BJ Colangelo's Favorite Movies Of All Time

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Hello /Film Readers and welcome to another edition of Thunderdome, err, getting to know the writers here by judging us mercilessly by our taste in cinema.

I've been professionally writing about film for over a decade, and there were times in my life where I was afraid that I'd lose credibility if I waxed poetic about films that weren't "Film Twitter Approved." Then I had pancreatic cancer and almost died, so now I refuse to stifle my voice talking about the things that bring me joy. I like what I like, and there's no such thing as a "guilty pleasure" in my book.

Look, I'm going to cut right to the case: I am an odd person and live to champion movies that most people treat like punchlines. I sat here and tried to think of a list that wouldn't "hurt my reputation," but then I remembered, this is the internet and no matter what I post, someone is going to be mad about it, so I'd rather just be honest and proudly own up to what I'm into. The hardest part was trying to rank them in a sequential order, because it felt a little like having to choose between my children. (I don't actually have children). Think of this list less as my trying to sell you on these films, and rather explaining why they mean so much to me.

Anyway, submitted for the approval of the /Film readers, I call this list: "BJ's Favorite Movies of All Time."

15. Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

I could have put any number of films from Russ Meyer in this spot but I figured it would be best to highlight one that most people have actually heard of. I love exploitation cinema, and I especially love to analyze how the films immediately following the end of the Hays Code swung so far in the opposite direction they turned into absolute chaos. "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" has absolutely everything I love: murder, fast cars, hot (and scary) women, great one-liners, and expertly applied eyeliner. It's a morally messy film, yes, but a staple of cinema intentionally subverting gender expectations. And it gave the world the gift of Tura Satana. 

14. Heavyweights

It's astounding that a film from 1995 about young boys at a fat camp is still one of the best examples of body positive storytelling in all of cinematic history. I hit puberty well before my classmates did as a child, and when you don't have the language to describe what that means, it turns into relentless bullying for being "fat." As a fat adult, I look back on "Heavyweights" with such fondness, because it makes me feel affirmed both as a fat child and for who I am now. It's a movie I didn't know how badly I needed until many years later, and I am grateful every day for having grown up with it playing on VHS on repeat. Outside of the trope of summer camps-treat-indigenous-iconography-as-decoration, "Heavyweights" has also aged remarkably well, and is the home of one of Ben Stiller's career-best performances.

13. I Spit on Your Grave

From a Disney movie to ... this. Yes, I contain multitudes. When I first started writing about horror, I was 18 years old and ran a blog named "Day of the Woman." If you are unaware, that's the original working title of "I Spit On Your Grave." I'm a very vocal gang rape survivor and a staunch defender of the rape-revenge genre as it personally offers me a great deal of catharsis in dealing with my own lived experiences. I don't expect people to feel the same way about this film as I do, but it would be dishonest to not include the film on this list given its importance in my life. There's value to be found in every film, no matter how much it may offend or disturb some viewers. What is one person's trigger may be another person's therapeutic release, and "I Spit On Your Grave" is mine. If you want to hear more of my feelings on this film, you can catch a very young version of me speaking about the film in the documentary "Growing Up with I Spit On Your Grave." 

12. Grease 2

Okay, so, "Grease" is my least favorite movie ever made. I truly and genuinely hate it with every fiber of my being. "Grease 2," on the other hand, is a musical camp masterpiece and does not deserve nearly the vitriol it receives. It's sex-positive, the choreography is masterful, Michelle Pfeiffer's Stephanie Zinone is a feminist icon, and the music is nowhere near as grating as the tunes from "Grease." The love story is better, the jokes are less problematic, and Lorna Luft's gold lamé pants in the bowling scene deserve an award all their own. Loving "Grease 2" is a cinematic hill I am more than willing to die on.

