What We Learned This Week: September 21-October 4

LESSON #1: THE WORLD CAN USE A DOSE OF BORAT RIGHT NOW— The rumors were always present that a Borat sequel was in the works from Sacha Baron Cohen. After a few months of secret shooting during the pandemic, Borat: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan will be unleashed to the world via Amazon Prime just in time for Election Day. Yes, you read that right. Expect the Vice President to be made an easy mark. In this election year, the world is ready for this kind of scathing laughter and cringe comedy. Bring it on.

LESSON #2: WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE EVEN THE BEST ARTISTS NEED PAYCHECKS— Barry Jenkins has quickly gained legendary auteur status with his Oscar-winning Moonlight and equally vibrant follow-up If Beale Street Could Talk. Word broke Tuesday with a headline that looked out of We Got This Covered or The Onion if it didn’t say Deadline above it. Jenkins has been tabbed by Disney to helm a follow-up to the CGI-reimagining of The Lion King. Before you dust off your The Lion King 1½ and The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride DVD collectors items, word is this will be a new direction and even a prequel highlighting a young Mufasa. Begrudge him or shake your head all you want, but I say this all the time in this column space: This is a business first and art exposition second. That happens the second you put a price tag on anything. Dozens of indie-level directors have done this in our recent history (David Lowery, Ava DuVernay, Colin Trevorrow, Gareth Edwards) and even more have done it for decades (Nolan, Spielberg, Scorsese). It’s “one for them and two for you.” It becomes about, 1) the effort you put in the big one, and 2) what that paycheck allows you to do next. Take DuVernay. She flipped that A Wrinkle in Time money into When They See Us, an upcoming Colin Kaepernick bio series on Netflix, infused money into her ARRAY distribution company for black artists, and helped launch the Evolve Entertainment Fund to promote inclusion. That’s not the worst aftermath and use of taking the big money. Let’s see what Jenkins can do both with the project and the cache. 

LESSON #3: AWARDS SEASON STARTS NOW– Film lovers, it’s October and, even during a reduced year of overall releases, the season of golden harvest is upon us. Oscar season! The virtual and drive-in versions of the usual top-notch film festivals are highlighting some early contenders to watch for. The early buzz leader is Nomadland from celebrated director Chloe Zhao (another indie darling like Jenkins who took the Disney/MCU money with The Eternals). The Frances McDormand starrer won the People’s Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival, the top prize of the Venice Film Festival, and is slotted as the centerpiece of the New York International Film Festival. Close on its tail are the rave reviews for Regina King’s One Night in Miami. Keep an eye on the upcoming Netflix debut of Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 for another potential frontrunner. Folks, after months of random cast offs and C-level films landing on VOD and streaming sites, the top shelf stuff is coming. Now, the new diversity measures for the Oscars are a whole other (and wonderful) thing. We’ll save that for another WWLTW.

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work. (#141)

What We Learned This Week: September 14-20

LESSON #1: THE LANDSCAPE IS NOT READY FOR BLOCKBUSTERS— This first lesson isn’t about desire. With all of the #firstworldproblem wishes, we all miss big event movies. It’s the setting and the earning potential that are not ready. Not enough states and locations are safely open to distribute something wide. Socially-distanced theaters don’t have enough takers or enough seats to make money. Studios either foresee that (and keep delaying) or don’t (and get their harsh baths and haircuts). Look no further than Warner Bros. and Tenet. Watch it fall tremendously short of its budget and maybe cause more harm than good. Watch the PR department spin their own numbers to save face.

LESSON #2: THE DIGITAL OPTION CONTINUES TO IMPROVE AND GRAB PEOPLE— As it stands now, Mulan has made more money than Tenet. Nine months ago, would you have ever thought that was possible? I sure didn’t. Conservative estimates have the Disney re-imagining earning north of $250 million and counting while Tenet just passed $200 million and is struggling to gain repeat business. That echoes Lesson #1. The cherry on top for Mulan is its Velcro to grab and keep new customers. So far in September, Disney+ is experiencing a 68% bump in app downloads coupled with a 193% surge in spending on the app. That follows a previous 79% boost in July attached to Hamilton’s debut on the steaming platform. Something is becoming better than nothing and more is more. Could digital be the new savior until this pandemic lifts. At Disney, let’s see what happens with Black Widow and Soul delays. At WB, we see them sharpening their HBO Max ax.

