Top 5 lists are tough because there’s always more selections that you wish you could add but don’t have space for. That’s why I’m listing my Top 5 Movies plus 5 bonus ones that didn’t make the cut!
5. THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED (2005)
French auteur Jacques Audiard is my favorite filmmaker these days, and this is the movie that made me fall in love with him…uh… with his films. While watching this crime drama during my time attending NYU’s graduate film school, I was really inspired by the roughly elegant handheld camerawork, the catchy electronic soundtrack, the gritty underworld setting and Romain Duris’ captivating performance as an intimidating thug who aspires to be a professional concert pianist.
4. SWINGERS (1996)
Back in high school, this was the movie that made me want to become a filmmaker because it was really funny, felt very sincere and seemed like something I could make someday. I loved all the LA references – 310 vs. 818 area codes, dudes following closely behind each other in their cars and photos of important local establishments like Fat Burger. I also enjoyed the intense hockey video game scenes. “I’m going to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed for super fan #99 over here.” Perfection. As the movie unfolded before my eyes for the first time, I thought to myself, “I wonder if I have time to catch the next showing after this one ends.” That’s how much I was into it. I ended up seeing Swingers 5 more times on the big screen plus many more times on video, which is crazy because I hardly ever watch a movie more than once.
3. ANNIE HALL (1977)
Romance. Comedy. Annie Hall is the ultimate rom-com. I feel like the movie is just so honest and shows an authentic look at romantic relationships that’s incredibly rare to see on the big screen. When you combine Woody’s deeply personal stories with his incredible humor, the result is simply magical. If all comedies could have this much heart or if all romances could be this funny, wow.
2. THE GODFATHER (1972)
The first time I watched The Godfather was during my senior year in high school. To commemorate its 25th anniversary, the movie was playing at the famed Chinese Theater in Hollywood, which is my favorite movie theater in the world (if you haven’t been, go check it out!). I knew the movie was supposed to be good and was incredibly long, but I had no idea how much I’d love every minute of it from beginning to end. Why did I like it so much? I think it has to do with the grand scale of it all, the scenes of extreme violence and Michael’s drastic transformation from a seemingly honest and good person into an extremely dangerous criminal.
1. STRIPES (1981)
When I was growing up with three older brothers, Stripes was a favorite of ours. Although it came out when I was something like two-years-old, I ended up seeing bits and pieces of it as a kid all of the time. Bill Murray was awesome, the rag tag group of underdogs proved that they could shock the world and there was an epic mud wrestling scene. What’s not to love? And unlike a lot of other movies over 20 years old, Stripes really holds up to this day. When I was in film school, I focused on making serious dramas. But deep down, I think I always wanted to make Stripes, an action comedy. You know, like Awesome Asian Bad Guys!
**5 More Favorites!**
UNITED 93 (2006)
Paul Greengrass is another favorite director of mine these days. And while I love his work on the Bourne movies, this September 11th drama stands out as a true cinematic masterpiece. Even though I knew how the story of doomed flight United 93 was to end, the experience of watching it unfold was incredibly powerful. I found myself not just crying in the movie theater, but uncontrollably sobbing. Truly gripping.
DONNIE DARKO (2001)
This is the film that probably had the best chance of cracking my Top 5 list. In addition to the sweet 80s setting & tunes and the fact it was shot at my alma mater, Loyola High School, the movie is perfectly shrouded in mystery and suspense while offering up a nice sprinkling of sci-fi elements. Plus who can forget Sparkle Motion? FYI – in my opinion, the Donnie Darko director’s cut is not as good because it spells out too much of the plot.
NOTTING HILL (1999)
I’m really not a big Julia Roberts fan. But Hugh Grant, that’s another story. Honestly, I find him absolutely charming. An average bloke winning over the most famous actress in Hollywood? I’m sold.
SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941)
Preston Sturges’ classic Depression-era film follows a Hollywood director who longs to make serious films instead of silly comedies. That’s an issue I’ve debated a lot during my filmmaking career, and this charming and delightful comedy showed me that making people laugh can be just as important as pointing out what’s wrong with the world.
12 ANGRY MEN (1957)
This drama’s storyline about jurors debating a criminal case grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. On top of that, the I was blown away that it almost all takes place in one room. Incredible.
What do you think of these movies? What are your top 5 favorite movies? Let us know in the comments section below or via Twitter – @NatFilmSociety.
Stephen Dypiangco is co-founder of the National Film Society. On Twitter he’s @dypiangco. You can also email him via stephen[at]nationalfilmsociety[dot]com.