A Room with a View
This is perhaps my favorite movie in the entire world, and I have seen it so many times that I have it memorized. It is swooningly romantic, extremely funny, and beautifully shot; and, not for nothing, there’s a surplus of very welcome full-frontal male nudity.
James L. Brooks
The only thing wrong about this movie is the terrible haircut Holly Hunter has at the end. Broadcast News is sharp and funny and endlessly quotable—and timelier than ever in this era of both so-called fake news and what feels like the re-emergence of world-changing journalism. I don’t know if I’ve ever related to a fictional character more than I do to Jane, Hunter’s smart, ambitious, flawed uber–Type A producer (who knows when to bust out a therapeutic cry). Add to that William Hurt at his most handsome, a complicated love triangle without a pat ending, the funniest theme-song sequence ever, and cinema’s most iconic polka-dot dress. It’s simply perfect.
The Royal Tenenbaums
Speaking of stylish, one of the reasons I’ve put this movie on my list is because I love the Scalamandre zebra-print wallpaper featured in it. But the film is wonderfully moving—and it has my favorite Gwyneth Paltrow performance ever; no one smokes more petulantly than she does—but it’s also a visual treat, from the aforementioned decor to Goop’s amazing polo dresses and ratty fur coat. In my experience, you either cannot stand Wes Anderson’s aesthetic or you want to move into it; I am the latter.
Being John Malkovich
This movie is such a strange little treasure. It is brilliantly bizarre, from the main conceit to the fact that Cameron Diaz (at her very best; I miss her) plays a terribly coiffed chimpanzee enthusiast. Admit it, right now you’re thinking about that scene where John Malkovich enters the portal into his own brain, and all anyone can say is the word “Malkovich.” A masterpiece of unapologetic, creative weirdness.
This was the first documentary I ever saw in a movie theater. No less than an epic opus, the documentary you show people who don’t think they like documentaries, and the sort of film that lives with you whether you are a sports fan or not. (For the record, I am.)
The Silence of the Lambs
One of the most elegant—and best-acted—movies ever made about incarcerated cannibals and the strong female protagonists who . . . well, “love them” isn’t exactly right, but you hear me.
As a person who enjoys movies about rich people with personal problems, I am obviously very fond of the collected works of Whit Stillman. This one, his first, is talky and romantic and features a baby-faced Chris Eigeman—that alone is worth the price of admission.
The Breakfast Club
Is not each one of us a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal?
The Ice Storm
Deeply evocative, funnier than you’d imagine, highly stylish, and extremely educational about the logistics of key parties.
There is a bit of a theme to this list, it seems: almost all of these movies have at least one very juicy part for a woman. Much of this film has been lost to time for me since I last saw it—something something Chris Klein, blah blah Matthew Broderick—but I have never forgotten how perfect Reese Witherspoon is as Tracy Flick. She’s bossy, controlling, not very likable, but somehow deeply sympathetic. (I think Broadcast News’s Jane would have wanted to take Tracy on as an intern, and also possibly to kill her.)
Hossein Amini’s Top 10
The Iranian-British Hossein Amini received an Academy Award nomination for his 1997 screenplay adaptation of Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove and wrote the screenplays for Jude (1995), The Four Feathers (2002), and Drive (2011).
Paweł Pawlikowski’s Top 10
The Oscar-winning director of Ida and Cold War walks through key periods in his life that have been shaped by his favorite films, including masterpieces by Godard, Malick, and Tarkovsky.