Dane Benko

IMDb profile

I do not believe in any "canon". When thinking about movies for this list, I was thinking more in terms of "Are you sure you didn't like it? Perhaps you should watch it again..." and less in terms of "I bet you haven't seen THIS one!" I also strayed away from my own top list, though in another sense that just means I wrote the runner's up. Oh well... Here we go... (by the way, this list is very spoiler prone... I have to cite what I mean to explain why I mean it)

In no particular order:

  1. Montenegro (1981) .. Dusan Makavejev

    I was barely five minutes into this movie when the main protagonist turns to her daughter and sez, "I'm tired of doing this?" "What?" says her daughter. "Being in this movie.” The daughter gets visibly upset. I'm riveted. I don't think I blinked through the rest of the movie.

  2. Cecil B. DeMented (2000) .. John Waters

    Yes yes, John Waters schlocky early stuff is better, and uh, more independent, and... stuff. But this is FUN! What makes it more endearing than just any cinephile rant is that not only does the kidnapped Melanie Griffith buy into it, but the audience does too!

  3. Glen or Glenda (1953) .. Edward D. Wood Jr.

    As much as everyone loves to hate Plan 9 from Outer Space, most people just hate Glen or Glenda. I believe this movie is, actually, a really good document. Maybe not a good movie, but a good document. See, the thing is, it's a movie about a transvestite trying, and failing, to express himself through a popular mainstream medium that he loves (horror). When he fails, it says a lot about the confusion transvestites of the era must have felt. Mark my words, there are moments in here where maybe not the arguments, but the fact that he is arguing says a lot for what he's trying to do. It's not so much so-bad-it's-good as good-because-it-shows-how-bad-it-was...?

  4. Alien: Resurrection (1997) .. Jean-Pierre Jeunet

    One of the most vilified Alien movies. First of all, it's leaps and bounds better than the atrocity that was Alien 3. Secondly, it wasn't perfect but it has a very, very important ending that you probably missed on your rush out of the theatre to avoid staying much longer: EARTH. If you pay attention to Ripley's character arc through all four movies, this movie follows quite logically from the other three (even salvaging Alien 3), and more importantly, you realize that her entire life from the beginning of the first movie on has been back and forth between extreme action and extreme stasis, all for only one thing, one thing she mentions through all three movies: EARTH. Yet it is only in the last few frames of this movie that you actually ever SEE Earth. Yeah, and as far as I'm concerned the fifth act is still coming: terrestrial battle. Sure, nobody else wants it, but I’ll be the first one in line if it does happen.

  5. Gozu (2003) .. Miike Takashi

    A woman gives birth to a full-grown man who is who she has been claiming to be. That sentence make no sense to you? Believe me, it happens. Only Takashi Miike can make it work.

  6. Zardoz (1974) .. John Boorman

    "The penis is evil! The gun is good!" Frankly, what's not to love about a movie where a red-diapered Sean Connery runs around destroying liberal utopia before it destroys itself by sheer abstraction and boredom? This movie is a trip, and so much better than most people give it credit for.

  7. Harold and Maude (1971) .. Hal Ashby

    Okay, okay, everyone loves this movie, not too far off of any given "canon." But what people don't seem to understand is how great it is to watch after funerals. I'm not just being a dark-humored jerk, I'm serious, this movie is balm for your wounds. It's comfort food. And it's well done and hilarious, every time.

  8. 28 Days Later... (2002) .. Danny Boyle

    This movie is beginning, dangerously, to be considered as something that marked a fad that may fade away. Fast zombies. Yeah, wonderful. But considering that half the imagery is inspired by real-life international events, fires and bombings and worst of all, genocides, I consider it a lot more important than other people give it credit for. Danny Boyle is great at mixing real-life with fantasy, horror with hope, and hopefully this movie shall live on longer than its trend-setting affiliation.

  9. Hair Extensions (2007) .. Sono Sion

    Takashi Miike is beloved by the world as the bat-shit insane auteur. Sion Sono is actually bat-shit insane. One moment you're watching a confessional bike-ride that breaks the forth wall, the next moment a woman is getting torn apart by hair extensions, the next moment a puppet hairpiece dances on tap-shoes and you're laughing like mad. I can never tell what the hell this guy is doing, I only know it's working. It's... working.

  10. The Breakfast Club (1985) .. John Hughes

    Listen, haters. John Hughes was actually listening. 'Nuff said.

