MovieMaroonMusings’ Top 10 Favorite Films

From blockbusters to black and white classics, I love movies that have meaning, that ask questions, or that just tell a truly fun and compelling story.  When it comes to ranking my favorites, the list occasionally changes when new favorites come on the scene. Nevertheless, this is the list that contains my current favorites.  So, let’s get on with the countdown…

*Special thanks to Mason M.D. for giving me the opportunity to send my Top 10 list as a guest on his website in 2016. This is just like the original ranking, but this time, I elaborate a little more for each entry.

10. Blade Runner (1982)

Before I saw the film, I played this computer game with the same name by Westwood Studios.  It turns out, it was another story that took place within the actual events from the film. No wonder I was so disappointed that I did not see game characters Ray McCoy or Crystal Steel anywhere in the movie. But over the years, this movie grew on me, and it has been a source of inspiration for some of my writing.  Based on Philip K. Dick’s story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ridley Scott’s film blends science fiction and film noir in a plot so perplexing, you’d question what makes a human, and if we are really different from the Replicants.  Featuring the star power of Harrison Ford, and a stellar performance from the late Rutger Hauer, the story captures a dystopian Los Angeles in the future, where androids become a threat to human life.  It is a dark, yet spellbinding picture that stands out from other great science fiction movies. I guess I’d rank it here because I was drawn into the conflict that Deckard faced about killing Replicants, right when he started to fall in love with one.  It’s one of those tales where one person is given orders to do things without question, but soon learns that they need to rely on only themselves. I was also drawn into the set pieces. While it was dreary to look at, I found I had been transported into what was Los Angeles, 2019 (even though it’s not ours, thank goodness). It was the dankness, the endless rain, the giant video billboards, flying cars, and also Tyrell’s pyramid-shaped building that wanted me to explore this world myself. Well, that is, at least, without having to be in any trouble from refugee Replicants. If you have not seen this, definitely check it out.  My favorite version might have to be the Final Cut, which has better picture quality, and the editing issues from the original are fixed.  If you like it, there’s also the sequel, Blade Runner: 2049, which isn’t bad either.

9. The Incredibles (2004)

Pixar has made a lot of great films: the Toy Story movies; Finding Nemo; Monsters, Inc.  The list goes on.  But if there is another film that anyone could love, it’s this one.  Not only is The Incredibles a great animated piece, but it’s a great superhero flick.  You could say it’s the best Fantastic Four we’ll ever get cinematically.  I gotta say that I really appreciate what Brad Bird was trying to accomplish. The idea of taking a father going through a mid-life crisis, and changing it into an ex-superhero trying to relish in his past, turned out to be clever. While Alan Moore’s Watchmen does explore a world about flawed and realistic superheroes, The Incredibles focuses on what happens when superheroes are outlawed. It was also interesting to explore the topic of superheroes causing damage to their city. At least, they don’t crash into buildings without reason. Zack Snyder, take notes. Before the movie’s release, I remember seeing the teaser where Bob Parr is struggling to put on his belt. I was already on board, yet I had no idea what I was going to see. I had no idea he was married to another superhero, nor did I know he had kids. So when that first trailer arrived, I was now confident this was going to be a surefire hit for my family and I. We had a blast.  And to this day, when it comes to Pixar’s work, we tend to watch this one the most. I’m sure a lot of people have seen this movie, but if you haven’t, go watch it.  You’ll be glad you did.  If you enjoy it, don’t forget to check its sequel Incredibles 2.  It might feel like a retread of the first film, but it’s still worth a watch. Personally, though: the first is better.

