5 – The Road Warrior – Mad Max was a very good movie; a brutal, rough and ready action film that broke rules and introduced the world to an Aussie star named Mel Gibson. The first film mainly dealt with the breakdown of a society choking on crime and environmental decay, embodied by the plight and brutal revenge of a cop and family man forced to become more a force of nature in the face of anarchy. The Road Warrior is about the end of the world, where things become completely simplified to focus on pure survival and how, in such circumstances, community becomes precious. With its darker viewpoint and plot and characters stripped down to their absolute, archetypal essences, what you get is perhaps one of the purest action films ever made.
4- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a ponderous and glacial mess, rushed into release before fully completed. It tried to be 2001 in a post Star Wars era. Still, it made a lot of money, somehow. But with the second instalment, they realized that a long episode of the TV show wasn’t going to do. Underrated writer/director Nicolas Meyer worked with producer Harve Bennett to craft an amazingly tight, laser beam focused tale of revenge, obsession, aging and death. The plot, although it’s really only about one man trying to kill another, is expanded upon to reach almost epic dimensions. It’s propelled by the best acting Star Trek ever saw, notably by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Ricardo Montalban. Without this film, which is still the pinnacle of the franchise, the mighty Star Trek empire wouldn’t exist.
3 – The Empire Strikes Back – A lot of people will disagree with me on my choice, but I stand by it; Empire is a better movie than Star Wars. You see, Star Wars gets the accolades because it’s the one that changed movies forever. As a phenomenon, it’s second to no other film save perhaps Gone With the Wind. But looking at it as a film, Empire has the superior story, direction and in many cases, effects. It’s just better. The darker atmosphere and more sophisticated script help to generate a very adult feel to the series, one that it would never have ever again. The story opens with the Hoth sequence, which is unbelievably well done, and then splits into two plots, basically. The Luke Skywalker plot, telling the tale of his maturation from naïve farm boy into heroic but neurotic Jedi is wholly engrossing, but the other plot, following the crew aboard the Millennium Falcon and their eventual downfall, is filled with as many great moments, anchored by the romance of Han Solo and Leia. The performances were never better, the scripts were never better, the thrills were never more visceral and complete. It’s the best.
2 – The Dark Knight – Batman Begins was a much needed and exceptionally executed reboot of the Batman franchise, but at the end of the day, it was a great super-hero movie. It did have a thematic anchor exploring the nature of fear and how we deal with it, which elevated it slightly, but still, it was basically a great comic book film. The Dark Knight is great film, period. It’s a social commentary on how we, in the modern world, deal with forces of anarchy and points of view that are completely and utterly alien and in opposition to a civilized society. It looks at how we are tempted to abandon all of our better ideals for the illusion of safety and the restoration of normalcy. It looks at what we ask of the people who are called on to deal with the wolves at the gate, and how, too often, we don’t care how they get rid of them. And it does so all within the framework of an adventure story about a vigilante in a bat costume beating up a homicidal clown. Heath Ledger deserved his Oscar, posthumous or not, for a performance that is scary in its brilliance, and the rest of the cast also turn in memorable work. But it’s director Christopher Nolan and his team of writers who pull off the real magic.
1 – The Godfather Part 2 – This is another one that people may argue with me about, but give me the story of Michael Corleone’s moral dissolution over the story his absorption into the family business any day. Listen, The Godfather is the more legendary film because it was the first, but Part 2 is the more ambitious and ultimately the richer film in the saga. Pacino is simply stunning as he portrays a man who loses his soul completely in exchange for his twisted desire to keep his family “safe”. This is the film that truly raises The Godfather saga from drama to a Shakespearean commentary on the pursuit of the American dream and the corrosive qualities of ambition and immorality. It’s filled with so many great directorial moments, genius writing and superb performances that suffice to say, it’s one of the best American films ever made.
Hope you all enjoyed it. See here for Part 1.