School is inching up on us, and it’s time to cram some movies in between episodes of the new Netflix TV series Stranger Things. Here is my subjective attempt at objectively ranking the best movies on Netflix.
25. Braveheart (1995)
Mel Gibson plays a vigorously awe-inspiring William Wallace in this distressing—yet inspiring—story. Perhaps it overindulges in combat, and perhaps it wasn’t as directed or edited as well as the rest of these, but Braveheart exceeds its goals in creating a stirring, emotional piece of entertainment. Every person should give it a go at some point, both for its historical significance and its emotionally exhilarating story. Also, shoutout to King Longshanks, as he had a few scenes funny enough to put him on the anti-hero podium (but far behind Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight and Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator, of course).
24. The Princess Bride (1987)
It has its own meme-friendly sense of charm and humor that no other film can quite capture. There’s enough fun adventure and clever cheesiness for everybody in this film. If you’re looking for momentum and reality, go elsewhere, but remember that The Princess Bride is the perfect casual view on a lazy day with friends or family. Speaking of Longshanks and shoutouts, cheers to Camp Alpine for showcasing a few timelessly funny scenes in this film.
23. Particle Fever (2013)
Quite antithetical to Braveheart, Particle Fever squeezes an immense, esoteric education into one short documentary. I won’t say it’s “fun” to watch per se; nonetheless, it’s important for the world to know the marvelous accomplishments of one of the best scientific discoveries of all time. As for fellow fanatics of theoretical physics, particle accelerators, and awesomely paced documentaries, this is your Godfather. Hooray for physics class.
22. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
This Shakespeare tale imprints a dark red slap on the cheeks of all the so-called “chick flicks” in the world by maintaining an illustrious sense of romance throughout an already captivating and unique plot. Though not historically accurate, it deals Romeo and Juliet—as well as its seven Oscars—real justice. Don’t skip over this film merely because you’re a tough guy, and don’t cast this at the bottom of the list if you’re a hopeless romantic female who has enough romance to watch.
21. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
The only Spanish-language film on the list, Y Tu Mamá También is an energetic, warm-blooded, flesh-loving experience about friendship, life, romance, and plenty more. Reminding us that we don’t always need to flush the lust out of a story until it’s sanitized enough to appease everyone, this film is exhilarating and extremely well-written. I can’t say I recommend this film to family environments (sorry mom), but it’s a worthy symbol of youth that we can all appreciate somewhere on our paths of life.
20. Chicken Run (2000)
Sadly this is the only animated feature on my list, especially it’s often overlooked for its subtle brilliance. I blame the lack of quality animated Netflix films on the oligarchy of Pixar, Disney, and Studio Ghibli. Anyway, Chicken Run is a thrilling little slapstick that lays down some really daunting metaphorical implications—all packed into a fun, rich Claymation miracle. Maybe you were mistakenly shown this film when you were young (as did I) and don’t wish to revisit Chicken Run, but keep in mind that it’s targeted primarily at adults (I mean Mel Gibson from Braveheart
19. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
To Kill a Mockingbird plants a firm time capsule of genuine American realism, and its already touching story is dressed in linen by Gregory Peck’s performance as Atticus Finch. Disregard the fools who hover around shouting “the book is better!” at any opportunity possible and you’ll find an art in this film that ardently works to earn everyone’s sentiment. Let us hope that this story evades the churning entropy of time and remains relevant until racism is eventually squashed out.
18. Traffic (2000)
Politics aside, this film is directed, acted, and executed at the highest standard. Traffic examines America’s war on drugs in a kaleidoscope of intertwining lives: a conservative judge who’s spearheading the campaign, his cocaine addict daughter, a jailed drug lord’s trophy wife—whose fate lies in the hands of a witness and two DEA agents—and a Mexican cop, sandwiched between two corrupt sides, who’s fighting an ethical dilemma. As one would imagine from such a well-received narrative, it’s an electrifying, contemplative, and thrilling triumph of a film.
17. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
If you saw Bipolar Meltdown, my most popular post by several thousand views, you may have figured that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence would ooze their way onto this list. Silver Linings Playbook pitches incredible, transcendental fastballs of uncrazed craziness, uncomplicated complications, and dramatic scenes of normality. Likewise, it creates heightened moments—of anything from mental health insanity to fulfilled glory in achieving life goals—in the most banal moments. Fluffy adjectives aside, Silver Linings Playbook is the perfect edgy romance comedy; it produces a hilarious, easy-to-relate-to film in a bizarre, classic American world. Don’t neglect this one if you want a new “go to” movie. Jennifer Lawrence will be watching you otherwise.
16. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
Banksy. If you’re familiar with this infamous, anonymous criminal/genius who has etched socioeconomic and artistic commentary on the walls of cities across the planet’s surface, then you’ll find this documentary fascinating. Directed by Banksy himself, this doc examines his work, as well as that of Invader, Shepard Fairey, and other world-famous graffiti artists. The entire film is also ironic because it was created by these very artists, whom a French shopkeeper and filmmaker gathered together for a new movie, and turns the camera on him. All in all, Exit Through the Gift Shop is some fantastic avant-garde art. Also, here’s an example of a Banksy piece, and you might see more of him on my blog soon.
15. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
In typical Kubrick fashion, Full Metal Jacket reflects a perfectly imperfect script. Examining the dehumanizing and hierarchical turmoil that Vietnam era Marines were tucked into, Full Metal Jacket explores psychology, allegiance, and intellectualism in a bizarre two-segment war film. It’s nothing like any combat related movie you’ve seen, and It’s funny how Full Metal Jacket and The Shining, despite their immense popularity after three decades of playing, dwindle in comparison to some other Stanley Kubrick films, but that’s less of an insult and more of a testament to his important role within the history of film. (See: Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lolita, and Barry Lyndon.)
14. Short Term 12 (2013)
Short Term 12 a delicate yet passionate creation; it’s modest in scope (and budget) but almost overwhelming in its emotional intricacy. Brie Larson, who stunned everybody with her performance in last year’s Room, single-handedly raises Hollywood’s bar for emotionally naked acting in this film. It’s safe to say that she’s among the most elite of actresses now. Honestly, I didn’t get around to this film until last week, but it truly is one of the realest, most powerful dramas of the decade—in this one that glides around a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers. If I can describe one film on this list as “important,” here’s your winner.
13. Good Will Hunting (1997)
This film boasts a level of integrity and intelligence that squeezes into the hems of main character Will Hunting’s pants just perfectly. It’s strange how Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were pioneers in exhibiting tough love, intellectual audacity, and criticizing the NSA—all through this incredible script they wrote together. But let’s be real: every single character in this film nailed those roles, even the weird plagiarist dude who gets verbally obliterated by Matt Damon in the bar scene. How you like them apples? Seriously though, Good Will Hunting is not perfect in its acute technical aspects, but each of its genius, moving flickers of humanity are worth your money—as if Robin Williams’s presence isn’t enough already.
12. Man on Wire (2008)
If you’re familiar with the style and pacing of documentaries, you’ll find yourself quickly applauding Man on Wire. And if you’re not, you’ll be satisfied enough sweating and marveling over the greatest human stunt ever accomplished. Spoiler: it’s about Philippe Petit’s illegal 45-minute performance on a wire strung between the roofs of the Twin Towers. By all accounts, it’s a perfect documentary. Also, to top things off with a quote from the best critic in cinema history, Roger Ebert, “Man on Wire is about the vanquishing of the towers by bravery and joy, not by terrorism.”
11. Django Unchained (2012)
Unchain the most fearsome mad genius in the film world and equip him with a few random props, four good actors, and bundles of money if you want to see anything comparable to Django. Loaded with graphic violence, absurd dialogue, and deliberately histrionic explosion scenes, Django proves yet again that Quentin Tarantino can develop any cross-cultural mash into one of the most fascinating black cult comedies ever. I can’t get enough of him, and he’s not done with this list. Enjoy the ridiculous last hour of this film.
10. Back to the Future (1985)
Perhaps the most popular movie in my top 10? Maybe. Back to the Future is one of the most timeless “mainstream” films because because it supplies a cartoonish, innocent charm to a complex scientific concept. Not many films can spin a tail that earns equal adoration from Baby Boomers and Millennials alike; Back to the Future is the touchstone for such a accomplishment. Most of you all have probably heard enough about Back to the Future so I’ll shut up.
9. Spotlight (2015)
This year’s Best Picture winner at the Oscars will pleasantly touch you in an unpleasant way (sorry, couldn’t resist the opportunity). Among many other feats, it objectively deconstructs the politics and business behind secret-keeping in a subtle, nerdy way. And, by accurately representing the difficult task the Boston Globe newspaper completed in exposing thousands of worldwide child molestation cases against the Catholic Clergy, it canonizes the spirit of diligent journalism . Moreover, if you consider yourself a film connoisseur, know that Spotlight will woe you with its brilliant screenplay, acting, directing, pacing, and editing.
8. Hoop Dreams (1994)
In one of the most hallowed years in film history, Hoop Dreams represents the indie underdog. Following two inner-city Chicago boys whose “hoop dreams ” extend as far as the NBA, this documentary examines the students’ complexity and tenacity, as well as their high school basketball careers, and touches upon the textures of their lives as they aim for college basketball scholarship. It shows their personal trials, the double-edged influence of sports in the US, and an unremitting desire to persevere through it all. Hoop Dreams is definitely a mystical, wonderful three hour experience.