8. Die Hard (1988)

Everyone has that Christmas favorite: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Story.  So many to be named.  But one of my favorites is the first Die Hard. It’s not your typical holiday film, which is probably why I find it so appealing.  The whole thing occurs in a skyscraper, where terrorists hold a business party hostage so they can rob the place. They don’t realize, though, that a New York City cop is about to bring them down using his strength and wits. I’ve never seen an action film that moved at such a consistent pace, where nothing felt forced. Out of all the action films out there, this is one of the best and most entertaining.  No Transporter or Fast & Furious flick can top it.  Not even Skyscraper could, which basically stole a lot from this film. Bruce Willis became a certain definition of “cool” to me after watching this. Now when I see him, I can’t help but think of the great time I had one holiday season watching this movie around midnight with my family. John McClane has to be one of those iconic heroes anyone would want to be. Nevertheless, the film’s villain, Hans Gruber, stole the spotlight. Alan Rickman’s standout role as the devious terrorist leader is another reason why the first of the series works. He comes off believable as a threat that none of the sequel villains could top.   This is probably a good reason why I don’t enjoy the sequels. I enjoyed this piece so much, that I had to buy that children’s-styled picture book capturing the best moments from the film. Yippy-ki-yay!

7. Home Alone (1990)

Did I say that Die Hard was my only favorite Christmas classic?  I didn’t.  Ever since I watched it at a young age, I’ve loved Home Alone.  The slapstick humor may seem like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon, but that’s what adds to the laughs.  The filmmakers made something that didn’t take itself too seriously, which is probably why it’s even deemed a family classic.  Macaulay Culkin stars in his first big role as Kevin McCallister, who gets left home alone by accident (thanks to his family waking up late for their flight to Paris).  That would be a nightmare for any parent. While he’s getting used to living without anyone telling him what to do, he finds out two burglars are planning to rob the house.  That’s when it gets real, and I mean when he sets up booby traps around his home to slow down those goofy Wet Bandits.  Hilarious from beginning to end, it’s a Christmas comedy that my family and I love to watch every December as a tradition.  Its sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, is also enjoyable, but the traps can be too extreme for the burglars.  As for the other sequels: avoid them at all costs.  

6. The Little Mermaid (1989)

This was the first full-length Disney feature that I ever watched…and love to this day.  Some could say it’s a story about a teenage girl wanting to get away from her life to be with a boy.  It’s really about a teenage girl who wants to get away from her life to live among the land dwellers and explore the wonders outside of the sea.  But as her curiosity increases, that’s when Ariel sets eyes on a prince. Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story, this is a beautiful adaptation written in the Disney fashion.  The movie itself is wonderful.  The animation is top-notch, the characters are fun for all ages, and the songs are unforgettable.  Even as a kid, I had a cartoon crush on Ariel, not only for her beauty, but for her outgoing and optimistic personality.  But be warned.  The wicked villain Ursula is the scariest part of the whole thing.  So, if you have little ones, viewer discretion is advised. I used to be terrified by her laugh. Now, I’ve learned to appreciate Pat Caroll’s chilling performance of the sea witch. This was considered a comeback for the Walt Disney Animation Studios. They were going through some tough times before getting their act together, and it began with what was deemed as the Disney Renaissance – an era of films that define my childhood.  But, this is just my second favorite of them all.

5. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Disney has some amazing animated motion pictures.  One could argue that The Lion King is one of the best.  It is.  But it’s not this masterpiece.  Released the year I was born, Beauty and the Beast is a big favorite in my family.  Like Little Mermaid, it focuses on a young woman, whose curiosity puts her in a situation that changes her life.  In this case, she saves her father from imprisonment by trading her life to be a beast’s prisoner.  But as they live together, Belle finds something charming about her captor and discovers that despite his hideous appearance, he may not be a monster after all.  Again, this one had some great storytelling, accompanied with beautiful animation, memorable characters, and well-crafted songs.  The less enchanting 2017 live-action remake, which is not that bad, still does not compare to this one.  Heck, that version wasn’t even up for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  This was the first animated film to be nominated for such an award.  Imagine if it did win.  While The Silence of the Lambs is a good film, I feel this should have been the real winner.  With the Oscars always wanting to choose movies that change the filmmaking landscape, I’m surprised they didn’t give it to an animated film. Yet, I’m happy for all the success it has achieved, and for the impact it has made on audiences today. I guess you could say this is a world I want to visit, especially that castle. And the Be Our Guest Restaurant at Walt Disney World is pretty close to doing that. 

4. Amadeus (1984)

I saw this at a young age and was somehow disturbed. However, it made me discover and respect the genius that was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  It wasn’t until high school when I saw it again, but now the Director’s Cut, that I understood why this was an Oscar winner.  Mostly historical fiction, and based on a play by Peter Shaffer, the film focuses on court composer Antonio Salieri, played by F. Murray Abraham, and his jealousy towards Mozart’s creative inspirations and talent.  Tom Hulce also gives his all as the famous, yet broke, Mozart and shows the madman behind the music.  Filled with some of the most brilliant compositions ever written, this is one film to get others interested in who Mozart was and what drove him.  I usually don’t like many films with powdered wigs and pomposity, but it was compelling enough to watch and get invested in the story. Now when I hear a Mozart piece, I can’t help but listen to its wonderful layering and melodic cadence.

3. Jurassic Park (1993)

Steven Spielberg’s films have stood the test of time, whether it’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, or Saving Private Ryan.  But one of my favorites is the film based on Michael Crichton’s book about dinosaur cloning, containing state-of-the-art special effects, both practical and digital.  Back in the 1990s, those dinosaurs looked authentic, as if they never went extinct.  Even today, they still feel real to me.  It’s a film that focuses on scientists with different backgrounds, a study of the human response during a crisis, the advancement and abilities of duplicating life, and the commercialism that can be profitable, yet dangerous when abused.  That’s why this makes a good adventure/science fiction story.  It’s one of those stories you want to show as a cautionary tale.  It also features characters you care about.  Must I mention that Jeff Goldblum is one of the best parts of the movie?  It’s pretty obvious.  After all these years, I find that the original film plays better than the sequels.  That’s right.  Each sequel feels like a downgrade.  Just watch the stupidity in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, then you’ll understand. Overall, this is the best of the series that any film fan, or Spielberg fan, could enjoy. And again, I’d love to visit that compound center and watch that short DNA film.

2. Alien (1979)

I had always wanted to watch this film.  After seeing it represented in Disney Hollywood Studio’s attraction The Great Movie Ride (may it rest in peace), I was intrigued.  At 10 years old, I finally saw it.  No, I wasn’t scared.  I was thrilled.  I couldn’t believe someone thought of an alien that could attach itself to a human’s face, die out, and the human would give birth to a more dangerous alien. That scene is pretty chilling, when you think about it. Imagine you’re eating. You think someone is choking, and then BAM! An alien bursts out of his chest! Next, there was the alien xenomorph, which was frightening and creepy throughout. You felt like it was there coming after you.  When I saw those extra jaws pop out, I was shocked. I had never seen any extra-terrestrial being in movies have an ability like that, and I loved it. But one of my favorite parts was Sigourney Weaver’s character, Ellen Ripley.  Sure she’s cooler in Aliens, but here, she fights to stay alive as each crew member is picked off individually by the creature.  Along the way, this makes her grow as a character, becoming much tougher against an evil force threatening her life.  She’s relatable and interesting. Overall, this and its sequel are the best the franchise ever offered.  As for those other sequels: watch at your own risk.  Post-Aliens, it’s not as fun anymore.  This was Ridley Scott’s big directorial debut, and it feels more superior to James Cameron’s venture.  It’s not too fast-paced, but it’s not that slow either.  I think that’s why it feels so effective in what it tries to accomplish. 

And now for my big favorite…   

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is among my favorites of movie franchises, both the theatrical and extended cuts.  But it was the last of the epic trilogy that impacted me the most.  Seeing it on the weekend it opened, I had a great experience watching this satisfying conclusion on the big screen.  I’ve always argued that this will be the best thing that any of the actors will ever do.  And believe me.  If there were ever awards for Best Cast, I’d give it to them.  In this one, Frodo reaches Mordor, but faces conflicts in destroying the One Ring. And during that time I saw it, Frodo was my favorite character. However, I’ve now grown to love Sam and his undying bravery to protect his friend. Just watching the scene where he carries Frodo up Mount Doom shows he’d do anything for him.  But the rest of the story focuses on Aragorn and his destiny to become the next king of Gondor. This was great stuff, as well. His speech in the battle at the Black Gates was powerful and showed how he grew as a fighter and a leader.  I was impressed. Just after The Matrix: Revolutions let me down, this came to lift me up.  It was the best experience I’ve ever had in a movie theater, and even today, I get the best experience watching it on a big screen TV.  Sure, there are those who think the film has too many endings, but if you look at the book, most of those endings are part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s story.  Maybe I’m biased, but Return of the King is one of those movies that truly deserved all the awards.  No way The Hobbit movies could achieve any milestones like this.

