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The SAG Awards are usually a great way to determine the front-runner for the Oscars of that year, but this time there were more impressive wins that previously discussed. With such a non-definitive year in cinema the possible winners for the Oscars could indeed be different from the SAG Winners, but it’s possible that the SAG Winners are a predictor for who will take home the gold at the Academy Awards.
From the winners shown below, this may be what we see some of the major film categories look like. Besides Hidden Figures taking home best Ensemble Cast which is the equivalent to Best-Picture at the Oscars, there are some pretty notable wins from last night. Mahershala Ali was my dark horse for the Oscar for Best-Supporting Actor, but now he may jump to my front-runner.
Denzel taking home the statue last night also makes me wonder how much of a favorite Casey Affleck can be as of now. Sexual assault accusations never help anyone in life, but it makes you wonder if that’s affected his chances. That being said, Denzel was damn good in Fences and definitely brought more depth to his role compared to Affleck. Heck, even Denzel in his acceptance speech said he thought the “young man” was going to get the award and pointed towards Affleck.
The one winner I’m most excited about is Emma Stone. La La Land is unmatched as my favorite film of the year as well as being the overall best film made in 2016. Her win last proves, one, she’s absolutely adorable and incredibly funny, and two, her performance made as much an impact on other people as it did on me. She acted as an actor in a musical where she sang and danced live alongside an incredibly talented Ryan Gosling and still stole the spotlight. That’s nothing short of impressive. In the end, I think the SAG’s may prove to be yet again another accurate depiction of what is yet to come at the Oscars this coming month.
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
*** WINNER: Hidden Figures
Manchester by the Sea
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
*** WINNER: Denzel Washington, Fences
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Amy Adams, Arrival
Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train
Natalie Portman, Jackie
*** WINNER: Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
*** WINNER: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
*** WINNER: Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
And now for my favorite part of looking at the Oscars lists…
Who will win and should win? Last year I used a key like you briefly see with the underlining and the bold word, and yes, I’m continuing that. Simple, bold means I want them to win, then underlined indicates I think this is the candidate who I think has the best logical chance of winning.
Some may be the same and some will differ so don’t be confused if you see word that’s bold and underlined. The star (*) will be for my dark horse picks for wins.
”Hell or High Water”
”La La Land”
”Manchester by the Sea”
Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
*Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
Best Supporting Actor
*Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges,”Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Original Screenplay
“Hell or High Water”
”La La Land”
”Manchester by the Sea”
”20th Century Women”
Best Foreign Language Film
“Land of Mine,” Martin Zandvliet, Denmark
”A Man Called Ove,” Hannes Holm, Sweden
”The Salesman,” Asghar Farhadi, Iran
”Tanna,” Bentley Dean, Martin Butler, Australia,
”Toni Erdmann,” Maren Ade, Germany
Best Documentary Feature
“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“O.J.: Made in America”
Best Animated Feature
*“Kubo and the Two Strings”
”My Life as a Zucchini”
”The Red Turtle”
Best Film Editing
”Hell or High Water”
”La La Land”
Best Original Song
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land”
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” “Trolls”
“City of Stars,” “La La Land”
“The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story”
“How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana”
Best Original Score
”La La Land”
“Arrival,” Bradford Young
”La La Land,” Linus Sandgren
”Silence,” Rodrigo Prieto
”Lion,” Grieg Fraser
”Moonlight,” James Laxton
Best Costume Design
”Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
”Florence Foster Jenkins”
”La La Land”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“A Man Called Ove”
”Star Trek Beyond”
Best Production Design
”Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
”La La Land”
Best Sound Editing
”La La Land”
Best Sound Mixing
”La La Land”
Best Visual Effects
”The Jungle Book”
”Kubo and the Two Strings”
Best Short Film, Live Action
”La Femme et le TGV”
Best Short Film, Animated
”Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
Best Documentary, Short Subject
”Watani: My Homeland”
”The White Helmets”
It’s a shame indie films are so hard to come by when you’re not in New York or LA because there seems to have been an unstoppable amount of great ones this time around. Sadly, I didn’t get to see the talked about films early like some critics such as; Moonlight, Live By Night, Paterson, Silence, The Handmaiden, or something like Fences that isn’t even in wide release yet. Obviously, when I get the chance to see them, you’ll all be the first to see and read my thoughts.
