Welcome back to our Know Your Nerds series! Today, I’m taking a stab at narrowing my favorite movies down to my top 5.
Making my choices for this list was no easier than for the first two, and at the same time it was different — for instance, it was a little easier to identify my all-time faves (most of which I’ve watched upwards of 20 times apiece…no wonder there’s still so much on my to-be-watched list). However, as I was thinking through my list, I felt that there are a lot of titles that hold kind of an equal ranking in terms of how much I like them, so there are a ton of films on my honorable mentions list, most of which it was really painful to keep out of the top 5. In other words, get ready for an honorable mention list at the end of this post that will no doubt be far too long…at least you’ll get lots of recs that way, am I right?
So with that caveat in place, here are my top 5 favorite films of all time!
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
I’ll never forget seeing the trailer for this movie in theaters when I was about 14 and thinking, “Wow, that movie looks super creepy! I’m never watching that one…” Little did I know that I’d work up the courage to do so soon after the movie came out, or that I would instantly become obsessed with it! That obsession has never really let up in the intervening 14 years (yes, you read that right; I’ve been watching this movie for fully half my life. Does that make me feel old? Yes…yes it does). I’m still not tired of the amazing soundtrack, Will and Elizabeth’s adorable awkwardness, the sweeping scenery, or the gloriousness that is Captain Jack Sparrow.
I will say that I think the first POTC film is by far the strongest — while I enjoy all the others to varying degrees, sometimes I find myself wishing they’d just left well enough alone after the first one. However, this film and its descendants remain some of my favorites to watch when I want the perfect kicking-back movie in the summertime, or just when I want a little adventure.
4. Beauty and the Beast
This one had to make it on to the list even if for no other reason than the fact that I’ve loved it since I was literally 3 years old (which was right about the time it was first released — yes, I am old; we’ve established this). This is one of the first movies I have clear memories seeing (along with Dumbo, 2-year-old me’s favorite), and though my feelings toward it and the things I get out of watching it have changed as I’ve grown up, it always has been and always will be among my all-time favorites.
I don’t know for sure what 3-year-old Kristen loved about it, other than the smart and pretty princess and the beautiful castle she roamed, but I do know that, then and afterward, this movie has always resonated with me. Whether it’s the beauty of two total outcasts finding safety and love with each other, the wonderful fantasy elements, the amazing music that is among the best of the best to this day, or just that awesome library that I wished Beast had given to me instead of Belle, there’s been something great to take away with every one of my dozens of re-watchings.
3. Star Wars (original trilogy)
These films, in all their campy, goofy, haphazard glory, were my first real introduction to the world of sci-fi, and there was no turning back from that point on. I first saw the original Star Wars films when I was about 10, and let me tell you, they blew my tiny little mind. I quickly became obsessed with them, and learned all I could about the films themselves, the characters, and the extended universe. I checked out all the Star Wars-related books I could get my hands on from the library (which, granted, was not many given the fact that I grew up in a small town, but I did the best with what I had). While I may have forgotten a lot of the SW trivia I once knew, the memories of how the movies first made me feel have stayed, and I get to revisit them at least in some small measure every time I re-watch these movies. I love them for their sense of adventure, their unforgettable characters, the way the special effects still manage to mostly hold up after all these years, and for the never-stale message that even someone insignificant can become something great.
2. Pride and Prejudice (2005 version)
Quite simply, this movie swept me off my feet like a cheesy romance hero. But cheesy this film is not — to this day, I still consider it to be one of the most beautiful pieces of art (cinematic or otherwise) I’ve had the good fortune to run across, and it doesn’t feel over-the-top to say that it changed something about my mental aesthetic, and about the way I interpret romantic (and Romantic) media.
There are those purists out there who will deem that ranking the 2005 version of P&P over the 1995 version is nothing short of blasphemy. They’re welcome to think that, but I have to respectfully disagree. I’ll grant that the ’95 version is far closer to the book both in terms of tone and content, and that it’s a better look at the follies of high society as represented in Austen’s work. Nonetheless, the ’05 version is just beyond gorgeous, both in terms of the loving (yet still often scathing) way it paints its characters, to the pitch-perfect settings, to the way it gets to the real heart of the varied, fraught, and somehow beautiful relationships between the characters that inhabit the stories. Call me a hopelessly romantic teenager if you want, but to quote dearest Darcy, it bewitched me body and soul, you guys. There’s no topping that.
1. Lord of the Rings trilogy
Let’s face it — there was no way this one wasn’t going at the top of the list. These films are still the best book-to-film adaptations I’ve ever seen, before or since, and I don’t anticipate they’ll get bumped from that position anytime soon.
These movies brought the books to life for me in the best way — though they may not be perfect adaptations (and I know all about the schools of thought on this; believe me), to me they capture the true heart of the stories themselves. They communicate the same truth, the same love, the same moments of clarity and conviction. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all that’s needed for a truly great adaptation, regardless of the surrounding details. Just like with the books, I can call up images and quotes and feelings from the films to find peace when I’m troubled — I couldn’t ask for anything greater from a film than that.
Honorable mentions (presented without further comment for sake of space): The Princess Bride, Tangled, The Avengers (and other Marvel offerings), Howl’s Moving Castle, Tangled, North & South (BBC), The Holiday, Ever After, The Hunger Games, How to Train Your Dragon, Big Hero 6, Wall-E, V for Vendetta, A Knight’s Tale, The Count of Monte Cristo (Jim Caviezel version), The Fall, Treasure Planet
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