Four months after lockdown began here in the United Kingdom, my quarantine is finally ending. Pubs, restaurants, and almost all other non-essential businesses opened on of all days the Fourth of July (happy birthday me!). Since then I’m also back to work so my nearly four month break is officially over.
During the quarantine I passed the time with a few activities like running, reading, a whole lot of and definitely too much drinking, and especially watching movies. When the pandemic hit and we knew we would be inside for a long time, Jenny and I made a list of movies we’ve never seen that we’ve always wanted to watch. We buzzed through a lot of them together, but I took my unlimited free time while she still did some work from home to watch a ton of movies on my own. I tried to finally watch some of the all-time great movies that have somehow eluded me for 29 years. While that was definitely the focus, the path took some twists and turns into a few straight weeks of action movies, some recently released movies, bad ’90s movies (shout out to Fear), and a few dozen insanely bad movies, many of which I already wrote about. A quick update to that post, Artemis Fowl is the worst movie ever made, thank god for whiskey.
This post however is about the great movies I watched during quarantine. All of the movies on the list are films I watched for the very first time over the last four months. I tried to pick the actual best movies but my heart got in the way so several movies on the list are objectively not that great, but love is love so sue me. Before I rank the top 20, I wanted shout out some honorable mentions that I really enjoyed. Shouts to (in no particular order) Escape from New York, Coco, The Third Man, A Clockwork Orange, The Hunt for Red October, True Romance, and especially Training Day.
20.) The Bad Boys + John Wick Series’
I couldn’t make this list without my guys John Wick, Mike Lowrey, and Marcus Burnett. I gave six movies the ceremonial last spot because I couldn’t choose between any of these masterpieces, and also none of the Bad Boys or John Wick movies are actually really good. Bad Boys is the quintessential ’90s pop action movie directed by good-bad-awesome movie god Michael fucking Bay. It is nothing but Will Smith looking cool, Martin Lawrence shouting one-liners, and things exploding in the background, and it fucking rules. Bad Boys is one of those movies like an Independence Day or Armageddon where you know it’s not going to win any oscars, but you don’t care because it kicks ass. Even the second and third installments somehow keep the energy up and surprisingly hold up even 25 years after the original. Gun to my head and I have to rank the Bad Boys movies (that would be a wild scenario) it would be 2, 1, 3.
John Wick on the other hand is a very different type of action franchise. It’s much darker and most of the action is insane fight choreography instead of big ass explosions. The immortal Keanu Reeves somehow sells it as the best assassin in the world out for blood. I would say John Wick is objectively a better movie series than Bad Boys because Michael Bay had nothing to do with it, and it’s less bombastic. If Juan Wick himself Shea Serrano ever tracks me down for ranking his beloved assassin so low and held a gun to my head, I would rank them 2,1,3 just like Bad Boys.
The casting director of Tombstone (sup Lora Kennedy) must be a time-traveller, gone to 2013, found 21-year-old Phil drunk in Dinkytown at the University of Minnesota (I hope it wasn’t Burrito Loco), asked me who my favorite ’90s actors were, gone back to 1993, and cast the movie because everyone I’ve ever loved is in this movie that came out when I was 2. We’re talking Kurt Russell, the people’s Batman Val Kilmer, Bill Paxton, and the most precious Billy Zane. That’s the ’27 Yankees of ’90s white male actors that I am the most obsessed with. Who cares if the writing was unspectacular, the acting was stiff, and the pacing was all over the place. Hello, the mustaches were real folks, thats all that needs to be said to shoot Tombstone into the white guy Hall of Fame. Everyone has an idea of when they finally became a man. For some it’s when they have their first beer, their first girlfriend, maybe having a kid, but I know I wasn’t a man until I saw Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday say “I’m your huckleberry” to Johnny Ringo. Who cares if I was 28-years-old at the time, i was just a child until that very moment.
18.) The Royal Tenenbaums
The Royal Tenenbaums is the most different from any other movie on this list and that’s just the way Wes Anderson would want it. Tenenbaums has all the trappings of an Anderson classic. It features Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, The Wilson bros, pre-Goop Gwyneth Paltrow, Bill Murray, Danny Glover, and narrated by Alec Baldwin. It’s so quirky, but so god damn lovable. The Tenenbaums are as dysfunctional as it gets with one of them being a failed child playwright (Paltrow), another a flameout tennis star (Luke Wilson), and the other a child prodigy business mogul turned reclusive family man (Stiller), all while their absentee father (Hackman) tries to reconnect with them before he dies. It’s so fucking weird and should make no sense, but everything ties together towards the end and you begin to feel like somehow the Tenenbaums are your family for better or worse.
