Favorite Movies

Profiling my favorite movies has been something I have wanted to do since this site’s inception, it’s just that I can only do so many things at once. I would eventually like to assemble a list that mirrors my favorite albums list, but for obvious reasons, the movie equivalent of that albums list (which I do take great pride in having assembled, incidentally) is going to be significantly trickier to pull off.

The first problem presents itself immediately in the form of logistics: it’s been years since I have even watched, yet alone analyzed, most of my favorite movies; the sheer amount of time required to watch them all and then rank them is incalculable and is enough of a deterrent to prevent me from attempting the list utilizing that approach. It’s how I did my albums list, yes, but music lends itself to multitasking; movies certainly do not. Simply put, movies demand your complete attention during their consumption, or any kind of analysis given is therefore incomplete.

What I would like to do, then, is basically take the opposite approach I took with my albums list: I’ll profile my favorite movies one at a time with no particular order in mind. Once I do maybe fifty or so, I’ll start to think about shaping the ones I have selected into a list, but that’s a long, long ways off.

The rules I am setting for myself when picking films to write about are:

  1. It must be a movie I have seen multiple times
  2. It must be a movie I have not seen in a while
  3. It must be a movie I have on Blu-ray, so I can do hi-def screen captures

Other than that, there aren’t really any limitations.

Movies Profiled

My Movie Collection

As you’ll see below, you won’t run out of stuff to watch if you crash at my place. As you’ll see below, my “home video collection” (as we used to call it back in the VHS days) is quite large — I now have just over 200 individual titles on Blu-ray. I used to display them as one giant list, but since the number is so large now, I have decided to split them up into more digestible sections.

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray:

I don’t have a 4K TV yet (even though prices are really plummeting), but I have started collecting 4K UHD Blu-ray movies since a standard Blu-ray is always included. Now that 4K UHD Blu-ray movies have been on the market for a couple years, we’re starting to see prices drop below $20 for some titles — an exciting prospect (for me, at least).

It’s a game I have been playing for years now: In 2010, I began the long, slow process of replacing most of my DVDs with Blu-rays once I saw prices come down. Frequently, you can get Blu-rays for less than $10, and sometimes as cheap as $5 or $6 — an absurdity considering that in 2006 Blu-rays retailed for $35. (Even more absurd: you can buy great movies for less than a meal at McDonald’s.)

Most people just stream content now and don’t care about owning movies on disc anymore, but I still like to have a wall of awesome movies next to my TV. And streaming video quality isn’t on par with disc, not to mention it’s inconsistent since it’s dependent on wifi being stable. I don’t want to have to think about either issue when I’m taking in my favorite movies.

And so the game begins again: using a website called Decluttr, I am trading in Blu-rays (most of my DVDs are already gone) as I acquire 4K UHD versions. By the time I actually get a 4K TV, I’ll have a great collection ready to go.

I am using the same methodology I used for replacing DVDs with Blu-rays: focus on classics, and always check Blu-ray.com reviews to make sure it’s a quality release — just because it’s better technology doesn’t mean the image has been successfully transferred over from the original source correctly.

Criterion Collection Blu-ray:

The first time I became aware of The Criterion Collection was around 2009 or 2010 when I was at a Best Buy in South Florida. While I was browsing the DVD section (Blu-ray was still new and not the go-to format yet), I picked up and inspected a Days of Heaven DVD that was an eye-popping $35.

Even now, I can remember standing there completely slack-jawed. Keep in mind that back then when a new movie appeared in stores after its run in the theaters, it was released in three versions: a single-disc DVD for $20, a two-disc special edition DVD for $25, and a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack for about $35.

Days of Heaven was a 30-year-old movie though, and this was just a DVD. How in the world could there be a $35 price tag? Well, turns out it was a Criterion Collection DVD, and as I would later learn, Criterion releases are many things, but cheap is not one of them.

I never bought a single Criterion DVD — by the time I got properly acquainted with Criterion, I had moved on to Blu-ray. I suppose it goes without saying that I never bought any of the Criterion laserdisc releases either. You might scoff at laserdisc, but those Criterion laserdisc releases in the ’80s pioneered lots of things that are now standard in home video, such as commentary tracks and special features.

Anyway, once the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray format war ended, Criterion began releasing Blu-ray editions in 2008. When I first started looking at their selection of Blu-rays in 2010, there weren’t many yet. Now though, Criterion has such a gigantic selection of incredible Blu-rays that I want a rather embarrassingly large number of them.

What changed in the shift from DVD to Blu-ray from a market perspective was this: during the DVD boom (i.e., pre-streaming), there was always a “regular” DVD version of every movie by the studio or, in the case of independent or foreign films, whatever distributor had the home media rights.

With Blu-ray, however, it’s often the case that the only United States version of a catalog film on Blu-ray is the Criterion version. For example, the film that got me into Criterion in a big way was The Thin Red Line. It was released on Blu-ray a few months after I started collecting Blu-rays in earnest, and its debut on the format was the Criterion edition.

