My Favourite Movies: Top-3 of All Time
Making a list of your "favorite" anything is obviously a dangerously subjective enterprise, but it's one that I seem nevertheless drawn to despite the fact that my tastes tend to change on a semi-weekly basis. There's something reassuring about the ranking process, as if quantifying the artistic merits of one work against another constitutes some kind of semi-scientific analysis of my own mercurial taste.
However, with movies - unlike say, music, books or TV programs, whose appeal depends largely upon what I've been exposed to most recently - my strongest likes and dislikes tend to stand the test of time. So, without further ado, I give you perhaps my only static "favorites" list: My three favorite movies of all time, and my personal reasons for including them.
As you can see, I'm a big fan of movies. Let's say it's one of my biggest hobbies. By the way, if you want to know more about (other) movies and entertainment you should definitely check out some of the links below!
"Citizen Kane" (1941)
"Citizen Kane" is probably the most frequently cited example of great filmwork in the history of cinema. As such, it occupies a similar position in film history as "Hamlet" does in the history of drama. In other words, everyone agrees that it's great, but, except for those rare few who strive to appreciate the film in new ways, not that many people pay much attention to it anymore. "Citizen Kane" sits atop a lofty perch, impervious to critique - well, for the most part, anyway.
If "Citizen Kane" has remained near the top slot of my personal favorites list since I first saw it as a teenager, it's also for years been one of my favorite films to pick at. For one thing, the story, which involves an attempt to posthumously comprehend the enigmatic title character's motivations - in particular, his mysterious final word, "Rosebud" - involves more pop psychology than deep character analysis. The final scene, which explains what "Rosebud" really means, can sometimes leave me with a somewhat empty feeling, like a brilliant set-up has been wasted on a trite resolution - sort of like my reaction to the final episode of "Lost." The most trenchant critique of "Citizen Kane" therefore has always been that the film constitutes a triumph of style over substance.
But what style it has! From the opening scene, a bit of mood mastery that influenced almost every horror movie to follow for the next thirty years, to the staggering shot of Orson Welles, as Kane, standing destroyed before an infinitely-recursive series of mirror images, "Citizen Kane" reinvented the art of film in nearly every frame. It's vastly entertaining from start to finish, and that perhaps remains its most enduring legacy.
"The Kid" (1921)
Charlie Chaplin's first full-length film, to me, stands as probably the most perfect movie ever made - with the possible exception of my number one pick, of course. Starring Chaplin as "The Little Tramp" and newcomer Jackie Coogan as the title character, "The Kid" tells a simple tale of impromptu fatherhood, loss, and redemption that has been recycled both well and very poorly in the decades since its release.
What "The Kid" does better than pretty much every other variant on the theme to follow is hit the emotional marks of its characters exactly right at every opportunity. The scene in which Coogan's Kid is forcibly taken from the Tramp's home remains genuinely gut-wrenching nearly a century later, and the final resolution is a primer course in how to achieve emotional satisfaction without cheating. Coogan is a sheer marvel to behold, mimicking Chaplin's mannerisms more precisely than any Chaplin imitator I've ever seen. This is one of the few movies I've ever watched that never loses its impact. Like listening to Aretha Franklin hit the opening notes of "A Change is Gonna Come," "The Kid" brings me to my knees, bleary-eyed, every time.
"Children of Paradise" (1945)
"Children of Paradise" achieves much of the same character-based emotional perfection as "The Kid," but on a far grander scale. French director Marcel Carné made this film, about the Parisian theater and its denizens in the 1820s and '30s, during the Nazi occupation, but the result is an undisputed masterwork that shows no obvious signs of the turmoil surrounding it.
As film, "Children of Paradise" achieves a rare distinction. It's a truly intimate epic - sociological, political, and grandiose to be sure, but most deeply concerned with the machinations of its character's hearts. "Children of Paradise" follows the story of a courtesan named Garance and the four men who, at various times, profess their love for her. It takes place largely in a section of Paris known as the "Boulevard of Crime," and in theaters and drawing rooms nearby, giving a sense of historical sweep as palpable as any in the novels of Hugo or Zola, but, arguably, with a stronger sense of character.
Perhaps most touching is the story of pantomime Baptiste, who will forever change the way you look at mimes, but every character resonates deeply and truly throughout the film's over-three-hour length. If you're looking for a movie that can blow your mind - without elaborate special effects, mind you - and simultaneously stir the deepest recesses of your heart, "Children of Paradise" hits the mark more perfectly than any other.