7. American Beauty (1999)
Every movie from this point onward is a genuine masterpiece, let me tell you. American Beauty kicks off that assertion with a tart, sobering drama that expertly satirizes suburban life. Don’t let the title and opening scenes fool you though. This movie allocates little importance to the girl on the cover. In reality, it’s a blood-chilling dark comedy that will really make you question pretty much everything. And if you don’t like films with bad endings, you’re in the right place: THIS ENDING IS INSANE. I cannot applaud American Beauty, as well as Kevin Spacey’s lead performance, enough. P.S. Please comment your reactions on the ending if you end up watching this Oscar Best Picture winner soon.
6. There Will Be Blood (2007)
Honestly I like No Country For Old Men, which competed with this film for virtually every Oscar in the fantastic film year 2007, more, but there’s no denying that There Will Be Blood is the perfect film for the American Dream. It encapsulates the notion of Manifest Destiny in its bleak, intense rendition of a man who will do EVERYTHING to strike oil and get rich. The difference between this film and a U.S. history book is that, while both capture the context of the early twentieth century California oil frenzy, this film will grip you hard enough to send you right into the scene with Daniel Plainview, the skeptical, soul-less business lord—played impeccably by Daniel Day-Lewis. The cast, the director, the cinematography- it’s an immaculate symphony of heavenly instruments.
5. The Truman Show (1998)
Jim Carrey is famous for some absurd reasons (at least among my generation), yet ironically enough he often passes unacknowledged for his brilliance in his lead role in The Truman show. Granted, he doesn’t convince the way Spacey and Day-Lewis did in the above films, but he’s just fine as the simple, confused teen who’s literally trapped in a false reality. This film is a provocative, sinister, adventurous slice of the 90’s that will long survive us humans. And who knows, maybe each of us is being filmed and scrutinized in worlds all across the cosmos!
4. Almost Famous (2000)
“Oh, what a lovely film,” Rogert Ebert remarked in his 100/100 rating of Almost Famous. “I was almost hugging myself while I watched it.” My one complaint about the film is that Patrick Fugit’s face is so punch-able, and I couldn’t resist wanting to “put this kid in line” throughout the two hours. On a serious note, this work really encapsulates the entire experience of the Led Zeppelin era bands—from the hardcore fans jamming chords in their bedrooms to the groupies that prance around on the buses to the crazy road trips to the blockbuster concerts to the “live free or die hard” mentality of the 70’s and 80’s—all while developing an entertaining, multi-layered plot. A must see of a cultural enigma.
3. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Roger Ebert, whom I might as well keep referring to, called Apocalypse Now “One of the great films of all time. It shames modern Hollywood’s timidity. To watch it is to feel yourself lifted up to the heights where the cinema can take you, but so rarely does.” It’s a film that has aged to a vibe of mysterious, mellow perfection—a masterpiece that stacks up with director Francis Ford Coppola’s opus The Godfather—and entails magnificence in all of its attributes. It’s thrilling, vibrant, ingenious, spellbinding, and visually stunning. The uneven, episodic peaks are stringed together with a consistent power of emotion, and the cinematography—which I must again emphasize—was tremendous for its time (and all times). If you can ever direct two and a half hours of undivided attention to something, which I might not ever accomplish, then point it to Apocalypse Now.
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Against all odds, Jim Carrey makes my top 5 twice! Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind might slip on other lists due to its young age and indie nature, but this film is—in my honest opinion—one of the best ever made. Unpacking years of tense, bitter sourness in a relationship gone sour—only to gradually reminisce the wonderful, ageless memories—Eternal Sunshine warps through all of the dynamics of a man and woman’s common experience in a fascinating, original, sci-fi approach. Confused? One of the main plot points is that Joel Barish (Jim Carrey), heartbroken that his girl Clementine (Kate Winslet + blue hair) underwent a procedure to erase him from her memory, decides to do the same. This film is EXTREMELY intellectually stimulating, FASCINATING in its nonlinear scatter of scenes and memories, IMAGINATIVE in its visual exploration of the mind (and its dreams and memories), and TRIUMPHANT in its final product as a peculiar romantic journey of two people. In my subjective taste, I find either this film or American Beauty to be my favorite on Netflix, but there’s no doubt in my mind what deserves the impartial rank of #1 on Netflix…
1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Prelude: Hardly ever are the most tasteful and masterful of tasteful and masterful works adored by everyone, especially in the immediate years after exposure. In terms of music and painting, think Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Picasso, and van Gogh; these brilliant artists were all way ahead of their time, and it’s hard for everyone to understand their avant-garde, challenging art (which explains why one of Radiohead’s least wonderful and experimental songs “Creep” is the extremely famous one—same thing with Kendrick’s new album To Pimp A Butterfly, one of the best ever, and its not-quite-as-amazing hit “King Kunta” ). But every once in a while there’s a person, band, or thing that’s both top of the top and well-received by everybody; think Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd (you must be well-received if you can manage to sell Dark Side of the Moon merch to teens who’ve never even heard the album), Michael Jackson, Game of Thrones, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci- even Pixar movies. The next few decades will decide Pulp Fiction’s fate within this dilemma.
