Every film critic has a Top 10 movie list, even if the only place it’s scribbled down is in the back of his or her mind.
We’re a list-crazy culture, and movie buffs of all stripes can’t help but place certain films in their personal hall of fame.
A quick note: To me, a Top Ten Movie List is deeply personal. It’s not a list of films that are more poignant, or better directed, or more richly artistic, than most movies. These films spoke to me in some profound way, reflecting both my formative years and the person I eventually became.
1. “Raising Arizona” – I didn’t love “RA” the first time I saw it, but being date-less more often than I’d like meant plenty of time to re-watch films that at the least caught my attention. Not sure if it was the second or third viewing that won me over, but before long I needed to watch this grand Coen brothers romp as often as possible. Great quotable dialogue, slapstick delivered in a deliriously cockeyed fashion, and the single funniest sequence ever committed to celluloid – the Huggies chase. I wanna pop it in my Blu-ray player right now…
2. “Star Wars” – Is there a child from the ’70s who doesn’t have this space saga on his list? George Lucas’s vision remains a near-perfect depiction of good versus evil set in a galaxy far, far away — no special editions or 3D upgrades required, please.
3. “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” – The funniest, raunchiest, sweetest comedy I’ve ever seen.
4. “Jaws” – Director Steven Spielberg may have, for better or worse, kick-started the summer blockbuster tradition with “Jaws,” but for me it distills everything I love about movies into one beautifully constructed package. Bristling tension. Lived-in performances. The fear of the unknown. It’s not summer unless I watch “Jaws” at least one time.
5. “Miller’s Crossing” – It’s the Coen brothers’ most overlooked masterpiece, brimming with dialogue so rich you wish you could print it out and frame it. “Crossing” is a gangster picture without peer, one which has little interest in aping other films in the genre.
6. “Once” – Proof that great movies don’t require big budgets, A-list stars or even a happy ending. The songs are magical, the acting heartfelt and the conclusion so sublime you wouldn’t want it any other way no matter how much your heart breaks.
7. “The Wizard of Oz” – Yes, the Toto connection can get tiring. But Dorothy’s trek to see the wonderful wizard is a testament to great art enduring time and taste upgrades.
8. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – It’s the benchmark all action movies must be measured against, and 99 percent of them stumble along the way.
9. “Alien” – The ultimate fusion of horror and science fiction. Those seven stranded souls are no match for a killing machine aped by nearly every monster maker in Hollywood. Moody, atmospheric and heart-stopping, “Alien” is director Ridley Scott’s masterpiece.
10. “The Descent” – Horror junkies rank “The Exorcist,” “The Shining” or “Halloween” higher, and they may have a point. But this shock fest gave me gigantic scares while taking advantage of modern movie-making techniques along the way. The first half is a smart, assured look at women in charge of their destinies. The second — a monster mash for the ages.