The Greatest Movies of All Time

Long overdue, the CineNation crew compiles the definitive list of the greatest movies of all time.

Apr 1, 2017 · 14 min read
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We’ve written plenty of collaborative lists and rankings here at CineNation, but while it’s been fun to compile our favorite Alec Baldwin performances or the most underrated Disney movies, we realized we’ve never given our contributors an opportunity to praise their favorite movies of all time. So we gave them an open prompt this week: what is the greatest movie of all time? Some of these are sure to spark some debate, but we’re sure you’ll agree with plenty of these classic films.

Mulholland Drive

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If you talk to me about my taste in films, particularly in those directors who are considered by the masses to be “auteurs,” eventually, you will find out one thing: I absolutely love David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. And chances are you will too. After all, this movie was nominated for an Oscar and won a BAFTA, and it currently sits at 88% audience approval on RottenTomatoes. A BBC poll even ranks the film as the best film of the 21st century. And it is more than deserving of all these accolades and more.

The film basically brought 2-time Academy Award-nominee Naomi Watts to the public’s attention and showed the world that the tired old formula of movie-making and storytelling isn’t remotely necessary to create something deep and meaningful. Prolific and influential “New Wave” director Jean-Luc Goddard is attributed with the quote, “A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.” David Lynch basically said, “Forget that! Who needs any of those things?”

I would tell you the plot of Mulholland Drive, but it doesn’t have one! The film, originally made as an episode of television with an extra 45 minutes or so tacked on to make it what it is today, needs no plot. Simply watch, according to the 2002 DVD insert, for various objects like the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup, the red lampshade, and “the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkie’s” to piece together what the movie is all about. It’s genius! Like a puzzle on film, requiring 4–6 watches to start to move any of the pieces together. A post-modern or avant-garde piece like that from artist Piero Manzoni, Mulholland Drive is an artistic festival of philosophy, sound, and the eschewing of narrative that challenges the viewer’s mind and the film industry’s desperate desire to keep clinging to archaic, overused ideas like having a sensible narrative.

2001: A Space Odyssey

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Stanley Kubrick is highly regarded as one of the best film directors of all time. His film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is the film people point to as an all time classic. How could I turn down watching it? After finally getting myself to see the film, I understood why many have the film atop their “greatest films” list.

The film absolutely draws you in from the start, despite having no dialogue for the first and last 20 minutes. Who needs dialogue? Kubrick masterfully visualizes an ancient world — where ape-men rule the world. The setting of yesteryear transitions to a future where space travel to Jupiter is possible. The contrasts of setting are remarkable and show the depth of Kubrick’s masterful filmmaking capabilities.

The acting, from actors whose most-well known film credit is this movie, is subtle and thought-provoking. The best performance is a voice, specifically Douglas Rain’s voice. He plays HAL 9000, a computer on board the spaceship. HAL is the spaceship, interacting with the people daily. He is also evil. Watching the spaceship’s main computer turn on its passengers is shockingly terrifying. How could you do this, HAL?!?

All great films have a memorable film score. Though Kubrick chose not to have music during any dialogue scenes, the opening scene is quite memorable for its music: Also sprach Zarathustra. That musical touch is so memorable and powerful, it is one of the many things I took away from this movie. The music is epic.

2001: A Space Odyssey is quite a journey. From its breathtaking visuals to the film’s iconic villain, this classic film is a must-watch for any fan of film history and filmmaking.

Last Action Hero

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Despite garnering less than favourable reviews from critics, Last Action Hero is unique to its genre, a true underrated opus of a film. Filled with hidden side-splitting gems, Last Action Hero masterfully parodies its own genre, playing off action movie tropes left and right. With the seeming invincibility of the protagonist, the cheesy and predictable catchphrases, the flawed logic of creepy supervillains, the film encapsulates the entertaining ability to critique itself. In doing so, Last Action Hero is self-aware, embracing rather than being encumbered by its clichés. It is truly the mark of an educated person who is able to catch these little nods to the genre, which slide by effortlessly, like a hand along Arnie’s chiseled jawline. These little inside jokes, are funny and enjoyable, but serve the much large purpose of being keys for the audience to be granted access to this big-screen world. Just like the main character Danny, we become part of the film.

Although Last Action Hero is a fun-filled action-packed parodic romp, at its core, the true message is one of the duality of man. In its final death-defying moments, Jack Slater crosses the plain of fiction to reality and must defeat the evil Benedict (Charles Dance), for reasons which are never quite explained. In his pursuit of evil, he must also come face to face with an even greater obstacle: himself, or rather his real-world double Arnold Schwarzenegger. With this deeply affecting turn of events, the inner conflict of a misunderstood man explodes on the silver screen, harkening an innate desire in us all to be the best that we can be.

