Capturing your TOP TEN favorite films of all time can be challenging. My rankings are based on my deep appreciation for these movies that I watch again & again. The events of seeing them for the first time on the big screen are all memorable in my life.
What are the films that ALMOST made my Top 10? "The Empire Strikes Back", the absolute best Star Wars movie, "Lawrence of Arabia" which often climbs back in wrapped in its David Lean perfection, "JFK", "Munich", "Kill Bill", "Jackie Brown","Body Heat", "Bullitt", "Goldfinger" and "The Shape of Water" to name a few.
In March 2023, newcomer "John Wick: Chapter 4" kicked "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" to 11th place but then "Chinatown" kicked Wick to the curb after a recent viewing of the noir classic.
It's an ever changing list, but as of today, here we go!
In 1974, the same year as "The Godfather Part II", Paramount Pictures and producer Robert Evans released another modern classic and one of my all time favorites, CHINATOWN.
Dripping with perfect sets, film noir detective work and one of Jerry Goldsmith's greatest music scores, it's complicated and rewarding.
Featured in virtually every scene, Jack Nicholson stars as PI Jake Gittes.
When he's hired by Evelyn Mullray to keep an eye on her husband, who she thinks is cheating on her, Jake is pulled into a whirlpool of power, conspiracy and many million of dollars in land and water rights.
When her husband turns up dead, Jake begins to discover layer after layer of mystery.
Robert Towne (Mission Impossible, Shampoo) creates such a perfect screenplay that it's often used in film school to teach film writing.
It's incredibly complex in structure and none of his characters are quite who they seem in their first introduction.
Nicholson is fantastic as Gettes, Dunaway is at her aloof best as Evelyn, John Huston (The African Queen) is menacing as a wealthy, sinister land man and John Hillerman (Magnum PI) drips sarcasm as a government official.
It's now well known that Huston had trouble pronouncing Gittes correctly while filming. Polanski decided to leave his mistakes in, which feel intended and disrespectful toward Jake, just one of the magic pieces around the film that come together into an incredible whole.
From top to bottom, the cast is flawless, as is the production design by Richard Sylbert (The Graduate, The Cotton Club).
Director Roman Polanski who also makes a memorable impression as the knife wielding thug who does a number on Jake's nose, almost didn't show up to shoot the film, as it was the first time back in the USA after the Manson murders of his wife Sharon Tate just 4 years before.
Evelyn and Jake are two people whose relationships typically dont last more than a night. When they start falling for each other, complications abound.
The perfect blend of 30's film noir, gumshoe detective work, Nicholson's wit and charm and incredible filmmaking, CHINATOWN is easily in my all time Top 50.
It's final line of dialogue "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown" is now part of film legend.
No film buff will every forget CHINATOWN, its gets an A+. It's easily in my Top 100 films of all time and solidly in my Top 10.
Followed nearly 20 years later in 1990 by the Nicholson-directed "The Two Jakes", a terrific and underappreciated sequel.
#9 RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
RAIDERS still packs a punch! Steven Spielberg and George Lucas joined forces in 1981 to introduce us to globe trotting archeologist Indiana Jones. After a great opening in South America, complete with tarantulas, blowguns and giant rolling boulder, Jones is recruited to help find the lost ark of the covenant. The greatest movie villains ever, the Nazis, are also in hot pursuit of the ark for its magical powers. Raiders was always intended as Spielberg and Lucas's tribute to the Saturday morning cliffhanger serials of the 30's and 40's and it succeeds brilliantly.
Watching the film now, in a completely remastered blu-ray with 7.1 sound and a pristine picture, its as impactful as it was back in 1981 to this (then 20 year old) film buff. Harrison Ford is excellent (did you know that Tom Selleck was originally cast as Indy?) Karen Allen is a great Marion and Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey and John Rhys-Davies are all excellent bad guys/good guys.
The real star here are all the fantastic action set pieces we all remember so well, from Indy's fight scene inside, above and below the truck, climbing down into the snake filled "well of Souls" and of course, the climactic opening of the ark. "Don't look Marion! Whatever you do, don't open your eyes, Marion!" What a great movie! 31 years after it's release, Raiders still thrills, chills and chases it's way to an A+ and a treasured spot in my all time Top 10 films.
(One favorite bit of Raiders trivia: The day they filmed the big fight sequence in the bazaar where Marion hides in the basket and is carried to the truck while Indy battles the gaggle of bad guys, Harrison Ford was ill and battling a very high fever in 120 degree weather. When it came time to film the hardest part of the fight against the huge, black cloaked villain with twin giant sabers, Ford suggested he just yank out his gun and shoot the guy...and a classic moment and biggest laugh in the film was born.
One of the best sci-fi horror thriller films of all time, one of the best sequels in cinema history and in my all time Top 10, James Cameron’s ALIENS is a fantastic thrill ride of a movie. Thirty years later, it’s just as incredible!
As the film opens, Ripley’s escape craft from the Nostromo is drifting in space, where a salvage crew finds her, wakes her our of many years of sleep and throws her right back into action.
In the many years Ripley was sleeping, many families and workers have colonized the remote desolate planet where her crew found the Alien in the original film.
They’ve just gone silent after discovering the same ship that was Kane’s downfall in the original film.
Writer/Director James Cameron sends Ripley back with an entire squad of marines, a massive ship full of weapons and the best technology available. But will that matter when they face off against hordes of the acid dripping, double jawed, huge creatures with a driving desire to plant their eggs in our chests? Doubtful, but so much fun.
Cameron cleverly sets up second act battles with first act intelligence. He creates a terrific band of marines with unique personalities, from the badass Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) to the sniveling, but hilarious coward Hudson (Bill Paxton), first time Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) to the classic, cigar chewing Apone (Al Matthews). 80’s stalwart Michael Biehn is terrific as Corporal Hicks, who never fails to rise to the occasion in this all out war.
Throw in a corporate tool with ulterior motives, Burke (well played against type by Paul Reiser) and another android names Bishop (Lance Henricksen) that Ripley is terrified to trust and you’ve got a terrific cast of characters.
When the marines discover a little girl nicknamed Newt (Carrie Henn) in the madness of the civilian compound, she becomes the driving force for Ripley to survive and protect against an unrelenting alien force.
As Ripley, Sigourney Weaver is a home run. Believable, a kick-ass action hero and a born leader, Ripley is one of the best screen heroines of all time and this is, by far, the best film the character’s been featured in to date.
Once Cameron sets up the basics very quickly, the film never stops, literally slowing down only long enough for us to breathe between suspenseful alien encounters.
Cameron’s genius is blending a classic war movie with science fiction and action to create something we hadn’t seen before in 1984. Ridley Scott’s original “Alien” in 1979 is terrific, but ALIENS is that rare sequel that I would argue is even better, taking the ponderous, slow style of Ridley (which I love) and infusing it with massive amounts of adrenaline and conflict.
Classic moments abound.
Classic one-liners fill the movie.
“Why don’t you put her in charge!”
“ They mostly come at night….mostly….”
“ Game over, man! Game over!”
“Hey, maybe you haven’t been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked pal!”
and of course the best, ‘Get away from her, you bitch!” That inspired huge applause when I originally saw this in the theatre and still gets us all riled up in that climactic moment.
What a great movie. Great story telling, fantastic sets and creature work, excellent sound, superb visual effects, one of James Horner’s best music scores and James Cameron at his absolute best, ALIENS is an all time classic of any genre and in my all-time top 10.
Thrilled to read in 2016, as ALIENS celebrates its 30 year anniversary, that Sigourney Weaver and Director Neill Blomkamp are creating a new film “Alien Covenant” that is a direct sequel to this one, ignoring the hugely diminishing returns of 1992’s Alien 3 and 1997’s Alien: Resurrection. Weaver and Biehn will both be returning. Can I buy tickets yet? (2022 Update: so far this concept has NOT made its way to the screen, but an FX Series has been announced, Aliens live on!)
Until then, ALIENS stands as the best film in the series and one of the best films ever. It gets an A+.
It's so hard to believe that 40 years ago last Saturday, we saw JAWS at the drive-in during its opening weekend in 1975. To remember it all again, we just watched the digitally remastered JAWS on Blu-Ray and it looks excellent, with better sound than ever featuring DTS 7.1 completely remixed by archivists from the original tracks.
By now, we all know the story, but I had forgotten just how brilliantly the film is constructed.
We open with the now famous two note strains of cello by John Williams, ramping up to a full menacing pitch through the underwater credits.
Then we witness the first attack on Chrissy, meet Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) and his family and watch as Brody battles the single-minded mayor (Murray Hamilton) to close the beaches.
Enter shark expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Shark Bounty Hunter Quint (the excellent Robert Shaw) and you have a movie firing on all cylinders. Young director Steven Spielberg shows all the style that would become his trademarks, deftly not allowing us to see a full view of our shark until over an hour into the film.
Williams music is fantastic throughout and Bill Butler's photography is excellent, really popping in this remastered version of the print.
So many classic moments here, but my favorites are still the nighttime discovery of Ben Gardner's boat by Brody and Hooper, JAWS in the estuary on July 4th, the first barrel encounter at sea ("We're going to need a bigger boat.") and the classic final 15 minutes.
Robert Shaw famously wrote his haunting, well told story of The Indianapolis and his interaction with Scheider and Dreyfuss is stellar.
The mechanical shark rarely worked, but it's masterful how Spielberg uses shots of it sparingly, making it more powerful when you do finally see the beast.
In today's age of CGI and everything being on screen every moment with every nut and bolt of every Transformer explosion in our face (often boring) it's surprising how effective Spielberg's approach is throughout.
JAWS still holds up as 124 great movie minutes, one of the best thrillers in movie history and a perfect A+.
One of my Top 10 films of all time.
Followed by three sequels of dramatically diminishing returns.
#6 THE PRINCE OF TIDES
When you find an author you really enjoy reading, its always a pleasure to pick up their latest book. Pat Conroy has always been a personal favorite. His Southern-set stories of family, conflict and the drama of life strike an incredible chord with me, from “The Great Santini” to “South of Broad”.
I didn’t know what to expect when I heard that Barbra Streisand was set to direct and star in the screen adaption of THE PRINCE OF TIDES.
I didn't expect this brilliant film that, for me, is near perfect from its first shot to its last.
Nick Nolte is football coach Tom Wingo, out of work and in a failing marriage with his physician wife Sally (Blythe Danner). His joy is his three daughters, the oldest of which clearly sees the growing cracks in her parent's marriage.
Tom is pulled from the deep south to NYC when his famous twin sister Savannah (Melinda Dillion) tries to commit suicide.
Tom reluctantly goes to a city he detests to help Savannah's psychiatrist get to the core of Savannah's troubles.
Dr. Susan Lowenstein (Streisand) asks Tom to reveal the details of Savannah and his childhood and the film deftly flashes back and forth between modern day and their formative years.
We meet them as children, along with their brother Luke, who met a violent death several years before.
Their mother Lila (Kate Nelligan) is a true southern social climber, with children she loves and a determination to not acknowledge anything bad in their lives, the "southern way" as Tom puts it.
Their father Henry (Brad Sullivan) is a violent alcoholic whose rage echoes through their adulthood.
As Tom opens up more and more to Dr. Lowenstein, he finds his own life torn apart by the revelations within.
We meet Susan's husband Herbert (Jeroen Krabbe) a famous violinist, her son Bernard (played by Streisand's real life son with Elliot Gould, Jason Gould) and Savannah's gay neighbor Eddie (perfectly played by George Carlin).
As Tom opens up to Susan, they find themselves drawn together and the last half of the film follows Conroy's book perfectly, with both families relationships merging across generations.
