A Personal Journey with The Gunslinger45 through the Movies: A Top 50+

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It has been a year since I joined this very fine website. I joined to meet fellow cinephiles of a caliber similar to or superior to mine, discuss film with those who have a passion for the art, and to broaden my horizons and explore cinema I have not experienced yet. And in that regard it has been very successful. I have found a place I hope to continue to frequent for many years to come. And to celebrate this occasion I felt it was time for another Top 50 list. I have experienced many new films and directors and while there are new entries on my list, we hit a snag. While a few films rose and fell here or there, plus a few re-connections with films I had not seen in several years, there were only a handful of films in my new Top 50 that were brand new that I have experienced since I joined the site. And while there is still a significant amount of change, it would not be very different from last time. What can I say; my tastes have stayed pretty consistent. But we have a simple solution to this problem.

A few months back I watched a documentary called A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies. For three and a half hours Marty talked about his own experiences with movies growing up. Starting with Duel in the Sun (the first movie he remembered seeing by title in the theater). He also discussed movie making, the old studio system, certain directors, the roles of a director, and basically showcased his encyclopedic knowledge of film. Needless to say I loved it. But it also inspired me to try something similar this time around. I want this to be a personal journey through film as well. Now many of my favorite films already include personal cinematic milestones, movie movements I greatly enjoyed, films that spoke to me personally, films that genuinely moved me, and a few movies that have changed my life. And my Top 50 reflects a lot of that. But in order to try and get the greatest possible snapshot of my cinematic experiences I am going to need more than 50 films. So in addition to this being my Top 50 favorite films, I will have sections of Honorable Mentions as the list progresses; about every eight films or so until I reach my top 10 favorite films of all time. These films will be made up of movies that I do love, or films I loved at a certain point in time in my life. And while they did not making my Top 50 or might not even make my top 200, they certainly deserve mention because they were either significant to my cinematic growth or very fond childhood memories.

Now for my last list I wrote full scale reviews for the 50 films I had there. I am not going to do that this time around. I am not really going to go into too much detail about the film’s plot or the director and such. Instead I will try to focus on what the film meant to me personally. Why I really liked it, whether or not it had an influence on my own life, how I was introduced to the film, and things of that particular nature. This allows me to stay on the path of this being a personal journey, as well as saving me the hassle of writing a crap ton of new reviews. It will also keep each film entry short and pithy. A blessing for those with ADD.

So sit back, relax, and allow me to take you down my own personal journey through the cinema.


Sansho the Bailiff: 1954 (NR) NEW
Japan / Daiei

Even before joining this website I had an appreciation for classic Japanese cinema. But my level of experience with the Japanese Golden Age at the time I joined was limited to Akira Kurosawa and the first Godzilla movie. And I had only seen maybe 6 or so of Kurosawa’s movies at the time. One of the things that came out of this website is my continued expansion of this passion for the Japanese Golden Age with the introduction to other directors from that time. One such film maker was Kenji Mizoguchi. It first was introduced to him through Ugetsu, but it was this film I was truly moved by. They story follows the tale of a noble family who end up being sold into slavery and the hardships they suffer. We see how each family member tries to survive. Some coop better than others. But it is in one line that not only makes this a beautiful film, but also really sums up the film.

“Without mercy, man is not a human being.”

Now being someone who tries to be a good Catholic this movie really strikes the cord that reflects Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Granted this movie takes place during a time when Buddhism and Shinto were the prevalent religions in Japan, but the call for mercy does hit it home with a guy like me. As well as the perseverance of will to survive as well as the heart break of the tragedy of the film. And it is presented in a classic Japanese period piece that I love so much. It rips at the heart strings and shows the importance of retaining one’s humanity.


Ikiru: 1952 (NR) -12

Japan / Toho

This was one of the Kurosawa movies I watched after joining this site. Set in then contemporary times, Kurosawa proved to me he did not have to make a period piece to make a fantastic film. This is another film whose message really hit home for me. The film follows a bureaucrat who is not long for this world. And since he has spent 30 years at the same post in the same office and is estranged from his son, he questions what he has done with his life. He feels a big chunk of his life has passed him by, and facing his own mortality, he wants to find some kind of meaning to it. He tries many avenues, some of which are rather shallow, but concludes the best way to spend the rest of his time alive is to try and get a park made. A film that tries to tell the viewer to live life while you can, which is a message I am sure will get even stronger the closer I get to the grave. Kurosawa’s direction is fantastic and Takashi Shimura excels as the meek paper pusher. A beautiful film that once again knows how to play my heart strings.

Looking forward to it Gunslinger. I will say Happy Anniversary in your new thread. This really is a great site for discovering films I probably would have let go by the wayside. My taste is probably more mainstream than yours but I echo your sentiments.


Dogma: 1999 (R) NEW
USA / Lions Gate

The quickest way to my heart is though laughter. And this film introduced me to the comedic director who became to my teenage and early adult years what Lucas and Spielberg were to my childhood. I was introduced to this film oddly enough through my parents of all people. Both were raised Catholic and decided to take me and my brother to see this movie in the theater when it came out. I get the felling however I liked it A LOT more than they did. And as soon as Jay and Silent Bob hit the big screen I was instantly sold, and had to seek out the rest of Kevin Smith’s filmography as soon as I could. This movie is downright hilarious and Smith would go on to be my favorite comedic director.

