Jacob Hall’s Favorite Movies of All Time

favorite movies house on haunted hill

10. House on Haunted Hill

There are scarier horror movies than House on Haunted Hill. There are better crafted horror movies. There are horror movies with more surprising twists and turns. But there is only one House on Haunted Hill. Well, technically there are two, but the remake does not exist in this dojo. One of many low-budget horror movies made by schlock-master William Castle, this film smells like pumpkin and feels like a cool, autumn breeze. It’s like someone bottled Halloween and developed film stock in it. Deliciously campy and totally self-aware, the film barrels from one spooky scene to the next, tongue always in cheek and always winking. More shocking than any ghost or ghoul is the pitch-black script, which allows its characters to exchange trade venomous barbs and drop acid-tongued retorts like they’re in a screwball comedy.

Vincent Price in particular digs into his stylized dialogue, delivering a performance that showcases why he’s a national treasure and one of the great gifts to the horror genre. As the film flies toward its bizarre, totally unexplainable, fourth wall-obliterating climax, Castle maintains a control of tone that is unseen in most movies, let alone a cheapo piece of supposed schlock. This is the funniest and slyest B-movie ever made and proof that sometimes the most creative filmmakers are the weirdos working on the fringes.

 

favorite movies playtime

9. Playtime

With almost no dialogue of importance and few named characters, Playtime may sound like a tough pill to swallow. However, Jacques Tati‘s masterpiece doesn’t need a plot because it has literally everything else. Tati, playing his Monsieur Hulot character crafted in three previous films, is our tour guide through a thoroughly “modern” Paris, where all of life’s conveniences have actually made living all the more maddening. The film is a series of comic set pieces, each one more complex than the last and each of them taking place on gigantic, complex sets that have to be seen to be believed.

The film follows a  simple, but enchanting pattern – no matter where we go, things go hilariously wrong for everyone. Tati’s humor is observational and subtle, with sight gags hidden deep in the frame and jokes paying off long after they have been carefully set up. He makes you work for your laughs. He wants your patience. Thankfully, the weird world of Playtime is one that you don’t mind luxuriating in. Fix yourself on the film’s wavelength and let it wash over you. This is a visual journey, a charming non-adventure that acknowledges the frustrations of everyday life with humor and truth. When everything goes truly anarchic in the film’s final stretch, you can feel the celebration. You want to join the party. Sometimes, we need things to go wrong if we want to truly live.

 

favorite movies the apartment

8. The Apartment

Billy Wilder‘s The Apartment is the funniest sad movie ever made. Or maybe it’s the saddest funny movie. In any case, it’s a masterpiece that disarms you with laughter so it can wrap itself around your soul and squeeze until it draws blood. The screenplay, from Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, is perfect. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are perfect. Wilder’s understated direction is perfect.

The Apartment is an ode to loneliness, but a testament to love, however foolish it may be. It’s one of the most painfully human movies ever made, a reflection of our desires and ambitions and failures. It’s a deeply melancholy, but it cuts through the pain and finds love and beauty where you least expect it. It’s hopeful and cynical in equal measure. It’s a 125-minute long contradiction, but isn’t that life? Well, it’s a life that just so happens to feature two of the finest actors of all time exchanging dialogue from one of the sharpest scripts ever written while being directed by one of the best directors to ever grace Hollywood.

 

favorite movies raiders of the lost ark

7. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best adventure movie ever made from the greatest and most versatile American filmmaker of all time. And Steven Spielberg makes it look easy. It would be easy to hate him if it wasn’t impossible to not love him. By reaching into the pulps and the serials of the ’30s, Spielberg, producer George Lucas, and Harrison Ford discovered lightning, bottled it, and then failed to recapture it over the course of three sequels. But that’s okay. The first adventure of Indiana Jones is the perfect blend of thrills and chills and laughs and action. It’s the gold standard against which all mainstream action movies are measured against. It’s pure, undiluted, unpretentious, surefooted entertainment from some of the most talented people to ever grace Hollywood, operating at the height of their powers. There has never been a better time at the movies than this.

 

favorite movies the royal tenenbaums

6. The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes Anderson found his voice with Rushmore, but he perfected it with The Royal Tenenbaums. Here he is, fully formed, his unique “dollhouse aesthetic” full formed, his dry comedy on display, and his brutal need to temper all comedy with tragedy readily apparent. In Gene Hackman‘s Royal Tenenbaum, Anderson created his greatest anti-hero and in the supporting cast, he created one of modern cinema’s great dysfunctional families.

“Quirky” movies about estranged brothers and sisters and parents reuniting are a dime a dozen, but Anderson’s characters are so strong, their relationships so strange and their world so fully realized that The Royal Tenenbaums doesn’t just stand out from the pack. It redefines the pack. It raises the bar for the pack. Anderson is a modern master who populates his off-kilter, storybook worlds with characters so real that it’s impossible to not feel their pain. As good as his later work is, it’s so easy to laugh and cry and offer grudging-but respectable-support with the Tenenbaums.

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