Posted by: Chris Sandel | December 2, 2008

Top 10 Movie Challenge

I was recently challenged to do this by my friend Bethany.  It’s taken me a few weeks to get to it but here we go.

So the challenge:
1. List your top ten favorite films in no particular order.
2. If you’re tagged, post your list and tag 3-5 other people.
3. Link back to the person who tagged you.
4. Give a hat tip (HT) to Dan.

I am a big fan of movies.  I’ve seen a lot of them.  I even took a class in seminary about theology in movies (pretty sweet class by the way).  I haven’t seen as many lately because Melissa and I have been watching a lot more TV on DVD but I do still like them a lot so this was kind of tough to narrow down to ten.  These are the first ones that come to mind, divided up by genre.

DramaThese tend to be my favorites, just because I feel like they often touch me on a deeper level.  Maybe because they are more…dramatic.


  • Braveheart – I still remember the first time I watched it.  It is the only video I’ve ever watched on pay-per-view but I was sick and home from school one day in high school so I ordered it (and recorded it on VHS to help me feel better about spending money…I was cheap back then too).  When it got to the end I think I actually cried… as least as much as guys are capable of crying from a movie.  It has incredible themes of sacrifice and the value of “Freedom!”  Impossible to watch without thinking of Christ.


  • Shawshank Redemption– I saw this first on TV (probably a safer way to watch than the DVD).  I have no memory of it coming out in theatres and just stumbled upon it one day.  It seems like that is how lots of people have seen it but I hear it come up all the time on people’s lists of favorites.  It is an incredible combination of great drama, inspirational story and twist ending (which you’ll see below that I really love).  This is easily in my top three, if not number one. 


  • Life As A House – This is one of the lesser known movies on my list.  It may be more of a borderline top 10 pick but I really loved this movie for a while.  It is a metaphor comparing life with…wait for it…a house.  It is kind of artsy.  It is probably the only movie on my list that you could call beautiful.  You could also call it existential if you want to go for some big words.  It runs the gambit of emotions (including some sad so if you can’t handle that, it might not be for you).  When I saw it my brother had gone through some rough times (nothing near those of the kid in the movie) and I couldn’t help but think of him and my parents.  It is all about living life to the fullest and finding healing and redemption even in the worst of situations. (Content Warning: There are definitely a few fast forward parts that I wish weren’t there but I like the theme overall.)

ActionGreat guy flicks (though not to be limited to guys) and great movies to get the adrenaline flowing.  Much more than that though, to make my top ten you’ve got to be different and it sure helps to have an awesome twist at the end.


  • Usual Suspects – the epitome of all twist endings.  Not sure I can say more than that.  If you haven’t seen it, you don’t know what end of movie twists are all about.  Most of the movie is average but when the end hits, you can’t help but be blown away.


  • Arlington Road – This is probably one the more obscure movies on my list.  It is another great twist ending.  I’m not even sure when I first saw it but I’ve seen it a number of times since and still love the ending.


  • Memento– I don’t love the basic story of this movie.  It also has some content that I’d prefer not to take in (but nothing horrible if I remember right).  But that being said, this is the most genius movie I’ve ever seen.  If you don’t know about it, it is about a man with a form of amnesia that doesn’t allow him any short term memory.  He is trying to solve the murder of his wife and must write himself notes (mainly through tattoos so he doesn’t loose them) to keep from being mislead because he doesn’t know who he can trust.  That doesn’t sound like such a great movie but the amazing thing is that the story is told piece by piece moving back and forth in time in a way that makes you feel almost like the main character who is always disoriented.  Just an incredibly written movie.


  • The Matrix– Sadly, they didn’t end after the first movie.  The trilogy went down hill from number one.  When I first saw the preview it looked a lot like a movie called Sin City (which I had no desire at all to see) so I wasn’t at all interested.  But soon I began hearing from all kinds of people, especially Bible college professors, who absolutely loved it.  Anytime you can mix some cool Christ parallels in with some totally sweet action shots (some of which use brand new special effects technology) I’ll probably be a big fan.

ComedyFor the most part I like the drama and action movies best.  But there are some times when you really just need to laugh.


  • The Princess Bride – An all time classic.  My brother and I randomly picked it out at our local library when I was a kid and we absolutely loved it…and so does everyone else I’ve ever talked to (at least the people who are cool).  I’m tempted to start quoting lines but I’m afraid I’d never finish.  If you haven’t already, you really have to see it.  (“Anybody want a peanut?”)  Best of all, it is totally clean!


