Ben Pearson's Favorite Movies Of All Time

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.

Lucky Number Slevin

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.

12 Angry Men

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.

Collateral Rehearsal Footage

12. Collateral

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.

The Fountain

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.

The Thing

10. The Thing

A powder keg of a story with rising tension, unforgettable practical effects, and a Kurt Russell performance for the ages? No wonder The Thing made the cut. John Carpenter's 1982 classic flawlessly blends horror, science fiction, and suspense, The paranoia of its characters is so palpable it nearly oozes through the screen. The blood test sequence alone is an all-timer, and that ending is just ambiguous enough to still have fans arguing about it 35 years later.

The Wizard of Oz

9. The Wizard of Oz

This is my dad's favorite movie and his love for it was passed down to me through countless viewings during my childhood. Sometimes I find myself falling into the trap of watching classic films like this from a distance, revering them for their cultural status instead of engaging with them like I would any other movie. But the last time I sat down to watch this, I really watched it, and was blown away all over again that a movie so gorgeous, so rich, and so dynamic was made in 1939. It's such a visual marvel that I had forgotten just how incredible the songs are, from "Over the Rainbow" and "We're Off to See the Wizard" to "If I Only Had a Brain" and "The Merry Old Land of Oz." This is a movie that will always hold a special resonance for me.

Die Hard

8. Die Hard

There's no denying it: Die Hard is a perfect action movie. It turned Bruce Willis into a bonafide movie star and introduced the world at large to the late, great Alan Rickman, playing one of the best movie villains of all time. Those two aspects alone might be enough for a movie to make a list like this, but Die Hard is so much more than a showcase for its actors. It has one of the tightest, most propulsive scripts of any action movie ever made, and John McTiernan's direction is aces the entire way through. He establishes the geography of the Nakatomi building so clearly that we always know exactly where the characters are, which is a necessary skill that's often not required of today's action filmmakers.

There's not a wasted moment here: every second either builds character or pushes the plot forward, and there are far too many iconic moments to name. And I've gotta give a quick shout-out to Reginald VelJohnson as Sgt. Al Powell, one of my favorite sidekicks in cinema history. That dude is so great in this film.

Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel Feud - Fast Five

7. Fast Five

I consider myself a ride or die member of the Fast #family. I unapologetically love this franchise (okay, maybe not 2 Fast 2 Furious), but that love affair began in full with Fast Five, the entry that took these movies to an entirely new level of ridiculousness. Director Justin Lin went all-out here, boosting the franchise from fairly standard action movies to must-see event films with increasingly insane stunts (that cliff jump!) and a sense of giddy, go-for-broke glee that no other modern franchise has right now. The addition of Dwayne Johnson also injected Fast Five with some much-needed charisma, and six years later, I'm still smiling and laughing at the glorious audacity of that train-robbery-to-cliff-jump sequence.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

6. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

I've loved this movie since I was a kid. So much, in fact, that when I was in high school, my license plate read "DAY OFF." Every teenage guy wanted to be Ferris at some point in his life, right? John Hughes was absolutely on fire by this time this came out in 1986, but this has always been my favorite of his teen classics. The casting is brilliant: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, and Mia Sara are wonderful, but let's not forget about the often-overlooked Jeffrey Jones as Principal Rooney, who radiates smugness and cowardice at all the right moments. But most importantly for a comedy, though, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is consistently laugh out loud funny.

I had a chance to see one of Jason Reitman's Live Reads in which he recast the film with new actors and had them read Hughes' original script on stage. While it was a lot of fun to watch, it gave me a newfound respect for the way Hughes and his editor trimmed down the screenplay to its essential components and created a much better movie in the process.

The Fellowship of the Ring

5. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring is nothing short of a cinematic miracle. It's insanely rare that every single detail of a movie – from big things like casting and cinematography down to the tiniest piece of costuming or carving in a prop – works as perfectly to build a fictional world as they do here. The sheer amount of effort and artistry that went into making this is truly mind-boggling, and Howard Shore's score is downright legendary. The breathtaking landscapes and jaw-dropping scenery of Jackson's native New Zealand provided the perfect setting for Middle-earth, and when my wife and I visited the country last year (almost entirely because of our love of this series), we found it to be just as awe-inspiring in person as it appears on the screen.

The Big Sleep

4. The Big Sleep

After falling hard for Rian Johnson's Brick in 2005, I went on a huge film noir kick and watched as many as I could get my hands on. Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep ended up being my favorite, and it's stuck with me ever since. In many ways, this is the prototypical noir: hard-boiled detective, double-crosses, small-time crooks, organized crime syndicates – the works, baby. Sure, it's next to impossible to fully comprehend its labyrinthine plot, but for me, this one has always been more about luxuriating in the smoky atmosphere, charged dialogue, and electric chemistry between two of the genre's icons, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.


3. Tombstone

I'm a big fan of westerns, and I realize Tombstone is heavily influenced by a lot of what came before it in that genre. But for my money, there's nothing better than Kurt Russell, Sam Elliott, and Bill Paxton as the Earp brothers facing off against an absolutely stacked supporting cast that includes Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, and Stephen Lang, just to name a few. The whole cast is dynamite – especially Val Kilmer, doing career-best work as the fast-talking, quick-drawing Doc Holliday. There's family drama, action scenes galore, and it isn't quite the clear-cut story of white hats vs. black hats it seems, either. Russell's Wyatt Earp is far from a saint, but there's a moral righteousness to his actions that allow us to easily side with him. This is one of those movies I always stop to watch whenever I come across it on cable, even though I own the Blu-ray and have already seen it countless times.

Back to the Future

2. Back to the Future

I wonder if anyone has ever watched Back to the Future and, as the DeLorean blasts past the screen and Huey Lewis starts playing over the end credits, thought, "Well, that was a waste of two hours." Seems impossible, doesn't it? That's because Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale's time-travel comedy is maybe the best example of pure pop entertainment ever made – a riveting, hilarious film that beautifully pays off every one of its perfectly-placed set-ups and actually makes you think a little bit along the way. It's so damn satisfying to watch Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly team up with the inimitable Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd, in an utterly titanic performance) to get his parents together, correct the timeline, and return to 1985. It captured the imagination of a generation, and like many of you, I know every nook and cranny of this movie after spending a lifetime watching it. Even the burst of borderline-excessive coverage about the franchise back in 2015 couldn't ruin this one for me; Back to the Future has proven it can, and will, stand the test of time (I'm so sorry).

steven spielberg ranked last crusade

1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

The Indiana Jones movies are my Star Wars. While childhood friends were running around pretending to be Luke and Han, I was donning an imaginary fedora, cracking a fake whip, and searching for secret artifacts. It's always a toss-up for me between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for my favorite Indy movie, but today, I'm choosing the latter. The chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery is wonderful (and plays right into Steven Spielberg's long-standing exploration of characters with daddy issues on the big screen), the adventure is genuinely thrilling, and John Williams' score is top notch. Not to mention the fact that the movie contains, in its opening few minutes in which River Phoenix plays a young Indy, the best prequel/origin story ever conceived. If only that ending, in which Indy, Dr. Jones Sr., Sallah, and Marcus Brody ride off into the sunset would have remained the final image from this franchise...oh well. Even after the disaster that was The Sequel Of Which We Do Not Speak, I'm still excited about seeing how the series evolves in 2019 and beyond.