Scarface (1983, Directed by Brian De Palma) English 8

Starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, F. Murray Abraham

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Antonio Montana (Pacino), a Cuban refugee arrives in 1980s Miami committed to making a name for himself. And, with loyal companion, Manolo (Bauer) always at his side, the epic rise and fall of Tony Montana is chronicled in lavish, often explicit detail. Pacino’s Tony swaggers through the picture, snorting cocaine, making threats, spouting ridiculously quotable maxims at every turn, and his demise is as glorious as his road to power. Tony is an iconic and classic character that many will see as too much. Pacino eschews the less is more model he employed to perfection with his earlier characters like Michael Corleone, and instead devours the scenery. Director Brian De Palma is a wizard with a camera and manages to fill each frame with scenery that is suitably big enough for Tony to occupy and not overshadow. The supporting cast is good too, notably Pfieffer looking beautiful, unobtainable, and perennially bored.

Jackie Brown (1997, Directed by Quentin Tarantino) English 8

Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Pam Grier, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker, Bridget Fonda

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An L.A arms dealer (Jackson) has a flight attendant, Jackie Brown (Grier) transporting money for him. When two law enforcers get a hold of her, she decides to strike out on her own, stealing the money, and keeping the two agents off her back. She enlists the help of a smitten bail bondsman (Forster). Funny, typically sparkling dialogue by Tarantino. Expertly plotted. Clever use of nonlinear storytelling. Memorable characters. All-time great soundtrack.

 

Designing Woman (1957, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 6

Starring Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Gray, Sam Levene, Tom Helmore

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Breaking the fourth wall, married couple Mike (Peck) and Marilla (Bacall), with help from the cast of supporting characters, recount the wild first days of their marriage complicated by differences in class, jealousy, and local gangsters who want Mike dead. Beautifully mounted in technicolor, Mike and Marilla’s story is reminiscent of the old ’30s screwball romances, but lacks the snap and sparkle of the classics in that category. Bacall is, of course, dazzling, and it’s fun to watch Gregory Peck in a comedy. He’s a million miles away from the great stoic characters he became famous for (Atticus Finch, most prominently).

The Godfather part II (1974, Directed by Francis Ford Coppola) English/Italian 10

Starring Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Robert De Niro, Bruno Kirby, Michael V. Gazzo, Lee Strasburg

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The Corleone saga continues, this time interweaving the rise of young Vito Corleone (immortalized by Marlon Brando in the first part, here portrayed by De Niro) in turn of the century New York with the continued exploits of a, now, powerful and influential Michael Corleone (Pacino). After Michael’s home gets shot up, he makes maneuver after maneuver to ferret out the traitor who set it up. Longer, more intricate, deeper than the first part, part II manages to be even greater than one of the greatest films of all-time in its predecessor. Pacino in his prime was a force of nature, bottled up in the all-too calculating character of Michael, which makes him a threat to implode at any moment. The slow-developing familial betrayals are devastating, and there are at least a dozen unforgettable characters. Awe-inspiring. Heartbreaking. Masterpiece.

The Glass Key (1942, Directed by Stuart Heisler) English 7

Starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Brian Donlevy, Joseph Calleia, William Bendix

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Early adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel, featuring Donlevy as Paul Madvig, a big-time crook and political organizer, and Alan Ladd as his right-hand man and best friend, Beaumont. Their small empire runs into trouble when Paul alienates another powerful crook, Nick Varna, at the same time falling in love with a politician’s daughter named Janet (Veronica Lake), who happens to be the sister of a man he’s thought to have killed. It’s up to Beaumont to clean up the mess, and untangle the mystery, as he fights off the growing attraction between himself and his best friend’s girlfriend. Slick noir, with excellent supporting turns from Joseph Calleia and William Bendix. Ladd and Lake are justifiably a classic screen couple. Their smoldering makes the all too neat ending not only passable but completely satisfying.

The Godfather (1972, Directed by Francis Ford Coppola) English 10

Starring Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, Abe Vigoda, John Cazale, Richard Conte, Talia Shire

Familial epic about the Corleone crime family led by its patriarch Vito (Brando), and his four, very different sons: the Volatile Sonny (Caan), adopted son Tom (Duvall), slow Fredo (Cazale), and war hero Michael (Pacino) who stays out of the family business. Their individual lives, and the outsider entanglements that come with a life of crime spark this masterful saga that would continue for another two films. Used by many cinefiles as a model of perfection in filmmaking. Every aspect of it is flawless.