John McTiernan (Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October) creates a turning narrative with Last Action Hero, a reminder to always have a dream, even if that dream is to be a main character in your own favourite film. An adrenaline-fueled, comedic joyride with an underlying raw brutal honesty, Last Action Hero is one of a kind. It’s been said that Steven Spielberg had originally been offered the opportunity to direct this feature, though he backed out in order to make Schindler’s List. It’s safe to say he made the wrong choice.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Indiana Jones is one of the best adventure movie properties of the last 40 years. The most recent entry in 2008 continues the strong showing of the series at the box office as well as in the hearts and minds of the fans. Crystal Skull sees our aging Indy back in true, if older and a little tired, form. Allegedly inspired after watching an episode of Ancient Aliens, George Lucas has Indy locating the legendary city of El Dorado. The fabled city of gold and riches does indeed house some treasure, but the ultimate treasures are the crystalized skeletons of aliens that landed and founded the city, which still houses a flying saucer underneath the main temple. This bait-and-switch is a first for the series, and it is great to see that Lucas et al were willing to take chances by switching up their tried and true formula of Nazis/Cultists+Religious Artifact=Indiana Jones.

Beyond the changes to the formula, Crystal Skull also dynamically alters the impact of the entire series with its grander ideas on the supernatural. The prior films directly show or imply that the supernatural exists. The Ark of the Covenant melted the faces off of the Nazis that were brazen enough to interact with the most holy of Jewish relics. The Sankara Stones glow red hot when interacted with certain incantation in Temple of Doom. The Holy Grail has the power to heal wounds and extended the life of those that drank from it, but could not be removed from its temple. The actual crystal skulls, once connected with the rest of the alien skeleton, allow the aliens to reform and then leave the planet. This version of the supernatural removes the possibility of interactions with the divine entirely, embracing pure B-movie science fiction that the only thing human beings share the cosmos with are little green men with flying saucers, responsible for the wonders of Mesoamerican and Inca civilization. It is brilliant work, and demonstrates Lucas’ respect for history, Pre-Columbian culture, and religious imagination. If you love Indiana Jones, you will love Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Jack and Jill

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If you have read some of my earlier Medium work, then you already know how much I love the decisions Adam Sandler has been making to turn his career around for the past few years. Years ago, Sandler was phoning in performances in abysmal movies like The Wedding Singer and Reign Over Me. And let’s not forget that travesty known as Punch-Drunk Love (or should we?). But finally, 2011 came around, and Sandler finally gave us the masterpiece we all deserved. And that my friends is the great holiday classic, Jack and Jill.

Adam Sandler does something that very few actors ever try to do: play two characters in the same movie. We all know that when Ewan McGregor was prepping for his upcoming work on season three of Fargo, he was marathoning Jack and Jill everyday.

So, here is the rundown on what happens, because we all know when it comes to later Sandler films, story is the most important thing. Jack Sadelstein (played by Adam Sandler) is an advertising executive known for creating masterpiece commercials that Martin Scorsese wishes he could make. Jack is also happily married to his wife, played by Katie Holmes. We all know Katie lucked out here with Sandler’s character, because who doesn’t want a spouse who focuses so much on his work that he has no interest in his family. That’s when Jill Sadelstein (also played by Sandler) comes to L.A. from New York to visit the family for Thanksgiving.

After a blow-up between Jack and Jill, Jack apologizes to Jill and tells her she can stay with them through Hanukkah. During this time, Jack is trying to land a deal with Dunkin’ Donuts to be able to push their new product, the “Dunkaccino”. The only problem is, however, that the devil company known as Dunkin’ Donuts wants the incredibly overrated actor Al Pacino to be the star of the commercial. They even want him to showcase his mad rap skills. Jack doesn’t think this is possible, but once Pacino falls in love with Jill at the Lakers/Kings game on Christmas Day, Jack realizes he can emotionally manipulate his sister into helping him get Pacino in his commercial. Jill doesn’t want to date Al, but Jack won’t take no for an answer so he constantly forces Pacino on her. When that doesn’t work, Jack decides that by dressing up as his sister and seducing Pacino, he will be able to get Pacino to star in this career-defining commercial.

Once you finish this film, you will be left wondering, “Why was this comedy classic so misunderstood when it was released?” Jack and Jill easily surpasses the entire filmography of Charlie Chaplin, Billy Wilder, and Carrot Top. Luckily, with Netflix smartly extending their exclusive deal with Adam Sandler, I know we will continue to get films that will be on the same level as Jack and Jill. Data always equals great content.

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

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It is an unfortunate fact in the movie business that all too often, the sequel does not live up to its predecessor. There’s Shrek 2, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, Aliens, and sadly, the list goes on and on. Luckily, in 1998, Disney provided us with a rare exception to the rule by releasing the eagerly-awaited sequel to 1995’s Pocahontas.

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World is a breath of fresh air, as it is the first Disney animated movie to finally move away from the children’s entertainment genre and instead focus on being a history lesson. The film, which is 100% accurate, has Pocahontas traveling to England to negotiate peace between her people and the English, which was a vital step in forming a long-lasting peace between the nations, which still exists to this day.

Audiences were thrilled to learn that the love story in the first film is completely shattered and undone in the sequel, as Pocahontas leaves John Smith for another white guy with the same first name. Smith nearly dies for Pocahontas, but our heroine decides she just wants to be friends and goes with the new guy, John Rolfe. Unrequited love is an important lesson for young audiences to learn about, and this film teaches that sometimes your significant other will leave you for “people who look and think like you”.

The film includes everything we loved about the original Pocahontas too. Percy, the pet dog of the villain, has turned over a new leaf. Pocahontas continues to inspire young girls with realistic body expectations. We are given new instant-classic songs such as the female-empowerment number, “Wait ’Til He Sees You.” The film ends with Pocahontas and Rolfe kissing and sailing off into the sunset, blissfully unaware that she will die a few days later at age 21 from what historians believe was either tuberculosis, pneumonia, smallpox or poison.

It is truly a shame that such a heartwarming story only received a direct-to-video release, but I’m holding out hope that we will one day receive the third and final installment, which will detail the events of our heroine’s last days and the total disintegration of the peace she worked so hard to create.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2

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Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final film adaptation of the wildly popular Twilight series, is by far the best film in the franchise. Nay, the world. Being the origins of R-Patz and K-Stew is only the tip the of the iceberg, because there are so many wonderful qualities. Where to even begin?

First, let’s start with plot. The riveting love story of vampire and human tween is one for the ages. Romeo and Juliet? Move over, Bella and Edward are rewriting this story. But wait! There’s more! A love triangle? You bet! Introducing Jacob, the hot shirtless werewolf of your dreams. Now, at this point in the franchise, Jacob has actually fallen in love with Bella and Edward’s CGI child, but that’s just another twist in this otherwise fantastic film. The evil vampire mafia has given Renesme (Bella and Edward’s child, named after the couple’s mom’s names. Cute right??) an ultimatum, because she’s a weird half-human half-vampire. In the face of this ultimatum, the gang decides to round up all their vampire friends and try to defeat the ancient Italian vampire mafia, which includes Emmy-nominated Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning. The suspense is just too much.

Speaking of CGI, wow. Avatar should watch it’s back, because the people at Twilight know their stuff. All the varying creatures in this film look 9,233 percent real. The only thing not CGI’d are Jacob’s abs, am I right? The five minute long penultimate fight scene is chock full of ripping-off vampire heads and X-Men like superpowers. Riveting stuff here guys.

What wraps up the movie is what millions of teens wanted to see, a sex cabin built in the middle of the woods. Bella and Edward do it into the sunset and the audience is left knowing that no matter what, this is the story that inspired the fan-fiction that inspired 50 Shades of Grey, an even better film than Breaking Dawn — Part 2, but that deserves a separate article.


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Aloha was one of my biggest film surprises of 2015 for several reasons. I didn’t expect much going in, mostly because of the lackluster track record of writer/director Cameron Crowe. Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Ugh, I couldn’t care less about Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates or that one Jackson Browne song. Say Anything? Spare me having to endure John Cusack, Ione Skye and that one Peter Gabriel song. Jerry Maguire? Just stop, Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger and that one Tom Petty song, you had me at Hell-No. Don’t even get me started on Almost Famous. Frances McDormand, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson and all those “iconic” classic rock songs? YAWN.

You know what all those films were really missing? (No, it’s not a zoo.) They’re obviously missing Hawaiian culture and space politics; it only took my first viewing of Aloha to realize that. I walked out of Aloha astonished at Crowe’s ability to weave so many compelling, totally intelligible storylines into one 105 minute rom-dram-space-com. In case you haven’t been lucky enough to see it yet, Bradley Cooper’s Gilcrest comes back to Hawaii after a long time away to help Bill Murray’s Richard-Branson-knock-off launch a private satellite into space. Also Alec Baldwin wants him to negotiate with the Hawaiian people to build some sort of Air Force station, and he’s assigned spunky pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone) to babysit Gilcrest. But to everyone’s surprise, although Allison and Gilcrest initially hate each other, they soon fall in love, which complicates things when Gilcrest’s ex-girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) leaves her husband (John Krasinski) for him. Got it?

Oh, also Gilcrest is a master hacker, which is never explained or even established in the film, but is demonstrated when he hacks the entire Chinese government. That’s called “showing, not telling,” the very trademark of a talented filmmaker.

The casting here is what sells this movie. When you think iconic on-screen chemistry in current Hollywood, you immediately think Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone, right? Of course, you’re really thinking Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling, but we’re talking about the transitive property here, folks! Plus, you’ll see Emma bring every last bit of cultural inheritance to her character of Hawaiian and Chinese descent. And Bill Murray is here to be goofy, we all love that! In this particular instance his character ends up being an international criminal with a Bond-villain-level evil plan, but what’s important is he’s still goofy!

If you’re not crying by the last scene, in which Gilcrest goes to visit the daughter he never knew he had, staring at her through a dark window at night as she practices hula dancing, and then she realizes non-verbally that this man is her dad, even though she’s only met him once, and runs out to hug him, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. I wasn’t sure what people saw in Cameron Crowe for all those years, but after Aloha, I totally get it.

So there you have it, the greatest films of all time! Can’t argue with those choices…or can you?

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