Chris Evangelista's Favorite Movies Of All Time

Hello, /Film readers. It is I, Chris Evangelista. You may (or may not!) be familiar with my writing here, as I've been contributing to /Film since April. But now I'm part of the staff, and I'm very excited about that. I'm also very excited to tell you my 15 favorite movies. Some of these movies are downright masterpieces, others are like comforting junk food. I try not to limit myself in terms of "quality." If a movie gets a reaction out of me, I consider it a success.  

I see a lot of movies. Too many, in fact. And what I'm always looking for is that spark. That feeling that I'm seeing something unique; something special; something to make me sit up and take notice.

This was a bit harder than I thought it would be, simply because there are so many movies I could include on this list, but these are the ones that I think are the most important. For now, at least. This list could easily change in a week.

15. Lost In Translation

I saw Lost In Translation when I was 20, a time when I was still a burgeoning cinephile who thought he somehow knew everything there was to know about movies. Then I saw Sofia Coppola's 2003 film and it completely floored me. I wasn't entirely aware there were films like this. It was soft, and sad and not concerned with an abundance of plot. It made me homesick for a place I had never even visited. It made me want more and more movies like this. I went out and bought the poster – the one with Scarlett Johansson holding an umbrella. I stared at that tagline, "Everyone wants to be found", daily. It seems hokey, I suppose, but it made me start looking at films in a completely different way.

14. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

My grandfather was the person who introduced me to movies. He was a big movie buff, and whenever I would be at his house he would sit me down in front of the TV and play me VHS tapes (p.s., have I mentioned I'm an old?) of classic films. Two types films he loved to show me the most – classic Universal monster movies, and Abbott and Costello movies. Then he showed me the best of both: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, a film that pitted the comedy duo against Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster. It blew my damn child mind that something like this could even exist, and it's a film I'll always cherish as a result.

13. The Devils

I had only heard rumors of Ken Russell's The Devils for most of my film-based life. Then one Halloween I decided to finally sit down and watch the thing, and it was like a religious experience. No hype or rumor could've adequately prepared me for how off-the-wall crazy the film was, and how amazing it was to behold. A tale 17th-century hysteria, The Devils is one of my favorite films just because there's really nothing else like it.

12. Crimson Peak

I want to live in this movie. I've heard plenty of people say that Crimson Peak was a disappointment. To them I say: sit down. This is my favorite Guillermo del Toro movie, a slice of gothic goodness rich in ornate design and featuring Jessica Chastain going craaaaazy. It's bloody, it's beautiful, it's the best. Ghosts, sex and gorgeous set design galore, Crimson Peak is now a film I make sure I pop on every year around Halloween, and maybe some other times too.

11. In A Lonely Place

My father was a big Humphrey Bogart fan, and for years I must confess I didn't quite get it. I mean, sure, I got that Bogart seemed like an incredible cool cat, always puffing away on a cigarette, always scowling. But so what? Then I saw Nicholas Ray's brilliant, melancholy In a Lonely Place, which cast Bogart in a whole new light for me. He's not super cool in this film; he's an angry, frightened has-been who may or may not be a murderer. It's one of the best performances I've ever seen, from any actor, and the film around Bogart is just as brilliant. The last few minutes of this flick will wreck you.

10. Haywire

Imagine if someone took the type of cheap action film they used to play on TBS on Sunday afternoons and turned it into a work of art? That's Steven Soderbergh's glorious Haywire, which pits MMA fighter Gina Carano against the entire world. Carano isn't the best of actresses, but she can clearly beat the hell out of everyone, and that physicality gives the character presence. There's a fight scene in this film between Carano and Michael Fassbender that's brutal, amazingly staged and goes on seemingly forever. I watch this movie multiple times in a year; it's like junk food – I know there's something better out there, but I can't get enough of it.

9. The Conversation

Some may hold up Apocalypse Now or The Godfather as Francis Ford Coppola's best film, but my favorite is The Conversation, Coppola's low-key 1974 thriller about paranoia, guilt and the end of privacy. Gene Hackman is superb as a surveillance expert in over his head, slowly coming undone as he tries to get to the bottom of a potential murder. Editor Walter Murch builds tension and mystery through sound in a way few films have ever been able to duplicate. Most of all, this is a lonely, melancholy film, and that seems to be what I'm drawn to the most. Make of that what you will.

