Alex Schopp's Top 15 Films of All-Time

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 with a 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 fun - 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 - well, 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: There's a very unique and specific criteria we use to rank and appreciate movies (see: Rating System). Your favorites should be the movies that you pop in time and time again without hesitation. Yes, there's more thoughtful consideration that goes into any list like this, but our goal at this site is to share the joy of film above all else. The below list isn't comprised of the films I necessarily consider the "best", simply my favorites.

Number Three: While this exercise didn't begin with such forethought, I've decided I'm going to continue updating this list over time, as it feels necessary. Most posts on this site will remain enact with their original content to capture our feelings at a given time, but for this list I think I want it to be a living, breathing document that continually showcases my feelings of the day. We'll see how it turns out, but as my interests and experiences evolve, I want this list to reflect that growth, as well.

Number Four: While many would say a list of your ten favorites is enough, it wasn't for us. Our lists go to eleven! No, but as will be the case with most lists on this site, we're going to stretch them out to reflect out top fifteen titles. It's a marginal difference, but we believe there's a lot of value in those final four or five titles. We want these lists to tell a story; providing just a few more titles rounds out that image and provides an avenue to showcase more of what we love.

There were of course plenty of difficult sacrifices that had to be made when composing this, but that's the tragedy of it. Since we did go to fifteen titles I won't list any additional honorable mentions here, but needless to say, there are a great many more titles that could have been considered for this list (and may make their way onto it in the future!). I'll provide some very basic details about why each movie below is where it is, but there's much more I could say about each of them.

As of this edit, here's where that list stands today:

1. The Big Chill (1983)
This film introduced me to movies that could be dialogue-driven and also without a major plot. Obviously there's plenty going on in this film, but this was an early example for me of films being more about the characters than the themes, and that resonated with me. When you have great conversations and great fleshed-out characters, I don't need much more story - just put the camera in the room and let's see what happens. It doesn't hurt that all the actors in the film were bona fide stars, and seemed to genuinely enjoy working together. I love all the progressive themes happening in this film, and how it touches on so many adult elements without pulling punches. It finds humor in the process of growing older, and shows just how important connection is for all of us. The film also has one of the greatest soundtracks of all time.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Do I love this movie because I love history, or did watching this movie help me appreciate history? Obviously there's not much actual history happening in the film, but the idea of uncovering secrets from hundreds or thousands of years ago - often from places buried right under our noses - was so exciting to me. I wanted - and partly still want - so badly to be on those expeditions and quests, discovering ancient artifacts. It's not stating anything new to say that Indiana Jones might be the greatest movie character of all-time. The wit, confidence, and intellect was a perfect combination, and Harrison Ford captured it perfectly. It also didn't hurt that an iconic example of masculinity was a character that was driven by knowledge and was a college professor by day.

3. The Social Network (2010)
This film encapsulates near perfect filmmaking. I know some actors don't love working with David Fincher because he's obsessive and sometimes meticulous to a fault, but it's hard to argue with the results. Not only is this film masterfully crafted, but it's a modern depiction of power in the internet age, and only becomes more harrowing as time passes and companies like Facebook get even more powerful. The story is exciting and fun and sad and defeating all at once. It's a fascinating unravelling of the modern tech billionaire, who's gained far too much money and power overnight, and was never prepared for how to handle it. It's truly a modern tragedy. It also doesn't hurt that the chilling score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is absolutely on point.

4. Boogie Nights (1997)
I guess I need not state it for every film on this list - for some of my favorites of all time, it's no surprise the feelings I have about each of them - but this is another example of a near flawless product. It's my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson film, and I think one that showcases the beauty of found families and our draw to the entertainment industry, however fringe. While the film revolves around a group of adult film personalities, the characters are all fleshed out exceptionally, there's tons of humor, and every shot feels expertly crafted. I love a good rise-and-fall-and-rise storyline, and this is one of the best. If you can get past the premise - and your ability to do so is part of the process for PTA - there's tons of heart and humor in this story.

5. Rounders (1998)
This might be the film I've watched the most as an adult. Truly, I've watched it an uncountable amount of times. One of the overarching themes I've recognized I gravitate towards in film is that of the "tortured genius." That probably has something to do with my own ego and chip on my own shoulder, but I really root for gifted intellectuals who are just waiting for their opportunity to shine. It also didn't hurt that this came out during the peak of poker mania, and I was very much one who thought I could beat the game like Damon's character in this film. If you're just smart enough, you can be the best. That didn't work out, but every time I watch this movie I'm pulled back in, thinking that maybe I should further explore a career in poker playing.

6. North by Northwest (1959)
What a beautiful, thrilling film. I'm not always drawn to Hitchcock's films - even though I've always appreciated his dedication to the craft - but this is such a sophisticated entry that it feels different than most of his other works. The film feels so tightly crafted and executed, yet still relishes in the styles and locations of each scene. The mistaken identity premise is so much fun and so exciting; I love that the film constantly keeps you guessing. The screenplay is excellent (one of the tragically few Academy Awards for which it was nominated), and the style just oozes from the screen. Any man who doesn't want to be Cary Grant in this movie isn't paying attention. Those suits! Those sunglasses! The chemistry between he and Eva Marie Saint! He travels the world, may or may not be a spy, and has amazing charisma - what's not to love?

7. Dazed and Confused (1993)
The vibe of this movie is everything. If you've ever watched a movie or read a book and longed to be a part of that world, this movie does that for me. There was a freeness and calmness about this era (he says, as a middle class white male) that I don't feel we get to experience today, and I absolutely watch this film and feel like I missed out. This is another of those movies that's kind of about nothing, just a snapshot in the life of these characters and their experiences. Richard Linklater, who wrote and directed the film, is another of my favorite filmmakers who can really write dialogue. His Before trilogy is a better example of this specific element, but just put characters on the screen and I'll watch them talk for hours. The movie is cool, has a lot of really youthful, raw energy, and features many great, young actors before they were household names. The soundtrack is also perfect.

