Top Ten Movies: JJames Reviews

Josh over at JJames Reviews contributed his personal top ten list to us today, and it is quite the classic list. James is a teacher that runs a neat little site where he discusses film in a very cool bullet style format and is very educational and opinionated. It is a great place to get an opinion and just as much fun to have movie discussions with him that can go on for a fair amount of time, each on their own mission (though I maintain you need to back off of Prequel Anakin :P). Enough of my rambling, I am handing this over to James immediately!

Should you be interested in submitting a Top Ten list, draw up a list of either your top ten personal favourite movies or a top ten list by a specific genre/theme and send it along to me at Hope to see a few more lists!


CaSAblanca1. Casablanca (1942)

Directed By: Michael Curtiz

Filmed before the end of the Second World War, Casablanca is a profound masterpiece, featuring incredible performances, flawless establishing shots, and perhaps the best screenplay ever written. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Isla Lund’s (Ingrid Bergman) might be the most moving romance in film history, if only because it remains true to the characters, ends logically and never veers into melodrama. Simply put, this movie is magical.
ordinary people2. Ordinary People (1980)

Directed By: Robert Redford

Here Director Robert Redford announces he is more than a talented actor, leaving no doubt he is even better behind the lens. Combining a somber soundtrack with a camera that is always perfectly placed to generate the most emotion, Redford makes the audience feel intense grief, because of Conrad’s (Timothy Hutton) guilt and Beth’s (Mary Tyler Moore) inability to understand or comfort her son. It doesn’t hurt that Hutton and Moore deliver career best performances. More than any other movie I’ve ever seen, one word describes Ordinary People: Emotional. Which is why it’s so fantastic.

schindler's list3. Schindler’s List (1993)

Directed By: Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece is successful as a historical account and as a narrative. It develops characters well, making us care about some and hate others. As impressively, it never shies from the horror of its content, showing it with remarkable harshness, so much that we feel many conflicting emotions watching it. There is even some clever symbolism to boot. Schindler’s List is haunting and immersive, a completely unforgettable experience.

eternal sunshine of a spotless mind4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Directed By: Michel Gondry

Though Writer Charlie Kaufman’s script follows a familiar formula, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind feels unique, which is one reason it is so moving. Another is that it has much to say about the nature of memory, relationships and identity. Plus, it is an artistic masterpiece that uses every filmmaking element to produce a beguiling whole. From clever editing, even better sound mixing, and wonderfully imaginative effects, Gondry makes the viewer feel Joel’s (Jim Carrey) panic, desperation and confusion. That Gondry didn’t win an Oscar for this movie is mystifying. Forget that he wasn’t even nominated.

rashomon5. Rashomon (1950)

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa

Often imitated, Rashomon is a timeless classic that identifies and evaluates universal themes through flawless technique, an innovative narrative structure and note-perfect performances. It also includes the greatest score I have ever heard, one that alternatively creates intrigue, mystery, anxiety or whimsy. Making it all the more remarkable is that Kurosawa, the only director to almost appear twice on this list, knows exactly when to stop all music and play silence instead. Rashomon is a cinematic delight.

2001 a space odyssey6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Directed: Stanley Kubrick

The only film on this list that doesn’t prioritize character development or produce much emotion, 2001 has slick visual effects that still don’t feel dated. It is also a thought provoking mystery that spans millennia. That Kubrick’s masterpiece is one of the most influential films ever, and that the performances here are universally solid serves to make 2001 a viewing experience unlike most others. So does the fact that HAL (Douglass Rain), a computer, is the most impacting character. But best all: the sound design. Kubrick employs silence for long stretches of the film, a fact that makes us uncomfortable. 2001 is visionary. And perfect.

all quiet on the western front7. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Directed By: Lewis Milestone

Showing the despair of war without glorifying combat, All Quiet on the Western Front is one of the best book adaptations put on film. That Lew Ayres’ performance as Paul Baumer is tantalizing is secondary to the brilliance of Milestone’s direction, to the way in which he shows the boredom of war and also the tragedy, the latter of which is featured in a remarkable crane shot, the first of its kind. All Quiet is an effective message film because it remembers and focuses on its message with every shot, every speech, every moment.

cabaret8. Cabaret (1972)

Directed By: Bob Fosse

Few films establish tone as quickly as Cabaret, which opens with the Master of Ceremonies (Joel Gray) leading a rousing musical number, even as Director Bob Fosse intercuts Brian Roberts’ (Michael York) arrival in Berlin, being sure to show us close ups of forlorn German faces. Even fewer movies use musical numbers to quickly define character or to create as much emotion and tension as does this masterpiece. Include well-developed characters and award-worthy performances from Gray, York, and Liza Minelli (Sally Bowles), and you have 1972’s best classic, even if it isn’t the one best known to modern audiences.