Streisand has assembled an incredible team on the film and they are all in top form. James Newton Howard's music is his all time best score, matched with the photography of Stephen Goldblatt (The Cotton Club, Outland) and Nolte's voice-over narration of long passages lifted directly from Conroy's book draw you deep into these families.
Nolte has never been better than he is here, playing a man that pushes emotions aside with humor, but facing a lifetime of them at once.
Conroy adapted his own book for the screen and the writing is perfect. Nolte's narration grabbed me from the opening frames to the final moments.
THE PRINCE OF TIDES is one of my favorite films and one we revisit every couple years. It's tragic and powerful.
The scenes with Tom and Susan slow dancing in the Rainbow Room on top of 30 Rock have special echoes for my wife and I as that was the site of our first official date as a couple nearly three decades ago. Dressed up, slow dancing to a full orchestra with a top floor view of New York City: romance defined.
In my all time TOP 10 movies, THE PRINCE OF TIDES is a near flawless experience (kind of like that first date in the Rainbow Room) and gets an A+.
SKYFALL is the most fun this OO7 fan has had watching a Bond film in theatres since 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. There are so many BESTS in this great Bond flick! Opening with the BEST pre-title sequence ever, Bond pursues a bad guy on foot, in cars, on motorcycles and on trains. At least twice in this sequence alone, I found myself offering a WOW out loud, and that rarely happens folks. This is followed by the BEST Bond title sequence in memory, a stirring & smart tribute to the classic Maurice Binder titles accompanied by the BEST Bond theme since “Nobody Does It Better”, this one written and sung in great style by Adele.
After getting beat up (and beyond) in the first 20 minutes, James Bond must prove himself ready to return to duty, just in time to fight major terrorist attacks in London. A major cyber attack reveals every undercover agent in the field around the world. This sets up a brilliant scenario that questions not just MI6, but everything that Bond, M and the entire agency represents.
Like Roger Moore in his third Bond film, Craig truly BECOMES Bond in Skyfall. On the trail of the smallest clues, Bond eventually follows the path to our villain, Silva, in a twisted and exciting performance by Javier Bardem. Yes, I think he is one of the BEST Bond villains ever, ranking right up with Goldfinger and Blofeld, but with an evil, Hannibal Lecter psychotic side lurking just beneath the surface.
Silva has major issues with M, played here in great style by Dame Judi Dench in her BEST performance in the Bond series.
The BEST Bond cast of the entire 50 year series supports Craig, including newcomers Ralph Fiennes as M’s new boss Gareth Mallory, Ben Whishaw (so great in Cloud Atlas) as the new, younger Q and Albert Finney in a key role best left undescribed.
Skyfall’s Bond Girls are superb this time around, with Naomie Harris as Eve, a field agent that nearly kills Bond but ends up….well that’s another great secret best left unsaid. Berenice Marlohe is the beautiful and exotic Severine, tied to Silva but falling for 007.
Composer Thomas Newman rocks the BEST Bond score since John Barry’s music for Oh Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s almost non-stop and it’s a knockout.
I’ve mentioned a lot of bests already, but one thing I know for a fact is this is by FAR, the BEST-written Bond film. It’s smart, it’s challenging, it’s exciting and it takes you to places you don’t expect, but are thrilled to arrive at when you find yourself there.
Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) should be a bad fit for the Bond series, but you can tell he loves the old films, as he pays genius tribute to them again and again. The very first shot of the movie is a clever new twist on the classic openings of the sixties. By the time Bond started up the Silver Aston Martin DB-5 and the James Bond theme kicked in, I was as happy in a theatre as I’ve been in years. Add all the surprises, clever twists and beautiful set ups for the next film found in the last ten minutes of the film and I was in heaven.
Skyfall is so much more than I expected. Until this film, Connery was my favorite Bond. Move over Sean, Daniel Craig is the best. And SKYFALL is The BEST. BOND. EVER. A+
#4 THERE WILL BE BLOOD
One of the best films of the last 20 years and firmly in my all time top ten, THERE WILL BE BLOOD is a brooding, riveting masterpiece.
Daniel Day Lewis is brilliant as prospector Daniel Plainview, carving out a life in the late 1800's.
As the film opens, Plainview is on his own, in the middle of nowhere, deep in a mine he has carved himself.
The film drags you down in the hole with him, thrust further into the dark by Jonny Greenwood's eerie and powerful first movie score.
Reminiscent of the classical music used by Kubrick in 2001, but twisted with modern elements all its own, Greenwood's music is incredibly good, powerful and hypnotic.
The film follows Plainview as he crosses the American frontier, searching for oil at all costs.
When one of his men is killed in an accident, the man's infant son becomes Daniel's, at his side and maturing into a young business protege.
In one small town, Daniel and his son HW (perfectly played by young Dillon Freasier) are approached by a young man, Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) with a story of his family farm that is oozing oil through the ground. Paul tells Daniel exactly where the farm is located and the details of his father and family at the farm for $10,000.
Daniel and HW visit the farm under the auspices of a father/son hunting trip and ingratiate themselves with the family.
When Daniel announces he would like to buy the Sunday farm and the land around it, Paul's father is willing to take the first offer, but Daniel finds Paul's twin brother Eli to be a far better negotiator.
Daniel comes to terms with Eli and promises him a thriving community and a special place for Eli's new church.
Over the two hours that follow that set up, Daniel Day Lewis creates one of the finest portrayals of all time of a man with single minded drive, a penchant for success and only one priority.
Circling around Lewis' Daniel is Dano's portrayal of Eli, a man with a similar obsession focused on his church.
Speaking in tongues, ranting at the rafters and intolerant of non-believers, Eli is the same as Daniel, while existing as a polar opposite in his view of the world.
In the middle of the film, an oil derek comes in and explodes, injuring HW and completely turning the film on it's head.
The entire twenty minute sequence is perfect, from the initial quiet set up, the explosive event, to the thirty second closing shot of Plainview's oil drenched face reflecting the flames.
In that face, your perception of Plainview changes, the focus of his moral compass becomes apparent and Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson turns over his hand, taking your perception of Plainview down a very different path.
I hate when films manipulate you with sweeping cameras and loud music (Spielberg's Cadillac of the Skies scene in "Empire of the Sun" being a glaring exception to that statement) but when a filmmaker as smart and exceptional as Anderson pairs his vision with Greenwood's music and Robert Elswit's photography, it creates a film experience that gets under your skin.
Elswit also shot "Nightcrawler" and "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol", great looking movies that are far removed from the mood of this film.
Over two and half hours long, riveting from opening shot to closing credits, this is one of my favorite films ever.
Daniel Day Lewis is probably my favorite actor working today. Daniel Plainview is an amazing character, fully realized by Lewis. His voice in this film is so powerful, you hang on every word.
Plainview is only verbose when he is selling townspeople his vision of their future. In those moments, he's charming, intelligent, caring and thoughtful. As soon as the pitch is done, Plainview becomes a different man.
That man is fascinating to watch.
Violent, adult and intelligent, There Will Be Blood is an all-time favorite that grows with each viewing.
As the film ends, you'll remember the opening scenes in which Plainview was alone,deep in a dark hole that he has carved himself. Only at the film's conclusion do you realize the same could be said for Plainview's life itself.
There Will Be Blood gets an A+.
Academy Award winner for Best Actor (Daniel Day Lewis) and Best Cinematography (Elswit).
#3 THE GODFATHER
Revisiting "The Godfather" as I try to do at least every other year, I'm struck once again by how perfectly writer/director Francis Ford Coppola constructs his brilliant masterpiece.
Marlon Brando is excellent as Vito Corleone, the aging head of a powerful Italian crime family. As the film opens, many come to the Godfather on the day of his daughter's wedding, a time bearing the custom that anyone can ask him for a favor.
The opening monologue is perfectly written, setting up not only future events of the story, but also framing the extreme power and scope of the Don's influence.