8. Jurassic Park (1993)
This used to be the movie I called my favorite of all-time. And who could blame me? The filmmaker of my generation (Steven Spielberg), a concept that was popular to kids growing up in the 90's (dinosaurs), mixed with a really exciting, challenging scientific angle that let us think about a world where dinosaurs could exist again. The movie is thrilling, fun, epic in scale, and boy do those animatronic dinos still hold up today. For a kid who was 8-years-old when this movie came out, you couldn't have concocted a more impactful film than this one. Add in that Spielberg crafted layers to these characters and themes that allow it to hold up as an adult today, and it's given the film plenty of staying power. Over the years, my interests in action-oriented films has waned a bit, so this has dipped in the rankings; but I won't ever dismiss the impact it had on me over many years of my life.

9. Beetlejuice (1988)
Minute for minute, this might be the best film ever made. Clocking in at a brisk 95 minutes, and still packing in so much content, this film doesn't waste one second telling the story it wants to tell; there isn't a weak scene to be had. This was peak Tim Burton, at his creative apex, exploring some really macabre themes in fun and unique ways. The content is so original and creative, the score is powerful and memorable, and my goodness are all the practical effects in the film inspired and effective. I mostly watch this film for its rich style and moody atmosphere, but I think there are probably some deeper elements about generational and cultural norms being smashed together that Burton does seem to enjoy experimenting with. I think Burton embraces the idea of "other" and revels in incorporating that into typical American life, showing that everyone is better off mixing together.
10. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
This is the movie that introduced me to Wes Anderson, and as a high school kid who thought he was more creative and sophisticated than most of his peers, this was the perfect vessel to express though feelings. The film is artistic and irreverent and witty and dark; it was the first film I really loved that fell outside of typical high school pop culture, and the first that made me understand what a "filmmaker" was. I was (and continue to be) so drawn to Anderson's collection of kooky characters, often representing trying familial ordeals, just doing their best to survive. It's equally hilarious and heartbreaking, and is pompous while also making fun of entitled, pompous individuals. As a novel experience, this movie opened my world to what film could be.

11. Good Will Hunting (1997)
Misunderstood genius played by Matt Damon, ah this must by Rounders again. Nope, this time it's a character study that's a bit more thorough, and also a lot deeper. There's a rawness and a realness to the film that you can't fake; you can feel the inspiration in the filmmaking, and that's something I always enjoy experiencing. The film explores some familial and circumstantial elements that cause people to act how they do, even when they have certain gifts. The film is just so beautifully and softly crafted (thanks in large part to director Gus Van Sant), and it does such a great job exploring the different ways in which we all grow and gain awareness of the world around us. The world can be a really tough place; I love seeing a character go through struggles to ultimately wind up in a place of acceptance and happiness.

12. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
There are so many scenes from this movie that are completely ingrained in my mind from watching it so regularly as a kid. The film is a perfect mix of heart, silliness, and horror, never delving too far into any of them. The emotional parts are definitely what stick with you, but the silly parts are the easiest to recall (who doesn't vividly remember E.T. wandering around drunk in a robe?), and I love how much horror was brought into a family film. There are scenes that still feel creepy as an adult, and I suppose that's more credit to Steven Spielberg, who is just a master at mashing together childlike and adult themes and elements in ways that are relevant and enjoyable for all age groups. This one is a nostalgia pick for me, but it feels pretty safe to say that it's held up just fine over the years.

13. Interstellar (2014)
I have a love for all things space exploration and the advancement of human civilization. Those concepts have always fascinated me; the idea of going out into the universe and discovering a purpose or meaning, or a way to 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. This film explores all of those elements, is epic in scale, and has some really creative set pieces. This film is meticulous in its details, thought-provoking in so many ways, and showcases a certain human spirit to explore and learn more. The film is bold and doesn't play it safe with much of its content, and takes risks exploring unknown phenomena more creatively than seen before. It isn't all perfect, but the reach and desire is what I'm attracted to in this film.

14. Halloween (1978)
This is another example of a film that felt so raw and so inspired, even if on the surface it's just a slasher film. John Carpenter, the film's writer/director and original master of horror, is such a legend of the genre and inspiration of mine. What I've always loved about Carpenter is his dedication to the craft, his creativity in executing scenes or themes with limited budgets, and an overall passion making genre films. Halloween may seem like a typical slasher now, but in 1978 it was considered one of the first. Carpenter introduced audiences to the idea of jump-scares, and was one of the first to use a faceless "boogeyman" to represent a sum of our fears and vices. He knew exactly how to present his monster in ways that kept it scary throughout, and it doesn't hurt that the film's iconic theme song still sends chills down your back - oh yeah, that was also written and recorded by Carpenter.

15. Wet Hot American Summer (2000)
This is one of the more irreverent movies I've ever seen. The film was created by David Wain and Michael Showalter, and features a legit who's who of young, up-and-coming comedy stars. Like many of my favorite movies, what draws me to this film is its genuine passion and inspiration, and a willingness to try something completely different. I can't stress enough how truly absurd some of the comedy in this film is; but it's done in ways that, if you're paying attention, can tell is intentionally and intellectually crafted. There are dozens of iconic and hilarious moments throughout the film, and some of the most original comedy you'll ever see. You have to be willing to embrace what the film represents and go along for the ride with it, but I promise there are more genuine laughs in this film than most other comedies.