My top 10 films:
I doubt that this masterwork will be topped in my lifetime. An extraordinary play turned into an extraordinary film by one of the greatest living film makers. In this film, very much like in Mozart's music, nothing feels out of place or wrong. Sequences driven by godly music and academy award winning acting drive the compelling story forward with incredible power and perfection. Amadeus rightfully swept the 1985 Academy Awards.
Showing in uncompromising realism and detail the last few days of Hitler's life, Downfall is an exceptional masterpiece. The film draws the viewer in through it's somber desolation. Silent moments and almost overbearingly realistic scenes make the viewer feel as if they are in Hitler's bunker in the last days of the war. I am left feeling like the world came to an end when the masterful coda of this elegy finally draws to a close.
#3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
This film is hard to review. It's absolutely brilliant in the way it achieves epic levels without any battle scenes, special effects, or anything technically extravagant. It's funny in places, heart breaking in others, and overall is a multi-layered masterwork completely on par with Forman's later masterpiece "Amadeus." The way it ensnares and entrances the viewer is almost unexplainable. A true masterpiece.
#4. Schindler's List.
In my opinion, Schindler's List and Downfall are the two greatest World War II films ever made. Watching one after the other, they don't seem to match as a series of any sort, but that's exactly the point. One side of the situation (the jews, the concentration camps, the ghettos) was entirely different than the other side (Hitler's private life, the lives of all his close friends). That's what's so great about putting those two films together. And of course, Schindler's List is a brilliant piece of film making. I've counted at least seven "cinematic sequences" in the film, on par with the most gripping musically driven sequences from Amadeus.
#5. The Fellowship of the Ring.
No other team could have brought The Lord of the Rings to the screen the way Peter Jackson and his team did. Absolute perfection in all areas of film making for this one. The music and the cinematography in particular are what make this film so spectacular. A true masterpiece. Almost a modern Amadeus in the fantasy genre.
Babel cuts abruptly between Japan, Morocco, and Mexico, covering four different stories, and succeeding on every level in spite of the fact that the four stories aren't even happening at the same time. In Iñárritu's previous films, his technique of jumping around between stories was a little disorienting, and sometimes distractingly abrupt, but in Babel it's as smooth as a river, and even when he cuts abruptly from a japanese club to a moroccan desert, the viewer doesn't feel confused. He melds these four tragic stories together seamlessly, and the result is a brilliant kaleidoscopic film that grips the viewer merely by the brilliance in which it moves.
#7. Life is Beautiful.
I'd call Roberto Benigni the "modern day Chaplin" if he had made more than one masterpiece. The Tiger and the Snow was good, but nothing in comparison to his eternal gem "Life is Beautiful." He did something that nobody else succeeded to do. He brought to the screen a completely fictional fairy tale, full of ridiculously unrealistic events and impossible scenarios, that still operates on a brilliant level. The messages of love, connection, and the pure genius in which Benigni plays out the film, transcend the need for a realistic story. And the music is absolutely beautiful.
#8. City Lights.
Charlie Chaplin has the ability to walk on the very thin line between comedy and tragedy without falling off. City Lights is hilarious and tragic at the same time. The physical comedy is masterfully executed, and the result of Chaplin's ability to meld that with a deep storyline, creates one of the greatest films ever made. Pure genius.
#9. Modern Times.
Another Chaplin masterwork. Basically the same things I said about City Lights apply here. It's an absolutely whole and perfected masterpiece that incorporates almost every human emotion in it's delicate folds. How Chaplin achieved that balance between comedy and tragedy is beyond me. It's absolutely amazing.
#10. The Circus.
Yet another Chaplin film. The Circus, while it does have deep moments, and overall a very serious storyline, presents itself primarily as a comedy. And it's one of the best comedies i've ever seen. The stunts and the physical comedy in this film are brilliant. Just brilliant.