Return to my homepage
Hey, we all love movies, don't we? You know--the thing about movies is, you can never predict with 100% accuracy who is going to like what movie. For example, I'm a "Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Eastwood, Van Damme, Segal" kinda movie guy. Basically I enjoy the action movies most of all. But I do enjoy stumbling across a "Tender Mercies" or a "Blue Velvet" occasionally.
I'm always delighted when I happen upon some movie I had missed or overlooked, which turns out to be a great one. The list below summarizes MY sixty or so favorite movies. Some are well known, while others may be virtually unknown. If you have similar tastes, and have enjoyed some of these movies, then you might want to take a look at some of the ones you haven't seen. Or better yet--give me some feedback on movies you think I would like.
By the way--these are listed alphabetically, not in order of favoritism. I've added my ratings to the movies below so you'll know how I rank 'em. Just for your reference, any movie on "Joe's Scale of Movies" which gets a 5.0 or above is a movie I'd sit through a second time. Lower than that--forget it!
Sigourney Weaver stars in this, the second (and what I think is the best) of the "Alien" series. After being discovered in space after many years of suspended animation she is asked to return with a group of marines to the planet where the original alien was discover. The planet has been colonized, but for some mysterious reason, Earth has lost contact with the colony there. Here Weaver, as Ripley, gets to kick some serious alien butt, including the mother of all aliens!
Mickey Rourke stars as Harry Angel, a detective trying to figure out a mystery in which he unknowingly plays a big part. Louisiana, black magic, voodoo, Lucifer (or was that Louis Cipher?), and all sorts of strange elements make this a confusing but interesting movie.
Hey, what can I say--this movie is silly, plus I was never a frat-rat, but I love this stuff. John Belushi in a role that was MADE for him. When the dean kicks him out of school for having a 0.0 GPA, Belushi remarks, "damn--seven years of college down the drain!"
I agree that Marlon Brando played the Col. Kurtz character even weirder than necessary, but that doesn't spoil this as a great war movie. One of the few that shows how crazy the war and our involvement in Vietnam were. Martin Sheen plays a army spook sent up a river to find and kill an army colonel who has gone mad. Better than it sounds.
No question about it--the best Biblical epic ever made and the best movie of Charlton Heston's career. Forget the chariot races, this is simply a great movie and people will still be watching it a hundred years from now. Hard to imagine that this story was written by a Civil War general (Lew Wallace).
Let's see--ghosts, devils, monsters, kung-fu, magicians, swaggering action hero, green-eyed heroine, ancient Chinese curses. What did I leave out? A truly fun, funny, and exciting movie starring Kurt Russell. Lots of laughs and as much action as an Indiana Jones movie.
Uh-oh, we've seen the future and it is dark and ugly. Harrison Ford plays kind of a bounty hunter trying to find and kill some replicants who have rebelled against their masters. He finds out the ugly truth behind these replicants and even begins to feel sorry for them. As a bonus, you get to see Sean Young!
How can I describe this--boy finds human ear in empty lot, teams up with policeman's daughter, meets every variety of weirdo, and nearly gets killed, all while trying to solve a murder mystery. Kyle McLaughlin is the hero and Dennis Hopper is the weirdest wacko you ever saw. I've seen this three or four times and I'm still not sure about all of what David Lynch is trying to do. I'm one of those people though who really likes his stuff (Twin Peaks, etc.).
Oh wow! This thing definitely deserved the Best Picture award it won. Maybe it's the Scottish blood in me (or it could just be the scotch!), but I was very deeply moved by this story of the Scottish patriot, William Wallace, as he leads the Scots in a fight for their freedom against the English. Such treachery. Such bloody battles. Such a love story.
Okay. Had it not been for Clint being in it, I'd have never sat through this. But I'm very glad I did. Oh man--if you watch this without getting a little choked up, then you do have a cold heart. Forget the syrupy book and see this movie guys.
Okay, okay, it is stupid and juvenile and the focus of the movie is a gopher on a golf course, but if you can watch this without laughing, then something is wrong. Bill Murray back when he was funny. Rodney Daingerfield also back when HE was funny.
I had quit watching Stallone movies because they had gotten so bad. But man, this thing is completely different. Kinda like "Die Hard in the Rocky Mountains". Great action and great climbing scenes. Sly--please make more of THESE kinds of movies. But then, how do you deal with it when your first picture is as good as Rocky was--that's pretty hard to live up to!
There's something about this movie... Richard Dreyfuss plays this everyday guy who has an alien encounter that leads him to the grandest meeting of aliens and humans ever filmed. Lots of this is based on actual facts and incidents that have occurred with UFO's over the years.
Cold Mountain (8.5)
I heard about this movie, and it didn't sound good to me. After watching it, I realized I was totally wrong. Lots of action and a pretty good love story. I think this is the only time I ever liked Jude Law's character in a movie. A Houston girl steals the show.
I saw some critics dog this movie because it had a gorilla who knew sign language. Actually the gorilla only provides one of the motives for this wild trip into the Congo which involves the lost diamond mines of King Solomon, African political wars, high tech satellites, killer apes, lost cities, etc. How can you not like all this action?
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (8.0)
Hard to describe this movie. It's not your typical Chinese kung-fu martial arts movie. Beautiful scenery, lots of action, several story-lines, but most of all a love story. I watched it three times the first week I had the DVD. I had to watch it twice to figure out all of the plot elements accurately. Basically two ex-warrior types (one male and one female) search to recover a missing sword (The Green Destiny) with mystical properties.
I have yet to find someone who didn't like this movie. A lovingly told story of an isolated calvary officer in the late 19th century American west who meets and befriends the prairie Indians he encounters. Shows the ugly side of the U.S.'s efforts to tame the west, but paints a wonderful picture of Indian life before Manifest Destiny destroyed it forever.
This is probably more of a "guy" type movie. Four buddies want to raft down a stretch of Georgia river before a dam does away with it. Unfortunately not everyone in the woods is friendly and their camping trip turns into a nightmare. Remember "Dueling Banjos"?
This is based on that Frank Herbert "Dune" series of books. It would probably have helped to have read the first one before seeing this, but still it is a great sci-fi movie. Definitely weird though. Lots of intrigue. You'll never look at worms the same way again.
Okay, okay, another Spielberg extraterrestrial movie, and kind of a syrupy one at that. But still a darn good movie. This time the government sort of comes off as the "baddie". One of the biggest grossing movies of all time, so there must be a lot of people besides me who liked it.
How can you not like a movie with Clint Eastwood playing a sort of beer drinking, cowboy, nice guy who just happens to be the best underground bare-knuckles fighter in the U.S. As a bonus he has a pet orangutang and a gang of feckless motorcycle thugs to deal with.
I'll admit after five or six viewings I still get choked up when I watch the final scene of this movie. Kevin Costner, a beleaguered midwestern farmer, hears a mysterious voice telling him to "build it and they will come", the "it" being a baseball field. To much ridicule and financial stress, he does build it and THEY do come. It's sure funny how quiet everyone in the room gets near the end of this movie.
This was the first in what was to become the Rambo series. This is really the best of the series and very believable compared to the others. Here good ol' Stallone gets hassled by a small-town sheriff and after busting up the jail, escapes into the mountains of the Pacific northwest, holding off hundreds of men wanting to capture him. Both Richard Crenna and Brian Dennehy have good roles. I love the scenery here.
I'll have to hand it to Russell Crowe. He walked right into the role of a lifetime. I guess I would compare this movie to Spartacus, in terms of the spectacle, but I believe it has a better story line. To make a long story short, the commander of the army of Rome refuses to give his allegiance to the new emperor (who has just achieved that position through a nasty act of patricide). He and his family are ordered to be killed. He escapes, but is captured and made a slave, a gladiator. Through his fighting skills he is able to return to Rome, and in the Forum, regains his rightful place and vengeance over the new emperor (played to evil perfection by Joaquin Phoenix).
I could write a book about this movie. In my mind, this is one of the best movies ever made. I won't even bother describing it other than telling that it follows a New York Sicilian crime family from the mid-40's up through the 50's. If you haven't seen it, go rent it and do so ASAP. Brando, Pacino, Duvall, etc., etc., etc.
One of those cases where the sequel is actually as good or better than the original. Pacino stars as the guy ruling the crime family. It bounces from Reno, to Vegas, to Cuba in its glory days just before the Communists took over. A must-see. And don't confuse this with Part III which is a big, big drop-off from the other two.
Another of those crime family movies, but from a different angle. Ray Liotta plays an Irish guy who becomes a member of the family. Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro play his buddies. A little gruesome (well Pesci does die an easier death than he does in "Casino"), but a very entertaining picture.
Those of you who haven't seen this Spielberg movie, just go ahead and laugh. Actually though this movie is about a bunch of kids after pirate treasure while dealing with modern day criminals, it is very fun and exciting. And yes, they really do encounter a "monster" and they also find where One-Eyed Willy hid his pirate ship all these years.
The critics dogged this movie, but I can't see why. It reminds one a lot of "The Sting". Exept this is told from a black perspective. How can a movie with Richard Pryor, Red Foxx, and Eddie Murphy (when he was still funny) be all bad? Takes place during Prohibition. I love the fistfight between Murphy and Della Reese where she says, "oh, so you're the kind of man that hits old ladies with garbage can lids, are ya? Well now I'm gonna have to cut ya!"
This movie is actually a documentary which appeared in the early 80's. Hosted by Dan Ackroyd and others, it offers hilarious clips from the WORST movies ever to come out of Hollywood--monster movies, alien movies, teen rebel movies, etc. You are sure to see some Ed Wood clips.
Surely no one reading this has missed seeing this movie. Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Schneider, and Robert Shaw have fantastic roles in this thriller about a huge killer shark in the waters off a small New York resort island. This is the one that really got Spielberg on the map. If you hadn't seen it, you would think it is only an action movie about a big shark, but it is much, much more.
Along with the two Godfather movies and Apocalypse Now, this is my favorite movie of all time. Robert Redford plays an army officer who wants to become a mountain man in the days of trappers and Indians in the Rocky Mountains. A truly wonderful movie with beautiful scenery.
One of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies (No. 3 on the list, behind Pale Rider and Unforgiven), but it seems to be the one that nobody remembers. Clint plays a New Mexico rancher who hires on to help rich-man Robert Duvall and some Chicago thugs track down some bandits/land reformers who are destroying deed records. As the movie progresses, Clint begins to side more with the reformers than Duvall, and he ends up shooting a lot of people on both sides.
This is a beautifully filmed movie of the last Chinese emperor who was raised a virtual prisoner inside China's imperial city. A truly sad film where we see that being virtually a god does not guarantee a life of happiness.
Bet you never heard of this one! Tom Berenger plays a modern day bounty hunter who while looking for some escaped convicts in the mountains of Montana sees something he believes to be wild Indians. With an anthropologist for company he goes looking for what turns out to be a tribe of Indians hidden from society for 100 years. Everyone I've told about this movie has thanked me profusely after seeing it, and you will too if you give it a try.
A very exciting movie with beautiful scenery. I'm not sure Daniel Day Lewis was the best guy they could have gotten for the hero, but he ain't half bad. Very bloody, and it is bound to stir your emotions.
