My name is Samuel L. Fronsman. I’m a senior integrated media major at The University of Mount Union. I recently finished creating a short film for my Senior Culminating Experience called One Hell of a Ride. It’s a psychological horror/thriller that will be released on YouTube on Monday, May 3, 2021. With this film officially completed, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of my all-time favorite movies. This list is not objective, nor do I believe these are the greatest films ever made. However, these are my personal favorites at the moment and are some of the films that have influenced me and inspired me to become a filmmaker. Without further ado, let’s jump right into number ten.
10: Animal Kingdom
At the number ten slot, we have Animal Kingdom (2010). Directed by David Michod, this Australian crime drama centers around a teenage boy named Josh who moves in with his grandma after his mother dies of a heroin overdose. Josh soon gets to know his three uncles and gets indoctrinated into their criminal lifestyle. After an incident resulting in the death of two police officers, Josh and his uncles are heavily investigated by the police. One detective goes out of his way to try and persuade Josh to turn his family members in.
As a fan of films centered around crime, this film caught my attention the moment I heard about it. Part of what makes this film so special is the focus being placed on a teenage boy whose three uncles and grandmother are all involved in criminal activity. Josh is put in a situation where he has to make the difficult decision between staying loyal to his family or staying out of trouble from the police. One of Josh’s uncles, Pope, is a standout character in his movie due to the heinous crimes he commits. If you watch this movie, believe me when I say that when Pope is on screen, you won’t be able to turn away.
9: White Boy Rick
Another crime movie I have recently watched, White Boy Rick (2018) makes the number nine slot because, like Animal Kingdom, this film centers around a teenage boy being thrust into a world of crime. Unlike Animal Kingdom, however, White Boy Rick takes place in 1980s Detroit and is based on a true story. One element this film focuses on is the relationship between Rick and his dad. Early on in the film, Rick becomes introduced to key criminals after he sells a gun for his dad to these gangsters. The gun ends up used in a shooting, leading the FBI to investigate Rick and his dad.
White Boy Rick doesn’t hesitate to show the corruption of the FBI. To keep his dad out of jail, Rick agrees to work undercover with the feds dealing drugs. As the film goes on, Rick decides to continue dealing drugs on his own and becomes heavily involved in the criminal underworld. Without giving anything away, I can promise you the ending will have you in tears. And as this is based on a true story, it makes the film’s ending even more tragic.
8: The Devil’s Rejects
Rob Zombie’s second movie The Devil’s Rejects (2005) makes the number eight slot. The Devil’s Rejects is the sequel to his first film House of 1000 Corpses. In my opinion, however, the sequel tops the original. Zombie does a brilliant job showing the Firefly Family on the run from the police while still showcasing the family’s cruel and sadistic nature. One warning for those considering watching this film is that it is definitely not for the faint of heart. This is a highly disturbing modern-day exploitation film; however, the characters are so interesting that you become invested in their journey, even though they are clearly horrible people.
Much like in House of 1000 Corpses, Sid Haig’s performance as Captain Spaulding is the standout in this film. The character equally makes you feel truly disgusted, even though he has plenty of comical moments throughout. If you’re familiar with Rob Zombie’s filmography, you would know that he always casts his wife Sheri Moon in all of his movies. Her character Baby Firefly has some great moments and almost gives off a Harley Quinn vibe. The final main character I’d like to talk about is Otis Driftwood. He is the leader of the three and is by far the evilest character in the film. If you are interested in seeing a highly disturbing, yet entertaining horror movie, I would recommend this one.
7: Shutter Island
Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island (2010) is a psychological thriller that will quite literally blow your mind. It follows DiCaprio’s character Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall investigating a mental hospital to search for an escaped murderer. Along with his partner Chuck, played by Mark Ruffalo, Daniels begins to uncover a dark conspiracy at the hospital. I can’t give much more information about the plot of this film without completely spoiling the ending, so I’ll leave it here. But if you love psychological thrillers and mysteries, you need to see this film.
6: Pulp Fiction
This is the first, but definitely not the last time you’ll see Quentin Tarantino’s name on this list. As I’ve stated before, this list is completely subjective. That being said, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t believe that Pulp Fiction (1994) is a must-see movie. Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis, Pulp Fiction is more of a crime anthology than your typical gangster drama.
The narrative structure of this film involves multiple interconnected stories that each have their own primary conflict. The story is told out of chronological order and broken up into different chapters that, although exist in the same world and share many of the same characters, are all independent from each other and can stand on their own. Each scene in this film is filled with cinematic moments and quotable lines. It cannot go without saying that if you haven’t seen Pulp Fiction yet, you really should.
Say hello to my little friend! The 1983 remake of Scarface, directed by Brian De Palma and starring Al Pacino, takes the number five spot. The story of Scarface follows the character Tony Montana and his rise to becoming the top drug kingpin in Miami. The viewers are taken on a violent gangster journey, in which we get to see Tony go from a Cuban refugee camp to working his way up the ranks in the mob. Tony ends up in control, but he lets the success and the cocaine get to his head in this epic gangster journey.
Although initially, critics shrugged this film off as just an edgy, ultra-violent movie with no substance, Scarface has stood the test of time. If you call yourself a fan of gangster movies but haven’t watched this film, you need to as soon as you can.
4: Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019) is Quentin Tarantino’s most recent film, and it’s his love letter to classic Hollywood. The film centers on actor Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt. Throughout the film, Rick Dalton struggles to deal with the fact that he is being placed into television villain roles to slowly faze out his star-status he attained from playing the main character in the western series Bounty Law.
Tarantino also uses this film as an opportunity to explore the Manson family and change history in relation to the horrific murder of actress Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie. Tarantino masterfully blends comedy with action, drama and suspense in only a way that he can. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Cliff Booth ends up at Spahn’s Movie Ranch, the home of the Manson family. Tarantino does a brilliant job of playing with the audiences’ emotions in this scene by having it go from funny moments to utter suspense and dread as Cliff’s fate seems to be put in jeopardy.
3: Fight Club
The movie Fight Club (1999), directed by David Fincher, starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt is not the movie I thought it would be. When I first chose to watch this movie, I went in expecting a standard action movie. However, I was surprised at the nuance of the plot and the focus on the psychology and philosophy of the two central characters. I would say more about the movie, but the first rule of fight club is to not talk about fight club.
2: From Dusk till Dawn
Written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez, From Dusk till Dawn (1996) is a movie that switches genres halfway through, and it’s completely awesome. The film centers around the two criminals Seth Gecko, played by George Clooney, and Richard Gecko, played by Quentin Tarantino, as they attempt to flee to Mexico by holding a family hostage in order to cross the border.
When the movie switches genres, you will know, and you will likely be extremely confused at first. But trust me when I say this movie is much better when you don’t know what happens once the Gecko brothers get to the bar. Without giving the midway plot twist away, all I can say is what follows is an action-packed, blood-soaked experience.
1: Reservoir Dogs
Lastly, at the number one spot is Quentin Tarantino’s first film, Reservoir Dogs. This is a heist movie with a catch: it doesn’t actually show the heist. Instead, Tarantino decided to place the focus on the aftermath as the robbers attempt to figure out the rat who was working with the police and set them up. The movie becomes a mystery that leaves the viewers trying to figure out who the rat is along with the robbers. In addition, Reservoir Dogs introduces audiences to many of the common tropes of Quentin Tarantino movies including the “trunk shot”, the pop-culture and profanity-filled dialogue, the graphic violence and the non-linear storytelling. Reservoir Dogs is my all-time favorite movie, and I highly recommend it to everyone interested in the crime genre.