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.
#1 – Goodfellas
This is the top twenty. These are in order.
Why is it here:
This is the end.
Picking one’s favorite movie isn’t a cerebral decision. It’s chemical. It’s emotional. It’s the point of no return, because once you share it the way you’re viewed by your peers is forever tainted. My favorite movie veers from The Thing to Jaws to The Shawshank Redemption to on some days Fantastic Mr. Fox but the movie that owns the title 300+ days of the year if you ask me is this one. Seeing this in the theater on opening day ranks as one of the best and most electrifying cinema experiences of my life and that exhilaration hasn’t faded one iota [Liotta?] as time has gone by. This is a movie with two very different halves, with the beginning buoyant with energy and laughs amid the violence and the latter moments rife with paranoia and a descent into chaos. But there has never been a better marriage of director, editor, music supervisor, cast, and material. Ever.
The editing is the key. Martin Scorsese isn’t an empty suit without Thelma Schoonmaker, but he’s not a legend. Rest assured that the old adage about there being a good woman behind every successful man isn’t always accurate, but it’s tantamount here. Scorsese is a Voltron made up of two parts and without her he’s a great filmmaker at the mercy of the fates. And the music here, it’s as vital as light and shadow.
To pluck Ray Liotta from the abyss and insert him here is genius. Henry Hill still looms over his performances to this day. He tapped Joe Pesci several times to great effect but none better than this. DeNiro is a rock they all anchor to and Paul Sorvino is that perfect blend of lovable paternal figure and menacing force. Lorraine Bracco nails that entitled New York gal anyone who grew up there recognizes but there’s a sexiness that is impossible to deny.
Seriously, there’s no movie I quote more, love more, and feel energized by. It’s crack.
Moments to savor:
Rags to Riches. Pistol whipping. Wigs coming off. Phone booths being terrorized. Made men not being made. Henry breaking his cherry. Karen asking for a denomination of money by spacing her fingers apart. Pistols in panties. Tommy Two Times. Shinebox. “I found a hoof!”. Dinner with Mama Scorsese. The joke that won Joe Pesci and Oscar. Theft. Stacks getting taken out. The idiocy of the Lufsthansa heist aftermath. Too many parts to mention.
Go get your fuckin’ shinebox is a line you hear at my bar at least once a day. It’s a perfect surrogate for “goodbye”, “hello”, and “thank you.”