Matt Abra, CONTRIBUTOR
Are these the movies that influenced Millennials the most? Are they the movies that best represent them as a generation? It may be those things, but for the most part, these are simply the 100 Greatest Movies as PICKED by Millennials. No more crotchety critics who only like black-and-white cinema verite; no more Hollywood elites who think modernism isn’t classy enough. These are the movies that affected Millennials the most, that spoke to them the most. These are the movies they liked the most. Naturally, many of the choices here will be hotly debated, but that’s part of the fun of a list like this. It focuses people’s attentions and gets them thinking about the things that really matter in film, the things that truly constitute greatness. So, without further ado, here are our first set of choices for the best movies ever made:
90) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
We had never seen anything like it before, and, oddly, we have hardly seen anything like it since. With stop-motion animation that is a treat for the eyes, Nightmare is an innovative art film, an amusingly morbid fairy tale, and a delightfully ghoulish holiday musical that displays more inventiveness in its 75 minutes than those “real” people can manage in a full year.
89) Remember the Titans (2000)
We’ve seen this sports movie before, many times, but never as genuinely crowd-pleasing as Remember the Titans.
88) The Princess Bride (1987)
A fairy tale about fairy tales. The Princess Bride’s swashbuckling excitement and retro romance is so good it’s scene was one of the first to incite that old villainous cliché: is he evil, or just charming? Not knowing the answer has never been more tense.
81) Taxi Driver (1976)
Politics, philosophy . . . and a taxi. Robert De Niro gives perhaps his first great performance as Travis Bickle, the man who inspired 70s loner-ness. Or loner-ness for sociopaths, at least.
80) Anchorman (2004)
almost, well, “inconceivable.”
87) ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Still Steven Spielberg’s most intimate portrait of childhood, this touching tale of a homesick alien is still the rare film that puts you under a spell of youthful wonderment without turning expressly juvenile. If the alien doesn’t make you tear up, John Williams’s majestic score will get the job done.
86) Lost in Translation (2003)
Sofia Coppola fared better as a director than an actress. It turned out she had her father’s skill, but sharpened it with a style all her own. What did Bill Murray whisper into Scarlett Johansson’s ear at the end? Their performances are both so consuming, that question becomes the last thing on your mind.
85) Aliens (1986)
James Cameron makes his first appearance on our list with the sequel that proved sequels could be good. Not just good—better! He took Ridley Scott’s great source film and left it in the cinematic dust. At once scary, exciting, and groundbreaking, Aliens single handedly sucked all the subtlety from action movies, and that was a great thing (at the time).
84) Back to the Future (1985)
When you think 80s classic, you think Back to the Future. Ironic, since most of it takes place in the 50s. It was so refreshing to see a time-travel movie that never felt like it had to tailor to the audience’s intelligence. Michael J. Fox is endlessly good as the high schooler who’s forced to play matchmaker to his own parents. His performance, and the movie, is timeless (pun intended).
83) The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
It seems like every decade, horror movies have to write a letter to themselves that gently requests they get back on track and stop with all the lucre-baiting mediocrity. First it was Scream, then it was The Cabin in the Woods. Maybe never before has a horror film shown what horror does wrong while simultaneously doing everything so right.
82) The Third Man (1949)
We all know about what Orson Welles did for filmmaking techniques, but in The Third Man we’re reminded of what he did for acting. The famous carousel Anchorman may be the most critically lambasted movie we have on the list, which of course makes us all the more proud to include it. Who can expect critics to see the goofy characterizations for what they really are—pitch perfect encapsulations of our narcissistic culture. And it’s pretty damn funny, too.
79) Fargo (1996)
An uncomfortable and daring black comedy by one of the most consistently inventive moviemaking teams in film history, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. Never before has quirk been so well immersed with violence.
78) Spirited Away (2001)
Both enchanting and beautifully crafted, Spirited Away is a fairy tale that leaves you a little more curious and fascinated by the world around you.
77) The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Not just a cult movie, it’s THE cult movie. Rocky Horror isn’t as weird today as it was when it came out, which says many things about our present day culture—all of them good. It’s also a hell of a musical.
76) Rebecca (1940)
Alfred Hitchcock arrived on America’s shores with this dramatic thriller about a mysterious, and mysteriously dead, woman. It wasn’t his pinnacle (you’ll see that later), but it was the most worthy introduction we could have asked for. That housekeeper still tingles our spines 75 years later.
75) Forrest Gump (1994)
Now when we think of Forrest Gump, it’s usually just memes and parodies that come to mind. Don’t forget that the film itself is a masterful celebration of warm-heartedness, the idea that a person’s greatest gift to the world is sometimes just a simple mind.
74) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
He came back. The results were bigger, smarter, and ultimately better than what came before. And don’t forget the groundbreaking CGI. T2 was the movie that convinced special effects wizards they could do anything, and we’re still feeling those effects today.
73) Dumb and Dumber (1994)
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” Yes, Lloyd, there was a chance you’d make this list, and you did. We’re prepared for some people to say that it’s a “dumb” choice, and that would be precisely the point. The Farley Brothers didn’t exactly have Shakespeare on the mind, they were more interested in laxatives and frozen snot. And they delivered. The result is one of the most endlessly quotable comedies of the past 20 years.
72) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Yes, of course we mean the original! Don’t get all contemporary on us. There’s a chainsaw involved, and cannibals, but Texas Chainsaw’s fright factor is almost entirely psychological. It’s the best example of how low budgets can work to your advantage.
71) Saving Private Ryan (1998)
You could talk about the performances, the camera work, the sheer ferocity, but Saving Private Ryan’s greatest accomplishment is the way it, in equal measure, showed the horror of the Second World War right alongside its heroism. Most war movies usually just settle for one.
Check out the next issue of The Projector for the next installment of influential movies!