A #NativeNerd list: My top ten all-time favorite movies
This list wasn’t an easy compilation to put together. I have always been a big-time movie fiend. I wonder how many movies I have seen in my life, and it likely has to be in the tens of thousands. I enjoy all genres to include action, horror, comedy, romantic comedy, thriller, indie, foreign and more.
I can’t imagine a life without movies, I love immersing myself into the stories, and it is rare I cannot finish a movie to its conclusion, even if it is terrible.
So many Native tribal cultures cultivate the art of storytelling, as well as my Mohawk tribe, and to not hear someone’s entire story could be considered disrespectful. But also, I really want to know what the writer, director, and more are trying to tell me. Regardless of the motivation or genre, there is a story that needs to be told.
So as I said, here are my top 10 all-time favorite movies, and this is a list that could also change as I might remember another I missed or perhaps my mood might shift. This a list of movies that I have watched countless times, quoted, thought about, then watched again.
These are movies that inspire me for whatever the reason, maybe the director was incredibly creative or thought outside the box, or I felt emotions that moved me to change. This might seem a bit over the top for a science fiction action movie, but it really isn’t for me.
As a kid, I was bullied, teased and ignored. Those movies that help you to escape that heartache are a treasure to a nerdy little person like me, who just wanted to feel excited, inspired, or something else other than that lonely kid.
Thank God for these movies, I love them all dearly and thank you to the filmmakers for making them.
Here is the #NativeNerd list of my top ten all-time favorite movies: (In no particular order)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Walter Mitty is a LIFE magazine photo archivist, (portrayed by Ben Stiller in the 2013 version) who through a series of random events, finds himself on an incredible adventure. Walter also lives his daily life juxtaposing it with the fantasy world of his creative mind, which is something I can truly understand. I was a kid who always imagined using superpowers, or battling villains, or stopping that mean bully, in order to save the day.
In the movie, there is a pivotal moment in Walter’s life, where he has a choice to make. No matter how many times I watch this movie, the tears begin to flow at that moment and I feel excitement for this fellow nerdy guy.
Synopsis: Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), an employee at Life magazine, spends day after monotonous day developing photos for the publication. To escape the tedium, Walter inhabits a world of exciting daydreams in which he is the undeniable hero. Walter fancies a fellow employee named Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) and would love to date her, but he feels unworthy. However, he gets a chance to have a real adventure when Life's new owners send him on a mission to obtain the perfect photo for the final print issue.
The Chronicles of Riddick
Out of all the movies I have watched during my life, “The Chronicles of Riddick,” starring Vin Deisel, is the one I have probably watched the most. In the movie, Riddick is a warrior and mercenary of sorts who is evading a bounty but also seeks to help a planet overcome by an invading race of religious zealots who call themselves the Necromongers.
The Necromongers give an ultimatum to the planet dwellers, join them and convert, or be killed. Sound like familiar history to any race of people you might know?
Riddick ain’t having it. The fight scenes are epic, a crew of escaped prisoners attempting to race across a sun-scorched terrain on the planet Crematoria is beyond incredible. There are several versions of this movie, I highly recommend the director’s cut.
Synopsis: Galactic criminal Riddick (Vin Diesel) is on the run, with bounty hunters on his tail. He receives guidance from Aereon (Judi Dench), ambassador from the Elemental race, who informs him that a warrior army known as the Necromongers is annihilating all human life in the galaxy in a bid for universal dominance. The wise Aereon urges Riddick into battle, believing he is the one man who can defeat the Necromongers and their leader, the evil Lord Marshal (Colm Feore).
Do I really need to describe this movie to anyone? “Avengers: Endgame,” a movie which the mighty Avengers join forces to battle Thanos at a tremendous cost, was one of the most exciting and yet devastating movies I have ever seen in my lifetime.
The funny thing is that I really didn’t invest much time into the Avengers’ comic books when I was a kid, but the Russo brothers did such an epic job of building this Marvel world, I fell in love with, and completely have invested myself emotionally in all of the characters.
Someday in the near future, I am going to start at the beginning of this Marvel world, starting with the original Iron Man and relive the entire thing over again. Perhaps we can do this virtually in the future.
Synopsis: Adrift in space with no food or water, Tony Stark sends a message to Pepper Potts as his oxygen supply starts to dwindle. Meanwhile, the remaining Avengers -- Thor, Black Widow, Captain America and Bruce Banner -- must figure out a way to bring back their vanquished allies for an epic showdown with Thanos -- the evil demigod who decimated the planet and the universe.
What is the most epic, exciting, and brilliant combination of elements in a movie that I can possibly imagine? The chaos of an apocalypse, brain-eating zombies and Native communities speaking their Native languages?
There is only one film to date that has ever been created in history by Native filmmaker Jeff Barnaby, and his film that he created is called “Blood Quantum.” Now playing on Shudder, the film dives in where no movie has ever dived into, and for that, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement.