11. Female Trouble

John Waters is my favorite film director of all time, and "Female Trouble" is my favorite of all of his movies. The Pope of Trash and purveyor of filth is directly responsible for my questionable taste, having been exposed to his films at an alarmingly young age. For me, "Female Trouble" is everything great about John Waters distilled into a single package. Dawn Davenport is Divine at her very best, and after learning at a Cinema Wasteland convention table that Mink Stole's personal favorite performance in any John Waters movie is as Taffy Davenport, it makes me love the film so much more. It's an edgy, boundary-pushing, grotesque examination of the female condition and the way generational trauma influences cycles of violence, but done so in the flashy, trashy, filthy way only John Waters could pull off. It's also the film that taught me "the world of the heterosexual is a sick and boring life," something my gay ass has carried with me for my entire life.

10. Clue

"Clue" is a perfect film. Full stop. A perfect blend of farcical physical comedy and sharp-tongued wit from an absolutely untouchable ensemble cast, there's a reason "Clue" has stood the test of time. When it premiered in 1985, it bombed at the box office only to develop a huge cult following. This exact brand of midnight movie/sleeper hit is my bread and butter. I live for films that are terribly misunderstood upon release but beloved and reanalyzed for years (see also: "Jennifer's Body" which just missed this list) after the fact. Tim Curry's ending monologue alone is worth the price of admission but everyone is firing on all cylinders in this one. It is always me, in the living room, with a bowl of popcorn.

9. It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

"There are three things I've learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin." Few things in life bring me as much instantaneous joy as "The Peanuts" gang and the Charlie Brown television specials. I know most people are all about "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" but I'm not religious, so I've always been an "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" gal. There's something so perfect about the pure optimism of Linus van Pelt, who typically serves as the voice of reason of "The Peanuts" universe, still believing with his whole heart that The Great Pumpkin is going to come into the pumpkin patch on Halloween night and deliver treats. It's comfort food for my soul, and a movie that always brings me joy no matter how many times I've watched it. Okay, sure, calling this a movie is being generous but it's my list, my rules.

8. Little Shop of Horrors

Combining the talents of future Disney legends Alan Menken and Howard Ashman with the directorial skills of Miss Piggy and Yoda himself, Frank Oz, was a recipe for success no matter how you slice it. "Little Shop of Horrors" is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best film version of a Broadway musical ever made. I've been in a couple of stage productions of "Little Shop of Horrors" and I genuinely believe part of my casting was due to my existing knowledge of every lyric and line from watching the film incessantly as a child. If you didn't know, I have green hair, and every time I get it touched up, I put a quote from "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space." I'm a big fan of practical monsters, especially those of the puppet/Muppets variety. Even now, Audrey II is still the most impressive practical effect ever put to screen. I said what I said.

7. Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead

One of my favorite unappreciated genres of cinema are what I like to call "sick day movies," or the films you watched on the days you stayed home sick from school. "Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead" played a lot on HBO, but my accessibility was due to my grandmother illegally recording movies onto blank tapes off the TV, and I ran this one until the tracking went so off mark the tape was unwatchable. Sue Ellen Crandell (Christina Applegate) is who I wanted to be when I grew up, and this film perfectly encapsulates the fantasy world of latchkey kids in the 1990s. The jokes in this movie still land for me all these years later, and "I'm right on top of that, Rose" is still my go-to response whenever anyone asks me to complete a task. The fashion is a perfect time capsule of 1991, and is the reason I don't trust anyone who claims to have never had a crush on late '80s/early '90s Josh Charles.

6. Let the Right One In

As I indicated with my reasoning for "I Spit on Your Grave," the Swedish vampire masterpiece "Let the Right One In" is also one that stays with me for its deeply personal connection to my lived experience. I'm someone who navigates this world while enduring severe mental illness, and in my younger years, dangerous and self-destructive ideations. This film came out during one of the darkest times of my existence, and I'm not exaggerating when I say "Let the Right One In" saved my life. There's a painful beauty to this film, one that highlights that sometimes life is hard, sometimes life is scary, and sometimes the best way to survive it is to learn how to walk alongside that darkness and learn to not be afraid of it. I've written before about the willingness of this film to navigate childhood queerness, and the score to this film is what I play on repeat during my most difficult days of dealing with mental illness. "Let the Right One In" always brings a great deal of peace, so much so that I've got "sweet dreams," the first thing Oskar teaches Eli what to say in morse code, tattooed on my arm as a constant reminder that I can get through it.