With that said, I still got to see a ton of terrific films, and a ton of not so great ones this year. The Top 10 Worst of 2016 will be coming shortly after this list so stay tuned… But for now, let’s start this list off with some films I have seen and tell me what you think afterwards.
BUT FIRST, some Honorable Mentions: Zootopia* / 10 Cloverfield Lane / Hail, Caesar* / Hunt for the Wilderpeople / Moana / Don’t Breathe / The Lobster / Swiss Army Man / Don’t Think Twice / Hacksaw Ridge*
* indicates it was really close to making the list
10. Captain America: Civil War
Even though indies were clearly the winners of 2016 when all seemed lost, there was one blockbuster film that managed to blow us all way even more than it’s sequels and that was the third installment in Captain America’s now trilogy. With Team Cap vs Team Iron Man duking it out amongst each other, we also got the exciting introductions to the newest Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). It also was a terrific way to lead us to the next few films in the Marvel line-up while still giving us a film all on it’s own.
9. Manchester By the Sea
This was a weird one for me, not because the film was bad, but because it was depressing as hell yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My frame of mind on that is, if I can’t stop thinking about something, it must have some sort of value to it, and Manchester by the Sea does. It’s an almost too intimate and realistic look on family and tragedy while painting a picture on the realities what a person feels or doesn’t feel in their everyday lives. Casey Affleck is terrific while the direction is crisp, detailed precision to give that bitter cold feeling of the characters as well as the characters personalities.
I haven’t found someone who hasn’t enjoyed Deadpool yet. Ryan Reynolds takes on the role he was supposed to play his whole life as the Merc with the Mouth. Bloody violent, vulgar as a sailor, and funny as hell, Deadpool proves that not all heroes need to wear capes or follow the rules to be cool. It’s exactly what fans and filmmakers would have wanted when creating this movie and it only took ever a decade.
7. Kubo and the Two Strings
LAIKA Studios is the Pixar of stop motion with the quality to match. The beautifully original samurai tale has some of the best animation of the year, if not the best, with emotional tug that works for both kids and adults. The voice cast does the job you’d hope without ever taking you out of the film like we all feared. I would put this higher if I had seen it twice, but alas, I have not nor do I have the blu-ray just yet… I will have that blu-ray!
6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Extended Cut)
Yes I know, DC is terrible and Marvel does it better blah blah blah. You’re not impressing anyone with your sweaty fanboy reactions to the work Zack Snyder did on BvS. Maybe if the studio just sucked it up and released the Extended Cut of the film like they did on blu-ray there wouldn’t be so much backlash. Is it perfect? No, it’s really not, but the questions you had for the film were easily answered with just a few important scenes that present the film as a complete production. The action is terrific, Snyder’s visuals are gorgeous, and the cast – Eisenberg not really withstanding – are outstanding in their roles.
One of the smartest films made in a while as far as science-fiction goes, I think it’s safe to admit that this took us all by surprise. Director Denis Villeneuve doesn’t make bad films and Amy Adams doesn’t have a bad performance that I can think of and it shows. While it has aliens, this film has a shell that’s extremely drama based with a perfect blend of science and science-fiction to go around. You’ll be pondering in silence at what you just watched for days and weeks after you’ve watched it.
4. Hell or High Water
Remember when I said indies definitely won the year, well, this was the film that confirmed it. Chris Pine and Ben Foster excel as two brothers that rob banks and that’s about it if we’re being honest, but it’s the execution that wastes no time to make you gravitate towards the characters throughout the film. No matter what side you see, these characters are fleshed out with flawlessly written dialogue and simple explanation. The film also has a lot to say within itself that you can appreciate and catch when you look hard enough.
3. The Nice Guys
Shane Black returns to his wheelhouse of buddy comedies that fuse with crime noir. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are the dynamic duo for this one as they give us some of their most hilarious roles in their careers, especially Gosling as the bumbling idiot of a private eye. Oh, did I mention this is set in 70’s LA and the plot revolves around these two dudes trying to find a pornstar? Yep.