When my parents saw this in theaters upon its 1994 release, they walked out during the first scene. Eventually, my Dad got a hold of the DVD and loved it. I mention my personal experiences because Pulp Fiction is an extremely personal excursion, and I cannot consciously say that all audiences will appreciate this film. Pulp Fiction is, to some, the most bizarre, offensive, brutal film ever—and I totally understand if it’s not your cup of tea. But to me, as well as virtually every film critic in the world (since they’ve seen enough dark stuff in their careers) and millions of younger folks, Pulp Fiction is a PERFECT black cult comedy. An even better version of Quentin Tarantino’s other film on this list, Django Unchained, Pulp Fiction seduces all of the audiences into a temporary, wild cult: it forces you to give up all your morals, forget what it means to watch a movie of linear progression, think very carefully about the blasphemous comedic chain of overly-zealous jokes, and not flinch when you see a man’s head accidentally blown off in the backseat of the car. Pulp Fiction, the first masterwork of the post-modern pop culture generation for many of us, thoroughly sucks you into Tarantino’s improvised world, defined by two hilarious, clever hitmen (John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson); a sexy, open-minded trophy wife (Uma Thurman); a washed up boxer (Bruce Willis); a manipulative mob boss; and a pair of diner bandits—whose lives are all intertwined (just like Traffic but nothing like Traffic) in a large town.
It’s too offensive if you watch it as a quasi realistic story, rather than an art piece; too stupid if you let the dialogue and acting pass as nothing less than histrionic; and a pointless, boring experience if you watch it passively. Otherwise, you can watch it a dozen times—throughout the (insert its many countless, freakish dialogue and action scenes, which I just listed out and then erased because I don’t want to spoil anything)—and laugh your head off at this scintillating crime/drama/comedy/art/whatever you wish to call it. For those of you who’ve seen it, feel free to supply some of Tarantino’s many ludicrous quotes; for those who haven’t, do yourself a favor and give Pulp Fiction at least one shot. I think American Beauty and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are my “favorite” films on this list, but the almighty, paradoxical, visionary, facetious, captivating, Pulp Fiction—complete with technically excellent music, dance choreography, fighting, acting, directing, and screenwriting—earned the right to rest on my Netflix throne.
No Country For Old Men (2007)
This film, which comes out on Netflix tomorrow, August 11th, changes everything about the list. I’d probably place it right above Apocalypse Now as #3 (and even consider slipping it under Pulp Fiction at #2). The Best Picture winner at the 2008 Oscars—over There Will Be Blood—No Country pieces scenes together amidst an implacable bleakness that only, again, There Will Be Blood matches. But No Country—an intense, nihilistic thriller that slivers into your body and scrapes at your fears under your skin, all due to the unemotional, psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) with a unique murder weapon at his disposal—feels postively Greek in its magnitude, a lament about fate, age, time, and life. The Coen brothers, its directors, constructed the scenes so flawlessly that you want them to continue, and yet they create an emotional suction drawing you to the next scene. Despite wrapping itself around the haggard film motifs of drugs, murder, and the Wild West, No Country For Old Men is by all means a defectless treasure.
25 Honorable Mentions:
Gladiator, Saturday Night Live, Amadeus, Phoenix, The Exorcist, Life Itself, Sling Blade, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Restrepo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 13 Assassins, The Act of Killing, Requiem For The American Dream, To Catch a Thief, Last Days in Vietnam, The Usual Suspects, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Food, Inc., Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, The Endless Summer, Blancanieves, The Babadook, and Amélie.
P.S. I must include that this site is reaching almost a thousand views every day, while also racking up tons of hourly comments, emails, and other forms of feedback. I love it, but can no longer respond to every message and still maintain a pragmatic social life. So I need to emphasize that you all are expanding my open-mindedness, showering me with inspiration, and constantly stimulating my mind towards new ideas and topics. Honestly, it has been almost overwhelming (which is why I’ve refrained from posting since my Kauai trip), having kept me up thinking until 5 or 6 a.m. at times, but I’m truly grateful for the direction it has taken me. I’ve also finally decided that I want to be an author (but I’ll stick with this blog and continue its improvement too). Thanks so much for your help. Last of all—as usual—”Thanks for reading and please squeeze those precious seconds of your day to like, comment, share, and follow if possible.“