What is this--four movies in a row that begin with "Last"? What does that mean? Peter Bogdanovich's movie adaptation of Larry McMurtry's great book about life in a small town going downhill in west Texas in the late 50's (or is it the early 60's) after the oil boom. Filmed in black and white, it is no action movie, but it is very, very good. Tim Bottoms and Jeff Bridges play the two high school buddies. Now if only the movie versions of "Leaving Cheyenne" and "Horseman, Pass By" had been half as good!
The Last Samurai (8.0)
Everything I read about this movie made it sound boring and mediocre. I actually enjoyed it and thought it was a great action movie. I wish Tom Cruise would do more movies like this.
The last of the Mad Max series of movies finds Mel Gibson in Tina Turner's post-apocalyptic Barter Town, where he gets in lots of trouble and is turned loose in the desert to die. He finds a group of kids (the victims of a plane crash) who have survived in an oasis, and they eventually go back to Barter Town with Max and put Tina out of business.
Alan Alda, McLain Stevenson, and those other idiots on the television show gave this movie a bad name, if you ask me. Hawkeye Pierce and the other characters in the original movie were really cool doctors in wartime Korea and not the bunch of syrupy moralizing worms that Alda turned them into. If you've only seen the TV show and you think it was great, then don't bother watching the movie. Oh yeah, the movie is actually funny and you don't have to suffer through some fool running around in a dress trying to get a Section 8. When this movie first came out, I went to see it at the theater across the street from my dormitory three times the first week.
Another baseball movie with sort of a mystical theme. Robert Redford does a good job as the hero.
After about the fourth time I saw this movie, I realized how good it was. Maybe that's because each time I watch it I see all kinds of "hidden" things. There are the obvious references to Homer, with the Sirens and the Cyclops. But there are other references, such as the one where the three heroes put on "ZZ Top-type" beards and play their song to a rabid audience. There is even a Biblical-type flood, washing away all evil. The plot of the movie revolves around three Depression-era convicts in Mississippi who escape from the chain gang and have a serious of mis-adventures. There is another major sub-plot that revolves around the governor's race, with Charles During doing a great job as "Pappy" O'Daniel (someone does need to tell the Coen brothers that O'Daniel was a TEXAS governor).
This is Sergio Leone movie about Jewish gangsters and it stretches from the 30's up to the modern day. A good, long movie, it stars James Woods and Robert DeNiro. Am I the only one who ever watched this movie? I'd call it sort of a Jewish version of The Godfather.
Who would have thought that a movie about an insane asylum could be so good? Jack Nicholson in the role of his career. Based on a great Ken Kesey book about human spirit in the face of mean-spirited authority. This movie deserved the Best Picture award it won back in the mid-70's.
Open Range (7.5)
Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner play two cowboys who raise "open range" cattle in the late 1800's, moving wherever the grass is to take advantage of free grazing. They run into a bully of a land baron who hates these free-rangers. His attempt to run them off leads to a classic battle of good versus evil. I see a lot of parallels between this movie and Clint Eastwood's "The Unforgiven".
My favorite Clint Eastwood movie of all time. He plays a gunfighter/preacher (who may or may not be a ghost) helping some gold miners in the old west against a robber baron who wants all the gold for himself.
Mel Gibson does a great job of playing a character loosely based on Francis Marion, a South Carolina patriot during the Revolutionary War. Very bloody, but that's probably the way it really was. Constant action, but also an epic story of love and of family.
This features George C. Scott in a role that seems just made for him. Even if you don't like war movies, this is such a movie of character that I think you would like it anyway. I've watched this more times than any other movie (well, now that I think about it, I've watched "The 13th Warrior" a few more times) and I never get tired of it. And the good news is that it is very long.
Another very good movie about the Vietnam war, from the viewpoint of a young foot soldier. Charlie Sheen is good as the young private, but the best roles are those played by Willam Dafoe and Tom Berenger as the opposite-end-of-the-spectrum sergeants. The battle scenes are very exciting and this truly shows the lunacy of the whole experience, maybe even better than Apocalypse Now.