LESSON #3: HIGH-LEVEL SOCIAL MEDIA HARDBALL HELPS NO ONE— Speaking of Warner Bros., I don’t even know where to begin with the Ray Fisher vs. Warner Bros. fight. With the bold claims being laid and the hills-to-die-on being molded in both directions, this has gone past the stages of “spat” or “disagreement.” The trouble is this is one lower-level actor against a media giant. The success rate is low and the ostracization rate is high, but Ray Fisher strikes me as the kind of guy with that kind of conviction. He’s going to go down swinging. Who do you believe in this feud?

LESSON #4: PEOPLE OF GOOD TASTE OFTEN COME FROM GOOD TASTE— If I were to poll you folks and ask who makes the best American family films right now, I bet the #1 Family Feud survey answer would be Pixar. They make the consistent best storytelling and lesson-rich content. If you’ve ever wondered what people of good taste like Pixar found their taste, check out a pair of excellent Letterboxd lists of age-based recommendations collected from a team of their directors. Their 7-12 list and their 12-and-up list feature some of the absolute best family-friendly films. Indisputable perfection right there.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work. (#140)

What We Learned This Week: August 30-September 13

Welcome back to a renewed start for “What We Learned This Week.” I wanted to say a quick thank you for your patience with this school teacher and the month-long hiatus to get the day job in order during this time of tumultuous landscape change in my profession. It appears the hand basket of hell holding the world is still woven strong, even in the movie business. Let’s hit the chalkboard and vent.

LESSON #1: EVERYONE IS ALLOWED TO BOYCOTT— Let’s say this as simple as possible for a few lessons to hammer a few nails in nice a slow. First, you are allowed to boycott whatever the f–k you want, be that a movie, a politician, stance, or general topic, like say Mulan or the Netflix film Cuties. It’s classic “you do you.” You pick your spots and choose your hills to die on. Choose wisely because Lesson #2 is also in effect. 

LESSON #2: EVERYONE IS ALLOWED TO DISAGREE WITH YOUR BOYCOTT— When you go your “you do you” route, other people are bound to go another direction. If you don’t want them to berate your chosen boycott pillar, don’t shame them when they disagree to match said boycott. That’s the challenge of taking the stances you take. You open yourself as a person up to judgment as much as, if not more, than the chosen topic. That’s where your moral consistency matters more than the topic. Hopefully, those people who have chosen their hills to die on have completed the due diligence of research and reflection to fully inform and understand their decision. If you can’t answer “why” with any substance for the stance you’ve taken, then you’re not ready for your boycott and are doing it wrong. Maybe you need Lesson #3.

LESSON #3: SEE OR LEARN THE THING YOU’RE PISSING AND MOANING ABOUT WITH YOUR BOYCOTT BEFORE YOU “CANCEL” IT— Here’s a full, blunt, and honest first-person admission from me as a person AND as a film critic. If there is one thing I cannot stand, it’s someone who takes on stump speeches, boycotts, and cancel culture movement protests without seeing, experiencing, or learning about the thing you are hating or defending. If you cannot answer that “why” from Lesson #2 with substance, I lose a measure of respect for you, especially if you are pissing and moaning sight unseen for what you are complaining about. Have you seen Netflix’s Cuties? No? Then STFU. Go see the damn thing. Ruffle your feathers. Grit your teeth and get through the thing you supposedly will hate or disagree with. Then you can pass your judgment, light your torches, and take up your pitchforks. You sound infinitely stronger with your boycott if you actually know what the f–k you are talking about with tangible experience. What you need to maybe do (not the case in all things) is Lesson #4.

LESSON #4: PRACTICE SEPARATING THE PRODUCT FROM THE PARTICIPANTS— This is where Mulan rises to be a perfect example of many that apply to this lesson. Disney’s newest re-imagining has been engulfed to a large degree by off-camera controversies of politics and business practices. They have to and will weather that flak. The finished project and its intent is an entirely different thing to judge than the aims and efforts to make it. It may not always work, but you have to try and separate the person from the performance, the product from the producers, and etc. Film critics should review the film as the film in a review. Save the editorial comments that aren’t on screen for a different section of the paper. Mulan is a fine film with excellent entertainment value with likely questionable origins, no doubt. However, you know what, the same can be said about every Tom Cruise, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, or (*insert canceled person*) work. Enjoying the finished product of someone on your chosen cancel list does not condone said person. If we cancelled every piece with any tie to a questionable sidebar issue, you and I wouldn’t have very much to watch. Call it the price of poker. Choose your boycotts accordingly and, again, be ready for Lesson #2 and Lesson #3.