  11. Diary of the Dead (2007) .. George A. Romero

    Yes, yes, everyone loves George Romero... his EARLY stuff! No, listen, in this movie he not only sets Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield to task by showing hand-held cinematography that actually captures something, but makes the first person perspective a statement as opposed to a device.

  12. Demonlover (2002) .. Olivier Assayas

    I’ve seen Salo. I’ve seen Eraserhead. I’ve seen Irreversible. Demonlover is still the most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen. On the surface, it points to the rapacious and exploitative nature of business, but underneath the viewer is instigated into the consumption of all of it. It's not just the little boy with his father's credit card in the end who allows this horror to happen. It's you, and this movie drags you into that knowledge by giving you an utterly detailed corporate thriller, and then sweeping that all aside in a single shot when everything is changed. This movie had me up for a week after I watched it, and I've never found anything to match it for pure unease.

  13. The Fountain (2006) .. Darren Aronofsky

    Basically Darren Aronofsky's most disagreed-upon film, and unfairly so. Too many people try to read it as if it's one continuous story. It's not, it's just one story... three times, from different perspectives. The part that makes it brilliant is that all three stories are told with the exact same camera angles. No, seriously, look again. It's an epic friggin' poem on film. Too many people looking for connections that aren't there, not enough seeing the connections that are. It's the structure, not the plot, that is of importance here. And it looks beautiful.

  14. I'm Not Scared (2003) .. Gabriele Salvatores

    An Italian boy is playing in the fields with his friends one day, when he stumbles across a hole in the ground. In the hole is a little boy. What is going on here? Well, quite simply one of the most elegant and yet profoundly effective coming-of-age thrillers ever, of course!

  15. I ♥ Huckabees (2004) .. David O. Russell

    Okay, so I have to admit that part of the reason I love this film is the mere fact that it sent more than half the audience packing at the theatrical showing I was in. But it's still a great movie. David O. Russell gives himself the not simple task of: 1) describing his existential views cinematically; 2) making fun of them; 3) but still being serious about what he means; 4) but still making fun of them. And he succeeds at all point. Now, aside: for some reason, the editing in this film is often cited as one of the reasons it's horrible. I have no idea what anyone's talking about. As both a student of cinema throughout history AND as someone who has edited quite a few films myself, the editing of this movie is perfectly fine.

  16. Häxan (1922) .. Benjamin Christensen

    Why aren't movies like this made anymore? Actually, now that I think about it, the only other movie I've seen that so mixes documentary with invented supernatural horror is... Glen or Glenda?!

  17. Harakari (1962) .. Kobayashi Masaki

    This is one of those movies that I love because it does two seemingly contrary things, but they work together and very effectively: 1) Samurai are cool. Everyone knows that. 2) The Samurai Code could also potentially be massively abused to the pain and destruction of innocents. Not so well known fact. This movie presents both points, the first in its action, the second in its drama. A very satisfying movie.

  18. The Pied Piper (1985) .. Jirí Barta

    Jiri Barta isn't really well known, and most people who know him know him as someone overshadowed by Jan Svankmajer. But this movie is just... gorgeous. The animation is perfect, the wood-carving is perfect, the way they animate the torch with matches is perfect.... This movie is just bloody perfect.

  19. MirrorMask (2005) .. Dave McKean

    Okay, so the story is cliched and the dialog is crap. Not that anybody notices, because they're busy watching the imagery. Which is an example of how cheaper digital technologies are allowing people to go into previously unimaginable worlds for even cheaper budgets than ever. I mean, who's ever looked at Dave McKean's work and thought to themselves, "Someday he'll be able to make this stuff move!"

  20. The NeverEnding Story (1984) .. Wolfgang Petersen

    Actually, I'm surprised how many people defend this movie despite its rather uneven episodic structure and it's atrocious acting. Still, I think the thing about this movie is that it's just so darned loveable.

  21. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) .. Henry Selick

    Now, if we're going to accept such an idea as a canon, then what I'm arguing here is that this should be on it. Don't let all those Hot Topic kiddies get you down--this is, still, a great movie, and now that Coraline is out we can start acknowledging that it has as much to do with Henry Selick as it does Tim Burton. That said, if we're going to be giving credit where it's due, most of the songs are not just written by Danny Elfman, but basically entirely his work. So this is a matching of some very strong imaginations, two of them quite iconic, the other one tragically under-valued (but that's changing! I eagerly await anything Selick comes out with!), and it's a fairy-tale for the ages.