Actually as ghost movies go, this one is pretty good. And scary too! This was the first in a series of Poltergeist movies, but Speilberg did this one, and it is pretty darn good, unlike the successors. You will definitely think differently about things that go bump in the night after this. Remember--"they're HERE!"???
Picture this--Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a team of CIA-type commandos into a Central American jungle to rescue a team of Americans in the middle of a war against leftist guerrillas. Not only do they find their buddies dead, but something out there in the jungles is killing off people on every side. For sport! And the damn thing is virtually invisible. And UGLY too! We know Arnold will win in the end, but it sure is exciting watching to see for sure.
Princess Bride (7.5)
Hard to describe this movie. Sort of a fairy tale of a beautiful princess and a poor farm boy who loves her. There are giants and pirates and wizards and all manner of weird characters. Funny, but heartwarming. The story as presented as if it is a book being read to a young boy by his grandfather, and Peter Falk does a great job as the grandfather during his brief time onscreen.
I love this kind of weird movie. Three ongoing but interrelated stories. Travolta plays a mobster's hitman. Bruce Willis plays a prizefighter who the mobster wants to see throw a fight. Some really weird scenes. Ever seen anyone get a needle punched into their heart to bring them back to life after ODing on heroin? You'd have to see this to believe it. Either you like Tarantino or you don't. I do. Well....most of the time.
First and best of the Indiana Jones movies. This one has it all--Nazis, archaeology, the supernatural, excitement, and a touch of humor. Harrison Ford races the Nazis around the globe to find the Ark of the Covenant which may be the greatest weapon known to mankind.
Few people have heard of this one from the mid-70's. Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston play two ne'er-do-well buddies in modern day Montana who start making a living butchering and selling other people's cattle. Slim Pickens is the old stock detective brought in to catch them. Kind of funny. Hard to find.
The second and best of the Mad Max movies. In this one Mel Gibson finds himself allied with a small post-apocalyptic band of people in a fortress under assault by a bunch of baddies and mutants who want their gasoline. Kind of bloody, but definitely fun.
A few years back I would have told you that Tom Hanks was a poor second-rate actor. But after "Saving Private Ryan", I began to see him in a different light. I thought "Castaway" was a step backward, although he got a lot of hype for it. In "Road to Perdition" he turns in a great performance. This is a dark, bloody movie, but it is really a good one. Hanks is a hit-man for an Irish mob boss (Paul Newman), but he is also a family man with a wife and two kids, all of whom he loves very much. His oldest son witnesses a mob hit, and the rest of the movie shows the aftermath of that tragic moment. Hanks plays a bad man who is a good and loving father. Even to the end he tries to protect his son from the kind of life that he lived.
The ultimate "underdog" movie. Stallone's first and best. They made so many Rocky movies that people tend to forget that the first one was a really good movie. "Yo, Adrienne!"
If you are a man, and all you ever heard about this movie was the title, you'd never want to see it. But it's a great action movie featuring Michael Douglas as an adventurer in the jungles of South America, helping an American woman find her lost sister while dealing with all kinds of villains, including Danny DeVito. Also quite a funny movie. The sequel, "Jewel of the Nile", can safely be ignored.
Hey, isn't this a made for TV. movie? Yes it is, but it is also one of the two best vampire movies of all time (Fright Night is the other). David Soul stars in Stephen King's story of the coming of a vampire to a small quiet New England town.
I've only seen this movie once, but man, it stuck with me. James Woods plays kind of a sleazy photo-journalist looking to maybe hit it big with just the right photo of the war in El Salvador. Problem is he gets the folks on both sides wanting to kill him, and this movie becomes very scary.
A great movie, but a relative unknown. The only name star in this movie is Jacqueline Bisset. Picture two rich, oversexed, dysfunctional families of Beverly Hills twits living next door to each other. One's house is being remodeled, so the owners move in with their neighbors for a long weekend. The butlers, who have a wager on who can sleep with the other's mistress first appear to be the only sane people in the picture.