12 years a slave9. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Directed By: Steve McQueen

2013 is the only year to almost earn two movies on this list, which is why it’s notable that McQueen’s treatise on corrupt systems is not my favorite movie of the year. It is, however, the best. With an unflinching camera, a searing score, impeccable performances, and perfectly timed editing this one appropriately makes us feel horror and discomfort. Plus, it is an exceptionally well-written screenplay. Any flaws are minor, and its brilliance is impossible to deny, no matter its recency.

amelie10. Amelie (2001)

Directed By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

More than star Audrey Tautou’s breakout performance, Amelie is an enchanting comedy-drama that manages to employ an omniscient narrator, a sense of whimsy, and happy, exaggerated performances to make us laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously. Vibrant colors make the film beautiful at the same time they immerse us in Amelie’s narrative. As does Jeunet’s decision to ignore many conventions (the fourth wall, the rule of thirds, etc). Ditto that for electric dialogue, a complex female lead, and a surprising, feel-good narrative.

64 thoughts on “Top Ten Movies: JJames Reviews

    1. Thank you. In many ways, I think Schindler’s List redefined how movies approach the Holocaust and World War Two. Fewer films try to focus on the abject horror, because Spielberg already did it so much better than they could. If is truly magical, that movie.


    1. I didn’t expect to fall in love with Amelie, either. I remember reading the hype it generated when first released, and (prior to seeing it) I was certain it couldn’t live up to its reputation. But it does. So funny. So sweet. And so emotionally moving at so many points. It’s a remarkable fusion of genre, I think.


      1. I keep hearing about how great this movie is and this is the second time it has featured on these top ten lists… I am rectifying that soon!


    1. It turns out I definitely find value in harshly dramatic movies, but only when they focus on complex characters and equally complex life lessons. (2001 is the exception that proves the rule.) 😉

      Which ones haven’t you seen yet?


    1. Thanks. And I suspect we’ve talked about Casablanca before, but even if we haven’t, it is definitely the sort of flick that most appeals to me. Great characters, moving dialogue, copious emotion, some meaningful life lessons, etc.

      I guess that means I’m unsurprised you predicted its inclusion. 😉


  1. Weird. I was told to stay away from ‘Eternal (…) Mind’, as it wasn’t very good. However, if it’s on your top ten, I guess I better try and get around to it.


    1. Honestly, I cannot think of a reason to avoid Eternal Sunshine. It is funny, dramatic, and features a believable central romance, not to mention some really terrific sci-fi. I think it a perfect film, worthy of an A+ grade. I would say watch it. 🙂


    1. Thank you! And thank you also for letting me participate. It was fun!

      (Small editing note. I suspect the mistake is mine, not yours, but the number in front of 2001 is an 8. It should be a 6. Any chance you can fix that?)

      And thank you again!


  2. Great list Josh. I could never find a way to classify my 10 favorite films, but I’m glad you did.

    I didn’t like Eternal sunshine when I saw it, guess I should re-watch it and I’ve never seen Amelie or Cabaret because they never appealed to me.


    1. I have never tried to do it before. Only did it here, because I thought that was for what Zoe first asked. I have long known the top 4 (since Eternal Sunshine’s release), but I didn’t know what order to put them in. Once I settled on that, it took some time deciding on the rest. At various points, I thought about including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Children of Men, Wadjda, M, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Seven Samurai, and a few others. Obviously, I settled on these.

      And Amelie and Caberet. I think there’s a good chance you’d like both but my guess is Amelie would appeal to you more, if you can get past the non-English part. It is really fun and has some complex characters.

      Why didn’t you like Eternal Sunshine? I loved it from frame first to frame last, the first, second, and every other (probably 4 or 5 more) times I’ve seen it.


      1. dunno.

        I’m gonna give it another try.

        Maybe the fact that I rented it and watched it with my first wife effected that. who knows.

        We’ll know better next week after I re-watch it 🙂

        Thanks for sparking my interest to re-watch!