  22. The Prestige (2006) .. Christopher Nolan

    If you mention the name "Christopher Nolan", and the person you're speaking to knows who you're talking about, that person will respond, "Oh yes, Memento!" or "I loved The Dark Knight." But this is, by far, his best film. I've never been as big a fan of Christian Bale as everyone else is, but here he's perfect; Hugh Jackman is actually underrated (everyone sees Wolverine, sadly), but he kicks ass here too; and of course David Bowie as Tesla hardly needs to be explained--the idea itself wins the game.

  23. Smoke Signals (1998) .. Chris Eyre

    I've never met anyone who dislikes this movie. It's praises are sung loudly by any critic who's seen it, fans love to quote it, it can pull together practically any two divergent personalities who nevertheless have this shared experience. Beyond that there's no reason why it should be considered as part of a canon at all, right?

  24. Shaun of the Dead (2004) .. Edgar Wright

    The Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost team duology of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, plus all accounts I've heard of their upcoming one (and I live in the state where it is set to be produced coming up here soon) shows a group that makes movies that aren't just mere parodies of well-known genres (we have the detestable ____ Movies for that), but actually really good examples of those movies, too. So instead of just regurgitating pop culture jokes and adding penises, these three remind us of why we love those movies in the first place--and make considerably good movies in their own right in the process. I'm there. The Zuckers, as far as I'm concerned, are in their graves. These guys are the real deal.

  25. Bridge to Terabithia (2007) .. Gabor Csupo

    Alas, I must repeat what so many reviews (of critics who actually bothered to watch this film) said when it first came out: "WAIT! This is a REALLY GOOD MOVIE! Why isn't anybody watching it?" Immediately after watching this movie, I went out and bought the book. Both are absolutely brilliant and should be watched/read and cherished by everybody.

  26. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) .. Russ Meyer

    Again, if we're arguing canon here, then this has its own place as canon, only this time it is cult movie canon. There's a reason for that, though: it is well shot, it is amazingly fun, it is of more epic proportions than just the breasts (though those help, too), and its seedy dialog actually has a few things to say here and there. For me no excuse keeps this off of the AFI's top 100 list for movies made in the United States.

  27. Jurassic Park (1993) .. Steven Spielberg

    Over time, the science of this science fiction has fallen by the wayside, but that has never stopped classic sci-fi, now has it? For me, though, what's important about this movie is that it came out in 1997, and to this day has better CGI than 90% of the movies that come out--including, curiously, other Steven Spielberg movies. I'm talking about Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, Stevie. What the hell? You made Jurassic Park! Those dinosaurs are real! How did you mess up gophers?

  28. More (1998) .. Mark Osborne

    Ever seen this short film? Once you have, you’ll never forget it. Ever.

  29. Punch-Drunk Love (2002) .. Paul Thomas Anderson

    Everybody loves PT Anderson, but Punch-Drunk Love seems to be the movie only loved by his closest and most die-hard fans--despite the fact that it is his best movie. For some reason, everyone else hates it, and again always for reasons that completely elude me. People complain about Adam Sandler's acting (it's great), the cinematography (daring, original, and self-evidently careful and meticulous), the editing (again, I see no problems here), the frustration (that's the point), the awkwardness (also the point), how drawn out it is (a) the point, the point, always the point, b) uuuhhh, this is PT Anderson we're talking about here, right?)... I find the movie cathartic. I certainly watch it more than Boogie Nights, and if you think it's Anderson's worst, you should see Hard 8.

  30. The Big Lebowski (1998) .. The Coen Brothers

    Somehow has recently come back into fashion as a stoner comedy. Uh... I guess. Anyway, this movie is probably one of my most-watched, ever. I never tire of it. My favorite part is the way in which things said by one character earlier will be taken and said again--erroneously--by another character later. Once you get passed how funny the dialog is--you find it is also really funny!

  31. Tideland (2005) .. Terry Gilliam

    Somehow has recently come back into fashion as a stoner comedy. Uh... I guess. Anyway, this movie is probably one of my most-watched, ever. I never tire of it. My favorite part is the way in which things said by one character earlier will be taken and said again--erroneously--by another character later. Once you get passed how funny the dialog is--you find it is also really funny!

  32. El Norte (1983) .. Gregory Nava
    A Day Without a Mexican (2004) .. Sergio Arau

    Most movies that deal with Latin American/US relations and the Mexican/US border issues are either sentimental or downright banal. These two movies are the exceptions, partly because they do not hate or glorify either side.

  33. Fritz the Cat (1972) .. Ralph Bakshi

    I'm fond of saying that my two favorite animated characters are Fritz the Cat and Felix the Cat. Fritz the Cat should be a staple of every educated adult household. I simply cannot get enough of it.

