My Top Films of All Time
(In no particular order)
Like music, I think a person's taste in film says a lot about them. I compiled this list on my website for two primary reasons: I wanted a space to share the films I am most passionate about, and I thought that it could give those that might want to collaborate with me a better sense of who I am outside of music, especially since film is one of my favorite hobbies.
This list is not final, and it is not objective. I've included each film's official description, and for some of them I've included a brief summary in my own words. I will update this list as I see more films that I enjoy!
(Updated September 2020)
The Tree of Life (2011)
"The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings."
Many films attempt to capture the essence of childhood, but none have succeeded quite like Malick's The Tree of Life. Accompanied by breathtaking cinematography and told through a nonlinear narrative, the film is at its core an intimate portrait of a 1950's suburban family and an insight into the mind of a boy struggling with his faith. Yet, the film often diverges into tangents of cosmic existentialism with lengthy montages showing the beginning of the universe and sweeping depictions of the afterlife. It's an incredibly personal story juxtaposed against an existential backdrop, and seeing this film begs one to reflect on their own place in the universe.
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
"A theatre director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he creates a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse as part of his new play."
"A young woman, and her last memories of the five people who loved her most, recalled while experiencing a catastrophic event."
In the final moments of a young woman’s life, she relives memories of the five people that loved her most. Violent is a haunting journey that attempts to find meaning in the connections we make with people, while asking big questions along the way. The visual imagery is absolutely intoxicating, and the soundtrack (composed by Canadian band We Are the City) is atmospheric and heightens the film's ethereal aesthetic. All of these elements combined with Violent's unpredictable narrative builds up towards a sincere and genuinely moving emotional payoff at the end of the film that I won't soon forget.
City of God (2002)
Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund
"In the slums of Rio, two kids' paths diverge as one struggles to become a photographer and the other a kingpin."
A Separation (2011)
"A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease."
"Twins journey to the Middle East to discover their family history and fulfill their mother's last wishes."
"A successful businesswoman gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her."
Elle is a uniquely disturbing film, both in its presentation and the chilling ways in which it sheds a light on our society's fascination with victimizing women through violence. The main character frequently subverts the typical tropes of a "woman in distress," calling into question the ways in which these types of characters are usually written.
The Square (2017)
"A prestigious Stockholm museum's chief art curator finds himself in times of both professional and personal crisis as he attempts to set up a controversial new exhibit."
The Square is a biting satire of the contemporary art world and examines the ways in which the culture surrounding art is hypocritical and sometimes intentionally inaccessible. The film is darkly comedic at its surface but at its core is an effective and unusual critique of concepts like elitism and social bubbles.
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
"Jerry Lundegaard's inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen's bungling and the persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson."
Fargo is an example of a screenplay that is truly airtight. At a brisk hour and 38-minute runtime, the film manages to pack in so much detail while still having time to bask in its own atmosphere. On the surface, Fargo is a story about a botched kidnapping scheme and a series of increasingly poor decisions that eventually lead to the death of innocent people. It portrays a polite, small town in Minnesota that becomes infected with the human depravity and destruction of the outside world. There are two primary things about this film that I find to be special: the first is its framing as a Midwestern folktale and its commitment to maintaining that aesthetic through all of its parts (the soundtrack, characters, etc.) and the second is its ability to say so much with so little. Fargo can be read as a commentary on toxic masculinity, a deconstruction of the Midwestern small town, or can simply be enjoyed for its uniquely humorous world and story.
"A couple going through a divorce must team up to find their son who has disappeared during one of their bitter arguments."
American Beauty (1999)
"A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter's best friend."
There are many elements to American Beauty that are unsettling, especially now with the recent uncovering of Kevin Spacey's sexual crimes. The plot revolves around the father of a suburban family who develops a disturbing infatuation with his daughter's best friend and the ways in which his subsequent mid-life crisis causes his family to break apart at the seams. While the premise is somewhat perverse, the film is profound; it attempts to find beauty and grace within the mundanities of everyday life and takes its audience through the moving (and often entertaining) personal journeys of each of its main characters.
"Jong-su bumps into a girl who used to live in the same neighborhood as him, who asks him to look after her cat while on a trip to Africa. When back, she introduces Ben, a mysterious guy she met there, who confesses his secret hobby."
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
"Kevin's mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly dangerous things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined."
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (2014)
Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz
"After a lukewarm marriage of over twenty years, a woman appeals to her husband's compassion to obtain the desirable divorce document in front of a court, which proves to be more challenging than she would expect."
Trey Edward Shults
"Krisha returns for Thanksgiving dinner after ten years away from her family, but past demons threaten to ruin the festivities."
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
"The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep."
The VVitch (2015)
"New England, 1630: William and Katherine try to lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another."
The Celebration (1998)
"At Helge's 60th birthday party, some unpleasant family truths are revealed."
Birds of Passage (2018)
Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra
"The origins of the Colombian drug trade, as seen through eyes of an indigenous Wayuu family that becomes involved in the booming business of selling marijuana to American youth in the 1970s. When greed, passion and honour collide, a fratricidal war breaks out and puts their lives, culture and ancestral traditions at stake."
Marriage Story (2019)
"A stage director and his actor wife struggle through a grueling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes."
"Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan."