Ranking the 50 Movies Project, Round Two: #25-1

This is it, folks. The end result of a year’s worth of movie watching. The 25 films listed below are all fantastic in their own ways, and I would happily give each of them my full endorsement. In my initial reviews, I only gave out one “ten” rating. After further reflection, at least the top four films would all receive this elusive rating from me. Let’s get to it:

Blow Out [1981]
25) Blow Out [1981]

It’s easy to see why Quentin Tarantino considers this a favorite of his. Can’t get over that ending.

The Wild Bunch [1969]
24) The Wild Bunch [1969]

Quite possibly the most violent Western I have seen, and it culminates with a bloodbath for the ages.

23) Rocky [1976]

A number of progressively worse sequels cannot damage the brilliance of one of film’s greatest underdog stories.

Into the Wild [2007]
22) Into the Wild [2007]

A tremendously beautiful film that stirred up emotions in me that I just wasn’t prepared for.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? [2000]
21) O Brother, Where Art Thou? [2000]

I’m not a bluegrass guy, but I couldn’t stop listening to this film’s soundtrack for days afterward. Now one of my favorites from the Coen brothers.

Casino Royale [2006]
20) Casino Royale [2006]

My first Bond film. After watching another half dozen or so, this one is still light years above the others.

Coffy [1973]
19) Coffy [1973]

This film may very well be the most fun out of all of these — I could watch Pam Grier kick ass all day.

Blue Velvet [1986]
18) Blue Velvet [1986]

Quintessential David Lynch film that contains the deliriously psychopathic role Dennis Hopper was born to play. Just one unforgettable scene after another.

For a Few Dollars More [1965]
17) For a Few Dollars More [1967]

Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef teaming up to take down a ruthless fugitive? Hell yeah.

Paths of Glory [1957]
16) Paths of Glory [1957]

Kubrick’s early anti-war film is still incredibly powerful.

To Kill a Mockingbird [1962]
15) To Kill a Mockingbird [1962]

Worth seeing just for Gregory Peck’s big courtroom speech. What a performance.

Singin' in the Rain [1952]
14) Singin’ in the Rain [1952]

Yeah, I’m still surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Just a great all-around film with some insane dance numbers.

Modern Times [1936]
13) Modern Times [1936]

Charlie Chaplin is as entertaining as always, but I couldn’t help falling in love with Paulette Goddard. What a combination those two made.

M [1931]
12) M [1931]

Fritz Lang’s film delivers some pretty heavy subject matter for the time period, and Peter Lorre’s disturbingly effective performance lingers for days.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
11) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [1989]

I don’t know if I prefer this or Raiders of the Lost Ark, but both are incredible adventures.

A Fistful of Dollars [1964]
10) A Fistful of Dollars [1964]

Could be called “bite-size” Leone, but the result is a quick, highly entertaining effort.

The Sting [1973]
9) The Sting [1973]

The best caper film I have seen — is there a better duo than Paul Newman and Robert Redford?

Metropolis [1927]
8) Metropolis [1927]

An unbelievable cinematic feat that was well ahead of its time.

On the Waterfront [1954]
7) On the Waterfront [1954]

This is a contender, alright. Fantastic work from all involved, especially Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy.

Vanishing Point [1971]
6) Vanishing Point [1971]

The movie that made me want to hit the open road and not look back.

Notorious [1946]
5) Notorious [1946]

I didn’t know what to expect out of this Hitchcock classic, but it has quickly become one of my favorites from the auteur.

Lawrence of Arabia [1962]
4) Lawrence of Arabia [1962]

This historical epic is still a technical marvel today, and it is absolutely stellar on the big screen.

Touch of Evil [1958]
3) Touch of Evil [1958]

I was hooked from the opening scene, one of the best I can remember. This may have very well eclipsed Citizen Kane as my favorite Orson Welles film.

The Last Picture Show [1971]
2) The Last Picture Show [1971]

As a former resident of a small town myself, I could infinitely relate to this film. I can’t think of another that better encapsulates the experience of growing up in a rural town like this.

The Lives of Others [2006]
1) The Lives of Others [2006]

In a project full of great selections, this is the one that blew me away the most. This is a film that requires the utmost attention, but if you provide this, the rewards just keep coming. There aren’t many performances that are better than what Ulrich Mühe delivers here, and it’s incredibly tragic that this was his last film. I will be recommending this anytime I get the chance.

So there you have it. The 2012 edition of the 50 Movies Project is now complete. What do you think of the rankings? What should be bumped up or pushed down? Have you seen The Lives of Others? Let’s hear your thoughts!

Movie Project #10: The Lives of Others [2006]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a second round for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

The Lives of Others [2006]

The Lives of Others [2006]
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Starring: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck and Sebastian Koch
Runtime: 137 minutes

For those not around during the time, it’s easy to forget just how turbulent of a decade that 1980s Germany was. I was just three years old when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, but the power of that event reverberated for years after. When I visited Berlin a couple years ago, the scars were still readily visible.

It is amazing to think about living in a city that is split in half, especially the ever-increasing paranoia of the two sides spying on each other. The Lives of Others, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s feature film debut, inticrately portrays one example of just how out of control the political games were during this time.

The Lives of Others [2006]

The movie focuses primarily on three individuals, two of whom are being spied upon. The two being watched are renowned playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his girlfriend, actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck). Although a supporter of Communism, Dreyman is suspected of leading a double life of sorts. The Stasi assign highly respected officer Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) to keep an eye on them. Wiesler bugs Dreyman’s apartment and monitors their activity 24/7, alternating shifts with a co-worker.

Wiesler becomes heavily invested in the couple’s day-to-day activities. His job gives him a form of passion that he does not have in his normal life, one devoid of friends or family. Soon he begins to act protective of the couple, leading them away from potential mistakes that could severely ruin their careers. What starts as a game of cat-and-mouse evolves into something deeper than any one of them could have imagined.

The Lives of Others [2006]

There are many layers to The Lives of Others, and it takes some time to untangle them. As such, the film moves at a methodical pace, slowly building up the suspense before culminating in a spectacular and unforgettable conclusion. The journey to get to this point is remarkable, full of twists and turns, and it gives us plenty of time to fall in love with the characters.

This is a testament to not only the intelligent screenplay, but especially to the amazing cast. Ulrich Mühe, who tragically passed away the year after this film’s release, delivers a performance for the ages. His character’s transformation from stone cold Stasi officer to a caring guardian-in-hiding is phenomenal, and he is masterful from beginning to end. Mühe was able to draw from his own personal life to play the role — it turns out that his ex-wife was actually a Stasi informant without him knowing. Talk about first hand experience. Koch and Gedeck are great as well, but this becomes very much Mühe’s show.

It has been over a week since I sat down to watch The Lives of Others, but as I sit here writing, the flood of emotions and feelings I experienced during the movie have come rushing back to me. This won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2006 Oscars, and the Academy absolutely got this one right. This is the best movie I have seen from this project so far, and I cannot recommend it enough for those who have yet to experience this.