All right, this is my first ever cinema-related list. So, here we go.
10. American Beauty (1999)
American Beauty is one of the best movies ever made and undoubtedly the best directorial debut of all time (looking at you, Citizen Kane). Back when my mind was trundling on commercial movie circuit, American Beauty cracked my head open to a new world altogether. Alan Ball’s quirky screenplay matched with Kevin Spacey’s extraordinary performance, Sam Mendes’s perfect direction and Thomas Newman’s haunting score makes American Beauty one of the most ethereal movies ever made, making it land on this list at #10. [Review]
9. Le Ballon Rouge (1956)
The shortest movie on this list, Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon) is a story about a boy who rescues a balloon entangled on a lamp-post, which turns out to be a living being in itself, following the boy like a friend. This 1956 classic manages to speak lots from mere images, so much that it moved me beyond measure. An influential piece of cinema and the most beautiful movie ever put on celluloid. [Review]
8. The Master (2012)
The most beautiful movie from Paul Thomas Anderson’s oeuvre. A profound character study, The Master throws the humanistic spectrum at our face with the help of two contrasting yet similar men – one is trying to escape whereas one is trying to find the meaning of his words. Greenwood’s amazing score and exemplary performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix manage to bring it home with Paul Thomas Anderson’s trademark of disillusioned environments accompanying the duo. Best of the 2010s, for sure. [Review]
7. Der Untergang (2004)
The birthplace of the famous Raging Hitler meme. Oliver Hirschbiegel’s 2004 historical epic manages to provide a different perspective towards one of the most popular leader of the 20th century. The claustrophobic environment with Berlin being attacked creates a reckless juxtaposition with an adamant leader who is ready to go down with his motherland. Told through the eyes of Hitler’s stenographer, Der Untergang (Downfall) successfully shows the tension and the sense of loss with a strong performance from Bruno Ganz and beautiful camerawork by Rainer Klausmann.
6. Ugly (2014) / Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Anurag Kashyap is one of the best Indian directors working today. His movies are Herzog in nature and Scorsese in taste. Even though his conduct and face-offs with the governance bodies are well-known, his controversial products are often reminiscent of Godard and Tati mixed in a special concoction. His magnum opus is the epic duology Gangs of Wasseypur, but my personal favorite is his follow-up effort. Kashyap has won over himself with Ugly – a taut psychological thriller which makes us feel lost even though the exit is in front of us. A cinematic achievement and a perfect entertainer.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the best romantic movie of all time, period. Need I say more? OK. The ending scene and Jim Carrey. [Review]
5. Maqbool (2003)
If the Godard vs Truffaut template is placed on Bollywood, it will surely consist of Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Bhardwaj. Maqbool is Bhardwaj’s second movie as a director and his first Shakespearean adaptation i.e. Macbeth. A faithful adaptation set in Mumbai’s underworld, Maqbool also turns out to be a fine crime drama, with all the ingredients added in appropriate quantities. Its international under-appreciation still surprises me. It deserves to be on the lists concerning Shakespearean adaptations around the world; I hope it does someday. [Review]
4. Iruvar (1997)
Iruvar (The Duo) is a double biopic of two former chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, an Indian province. Basically a tale of ego clashes and friends-turned-foes, what makes Iruvar so special is the nuanced performances from the two lead actors and the technical aspects i.e. editing and cinematography. Iruvar is an amazing character study, which explores both roads which diverged in the yellow woods. Both characters have their ups and downs, travelling in parallels. Mani Ratnam’s expert direction and AR Rahman’s amazing background music makes this movie a must-watch and #4 on this list. [Review]
3. Vanaprastham (1999)
Yes, Vanaprastham (The Pilgrimage) is my favorite Indian movie. It is widely believed that Adoor Gopalakrishnan, a parallel line to Shaji N Karun, is the spiritual heir of Satyajit Ray. I disagree. There can’t be any heir to Ray’s style and humanism. The closest one can get to Ray is Kiarostami and Alexander Payne. Let’s get back to this list. I still can’t believe that a tale of a disgruntled man whose disastrous history hinders his journey for salvation and peace can be portrayed with such finesse. Excellent cinematography, performances and direction makes this movie an artwork. It is one of those rare movies where you can pause anywhere and you’ll have a painting in front of you. An unknown cinematic gem yet to be discovered at large by cinephiles worldwide. [Review]
2. Magnolia (1999)
By now, you’ll be like “Another ’99? Oh stop it!” Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite living director and for me, his best and my favorite is Magnolia, his sophomore effort (if Hard Eight is excluded). There are so many reasons to watch this movie like the huge cast, Aimee Mann, PTA, those amazing whip pans and the absolutely wonderful ending. It’s like a tight ball of threads, of different tensile strengths, each of them trying to find their aim and attain peace in this world. The longest film on this list, Magnolia is a movie which I’ll keep close to my heart. Some might find it tedious and overtly emotional, but for me, if everything’s balanced, movies can turn into a feast. And another reason for me to love this movie – Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP).
1. 2001 : A Space Odyssey (1968)
Not Kubrick’s best (Barry Lyndon, in my opinion), but my favorite Kubrick and my most favorite movie of all time. A revolutionary magnum-opus. [Review]
P.S. I know that I did it too early, but I wanted to get over with this topic, because I am pretty sure nothing would shake up this Top 10 list. I’ve at last forayed into the listing business so do share your opinions in the comment section below. Cinema is King.