A cool 80's teen angst movie starring Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall. Really funny, but also believable. A lot of fun and good music to boot.
Keith Carradine is one of a group of Louisiana National Guardsmen on weekend training in the swamps, where they trigger a war with some backwoods Cajuns. Kind of like Predator in that they are hunted down as the movie enfolds. Another "guy" type movie.
Man, I remember seeing this for the first time as a kid at the Saturday matinee in the early 60's. What an exciting movie! Escaped gladiator creates a slave army and goes to war against Rome for their freedom. They lose, but it is a spectacular movie. In fact, until "Braveheart", I didn't think they could do 'em like this anymore.
One of those movies that EVERYBODY has seen. They have now made four other movies in the series, but this is the good one. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Han Solo, and all the rest are there as good battles evil.
What an uplifting movie. Not exciting, kinda slow in fact, but rather a story of how a woman's love saves an ex-country music star from his self-destructive ways and gives him back his pride. Robert Duvall in his greatest role (well, I guess you could argue that he did just as good a job in "The Apostle"). This one has a happy ending.
When Schwartzenegger as the cyborg killer from the future tells the desk clerk at the police station, "I'll be back", we know he means it. Very exciting, as the seemingly indestructible cyborg hunts down the mother of a future leader of the good guys and the guy from the future who has been sent back to save her. (By the way, don't waste your time with Terminator II--it ain't up to the standards of the original.)
Antonio Banderas plays an Arab who meets up with some Norsemen in this adaptation of Michael Crighton's "Eaters of the Dead". When I first read about this, it didn't sound all that exciting, but I've watched it quite a few times, and I now realize it is just a good ol' fashioned action movie with plenty of swords and sorcery. Banderas must accompany the Norsemen back to their homeland to help fight off an ancient evil...ravaging creatures that appear to be part-man and part-bear.
Okay, so I have a lot of Arnold's movies on this list. So what? This is a good one as Arnold plays sort of a James Bond type, unbeknownst to his poor wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) who believes he is a mild-mannered computer salesman. Tom Arnold is hilarious as the (CIA???) partner. Virtually non-stop action and meant to be funny as well.
My second favorite Eastwood movie. Clint plays a retired gunman who is having a rough go of it as a hog farmer. To get money for his family he agrees to accompany a hired killer to help kill three cowboys (who maimed a prostitute) for the reward posted by her friends. Gene Hackman plays a sadistic sheriff who gets what he deserves from Clint. And who said a Clint Eastwood picture would never win the Best Picture Academy Award? This is not a fun, exciting western, like some of Clint's others, but more of a dark, sad one.
Fredrick Forrest plays a young Indian boy who is taken in by an ex-rodeo pro (Richard Widmark) who teaches him to be a great rodeo star, but then becomes jealous of the young man's success. Hard to find, but worth seeking out.
Sean Connery plays an Islamic prince of the desert who kidnaps Candice Bergen, an American in Morocco, and holds her and her children for ransom. Brian Keith plays president Teddy Roosevelt, who comes to admire the Connery character while seeking freedom for the Americans.
Mel Gibson plays a journalist assigned to Indonesia in the early 60's to cover the political strife. He falls for Sigourney Weaver, another journalist. Linda Hunt, who plays a man's role, as Gibson's local helper, becomes the victim of government repression, and she got an Oscar nod for this role.
Mickey Rourke (now here's a guy who has blown a career) plays a New York police captain assigned to clean up Chinatown. The movie focuses on one Chinese gangster who is determined to become the leader of all the gangs and Rourke's efforts to drive him out of business. Very, very violent.
Well, there you have 'em. The best movies I've ever seen. There are others I would have liked to include, but I've tried to trim it to the sixty or seventy best. Again, if you like a lot of these movies, then you should try to find a way to see some of the others you've never heard of or never seen.
Return to Brannen home page