5. Josie and the Pussycats

My love for 2001's "Josie and the Pussycats" knows no bounds, and I was even an interviewee for the book "Best Movie Ever: An Oral History of Kaplan and Elfont's 'Josie and the Pussycats.'" My obsession is PUBLISHED, y'all. "Josie and the Pussycats" was horribly misunderstood upon its release, and thanks to vocal online communities has only recently begun to be appreciated for the satirical masterpiece that it is. Kay Hanley's music was what made my 11-year-old self realize that women could be rockstars, and was when I first developed my love of Parker Posey and Rachael Leigh Cook. Hell, I had a "Josie" haircut for half of my high school career. Last year I celebrated my birthday by recording an entire podcast episode celebrating my love of this film, and it was better than any party. "Josie and the Pussycats" is totally jerkin'.

4. Dracula's Daughter

I love the Universal Monsters, but "Dracula's Daughter" has always been my favorite despite the fact that most people pretend she doesn't even exist. It's always been weird to me that "The Bride of Frankenstein" became the go-to "girl monster" in the Universal Monsters canon, and she's in the film for like, three minutes and doesn't even speak, whereas Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden) has an entire movie centered around her own story and is oft forgotten. "Dracula's Daughter" is a heavily queer-coded story that tackles the difficulties of existing in a world that finds your presence disgusting and dangerous. I have her portrait tattooed on my arm, a constant reminder that embracing who you are is important, no matter how monstrous the world finds you.

3. Phantom of the Paradise

I'm a big time De Palma mark, and love his entire filmography with my whole heart. I challenged myself to pick only one of his films and since "Carrie" gets enough love, I had to shout out my absolute favorite De Palma film, "Phantom of the Paradise." Sometimes I genuinely can't believe this film exists, but I'm so glad it does. It has a similar energy to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" with at least two-thirds more plot, music by Paul "Rainbow Connection" Williams, my favorite "Phantom" character design, and the glam rocker named Beef. The chaotic energy and camp stylings pluck all of my heart strings, and any movie that includes "threat by plunger" gets an A in my book.

2. Drop Dead Gorgeous

It may be hard to believe considering my current half-shaved head and green-haired appearance, but for over 15 years, I was extremely active in the Midwest beauty pageant scene. Competing in pageants was a huge part of my life, and there are few people I can relate to about this considering how stigmatized the pageant industry (rightfully) has become. That said, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" speaks to me on a religious level. If you've ever wondered what the behind-the-scenes of a small town pageant looks like, this movie nails it. With no exaggeration, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" is my favorite comedy film ever made and if you catch me in the right mood, I can quote the entire film front to back, in full, Minnesotan accent. Go Muskies, Woo!

1. Fright Night

I have an entire wall in my office dedicated to "Fright Night," and in particular, Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandridge. I love horror comedies and vampire films, and the innate queerness of "Fright Night" spoke to me long before I ever had the language to describe my own existence. I've loved this movie for my entire life, and because of the layered depth of Tom Holland's script, the themes present in the film have evolved just as I have. I needed the queer themes as a child, I needed the sexual awakening as a teen, and now as an adult, I need to know to trust my instincts if I too believe my neighbor is a vampire. The cast reunited for a script reading during the pandemic, and it was the best I felt in all of 2020. I find something new to love about the film with every rewatch, and just like "Let the Right One In" and "Dracula's Daughter," I also have a fruit bat wearing a red scarf and holding an apple in honor of "Fright Night" tattooed on my thigh because I love this movie so much I needed it to live underneath my skin. I could analyze this film for hours, but if there's any movie ever made that truly encompasses who I am as a person, it's "Fright Night."