Angie Han’s Favorite Movies of All Time

McCabe and Mrs Miller

5. McCabe & Mrs. Miller

I’m a real sucker for stories that give the lie to stereotypical tales of heroism. (Though I have plenty of love for stereotypical tales of heroism as well, as evidenced by my obsession with the Marvel movies.) McCabe & Mrs. Miller deconstructs the Western’s myths of rugged individualistic cowboys and beautiful hookers with hearts of gold, offering instead an elegy for the West that was and the West that only ever existed in our imaginations. At its heart are two deeply flawed people who are in over their heads. It’s pessimistic but not cynical; what gives McCabe its poignancy is that there is plenty of beauty in this world. It’s just not always where the Westerns have told you to look.

Dazed and Confused

4. Dazed and Confused

I could’ve stocked half this list with Richard Linklater movies, but settled on Dazed and Confused because it’s one I’m literally always in the mood to watch. Linklater offers an Altmanesque portrait of a specific time, place, and people, but it’s really a film that’ll resonate with anyone who’s been through adolescence in America. Emphasis on through, because nostalgia is key to the Dazed and Confused experience. It’s high school the way you remember it, or wish you did. Not as a perfectly happy place where nothing bad happened, but as an exciting crossroads with wonder and possibility in every direction.

Goodfellas

3. Goodfellas

That iconic opening line — “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster” — landed like a punch to the jaw, and from that moment I was smitten. I actually came to Goodfellas pretty late in my movie-loving career, but watching it made me feel like an awestruck newbie again. Years of influence, homage, and parody haven’t dulled its bracing energy or its razor-sharp wit. And just when the film doesn’t seem like it can get any better, Martin Scorsese unspools that masterful third act, in which he breaks out every filmmaking tool at his disposal to put us in Henry’s manic state of mind.

Clueless

2. Clueless

Like its endlessly appealing heroine, played by Alicia SilverstoneClueless is cute, bouncy, and easy to love. Also like its heroine, it’s got hidden depths. The works of Jane Austen have been adapted time and time again for the screen, but rarely so well as in CluelessAmy Heckerling nails Austen’s wry social commentary, her keen understanding of human nature, her genuine affection for her characters, and (this is the part so many people seem to forget) her wicked sense of humor, all while adding a distinctive style that’s all her own.

Synecdoche New York

1. Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York is a movie about mortality, and everything that comes with it. That includes death, of course, but also life, which means love, hope, longing, regret, identity, art, communication, the inevitable passage of time, and the equally inevitable breakdown of the physical body. Writer-director Charlie Kaufman has a genius for crafting scenes that aren’t “realistic” in the traditional sense, but — thanks in a huge part to the undeniable humanity of Philip Seymour Hoffman — nevertheless feel true in some other, more essential sense.

The plot of Synecdoche, New York, insofar as there is one, reads like the most depressing thing ever. A man loses his wife and child, and then his second wife and his second child, his father, his mother, his doppelgänger, and the love of his life. He spends his entire life trying to mount a masterpiece, which is only truly complete when he dies. But, well, who doesn’t?

Synecdoche, New York isn’t a happy film, exactly, but ultimately it’s an affirming one. Because despite all the tragedies in it, the point is not that life is terrible. It’s that we’re all in this together.

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