With so many to choose from, which can be called the best? This is one writer’s opinion. Feel free to share yours.
5. The Jersey Trilogy (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy)
I’m not a huge fan of comedy movies. Most of them, to be honest, just strike me as stupid more often than amusing. But Kevin Smith’s trio of loosely woven tales of New Jersey misfits are nothing short of hilarious.
In Clerks, we meet Dante, a convenience store register jockey, and his best friend Randall, who works at the video store next door. Aimless, shiftless, and not even supposed to be here today, Dante manages to have The Worst Day Ever while covering a shift at the Qwik Stop. He gets chewed out by rude customers, pelted with cigarettes, dumped by his girlfriend, dragged to a funeral, and finds a dead guy in the bathroom. None of this should be funny, but Smith’s intelligent writing, unique characters, and gritty, low-budget direction bring the story to gut-busting life. By the time it’s over, you’re just glad this isn’t a day in your existence.
The laughs come faster and easier (albeit more low-brow) in Mallrats, another day-in-the-life tale of loser best friends, T.S. and Brodie. T.S.’s girlfriend has just dumped him for what she swears is the last time. His brainless buddy hatches a brave, but extremely stupid, plan to regain her affections and mend his mopey pal’s broken heart. Along the way, the two debate food court requirements, meet a bored teenage nymphomaniac, attempt to outsmart the world’s toughest mall security guard, and completely ruin a dating-show taping, all with the assistance of the only duo dumber than themselves – Jay and Silent Bob. The pair steal every scene they’re in, with Smith’s witty dialogue once again shining through the sophomoric plot.
Chasing Amy dials back the dick jokes (just a little bit) for a surprisingly sweet and honest look at friendship, love, and all the ways we manage to screw them up. Holden and Banky are living the dream – they’re best buds, roomies, and the artists of their own comic book. While out at a bar one night, Holden meets Alyssa, and falls instantly in love. There’s just one problem – Alyssa is playing for the other team. He watches in horror as she openly makes out with her girlfriend, wondering what cruel fate would lead him to such a woman, only to keep her out of reach.
Nevertheless, the pair becomes good friends, spending all their time together, until Holden can’t hide his feelings anymore. His declaration of love is still the greatest I’ve ever seen on film. Every woman wants to hear these words………except Alyssa. But she finally decides to open her heart to him, and for a time, life is blissfully perfect for the pair. Then Holden begins to hear whispers about Alyssa’s past, and can’t keep the nagging doubts out of his mind. What follows is a lesson in how not to handle your relationship issues. His passive-aggressive accusations, her fiery defensiveness, and his best friend’s jealousy and confusion all come together in a perfect storm that leaves all three hearts broken. The serious issues are handled in a surprisingly mature way, but still with Smith’s trademark humor intact.
4. The Evil Dead Trilogy (The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness)
Sam Raimi’s blood-soaked tales of smart-mouth demons, cabins no one in their right mind would ever enter, and a hapless hero named Ash, are some of the most unique films in horror. Mixing terrifying imagery and gore with the blackest humor, he essentially created the horror-comedy genre.
In The Evil Dead, Ash and a few of his college buddies go off to spend the weekend at a remote cabin. There, they find the Necronomicon ex Mortis – the ancient book of the dead. Bound in human flesh and inked in human blood, it contains incantations which summon the most powerful and terrifying demons you could ever imagine. One by one, Ash watches helplessly as his friends are possessed by the malevolent spirits. Armed only with his trademark chainsaw, he defends himself against the Deadites, becoming the sole survivor of the demonic onslaught. Brilliant camera work, gallons of fake blood, and the dedication of the cast and crew more than make up for the film’s nonexistent budget.
Evil Dead 2 finds Ash trapped once again in the cabin, having been unable to escape at the end of the original. He is soon joined by the daughter of the professor who translated the Necronomicon, her boyfriend, and the pair of rednecks who helped them after their car broke down. Once again, our hero watches his companions succumb to the evil spirits in the cabin.
Even his own hand is possessed, thanks to a bite from the severed head of his dead girlfriend. No problem. Just chop it off with a chainsaw, stick the power tool on the stump, and keep going. There are demons to fight here. This installment steps up both the humor and the gore, making it a bloody good time for all.
Raimi makes somewhat of a departure with Army of Darkness. Comedy takes center stage, while the violence is toned down a great deal. Nevertheless, it’s considered by many to be the most entertaining chapter in Ash’s tale. The endlessly quotable dialogue and higher-quality effects more than atone for the lack of gore. Ash is sucked through a time portal by the relentless evil, landing in medieval England with only his car, his chainsaw, and his trusty boomstick. The helpless inhabitants of the village are also plagued by the Deadites, and Ash is the only one who can save them. (Make sure you see a version – and there are many different ones of this film – with the alternate ending. It might be the scariest part of the entire trilogy.)
3. The Indiana Jones Trilogy (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade)
Before Lara Croft, before Nathan Drake, before all of the intrepid treasure hunters we know and love today, there was Indiana Jones. The Depression-era archaeology professor and explorer is the ultimate adventurer, a globe-trotting artifact finder who manages to get out of the most harrowing situations with his trademark hat intact. (And yes, we’re ignoring The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. You should too. To be fair, this stood as a legitimate trilogy for twenty years.)
Raiders finds Indy on the trail of the Ark of the Covenant, the legendary Biblical chest said to contain the Ten Commandments. Nazis are also searching for it, and the U.S. government beseeches Indy to find it first, as they believe it contains a great power source that cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of the Third Reich. Accompanied by former flame Marion an old pal Sallah, he seeks out the Ark, amid the dangers of Nazi agents, Arab soldiers, and his personal nemesis, snakes. Ford’s unique antihero charm carries the plot through some outlandish situations, leaving you concerned only that the lovable scoundrel lives to explore another day.
The Temple of Doom (my personal favorite) serves as a prequel, with Indy in the far east, trying to negotiate an ancient artifact away from Chinese gangsters. The deal quickly goes south, and he and his companions – Willie, a lounge singer, and Short Round, a 12 year old kid – drop from a plane over a river in India. They wash up in a destitute village, where an elder informs them that all of their children have disappeared, as well as a stone of great power that is the lifeblood of the small village. Wanting to help (but also always in search of “fortune and glory”), Indy goes in search of both. He finds more than he ever bargained for in the catacombs beneath the Maharaja’s palace. Mola Ram, high priest of an ancient evil cult, is using the children as slaves, and the stones to feed his own otherwordly abilities. Dr. Jones and his friends are in danger of being sacrificed to further Mola Ram’s quest for supernatural power.
Indy revisits his roots in The Last Crusade. We get some interesting backstory by way of flashbacks, meet his intimidating father, and learn the origins of his iconic nickname. When the Nazis failed to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant, they set their sights on something possibly even more powerful – The Holy Grail. Indy’s father, Dr. Henry Jones, was searching for the Grail when he suddenly disappeared. It soon comes to light that he has been captured by the Nazis. Indiana sets off to rescue his father, recover the Grail, and stop the Nazis once and for all.
2. The Star Wars Trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi)
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away………..you know the rest. Arguably the most iconic film trilogy of all time, Star Wars was (and still is) massively influential in sci-fi, fantasy, and action films. The original story, unique characters, and groundbreaking special effects have had a lasting impact on the film industry.
A New Hope – known simply as Star Wars at the time – introduces us to young farmhand Luke Skywalker. Bored with his simple life on his aunt and uncle’s moisture farm, he dreams of an adventurous existence to be found elsewhere in the galaxy. He meets an old Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who introduces him to the ways of the Force – an intangible power that can be used for good or evil. When Obi-Wan receives a message from Princess Leia of Alderaan, asking for his help in fighting against the evil Galactic Empire, Luke sees his chance to have a great adventure, and make a true difference for the forces of good. Joined by smarmy smuggler Han Solo, his Wookiee sidekick, Chewbacca, and the droids R2-D2 and C3PO, they band together to take on the most powerful evil the galaxy has ever known…………Darth Vader.
Empire finds our heroes scattered across the galaxy as the battle rages on. Luke ventures to the swampy planet Dagobah to continue his training under the great Jedi master Yoda. While Master Yoda is certainly not what Luke expected to find, he proves to be a wise mentor who is incredibly strong in the Force. His training is interrupted, however, when he begins to sense that his compatriots are in grave danger. It turns out to be a trap set by Vader himself, who knows much more about Skywalker than he knows about his own life. Luke is ready and willing to fight Vader, having been told by Obi-Wan that he killed his father. However, in the climactic light saber battle, Vader reveals one of the greatest shocking twists in cinematic history – he himself is Luke’s father. Moreover, he isn’t actually the leader of the Empire – that is the insidious Emperor Palpatine, who is using Vader as his puppet. Darth Vader, the erstwhile Anakin Skywalker, beseeches his son to help him overthrow Palpatine, and then they can rule the galaxy together. Luke, overwhelmed by this knowledge (and by the loss of his right hand during the fight) chooses death over the Dark Side, but his drop into a bottlomless pit leads to his rescue by Princess Leia, who somehow knew he was in danger, and where to find him. The group then sets off to rescue Han Solo from the intergalactic gangster Jabba the Hutt, to whom he owes a massive debt.
