1. Nightcrawler (2014)
This brutal update of Network got only a little love come Oscar time and was completely ignored by The List’s compilers. So far, it’s my favorite film from 2014. I like where it takes the story and takes the characters. It gets so extreme, but the path we take to get there makes sense at every step. In addition to being a wake-up call to the 24-hour news cycle’s excess, it’s also a hell of a fine movie.
2. Blood Feast (1963)
When Jason Soto told me to review this, I knew sort of what I was in for. But I said it on that review and I’ll say it here: it belongs on The List. That this is a terrible movie doesn’t really matter. There are, after all, plenty of terrible movies already on the 1001 Movies list. What it is, though, is incredibly influential. Would modern horror cinema exist without its influence? It would, but it would be significantly changed. Sure, it’s dreck, but it’s influential dreck.
3. Life Itself (2014)
I don’t know how Life Itself avoided being nominated for Best Documentary Feature last year—either the filmmaker has enemies in the Academy or Ebert did. Regardless, this is the way a biopic should be made. This is simply the story of the man in question at the end of his life, unafraid of his physical appearance and unashamed to be shown to the world. Ebert was a hero in his life, and a hero in the way he died. If you love film, you owe it to yourself and Roger Ebert to watch this.
4. Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Animation is vastly underrepresented on The List, and Kung Fu Panda is one of the best animated films of the current century. In addition to giving us great and lovable characters and a fun story, it actually delivers a good message and does it without beating the audience over the head. That’s rare in a movie for children, and that it manages to infuse actual Zen philosophy into the mix? This is a film that should be celebrated.
5. Mean Girls (2004)
The movie that in many ways defines the Baby Boomer generation (The Big Chill) is on The List. There are plenty of films that were important for Gen-X as well, notably The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that are enshrined. Shouldn’t one of the defining films of the Millennials be here as well? And is there a better candidate than Mean Girls for this sort of drama?
6. The Station Agent (2003)
I don’t have a reason to suggest The Station Agent beyond the fact that I just love The Station Agent. It’s a great story beautifully acted with characters that come across as real people. If it’s revolutionary, it is only in the sense that it has the wisdom to treat Peter Dinklage’s character as a man rather than as a physical condition. I can’t imagine someone disliking a film this well done.
7. The Collector (1965)
In many ways, the stalker sub-genre of films began with Play Misty for Me, but The Collector went to a lot of the same places first. I still find it unbelievable that a film with this ending managed to slip past the censors in the middle of the 1960s. Two gutting performances and a truly disturbing romance results in a film that more people should know. The “captive romantic partner” idea has truly become a subgenre (The Loved Ones, Otis) and it started here.
8. Drunken Master (1978)
Chop-socky films are notoriously absent from The List just as animated films are. The only real Jackie Chan entry is the forgettable Project A, Part II. Drunken Master is a much better selection, Sure, it’s kind of stupid, has a goofy plot, and some lamentable acting, but this is Chan in is physical and comedic prime. Chan would’ve been huge regardless because of his tremendous talent, but would he have been as much without Drunken Master? I think not.
9. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
It may not be up to the speed of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, but New Nightmare shows surprising chops in the idea department. Craven made some stinkers in his career, but he was also responsible for multiple horror franchises that have stood up well over time. New Nightmare is ridiculously meta and incredibly inventive, two things the horror genre isn’t really known for.
10. V for Vendetta (2005)
Looking back through the films I’ve put on these lists in the past, I kind of can’t believe that I haven’t brought up V for Vendetta before this. This is a ballsy film, daring for making a terrorist essentially a folk hero in a post-9/11 world. The source material for V for Vendetta is among the best you’ll ever find and the film does it justice, remarkable in and of itself. All of the performances are fantastic, and it served as a reminder of just how good Natalie Portman can be when she’s given good material. Also, Hugo Weaving might be the coolest human being ever.