Robert Duvall is trusted family lawyer and nearly adopted son Tom Hagen, James Caan is violent and volatile son Sonny and a young Al Pacino is son Michael, just returning from the army and determined to stay out of the family business.
When another "family" decides to get involved in the emerging drug trade, Don Corleone resists, setting off a battle of wills that soon erupts into warfare.
Coppola has taken a trashy book by Mario Puzo and elevated into film greatness by creating a vast cast of characters that you connect with for nearly three, fast hours.
It feels as if you are submerged into this dangerous, violent world, rooting for characters who run their crime family with honor, trust and extreme violence. The fact you root for anyone here is a tribute to Coppola's screenplay and visual storytelling gifts, which have never been on better display.
Wrap the storytelling in Nino Rota's beautiful music score, excellent photography by Gordon Willis and perfect period costumes and sets from Dean Tavoularis and you have one of the all time great films.
The supporting cast is uniformly superb, including Sterling Hayden as a crooked police chief, Richard Castellano as Clemenza ("Leave the body, take the cannollis), John Marley as the equine loving movie producer and a beautiful young Diane Keaton as Michael's girlfriend.
Brando and Pacino are spectacular as the two anchors of the story and their scenes together are powerful.
The set pieces are now classic, the opening wedding, the attempt on the Don's life in the hospital, Michael's meeting in the Italian restaurant, too many more to mention. Watching Duvall, Caan, Pacino and Brando in the Don's dark, smoke filled office could fill a movie in itself.
Over 40 years later, the film still looks and plays out with beautiful precision. Coppola went to the mat to make his version of the film and its genius.
Oscar winner for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Brando as Best Actor, "The Godfather" was followed by the only sequel in film history to ever ALSO win Best Picture, "The Godfather, Part II" in 1974.
A perfect, timeless masterpiece, "The Godfather" is in my all time top 3 and gets an A.
For my money, the best of Alfred Hitchcock and one of the best films ever made, 1958's VERTIGO is as powerful today as ever.
Jimmy Stewart is terrific as police detective Scottie Ferguson. As the film opens, Scottie is pursuing a man across the rooftops of San Francisco. In classic Hitch style, the scene ends with Stewart dangling by his fingertips off the edge of a roof gutter and a policeman falling many stories to his death.
We flash forward to Scottie, now almost fully recovered and being enticed for a quiet job by a wealthy acquaintance Gavin Elster, to follow his wife Madeline.
Madeline's been acting strangely, almost seeming possessed. Gavin wants Scottie to keep an eye on her. Scottie thinks that Madeline probably just needs a shrink, but reluctantly agrees to follow her for a few days.
When Scottie (and we) first see Madeline (played perfectly by Kim Novak) she's mysterious, impeccably dressed and wandering about San Francisco with a simultaneous focus and apparent lack of direction.
Day after day, Scottie follows. Intrigued and then entranced, Scottie becomes fascinated with the why of where Madeline is visiting each day.
These long, 10-minute+ dialogue-free sequences in the film are photographed on location in San Francisco and set to one of Bernard Herrmann's (Psycho) best music scores.
The tension builds alongside the mystery.
One day, Madeline jumps into the bay beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and Scottie jumps in to save her, carrying her back to his apartment and waiting for her to come out of her trance.
It's a turning point in the film when Scottie's fascination begins to turn to obsession.
When Madeline's actions take an even more drastic turn halfway through the film, it's Hitchcock's all time best twist, turning the entire film on its head and beginning an entirely new story that feeds on Scottie's obsession.
An hour after that, everything that we and Scottie thought we knew has been twisted, turned inside out and exposed.
To say any more would be to give away the magician's secret.
Stewart has never been better and Novak was very underrated at the time. At the end of the film, think about Novak her performances within the film. Only on the second or third viewing do you realize all the emotions playing just beneath the surface when Judy meets Scottie.
The makeover scene in the hotel in which Scottie becomes determined to make Judy look like another woman paints Scottie in a pretty ugly, green light, but somehow Stewart makes you understand Scottie's passion.