To date, another version has not been released. The same is true of Thin Red Line director Terrence Malick’s Badlands and Days of Heaven. In the case of Malick’s fourth film, The New World, which was released in theaters in late 2005, a Blu-ray release was needed and Criterion was not doing Blu-ray at all at the time.

Criterion wouldn’t put together a New World release until 2016. (I actually don’t own it yet.) Malick’s fifth film, The Tree of Life, was released in theaters in 2011 and appeared on Blu-ray later that year. Even though Criterion was well into releasing Blu-rays at this point, Tree of Life was a new movie, and so it received a non-Criterion release later in 2011 first. It wouldn’t see a Criterion release until 2018.

I realize this is a pretty detailed accounting, but hopefully it should demonstrate something: the Criterion release of a film is by default the definitive edition. And since that often makes Criterion editions the only high-definition releases of many classic films, it has also made Criterion the definitive brand when it comes to art house film.

Not only do they bring attention to a large chunk of the cinema canon, but they do painstaking restoration work of classic films and breathe new life into them via astonishingly high quality transfers on Blu-ray releases filled to the brim with bonus features.

Since most of the restoration work they do is 4K, I suppose it’s a matter of time before they begin to release films on 4K UHD, but there may not be much overlap between the 4K UHD audience (primarily the AV crowd that eats up the latest advances in technology) and the art house market. I’d sure like to see The Thin Red Line on 4K UHD though.

As with the 4K UHD releases, I do read the reviews of the Criterion Blu-rays, as well. You’re pretty much always safe with a Criterion purchase though — if the video or audio quality doesn’t get top marks, it’s generally because there were issues inherent to the original image or sound that they couldn’t do anything about when cleaning it up.

3D Blu-ray:

I dislike 3D, but I figured it would be cool to own a few movies in 3D to test drive in a home theater situation sometime. So far, my thoughts are that 3D is even more unnecessary when watching at home than it is when watching in the theater.

Film Series Blu-ray:

The following are movies that are part of franchises, series, or easily recognizable entertainment properties. Often, these films are only available as parts of complete sets and can’t be purchased individually. Otherwise, I wouldn’t own a few of these.

Director Collection Blu-ray:

I own these films as part of director collection sets, hence why some pretty random titles show up below.

  • Three Ages (1923, dir. Edward F. Cline & Buster Keaton) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Kino-Eye (1924, dir. Dziga Vertov) [USSR] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • The General (1927, dir. Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • The Man with the Movie Camera (1929, dir. Dziga Vertov) [USSR] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Enthusiasm: Symphony of the Donbass (1931, dir. Dziga Vertov) [USSR] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Three Songs About Lenin (1934, dir. Dziga Vertov) [USSR] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Rear Window (1954, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Vertigo (1958, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • North by Northwest (1959, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Psycho (1960, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • The Birds (1963, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • District 9 (2009, dir. Neill Blomkamp) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Elysium (2013, dir. Neill Blomkamp) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Chappie (2015, dir. Neill Blomkamp) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review

Ultimate Edition Blu-ray:

These are classic films that receive larger and more elaborate packaging than ordinary Blu-ray releases.

Standard Edition Blu-ray:

