Raging Bull

Thelma Schoonmaker took home the Oscar for editing and the fights testify to it: there is no method to these matches, no information on boxing, only adrenal pounding and desperate fear. Schoonmaker dredges the matches in momentary flashes of primeval instinct. When LaMotta feels suspicious of his wife, his opponents become dramatically-lit monstrosities shrouded in smoke and slow motion and shadow. His fights are pictures of his psyche. 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is special because it’s a comedy of errors that understands how that’s basically just a comedy of human nature. Neal Page (Steve Martin) doesn’t do anything stupid to bring down this storm of shit, and snow, and mean flight attendants, and car fires, and three hundred pounds of John Candy. His negative energy follows him around like a bad shadow.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

Superman II is exciting even in its flaws: even its badness seems to defy other kinds of movies, like so long as Superman is on top of this, everything else will be okay. It’s an uneven and delightful ride with defiant special effects — they defy the ambition of their practicality and also how that ambition has aged.

My Neighbor Totoro

The climax of My Neighbor Totoro doesn’t involve the Volvo-sized hamster of the title, nor does it involve a sick mother who can only be cured by magic – it involves only a five-year-old girl who is lost and scared because she thinks that she can. Like childhood the film involves a lot of running around and laughing and getting grass stains in exotic places. And it drifts into genuine fear, and magic saves the day.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

If Raiders was a backyard adventure where we put on our explorer’s hat and went bucket-and-shoveling out into the woods for buried treasure, The Last Crusade is like watching a home movie of it. It’s still got the same gee-whizz endearment but in a “boy, don’t we look silly” kind of way.

Batman Returns

Batman is the man Bruce Wayne wishes he was, an empowerment trip mythologized into a performance. Batman is Bruce’s mania, his love, his coming-into-being. Batman Returns is as perfect at portraying him as live-action has been, though there were many angry mothers whose frightened children screamed to recall its atrocities.