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.

What We Learned This Week: July 21-27

LESSON #1: IT’S TIME TO ACCEPT FAN SERVICE AT ALL LEVELS— I’m finding, more often than not no matter the size and prestige of the film in question, that nods, homages, and little shout outs work 90% of the time.  It’s time to stop frowning upon them unless it’s really, really fruitless. I’m borrowing a paragraph from my Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood review on the topic: 

“Do this critic a favor. If you read one pretentious person bitching about the so-called “fan service” of a popcorn Star Wars movie in one place while praising the throwback accuracy, endless references, and the buffet of cultural callbacks of this or other Tarantino movies, punch them in the face for being a hypocrite (or write them a mean tweet, either one). Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood has massive nostalgia for fan service aimed a different generation at quadruple the rate of the younger genre fare those cinephiles frown upon. Geeky, blatant homage has always been the part of the hodgepodge of Tarantino. It’s an expected calling card, a borrowed ladder, and part of what makes him brilliant. If it’s standing ovation praiseworthy for a so-called auteur like Quentin, then it should be for other filmmakers.”

LESSON #2: BECOME A BETTER MOVIE FAN— Seeing the splashy mix of pop culture and auteur chops dropping from Quentin Tarantino reminds me of this recent short, encouraging article from Matt Goldberg in Collider in Collider pleading “How to Graduate to Being a Better Movie Fan” and another from Tim Dirks called “Tips on Film Viewing” on AMC’s Filmsite  You can’t come into Once Upon a Time.. In Hollywood without a little homework and a wider eyes compared to just another popcorn blockbuster with low, spoon-fed stakes and basic style.  His whole filmography is a great entry-level course in being a better fan and viewer. The more attuned and learned you are to the craft at hand, the more you will notice and appreciate, especially in an epic like the new Tarantino film.  Goldberg’s article gives the modern, social media-connected crowd of today accessible starting steps that don’t require taking some college film class, and Dirks’ column gives easy nuts-and-bolts steps to follow as well. Give both short articles a look.  In Tarantino is too hard, take a step to channel your newfound advice of watching bad films right on over to Patrick Willem’s new reflection on the Joel Schumacher Batman films from his latest video piece:

 

LESSON #3: ADJUST YOUR TECHNICAL SETTINGS ALONG WITH YOUR VIEWING EXPERIENCE— If you’re going to start watching movies better, make sure they look and sound right.  Renowned Willems-recommend film critic Bilge Ebiri wrote an outstanding column entitled “Motion Smoothing is Ruining Cinema” for Vulture.  This echoes Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s PSA hoping viewers see their newest Mission: Impossible film properly last summer.  Ebiri and Cruise offer the “why” and the article and embedded video tutorials offer the how.  Follow the tips, especially if you have newer televisions. Do right by the experiences you’re absorbing.  

LESSON #4: TURN UP THE HEAT ON YOUR “NETFLIX AND CHILL” MOVES— Before or after adjusting your TV set, here in the recommendation slot of my weekly column, I got a hearty kick out an article discovery this week from Bustle magazine that floated across the social media currents on the number of “dirty movies” that are on Netflix.  Writer Katherine Cusumano highlights eleven top picks that are kinky and steamy enough versus the streaming service’s porn-free policy.  From Magic Mike (aw yeah!) to Gaspar Noe’s Love (yowzers!), the steam is waiting for your rising thermostat.  Raise your game, couch gymnasts, with some titillating cinematic inspiration.  

 


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.  (#109)

Episode 052: The Notebook

We boldly go where Feelin’ Film has not gone before – into the romance zone. This week we’re talking about a beloved romantic classic, based on a book by celebrated author Nicholas Sparks, it’s The Notebook. Our conversation leads places we didn’t expect that it would and we discover a depth to this story that really resonated with us both. It’s a week unlike any other so sit back and enjoy the discussion.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:02:01

(Patrick – The People vs. O.J. Simpson)

(Aaron – Creed, Smurfs: The Lost Village, Bond films)

The Notebook Review – 0:15:01

The Connecting Point – 1:08:56

Download this Episode


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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