  • Spartacus (1960, dir. Stanley Kubrick) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • The Hustler (1961, dir. Robert Rossen) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, dir. Robert Mulligan) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966, dir. Sergio Leone) [Italy, Spain] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, dir. Stanley Kubrick) [UK, USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, dir. Sergio Leone) [Italy, USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Chinatown (1974, dir. Roman Polanski) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Taxi Driver (1976, dir. Martin Scorsese) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Raging Bull (1980, dir. Martin Scorsese) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Risky Business (1983, dir. Paul Brickman) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Scarface (1983, dir. Brian De Palma) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Once Upon a Time in America (1984, dir. Sergio Leone) [Italy, USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • This Is Spinal Tap (1984, dir. Rob Reiner) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, dir. John Hughes) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Hoosiers (1986, dir. David Anspaugh) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Platoon (1986, dir. Oliver Stone) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Raising Arizona (1987, dir. Joel Coen) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Big (1988, dir. Penny Marshall) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Dances with Wolves (1990, dir. Kevin Costner) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Goodfellas (1990, dir. Martin Scorsese) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Miller’s Crossing (1990, dir. Joel Coen) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Malcolm X (1992, dir. Spike Lee) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • The Last of the Mohicans (1992, dir. Michael Mann) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Reservoir Dogs (1992, dir. Quentin Tarantino) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • The Fugitive (1993, dir. Andrew Davis) [USA] — Blu-ray.com Review
  • Forrest Gump (1994, dir. Robert Zemeckis) [USA]
  • Pulp Fiction (1994, dir. Quentin Tarantino) [USA]
  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994, dir. Frank Darabont) [USA]
  • Braveheart (1995, dir. Mel Gibson) [USA]
  • Seven (1995, dir. David Fincher) [USA]
  • Fargo (1996, dir. Joel Coen) [USA]
  • Boogie Nights (1997, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) [USA]
  • L.A. Confidential (1997, dir. Curtis Hanson) [USA]
  • Titanic (1997, dir. James Cameron) [USA]
  • American History X (1998, dir. Tony Kaye) [USA]
  • Rounders (1998, dir. John Dahl) [USA]
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998, dir. Steven Spielberg) [USA]
  • American Beauty (1999, dir. Sam Mendes) [USA]
  • Fight Club (1999, dir. David Fincher) [USA]
  • Three Kings (1999, dir. David O. Russell) [USA]
  • Gladiator (2000, dir. Ridley Scott) [USA]
  • The Patriot (2000, dir. Roland Emmerich) [USA]
  • Requiem for a Dream (2000, dir. Darren Aronofsky) [USA]
  • Memento (2001, dir. Christopher Nolan) [USA]
  • Insomnia (2002, dir. Christopher Nolan) [USA]
  • Minority Report (2002, dir. Steven Spielberg) [USA]
  • Road to Perdition (2002, dir. Sam Mendes) [USA]
  • City of God (2003, dir. Fernando Meirelles) [Brazil]
  • The Last Samurai (2003, dir. Edward Zwick) [USA]
  • Million Dollar Baby (2004, dir. Clint Eastwood) [USA]
  • Sideways (2004, dir. Alexander Payne) [USA]
  • Capote (2005, dir. Bennett Miller) [USA]
  • Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005, dir. George Clooney) [USA]
  • Jarhead (2005, dir. Sam Mendes) [USA]
  • Kingdom of Heaven (2005, dir. Ridley Scott) [UK, USA]
  • The New World (2005, dir. Terrence Malick) [USA]
  • Blood Diamond (2006, dir. Edward Zwick) [USA]
  • Children of Men (2006, dir. Alfonso Cuarón) [USA]
  • The Departed (2006, dir. Martin Scorsese) [USA]
  • Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, dir. Guillermo Del Toro) [Mexico, Spain]
  • The Prestige (2006, dir. Christopher Nolan) [UK, USA]
  • American Gangster (2007, dir. Ridley Scott) [USA]
  • Eastern Promises (2007, dir. David Cronenberg) [Canada, UK, USA]
  • Into the Wild (2007, dir. Sean Penn) [USA]
  • Michael Clayton (2007, dir. Tony Gilroy) [USA]
  • No Country for Old Men (2007, dir. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) [USA]
  • There Will Be Blood (2007, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) [USA]
  • The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008, dir. Uli Edel) [Germany]
  • Waltz with Bashir (2008, dir. Ari Folman) [France, Germany, Israel]
  • The Hurt Locker (2009, dir. Kathryn Bigelow) [USA]
  • Inglourious Basterds (2009, dir. Quentin Tarantino) [Germany, USA]
  • Black Swan (2010, dir. Darren Aronofsky) [USA]
  • Inception (2010, dir. Christopher Nolan) [USA]
  • The King’s Speech (2010, dir. Tom Hooper) [Australia, UK]
  • The Social Network (2010, dir. David Fincher) [USA]
  • The Descendants (2011, dir. Alexander Payne) [USA]
  • Drive (2011, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) [USA]
  • Hugo (2011, dir. Martin Scorsese) [USA] — Blu-ray Review
  • Moneyball (2011, dir. Bennett Miller) [USA]
  • Argo (2012, dir. Ben Affleck) [USA]
  • Chronicle (2012, dir. Josh Trank) [USA]
  • Django Unchained (2012, dir. Quentin Tarantino) [USA]
  • Life of Pi (2012, dir. Ang Lee) [USA]
  • The Master (2012, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) [USA]
  • To the Wonder (2012, dir. Terrence Malick) [USA]
  • Gone Girl (2014, dir. David Fincher) [USA]
  • Whiplash (2014, dir. Damien Chazelle) [USA]
  • The Big Short (2015, dir. Adam McKay) [USA]
  • The Hateful Eight (2015, dir. Quentin Tarantino) [USA]
  • It Follows (2015, dir. David Robert Mitchell) [USA]
  • Spotlight (2015, dir. Tom McCarthy) [USA]
  • Arrival (2016, dir. Denis Villeneuve) [USA]
  • Hell or High Water (2016, dir. David Mackenzie) [USA]
  • The Jungle Book (2016, dir. Jon Favreau) [USA]
  • Knight of Cups (2016, dir. Terrence Malick) [USA]
  • Manchester by the Sea (2016, dir. Kenneth Lonergan) [USA]
  • Moonlight (2016, dir. Barry Jenkins) [USA]

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