My good friend, Jorge Castellanos, challenged me recently to think of some of my favorite movies. But because it was my 30th birthday a few weeks ago, we had some very specific rules for this list.
He wanted me to think of my top 5 films from the year I was born (1985), my tenth birthday (1995), my twentieth (2005), and finally my thirtieth (2015). Although because it’s still 2015, my last list I was able to choose from any movie between 2006-2015.
Now, I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a total nerd, or because I love film, or because I love organizing things (probably all three actually), but I fell in love with this idea as soon as he proposed it. What’s even better is that when I finally did my research and made my final lists, we went over them together and talked about them all for hours. No joke. Hours. It was awesome.
And of course, because Jorge’s the man, he ended up buying me a few of the ones I didn’t own yet, and whenever he visits we’ll watch them together and nerd out over the framing of a certain shot, or the “bigatures” in a specific scene. So damn awesome. Thanks again, man.
So here’s my list, with a summary of my rationale for each. Again, these aren’t the “best” or “most renowned” films, but strictly my favorite, so again, your mileage may vary.
My Top 5 Favorite Movies By Year
- Back to the Future – Just one of the best trilogies of all time. Fun, adventurous, Marty McFly, Doc Brown. Grew up watching these on a loop and they’re a part of who I am. I know they have their flaws, but to me they’re damn near perfect.
- The Breakfast Club – To me, this was my coming-of-age movie from middle school to high school. This also means that I didn’t watch this movie till it had been out for over ten years, but still, just a classic. I remember the first time I saw it having all of these epiphanies and shocking realizations about life and filmmaking, and every time I’ve watched it since, it’s had the same effect on me.
- The Goonies – Probably watched this movie more times than any other on this list. My family LOVES The Goonies. I’ve been to Astoria few times, seen Haystack Rock, and even visited Mikey’s house (on several occasions). Another great one that I watched and loved loooong before I knew what many of the jokes really meant.
- Rocky IV – Always reminds me of sick days in high school because it was always on TBS for some reason in the ’90s. It’s probably the cheesiest Rocky movie, but I always thought it was the coolest. That snow-training montage?? C’mon. Can’t beat it. (Or break it.)
- Brazil – Definitely seen this the least amount of times on this list, but each time I watch it, I’m mixed with powerful diametrically opposing feelings of both inspiration to be a better artist, as well as an overwhelming sensation that I should never create anything again because whatever it is, Terry Gilliam could do it better.
- The Usual Suspects – One of the all time greatest twists in movie history, and the acting is just on-point throughout. Draws me in every time.
- Toy Story – I went to go see Danny Glover’s “Dumbo Drop” in theaters in San Rafael when I was 9 years old, and while we were waiting in line–yes, we waited in a line in order to see Ray Liotta’s “Dumbo Drop”–we were told we had the opportunity to see an upcoming animated film and fill out some questionnaires afterwards. We chose this option and were soon watching the greatest animated film of all time, albeit an incomplete version with a few storyboards and unfinished rendering, it still was a masterpiece that I’ll always love. (Don’t worry, they also gave us movie vouchers so we went back and saw Denis Leary’s “Dumbo Drop” the next week.)
- Se7en – Mind-blowing. From the first time I saw it, to every time since, it’s blown me away. Fincher at his popcorn-inhaling best, this is just a classic murder-mystery from the deepest depths of thematic evil. So good.
- Apollo 13 – One of the first movies I saw where I realized as soon as I saw it that it was more than just entertaining, but was actually great art, and that Ron Howard was actually a good filmmaker. Yes it was enjoyable to watch, but in Apollo 13 was more than that. I wasn’t alive when we landed on the moon, but through this film I better understood the how unified the nation–nay, the WORLD!–was at this momentous time in our history. (Also, another classic Tom Hanks peeing scene…what’s that? Three? Four? TEN times now? Jeez, Tom. Just turn the cameras off.)