17.) Raging Bull
Raging Bull is probably my least favorite movie on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less great. Robert De Niro gave one of the greatest performances ever as troubled boxing star Jake LaMotta. One of Scorcese’s best movies, Raging Bull is pretty tough to watch. You essentially just watch this guy destroy his life for two hours, which makes for a great, memorable movie, but not a whole lot of fun.
16.) The Untouchables
When the subject of your movie gets mentioned in California Love, you know you’re doing alright in life. The Untouchables has everything white dads love: Gangsters, a cast of Costner/De Niro/and Connery, lots of violence, and Chicago, white dads love Chicago. This movie launches Costner into his huge run of late ’80s to early ’90s bangers that includes: Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Dances With Wolves, JFK, and The Bodyguard. That has to be one of the best five year movie runs of all-time. The Untouchables basically boils down to cops blasting a bunch of mob guys like it’s the fucking wild wild west, which needless to say is pretty rad.
15.) The Terminator
The Terminator is one of the most influential movies of the past 50 years. Everyone has referenced The Terminator in their every day lives, even if they don’t realize it. From classic lines like “I’ll be back”, to referencing Skynet, a robot takeover of earth, or any cockamamie time travel plot, The Terminator is a huge part of our everyday lives 36 years later. It is Schwarzenegger’s most iconic role, and was the key to the huge action movie boom of the 1980’s. The Terminator isn’t even the best movie in its own franchise (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) and it’s still one of the greatest action movies ever created. If only we could go back in time and kill whoever decided to keep the series going after Judgement Day.
14.) The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The movie that your dad wanted you to watch with him when you were a teenager, but you forced him to sit through The Dark Knight for the 17th time. Clint Eastwood in a western, what’s not to love.
13.) L.A. Confidential
The first (but not last) movie on the list depicting old-time Los Angeles detectives uncovering big conspiracies. It’s a whose who of ’90s good actors like Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger, Guy Pearce, and Frank Reynolds himself, Danny DeVito. It mixes sleazy cops with violent cops with white knight crusading cops with prostitutes and tabloids and everything there is to love about old(ish) L.A. Not a great look for the LAPD, but the LAPD have never done themselves any favors in real life anyway.
I see what’s happening here. I picked all of the movies that every frat bro from the ’90s wont stop telling their now teenage kids about. Scarface is actually as good as your college boyfriend Kyle told you it was a million times. Al Pacino is in it and that’s all you really need for a great movie. The amount of cocaine Tony Montana does in this movie is maybe a tenth of the amount of cocaine Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone were probably on when making Scarface. The Push it To the Limit montage in the middle of the movie is an all-time cheesy ’80s movie montage. Guys moving money, buying a mansion, and getting a fucking tiger, sorry Rocky 3 & 4, this is the ’80s I remember (I was definitely born in 1991).
11.) Dog Day Afternoon
The Corleone boys are back baby. Just a year after Michael had Fredo killed in the Godfather: Part II, the bros are back and better than ever in Dog Day Afternoon. This time Pacino and John Cazale are buddies who decided to rob a bank. Things immediately spiral out of control and the robbery becomes a crazy hostage situation. It also gives us the iconic scene of Pacino going nuts and screaming “Attica, Attica” at the crowd that has formed outside the bank. It’s worth it just for the two hours you get to see of Pacino and Cazale, who is pound for pound the greatest actor who ever lived. The guy was in Godfather 1 and 2, Dog Day Afternoon, The Conversation, and The Deer Hunter before he died of cancer. All five movies he was in in his career were nominated for best picture, and three won the damn thing (The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, and The Deer Hunter). Oh and he was dating an up and coming actress named Meryl Streep. Cazale is the GOAT.
