#90 - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman is one of the most recent films to make this list. I wondered how much of a punch the acclaimed Best Picture winner could punch and even with high expectations it completely blew me away. I haven't revisited it since that first viewing, but I have no hesitation in calling it one of the 5 best films I've seen come out of the 2010s. With the illusion of being filmed in a single take it's already an immense technical achievement, but it's only more appropriate given its psychological properties. It deals with the ego and the desire to reclaim a past era of greatness through the physical and emotional experiences of Riggan, who Michael Keaton revived his career to new heights by playing. Birdman is one of those exceptional films that is becomes its own experience.
#89 - Donnie Darko (2001)
I first saw Donnie Darko in high school and initially felt it to be a pretentious exercise without any meaning. When I rewatched it a few years later however I thought it was nothing short of a masterpiece and I still hold it up as one of the highest standards reached in modern independent cinema. It's a shame to hear that Richard Kelly's other films are hardly anything like it, but Donnie Darko is a vision like no other. I'm not any less aware of the inherent weirdness that'll turn a lot of people off this film, but I'm really drawn to its unique take on a time-travel plot that still works in the love and adolescent angst you'd expect from a (dark) teen film. Visually stunning and a joy to work out.
#88 - The Haunting (1963)
Following to highly psychological modern films is one of the high points of the haunted house genre that has a few psychological properties of its own. Director Robert Wise is more commonly associated with the sci-fi masterpiece The Day The Earth Stood Still and the musical masterpiece The Sound of Music and to see him make a horror film of this caliber really illustrates his brilliance as a storyteller. The Haunting doesn't throw an enormity of spooky images at you or even offer a clear answer as to whether there's any real paranormal activity going on at Hill House. It's a question of whether or not it's all in the mind of its troubled leading lady Eleanor, played by Julie Harris. For something that's over 50 years old it still manages to unsettle the audience like few others. I'm astonished this wasn't well received on its initial release and it needed a cult status to be fully appreciated.
#87 - Scream (1996)
Scream is a fascinating case where one of the best horror movies happens to satirize the genre. The result was something fresh and I'm thankful to director Wes Craven for revitalizing the slasher film for the 1990s. Perhaps Scream is a little outdated now when we consider how much horror has changed since, but I still hold it up as one of those few examples of slasher perfection, particularly with its own self awareness considered. I love the "whodunit" mystery, I love the depiction of 1990s teen culture, I think Ghostface is one of the all-time great slasher villains and I love the referential and comedic nature of the script. Maybe Scream is a little less relevant to the wider audience now, but I think genre enthusiasts will always cherish it.
#86 - King Kong (1933)
Film is subjective, but with King Kong I think it really is fair to say that it's one of the greatest films of all time. I would only credit maybe three or four films as being equally as important to movie history. A revolutionary in its time, and today a classic adventure. We'll always remember unforgettable scenes like Kong's climbing the Empire State Building and really what made all of this possible was the ambition of all those involved in the project, from the exciting script to the impressive stop motion effects. They're really something that you'll never get tired of watching. There's too much history to talk about regarding the significance of King Kong, but it'll forever be something for cinema fans to admire and worship.
#85 - Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Epic films with a wide scope and dramatic historical setting are a recipe for cinematic brilliance, and director David Lean applied this rule repeatedly through his career. Save for another film further up on this list he didn't do this better than with Doctor Zhivago, a turbulent tale of love and loss amid the chaos of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Not only does Lean bring the time and place alive with prowess, but he also manages to add a unique visual beauty that gives Doctor Zhivago a near-fantasy quality. Try telling me the Ice Palace set is anything but stunning. While I wouldn't put too much faith in the accuracy of its historiography, this film soars as far as this genre is concerned and had it not been for a certain other film by David Lean I feel is superior I'd call Doctor Zhivago his masterpiece.
#84 - Toy Story (1995)
Perhaps it's unexpected to follow a classic historical epic with a family movie made by Pixar, but I absolutely cherish Toy Story. The VHS tape I had back in the late 90s became subject to major abuse by my constantly watching the film over and over as a kid. While children do this a lot I think the film has an infinite rewatch value among all age groups and I liked to revisit this film every few years to be reminded of that carefree time. Pixar's animation is brilliant (if outdated by their work since) and the story of Woody and Buzz Lightyear concerns the ego's need for acceptance, friendship and the feeling of significance. Toy Story is a childhood favorite that remains important to me years later.
#83 - Before Sunrise (1995)
It's been incredibly long since seeing Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, but I do know that it's one of the great romantic dramas of our time and a fine example of Linklater's unconventional approach to storytelling (arguably the best aspect of all of his films). Exploring the scenery of the gorgeous city of Vienna, our two leads Jesse and Céline (played remarkably by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) get to know one another in a shortlived love affair while contending with their mutual awareness that it'll likely be their only night together. The dialogue has a sense that it's reigning free and that their conversations really could go anywhere. Before Sunrise, despite being very minimalist feels a lot less restrained than much bigger movies and I simply love spending its runtime with these two fantastic people.
#82 - Mystic River (2003)
It's been a long time since viewing Mystic River, at least five years, so I'll apologize if I'm vague in my discussion of it. Clint Eastwood has been one of my favorite directors for years and while his work has been patchy as of late, it was only just ten years ago when Eastwood was delivering truly exceptional films that set a standard for modern filmmaking. Mystic River is one of these. Is it a thriller? A family drama? A mystery? It's all three of these and the result is really something superb and the experience hard to describe. What's perhaps most remarkable about this film is seeing the change in its three leads, played by Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins. Their own unique stories and how they converge into a compelling force is what makes Mystic River wonderful. Just writing this puts me in the mood to see it again.
#81 - The Gold Rush (1925)
I'm finishing up Part 2 of this series with one of the greatest comedies of all time. In my opinion nobody can call themselves a real film enthusiast until they've seen at least of of Chaplin's Tramp comedies. I was equally compelled to choose either Modern Times or City Lights in this place, but I think The Gold Rush deserves a modicum of additional appreciation. A lot of things draw me to this movie. I love its cheery vibe, its slapstick comedy, cartoonish depiction of the real world and especially the antics of the Little Tramp. Structurally the film is seemingly made up of a few isolated episodes, but this factor I'm willing to overlook given the character's status in shorts for years prior. The Gold Rush is one of the happiest movies out there and I recommend it to all those looking for their first taste in the greatness of silent cinema.
That's all for Part 2. Here's looking forward to talking about the next 10 movies!