. I stand by every entry. Yes, even the crazy ones.
Oh, and the film that’s missing from the list that you’ll remind me about in the comments? That was number 16. I swear.
15. Kill List
Ben Wheatley is the most exciting filmmaker to emerge since the year 2000 and Kill List is his best movie. A macabre masterpiece of tension and terror, this is one of the most nerve-rattling movies ever made. And Wheatley makes it look easy, luring us in with a shaggy hitman drama before easing us into horror territory before plunging us into the pure, nightmarish hell that is the third act. Repeat viewings can’t diminish the black, evil landscape of Kill List, which remains as mysterious and uneasy and sickening on a fifth viewing as it does on a first. It’s a good thing all horror movies aren’t this good – we’d all die of a heart attack sooner rather than later.
14. Bride of Frankenstein
Consider this slot a placeholder for every classic Universal monster movie. From Frankenstein and Dracula, The Invisible Man and The Mummy, The Wolf Man and The Creature From the Black Lagoon, these black and white horror classics have maintained their mystique, charms and elegance 80-plus years after their debut. If push has to come to shove, Bride of Frankenstein is the best of the lot, showcasing the range of these films and their total fearlessness. Here is a sequel that is totally unlike is predecessor. It’s morbidly funny and unexpectedly fantastical. It mines wry comedy from its monstrous characters before plunging them in the depths of utmost despair. Most importantly, like the best of Universal’s horror classics, it maintains sympathy for its various devils. The Universal monsters are more sympathetic and tragic than those that hunt and fear them. They are painfully, remarkably, frighteningly human. The scares may be outdated, but the monsters themselves still cut straight to the bone.
13. Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers is such a straight-faced satire that many viewers will watch it convinced that it’s just a silly action movie. But director Paul Verhoeven is smarter than that, taking the ideas he incubated in RoboCop and unleashing them, fully formed and ready to bite. On the surface, Starship Troopers is a fun, campy B-movie filled with astonishing special effects and violence so brutal that it can’t help but be funny. And it functions perfectly fine in this mold. But it’s a better, more twisted film at its core. Intentionally case almost entirely with wooden, blandly good-looking actors and set in a future world where “Democracy has failed,” this film is essentially a recruitment video for a non-existant dystopian government that wants you to journey into outer space and die fighting nasty alien bugs for, uh, reasons.
Verhoeven has expressed a disdain (and morbid fascination) for totalitarianism in his other films. Here, he makes serving your goose-stepping masters look like a tremendous adventure filled with action and excitement. Fascism, like blockbuster movies, sure can look cool in the right context. That’s vicious satire. This may be one of the ballsiest movies ever made…and it’s certainly the only film to ever dress Neil Patrick Harris like a Gestapo officer.
12. Lawrence of Arabia
They literally don’t make movies like this anymore. Lawrence of Arabia is huge in a way that modern movies simply cannot match and the logistics the whole thing are jaw-dropping. If you haven’t seen David Lean‘s masterpiece on the big screen, you haven’t truly seen it at all. This is a movie of unimaginable scope, the rare movie that transcends being a movie and becomes an experience.
This is a masterpiece of technical filmmaking all by itself, but it achieves “greatest of all time” status because its story and characters actually back up the bombast. Here is a fascinating (and more nuanced than most modern films) look at conflict in the Middle East that treats its Arabic characters with respect (even if some of them are, unfortunately, played by white guys with tans).
Here is Peter O’Toole giving an unforgettable performance as a man who escapes the drudgery of his life by learning that he’s good at one thing and one thing only – waging war. You could write an entire essay about how Lawrence of Arabia manages to be a powerful LGBT film without ever directly addressing T.E. Lawrence’s alleged homosexuality. This is four hours of grand adventure, but its greatest treasures are locked away in subtext, demanding repeat journeys. Sure, they don’t make movies like this anymore, but heck, they didn’t make movies like this before, either.
11. Do the Right Thing
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Do the Right Thing is as relevant in 2015 as it was in 1989 and it remains as moving, funny, and challenging as ever. This is a movie that wears its honesty on its sleeve – yes, it’s about race and no, it’s not going to cut corners or make the conversation easy. Spike Lee has crafted a tremendous career out of saying the things that everyone is afraid to say and Do the Right Thing is his clearest and, somehow, most entertaining statement. Lee never asks you to agree with the decisions of his characters, whether they be black, white, or asian. He only asks for your empathy. He wants you to try to understand. Bad things happen to good people.
Mild offenses are met with tragic force. Hate simmers in those who have seemingly locked away hateful thoughts. Too many people die. We steadfastly fail to connect. It’s too damn hot outside. Do the Right Thing is a wounded and pointed cry of pain and rage. It strikes you right in the soul. And you’re having so much fun with it that you don’t see the punch coming.