2. Sing Street
This may be one of the most charming coming of age films I’ve ever seen and coming of age movies are pretty impressive in the grand scheme of things. Set in 80’s Dublin, a young boy whose family is going through personal and financial troubles tries to impress a girl by starting a band. Turns out, they aren’t too bad, and their progression as artists and young men grows at a rate you can’t help but hone in on. The music is wonderful and heartwarming and presents the ideas that all people in love should admire.
1. La La Land
This is unmatched as the best film of the year whether this was technical or personal list, but in this case it’s both. Damein Chazelle delivers like a master on just his second outing as a full time director to much avail. It’s not only one of the most aesthetically pleasing films I’ve seen maybe since Jet Li’s Hero as far as the usage of colors, but mix that with an original musical about the importance of chasing dreams and realizing love comes in many shapes and forms then you get what I consider the Best-Picture of the Year.
With each decade leading up from the past one I have realized I am leaving too many great films off the list. Even if just make them honorable mentions or recognize other great films from that year in this decade, expect to see more great films mentioned on the lists for the coming future. That is, if I don’t start breaking down from all the writing, and research I will have to do extra because I love you guys.
The 1960’s, like each decade showed a massive progression of the types of films we could create through all genres and styles. The 60’s was a time of cultural transition in vibrant and colorful ways beyond imagining in prior years. Protests, civil rights movements, fashion, and music were all reflective to what was going on in America during this time. The fact that foreign film reigned supreme for a span of time is also something to consider. Movies were at their lowest point with only 121 American films in 1963 while there was a whopping 363 foreign films released in the US that same year.
Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock:
Every year and decade has their staple film(s) and iconic works of art that have embedded themselves like tattoos into pop culture. Alfred Hitchcock only cemented his legacy by being one of the most recognizable pop culture directors in history due to films like Psycho. We know the iconic shower scene and the music that encompasses it, but beyond the recognizable single scene is layered look into mystery-horror that doesn’t need monsters to scare you. It has one of the best twists in movie history that holds up to this day while serving as a reminder to love your kids and respect your mother…
- Sparticus directed by Stanley Kubrick
- The Apartment directed by Billy Wilder
- The Magnificent Seven directed by John Sturges
West Side Story directed by Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise
One of the greatest musicals of all time to be put onto the silver screen, the Romeo and Juliet inspired musical comes strong all throughout with performances that you will never forget with the music to match. It’s choreography went to new heights which musicals on film hadn’t fully done consistently prior to it and told a story on forbidden love through the eyes of two groups living in New York during the 60’s. It’s a story that can always find relevancy no matter what era you’ve grown up in and you can expect to want to snap your fingers more often than not.
- The Hustler directed by Robert Rossem
- The Guns of Navarone directed by J. Lee Thompson
- One Hundred and One Dalmations directed by Clyde Geronimi , Hamilton S. Luske , Wolfgang Reitherman , Hamilton Luske
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s directed by Blake Edwards
- Yojimbo directed by Akira Kurosawa
Lawrence of Arabia directed by David Lean
One of my favorite classic films of all time, there’s something about the epic nature of Lawrence of Arabia, and the stoic nature of the blue-eyed lead that was Peter O’Toole. The romanticism of the story and direction it goes with it’s characters sets a bar for many epics before and after the film’s conception. You feel every bead of sweat and ray of desert sun that the characters feel while battling culture barriers, harsh elements, and war, only to realize that the film itself is about understanding.
- To Kill A Mockingbird directed by Robert Mulligan
- The Manchurian Candidate directed by John Frankenheimer
- Cape Fear directed by J. Lee Thompson
- Lolita directed by Stanley Kubrick
- Dr. No directed by Terrence Young
- The Music Man directed by Morton DeCosta
The Birds directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Though the production of this film has been marred with controversy with each passing year, the film itself is a classic in it’s own right. The legacy of Hitchcock would soon be tainted due to his off-screen accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment towards his leading woman Tippi Hedrin, but beyond the negative press on what may have happened, The Birds is a tremendous horror film that has that Hitchcockian fright and terror he is known for created. As I alluded to before, 1963 was not a strong year for movies in America by any stretch, but that allowed this film in particular to stand out among the crowd.