In space no one can hear you scream is one of the greatest taglines that’s ever been attached to a movie. Alien didn’t disappoint either as one of the great horror movies of all-time. Space itself is already scary, then you add in some crazy aliens hellbent on eating your face. Alien pushes my theory of don’t trust the British guy in any situation, especially if it’s in space. if the dude you’re working with is British, there’s a 100% chance he’s actually an android your company sent with you to make sure their shady business dealings get done, even if you die in the process. Thank god for Sigourney Weaver, otherwise we would all be doomed.
If the action is the juice, then Heat has a whole lot of juice. Heat is Michael Mann’s (and every middle aged white dude’s) wet dream. Ageing (but not old) Pacino vs. De Niro is the matchup of the century. Better than Rocky vs. Drago, Frank Dux vs. Chong Li, and way way better than Travolta vs. Cage in Face/Off. The two best male actors of their generation finally squared up on screen and the results are Pacino screaming his little raspy head off saying things like ” give me all you got”, and “she’s got a great ass”, while De Niro sits around reading books about metals. Oh and a bunch of crazy heists, and gun fights, and Val Kilmer with a pony tail, and Natalie Portman for whatever reason. Heat is the basis of the shitty screenplay I keep pitching to Jenny about a guy who takes people out on dates and just sits there quoting Heat to them to the point where they finally leave. He can’t seem to find love because of his love for Pacino talking about overcooked chicken from a movie made 25 years ago. Maybe this screenplay idea is somewhat autobiographical because I’m sure Jenny can only stand so many bad Vincent Hanna impressions. I guess it’s true, “don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner”. She’s definitely going to leave me. Well I guess “I got a wife (girlfriend), we’re passing each other on the down-slope of a marriage (relationship), my third, because I spend all my time chasing guys like you around the block (quoting guys like Pacino and De Niro endlessly), that’s my life.” God she is going to kill me if I keep quoting this fucking movie, “I’m talking to an empty telephone.”
Bigger, badder, Bill Paxtoner than Alien. It has all the scary space stuff that Alien had, and added way more guns. Aliens is basically Predator in space. Maybe thats why Alien vs. Predator became a franchise for some reason.
7.) The Fugitive
The Fugitive escaped me for the longest time for one simple reason, my buddy Dave had the dumbest take about The Fugitive that I have ever heard. He claims, and his story has changed over the years, that The Fugitive is not only Harrison Ford’s best movie, but that it made him a bankable star and proved that he could carry a big movie by himself instead of within the confines of a blockbuster series a la Star Wars and Indiana Jones. First of all, shut the hell up Dave. Harrison Ford is/was the most bankable star of his generation. Yes he’s most famous for playing Han Solo and Indy, but he’s at least part of the reason why those movies made so much money in the first place. You also are forgetting movies like Blade Runner, Witness, Working Girl, or Presumed Innocence. All hits to varying degree (or at least classics), and most if not all of that success can be attributed to Harrison fucking Ford. So we’ve established that The Fugitive is far from the movie that made Harrison Ford a bankable star, but that doesn’t mean that t’s not a great movie. It has everything I look for in a movie; hot dad vibes Harrison Ford, a jumbled plot about a guy not killing his wife, and Tommy Lee Jones being a dick. That’s a movie I’ll watch 100 times out of 100. The scene at the dam where Ford tells Tommy Lee he didn’t kill his wife and Tommy Lee says “I don’t care” is one of the greatest movie scenes of all-time, and somehow gets quoted in this house more than anything from Heat. In conclusion, shut up Dave, but you were right that The Fugitive is a great movie.
Not the shitty Vince Vaughn/Anne Heche remake, this is the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock original. Psycho is most well known for being the first movie the show a toilet flushing, which is the all-time greatest random movie fact. Psycho was completely ahead of its time. Anthony Perkins turns mild mannered Norman Bates into one of the absolute greatest villains in movie history. He’s so creepy I’m genuinely surprised this movie got made in 1960. Psycho is the culmination of Hitchcock hitting the lottery with a two year run of Vertigo, North By Northwest, and Psycho. That easily could be the best three movie stretch of any director in movie history.
5.) 2001: A Space Odessy
The first real space epic that influenced almost every space movie that has been made in the 50 years since it was released in 1968. Stanley Kubrick was just a really weird fucking guy to have made movies like this, A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, and so on. The man was either doing some elite drugs, or needed a hug. Either way he’s an awesome director who created a masterpiece that will be around until the monolith itself is gone. 2001 gives us some iconic images from amazing filmmaking, to make space look real before we even got to the moon, to HAL 9000 malfunctioning, to the Keir Dullea floating through a black hole. Everything about every Kubric movie gets scrutinized because the man was nuts, and this movie is no different. Even 52 years later people are still arguing what the movie and especially the ending actually means. After watching it I can safely say I have no fucking clue what’s going on, but damn did I think it was pretty cool.