  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation– Another very quotable movie.  It is impressive when a Christmas movie makes the list but it is so funny I could watch it anytime.  My all time favorite line… Cousin Eddie shows up to surprise Clark for Christmas.  Clark’s response: “Oh, Eddie… If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am now.”  I’m cracking up even now as I read it.  I just can’t help put picture that scenario.  Classic!


  • Sandlot – I’m sensing a trend.  Top ten comedy = quotable.  Who knew a movie about some rag tag boys playing baseball could be so amazing?  Seriously though, if you’ve managed to live this long without seeing it you must be an L, 7, Weenie!  (Oscar Meyer even.)

So I guess that is it.  I’ve used up all of my ten spots.  Just for kicks, I thought I’d include a few that also came to mind.  Maybe not top ten material but definitely still pretty good:

  • Aladdin – As far as kids movies goes, this one just barely beats out The Lion Kingas far as nostalgia goes (Robin Williams as the genie doesn’t hurt either).  Of the more modern ones, I really like Finding Nemo and Madagascar as well.
  • Primal Fear – Ed Norton Jr. gives what it probably the best performance I’ve ever seen by an actor.  He absolutely blew me away.  I don’t love all of the content but it would be worth fast forwarding just to see his acting (and it also has a great twist).
  • The Rock – One of my favorite pure action movies.  No twist endings just Nicholas Cage, Ed Harris and Sean Connery fighting it out on Alcatraz in the middle of a bunch of chemical weapons.  The Die Hard movies (at least some of them) are also pretty good.  I also really loved Speed in terms of straight adrenaline rush.
  • The Game – Another great twist ending movie.  Melissa and I saw this in the theatre on our third date.  I had already seen it but I took her anyway.  I still remember turning to watch her just to see her reaction at the end.  Still a pretty creative movie and I’d highly recommend it.
  • The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe – This wouldn’t ordinarily make my top ten (and I guess it still didn’t) but we did all kinds of stuff at church when the movie came out.  We even took a few hundred kids over to the movie one Sunday morning after it came out.  It’s not one that I particularly love watching over and over but I do remember being moved the first time or two that I saw it.  It obviously has one thing that I really love in movies, great Christ parallels.

 That was fun.  Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Most of my favorite movies are from the 90s (I’m guess that has to do more with that being the decade I grew up in than the overall quality of movies from that period.)
  2. I REALLY like twist endings.  Four of the top 10 are in there mainly because of their twist endings.
  3. I comedy is only capable of becoming an all time favorite if it is super-quotable.
  4. If it has great drama and good Christ parallels (or even a great story of sacrafice) I’m probably going to like it.

Now I need your help.  Do you know of any movies with great twist endings that I didn’t mention?  There are some many other great ones (I can’t believe I haven’t even mentioned Sixth Sense…that can’t be right) but I’m sure there are others I haven’t seen.   I’d love your recommendations and I’d love to hear some of your top ten list either in the comments or on your blog (just link back so we can all see it). 

Most of my close blogging friends have already done this.  I guess I’ll tag: Melissa, Josh, and Nikomas.



  1. Man on Fire…on my “will never watch again” list b/c I cried so hard I thought I’d need to be taken to the hospital…but good sacrafice movie and a bit of a twist, though totally graphically gross too but no more so than braveheart which I also love (can’t believe that didn’t make my list but prolly couldn’t watch it every day as I do get a bit squemish at it)

    Something I just thought about as I am trying to come up with more movies with twists…do you think children today are jipped out of the whole first experience of “omg Luke and Leia are brother and sister????!!!!!???” (which was my reaction the first time I saw the original trilogy). I mean now they can watch 1-6 in order and that “surprise” is I’m sure not at all suprising…hmmm just a thought (bear with me I’m having a random day :o) )

    Ok well I can’t think of any more twist ending movies right now (maybe b/c I’m very rarely surprised at an ending) but if I do, I’ll let you know ;o)

  2. I don’t even know if I made it into the Star Wars movie without knowing the borther/sister secret. I think someone had told me beforehand. I’m sure that’ll be much tougher now.

  3. I would say the twist in Fight Club is pretty cool, but maybe that’s because I love Edward Norton in that movie, too. We have a very similar taste in movies (except that I like the romantic dramas a little more than you), but most of these would be in my top ten as well!

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