LESSON #5: THIS IS ALL A BUSINESS FIRST AND AN ART EXPOSITION SECOND— I get to this lesson and the biggest nail to drive home that too many people still just don’t get. As soon as the very first movie charged a dime for a ticket, this became a business first and an art exposition second. Art is wonderful, but if it doesn’t make money, you’re not going to get more art that you want, plain and simple. The goal of the studios and the A-list artists is to make money. We would all love if the entertainment and art end of it all mattered more, but it doesn’t. Paychecks win. Disney does what they do, stomping with hubris, washing what they wash, and cutting corners, to make money. Adam Sandler can make his empty threats about an Uncut Gems Oscar nomination for finally going for the art instead of dollar signs, but he was always, always, always going to return to what butter his bread with Hubie Halloween. They can’t cry and neither can you about such #firstworldproblems. If you don’t like it, good, don’t spend your money on said thing, turn the channel, or scroll on by, but be ready for Lesson #2 and Lesson #3 once you open your mouth to piss and moan again.

LESSON #6: IT’S PERFECTLY OK, IN FACT RECOMMENDED OF YOU, TO GROW, EVOLVE, AND CHANGE— Now, I rant all of that to say this. Grow with your art and entertainment. Open your mind to new things and other ways of thinking different from your norms because the world doesn’t revolve around you. Other people have different situations that yours and the judgment you put on it. Likewise, open your heart to empathy that you are missing or haven’t discovered. Have the personal integrity to be willing to change if necessary. You’re not weak to do that. You are wise instead. If you watch Mulan and loved it for what it was, still learn about the bad practices behind it and understand that side of debate. If you abhor the topic of Cuties, good, you can and you should, but learn and understand that the film doesn’t glorify the ugliness you hear about. It’s quite the opposite in fact.

Heed these lessons well and welcome back to “What We Learned This Week.” We’ll go softer next week, I promise, because apparently, it wouldn’t be a WWLTW in 2020 if didn’t talk about Christopher Nolan.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work. (#139)

MOVIE REVIEW: Made in Italy

Rating: R / Runtime: 1 hour and 33 minutes

The story in James D’Arcy’s directorial debut is a familiar one. A character estranged from someone they love learns the truth about why their relationship has fractured and finds reconciliation while spending time together away from their normal lives with a focus on reminiscing about the past. In this particular telling, Jack (Micheál Richardson) is facing an impending divorce and seeks his father’s help to fix up their old house in Tuscany, Italy in order to sell it so that Jack can purchase a London art gallery from his soon to be ex-wife’s family. The villa is in rough shape, requiring much more effort than Jack was expecting, thus increasing the amount of time he and his bohemian artist father Robert (played by Richardson’s real-life Dad, Liam Neeson) must spend together. They argue often about the prospects of selling the family home and a general air of frustration looms due to the inability of the two men to discuss the circumstances of Jack’s dead mother, who died in Italy while he was a young boy, and why his father has been so removed from his life since then. While in Italy, Jack also meets beautiful local chef, restaurant owner, and single mother Natalia (Valeria Bilello), who further complicates his feelings about the future.

With very little imagination, you can likely figure out where this story goes. It is predictable in the most obvious of ways, despite the occasional surprise reveal about Robert and Jack’s past. And yet, the emotional journey “Made in Italy” takes the viewer on goes through so many feelings. It’s got a fair share of sadness and anger but plenty of happiness and hope, as well. Though the characters aren’t deeply developed, Neeson and Richardson (a first-time leading man) pair well together on screen and deliver an extremely believable portrait of these two men and their strained, yet clearly loving, relationship. The film’s mostly a drama with some hilarious natural comedy, but its romantic subplots are also genuinely sweet, handled with respect, and don’t overwhelm the narrative.
Visually, “Made in Italy” is a lovely film to look at. Mike Eley’s cinematography is effective in close-ups of characters and interior locations but really shines when capturing the beauty of the Italian landscape. There is, however, a lack of magic that many associate with Tuscany. Despite showing a few local meals and one particularly wonderful scene where the town comes together to watch an outdoor movie, it felt oddly like a side character when the setting should have been a star. Alex Belcher’s score is one other highlight to note, bringing in just the right soothing sounds to match the emotional beats of the film, and complemented well by a solid soundtrack.