8. Road House

Oh, hell yeah, Road House!!!!! Listen, if you've never watched Rowdy Herrington's Road House, I'm not sure you've ever even lived. Patrick Swayze is at his absolute best as Dalton, the best bouncer in the world who also has a degree in philosophy. Dalton gets hired to clean up the world's worst bar, and that he does – and more! This movie is big, dumb and a hell of a lot of fun. Plus, Sam Elliott shows up late in the proceedings with long greasy hair and flirts with everyone. Oh, and it all ends with a monster truck. Because of course it does. Road House!!!!

7. Point Break

What's this? Two Patrick Swayze films on one list? I know, I'm just that crazy. Kathryn Bigelow has only become a bigger and better director since she made this 1991 action fest, but for my money, Point Break is her masterpiece. A sun-baked crime flick that pits Keanu Reeves against surfing bank robbers, there's a stealthy brilliance underneath all the showiness; a beating heart that never lets up and a pulse that carries you right along with it. At the center of it all is the relationship between Reeves and Swayze, one part adversarial, one part romantic. It's sort of like Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, but with surfing. Oh, and don't even talk to me about that remake. 

6. Barry Lyndon

This is Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece. I once saw someone call Barry Lyndon a "lesser Kubrick film", and I was so annoyed by this that my head literally departed from my neck and floated directly into the sun. A sweeping, sprawling tale of a complete jerk who fails upward through society, Barry Lyndon is like a great portrait gallery come to life. Cinematographer John Alcott shot the film using only natural light, creating a gorgeous, otherworldly look to it all. Some may be turned off by the film's length (it's about 400 hours long, I think), but I could honestly watch this film for the rest of my life.

5. The New World

First thing's first: Terrence Malick's The New World is not historically accurate. You know that, I know that. Let's move on. Few films take my breath away like this one, a sun-dappled dream made real, full of moments of astounding beauty and pure poetry. This film was perhaps the last time Malick even bothered with something resembling plot or narrative before deciding to make...whatever it is he makes now, and boy what a way to go out. The entire ending sequence of this film is a transcendent experience; something that grabs hold of your very soul and pulls it from your body. That probably sounds hyperbolic but I'm being 100% serious.

4. Zodiac

David Fincher, an obsessive filmmaker, makes a film all about obsession. Not your typical serial killer thriller, Zodiac is an intricate examination of the ways people can destroy their own lives in the seemingly never-ending pursuit of something. This is one of those long movies that I wish were even longer; I'd like to spend an entire day just watching this thing. Haunting, funny and altogether satisfying, this is a film that I don't think Fincher will ever be able to top. I just re-watched this a week ago and I think I might go re-watch it again right now.

3. Blow Out

Brian De Palma's Blow Out is C I N E M A. I've seen some people criticize De Palma as being too overly-stylish. Hey, what a dumb complaint. Film is a visual medium, which is something a shocking number of directors seem to forget. Not De Palma – his camera is always moving, always vibrant. Here he crafts one dynamite thriller about a movie sound man who becomes an "ear witness" to a political assassination. Anytime someone wants to tell you John Travolta isn't really a good actor, point them to this movie, where Travolta gives one of the best performances of his career. As a bonus, this film is set all over Philadelphia, my hometown, which gives me a weird sort of pride.

2. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

You thought you'd get through this list without one Spielberg movie? Dream on. Steven Spielberg's E.T. is movie magic; a pure, unadulterated experience that cemented Spielberg as the foremost purveyor of dreams. Spielberg's images combined with John Williams' score still have an almost holy power over me. No matter how old and jaded and miserable I get, my eyes light up when I see E.T. make those damn bikes start flying just as Williams' score kicks in. And don't even get my started on that final scene because I'll start weeping and it'll get ugly. Good lord, what a movie.

1. GoodFellas

Okay, here's the thing: I'm not even sure anymore if I think GoodFellas is Martin Scorsese's best film. He's made so many more since then, and some of them are pure masterpieces. But GoodFellas was the first film that I really noticed the power of movies. Yes, I had obviously seem tons of movies before I saw GoodFellas, but up until that point I had always taken their power for granted. They were just entertaining images – a director would point a camera and shoot, and that was it. Then I saw GoodFellas, and it was like seeing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in person after only seeing it for years via reproductions. The way Scorsese moves his camera here, the way he combines visuals, editing and sound to create a wholly unique experience – it was (and is) stunning. I was probably 7 or 8 when I first saw GoodFellas (yes, that's probably too young, I know), but once I saw it, that was it. There was no turning back. I knew I had to start consuming every movie I could get my hands on. I had to not just watch them, but study them. And I have been ever since.