- Jason and the Argonauts directed by Don Chaffey
- The Haunting directed by Robert Wise
- The Great Escape directed by John Sturges
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb directed by Stanley Kubrick
A terrifying, satirical look at the “what if’s” on how it would turn out if the wrong person had access to a button that could destroy nations. It’s a classic Kubrick film that goes for more than just comedy, but in fact a more digestible look at what if someone went absolutely insane while having the power to wipe out a whole group of people. It’s terrifying to think about because it’s not far from what has or could happen across the globe. This black and white classic may have more quotes in it than you thought there’d be and it’s capped off with a terrific war room scene among others.
- A Fistful of Dollars directed by Sergio Leone
- Mary Poppins directed by Robert Stevenson
- My Fair Lady directed by George Cukar
- Goldfinger directed by Guy Hamilton
The Sound of Music directed by Robert Wise
1965 didn’t have much to offer in exceptionally great films, but it did have one that stood above the rest on a pedestal that would only increase it’s legacy from then on out. Julie Andrews’ iconic role as Maria, a nun and caretaker of seven children of a wealthy, Austrian widower as she sings the title song with gusto and memorable flair. It’s one of the most popular musicals of all time and grossed a whopping $286 million back in ’65 which helped cement Robert Wise as one of the most underrated directors in history.
- Doctor Zhivago directed by David Lean
- A Charlie Brown Christmas directed by Bill Melendez
Django directed by Sergio Corbucci
This may be a more boring year than 1965 and that’s saying something, but one that I found recently to be a real treat after realizing this was an inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. To make Django Unchained even cooler, it was fun to see star of the original make a brief appearance in the film during the introduction to DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie.
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf directed by Mike Nichols
- Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas directed by Chuck Jones
The Graduate directed by Mike Nichols
Dustin Hoffman jumped onto the scene with this comedy with heart as Benjamin Braddock, a track start and academic dynamo who begins an affair with an older woman. The story is brought together thanks to it’s Hollywood New-Wave style and story which got a boost thanks to this film. It’s told with Simon and Garfunkle as the music in the background only to end with one of the best ambiguous endings in film history, but that’s not a bad thing. The heart of the film reaches everyone of all ages more deeply than most people tend to realize and the film stands the test of time as a pure Hollywood classic.
- The Battle of Algiers directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly directed by Sergio Leone
- Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner directed by Stanley Kramer
- To Sir, With Love directed by James Clavell
- The Dirty Dozen directed Robert Aldrich
- Cool Hand Luke directed by Stuart Rosenberg
- The Jungle Book directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
2001: A Space Odyssey directed by Stanley Kubrick
In one of Kubrick’s many masterpieces, this one takes the cake for most inventive and thought provoking. This sci-fi epic took the ideas all people have in the universe and meshed it together to create something so deeply profound you often have to mentally prepare to take it on. It’s a visual splendor with a tension and isolation that makes it’s villain all the more terrifying.
- Bullitt directed by Peter Yates
- The Planet of the Apes directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
- Rosemary’s Baby directed by Roman Polanski
- Night of the Living Night directed by George A. Romero
- Oliver! directed by Carol Reed
- Romeo and Juliet directed by Franko Zeffirelli
- Funny Girl directed by William Wyler
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang directed by Ken Hughes
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid directed by George Roy Hill
One thing I loved about the new wave of film in the 60’s was the addition of famous songs to serve as the theme of the film. Sure, this may have started the decline of original scores for a little bit, but could you imagine a Quentin Tarantino movie if there wasn’t mainstream music? Robert Redford and Paul Newman are one of cinemas greatest pairings on screen and their natural chemistry carries the film while delivering perfectly timed humor as well as slight drama. It’s a fun film to be seen and maintains that same level of fun and precision a great film often has.
