Finishing out my Top 100(104) Films

Check out my recent posts, My Top 40 Favorite Movies and Another 50 of My Favorite Movies. That’s 90. So to round out my Top 100, here are more reviews. Yes, 10 more would make 100. But since the Big 10 has 14 teams, I figured that I could give you 15 to round out my final 10.

Heist — David Mamet crafted and directed this outstanding snatch-and-grab film about master thieves who con their way to big scores. Gene Hackman plays the mastermind and Rebecca Pidgeon his wife in this serious inside look at planning heists. Like all of Mamet’s scripts, the dialog is snappy and clipped, delivered in staccato fashion by a skilled cast that includes Sam Rockwell, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, and Mamet regulars Patty Lupone and Ricky Jay.  There are twists and turns at every corner, and you can try to out-think Mamet, but I doubt you will. 

Defending Your Life — Somewhere between death and the afterlife is a way station where your life is examined and a decision is made about whether you go onward or are returned to Earth. That is the premise behind this really clever, funny film directed, written and starring Albert Brooks. How good was this premise and this script? Well, it attracted Meryl Streep to co-star as a recently deceased housewife who tripped over the pool furniture and drowned. Brooks plays the advertising executive who buys a new car and gets hit by a bus as he is singing to Barbara Streisand. They both go to the idyllic Judgment City where their lives are examined. What follows is a love story that jousts your perceptions about fear, reincarnation, and the afterlife.

Sneakers — Martin Bryce (Robert Redford) leads a ragtag bunch of security consultantshired by government agents to steal the ultimate encryption device. But nothing is what it seems. Bryce has a secret that reunites him with his old college buddy (played by Ben Kingsley) who just happens to be planning to bring down the world’s financial systems. The movie combines intrigue, comedy, and adventure to provide a totally enjoyable movie experience.  Co-starring an incredible cast that includes Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, David Strathairn, Mary McDonnell, Timothy Busfield, Steven Tobolowsky, and even James Earl Jones. It was so much fun that I hoped for a sequel.

The American President — Rob Reiner expertly takes a superb Aaron Sorkin script and turns it into a movie version of The West Wing.  With Michael Douglas as Andrew Shepherd, the popular, widowed President who falls in love with a lobbyist (Annette Bening), the film takes us into the inner workings of the White House. Speaking of The West Wing, Martin Sheen plays the chief of staff and the President’s best friend. Michael J. Fox plays the (George Stephanopoulos-like) domestic policy advisor. Richard Dreyfuss plays the loathsome Republican senator out to beat Shepherd in the next election. The score from uber-composer Marc Shaiman is soaring.

Finding Forrester — If J.D. Salinger lived in an apartment overlooking a schoolyard in the Bronx, he would be William Forrester, the character portrayed by Sean Connery in this coming-of-age film about a black high school student with brilliant prospects as a writer.  Rob Brown plays the genius who hides his talent from the world as he goes about being an average student with excellent basketball skills. Forrester, the Pulitzer Prize winner and recluse who only wrote one book,…  meets the savant and becomes his mentor. Meanwhile, the kid gets a scholarship to a private school to play hoops but never really fits in.  It’s a wonderful, engrossing tale of bigotry, kinship, growth, resentment, rebirth, and promise.  Plus, look for the cameo by Matt Damon in this film directed by Gus Van Sant, who also directed Good Will Hunting.

Mrs. Doubtfire — Everyone has seen this heartwarming comedy starring Robin Williams as the cross-dressing, immature father who loses almost all access to his kids after his divorce. Williams needs his kids, needs a job, and needs to grow up. Sally Field plays Miranda, his ex-wife and mother of his three ultra-adorable kids, who love and need their dad. While Williams eats the camera and plays his funniest character since Mork, it is his earnest performance that makes Mrs. Doubtfire a classic.  The good news: Pierce Brosnan, who plays Miranda’s handsome, new suitor, doesn’t sing. 

Let It Ride — I couldn’t help myself.  As a horse racing fan, I love this stupid movie about a degenerate gambler who has “a very good day” at the races. Richard Dreyfuss is perfect as Jay Trotter, the good-hearted, Damon Runyon-like character who can’t catch a break. While riding in a cab, though, he gets a tip on a horse. Next thing you know, he’s having the day of his life. With character actors like Teri Garr, David Johansen, Meg Tilly, and a very young Cynthia Nixon, Let It Ride is a winner!

