I hate the question “What’s your favorite movie?” even though I do have an answer for it, more or less. I can answer my favorite film, my favorite book, but I still don’t really understand how, among the 40,000-odd films that the MPAA has approved during its history, you can single out one of them as your favorite. Even the film I would answer with, Dr. Strangelove, isn’t something I would watch over and over again like I would episodes of Archer, Dexter, or The Dark Knight. There are so many factors to take into consideration for answering what you prefer, and not all of them apply to the same question. What entertains me? or provokes intellectual thought? or whatever else you think film should do?
Still, I thought it would be interesting to put together a list of five films that I think everybody should see at least once. Some of them you should see so that you don’t have to awkwardly pretend you’ve seen it when it comes up in pop cultural discussion. Others you should see because they truly are pieces of cinematic gold and history. Others are just awesome. Over time, I may change this list or add to it, but I’m going to start with a simple five. I’d like to invite the other contributors to create similar lists, and hopefully we’ll be able to put together a nice HTTP Recommends list with all of our suggestions.
Obvious disclaimer: this list is short, so there are, of course, films I’m leaving off either because I had to narrow down or, in the time I wrote this, they just didn’t come to mind. As I’ve been saying, these lists are largely arbitrary depends on the factors, but I’ll do my best with what cinematic experience I have! I’ve linked each film to its Wikipedia page for more information. All of them should be available on Netflix; some for instant streaming (we know how feeble that is sometimes). Oh! There’s no order here; I wrote them as I thought of them.
Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – I haven’t seen all of Kubrik’s work, though it’s on my Netflix queue. I list this one because it is my favorite film of all time, both in terms of production value and its message, which I very much support. It’s a satire about the Cold War, and…it rocks. It’s really funny in an intelligent way, and I think it’s my favorite film for the same reasons Catch-22 is my favorite novel – war, when you think about it, just doesn’t make sense 90% of the time. Artistic mediums, especially satire, are great at showing that.
Citizen Kane – It’s considered the greatest film of all time, which obviously just by saying the sentence you’ll have people who steadfastly disagree. I don’t think it’s possible to have a “greatest film of all time.” It just doesn’t make sense, but I do agree that Citizen Kane is a masterpiece. Like Strangelove, it’s a satire, and a very obvious one at that for people seeing it when it released in the 1930s. It’s long; it doesn’t follow typical narrative structure; it’s black and white (though a talkie); it isn’t the easiest to get through – I may have fallen asleep a few times. Still, I recommend it partly because of how masterful its made on all fronts: cinematography, acting, editing, directing, producing, writing…everything else, but also because I think this is one of those films everyone should see so that they can say they’ve seen it. Just get it other with, one time. You might be surprised.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail – The Monty Python troupe is comedic gold, and I can’t really think of anything from them that isn’t great. For me, Holy Grail is my favorite because it’s the first of their films that I saw. It’s smart in a stupid way, which is the reason so many people quote it even today. Most have seen it, and even if you haven’t you’ve probably seen either clips or heard a bunch of lines. If you haven’t seen it, do so. No question there. If you have seen it, watch it again! Because it never gets old.
Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla – Some people may scoff at this one, but I love Godzilla. The American version is good, but I especially love the Japanese films. They’re funny in how exaggerated and, in a way, expressionistic they are, but they are also really, really cool. I mean, it’s monsters who you know are guys in suits smashing through replicas of small towns. I love it! It’s always been a dream of mine to get to play a character like Godzilla or Predator, one of those creatures in a suit that literally just tears stuff apart. That would be so much fun. I’ve seen just about every Japanese Godzilla film, and yes, some of them are really bad, but this one is my favorite. It’s the right mix of cheesy and awesome monster battling.
Bond, James Bond (any) – Personally, I’m a big fan of Daniel Craig as Bond, but so long as you check the Netflix rating first pretty much any Bond film that has three or more stars will satisfy. They’re fun and exciting. The Craig films play down the one-liners and smart comebacks common to Sean Connery, but they make up for it in action. And one thing that never disappears is the style. Bond represents everything awesome about the spy genre with a little bit of noir thrown in here and there. It’s one of the most successful franchises ever, and regardless of which Bond you think is the greatest, the fact that they’re still making them proves their success. You don’t want to be someone who has never seen a single Bond film.
So there you have it! Let me know what you think of my list, or how it sucks/rocks! And starting thinking about your own!