“Made in Italy” is unlikely to be a film that turns heads as it does nothing flashy at all, but it is the kind of movie we simply don’t see much of anymore. There is no sex, there are no drugs, there is no violence, and its characters deal with their very realistic and human problems with maturity, kindness, and understanding, leading to a sweet depiction of relationship restoration that parallels the restoring of the house. I unexpectedly found myself swept up in its uplifting charm and find it to be some good hearty medicine during a difficult time in world history.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Announcing: Substitute Summer Blockbuster Tournament

In 2018 and 2019, Feelin’ Film hosted a Director Battle Month tournament in which multiple directors with four films each faced off in a March Madness-style bracket. The winning film in each quadrant was then covered on the show as one of our August episodes. This year, we’re doing something a little different, and instead of films grouped by specific directors, we are hosting a tournament pitting the biggest summertime box office winners of all-time against each other in the ultimate showdown to establish Feelin’ Film’s favorite summer blockbuster. To make it more interesting and fair, we’ve used box office numbers adjusted for inflation.

How It’s Going to Work

The bracket has been divided by month so each quadrant represents the films released during that time seeded in order of box office haul. The months included are May, June, July, and a combination of April/August.

Beginning on August 4, a selection of polls will be posted in our Feelin’ Film Facebook Discussion Group every Tuesday-Friday through August 21. Members of the group (which is open for anyone to join!) will first determine two play-in winners for each quadrant. These initial polls will each feature the #15-22 box office winners for the given month and the top two vote-getters will enter the tournament field. There are some heavy hitters in these play-in match-ups that could give our #1 and #2 seeds some serious trouble when the main tourney begins!

After the voting ends on August 21 and the Final Four is determined, the Feelin’ Film team will get together and record a podcast episode debating and deciding what the championship match-up, third-place winner, and ultimate victor will be. If we can find a way to record this episode live and engage in chat, we will, but at the very least we will release a special episode of the podcast with this conversation where we battle it out and announce the results.

We’re extremely excited for this event and hope that you’ll join us in the Facebook group for voting and discussion as we collectively determine our favorite Summer blockbuster!

The Field

MAY

JUNE

JULY

April/August

The Full Bracket (before Play-in winners) can be seen below and downloaded. Feel free to follow along at home and make your own predictions as to what film will emerge victoriously.

Substitute Summer Blockbuster Bracket

What We Learned This Week: July 20-26

LESSON #1: WE ALL KNOW AND REMEMBER THE COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCE— I don’t want to get all Mufasa of The Lion King with a “Remember, who you are” or, worse, an Alan Jackson post-9/11 country song of “Remember When” because, in honesty, this whole “I haven’t seen a movie in forever” rant that gets tossed around has only been a few months. That’s a mere drop in our life’s bucket in the grand scheme of things. Look, I get it. Sitting at home on a TV or computer screen isn’t the same. We miss going to the movies, and the movies miss us too (or rather our money, more on that next). Nothing beats the collective and communal experience. Former Roger Ebert wingman Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times made it to very spaced-out Music Box Theatre in Chicago for a 70mm screening of Interstellar after 126 days since being in a theater. The joy and comfort came back to him and he poured that out in a lovely column. What happened for Richard, can and will happen for us. It will be wonderful when it does. It will just take time, namely the right time.

LESSON #2: NO STUDIO IS GOING TO LEAVE NINE FIGURES OF MONEY ON THE TABLE— Sigh. I feel like every week this summer here in WWLTW I have to keep talking about Tenet. Finally this week, it received the full “indefinite” delay that it should have gotten months ago. Was that enough to finally get Nolanites to chill and accept reality? Just like his mind-bending films, the answer was no. The hubris continued with speculation it would at least play in China or Europe or some newfangled staggered rollout. Let’s keep banging the table. Folks, it ain’t gonna happen because Warner Bros. is not going to release a movie, especially one that needs $800 million to make it to the black, without its biggest market. They won’t accept less. They would be asking for torrent piracy to swoop in and spoil their golden goose. You can wish all you want, but it’s time to move on. This is where our #firstworldproblems are at: 

LESSON #3: ANY DYING BUSINESS IS GOING TO DEMAND THEIR SURVIVAL EVEN IF IT IS BAD FOR BUSINESS—It’s ugly, yet understandable. The whole industry is swirling an ugly and uncertain drain to against an invincible threat that cannot be wished away or bought. Similar to the predicament schools are in (and, boy, as a teacher, let me tell you about this rocking boat) about what’s best for re-opening, movie theaters are weighing options and recommendations with desperation. For theaters, as evident by the sentiments of the National Association Theater Owners, their answer is anger and frustration with every studio delay like Tenet. “Urge” is becoming “should.” And “should” is starting to sound like “demand.” Things are looking like mid-2021 at best. Unlike schools, their direct survival at the industry level is on the line. They have a bankruptcy gun barrel either pushed to their temple or inserted in their own mouth. Schools, on the other hand, have viable alternatives. I’d hate to be in those budget meetings right now in Hollywood. 