Synopsis: A zombie virus decimates all of Earth's population except the Mi'qmaq community of Red Crow.
Alita: Battle Angel
I love this movie. It’s a cyberpunk, robot manga anime movie based on the Japanese manga artist Yukito Kishiro's 1990s series Gunnm. This was a brilliant story about a teenage girl of sorts who is also part android with hidden battle-like warrior defense elements. The story, animation, the choreography is all a brilliant mash-up of thrill and excitement.
The sequel is reportedly in development according to many of the folks on social media who call themselves the #AlitaArmy.
Synopsis: Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido, a compassionate cyber-doctor who takes the unconscious cyborg Alita to his clinic. When Alita awakens, she has no memory of who she is, nor does she have any recognition of the world she finds herself in. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious past.
This was the best animated superhero movie of its time. I have watched it so many times and never tire of it. The modern suburban family with a range of superpowers that are deemed illegal is a brilliant premise to get this feature going. The action is electric, the humor is a blast and the animation is superb. The strangest thing is that the sequel came out 14 years later. It was a great sequel, but the original is the best. I’d love to see a movie about the multi-powered toddler Jack-Jack.
Synopsis: In this lauded Pixar animated film, married superheroes Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) are forced to assume mundane lives as Bob and Helen Parr after all super-powered activities have been banned by the government. While Mr. Incredible loves his wife and kids, he longs to return to a life of adventure, and he gets a chance when summoned to an island to battle an out-of-control robot. Soon, Mr. Incredible is in trouble, and it's up to his family to save him.
If you have never seen this classic movie by Jerry Lewis, I highly recommend it. Jerry Lewis, who was by the way, the film director responsible for creating the concept known as video assist, does an amazing job in this movie who is a bellboy at the Fontainebleau Hotel.
It is special to watch the magic Jerry Lewis creates without the use of special effects or green screen. It is pure talent, and absolutely hilarious.
Synopsis: A mute bellboy (Jerry Lewis) working at the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach constantly causes problems with his clumsy mistakes.
Léon: The Professional
In this movie, Natalie Portman portrays a young girl who comes into contact with a professional hitman. In as much as the movie is gritty and a look into a world we will never know, it is also an emotional and gut-wrenching look into the depths of struggle and an unfair world.
The intricacy of this movie is it’s perfection to me. I have watched it countless times, even as it stomps on it every time.
Synopsis: Mathilda (Natalie Portman) is only 12 years old, but is already familiar with the dark side of life: her abusive father stores drugs for corrupt police officers, and her mother neglects her. Léon (Jean Reno), who lives down the hall, tends to his houseplants and works as a hired hitman for mobster Tony (Danny Aiello). When her family is murdered by crooked DEA agent Stansfield (Gary Oldman), Mathilda joins forces with a reluctant Léon to learn his deadly trade and avenge her family's deaths.
In a growing world of artificial intelligence and robots that may someday become self-aware, enter a future world in Johannesburg with actors such as Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver and even Yolandi Visser and Ninja from the musical hip-hop and electronica group Die Antwoord.
Chappie is a police force robot that becomes self-aware and falls into a group of people that don’t necessarily see eye to eye with the police. Chappie learns from Yolandi and Ninja, and while the premise is hilarious, it is also thought-provoking.
From director Neill Blomkamp, who also directed an excellent film “District 9,” “Chappie” is like a video game on steroids.
Synopsis: In the near future, a mechanized police force patrols the streets and deals with lawbreakers -- but now, the people are fighting back. When one police droid is stolen and given new programming, he acquires the ability to feel and think for himself. While the robot, dubbed "Chappie (Sharlto Copley)," puzzles out human behavior, the authorities begin to see him as a danger to mankind and order; they will stop at nothing to ensure that Chappie is the last of his kind.
Guardians of the Galaxy
What is not to love about this movie? It’s an exceptional mix of both 70’s music and a futuristic science film taking place in outer space. Not only that, but it also starts out with Chris Pratt dancing to the beat of the Native American and iconic musical group Redbone.
Chris Pratt is hilarious and so is Dave Bautista, throw in the other characters to include Rocket the Raccoon and Groot the tree, and I am done. This movie actually feels like you are on a roller coaster ride. It is one of my absolute favorites and certainly deserves a spot on this list.
Synopsis: Brash space adventurer Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the quarry of relentless bounty hunters after he steals an orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain. To evade Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with four disparate misfits: gun-toting Rocket Raccoon, treelike-humanoid Groot, enigmatic Gamora, and vengeance-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when he discovers the orb's true power and the cosmic threat it poses, Quill must rally his ragtag group to save the universe.
What's your favorite movie? Let me know in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter.
#NativeNerd Vincent Schilling is the associate editor for Indian Country Today and a film industry certified movie reviewer.
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