Never in 1,000 years did I ever think Vertigo was going to rank higher than Pyscho on this list. I knew both Hitchcock masterpieces would be incredible, but I’ve always heard that Psycho was his best work and one of the greatest movies ever. Everything about Vertigo is nearly perfect from Jimmy Stewart, to the filmmaking, to the shit fuck crazy storyline that Hitchcock somehow pulls off beautifully. He is the master of suspense and showcases all of his storytelling tricks in Vertigo. It’s about as close to a perfect movie as you can get without quite getting there and should get a little more respect than it does in the pantheon of all-time great movies.
3.) A Few Good Men
Tom Cruise vs. Jack Nicholson in the ultimate white guy dick swinging contest. It’s a guarantee that every white dude between the ages of 30 and 60 have A Few good Men somewhere in their personal top 10. And guess what, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It has one of the all-time climactic scenes with Cruise and Nicholson going back-and-forth with the iconic lines “I want the truth” and “You can’t handle the truth!”. Right after that when Nicholson finally explodes and says “you’re god damn right I did” is one of the most badass things you can say to someone. “Phil did you pee in my underwear drawer again?” “You’re god damn right I did!” What do you do after someone says that? Nothing, you’re done. This movie was perfectly made for an ageing Nicholson. He’s in three scenes, one is in a beautiful location. He gets the most quoted line in the whole movie, and he’s beloved for his character even though Colonel Jessup is a fucking insane jackass who gets people killed for funzies. Tom Cruise swinging a baseball bat is the only unwatchable part of the entire movie.
Oh hey what up Jack Nicholson, fancy seeing you here again. You’re in another great movie, cool. Chinatown mixes everything I love: Los Angeles, Jack Nicholson being a dick, mispronouncing people’s names, and the minutiae of city water politics. Nicholson is in his prime and is just an absolute prick in this movie in the best way possible. He just goes around poking his broken nose around and getting his ass kicked for two hours. Chinatown ends with the classic line “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown” which is just a perfect way to end this movie. It’s one of the big surprises for me on this list. If you asked me before quarantine to list the movies I would think would be at the top of my list, maybe Chinatown would be there, but likely down at number 15-20, but after watching this masterpiece it is rightfully at number 2. The one know is that it was directed by Roman Polanski who turned into an all-time creep, not great for the reputation, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the greatest movies of all-time.
1.) There Will Be Blood
This was supposed to be a Boogie Nights blog, instead it became a There Will Be Blood blog. Either way it all lead to Paul Thomas Anderson and one of the greatest movies of the century. For years since it came out, I avoided There Will Be Blood like crazy for… reasons. I assumed it would be overly long, boring, acting instead of actual plot, and so on and other dumb teenage reasons not to like a movie you’ve never seen. Instead what it was was an amazingly striking ballad of what greed can do to people. Daniel Day-Lewis is the best method actor of all time. He wholeheartedly becomes Daniel Plainview, a struggling miner who strikes oil and quickly builds an empire across the American Southwest. Spoiler Alert! Even though this movie came out 13 years ago, so if you complain about spoilers you can fuck right off. The scene at the end where he beats the hell of of the pastor who has been a little bitch to him for the last 30 years is so satisfying. He literally made the guy admit he’s a fraud, then told him he stole all the oil on his land, then murdered him with a fucking bowling pin. Oh and he did this after telling his deaf adopted son to go fuck himself. That’s next level petty, and is one of the reasons why this is one of the greatest movies of all-time.
There it is, a few stats from the list. Al Pacino is in three movies on the list, because Al Pacino is the greatest actor of all-time (shoulda watched Serpico to make it four). If I wasn’t an idiot and actually watched Boogie Nights during my quarantine like I meant to, it would probably be fourth in the rankings. Films on the list range in release date from 1958 (Vertigo) to 2020 (Bad Boys For Life). Quarantine 2020 sucked, but at least these movies made four months stuck in my apartment almost bearable.