- Empire Records – Just This may have come out in 1995, but I watched it for the first time 5 of 6 years later. Watched this with my friends in high school more times than I can remember. It was our movie, they were our quotes, the characters were our friends. Any movie that can do that deserves a place on this list. Plus, Debi Mazar’s eyes. C’mon.
- Tommy Boy
- Serenity – I was obsessed with Joss Whedon’s Firefly series for years, and then they came out the big damn movie? Yeah, it’ll always be one of my favorites. A film that I just can’t view with a critical eye.
- Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – Shane Black doing his thing with RDJ and Val Kilmer in this quick-witted, buddy-cop, murder mystery is about as good as movies get.
- Batman Begins – Saw this one right after a backpacking trip in Yosemite with my dad and brother. Since that first trip, we’ve gone back almost every single year and reminisced and bonded while hiking through Yosemite. Always reminds me of that great first trip. Oh yeah, also, Chris Nolan can do no wrong (
- Brick – Speaking of infallible filmmakers, Rian Johnson’s first feature film is basically perfection. It’s old-school film noire, but in a high school setting starring JGL, who at the time was trying to make his name in things unrelated to angels and aliens.
- V for Vendetta – I often forget that this is a Wachowski film, because it’s so good and…well, the dialogue isn’t crap. Huge Weaving and Natalie Portman make this movie more than just a disutopian, revolutionary revenge flick, and turn it into a powerful, dynamic, riveting film that’s as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.
- Hard Candy
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- Lord of War
- The Brothers Bloom (2008) – Saw this movie with my boy, Dominic, in a tiny theater in Claremont, CA. I had seen “Brick” many years ago, and knew that I love the director’s style, and when I walked out of The Brother’s Bloom, I knew Rian Johnson could do no wrong. Ruffalo, Weisz, Brody, are all amazing in it. It’s quirky, smarty, and about con-men (and women). And it always surpasses the hype.
- Looper (2012) – A much darker RJ movie than the above, and a totally different direction artistically. I love Bruce and JGL, and the script was amazing. What the final film turned out to be surpassed them both though. A tough watch at times, but always a fantastic one.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) – A strangely unique movie. Strange because when I saw it I thought there would be a paradigm shift or a new type of genre, but the there really haven’t been. It’s still an extremely original movie with great characters, fantastic wordplay, and just an overall super-enjoyable ride.
- Interstellar (2014) – Saw this at the Bagdad in Portland when I was driving up to see a friend for the weekend. It as 11pm and I was dog tired, but I saw that this was playing for one night only on opening weekend as I drove by the Bagdad. Had to stop and see it. Three hours, a slice of pizza, and a few tears later, I had a new favorite film.
- Knocked Up (2007) – Every time I watch this movie, I get inspired to write. Whether it’s the clever, improvised dialogue, the hilarious, quirky acting, or just Judd Apatow’s iconic story-led film style, I can’t get enough of it. Probably the #1 on my “Watch Anywhere, Anytime” movie list.
From age 20-30, I watched a lot of movies, so there are a lot of Runner-Ups. But to be fair…I was finally allowed to watch R-rated movies (kidding). In fact, most of the movies on this entire page I probably watched in my twenties. But here’s the remainder of my favorites that came out in the past ten years…
- The Dark Knight (2008)
- Moon (2009)
- Inception (2010)
- (500) Days of Summer (2009)
- Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
- Ex Machina (2015)
- The Prestige (2006)
- The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
- The Departed (2006)
- The Town (2010)
- Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)
- Inglourious Basterds (2009)
- Birdman (2014)
- 50/50 (2011)
- Zodiac (2007)
- About Time (2013)
- Seven Psychopaths (2012)
- Tropic Thunder (2008)
- Hanna (2011)
- Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
It took me a few hours just to get this list in order for Jorge. Once I did, we had a great talk about how wrong it was. Kidding. He was very supportive. Although I’m sure when it’s no longer near my birthday, he’ll make a complete list of movies I left out and/or still have yet to see. Sorry, man. That’s what the next 30 years are for.