With quarantine boring all of us out of our skulls, I thought I might share twenty-eight of my favourite films. These are films that have influenced, inspired, or just straight-up entertained me throughout the years. The rules for this list are that I have to have watched them entirely, and they have to be my absolute favourites – so no half-and-half stuff.
In no particular order:
1: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
These are the three films that captured my imagination when I was very young. The scope of the world created within them set the groundwork for my own Fantasy writing, and to this day, they are the only films I can watch multiple times without really getting bored.
2: Star Wars (One through Six)
Don’t get me started on the Disney sequels. The original Star Wars films made under George Lucas were the true heart of the series in my opinion. Along with Lord of the Rings, they formed most of my childhood, and though I’m not a big mainstream Sci-fi, Fantasy kind of guy, these films influenced quite a bit of my writing.
3: Pulp Fiction
Quentin Tarantino, my favourite filmmaker. Why? Because he doesn’t make films that everyone else makes. His music taste is on point besides that, but anyway… Pulp Fiction was my first Tarantino film, and it was unlike anything I’d really seen before. It was so confusing at some points, odd, and incredibly violent, but the utter lack of conventional filmmaking really captured my imagination. Aside from that, it’s one of the most quotable, sadistically funny movies I’ve ever watched.
4: Django Unchained
I’ll get most of my Tarantino picks out of the way here. Django is my second favourite of his films, coming close behind Pulp Fiction. The story of a slave who turns bounty-hunter in order to save his love from a Plantation Owning Leonardo DiCaprio is an incredibly satisfying film to watch, and I found myself rooting for the hero the whole time. Lovely bloodbath of revenge at the end in addition to that.
5: The Hateful Eight
Another Tarantino. This one is about a group of unsavory characters in the old west who get stuck together during a blizzard. It’s a murder mystery, skillfully written with a shocking ending and meaningful character relationships. The soundtrack was also incredibly immersive, dropping me right into the feeling of the story as soon as it began.
6: Baby Driver
I only recently watched this one, but it was one of the most unique films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s about a young kid who gets caught up in an organized crime stint where he has to drive the getaway vehicle. It’s also a touching love story, which I don’t usually get into too much, but I found myself really invested in it. Lots of insane car chase scenes that seem almost fake – they’re not, though.
7: The Lighthouse
I’d never seen a film by Robert Eggers, though I had heard about his previous horror called The Witch. This film was one of the most fascinating, immersive, disturbing things I’ve ever seen. Based on an unfinished Edgar Allen Poe story and shot entirely on black-and-white film that doesn’t fit the screen, this movie really managed to make me feel a sense of hypnotic confusion. It stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, who deliver incredible performances throughout. Not something for a casual viewer, but for someone who wants to see a real piece of art, I highly recommend it.
8: Shutter Island
This is a Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, who I’d only seen as the Hulk. It was a little odd at the beginning, but as it went on, I found myself thoroughly disturbed, frightened, and invested. The ending is also one of the most well written, twisty, mind-blowing things I’ve ever watched, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s difficult to surprise me with writing, but this truly was nothing I expected – at least not in the way it happened.
9: The Irishman
This is another Scorsese film made for Netflix. It tells the story of Frank Sheeran, who gets wrapped up in the mafia, leading to the eventual murder of Jimmy Hoffa, who, for those who don’t know too much history, was a real person. It’s around three hours long, though I found myself entertained throughout the whole thing. Scorsese is a master of mob films, and this is just another great jewel in his repertoire.
10: The Godfather (One and Two)
Arguably the best mafia films ever made, the Godfather trilogy can be found on any list of “best movies to see before you die.” I, personally, only watched the first two, as the third supposedly wasn’t so great. Being half Italian myself, the adults in my family always had the boxed set somewhere, and when I got old enough to watch them, I found out why. Some of the best writing in regards to character development and relationships, and of course, one of the best soundtracks ever composed.
11: Pirates of the Caribbean (One and Two)
I’ve heard tell that some believe the first was only good by accident. I happen to believe the first two were only good by accident. They haven’t been able to duplicate the intelligence of the first two with the two or three sequels they made, but regardless… My childhood was made up of these films as well, and the superb character acting of Johnny Depp was one of the reasons for that. His performance here secured him as one of my favourite actors from a very young age.
12: Deadpool (Both of them)
I don’t actually like very many superhero movies. I know… sue me, but I actually found myself completely loving Deadpool. The completely violent, unapologetically crude nature of these films, as well as their mocking attitude towards the superhero cliche, was endearing.
13: The Shawshank Redemption
This is regarded by IMDb’s “Top Rated Movies” page as the best film ever made. I tend to agree from a writing standpoint. Adapted from a Steven King piece, this film is no horror, but rather a though-provoking look at human behavior and emotion. I would certainly recommend it to anyone, as regardless of whether or not you care about the writing or filmmaking, it’s a story that will effect you.