In & Out — Talk about movies before their time, In & Out is a comedy about the outing of a small-town teacher in Indiana by his former student who just won an Academy Award. Kevin Kline plays Howard Brackett, the popular, civic-minded English teacher who coaches the boys’ sports teams and is engaged to marry one of his fellow teachers. But now that he is has been labeled as gay, everyone’s attitudes have changed. Will Howard get married? Will his students deny their hero? With a superb ensemble cast that includes scene stealers like Tom Selleck, Bob Newhart, Debbie Reynolds, Wilford Brimley, and Matt Dillon, this film earned an Oscar nomination for Joan Cusack.

Bottle Shock — This small, independent film about the emergence of California wines as legitimate competitors to the French stars Alan Rickman as the British owner of a small wine shop in Paris. For the American bicentennial in 1976, he sponsors a competition for the top connoisseurs in France to judge the wines from both countries. He travels to Napa to choose the American wines and meet the growers. Bill Pullman portrays a successful lawyer pursuing his dream to make the perfect Chardonnay at his Chateau Montelena winery. This movie launched soon-to-be-superstar Chris Pine as Pullman’s son and also stars Dennis Farina and Freddie Rodriguez.

Crash — An unexpected winner of Best Picture, Crash tells the intersecting stories of totally different Los Angelenos. While this film may not have invented this genre, it provides compelling stories of the complexity of flawed humans, bigotry, ambition, fear, emptiness, and emotion.  This is a very serious look at the rich and poor and the commonalities of the human condition. The ensemble cast includes Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Ryan Phillippe, Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, Terrence Howard, Michael Pena, Tony Danza, Brendon Fraser and more. It won three Oscars.

Oh God! — I am guessing that, if/when you picture God, you don’t see George Burns in your mind … unless you saw Oh God! And if you have seen it, you now probably can’t see anyone else as the divine being. Carl Reiner took a Larry Gelbart screenplay and turned it into a humorous but terrifically surprising look at faith and religion.  Somehow, the film delights without being offensive. Burns is wonderful as God. And John Denver is a revelation as an assistant grocery store manager who God chooses to publicize his message to people everywhere.

Runaway Jury – In the first movie to pair former roommates Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, Runaway Jury is an adaptation of a John Grisham book about the trial following a mass shooting that kills a young husband and father in New Orleans. John Cusack and Rachel Weisz star as the couple trying to manipulate the verdict while playing the two warring attorneys against each other in a bidding war. We go inside the war room to select the jury; observe the jury dynamics; see the collusion of the sleazy gun company CEOs; and watch the intimidation on all sides. It’s tense and riveting.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Matthew Broderick had already rocketed to stardom in Matt Dugan Returns and Wargames when he got the call to play Ferris Bueller. With perfect casting and the best director of kid films ever in John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Home Alone, Uncle Buck, Sixteen Candles), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was a massive hit despite middling reviews. Ferris is a lovable schemer and manipulator. He’s got the cutest girl in the school. He is wise beyond his years and completely popular. His best friend is an insecure introvert. His parents are doting and self-possessed. His sister is repressed and envious. Ferris decides that, before he graduates, he is going to tempt all fate and plan the greatest day ever. Chicago will never be the same. With Dirty Dancing‘s Jennifer Grey, Jeffrey Jones, Mia Sara, Cindy Pickett, and Alan Ruck.

Outbreak — The pandemic list cannot be complete without Outbreak, the scary story of a renegade virus that goes airborne in a California town. It’s a race against the clock as an Army general (Donald Sutherland) advocates vaporizing the town rather than disclosing that the virus was actually discovered years ago. Dustin Hoffman plays a relentless Army infectious disease doctor who traces the outbreak to the jungle, follows it aboard a freighter, uncovers the cover-up, and tracks down the host animal. With the help of his expert team, played by Rene Russo, Kevin Spacey, and Cuba Gooding, Jr., they try to develop a serum before the town is incinerated.  Morgan Freeman plays Hoffman’s boss, a general who is conflicted between saving the town and keeping the secret. (If you look closely, you’ll see Patrick Dempsey – McDeamy himself – in a small role.)

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