20 – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Bogart is considered by many to be the finest actor who ever lived, and he was never better than in John Huston’s 1948 masterpiece. The story of three broke Americans in Mexico mining for gold, Treasure is one of the darkest, most cynical movies about the human condition. When they strike it rich, friendship turns to mistrust and greed blinds the men, especially Bogart, eventually driving him insane. Never before has paranoia been portrayed in such desperate realism. The best movie from one of our finest filmmakers.

19 – The Bride of Frankenstein

The original Frankenstein is a brilliant, if somewhat stilted, film. For the sequel, director James Whale gave us something very different indeed. Unlike any fright film made before and perhaps since, Whale delivered something that was at once gothic horror and camp at it’s best. Boris Karloff is truly touching as the Creature, searching for love and acceptance in a world that fears him, while Ernest Thesiger steals the show as the mad (and very gay) Dr. Pretorius. Funny and frightening, moving and entertaining, The Bride of Frankenstein is a masterpiece, and the best film made during Universal Picture’s golden era.

18 – Amadeus

Portraying creation on screen is damn near impossible, and yet Amadeus manages to show us the writing of Mozart’s ‘Requiem in D Minor’ with such thrilling realism (even if it didn’t happen that way) that we can actually see the wheels turning inside his brilliant mind. That’s only one scene in one of the most thrilling movies ever made. The story of Mozart seen through the jealous eyes of his rival, Salieri, Amadeus brings the world of 18th Century Vienna to life as only a visionary like Milos Forman could. Few films capture the nature of genius or the loss of faith with such vibrancy.

17 – It’s A Wonderful Life

Everyone means something in the grand scheme of things, or so It’s A Wonderful Life would have you believe. Now regarded as a Christmas hallmark, few people ever remark on how dark the movie really is. Jimmy Stewart plays a man determined to lead a big life, burdened by responsibilities to his community and his family. At the end of his rope and contemplating suicide, Stewart’s plans are interrupted by his guardian angel who gives him the greatest gift of all: The chance to see what the world would have been like had he never been born. Out of this darkness and despair, the movie gives us a triumphant ending that has yet to be equaled in it’s ability to move an audience. “No man is a failure who has friends.” Words to live by.

16 – Fight Club

Not since The Graduate has a movie better encapsulated the frustrations of a generation. David Fincher’s 1999 box office bomb turned cultural touchstone is his best film to date, giving us a look into the raw, bloody guts of Generation X. Edward Norton plays a nameless drone, obsessed with status and the pursuit of material goods. Brad Pitt plays the stranger that enters Norton’s life and helps him find an escape from the soul crushing grind – by punching people really hard in the face. With a twist that still floors me all these years later, Fight Club is a nihilistic look into the heart of a lost generation searching for an identity. At once bleak and funny, it is without question the definitive film of the 1990s.

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