My Updated List of Top Twenty Movies That Have Impacted My Life (October 2018)

Back in March of 2013, I wrote a post about my top 10 movies that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I recently came across that 2013 post again and realized that it was in need of a serious update. And that’s natural, right? God knows how many movies I’ve seen in the last five and a half years alone. I decided to take a deep look into my subconscious and come to a clear and consensus agreement with myself over which films have been life-altering for me and try to explain to you the reasons why in the most concise way possible. These are the types of movies that I will always watch if I catch it on TV as I’m channel surfing or will randomly pop it into my Blu-Ray player on a lazy, rainy, Sunday afternoon.

As always, feel free to comment, question, or ridicule my choices. I make no apologies. So let’s get this show on the road.

20. “The Ladykillers”

Directed by: Ethan and Joel Coen

Year of Release: 2004

Synopsis: A remake of the 1954 film of the same name; a band of misfit thieves who con an old woman into letting them use her basement to tunnel into and rob a riverboat casino.

Why It Made My List: Admittedly this movie is a guilty pleasure of mine. This movie is Tom Hanks’ best-kept secret. It has a tremendous amount of symbolism with references to one of my favorite writers, Edgar Allan Poe.  A hilarious cast of characters with brilliant side stories and quirks that come into effect and play a huge roll that greatly impacts the plot.


19. “Seven Psychopaths”

Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Year of Release: 2012

Synopsis: The most obtuse Hollywood story that you could absolutely believe to be real. The hilariously dark back and forth of a struggling screenwriter accidentally entangled in the LA criminal underworld after the screenwriter’s friends kidnap the crime boss’ shih tzu.

Why It Made My List:  An insane plot that you think makes no sense and then it makes perfect sense, thy name is “Seven Psychopaths.” With an all-star cast of Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits, and Colin Farrell, you’ve got lots of fascinating character actors to follow. I had never heard of Tom Waits before this movie and now I can listen to him talk forever…


18. “Network”

Directed by: Sidney Lumet

Year of Release: 1976

Synopsis: The story of Howard Beale (Peter Finch), a veteran network news anchor who is about to be fired to make room for a young, fresher set of anchors and politics. Instead of giving up his seat gracefully, he announces on his final broadcast that he will commit suicide at the end of the night.

Why It Made My List: Winner of four Academy Awards (including one for best original screenplay), THIS MOVIE HAS THE BEST DIALOGUE WORD-FOR-WORD OF ANY MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN. Peter Finch died shortly after principal photography was completed and was the first posthumous Academy Award winner in history.


17. “Spotlight”

Directed by: Tom McCarthy

Year of Release: 2015

Synopsis: The disturbing true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the local Catholic Archdiocese’s cover-up of the child molestation scandal in the early 2000s.

Why It Made My List: Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay winner, a superstar cast of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber and Rachel McAdams to name a few of this powerful and uncomfortable film that needs to be seen by all regardless of your religious views.


16. “Dead Poets Society”

Directed by: Peter Weir

Year of Release: 1989

Synopsis: An intriguing and unorthodox teacher challenges his students to look at poetry in ways never thought of before.

Why It Made My List: Robin Williams’ portrayal of a high school English teacher at an all-boys boarding school rang too close to home for me and too perfectly on top of it. Winner of the Academy Award for best original screenplay and along with a nomination for Williams, the story of unconventional teacher John Keating is a beautiful and tragic story of one class and their devotion to their teacher and his teaching methods.


15. “Amelie”

Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Year of Release: 2001

Synopsis: The story of a young French woman and her sudden determination to help everyone around her without them realizing it is an adorable, heartwarming, and hilarious story of watching her gauge everyone’s reactions from afar like you’re helping her with these acts of kindness every step of the way.

Why It Made My List: Nominated for five Academy Awards, Jeunet is who I would consider the French Wes Anderson with his directorial style of using an effective and unbiased narrator, bold colors in his sets and character costumes, all while helping create some of the most original characters that you can immediately fall in love with.


14. “Get Out”

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Year of Release: 2017

Synopsis: A young black man meets his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time only to find himself in an incredibly uncomfortable and then terrifying position.

Why It Made My List: Who saw this one coming? This movie as a whole was an even bigger shock that watching the end of “The Sixth Sense” for the first time. Winner of the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award and nominated for Best Picture, “Get Out” is a movie that no one saw coming and continues to haunt and surprise me with each viewing.


13. “Arrival”

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Year of Release: 2016

Synopsis: A first-encounter with an alien race and one linguist’s determination to learn their language and teach them ours.

Why It Made My List: This incredibly creative story was nominated for The Academy Award for Best Director. The imaginative and creative use of language and how it’s cleverly spoon-fed to you about how important understanding not only what is said but also the intent behind what is said.


12. “Pan’s Labyrinth”

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Year of Release: 2006

Synopsis: An adult fairytale told in the backdrop of The Spanish Civil War, a little girl follows her imagination to try to save her mother and baby brother from a tyrannical Fascist step-father.

Why It Made My List: An absolutely beautifully told story that won three Academy Awards. The unique characters del Toro is always celebrated for creating are both terrifying and soulful that drive a story in ways you do not expect.


