Well, I guess it's finally time to get this up and running. Since we're still working through the logistics of how this site will operate, I'm going to start with some basic background on myself and this post. Movies have always been one of my biggest passions. Even when I was very young, my younger brother, Andy (who will also be helping out with this site), and I would stay up late on the weekends watching MonsterVision with Joe Bob Briggs, USA's Up All Night, and TBS's Dinner and a Movie. We watched so many movies that we technically shouldn't have been watching, and, for better or worse, those movie nights went a long way toward shaping the person I am today. I've been hooked on cinema ever since, and I'm thankful to finally have a place to talk about something I love talking about.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to really know a person is a Top 10 List of their all-time favorite films. Movies are so very personal, and the reasons for selecting different titles says volumes about your beliefs, values, childhood, relationships, etc. That's not to say there must be some deep underlying meaning for each movie you like - sometimes a movie is just good - but when you look at the big picture, there are often common themes. The profile you could build on someone from a list of their favorite movies would be pretty remarkable. All that is to say, that's exactly what we're going to dig into today - or, I'll provide the titles, you can build the profile.
Before we jump in, a quick preface to my system and construction. Number One: Star Wars was intentionally left off this list. I love those movies and always have, but among our group, we've always left them off our lists out of pure respect and fanboydom (it's a word, don't worry about it). That said, over the years the line between our obsession over them and our laziness in ever changing our ways has become quite gray. Do I still truly believe Star Wars outshines all else on this list? Who can be certain. I just know I definitely don't want to mess with it at this point. If out of nothing more than nostalgia, I think I'll always keep the routine.
Number Two: You must always remember that there's a very unique and specific criteria we use to rank and appreciate movies (see: Rating System). Remember, we want you to enjoy movies. Your favorites should be the movies that you pop in time and time again without hesitation. The below list isn't comprised of the films I necessarily consider "the best", simply my favorites. Regardless, I can assure you that much thought and analysis was put into these choices.
There were of course plenty of difficult sacrifices that had to be made when composing this, but that's the tragedy of it. Honorable Mentions include the likes of The Shawshank Redemption, It's a Wonderful Life, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Royal Tenenbaums, True Grit, Halloween, Interstellar, Network, Beetlejuice, and Moneyball, among many others. Some of those have previously found themselves in my Top 10, and I wouldn't be surprised if any of them make their way onto this list somewhere down the road. But for now, here's where things stand:
1. The Big Chill (1983)
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
3. The Social Network (2010)
4. Boogie Nights (1997)
5. Rounders (1998)
6. North by Northwest (1959)
7. Dazed and Confused (1993)
8. Jurassic Park (1993)
9. Good Will Hunting (1997)
10. Wet Hot American Summer (2000)
I won't spend too much time assessing why each title landed on this list, but I can share a few themes that have always resonated with me. If for nothing else, it will provide clearer insight into my future posts. First and foremost, I love what I call "movies about nothing". That absolutely isn't a technical designation, but I will never pass up a movie with great characters that just happens to be a snapshot into their life at the time. While there are a million real themes present in both, I think of movies like The Big Chill and Dazed and Confused as titles that exemplify this. I just want to hang out with interesting characters for a few hours and hear what they have to say.
Two other themes that regularly work for me are also often associated. One is the traditional coming-of-age story. I love to see good characters grow and gain awareness of the world around them. Life can be tough, and it's wild the choices we make that lead down paths of self-discovery and existential awakening. I absolutely love seeing a character go through struggles to ultimately wind up in a place of acceptance and happiness in the world. On the list above, Good Will Hunting is a pretty good example. With that, the other theme I think closely mirrors it is rise-and-fall-and-rise storylines. This is a common trope in biopics, or on the list above, titles like Boogie Nights and Rounders. I like seeing characters who have it all, only to push too far and lose everything, and ultimately brush themselves off and get back on the horse. It's a great arc that's perfect for the traditional three-act structure; and there's no more effective way to humanize a character than to show them at their absolute worst before overcoming their demons to realize their best selves. It's ostensibly a coming-of-age story, just told in a very specific way, with specific circumstances.
A final theme that often works for me is anything that revolves around space exploration and/or the advancement of human civilization. Nothing of this theme is present on the list above - though Interstellar, on my honorable mentions list, is as close to a definitive entry as you could find - but those concepts have always fascinated me. The idea of going out into the universe and discovering a purpose or meaning, or a way to continue and advance the human race - those are all ideas I've long been passionate about, and love exploring. I want answers to all of those questions, and I want to know what life will look like hundreds of years from now. Any movie that touches on some of those elements is often a favorite, even if it fails in other ways.
I could go on and on, whether it be themes of the tortured genius who has extraordinary gifts but whose gifts come with a price; or clever capers that unfold like puzzles and keep your mind constantly engaged; or sports triumphs that defy the odds and prove that teamwork can overcome anything; or horror-comedies that bend genre constructs and provide some of the most entertainment of any genre out there; or politically-provocative statements that push societal buttons and showcase our shortcomings - but what I have above feels like enough already. I'll leave it there, and simply end by thanking you for reading this, and encouraging you to track down any of the titles above that may have passed you by to this point.