- True Grit directed by
- The Wild Bunch directed by John Sturges
- Easy Rider directed by Dennis Hopper
- Midnight Cowboy directed by John Schlesinger
It was in the 1950’s that we saw an evolution of the genre picture. The growth of genres led by people such as Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa would help seed the evolution of films for years to come up to the present. It was a time when the campy nature of most films was slowly fading away and the methodology of acting and directing was becoming more refined. Films gained scale and depth through color and budget as well as what we would then define as the true movie stars and icons of Hollywood.
I like to think that 50’s was very much one of the decades that spread the groundwork for what films could do beyond the silent films, noirs, and slapstick comedies we had been given from years prior. There was a heavy dose of rebellion and boldness that would churn the imaginations of filmmakers later on in the next seven decades that movies would reign supreme.
1. Seven Samurai (1954)
Director: Akira Kurosawa
There are films that, without them, we would not have had other films that followed. The western would change forever once Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai hit theaters and brought a whole new audience to Asian cinema. His techniques included working shadows and getting close up on character’s faces, but one underrated element Kurosawa brought to the table was the now iconic “horizon shot” which nearly every western and epic film drew inspiration from. George Lucas himself said there would be no Star Wars without the likes of Flash Gordon and Seven Samurai.
2. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Director: Billy Wilder
Like another film on our list, Sunset Boulevard delivers a surprisingly funny and mysterious look at what happens to an aging and outdated silent film star. It’s a classic LA mystery and drama revolving around the desperate acts of celebrities and the obsession to maintain that celebrity status. It’s an intellectually sound look at Hollywood made by Hollywood itself, a self examination that delivers finite results with the acting iconic status to match among cinefiles. The film is fiction, but feels almost to real to not wonder what inspired such a tale.
3. 12 Angry Men (1957)
Director: Sidney Lumet
There aren’t too many films in the history of cinema that can say they will always stand the test of time as a culturally relevant work of masterclass film-making. Based on the stage production of the same name, 12 Angry Men is Aaron Sorkin before there was Aaron Sorkin the way we know him. The intensity and drama through nothing, but words, looks, and puddles of sweat make for a remarkable standard of what drama can become. It defines the ideas of being a good person without hatred or bias even when it seems easier to just call it quits. It’s something that highlights the strengths and weaknesses of justice and the moral grayness we as people often face in everyday life.
4. North By Northwest (1959)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Two of early cinema’s biggest icons, Hitchcock and Cary Grant, collaborate for what is probably one of Hitchcock’s best. A classic story of “You have the wrong guy” kicks into gear with one of Hitchcock’s more thrilling films (that’s saying a lot) and the performance by Grant and James Mason encapsulates the the film’s dramas. It can’t be undervalued for the iconic imagery that you have likely seen before via the poster of films that have spoofed the iconic plane chasing after Cary Grant. It’s a film you don’t realize was being plucked for it’s fruits that are it’s styling which also makes it one of the most influential movies that came from the 50’s.
5. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Director: David Lean
Before David Lean brought to life one of the most iconic epics in history with Lawrence of Arabia, he was busy directing the sh** out of his other war film based on the novel of the same name. The Bridge on the River Kwai tells the epic story of a group of POW’s as they are forced to build a bridge to aid their Japanese captors. It’s a story about deception and insanity and the sheer will to live which is encapsulated by a terrific cast and thematic elements that challenge what you think you know. Morality is painted in many colors and different strokes through the film making a more brain required war film than most other films like it.
6. On the Waterfront (1954)
Director: Elia Kazan
Brando, Brando, Brando. Take any film from his catalog of expertly devised characters and films and you will see what makes him so iconic. Sure, the man was incredibly arrogant and lazy which prompted on more than one occasion a dramatic shift in scripts, schedules, and costumes, but while he was a huge pain in the ass for everyone that worked with him, he still delivered. Brando is terrific in this melodrama about the influences of the mob on the docks of New York and New Jersey where crime is like breathing and the last thing you do is cut the circulation. It’s a deep look into someone who adapted to his surroundings knowing that the world he is in isn’t a good one.
