5. The Dark Knight
Despite the recent video that showed some continuity issues in some of The Dark Knight's sequences I don't freaking care. This movie is everything that we want in a comic book movie. Batman has always been my favorite super hero for several reasons. The first being that he doesn't actually have any powers. Bruce Wayne is a self-made superhero and that, to me, is awesome. But he is also conflicted as perhaps one of the darkest heroes we have ever met. He constantly struggles with the complexity of Batman and what that symbol must represent to the city of Gotham. He sacrifices his personal life and relationships to save this city that shows him nothing but disgrace in return. The Dark Knight captures this essence of Batman perfectly. Heath Ledger's turn as The Joker is one of the most memorable performances in the history of Hollywood and rightfully so. Every single person who has seen the movie remembers how they felt when he smashed the guy's face into the pencil, or the disturbing irony of seeing him applaud commissioner Gordon from his prison cell. He represented such an incredible foe for Batman who attacked from the inside. Forcing Batman to break his own rules and finding a way to corrupt the great Harvey Dent. The ominous tones set by Hans Zimmer's score set The Dark Knight in motion and its brilliant pacing and character development send us ever deeper into Christopher Nolan's Gotham City. Needless to say I can't wait for The Dark Knight Rises.
4. Little Miss Sunshine
Most of my favorite movies of all time are fantasy or sci-fi or something that doesn't represent real life at all. I generally enjoy the movies that let me escape from responsibility and serious thoughts. That being said, the story of a dysfunctional family traveling to California in a VW van is such an incredible portrayal of real problems that it's hard to not see ourselves somewhere in the story. The dinner scene towards the beginning of the film is so beautifully real and relatable that we realize this family is dealing with some of the same problems we all face at times. Money issues, marriage problems, a girl starting to be influenced by outer beauty, a boy who feels shut out from the world, a gay man and a grandfather who has seen so much in his lifetime that his perspective on life is to do whatever makes him happy. I've always loved how the movie is paced and the beauty pageant at the climax of the film truly delivers an emotional finish with a strong message. No matter who our family is, no matter how often we may not see eye to eye with them or how much we may hate them at times, at the end of the day our family is something we should always be able to depend on.
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Although it's extremely difficult, I'll keep individual movies on this list rather than trilogies. Although if I included entire trilogies it's certain that the other two Lord of the Rings movies would be on my list. Is there any more perfect conclusion to an epic trilogy than Return of the King? Sure Return of the Jedi was still incredible but it was still considered by most to be the least favorite of the original Star Wars trilogy. Not the case with Return of the King. It's absolutely incredible how well Peter Jackson was able to adapt the massive Lord of the Rings novels to film and truly capture the magic of Middle Earth. Obviously it helps that Jackson himself was a massive fan of the books, but still when you try to tackle something with the scope of Lord of the Rings even the greatest directors have to get weak in the knees. Return of the King was damn near perfect in every sense of the word. Bringing the characters we had grown to love in the first two films and growing them even more as they fought for their world. Who among us wasn't choked up for almost the entire last hour of the film. As Sam carries Frodo up the fiery facade of Mount Doom, as King Theoden draws his final breath on Pelennor Fields, as Gandalf says farewell to his brave little hobbits at the shores of the sea. The way Peter Jackson balanced the incredible scope of the battles with the small, intimate moments with the characters showed an absolute mastery of his craft. The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy was so well done it's almost impossible to pick one film as my favorite, but Return of the King finished the series so perfectly I have to pick it.
2. Toy Story
In 1995 Disney changed animation forever. What happens with our toys when we leave the room? What if they live lives of their own? Toy Story is so brilliant that it's hard to find anyone who doesn't love it. That first shot of Woody coming to life on the bed is perhaps the most memorable shot in animated film history. For kids and parents alike, Toy Story represents the importance of imagination. That ability that we once had to sit down with a pile of toys and entertain ourselves for hours. Even today, over 15 years after the movie first came out, I still find myself drawn to the story. The idea that a boy's birthday represents the threat of being replaced to his toys, the image of the toy soldiers sliding down a jump rope for a reconnaissance mission, the devastating challenge of getting from one house to the house next door. It's a different world for these toys, but it's also the same world we live in. They have problems with friends, love, betrayal, rejection and they face dangers that are just as big as ours. In the end Toy Story is a movie about the importance of friendship and never losing the kid inside of us. The toys realize the importance of being there for Andy when he needs them and even more importantly they see that whenever the day comes when Andy goes out on his own, they will always have each other. This is another trilogy where all three entries were phenomenal, but what the first one did for both animation and storytelling was unprecedented and it opened up the door for so many great movies to follow in its footsteps.
1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Oh Star Wars. What can I say about you? Three of the greatest films of all time and three of the biggest disappointments of all time. But I like to focus on the positives which means the original trilogy. I still remember the first time I ever saw A New Hope. I was probably 5 or 6 years old and my parents decided it was a good time to show it to me. They bought me a toy Millennium Falcon and before the movie started I was flying it around backwards because it looked like the blue-glowy part would be the front. I remember asking why it said Episode IV in the beginning and I remember that they didn't have an answer. And then I remember this blur of awesomeness as Luke first ignited his lightsaber, as the Falcon docked in the Death Star, as Luke blasted down the trench with Vader in hot pursuit. There is no film that I have ever or probably will ever watch more times than A New Hope. Although most people pick Empire as their favorite film of the trilogy, for some reason I find myself drawn to Episode IV more than any other entry. I don't even know why really. I guess Luke just represents so much that we can all relate to. Wanting something more in life and hoping for some great adventure but once you get it realizing that accepting your responsibility is never easy and much must be sacrificed. I think his development through A New Hope shows us the early stages of becoming a hero and learning to face your fears. I also think it's the same effect that Toy Story has on me, the fact that it was the first one makes it all the more incredible. If you've ever watched the behind the scenes stuff for A New Hope you know how much almost went terribly wrong for this movie and how close we were to never knowing Star Wars. This is my favorite movie of all time and although my top 5 movie list changes from time to time, this will always be my favorite.
So there ya have it. My 5 favorite movies of all time...for today. What movies do you find yourself returning to over the years?