        As I’m sure you can guess, I’ve seen thousands of movies in my lifetime and there were so many that I enjoyed a lot, but can’t think of any one film (or ten) that I could say are my all-time favorites. (Shawshank would probably be on that list because it’s a movie I could constantly keep watching over and over)

        I’m gonna have to give this some thought 🙂


      2. It was definitely no easy task paring it down to ten. I love Shashank, too. Didn’t even think of that one when making the list, though. Darn. 🙂


      1. I knew you’d seen 2001. So really I was only asking about the other one. Eternal Sunshine is a good other one to have seen. 🙂

        So are the rest. Go see them.


    1. Great list, Josh! : ) I love Amelie & 2001. I like the inclusion of Rashomon. I desperately want to see that. I’m thinking of doing a little Kurosawa project sometime where I watch the rest of his films because all I’ve seen is Seven Samurai & I LOVED it! : ) And, Eric – I’m shocked you’ve even managed to see two of these! ; ) I’ve seen 8…


    1. Obviously, I love Eternal Subshine, too. 🙂

      I think history will judge 12 Years a true classic, a powerfully moving drama about the psychology of group think and the pervasive impact of corrupt systems. It might not be quite as good as Schindler’s List, but I think it keeps similar company.

      Actually, at various points Wadjda was on this list, too. 2013 is the only year to almost get two votes from me.


  3. Nice list Josh. Thank you for veering off of smut like IPC and I, you bring a true level of taste and sanity to Zoe’s blog. 🙂

    I really love what you said about Kubrick, he was a master. 12 Years a Slave, well you know I loved that movie, Eternal Sunshine agree it really is so original, we forget that there are very few truly original flicks out there. Casablanca is great never gets old.


    1. I did find Zoe’s decision to place me after two 10 Ten crushes sort of interesting. But also fitting, in a way.

      And, clearly, I agree with your comments on all of the flicks you named? Out of curiosity, did you not name the others because you haven’t seen them? Or because you were trying to keep you comment short?


      1. Sorry the late response! I liked all your movies and have seen most, the only ones I haven’t seen are Rashomon and Ordinary People, but yes I was trying to keep it short and not make it a giant comment. 🙂 Another of my faves on your list is Schindler’s List, that one is just so powerful, I have seen it a million times, despite how depressing it is and makes you feel. But such a good movie!


      2. Rashomon is ahead of its time brilliant. I definitely recommend you seek it out. Obviously, I love Ordinary People, too.

        I have seen Schindler’s List three, maybe four, times. I’ve been too intimidated to see it more than that.


      3. I will have to check those out I trust your taste!

        I did see it a few times in film classes against my will and had to write papers on it, at one point I took a holocaust class talk about uplifting content and anytime its on hbo or one of those channels ill usually watch it. The whole time I am like why am I watching this … why am I watching this…but it’s so good I can’t stop myself. The feel good movie of the year!


    1. Thank you. Amelie was the last film I decided to put on this list, probably partially because it isn’t exactly the typical flick included in a “best film ever” conversation. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized I cannot find many quibbles with it.


    1. You do. Schindler’s List, I think, is required viewing if you hope to call yourself a cinephile. So start there. 🙂

      I think you’d really like Amelie, maybe more than anything else on this list. It is sweet, funny, and emotionally moving.


      1. I actually had Schindler’s List lined up to do for Resolutions, but I never got around to it… :/ I’ll watch it! Pinky promise! Amelie, too. 🙂


      2. 🙂

        And Casablanca. And Ordinary People. And Eternal Sunshine. Definitely that one. Ooh. And Caberet so you can see how much better it is than Godfather. And …

        You know what? I’m now assigning you 18 pieces of homework. 🙂


    1. Thanks. I remember Amelie being on your list, too, and that I basically said the same thing to do. It is so good. 🙂

      And I think 12 Years is going to be judged an all-time classic, perhaps the best movie of the late 20th/early 21st century. Here’s one of my arguments: the most common complaint from today’s viewers is Brad Pitt’s appearance, that he’s so famous he pulls people out of the film. But 15, 20 years from now his fame will not be what it currently is, and that compliant will dissipate until eventually no one even considers it. And then what? All other quibbles are minor, and the film is so thematically powerful and equally well made.


      1. That’s a very fine point about Pitt. I did have an issue with him (although I actually really like him as an actor) but I have to agree there. This is a film that will stand the test of time and I really couldn’t see past the film winning the Oscar. It was well deserved. I wouldn’t say it’s an instant classic but my opinion could well be swayed over time.


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