7. Ben Hur (1959)
Director: William Wyler
Before Lord of the Rings: Return of the King tied the record for most Oscars won by one single movie, Ben Hur was shattering and maintaining that record for nearly 50 years and stood the test of time as one of the most epic biblical films, if not just films, of all time. Charlton Heston and all his over the top glory works every time and somehow we eat it up regardless. His portrayal of Judah Ben Hur is chalk full of nuance and detail with a story that allows all this to show. A story of revenge, redemption, and religion, Ben Hur goes onto the Pantheon of films people need to see at least once and they all know about the Chariot Race.
8. Vertigo (1958)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock appears on this list again with icon and star James Stewart at the forefront of this riveting suspense thriller. To chilling atmosphere drips with tension as Hitchcock is known for only to strangle you with it’s layered story of the deeper aspects of lost love or just love in general. This is actually one of his most touching stories at the same token while presenting an artistic flare that stands tall as one of the most technically sound pictures, not just of it’s time, but in the history of cinema.
9. The Seventh Seal (1957)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
In this riveting, allegoric classic by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal brought Bergman to the mainstream without being afraid to keep him there. Visually compelling through shadows and minimal light, we get to see a young Max Von Sydow as the protagonist trek through medieval times as the discovery of morality blankets the story’s narrative. There’s something about the 50’s and their films that forced you to really use your brain when watching movies and this is the perfect representation of what film was trying to be during this time.
10. Singin’ In the Rain (1952)
Director: Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen
Gene Kelly is the definitive classic movie musical icon arguably in films history and his magnum opus of sorts is without a doubt Singin’ In the Rain. It’s a film whose timing set a standard for itself as well as musicals in film for the future. With the setting taking place in an era where the silent film has faded off into the distance, Kelly and company take our breath away in what is without a doubt one of the iconic and important musicals of all time.
The Presidential Election here in America has been a tornado that has divided and confused many Americans more than any other election, but in time, the dust will settle and things (hopefully) repair and improve themselves. My therapy for most things isn’t smoking weed, getting drunk, or fishing, but instead I watch movies. I figured it made sense to make a Top 10 List for the occasion. This time around, I will be making of the best and worst leaders in film history.
I will be excluding real life characters depicted in film because if you want that list you should just read a book and figure out the obvious for yourself. It’s strictly fun and film for this list and I can tell you that it’s much harder to pick these people than I imagined.
1. Aragorn son of Arathorn (Lord of the Rings Trilogy)
Viggo Mortensen brought to life one of the greatest characters written in literature as well as film with his role as Aragorn, the reluctant king and ruler of Arnor and Gondor led a life solitude as the Ranger of the North for much of his life before his true calling rang and he answered to become the man who led the likes of men, elves, dwarfs, and Hobbits to fight the evil forces of Sauron, the dark Lord of Middle Earth.
His courage is evident on film for nearly every action he takes. He leads with courage, kindness, and cool in order to keep those he holds dear protected. A genuinely good and heroic figure in the films, he is without a doubt my favorite leader in films as he eventually takes his rightful place on the thrown and leaves us with the most tear inducing quote of the franchise which is him talking to the Hobbits and saying, “You bow down to no one”.
2. Captain America (Captain America, MCU)
Chris Evans as Captain America has been a transcending figure since he appeared for the first time in the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2011 in Captain America: The First Avenger. Since then, Evans has encapsulated what it means to be a true leader, putting yourself in danger without hesitation to protect someone else, no matter the circumstances. The beautiful part about Cap’s legacy is that he was doing this before he ever became a super-soldier and he’s only done more for people in the films since he dawned the vibranium shield.
3. Katsumoto (The Last Samurai)
You would think Tom Cruise’s Nathan Algren would be the focus point of leadership in The Last Samurai, but it’s the actual samurai that takes the cake for leader here. It’s only because of Katsumoto (Ken Wantanabe) that Cruise’s character becomes what he is. Fighting a war that is trying to destroy his way of life, Katsumoto recognizes enough that there is something more to Algren than meets the eye. Their friendship and perspective for one another grows and only minimizes their cultural division. The sacrifices he will make for his people is unparalleled and very much the way of a true samurai.
