I got an email from a reader who asked me to pick my favorite movie of all time-- and that's impossible. The AFI lists CITIZEN KANE as #1 in their top 100 film list-- and while I think it's a great movie, it's not number 1, at least for me.
I recently re-watched CASABLANCA (1942) on TCM the other night and I have to say that one is one hell of a film. The performances are amazing-- Bogie and Bergman can say more with an expression than most actors can with a whole script full of dialogue. It also holds up to repeated viewings. I realize it's mentioned so often people often discount it-- but I challenge you to watch it with no distractions and actually FOLLOW the plot and the dialogue carefully, I think you'll be impressed.
It impressed me enough for me to give it the number one spot.
After recently watching PARANORMAN (2012) which was a brilliantly executed film with a weak script it occurs to me that the best movies start with great writing. Great writing establishes characters who make sense, a plot or MacGuffin which drives the movie and dialogue that makes you feel like this is really happening and you're a silent witness.
Some other contenders in my movie library (In no particular order);
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) wrongly imprisoned Andy Dufrane endures Hell in order to find salvation. Inspiring and incredible.
THE EXORCIST (1973) The writing and performances in this are so fantastic I can watch it over and over again. There's not a flaw in the movie.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995) Keyser Sozie! Keyser Sozie!
O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? (2000) George Clooney is this era's Cary Grant. "Well ain't this a geographical oddity, two weeks from everywhere!" The Cohen Bros best movie.
THE BIG SLEEP (1946) Good luck following the plot-- but I don't care. Bogie at his best.
DUCK SOUP (1933) The Marx Bros were never as funny as The Three Stooges in their prime, but this is their best movie.
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) After the blockbuster success of FRANKENSTEIN (1931) director James Whale was given free rein with the sequel and it's a masterpiece of black humor and horror.
ED WOOD (1994) Tim Burton's bio pic of the notorious director says a lot about both directors. His best movie.
PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (1985) Yup. He's gotta find his bike.
SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1942) Hitchcock's best film showing the dark side of small town America.
MEMENTO (2000) Christopher Nolan's best movie.