Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch lots of movies considered to be among the best of all time. Now, for the first time, I’ve made my own list of favorite movies of all time. Every other Wednesday throughout 2022, I will be revealing ten movies in my list of 250 Favorite Movies of All Time.
Title: A Grand Day Out
Director: Nick Park
Cast: Peter Sallis, Peter Hawkins
When did I first watch this movie?: At an animation festival at the Williamsburg Theater in Virginia, circa 1991.
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This was my introduction to Wallace & Gromit and the greatness of Nick Park and Aardman Animations. Besides, I love cheese and I love travel, so a movie about “cheese tourism” was targeted at me.
Title: Lewis & Clark – The Journey of the Corps of Discovery
Director: Ken Burns
Cast: Hal Holbrook, Sam Waterston, Adam Arkin, Murphy Guyer, Matthew Broderick, Kevin Conway, Gene Jones, Tantoo Cardinal
When did I first watch this movie?: I watched this when it premiered on PBS on November 4-5, 1997.
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: As someone who is passionate for history and for films, it’s not surprising that I’ve long been impressed by Ken Burns many historical documentaries. I watched many, but not all, of Burns’ works and I think this one is emblematic of how he explores historical events while also embracing the possibilities of beauty in film. I’m also fond of The Civil War (1990), Baseball (1994), Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2005), The War (2007), The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009), and Prohibition (2011).
Title: Beauty and the Beast
Director: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Cast: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury
When did I first watch this movie?: When I was in college in the early 90s, I think?
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Many people consider this the all-time best animated feature from the Disney studios, and with good reason. First, there is the music created by lyricist Howard Ashman (who tragically died before the movie’s completion and composer Alan Menken. Then there’s the seamless blend of classic Disney animation styles with new digital effects. And Belle was really a new type of character for women in Disney, escaping patriarchal stereotypes to be her own her with her own identity.
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Cara Seymour, Brian Cox, Tilda Swinton, Ron Livingston, and Maggie Gyllenhaal
When did I first watch this movie?: 2007, although I saw it in a movie theatre so it must’ve been re-released at Brattle Theatre or someplace like that.
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Charlie Kaufman’s work as a screenwriter and director has produced some of the most inventive and just plain weird movies of the past few decades. We’ll be seeing several of his works on this list. Adaptation is great because it shows the writing process and inner life of an introverted person. It also deconstructs and questions the “truth” of fiction.
Title: The Saddest Music in the World
Director: Guy Maddin
Cast: Isabella Rossellini, Mark McKinney, Maria de Medeiros, David Fox, Ross McMillan, Louis Negin
When did I first watch this movie?: I watched this on DVD in 2007.
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Speaking of makers of weird movies, Canada’s Guy Maddin gives Charlie Kaufman a run for his money. Frequent Maddin collaborator Isabella Rossellini stars as baroness in Great Depression-era Canada who holds a contest for the saddest music in the world to promote her family’s brewery. As Lady Helen Port-Huntley says “f you are sad and like beer, I’m your lady.” As weird as this movie is, it may be the most accessible of Maddin’s oeuvre that I have seen.
Director: John Crowley
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kelly Macdonald, Cillian Murphy, Colm Meaney, Shirley Henderson, David Wilmot, Deirdre O’Kane, Michael McElhatton, Tomás Ó Súilleabháin, Brían F. O’Byrne, Ger Ryan, Jane Brennan
When did I first watch this movie?: At the theaters in 2003.
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This is a movie I found myself thinking about and quoting years after I first saw it – especially the parts about brown sauce and Celtic Mysticism. This movie stars some of the biggest Irish actors of its time, but it eschews movie stereotypes of Ireland. Instead it’s a comedy and crime caper with an ensemble cast set in Dublin’s residential neighborhoods that focuses on extraordinary moments in the lives of very ordinary people.
Director: Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J. K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, and Shakira
When did I first watch this movie?: June 2016
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: It’s a very clever comedy that revels in creating a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, all while being a critique of systemic racism.
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Akira Terao, Mitsuko Baisho, Martin Scorsese, Chishū Ryū, Mieko Harada, Yoshitaka Zushi, Toshie Negishi, Hisashi Igawa, Chosuke Ikariya
When did I first watch this movie?: At Williamsburg Theatre, circa 1991
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: I remember being entranced by the visual splendor and imagination in the eight vignettes, which were based on Kurosawa’s actual dreams. The images of walking inside Van Gogh paintings and the platoon of ghostly soldiers have stuck with me. This was the first Kurosawa film I ever saw and I need to revisit it to see how it holds up.
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Lorna Patterson
When did I first watch this movie?:
Why is this one of my all time favorites?:
Director: Andrew Stanton
Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver, and Fred Willard
When did I first watch this movie?: Summer 2009
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Another movie that has light comedy and romance with an underlying story of environmental catastrophe. I like that it shows humans at our worst and yet still has hope for humanity.