4. King Leonidas (300)
While his methods seem more extreme at times that brave, there is no question 300’s King Leonidas exudes bravery, courage, confidence, and all other things that lend to a leader among men and women. Born and raised a Spartan, he earned everything that was thrown at him while taking on all challengers that opposed him and his people. Without hesitation, men flocked in droves to fight for and with him, but he only took those capable and willing to die for what they believed in. To be fair, Leonidas was a real person, but this fictionalized version of him presented a bit of a loop hole for me to include him.
5. Woody (Toy Story franchise)
Who would have thought that toys could bring such life to a generation? Apparently John Lasseter did when he created and directed Toy Story and gave us the iconic character of Woody voiced by Tom Hanks. The joyous nature of the organized toy cowboy resonates with my child self as well as my adult version to this very day. His meticulous efforts to keep order, stability, and warmth among his fellow toys is one of the most deeply touching moments in film history, especially after the events of Toy Story 3.
6. Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator)
Maximus started off as a leader and military general for Caesar in this fictional sword and sandal epic from director Ridley Scott. Russell Crowe becomes the Roman general who leads his men through years of battles and war only to be tricked by a villainous prince whose daddy issues lead Maximus to become a slave then gladiator after his own tragedies. Maximus leads through example through the film’s acts and becomes the inspiration for thousands of people through Rome including his fellow gladiators in the process.
7. Caesar (Rise & Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)
Andy Serkis brings to life one of the modern day icons of film with the rebooted Planet of the Apes protagonist Caesar. Consider him the Moses of the ape world as he tries to lead his species as he tries to lead his species to a promise land beyond humans. It’s a tragic and thrilling aleghory of sorts which presents a element of emotion we can only wish to find in people. His once passive nature shows how he wants to keep peace between species without trouble, but as we all know, trouble will eventually find you. It’s in those moments that Caesar showcases his growth as a leader to get away from his own pride or arrogance to do what is good for the greater good.
8. Juror #8 (12 Angry Men)
Henry Fonda gives a performance of a lifetime as a juror who does whatever it takes to bring forth justice. It’s something that truly great leaders will always try to do and that is profoundly just in of itself. In this iconic courtroom drama about 12 jurors trying to come to agreement in a murder trial, they each hit snags of morality, and heat exhaustion to a point their desires of justice vanish, but it’s Fonda’s juror #8 who upholds the intergrity to bring forth a truth and honor to his peers in hopes of realizing what has really happened. There’s a reason this film gets shown in schools and classrooms across America and it wouldn’t be what it is without Juror #8.
9. Ellen Ripley (Alien franchise)
Through extreme circumstances comes the reveal of one’s true character and that’s no more apparent than in Ellen Ripley throughout the Alien franchise as she is stuck aboard the Nostromo. Fighting off aliens and protecting herself as well as crew mates presents it’s sets of challenges when that alien bleeds acid and has a taste for flesh, but Ripley seems to always fight on and protect who she can even with the little bit of training she was given by the space marines. It’s the dark horse pick for a reason and that’s exactly why she’s such a great leader.
10. Babe (Babe)
This is not a joke, I repeat, this is not a joke. Heroes and leaders come in all shapes and sizes with little to no exception in movies. Director George Miller went away from the Mad Max franchise for a long while to create more kid friendly films later on in his career with one of them being the underrated talking animal film that is Babe. A childhood favorite of mine, Babe was always fascinating because he’s not leading a revolt
Talkies are officially a staple in the art of filmmaking and they’re narratives have switched from the fantasy and horror to the noir and classic black and white dramas. The 40’s explores romance, politics, mystery, and globe trotting adventure. Very much like the world around it, the films of the 40’s were still figuring things out during a time of war and violence and death. The theater still stood as the one place to escape even if only for a few hours a week.
The genres are away from the violent and terrifying as we saw plenty of in the 1930’s (HERE) with the focus directing itself towards more dialogue driven filmmaking. Soon we will see a boom of films lead by filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, and Orsen Welles.