11. “Inglorious Basterds”

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Year of Release: 2009

Synopsis: A “creative” interpretation of WWII as British and Jewish-U.S. soldiers try to trap Hitler in Nazi-occupied France.

Why It Made My List: Christoph Waltz. His Academy Award-winning performance alone is worth watching this movie as he charmingly and linguistically terrifies you before you even realize it. Tarantino’s mind-bending interpretation of actual historic events is something worth laughing at while being uncomfortable with it every step of the way.


10. “Mary and Max”

Directed by: Adam Elliot

Year of Release: 2009

Synopsis: A 9 year-old Australian girl becomes surprising pen-pals with a 40 year-old man with Aspergers Syndrome in New York City.

Why It Made My List: This Australian claymation film wasn’t nominated for any Academy Awards, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a tremendously well-made adorable tearjerker of a friendship that spans over 20 years. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette give unforgettable performances as the main characters that prove that sometimes the best movie characters aren’t human.


9. “The Royal Tenenbaums”

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Year of Release: 2001

Synopsis: The story of a large and dysfunctional family made up of geniuses and their misadventures together.

Why It Made My List: Although it was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay, there are clear and obvious references (though cannot be legally acknowledged) to The Glass Family created by J.D. Salinger. Wes Anderson introduces us in his usual style of the unbiassed narrator to this fascinating family and their history. A stellar comedic cast leads this smart comedy into their individual rabbit holes of despair in hilariously strange ways.


8. “Birdman”

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Year of Release: 2014

Synopsis: A former superhero actor tries to make himself relevant again by starring in, writing, and directing a Broadway play.

Why It Made My List: AGI’s fearlessness as a director to shoot over 95% of the film IN A SINGLE TAKE displays the pinball machine of a life of Micheal Keaton’s character so vividly, it’s a thing of beauty. Winning four of the nine Academy Awards it was nominated for, including Best Picture, “Birdman” is a physical achievement in cinematography, acting, and writing in ways I had not seen I think ever before.


7. “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Year of Release: 2014

Synopsis: The misadventures of a hotel concierge and his lobby boy and the disappearance of a priceless painting in a fictional East European country that takes place in between the two world wars.

Why It Made My List: Wes Anderson is quickly becoming one of my favorite all-around filmmakers ever. He has a method of storytelling both visually and emotionally through amazing locales and three-dimensional characters that are always charming regardless of where their moral compass points. With a cast that consists of Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Willem DaFoe, and Ed Norton just to name a few, how can you not have a great movie on your hands?


6. “Clerks”

Directed by: Kevin Smith

Year of Release: 1994

Synopsis: A convenient store worker is forced to go into work on his day off only to realize that his day is about to get a whole lot worse.

Why It Made My List: The first truly independent film that I ever saw. Smith’s characters and dialogue are nothing short of a Shakespearean melodrama. (That’s right, I said ‘Shakespearean.’) With the immortalized characters of Dante, Randall, and Jay & Silent Bob, the nerdgasmic dialogue is as much raunchy as it is esoterically thought-provoking to nerd-kind.


5. “The Matrix”

Directed by: (then) Larry and (then) Andy Wachowski

Year of Release: 1999

Synopsis: A computer hacker is thrusted into an alternate reality where he learns that the world he (and everyone else) has been a part of all their lives is a simulation.

Why It Made My List: One of the most visually-stunning movies ever with revolutionary effects and fight sequences. It’s one of the first movies I remember seeing that made me question things about the world I live in long after the credits finished rolling.


4. “Moon”

Directed by: Duncan Jones

Year of Release: 2009

Synopsis: A man working alone on a moon base for nearly three years is weeks away from going home until he makes a startling discovery and he starts to go mad.

Why It Made My List: Sam Rockwell is literally all by himself in this movie and carries it from beginning to end showing his amazing range as an actor.  An independent film that was made “for cheap” that leaves you on the edge of your seat with a crazy twist that you won’t see coming.


3. “Isle of Dogs”

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Year of Release: 2018

Synopsis: An odyssey tale of a boy searching for his lost dog on a literal garbage island.

Why It Made My List: Wes Anderson wins again with this amazingly simple and beautiful story of a boy who just wants to find his dog. But no character is ever plain and simple when Wes Anderson is at the helm. With a superstar cast of Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Ed Norton and F. Murray Abraham to name a few, this stop-motion masterpiece.


2. “The Dark Knight”

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Year of Release: 2008

Synopsis: In the second installment of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, Batman must now face his opposite in every inconceivable sense until he reaches his breaking point.

Why It Made My List: A considerably new cinematic masterpiece that will be studied from every angle for generations to come. This film proves that even comic book characters and storylines can be artistic, compelling, and thought-provoking. Heath Ledger’s performance won him a posthumous Academy Award that will go down in the pantheon of greatest performances ever in his dedication to the Stanislavski Method.


1. “Jurassic Park”

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Year of Release: 1993

Synopsis: A billionaire recruits a team of paleontologists to “authenticate” his biological theme park.

Why It Made My List: This movie was what made me want to become a filmmaker. Spielberg’s masterpiece won three technical Academy Awards for sound and visual effects, but this summer blockbuster first introduced me to the “magic” of movie-making. If you only own one movie in your home, it has to be this one.


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