My Top 10: Movies Everyone Should Watch

I am no Roger Ebert. However, I have skillfully used film-watching to avoid my responsibilities for about five years, so I would like to think that I am qualified to speak on which ones made me want to drop out of school and pursue independent filmmaking. I have a ten-page paper due next week, but, tonight, instead of working at STL into the late night hours, you can catch me holed up in my dorm under my blanket watching “The Graduate” for the fourth time this month (the B- on my paper is for you, Mrs. Robinson).

These are films which I would die for, figuratively. The ones I would die for literally are not going to be on this list because those are too sacred for the public to know about. These movies are basic, classic, but absolute necessities.

Films Everyone Should See, probably.

10. “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)

Although Quentin Tarantino is arguably a piece of trash, sometimes I’ll be sitting and Brad Pitt’s brutal American accent saying “Git me some Nazi scalps!” will ring through my consciousness. Sometimes, me and my friends watch Christoph Waltz creme and strudel scene. Why? Uh, because we can? As I botched my Italian in Rome last spring, I fondly reminisced on the Lieutenant’s “Bawnjourno!” and felt a bit better about my incompetency.

9. “Dead Poets Society” (1989)

Everything that I do is my attempt to cope with Robin Williams no longer living. Williams stuns as teacher John Keating, singing his praise of Walt Whitman and other literary figures, inspiring his students to love the arts. I am searching for a SUNY New Paltz professor who would inspire me to stand on my desk and proclaim, “O’ Captain! My captain!” Patience is a virtue, I guess. 

8. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961)

A cliche, I know. I’ve seen this film upwards of 12 times. The black dress and pearls, Cat, the New York Public Library in the 60s, that deliciously under-furnished apartment with the half-bathtub couch. Sometimes I wish that I could reenact the opening scene here on campus, of Holly Golightly enjoying a pastry, glancing at the jewels in the window, but there is nowhere comparable to Tiffany’s in the morning! Maybe… Hasbrouck Dining Hall?

7. “Do the Right Thing” (1987)

Spike Lee’s groundbreaking film takes place over the span of one incredibly hot day in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Although it teems with comedy, it is earnest in its attempt to illustrate New York City race relations in the late 1980s. The cinematography and characters are wonderful (I love you, Radio Raheem), while its storyline is reflective of debates about race in America. 

6. “Taxi Driver” (1976)

I wrote an expansive research paper on the use of religious imagery in Martin Scorsese films. He utilizes Catholic motifs to interweave some eternal themes about the human condition. Travis Bickle, a neurotic, psychopathic taxi driver—portrayed brilliantly by Robert De Niro—cruising the mean streets of 70s Manhattan entices. You talkin’ to me?

5. “Breathless” (1960)

The French new wave (nouvelle vague) always has me shook. Quick camera shots with the allure of 1960 Paris. Sexy, thrilling, aesthetically pleasing. You get little hints of the existential dread of the French through clipped conversations. “You know William Faulkner?” the leading woman says. “No, who’s he? Someone you slept with?”

4. “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

The English language does not contain the proper words to describe this film. Just watch it. It’s like three hours and esconsced in literary allusions.

3. “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001)

Sometimes when I get off of a bus I remember the scene in this film where Margot Tenenbaum, played by the lovely Gwyneth Paltrow, walks off the bus in her fur coat and kohl-lined eyes while “These Days” by Nico blasts. I will never be that cool. This movie has it all: Mordecai the hawk, Bill Murray, Ben Stiller in a tracksuit, Owen Wilson in cowboy attire.

2. “The Godfather” (1972)

There’s life before you’ve seen “The Godfather,” and there’s life after you’ve seen “The Godfather.” Life afterwards is significantly better. The film is mesmerizing. You enter the Corleone family’s world. The opening wedding scene made me yearn for a big Italian family. Marlon Brando made me believe in God. 

1. “Spirited Away” (2001) 

Thank you, Hayao Miyazaki. Thank you.