Leia is taken prisoner by Jabba, and she and Solo are rescued by Luke, Chewbacca and the droids. It is now time for the final battle against the Empire. Skywalker, having completed his training to become a Jedi Master, makes a valiant effort to turn his father, Darth Vader, away from the Dark Side. But Vader is ultimately not strong enough to defy the Emperor, who turns his enmity to Luke. Realizing he will never join the Dark Side, Palpatine begins torturing Luke. Vader’s once-good heart cannot bear to see his son suffering, and he lashes out at Palpatine, sending him down a reactor shaft to his death. But as he falls, the Emperor’s attack momentarily shifts to a weakened Vader, who is mortally wounded. As he lays dying, he asks Luke to remove his helmet, so that he may see his son face to face. Anakin’s shell of a physical body is revealed, showing that the majority of his battle suit was, in fact, mechanical. It is now brought to light that Luke and Leia are actually twins, separated at birth to protect them from their father, who had turned to the Dark Side. Upon learning this, Leia, whose affections had been torn between Luke and Han, realizes that the love she felt for Luke was different from her feelings for Han, and they that are now free to be together. It is a happy ending for all, now that peace has been restored to the galaxy.
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King)
It was difficult for me to choose the order of first and second place. I have to give LOTR the edge, simply because of the sheer quality of the story and filmmaking. Everything about these films is *perfect.* Flawless casting, beautiful locations and sets, and extraordinarily realistic effects bring to vivid life the original fantasy epic. Without Tolkien’s tales, it’s safe to say we wouldn’t have wizards, dwarves, elves, and orcs in modern fiction. We wouldn’t have Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, Pathfinder, Munchkin, or basically tabletop gaming in its entirety. Not to mention the influence on video games – Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Age – countless games would never have existed without the influence of Tolkien’s creations. The impact extends to printed fiction as well. Fantasy novels are a hugely successful genre. Modern entertainment, especially geekdom in all its many forms, owes an unpayable debt to Tolkien’s genius imagination.
The Fellowship consists of nine beings – four Hobbits, two men, a dwarf, an elf, and an ancient wizard – on a dangerous quest to destroy a ring of terrible malevolent power. It can’t be damaged by any man-made means. Only the fires of Mount Doom, where it was first forged, can destroy the evil ring. The companions set off on the epic journey across Middle Earth, from the peaceful Shire to the kingdom of Mordor, a barren land blackened by demonic energy. Along the way, they become friends, battle many dangers, fight to resist the temptation of the ring’s power, and lose two of their own, one of whom gives himself to save them all.
The Two Towers finds the fellowship scattered across Middle Earth, but all still fighting for the same goal – the destruction of The One Ring. The Hobbits Frodo and Samwise, accompanied by the creature Gollum, possess the ring, and continue their journey to Mordor. The rest of the group are travelling to nearby kingdoms, trying to muster troops to fight the massive Orc army of the evil Sauron, the forger of The One Ring. The realms of men, elves, hobbits, and dwarves must come together in order to defeat the terrible dark power of Sauron. The epic battle of Helm’s Deep shows how strong the enemy’s forces are, but also what noble beings can accomplish when they come together to fight for the greater good.
Frodo has finally reached Mordor with the ring, the armies of good prepare for the massive final battle, and the human Aragorn takes his rightful place as the benevolent ruler of the lands of men, in The Return of the King. The purpose of the battle is to distract the eye of the dark lord Sauron, so he won’t know that Frodo is about to destroy The One Ring. There are many hard-fought victories in this war – Frodo over the temptation of the ring’s power, and the meddling of Gollum; the shieldmaiden Eowyn over those who believed a woman had no place in battle, and over the demonic Ring Wraith she managed to slay; Arwen’s choice of love over immortality; Eomer’s restoration as King of Rohan; Legolas and Gimli’s friendship in the face of the animosity between the races of elf and dwarf. In the end, the darkness is defeated once and for all, and peace and order are restored to Middle Earth by their kind and fair leaders. The brave Hobbits return home to their beloved Shire, the elves go to the Undying Lands to live out their endless days, and Gandalf sees that the many centuries of his life have come to the greatest fruition he ever imagined. This film won a record-breaking eleven Academy Awards, and it deserved every single one. It is a flawless end to an extraordinary tale.
The Dark Knight Trilogy – Christopher Nolan’s dark, modern, action-packed take on the Batman mythos is high quality in every way. Its second film was the first comic book movie to win an Oscar, for Heath Ledger’s chilling portrayal of the psychopathic villain The Joker.
The Matrix Trilogy – Is reality real? That unnerving concept drives the Wachowskis’ descent into cyber-madness, where a computer hacker learns that everyday life is actually the illusion of a massive program known as the Matrix, which all humans are drugged and plugged into, while other beings feed off of their thermal energy. The mind-bending effects and unique story ensure that these films will be remembered for decades to come.
The Mad Max Trilogy – A nonexistent budget, an outlandish plot, and a no-name actor (a young Mel Gibson) came together with director George Miller’s petrologic vision of a post-apocalyptic Outback. Nearly 40 years later, the legend lives on, with its fourth installment standing out as one of the best films of 2015.
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