9. The Aviator (2004) - Dir. Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale
Not to be confused with the 90 minutes of hot garbage starring Christopher Reeve who, despite being Superman, couldn't save it from sucking, this Aviator is about Howard Hughes, his rise to fame, and turbulent struggle with OCD.
It would be pretty standard, award season fodder if someone else were in the cockpit, but Scorsese's striking direction and the myriad of fantastic performances from the cast (Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for portraying Katharine Hepburn; poor Leo, as usual, went home empty handed) are what really makes the whole thing pop. My favorite moment is when Hughes crashes his XF-11 prototype while on a test flight in Beverly Hills. It's terrifying, it's claustrophobic, and painful to watch at times, but it doesn't fail to exhilarate.
8. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - Dir. Frank Darabont, starring Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman
I'm just gonna come out and say it: Shawshank was robbed during awards season. It was nominated for seven Oscars, but didn't win a single one, as Forrest Gump cleaned house.
I like Forrest just as much as anyone else, but to say it was a better movie than Shawshank is pure, unadulterated blasphemy. Even Pulp Fiction, which was also nominated for best picture that year, was a more deserving option. Alas, the past is the past and it can't be changed, but that doesn't alter the fact that this will forever remain a masterpiece of modern cinema, and will constantly serve as a reminder of what a beautiful thing hope can be during our most hopeless moments.
7. The Rocketeer (1991) - Dir. Joe Johnston, starring Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton
Due to its box office failure, this wannabe Disney blockbuster never took off is many had hoped, which is a shame, because it's wonderful.
It follows daring test pilot Cliff, who unwittingly gets his hands on a prototype jetpack designed by Howard Hughes (I'm starting to see recurring themes within some of these movies), and becomes caught in the middle of a conflict between the FBI, the Mob, and the burgeoning Nazi party.
Rocketeer has a real "gee-whiz" quality to it; everything from the visuals to the dialogue are as innocent and adventurous as the movie serials of old, and the film remains a great adaptation of the comic books that inspired it.
It's been rumored that Disney is working on producing a reboot for new audiences to become acquainted with the high-flying hero. The initial plans for a sequel were scrapped after the original under-performed, but these recent developments only give me hope that the Rocketeer will one day take flight again.
6. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003) - Dir. Quentin Tarantino, starring Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox
This one definitely falls under the category of "I shouldn't have been watching it when I was 10", but I ain't mad that I did.
While Tarantino is normally lauded for his rich, engrossing dialogue, the first movie in this duology pushed that aspect of his repertoire to the back seat in favor of his other, more polarizing strong suit: violence. The Bride's quest to get revenge on her former comrades in blood is, well, a bloody affair - and as easy as it can be for blood to turn some away, Kill Bill 1 makes it difficult to stop watching (or, at least that's how it was in my case).
Tarantino's always been the kind of guy to make movies that will entertain audiences, but most importantly, they would entertain himself. And while Kill Bill is far from his best movie, it's also his most fun, which leads me to believe that he had a great amount of fun bringing the whole bloody thing to life. It's fast, it's furious, and it's filled with a flurry of references to the kung-fu flicks of old, making its almost two hour run-time seem far shorter than it really is. It's all good though; that makes it easier digest when it comes to multiple viewings.