Hitchcock is full of visual tricks throughout, from the now classic "vertigo" scenes in which he thrust the camera downward while pulling back focus at the same time, to the fact that in all of Stewart's car scenes following Judy, the car ONLY drives down the hills of San Francisco.
You never see Scottie going up a hill, only down, subliminally depicting Stewart's descent into obsession.
The ending is sad and twisted, but by the finale, Hitchcock, Stewart and Novak have taken you so far down the road and up the stairs, that there is only one way down.
VERTIGO is one of the best films ever made and lands high in my all time Top 5. It's a timeless A+ that audiences will still be discovering centuries from now.
If you haven't seen it, I'm envious.
It took me three viewings to truly understand what was happening from the moment Scottie first meets with Gavin.
Like all great films, I can't wait to see it again.
#1 INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Whenever I talk about movies with friends, the question always comes up, "What's your favorite movie of all time?" Hands down, no question, tops on my list in Quentin Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.
The genius of QT is on full display in this 2009 masterpiece, a wholly original tribute and mashup of classic World War II films with a violent, revisionist revenge fantasy.
The film is separated into long chapters, each one fully creating characters that will eventually cross paths with each other over the film's fast, insanely enjoyable 153 minutes.
The film opens with a long sequence in which SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz in his brilliant Academy Award winning performance) visits a quiet farmhouse in the French Countryside. He suspects that the farmer may know where some local Jewish families may be hiding. Using only terrific dialogue, great camerawork and excellent acting, the suspense of the scene is almost unbearable.
Other chapters deal with our title characters, Lt. Aldo Raine's troop of soldiers on a mission to kill as many Nazi's as possible, in the most gruesome styles possible in order to spread fear across the German soldiers.
Brad Pitt is perfect as Raine, wielding an unruly Southern accent, authority and humor throughout. His team, including The Bear Jew (Eli Roth), Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger), Private Utivich (BJ Novak, hilarious) are violent, efficient soldiers and Tarantino lathers on the bloody violence in such extreme fashion that most of the bullet hits and arterial spray are cartoonishly exaggerated, making you laugh and cringe at the same time.
Other chapters deal with beautiful young cinema owner Shosanna (another great performance from Melanie Laurent) as she is pulled into hosting a major German film premiere that will have most of the third reich in attendance. A scene between Shosanna and Landa in a French cafe drips with almost unbearable tension.
In another chapter, English Lt. Archie Hicox and his team join forces with the Basterds to meet German movie star Bridget Von Hammersmark, who is secretly a spy working with the English. When she arranges the meeting in the basement of a bar in Nazi occupied France, it gives Tarantino the perfect setting to stage what might be one of the best scenes of his film career.
Over the course of 40+ minutes, the basement meeting takes place, with SS officers, bar patrons, secret agents and armed solders from both sides playing a verbal cat and mouse game that could explode into violence at any moment.
Two actors standout in this long sequence, Diane Kruger as our undercover spy and German diva film star and the always great Michael Fassbender as Lt Hicox.
Some directors rely on elaborate stunts, explosions and pyrotechincs to create tension. Tarantio masters this film with plenty of fire, but most of it is on the page, with excellent, smart and often hilarious dialogue pouring out of every scene.
When the screen darkens and the Chapter header announcing the night of the film premier pops up, Tarantino launches into a long, dialogue free sequence set to David Bowie's "Putting Out The Fire with Gasoline" from the early 80's film "Cat People". Like every one of QT's choices here, it's the perfect song, at the perfect volume over strong visual storytelling that brilliantly sets up the final act.
You can watch this film over and over again and still be surprised by moments that emerge after multiple viewings. The film is sprinkled with fun cameos, including legendary sixties film star Rod Taylor as Winston Churchill, Mike Meyers almost unrecognizable as General Ed Fenech, a character you have seen in every WWII film EVER and Daniel Bruhl as a reluctant young German war hero who falls for Shosanna.
Violent, gory, suspenseful, hilarious and incredibly dramatic, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is truly genius. It's my favorite film of all time and gets an A++++.