James’ Top 25 Greatest Movies, part 4
10 – The Wizard of Oz
The yellow brick road lead not just to Oz, but to the Death Star, to Mordor, and every other magical, far off land the movies have shown us. Wizard of Oz has been transporting audience over the rainbow for three quarters of a century and yet never fails to find new fans with every passing generation. This is due to the films imagination and itâ€™s respect for itâ€™s audience. Oz is not afraid to scare the living daylights out of kids, with cackling witches and armies of flying monkeys bent on poor Dorothyâ€™s destruction. Yet with the aid of good friends and the love she carries for her home, Dorothy is able to prevail. Children have been mesmerized by The Wizard of Oz decade after decade, and will be for as long as they watch movies.
9 – The Lord of the Rings
Which one? What do you mean which one? The Lord of the Rings canâ€™t be watched in three parts. The Two Towers is not a sequel, like so many others, that you can just pop in and enjoy on itâ€™s own. Without the context of all three films (best viewed in their extended editions), you would only catch a glimpse at the most immersive world ever put on film. Following the journey of a fellowship in a mythical land and their quest to destroy an evil ring, The Lord of the Rings is a landmark achievement in film history. By filming all three movies at once, director Peter Jackson gives us a consistent world that we believe in without question. Not lost in the spectacle are real, three dimensional characters who overcome great obstacles from the world around them and from within their own hearts by staying true to the bonds of friendship they forge. More than just popcorn entertainment, The Lord of the Rings is a moving, brilliant achievement in movie history.
8 – Annie Hall
Throughout the early 1970s, Woody Allen gave us one sidesplittingly funny film after another. He was the heir to Bob Hope and Groucho Marx. Then in 1977, Allen did something different. By sacrificing some of the jokes and investing in the two lead characters, he gave us the definitive romantic comedy of all time. Annie Hall is a smart, moving, hilarious film chronicling a doomed relationship. Allen and muse Diane Keaton are cinemas greatest screen couple, neurotic and selfish and yet made for each other. Never once falling back on cliches, Annie Hall shows us love as it really is: Messy, painful, totally irrational…and worth every minute of it.
7 – The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars is, without a doubt, a cultural milestone and deserve to be on this list. But if Iâ€™m forced to choose only one film from that saga, it would undoubtedly be the second (or is it the fifth?). Not content to simply rehash the events of his mammoth hit film, George Lucas delivered something deeper and more rewarding. Crafting a modern mythology that has yet to be matched, Lucas reminded us that the heroes journey is not an easy one. More over, rarely has a mainstream wide release had the balls to go so dark, allowing the villains to prevail by the closing credits. As with stories dating back more than a thousand years before itâ€™s release, The Empire Strikes Back is timeless myth making, with heroes we can relate to and lessons to live our lives by.
6 – The Godfather Saga
Itâ€™s impossible to choose which is better – the first Godfather or the second. So I wonâ€™t. Chronicling the rise and fall of two generations in a mafia family, both of Francis Ford Coppolaâ€™s movies (and to a lesser extent his flawed but still very good third film) are less about crime and more about the American Dream. The first film features a career best performance from Marlon Brando as a ruthless mafia don with a fierce sense of honor. Equaling Brando every step of the way are Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, and John Cazale as his sons, each equally ruthless but without their fathers ethics. While the second movie doesnâ€™t have the power of Brando, it is equal to, if not superior, to the first film. Intercutting the rise of a young Don Vito, played by Robert DeNiro, with the fall of Pacinoâ€™s Don Michael, The Godfather, part II shows the sins of the father revisited upon the son. No movie has better captured the immigrant experience, nor the complexities of family, better than The Godfather films.