  34. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983) .. Oshima Nagisa

    This could also be titled, When David Bowie Met Beat Kitano and Played Jesus Christ in a WWII Japanese POW Camp. Isn't that enough to spark your interest, or do you already love this movie? Because there's just no other alternate reality now that you've read this.

  35. The Naked Kiss (1964) .. Samuel Fuller

    Okay, A) Samuel Fuller is not a b-movie filmmaker, the man is straight-up genius all the way, and B) this movie starts out with a bald hooker kicking the crap out of her pimp, only to take what's hers, nothing more. How can you not love that immediately? If you have not seen this movie, check out the clip of the children singing on YouTube or something. I'm telling you, all you need is to see two minutes of this movie to know that it is time to park your butt down and watch it through, because there is just nothing else like it out there. Oh, and Constance Towers is to Fuller what Tippi Hedren is to Hitchcock--only good. No, I'm not joking. No, really, I'm absolutely serious.

  36. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) .. Nicolas Roeg

    Huh let's see now, that's uh, 3 movies now that I've mentioned that have David Bowie in them, and I've only skipped on Labyrinth because I've already mentioned MirrorMask and Neverending Story. Frankly, David Bowie is a genius actor, and way underused as such, and I for one am always particularly interested in the fact that he always plays that particular Other that plays between our abhorrence and our guarded respect... Tesla, Pontius Pilate, the Goblin King, and in this absolute gem by Nicolas Roeg--himself. Himself, in all his David Bowie "WOW you're weird but somehow I love you?" glory. Thomas Newman is Ziggy Stardust without the camp or nonsense lyrics. This is his music visualized, and it doesn't even feature his music. Oh, and I recently found out it is a pretty good book, too.

  37. The Weather Man (2005) .. Gore Verbinski

    I try to avoid using terms like "underrated" now since it is way overused and abused, nevertheless it is the perfect word to explain this hidden gem from 2005. The Weather Man is underrated in that not that many people rated it highly, but also underrated in the fact that, well, not that many people saw it. Frankly, Gore Verbinski is a much better director than people give him credit for (I don't even think people really recognize that the same man who did The Ring did Pirates of the Caribbean, for the more obvious), and Nicolas Cage has really let his career go with some of the crap he's been in, so most people just passed this one by. Well, if you were one of those people, now'd be a great time to actually see it.

  38. THX-1138 (1971) .. George Lucas

    So, my argument is that George Lucas is a great filmmaker, but a rather terrible director. This is my exception that proves the rule. Back in the day, ol' Georgie was very creative with mise-en-scene, time, and space. This movie is simply delightful! What happened?

  39. Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) .. Richard Fleischer

    One of the greatest and most accurate historical movies ever made. Just sayin'.

  40. Bullitt (1968) .. Peter Yates

    'Kay so Steve McQueen? Could kick Chuck Norris' ass, and did so in less than, what, a tenth of his movies? Also one of the greatest car chase scenes of all time, effectively rendering stuff like Fast & Furious to the role of camp.

  41. Cat People (1942) .. Jacques Tourneur

    Again, this is one that is put on all the cult canon, but not the critical canon. Why not? It is better than Frankenstein.

  42. Czech Dream (2004) .. Vít Klusák & Filip Remunda

    So a Czecho documentary about building a fake hypermart and advertising it to see if anyone comes is a good enough concept in and of itself. This movie is at times hilarious, fun, and horrifying. But nothing snaps your attention to just how deep this can go like hearing a kid comparing seeing a hypermart (like a mix between a supermarket and a mall, by the way) to the sun breaking a permanent rain, and then engaging her family to sing a ballad to a sunset in the parking lot. Too unreal? See it for yourself.

  43. History and Memory (1992) .. Rea Tajiri

    As well as giving me the two most important words to describe what I like best about cinema, History and Memory is also one of those documents that just deserves a look for the mere fact that it simply and unbiasedly points out that the United States does some pretty evil stuff sometimes--no surprise there, but the message is apolitical. It just asks that you remember.

  44. Spectres of the Spectrum (1999) .. Craig Baldwin

    I'm a big fan of sci-fi, but I'm an even bigger fan when the sci-fi takes its own tropes and launches them into the experimental. Craig Baldwin's particular form of montage movie making has earned him mad kudos in the experimental film community, but what struck me about Spectres of the Spectrum is how unabashedly and unapologetically it mixes it all, camp, special effects, class, earnestness, humor, the familiar, the unfamiliar, the Other... everything. I later met Craig Baldwin and the terms "unabashed" and "unapologetic" describe him perfectly.