LESSON #4: EMBRACE THE PARANOIA— Earlier during this COVID quarantine, the hot social distance water cooler movies to see where the virus-based thrillers like Outbreak and Contagion. Months later, more and more of the craziness is setting in and more tin foil hats are going on. Let some or your movie consumption dive into that. Blake Collier of Film Inquiry posted a recent piece on what paranoid cinema says about ourselves and society. It’s an excellent read and filled with stellar films to sample. Dip your toe in the loony waters and have fun.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work. (#138)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Rental

Rating: R / Runtime: 1 hour and 28 minutes

The shift in technology has made the world more connected but has rendered the concept of privacy obsolete. There is no place on Earth that can remain hidden from the all-seeing eye of a camera, cell phone, drone, or other tools of video surveillance. Forgive the paranoia afflicted prose of these opening sentences but it would be a lie to sugarcoat the truth. Outside of birthday party recollections and vacation memories, the idea of recording can carry a dark undercurrent of sadism when left in the hands of unsavory characters. “Somebody’s Watching Me” is not just a slice of 80s pop music cheese; it’s the spine chilling predicament of four friends embarking on a mini weekend getaway in sunny California. 

Dave Franco’s directorial debut, “The Rental,” sticks a flag in the ever-increasing field of thrillers dealing with the negatives of technology gone awry. What was supposed to be a vacation in the space of a luxurious beachfront house filled with smiles, drug experimentation, and couples bonding closer gets turned sour into a game of survival. Survival not consisting of just life or death but also the ability to keep secrets and deception from reaching the surface. Charlie (Dan Stevens), Michelle (Allison Brie), Mina (Shelia Vand), and Josh (Jeremy White) represent our group under the watchful eye of a mysterious peeping tom who stalks and lurks unknowingly. Unfortunately, only one character (Josh) out of the four subjects has their own personality, fears, and desires fleshed out while the others are simply empty vessels.

Notwithstanding the lack of interesting characters, the story plays out like a kid not knowing their limitations when it comes to eating candy. Franco has a road ahead of him that could lead to a competent career behind the camera but he has some lessons to learn. His handling of the narrative elements is to carry different subplots that could all work as one film on their own; instead, they are jumbled together leading to an illogical cinematic clutter. One subplot provides the stakes of keeping a love affair hidden while the other wrinkle follows the predicament of the homeowner himself that feels untrustworthy. One of these plots could have carried all the way home but this is a case of doing too much when simple would work better. 

Good can be found in the short 88-minute runtime, specifically when the characters are forced out of their cocoon of comfort having to match wits with the unseen villain in new major twists. The main thing that decreases the level of enjoyment is found with character flaws that reek of a lack of common sense. There is nothing worse in a horror film than being treated to a lack of character intelligence. People still not realizing that they can’t commit perfect murders or solve uncomfortable dilemmas by calling for help is laughable in the bad sense of the word. By the end, it is not a shocking conclusion that lies waiting for the characters.

“The Rental” is a horror/thriller mashup that carries the ethos of a decent film but exits the room with a mark of incompletion. 

Rating:


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Aaron’s Top 100 Movies (2020 Edition)

Recently I made a major change to how I rate films, doing away with half-stars altogether in favor of a simplified system with only 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 stars as an option. My hope is that by taking away the additional complication of half-stars, I will be able to more accurately rate films on the first go-around. It’s no secret that I struggle with hype and I often find myself using half-stars only to scale ratings back when the end of the year rolls around and I take another look at them. Additionally, and more importantly, I’ve come to thoroughly embrace the conversations that we have about film online in places like our Feelin’ Film Discussion Group and in person at work. What I desire is for the words in my written reviews, on my podcast, or spoken in conversation to tell you more about my feelings for a film than the number assigned to it. To that end, simplifying my ratings means if you want to understand what distinguishes films in a certain group (say my 4-star rating) from each other, you’ll have to actually read what I have to say or… gasp… ask me about them.

