What, no "Citizen Kane"?
Nope. Nor did I include "Gone With the Wind," anything by Martin Scorsese or a single French New Wave landmark in my list of the top 20 movies of all time.
After all, it is "my" list. If you want "the" list, check out the American Film Institute's website, where you'll find the usual Important Works -- the great "Casablanca," John Ford's magnificent "The Searchers" and, still at No. 1, "Citizen Kane." All perfectly defensible, but I'll wager that your personal list looks much different. What are the movies that shaped your youth, that hit you somewhere deep, that you still watch over and over? What are the movies you really, truly love?
That's a question worth asking during Oscar season, because the voters who pick the winners are, when you get right down to it, just people who love movies. Too often, though, they seem to vote with their heads and not their hearts. In 2004, they gave the best picture Oscar to "Million Dollar Baby" over "Sideways." I'm sure they had their reasons, but I'd like to know which film has remained closest to their hearts.
I'll reveal five of my top 20 movies every Friday before the 84th annual Academy Awards ceremony Feb. 26. You may notice that there isn't a single best picture winner on the list. That wasn't intentional, but it may not be coincidental, either.
20. Repo Man (1984). One of the earliest and best alt-culture touchstones, starring a perfectly cast Emilio Estevez as a blinkered L.A. punk surrounded by brainless parents, generic food, terrible bands and, it turns out, space aliens. Its final, all-encapsulating line: "Whoa."
19. Zardoz (1974). Not for all tastes, but John Boorman's sci-fi freakout -- starring Sean Connery as a codpiece-clad savage invading a utopian society -- is visually dazzling and swirling with weird, cosmic ideas. Think Bertrand Russell on acid.
18. Take the Money and Run (1969). Sorry, "Annie Hall" fans, but I prefer Woody Allen's mockumentary about Virgil Starkwell, the world's least-successful criminal. An ingenious format for its time and mercilessly deadpan -- even when Virgil's soap gun begins foaming -- it's Allen's most painfully funny film.
17. Dog Day Afternoon (1975). Sidney Lumet's masterpiece stars a phenomenally charismatic Al Pacino as a bank robber- turned-folk hero. Based on a true story, it remains the definitive portrayal of the modern "media circus": captivating, hilarious, inexorable, tragic.
16. Touch of Evil (1958). Its opening, three-minute tracking shot is justifiably famous, but Orson Welles' snarling, wild-eyed noir is filled with cinematic marvels. The violence is harrowing, the pace heart-pounding and the atmosphere even thicker than the makeup on Charlton Heston as a Mexican cop.