Editorial note: You’ve read Michael Long’s rankings of movies and TV shows for the past two years. For his final edition of Rank That before graduating, he wanted to leave you with his top five movies of all time.
5. The Truman Show
The concept of The Truman Show is such an amazing idea on paper. It has so much potential, but the problem with a lot of movies is the execution ends up being terrible, so the great idea is wasted. Luckily, this movie has amazing execution. It addressed every detail of this world Truman lives in. It’s really a study on humans and how they would act in this situation. Moral arguments are brought up, such as “is life actually better in the Truman’s fake world?” By the end of the movie, I believe that question is answered. There’s also some great social commentary in The Truman Show. Watching the level of detail put into convincing one man he’s living a real life is extraordinary. All the performances are solid. I can’t say enough about how many conflicting ideas and moral issues are used. On top of that, the movie provides a unique and extremely entertaining plot.
4. The Empire Strikes Back
Of course, this is the movie praised as the best sequel of all time, so it’s somewhat an obvious choice for this list. But, it’s praised for good reason. All upcoming filmmakers should watch Empire, because it does everything a solid sequel should. It elevates every character and introduces new ones, such as Lando, Yoda, and Boba Fett, that are as iconic as the originals. It’s filled to the brim with creativity, introducing new planets like the ice planet Hoth, the swamp planet Dagobah, and the futuristic land of Cloud City. Harrison Ford gives his best performance as Han Solo, showing some real emotion for the character. We previously saw just the cool selfish exterior of Han. Leia and Luke both go through a lot of change in their own ways as well. Obviously, the twist at the end is perfect. This all amounts to the best Star Wars movie in a series that’s done nothing but go down hill since this film.
3. Good Will Hunting
Right off the bat, this film is an inspiration for anyone pursuing screenwriting. It was written by two young actors with little to no money. The fact that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote such a fresh script is amazing to me. Will Hunting is a genius crossed with a rude Boston kid. He is a good person deep down, but for most of the movie he just enjoys drinking with his friends and messing with people. Sean, the therapist, is my favorite Robin Williams role. I love watching the father-son relationship he forms with Will and the ways he tries to help him. The therapy started out as just an excuse to keep him out of jail, but it slowly turned into the most important part of his life. Each scene with them together brings something new to the table, diving into both characters. Obviously, the park scene is the best in the movie. This movie does closure better than any movie I’ve seen before. Everything is tied up in a nice bow, leaving the audience satisfied.
2. Pulp Fiction
As I mentioned in my Quentin Tarantino article, Pulp Fiction is the best of his films. He introduces the nonlinear storytelling, which is something that hadn’t really been done before. While you could consider Reservoir Dogs as nonlinear, I see it more as flashbacks. Tarantino creates fun, intense storylines connected with perfect dialogue. So many lines in this movie are iconic to this day, including, “Say what again!” or “I shot Marvin in the face.” Each of the three main stories brings something new to the table. You can tell the amount of time and work Tarantino put into making this film. Every small aspect of Pulp Fiction amazes viewers. It can be slow at times, which works to the movie’s benefit. The movie will drag on (with great dialogue so it’s still entertaining), and then out of nowhere something very exciting will happen. Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, and Bruce Willis dive into their characters and make them feel real. It’s a monumental achievement in film and should be celebrated.
1. The Breakfast Club
No movie even comes close. I’ve discussed movie in my top 80’s movies article, and I actually ranked it number two. I’ve since realized it’s by far the not only the best 80’s movie, but the best of all time. There’s only one thing going for this movie, and that’s the point. The only thing going for it is the characters. The characters make the movie the masterpiece it is. While I already said this in my top 80’s movies article, I didn’t really break down each one individually, which is what I’m going to do now.
First on the list is Brian. Brian is a nerd. He’s not the type of nerd that necessarily wishes he was more popular or could play sports. He’s pretty content with his social status. However, his problems lie in his expectation of himself. He wants to be a perfect scholar and get flawless grades. He has the brain, so he better use it well. His parents have clearly molded him to be like this (which is a reoccurring aspect of the movie). And while I did say he’s pretty content with his popularity, he does want be liked by others and not be made fun of.
Next up is Claire. Claire is the queen bee of high school. The audience takes one look at her and hates her because everyone knew someone like her in their high school years. However, we slowly learn that she’s not cruel to people because she enjoys it. It’s because she’s weak. That’s her character flaw. She is terrified of what would happen if she actually stood up for someone, didn’t show up to a party, stepped away from her friend group, or dated someone who wasn’t in the popular circle. This isn’t an excuse for acting the way she does, but it’s surprising to find out she actually hates acting that way. I actually feel bad for her because it’s as if she’s trapped in a cage.
The next character is Allison. She’s the freak. That’s all she’s seen as for most of the film by both the characters and the audience. This isn’t going to be one of those deep-down-she’s-actually-normal moments. She really is a freak. However, what she does is show everyone else they’re the same deep down. She is similar to a character I’ll mention later in that she pretends like she doesn’t care. Symbolized by her hair, she uses her hair as a shield. Because really she hates everyone in her life. She doesn’t want to be friends with anyone, because everyone she knows is selfish and cruel. It’s easier to be the weird girl no one thinks about than try to be popular.
Andy is up next. Andy is an athlete. He is an extremely talented wrestler. Andy brings up a very interesting point: do you have a responsibility to do something just because you’re very talented at it? Deep down, he doesn’t want to be a wrestler. But he doesn’t even realize that, because he’s been brainwashed since birth to be one. His dad has such high expectations for him that it starts to leak into his social life. He does awful things just to impress his dad.
Finally, my favorite character is Bender. Bender is a rebel. Bender acts as though he couldn’t care less about anything. He doesn’t care about grades, other students or respect. While there is a big part of him that doesn’t care, there’s also a big part that does care what others think of him. He wants them to see him as a rebel with no limits. He also hates the social structure of high school. So, naturally he hates the queen of the school, Claire. He’s really insecure and handles that by mocking everyone else. I haven’t even hit the brim of these characters’ depths. There’s so much more to talk about. When these five are put together, the greatest movie of all time is created.