Okay.  I can’t resist.  Before I go, here are a few others that I like.  Let’s call them my honorable mentions:

The Godfather (1972) – It’s no surprise that this is one of the greatest films of all time.  Actors Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and a large cast of phenomenal actors pull off some groundbreaking and timeless performances of a Mafia family facing big changes.  What’s not to love about this classic? I mean, no one can ever stop quoting from it either. I mean, my whole family and I enjoy it, and “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”

Casablanca (1943) – One of the best on the silver screen. Filled with adventure, drama, romance, and maybe a bit of comedy, each scene adds weight to the story.  Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s chemistry light up the room every time they see one another.  Even the plot is interesting when it focuses on people in Casablanca, who are trying to escape the Nazis and the Vichy Government. I can’t stop quoting from this one, too. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – Loosely based on the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf, this film pays tribute to the film noir genre and everyone’s love for cartoons.  Whether you revel with Roger Rabbit’s zany antics, or get hypnotized by his bombshell wife Jessica, the story will grab you in a murder mystery filled with laughs and twists.  It’s also cool to know that a movie exists where Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny share screen-time together.

Hugo (2011) – Martin Scorsese has made some great motion pictures (e.g. Goodfellas), but this one is magical.  Here, it focuses on Hugo Cabret, and how he discovered that a famous silent film director was still alive.  Based on Brian Selznick’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this film shows Scorsese’s love and admiration for old movies, and how he tries to preserve their legacies.

Batman (1989) – Of course, The Dark Knight is one of the best Batman films ever made, but it doesn’t compare to what inspired the great 1990s Batman: The Animated Series.  Say what you want, but Jack Nicholson’s Joker is the perfect blend of “comical” and “merciless” in one characterization.  For what it was, this superhero flick really stayed true to the darker tones that Batman was originally famous for having.

Young Frankenstein (1974) – Out of all the Mel Brooks films, this one is my favorite. Every time I revisit this, I find something new to laugh about. I can’t help quoting and re-enacting some of my favorite scenes, as well. Somehow, this movie never feels dated, unlike the original Universal Monsters movies.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) Believe it or not, but over the years, I’ve gotten into these dudes. While DC and Marvel have some great superheroes, I always found the Ninja Turtles more unique and “totally tubular.” This is probably the only TMNT film where the studio followed and respected the source material. Cowabunga.

So, what are some of your top favorites? Remember to keep things civil. Everyone has different tastes, so let’s not insult one another. Thank you.

Welcome to the MovieMaroonMusings!

Hey there. Do you live for Disney movies?  Do you consider yourself a science fiction nerd?  Can’t survive without a good murder mystery?  Well, this place is for you.  Because on this blog, we all get a chance to talk about films – the ones that has shaped us, and the ones that may make an impact today.

I am a big fan of movies.  You can say that I’ve watched a lot of them.  I have always been more fascinated with stories told through a visual perspective.  No, there’s nothing wrong with books.  I mean, without them, we wouldn’t have movies.  Most of the best films are, actually, based on novels, short stories, and comic books.  Unfortunately, it’s a gamble when adapting existing material.  Like many of you, I sometimes get tired of all the remakes, reboots, and sequels/prequels.  Yet, at certain times, film studios can pull it off if they have the right people (or go in the right direction).

Anyway, this is a site where I expect everyone to have some fun. Here, I post reviews, lists, and maybe, some fan-written works. There is so much I can cover, or express, regarding my favorite movies (and the ones I truly dislike). So, join me as we take a glimpse into my love for film.