Hoai-Tran Bui’s Favorite Movies of All Time

10) Batman Begins

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As accomplished as The Dark Knight is as a genre-transcending superhero movie, it never captured my attention as much as Batman Begins did. Directed by Christopher Nolan, a mostly unknown Brit who only had a few feature films under his belt, and starring Christian Bale years before he was a household name, Batman Begins was the little Batman movie that could. The movie throws Batman mythology, Buddhist philosophies and horror tropes and into a blender to make a riveting superhero action movie. Batman Begins brought Batman into the modern age after the campy debacles that were Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, and began my own obsession with comic book movies — the Caped Crusader in particular.

9) Beauty and the BeastBeauty and the Beast Honest Trailer

Beauty and the Beast is a near-perfect movie. Sweeping, gorgeous and — for lack of a better word — magical, Beauty and the Beast was the pinnacle of the animated Disney Renaissance that overtook the ‘90s and my childhood. With a plucky heroine in the form of Belle and the brooding, Byronic Beast, Beauty and the Beast took a frankly difficult romance and turned it into an enchanting classic… and began my lifelong obsession with Gothic Romances. The gothic imagery and the delightful musical sequences still give me chills today. As Cogsworth says, “If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it.”

8) Sunset BoulevardSunset Boulevard

I love me a good noir. Couple that with modern Gothic aesthetics and a satirical takedown of the Classic Hollywood studio system, and you’ve got Sunset Boulevard. Gloria Swanson, herself a former silent film star, gives the performance of her career as Norma Desmond, the delusional and narcissistic faded diva who lives in a dilapidated mansion and yearns for a return to the spotlight. William Holden is a fine foil as the young writer Norma pounces on to engineer her return to Hollywood, and who ultimately meets a tragic end (this is no spoiler, the first scene of him floating in a pool is perhaps one of the movie’s most famous scenes). Billy Wilder directs this incisive, disturbing and deliciously macabre film, which still serves as one of the best satirical commentaries on Hollywood to date.

7) La Haine

La Haine

There are so many restless, rebellious movies of the ‘90s that try to speak to the Gen X frustration with societal norms, but La Haine, to me, is the best of all of them. At times meandering and philosophical, at other times downright brutal, La Haine is rooted in the racial and class tensions of 1995 France. Anchored by magnetic performances by Vincent Cassel, Saïd Taghmaoui and Hubert Koundé and thoughtful direction by Mathieu Kassovitz, La Haine is about a trio of friends who wander aimlessly through the French suburbs, distracting themselves from the poverty and classism that entrap them by debating their favorite movies and posturing as Robert de Niro-inspired gangsters. But their performative fantasies collide with reality as they come face-to-face with police brutality and gang violence.

6) The Princess Bride

Princess Bride

When I watch The Princess Bride, my fellow viewers have often complained about “an echo in the room,” because I always feel compelled to quote each line in the movie. A satirical but sincere fantasy adventure, The Princess Bride is more than the iconic one-liners and Billy Crystal cameos that have gone down in cinematic history. Rob Reiner takes a loving brush to the flippant fantasy, letting none of that ironic humor seep into the genuinely romantic moments of the film. In keeping with the perspective of Fred Savage’s character, The Princess Bride is delivered with a childlike wonder, reveling as much in the swashbuckling antics of Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) as it does the sweeping romance between Wesley (Cary Elwes) and Buttercup (Robin Wright). It’s witty, funny and pure joy.

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