But more than that it is a film that is in Smith’s strange own way, a reaffirmation of faith. The movie starts out with the main character Bethany experiencing a crisis of faith. Not only does she doubt God’s existence, she is very bitter at the world. But by the end of the film and some really wacky and funny stuff throughout the film, by the end of the movie she has a solid grasp on her religious beliefs. Still snarky, but far less cynical. This was a movie written during director Kevin Smith’s own crisis of faith, and was made as his own reaffirmation of his religious beliefs. All be it with less emphasis on religious dogma (hence the title) and with more dick and fart jokes and Ethan Suplee dressed in a giant rubber poop monster costume. But still a movie that gets the point across without being as heavy handed as the 700 Club.

And it it’s strange own way it helps to reaffirm my own faith. Particularly in the day and age of the notorious church scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church. This movie helps to say “It is okay to believe in God and that Christ died for your sins even though you think the Church has made some MAJOR mistakes.” Because we Catholics are complicated like that; lots of guilt from our own sins and having to deal with a lot of BS out of Rome. But this film still helps me keep focus on what is important, and it is that important stuff that helps me keep going to church. Or I am just insane, who knows. Either way I love Dogma, and the people who think I am going to Hell for liking this movie need to find their sense of humor.

Looking forward to it Gunslinger. I will say Happy Anniversary in your new thread. This really is a great site for discovering films I probably would have let go by the wayside. My taste is probably more mainstream than yours but I echo your sentiments.
I have a very wide taste in films so I guarantee you films you will like will most certainly show up.

And thank you for the Happy Anniversary!

Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot

Bansho the Bailiff struck me with its violence much more than any gore film I have seen. It's widely recognised as melodrama due to its tearjerking ending, but to me it's way more than your ordinary soppy flick. The slavery topic is relevant to this day and cinematography is simply outstanding. I also think it's better than Ugetsu and damn me, I have to see more Mizoguchi.

I liked Ikiru, but didn't love it. Recently, I was on kind of Kurosawa streak and enjoyed his films more, so I will for sure rewatch Ikiru sooner or later and hopefully like it even more the second time.

Never saw Dogma, but heard about it.
In the strictest sense lesbians can't have sex at all period.

Gangster Rap is Shakespeare for the Future
I think the only film that rivals Sansho the Bailiff among Mizoguchi's films is not Ugetsu, but The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums. The rest of his work is great, but pales in comparison to these supreme masterworks.


Raiders of the Lost Ark: 1981 (PG) NEW
USA / Paramount
95% (CF)

Kind of hard to do a walk down memory lane without talking about this movie. As I just mentioned, both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were a HUGE part of my childhood. Especially Spielberg. Between his movies and the animated TV shows he produced like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs. If Disney could somehow pry him away from Dreamworks (fat chance) they would practically own a monopoly on my childhood. And my very first introduction to his films came in the form of my favorite Fedora wearing, whip cracking, Nazi killing archeologist. The man who made a very boring job, look AWESOME! Along with Lucas as the producer, they made one of the best trilogies ever made. An homage to the film serials of old, Indiana Jones in pure unadulterated fun and visual spectacle; having brought so many classic scenes and lines to the masses. From the idol scene, Indy running away from the natives, the Ark of the Covenant being opened, and especially the scene where faced with a swordsmen of considerable skill and flair, Indy brushes him off by shooting him all nonchalantly. Add in the classic score by John Williams, and we have one of the best movies for pure entertainment! For as long as I can remember watching movies, I have always been aware of Indiana Jones. There was never a time I remember where I did not know who he was. And Indiana Jones IS my all time favorite cinema character. And considering all the other great characters I like, that should say a lot! This movie is one of my all time childhood favorites. It was one of the two trilogies I watched as a kid that made me fall in love with movies in the first place.

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Registered User
I tried watching Dogma last week but I was half asleep; I'll try again this week.

I haven't seen any of the Japanese classics, but I want to. I'm going to have to break down and get a Netflix account because I never see them on cable.

Absolutely love Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I tried watching Dogma last week but I was half asleep; I'll try again this week.

I haven't seen any of the Japanese classics, but I want to. I'm going to have to break down and get a Netflix account because I never see them on cable.

Absolutely love Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Most everyone loves Raiders! Hope you like Dogma!

Dogma was the first Kevin Smith movie I ever saw. It came out in November '99, the weekend of my 16th birthday, and I went to see it. I really like it.


Empire Strikes Back: 1980 (PG) NEW
USA / 20th Century Fox
96% (CF)

Well I already sang Spielberg’s praises in the last slot, so how about that other film trilogy that was a childhood favorite? You know; the one from the other guy who defined my childhood. STAR WARS! As a child born in the 1980’s it was hard to escape the cinematic titan that was the Star Wars franchise. And while I may not have had the chance to see this movie in theaters I watched the hell out of it on VHS. And while George Lucas did not direct this particular film, he did write the story, created the characters, the universe, and was an unaccredited writer on the script. I don’t know how many times I have watched these movies, but it has to be well over 100 times by now. Where Indiana Jones is film serial homage to more grounded titles, Star Wars is pure space opera like Flash Gordon. Lots of space travel, dog fights, and with a very large cast of very memorable characters this movie is almost impossible to hate when you are 4 years old. And easily one of the greatest surprise endings ever makes this a sci-fi classic! It also features yet another great score by John Williams. The only reason this does not show up on my list higher is that I have not watched it in so long. And that is because I can’t get a version of the UNTOUCHED cut of the film on DVD. I don’t want the special edition dammit! I might have to invest in a laser disc or shell out big bucks for old copies of the VHS one day. But regardless, this is one of the trilogies that made me fall in love with the movies and is a fantastic film in its own right. And deserves a spot on this list.

Love Empire and Raiders. I think we will get the original trilogy back one day now that Disney is involved.

Huge thumbs up for Ikiru and Empire. I've never been a big fan of Raiders, but it's a fine movie. Not seen the others. Sansho the Bailiff has been on my watchlist for ages.