With this change came a mass re-rating project, and after completing that and noticing that I am 2.5 years removed from my last Top 100 list, this was the perfect opportunity to give it an update. As always is the case, gray hairs emerged during this painful process as I tried to distinguish between beloved films. As always, my list is ever-changing, but this serves as a current reflection of my personal cinematic taste – a snapshot view of the cinephile that I am at this moment in time. I hope that as you read through this list you might be able to learn a little about who I am as a person by seeing what type of stories I love the most.

Note: For the purposes of this list, any film with an asterisk (*) after it represents its series or trilogy and is only used in cases where all films of the series are rated as 5-star. The arrows and numbers after each title them are just a fun little addition that shows a film’s movement since the last edition of this list. You can see the previous editions here:

2017 Top 100
2018 Top 100

This is my list. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

#1 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring *  —  —
#2 The Princess Bride 3
#3 It’s a Wonderful Life 1
#4 Top Gun 11
#5 Before Sunrise * 4
#6 Casablanca 3
#7 La La Land  —  —
#8 12 Angry Men 4
#9 The Last of the Mohicans 7
#10 Interstellar 4
#11 Die Hard 46
#12 The Lion King 40
#13 Jaws 5
#14 The Dark Knight 7
#15 Jurassic Park 2
#16 Toy Story * 2
#17 Your Name. 41
#18 Raiders of the Lost Ark 1
#19 The Prestige 8
#20 Beauty and the Beast 44
#21 Star Wars 7
#22 The Shawshank Redemption 19
#23 Sleeping Beauty 15
#24 Black Hawk Down 46
#25 Full Metal Jacket 13
#26 The Sound of Music 10
#27 Memento 40
#28 Lawrence of Arabia 9
#29 Titanic NEW NEW
#30 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 36
#31 The Wizard of Oz 11
#32 Children of Men 27
#33 Kill Bill * NEW NEW
#34 Singin’ in the Rain 11
#35 Groundhog Day 42
#36 Back to the Future 25
#37 The Departed 56
#38 Gladiator 13
#39 Mary Poppins 21
#40 The Social Network    
#41 The Nightmare Before Christmas 9
#42 Scream 1
#43 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl NEW NEW
#44 Hell or High Water 36
#45 Terminator 2: Judgment Day NEW NEW
#46 My Neighbor Totoro 1
#47 Fast Five NEW NEW
#48 The Incredibles 28
#49 Lost in Translation NEW NEW
#50 Gone Girl NEW NEW
#51 Blade Runner 2049 * 41
#52 Forrest Gump NEW NEW
#53 Tombstone 3
#54 Fight Club 20
#55 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs NEW NEW
#56 Happy Gilmore NEW NEW
#57 The Fault in Our Stars NEW NEW
#58 The Rock NEW NEW
#59 The Bridge on the River Kwai 15
#60 Se7en 31
#61 Armageddon NEW NEW
#62 Young Guns NEW NEW
#63 Avengers: Infinity War NEW NEW
#64 The Great Gatsby NEW NEW
#65 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade NEW NEW
#66 Alien 53
#67 Kubo and the Two Strings NEW NEW
#68 WALL*E NEW NEW
#69 Ex Machina 3
#70 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World 35
#71 The Avengers NEW NEW
#72 The Cabin in the Woods 12
#73 Pitch Perfect NEW NEW
#74 The Hunt for Red October NEW NEW
#75 Inception 48
#76 Creed NEW NEW
#77 Wreck-it Ralph NEW NEW
#78 Reservoir Dogs 10
#79 Little Women NEW NEW
#80 How To Train Your Dragon NEW NEW
#81 Almost Famous 51
#82 Friday Night Lights NEW NEW
#83 TRON: Legacy NEW NEW
#84 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban NEW NEW
#85 Crazy, Stupid, Love NEW NEW
#86 Gravity NEW NEW
#87 Les Misérables NEW NEW
#88 Hamilton NEW NEW
#89 Con Air NEW NEW
#90 The Empire Strikes Back 44
#91 10 Cloverfield Lane NEW NEW
#92 Reality Bites 23
#93 Rashomon 60
#94 Vertigo 70
#95 Moon 10
#96 Rocky NEW NEW
#97 First Man NEW NEW
#98 Passengers NEW NEW
#99 Whiplash 21
#100 A Star is Born (2018) NEW NEW
  • It’s not unlikely for films to enter/leave/re-enter this list, but any film that has dropped out at one point and come back on is still designated as “NEW” just to keep things simple.

Link to list on Letterboxd

Like it? Hate it? Think I’m crazy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.