Lists are great. They inspire discussion, create arguments, and tend to spiral off into fun new lists. When you do a list about the “BEST” of anything it goes from being fun to becoming a hotbed for arguments. There’s no such thing as a definitive list but I’ve decided to pull from my rather extensive life of film watching and put it to good use.
This is not the “film critic’s top 100” list. There’s no guarantee Citizen Kane or The Bicycle Thief will be in the top echelon or even on the list. This is the 100 movies I would put my name on as my top 100. If I died tomorrow this would represent the 100 films I find most vital, special, or ones that bonded to whatever it is that makes me me. I’m not including documentaries, though that might make for a nice supplemental list.
The first 80 will be in no particular order. The last 20 will be in very particular order. One a day, you have my word.
#68 – Heat
Why is it here:
This is just something unique and special. A flawed and sometimes disjointed piece of rare metal from Michael Mann that is so much more than just the best gunfight in film history. The characters are amazing, people on both sides of the law perfectly cast and assembled and given a few hours to tell their story in no rush at all. Along the way there are hiccups but in the grand scheme this is one of the best guy films ever made and an all-timer in the crime genre. Michael Mann may be my favorite filmmaker because he has this way of distilling everything to a chemical reaction. When at his best his films superficially work as genre material but there’s this chemical reaction they get from, particularly in Heat, Collateral, and The Insider that makes it hard to appreciate other films. I think it’s his ability to keep things dark and his use of music is impeccable. One of the reasons Manhunter is so effective is Iron Butterfly. He make freaking Audioslave iconic. Heat is Mann at his indulgent best (followed by the unfairly maligned Miami Vice), a truly kickass movie that wears its machismo like a badge. And the best ensemble ever assembled? It’s right up there.
Moments to savor:
Every scene that doesn’t involve Diane Venora or Amy Brenneman. Nothing against them, but Michael Mann has made a movie about men with a capital M. The women in the film serve as lures away from danger that the men ultimately discard. It’s not what you’d call feminist movie.
That said, seeing Henry Rollins in the same frame as these guys. Pacino’s crew. Deniro’s crew. Greta little moments. Waingro, scary as fuck. Dennis Haybert filling in and then filling the Earth. The gunfight. The drive-in attack. Kilmer’s elbow. When the gang decides they’re still in even after Trejo bails. The build-up.
High. High. High.
I watch this movie two times a year at least since 1995. Probably 3. Each time I cling to new things to love and look forward to. The last time it was the smaller parts of Pacino’s performance. It’s a great one, actually, despite his yelling and shit. He’s playing a cop on the edge and he does it well. It’s easy to get overshadowed by Deniro’s perfection, but Al rocks it too.
I turn this movie off every time I watch it before Pacino shoots. My ending in my mind is different.