1. Casablanca (1942)
Quote: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
When I first started writing screenplays, I gathered a list of classic stories, and films worth going back too. On everyone’s list, for good reason was Casablanca, considered one of the greatest films ever written and made in film’s century long history. Thanks to it’s memorable lines, clever dialogue, and characters, the film was able to transcend time with it’s narrative.
2. Citizen Kane (1941)
Quote: “There’s only one person in the world that will decide what I do. And that’s me.”
Considered the greatest film in cinematic history, Orsen Welles burst onto the scene with his directorial debut while starring as the iconic Charles Foster Kane. His debut as actor, writer, director proved to be a landmark in filmmaking. The editing techniques as well as usage of light and shadow were unlike many had seen before which still allows it to look as aesthetically pleasing as it did back in 1941.
3. The Great Dictator (1940)
Quote: “Sometimes I think we think too much and feel too little.”
Charlie Chaplin’s most notable talkie after transitioning from being a silent movie star was doosie. We can thank Chaplin for inspiring Hitler’s looks, but in no way were they the same. The satirical look on the villainous German leader came full steam ahead when Chaplin played a Jewish soldier recovering from the Great War while also playing the dictator that spews anti semitic words to the people. This film may have provided one of the most unforgettable speeches possibly in history as it opposed the hatred and violence that war(s) bring us.
4. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Quote: “Remember, no man is a failure if he has friends.”
One of Christmas’ most memorable and heartwarming films that will bring the spirit of Christmas into your heart at any time of the year. You don’t have to be Christians to enjoy this film either. At the core of the film, it’s a timeless tale about the value of friendship, family, and perspective. It’s a film that reminds us that we as people have value, no matter who we are, and that’s a powerful message that will always ring true.
5. The Third Man (1949)
Quote: ” In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, and they had 500 years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
Orsen Welles returns as an actor and screenwriter for this next classic on our list. A story that follows a writer in postwar Vienna, Austria who finds an old friend only to find him dead. A swirling mystery-thriller ensues with dialogue worthy of it’s own Hall of Fame. The title “third man” is seen at the time Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) finds his friend. It’s a thrilling story with one of the best character intros in film history.
6. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Quote: “Remember, mine’s bigger than yours.”
Humphrey Bogart sets the standard for 30’s and 40’s acting with his iconic voice, face, and acting style. All this coupled with a classic noir style sets the precedent for noirs down the line. A classic crime story with a seductive woman with a secret and a detective willing to take on the case becomes one of the most quotable crime dramas of it’s time as well as in the genre.
7. The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948)
Adventure films and impeccable dialogue, that was film in the late forties. The desire to discover and realize was all too apparent in the 40’s. This translated into their films with the time’s biggest stars in starring roles. Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, and Tim Holt round out a cast of the era’s biggest stars while giving a twist on the treasure hunter and the avarice that ensues.
8. Rebecca (1940)
Quote: “Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?”
Alfred Hitchcock directs one of his earliest classics and proves why he’s the master of suspense. Imagine marrying a widower who does nothing, but force you be exactly like his dead wife… I’ll wait… It’s weird AF isn’t it? The answer is yes, but it makes for a really compelling film with exceptional acting, unique camera work, and a story that is still weird to this day.
9. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Quote: “Why should I kill myself worrying when I will end up just as dead?”
This Italian classic about a man and his family desperate to make money in a post-war Rome becomes all the more sorrowing as I watch it each year. A man’s wife sells their bed linens to get the man’s bike (Lamberto Maggiorani) in order for him to work a valuable job hanging posters across the town. A harrowing story begins once the bike is stolen and the father and son tale begins in dramatic, but beautiful fashion.
10. Pinocchio (1940)
Quote: “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you..”
One of the original Disney animated films with a song we can’t help, but sing had its genesis in 1940, a year where it’s Disney animated partner just missed out, and that is Fantasia. The reason I had to put Pinocchio on here over Fantasia was for the lasting impact of the film as a whole. When I mention Fantasia to people, they scrunch up their faces like they just smelled a fart while Pinocchio can at least get words and hums out of them. That speaks for itself.