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.
#50 – Aliens
Why is it here:
This movie isn’t just a Herculean achievement for a genre. It’s not just a Herculean achievement for how to turn a film into a franchise. It’s not just an amazing action packed science fiction film. It’s not just an example of how practical effects can do the job just fine thirty years later. It’s all those things but above all it’s smart and immaculately designed and one of the prime examples of how to elevate a genre to something more. James Cameron has gotten a lot of flak over the years for his films, films that happen to make all the money in the world and further the craft of filmmaking beyond the cutting edge. It’s flak grounded in no logic at all and this film really started that ball rolling. It’s a masterpiece. It’s iconic. It’s cool. And it hasn’t aged a goddamn day.
Praise Aliens. It’s not easy to be better than Alien and it utterly devastates Alien.
Moments to savor:
Meeting our colonial marines and instantly caring about them. Jonesy gets spared a space trip. Bishop proves his worth, then does his best Kim Coates impersonation. Hicks. Everything involving Hicks. Everything peripherally concerning Hicks. Ripley and the loader. Seeing the Xenomorphs doing their thing free of shadows. The arrival of the Queen. Pulse Rifles. The Sulaco. Really everything.
Massive. If for nothing else to remind us how we have no excuses when it comes to our expectations of event movies.
When this came out in 1986 me and my buddies (Kevin Fahey, who has written for Battlestar Galactica, The Following, Law and Order, Kings, and Bungie’s Destiny among others and Sean Fahey, comic book entrepreneur and Coast Guard lawyer) got on our bikes and played Aliens: The Cul-De-Sac Adventures nonstop. The movie changed our lives.