The next installment of the Top 5 series: Here are the top movies that cause me to stop channel surfing and put down the remote whenever/wherever I run across them.
5. The Searchers - The best of the John Wayne/John Ford Westerns, and the one with the heaviest message. This is Wayne at his best and orneriest.
4. Fast Times at Ridgemont High - The classic high school comedy. Cameron Crowe's screenplay nails the American high school experience, and Amy Heckerling (who also directed the near-genius Johnny Dangerously - bet you didn't know that) directs with flair. Sean Penn did this right after Taps, and his 180-degree turnaround in character types made me sit up and notice him. Plus, there's Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates showing some skin. What more do you want?
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail - My vote for funniest movie ever made (apologies to Blazing Saddles and Team America, which finish not far behind). I saw this for the first time late one night when I was about 12 years old and laughed myself almost sick. When I see it these days, it's just as funny.
2. Heat - Michael Mann has been a favorite of mine for years, and this is his best. Sure he rehashes some Miami Vice and Crime Story bits, but what the heck (no one saw Crime Story but me anyway), Pacino and De Niro are on screen together for 5 minutes, and who the heck buys Amy Brenneman as a major babe? I don't care. It's got atmosphere out the wazoo (not one minute was shot on a soundstage), you've really got to pay attention to the story and are rewarded if you do, all sorts of great cameos pop up (Jon Voight, William Fichtner, Jeremy Piven, a very young Natalie Portman, etc), and it's got the most realistic street battle in cops-and-robbers-movie history (technical advice from my main man Andy McNab, what do you expect?).
1. Casablanca - My vote for best movie in the history of ever. Every line of dialog is famous, all of the major characters are complex and three-dimensional, Bogart was never more Bogarty, Bergman never looked hotter. I've wanted to be Rick Blaine for as long as I can remember.