Last week I began to unveil my Top 20 favorite films — I stress personal favorites and not “best ever” or some such nonsense. See 20-16 here. Continuing the countdown started last week, let’s roll on starting with # 15:
15. 12 Angry Men (1957)
Starring: Henry Ford, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall
Director: Sidney Lumet
12 Angry Men is not just a classic American film, it is a utterly absorbing, absolutely phenomenal film that holds up today remarkably well. 12 Angry Men is a courtroom drama where a ethnic (Hispanic?) youth is on trial for murdering his father. The “courtroom” part is only for the opening scene, as the remainder unfolds in the jury room as the 12 titular men debate what appears to be an open and shut conviction. The title is a wee bit misleading, as one of the men (Henry Fonda) is not at all angry, but a reasoned, rational man who defies his comrades and votes not guilty if only to force his colleagues to closely examine and debate the evidence at hand. What follows is an extraordinary human drama, with nothing but a dozen quality actors, one set, a few props, and an unbelievable script.
I remember when my old roommate Tom suggested we watch 12 Angry Men, I resisted, not in the mood for a boring old “classic.” Man, was I glad he talked me into it.
14. The Edge (1997)
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Harold Perrineau, Bart the Bear
Director: Lee Tamahori
Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins forced to survive in the wild battling a man-eating bear, with a terrific script by David Mamet (there’s that name again). The Edge is ostensibly a survival action film with two characters, Hopkins’ eccentric self-made millionaire and Baldwin as the schemer photographer Hopkins believes to be angling for Hopkins’ wife, life, and fortune. Hopkins and Baldwin are perfectly cast and the movie is perfectly paced. Plus, there’s a bear, which is always a plus.
13. The Fugitive (1993)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pantoliano, Sela Ward
Director: Andrew Davis
Best chase movie ever. Harrison Ford is the world’s most famous fictional fugitive, Dr. Richard Kimble. Wrongly convicted for the murder of his wife, Kimble is on the run trying to prove his innocence, catch the one-armed man responsible for the murder, and stay one-step ahead of the U.S. Marshalls on his tail. Tommy Lee Jones totally steals the show, in a career-defining performance as lead Sam Gerard, who doggedly pursies Kimble. I loved the ensemble of the U.S. Marshalls (Joe Pantoliano, Daniel Roebuck, L. Scott Caldwell, Tom Wood), and the story of the pursuers is actually more compelling than the tale of the pursued.
12. Brick (2005)
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Emilie de Ravin, Lukas Haas
Director: Rian Johnson
A mesmerising modern film noir tribute set in a modern high school. This is a low-budget independant film from writer-director Rian Johnson (who has since done a great little con man movie, Brothers Bloom). Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Brendan, who obsessively investigates the mystery surrounding his recently vanished ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin). I like mysteries and thrillers, plus I’m a sucker for good dialogue. Brick creates its own language and universe for its characters, with high school kids speaking rapid fire dialogue real coulds would never say. The film creates a unique universe with its own language and it all works brilliantly in my humble opinion. Sample dialogue, just to give you a taste:
Assistant VP Gary Trueman: You’ve helped this office out before.
Brendan Frye: No, I gave you Jerr to see him eaten, not to see you fed.
Assistant VP Gary Trueman: Fine. And very well put.
Brendan Frye: Accelerated English, Mrs. Kasprzyk.
Assistant VP Gary Trueman: Tough teacher?
Brendan Frye: Tough but fair.There is zero profanity in the film, the violence is raw, and yet the movie is rated R for drug references and the below trailer is given red-band status for . . . smoke alluding to drugs? Whatever. How is this trailer a red band trailer and I can see one of the grotesque Saw trailers in the theater before a PG-13 movie?
11. Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (1989)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, John Rhys-Davies, River Phoenix
Director: Steven Spielberg
Most people say Raiders of the Lost Ark is the definitive Indiana Jones movie, but the Last Crusade is the one I enjoy the most. Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade is tons of fun, with all the adventure that made Raiders work but about five times as funny with the great addition of Sean Connery to the cast. If you’ll pardon a digression, I’m struck that this is Harrison Ford’s third appearance on the list. Harrison’s not one of my favorite actors — he’s a good actor, don’t get me wrong — but he sure seems to turn up in great movies, especially the PG-13 variety that I could watch growing up.
10-6 coming soon . . .
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