14: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
This Netflix film by the Coen Brothers was an incredibly fascinating thing to watch. It’s comprised of different short stories, each with a hidden meaning, and all set in the old west. Some are completely odd and wacky, while others are sad and thought-provoking.
15: Indiana Jones (All except the Crystal Skull)
Another of my childhood films. Steven Spielberg really captured my young imagination with this franchise, as well as my mother’s – Indiana Jones is one of her favourites. If you haven’t seen them, first off, that’s shocking, and second, I would highly recommend it. Avoid the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, though. It’s really… really not worth it.
I saw this in the theatre, which was definitely the best way to do it. Before this, I’d never seen a proper war film, mostly because I had no interest in them, but this one really shocked me. It’s shot in a way that makes it seem like a singular, uncut take, so the camera follows the two leads throughout the film. It’s almost like the camera guy is actually there the whole way. Brilliant writing and powerful performances from the actors makes this well worth it, even if, like me, you aren’t fond of war films.
17: Blade Runner 2049
Even though I love the first one – and even did my drama class monologue project on it – I’ve never been able to find it in order to watch it, so I can only add the sequel. Not to say that this one wasn’t a brilliant piece of filmmaking, though, because it was. This is a film that you either love or hate, and I personally loved it. The cinematography was mindbogglingly beautiful and the soundtrack was hypnotic. Everything about it, actually, was just inspiring.
18: Hail! Caesar
Even though it’s not regarded by critics as a smash hit, I really found this film to be fascinating. It took a look at the old world of Hollywood during the 1950’s, and though I don’t really remember too much of it – it was a long time ago – I remember the feeling of it, and how it inspired me.
19: Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
Speaking of old Hollywood, this Tarantino film really captures it. Set in the 1960’s and loosely based on real life events, it is one of Quentin Tarantino’s most put-together, elegant films. There are still the typical tropes that he uses, but you can really see his maturation when comparing Kill Bill, per se, with this one. Great soundtrack, as per usual.
20: Harry Potter Series
Another of my childhood films. The Harry Potter franchise really utilized unique and incredibly imaginative production design, writing, and almost everything else, really, to create a feeling that draws you back in after you’re done. I always judge films on the feeling they give me, and there are very few that have a feeling that is truly unique enough to make me want to watch a second time.
21: Back to the Future
I watched Back to the Future when I was around twelve, maybe? This classic movie is one of the most recognizable things in pop culture, and I loved the humor, the insanity, and the idea. If you haven’t seen this, it’s practically a pillar of our modern society, so you probably should.
22: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Another 80’s film that holds the spot of my personal favourite comedy ever made. It’s relatable, incredibly funny, and absolutely insane. There will not be a single moment where you’re not laughing. The comedy ranges from slapstick to more subtle humor, ensuring no matter who you are, you’ll be laughing.
This one is just completely insane. It’s full-on, nonstop dad jokes and slapstick humor. It’s not very thought-provoking or insightful, but if you’re looking for mindless comedy, this is the perfect film.
This is a film by Jim Henson – he created the Muppets – starring one of my favourite musicians: David Bowie. Yes, it’s more of a children’s film, and at the time of release, it was a complete flop, but despite all of that, I found myself fascinated by the imagination behind the whole thing. It’s weird, and at some points I felt like what someone on LSD must feel like, but it was visually eye-catching, and the music, written by David Bowie, was catchy.
This is a film one of the English classes at my school had to watch. (I wasn’t in it – I watched this at home.) It’s certainly not a boring school movie. With incredible performances by both Russel Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, this film stands as one of the best historical-fiction pieces I’ve seen, and the ending really pleasantly surprised me, even though it probably shouldn’t have…
26: The Matrix
Big surprise. The Matrix is on another favourite films list. Yes, it is, because at the time that it was shot, these visual effects were shocking. They’re still shocking even now, especially the famous “bullet dodging” shot, which was captured with 120 cameras by the way.
27: The Princess Bride
Another childhood one. This is one of the most quotable, innocently amusing films I’ve seen. I’m not typically one for light-hearted stuff, but this movie is heart-warming, and the characters are memorable and unique in their own ways.
28: To Kill a Mockingbird
One I almost didn’t put on here, but after some consideration, I really had to. It’s in black-and-white, which bores some people, I know, but if you really sit down and watch a black-and-white movie – depending on which one – you’ll be surprised. This film, based on the novel, was incredibly well made, and the courtroom scene had some incredible performances given. The story itself is also an important study of human behavior that leaves you thinking long after it’s ended.
That’s all for my list. There’s probably some that I missed, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. As new films come out, I might make another list at some point in the future.
I hope you enjoyed seeing what films inspired me, and if you’re bored during quarantine, maybe watch a few that look interesting.