IMDB top 250 challenge recap

I could not end the year without offering a brief recapitulation of what has been the most satisfying part of my young blog: the IMDB’s Top 250 challenge.

When I started, the goal was to push myself to fill the voids in my film repertoire with some of the so-called “classics” that I have not had the pleasure to see until now.

It is clear that the avid moviegoer that makes up the bulk of the users at IMDB are good judges on what makes a film great. Their ratings are very close to mine in almost every case, with only “Blade Runner” and “The Thing” as the two slight disappointments so far. My average rating for the 16 films is a remarkable 4.25 out of 5, well above the average rating in my film archive of 2.7

Following is a brief summary of the 16 films I have reviewed since I began the challenge. Find an excerpt of my original post for all 16 reviews and, under some you will also find the new tag “Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 films ever” which is a list I will be publishing by the end of my challenge.

Blade Runner (3.5/5)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutget Hauer

“The movie communicated, like very few have, a sense of place. When you follow Harrison Ford, you get a sense you’re just another passerby in the busy streets of futuristic Los Angeles. We are offered an ‘inside look’ that continuously and simultaneously delivers a sense of chaos, foul smells, social and political disparity”

The King’s Speech (4.5/5)

♦ Blog of Big Ideas’ TOP 250 films ever ♦

Director: Tom Hooper

Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush

“Unlike other critically-acclaimed movies released in 2010, The King’s Speech does simple things remarkably well, which is better than trying to be different but failing to do so. The director, Tom Hoopper, reminds us that there are still “real” and moving stories that treated with care and with the right cast can excel beyond its scale, and beyond Oscar-gold, to become one of the best films ever made.”

Twelve Monkeys (4/5)

Director: Terry Gilliam

Cast: Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Madeleine Stowe

“In 12 Monkeys, we are presented with a grim future of civilization. 99% of the human race has been completely wiped out and the remaining few now reside in a subterranean world, far away from the virus that has contaminated the air. A good part of the merit of this film can be attributed to the artistry behind the design of this futuristic world, one in which animals roam the surface freely unaffected by the virus, while humans live away from the sun, no longer populating cities and crowding the planet’s resources, but in cages and laboratories. It is a dark world, where civilization is only a shadow of its former glory, trapped indoors, defeated by the circumstances and alienated by its horrible fate.”

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (4.5/5)

♦ Blog of Big Ideas’ TOP 250 films ever ♦

Director: Julian Schnabel

Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Max Von Sydow, Emmanuelle Seigner

“The director, Julian Schnabel, treats the story without grand gestures or manufactured uplifting moments. Schnabel’s effectiveness in this film comes from his simple and honest depiction of great adversity. We get to inhabit Bauby’s paralyzed body, relive some of his memories in order to understand the man before the tragedy, and we take part in the asphyxiating situation he is in. Schnable trusts the power of his story to speak for itself. Bauby is a tragedy but also a triumph since he was able, against all odds, to compose a memoir using only his left eye to blink as a nurse recited the alphabet, painstakingly constructing words.”

Patton (4.5/5)

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Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Cast: George C. Scott, Karl Malden

“As a character study, Patton constructs enough of an image for us to place the rest of the missing pieces of the puzzle. We get a sense of what he wants or desires, but there is always an element of surprise in his actions that make Scott’s General one of the most excitingly complex and mysterious film characters ever.”

Apocalypse Now (4.5/5)

♦ Blog of Big Ideas’ TOP 250 films ever ♦

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando

“Above all, Apocalypse Now is an effective atmospheric poem about how pointless and tragic the War in Vietnam was. Marlon Brando, in this sense, becomes Coppola’s flagship to represent the ultimate American tragedy: a promising, smart and courageous leader of men driven to despair and insanity by the horror of a needless war.”

Unforgiven (5/5)

♦ Blog of Big Ideas’ TOP 250 films ever ♦

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman

“Unforgiven feels like a great Rock n’ Roll song. For most of its running time, it remains an object of mystery, muted in its reach at first, gaining power and punch as it slowly unravels in order to finally open itself to the audience in a crescendo of violence that seemed both unreachable at first but always unavoidable.”

Gran Torino (3.5/5)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang

“As it is common in Eastwood’s body of work, the film works itself out to have a meaningful message submerged in between the lines of the script. He builds his movies to what usually seems to be an unavoidable end that we try to avoid as an audience, but that ultimately comes to its tragic, yet uplifting conclusion. Usually, the climax of Eastwood’s films comes in the form of violence which represents a perfect vehicle for his underlying messages about humanity to come across with a splash.”

Letters from Iwo Jima (4/5)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya

“The manner of the direction immerses us as one of the soldiers. The proximity to the men in the caves and their struggle to survive speaks about a film that is more interested in exploring the battered spirit of the Japanese soldiers, many of whom knew they had come to the island to die, leaving their families and lives behind, away from the mainland. In this context, the harshness and austere quality of the terrain where the movie was shot helps to bring out the sense of solitude and helplessness that the Japanese soldier must have felt while patiently waiting inside make-shift caves, as the grand fleet of American forces was deployed on the shores.”

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (4.5/5)

♦ Blog of Big Ideas’ TOP 250 films ever 

Director: Sergio Leone

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef

“What makes The Good, The Bad and The Ugly great is not so much the story. For Leone, film was very much an instrument to exploit his creativity as an artist and composer. As with his previous endeavors, GBU is an opportunity for Leone to explore a great variety of shots, often switching from panoramic to close-ups, using the arid and vast terrain to his advantage to create wonderful compositions.”

The Thing (3.5/5)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Kurt Russell

“Despite the vastness of the environment, the film feels incredibly claustrophobic. The almost constant snowstorm that cuts all communication with the outside world serves as the lock that keeps all of these men trapped inside a narrow ensemble of hallways and rooms that make up the scientists’ outpost. From the moment we are introduced to the dog desperately running away from a certain death, we know that there is something off with this picture and that whatever it is come, it would have to be confronted in this limiting setting, where escaping is impossible. There is, as a result, a sense of unavoidable doom that inhabits every room and corridor. There is always a presence lurking among the men and even after we discover what it is, the very nature of this unexpected visitor keeps us guessing for who its next victim will be. It is never a matter of if it will happen, but a matter of when.”

Casablanca (4/5)

♦ Blog of Big Ideas’ TOP 250 films ever ♦

Director:  Michael Curtiz

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman

“At times, the pace of films like these can be off-putting, often being branded as too slow and boring by today’s audiences. Before we go forward, we have to consider that art is always a product of context. Casablanca was informed by a different American reality and by the films that preceded it. The history of film was still very much in its infancy when Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergmann shared the screen, and very few movies, if any, had captured the tragedy of unfulfilled love as poignantly as Casablanca had. It was also a highly appealing story that has always found success in movies: two people who are in love that are forced to sacrifice it for a higher cause.”

Cinema Paradiso (5/5)

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Director: Giuseppe Tornatore

Cast: Philippe Noiret, Enzo Cannavale

“…Cinema Paradiso was as consistent as they come in its delivery, at no point did it become lost in its own ways. The film tries and succeeds in making us fall in love with his grand story and with the magic of film. It does not try to be anything less than theatrical, which is in a way, the expected outcome for an Italian film that wants you to fall in love with it as you easily could for Italian culture.”

Magnolia (4.5/5)

♦ Blog of Big Ideas’ TOP 250 films ever ♦

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman

“Magnolia is a poem written and produced in cinematic form. It comes across as a tragedy filled with tender, highly emotional moments where lives either get significantly and permanently altered, or they meet their unavoidable end.”

Downfall (4.5/5)

♦ Blog of Big Ideas’ TOP 250 films ever ♦

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Cast: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara

“Downfall portrays, much like the witness account it is based on, a man that beyond his extreme brutality and disregard for human life, could also be described as undeniably charming, polite and well spoken. Ganz manages to walk this fine line between two polar opposites with ease. He embodies the murderous dictator as naturally as he becomes the soft-spoken man in a performance that ranks very high as one of the best ever put on film.”

Donnie Darko (4/5)

Director: Richard Kelly

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone

“Films like “Space Oddissey” or “Pi” offer uniqueness and originality in a medium that is hostage to convention. Similarly, Donnie Darko’s story is told through very peculiar imagery that becomes impossible to forget. How can one separate the creepy person wearing a menacing-looking rabbit costume from Donnie Darko? Even those that come out disliking the movie can never walk away completely from images like that.Truly successful films leave something in the viewer that remains over time.”

PS. Happy New Year Everyone !!

— The Blog of Big Ideas

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10 thoughts on “IMDB top 250 challenge recap

  1. That’s too bad about Blade Runner. Maybe when you revisit sometime it will resonate with you better. That’s how I felt about it anyways.

    Isn’t Cinema Paradiso one of the best films ever? I don’t think that film can ever get enough love.

    1. I plan to revisit Blade Runner at some point but, for now, it remains a bit of a disappointment. I never said it was bad though, not at all, just not up to expectations.

      Cinema Paradiso is wonderful. I will be purchasing the Blu-Ray very soon. It definitely became one of my favorite films.

      Niels

  2. I think Gran Torino was way overrated and for me isn’t by any means a top 250 film!
    Too bad you didn’t love Blade Runner, it’s in my top 5 of all time! SO have to go with Max on that one.

  3. Nice mini reviews! 5/5 for Cinema Paradiso, yay! I so LOVE that movie and I just scored the Blu-ray for less than 10 bucks.

    I also agree w/ your rating on The King’s Speech. As for Magnolia, I still haven’t seen it yet but I should check it out one of these days.

  4. Great reviews. I’ve been going through the IMDB top 250 for a while now and hope to have seen at least 220 of them by the end of the year. The counter currently is at 198 because of the constant changes in the list. Really need to start checking out more movies towards the top of the list 🙂

    1. oh wow! 220 reviews?! That’s where I should be by the end of the year and it’s obviously not going to happen (it only could if my blog was also my job). I do hope to cover at least twice as many films from the list as I did last year. I hope to get around the 50 by New Year’s.

      In any case, do you have any stand-out movies so far? Let me know, maybe it’ll determine my next few picks.

      1. Well, I don’t always review the IMDB movies I see, depends if I have time to do it 😉 So I don’t have 220 reviews of IMDB movies up unfortunately.

        As for stand out movies, it’s hard to suggest them. Where can I find which ones you have already seen? There are so many stand out movies. If I had to name some I’d say Oldboy, Witness for the Prosecution, Black Swan (my all time favorite film), The Thing, My Neighbour Totoro, Magnolia, District 9 and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (made me want to read the book)

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