  45. Moon (2009) .. Duncan Jones

    Okay, so, before I begin, let me admit that it was AFTER I was raving about how awesome this movie was to anybody within listening distance that somebody pointed out to me that it was directed by David Bowie's son. So that doesn't factor into why I like it. I like it because it is a classic, well-crafted science fiction, seeking only to tell a story and entertain while containing meaning, using special effects and set-design to emphasize mood and narrative while not calling attention to them to show off. Science Fiction and fantasy have gotten quite the revival because of the cheapness and availability of CGI, and now that it has gotten good enough, movies are finally being made with digital effects for the purposes of creating dynamic character and setting, not flash.

  46. Re-Animator (1985) .. Stuart Gordon

    I was watching this movie with my friend who owned it, and we got to the scene where the evil professor gives the girl cunnilingus with his decapitated head? And both of us were squirming in our seats, alternatively horrified and laughing, and I turn to her and am all like, "What the hell!" and she sez, "I don't remember this at all, I've only ever seen this movie when I was drunk!" A-hahaha! Good times, good times. Anyway this movie is awesome and you should see it.

  47. The Animatrix (2003) .. various

    So, the thing is, The Matrix is great. It later got the backlash all massively successful mainstream hits get, with people now too smart for its philosophy and unimpressed with its technical achievements, but just 'cause people are haters doesn't change the fact that The Matrix is a very well-made cyberpunk thriller with intelligent dialog, great action, and engaging special effects and world building that captured the imagination of millions. Then the Wachowski's decided to turn it into a franchise ("It was always supposed to be a trilogy!", people say, but though I can see how that's the case I still think they made the first one to stand alone in case they never got a chance to make the second two), including videogames and other things that, in theory, you had to collect, Pokemon-style, in order to get "the whole story". What they failed to realize, in my opinion, is that the rest of the story sucked. So nobody wanted to go out of their way to beat the videogame (it was fun for a while), they didn't want to track down Internet sites, and, well, quite a lot of people didn't feel like watching cartoons. AHHHH, but the cartoons... now they were quality entertainment! The Animatrix shorts are almost all beautiful, engaging, interesting pieces unto themselves. Not all of them are perfect, but many animators took to task exploring the world that the Wachowskis created and came up with very interesting results. I honestly hadn't seen these movies until a few months ago, and I'm really sorry I missed them. On the other hand, watching them back when the expectation was that The Matrix was going to be the next Star Wars in commodified depth was probably a bad time. Now that it has been ten years, can we all just agree that the first movie was awesome and that these shorts are great, and ignore the rest?

  48. The Incredibles (2004) .. Brad Bird

    The way my memory works, Finding Nemo marks the point at which people stopped calling Pixar movies "Disney movies" and calling them Pixar movies. It marked the moment where the public almost unanimously agreed that these guys were something distinct, that stuff like Toy Story and Monster's Inc wasn't just a fluke of a few good movies, but that Pixar had somehow unconsciously entered into a de facto contract of quality with its audience. At that point, everyone agreed that Pixar movies were high quality brand goods, and that now it was merely a matter of time before they started to suck.

    It never happened. Pixar continued to maintain that unspoken contract, a contract that seems to almost be material now that their work always improves in technical detail and is always great in story and performance. If Finding Nemo was the drawing up of that contract, The Incredibles was its signature. And whereas I cannot argue what is their best or what is my favorite movie of theirs, The Incredibles is definitely That One, the movie that you mentally point to when the name "Pixar" is stated aloud.

  49. Winter Soldier (1972) .. Winterfilm Collective

    In my top 50, I made the argument that Night and Fog is the come-all-end-all of Holocaust documentaries. This is the come-all-end-all of Vietnam documentaries.

  50. Carnival of Souls (1962) .. Herk Harvey

    Long ago I bought the Horror Classics 50 Movie Pack. It's always served me well when I've wanted a bad-movie party on the run or something. Carnival of Souls, the very first movie featured on the pack, immediately impressed me. I mean, there are real gems on that pack amidst all the cheap crap that you buy because it's cheap and it's silly, but Carnival of Souls is an honest surprise because it is mindblowing. I'm sure anybody who has seen it can relate to when I say that ever since seeing this movie, driving at night has become an exercise in convincing myself that a face won't randomly appear in my window. And I don't even know what that ending was, but I can tell you I really liked it! Later I found out that The Criterion Collection has an edition, and I thought it great that they’d put something like this on their canon, but also that I bought it for what amounts to less than ten cents.

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