RT Picks Our All-Time Favorite Movies

For our 10th anniversary, the staff looks back on its most-beloved films.

by | August 14, 2008 | Comments

Here at Rotten Tomatoes we don’t just love compiling movie
reviews; we love the movies themselves. To wrap up our 10th Anniversary
celebration, we decided to share with you our favorite films of all time by
collecting the fond cinematic musings of RTers past and present. Read on for the
geek-outs and misty memories of the films that moved us most, as we’re sure they
did some of you. (And chime in to let us know what your favorite films are and

more info…

Being John Malkovich


Tomatometer: 92%
Chosen by Senh Duong, RT Founder

I think my love for Drunken Master II is getting
old, so I’ll go with Being John Malkovich. It’s one of the most
original, eccentric, and brilliant films ever. Without its 92 percent
Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes, I don’t think I would have given the movie a
chance. I’ve been asked whether working on a movie site like Rotten Tomatoes
has made me an elitist; am I more inclusive towards films I plan to watch? My
answer is no; quite the opposite, actually — it broadened my cinematic
horizons. I still love my popcorn movies and direct-to-video martial arts
movies, but the Tomatometer opened up the world of independent and foreign
films to me.

more info…

The Manchurian Candidate

Tomatometer: 98%
Chosen by Matt Atchity, Editor-in-Chief

Every time someone asks about my favorite movie, my
response is always, without hesitation, The Manchurian Candidate. John
Frankheimer’s 1962 adaptation of the novel from Richard Condon is a tense,
fast-moving conspiracy thriller, and I think it still holds up today. Frank
Sinatra shows a surprising vulnerability as Marco, an Army officer haunted by
nightmares from the Korean War, and Angela Lansbury’s turn as Raymond’s mother
nabbed her an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award. I also had the rare
privilege of sitting down to watch this movie without any advance knowledge of
the plot, the cast, or anything. It was coming on cable, and someone
recommend that I watch it, and so I did. That’s a rare treat these days, and
something that I highly recommend trying. The story in The Manchurian
unfolds for most of the characters exactly the same way it does
for the audience: You’re not really sure what’s going on and who’s behind
events until relatively late in the movie. I’ve always thought that seeing a
movie that way — not knowing anything about it — is a purer experience.
You’re much more at the mercy of the filmmaker in that case, and I think
that’s a good thing.

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg


Tomatometer: 100%
Chosen by Jen Yamato, Editor

Let me preface this with a confession: I like film
musicals. Some I even love. But the genre has a bad rap with mainstream
moviegoers who think they’ve got too much singing and spontaneous dancing,
that they’re all fluff and lightweight filler … which is why one of my
favorite musicals is also my favorite film of all time. Jacques Demy’s
visionary film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) works hard to
transcend the boundaries of the sung story, despite wearing the trappings of
Hollywood’s golden era of musicals with genuine love and affection. It’s
melodrama moonlighting as romance; a trifle on the surface, reveling in the
naiveté of its two young lovers (Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo),
blithely ensconced in their candy-colored French town, their story told
entirely in song. And yet Demy’s vision, partnered with an achingly beautiful,
jazzy score by Michel Legrand, paints an all-too relatable picture of the
intensity — and transience — of young love. To watch Umbrellas is,
for me, to feel in Technicolor — the beauty of Denueve, the heartache
of Legrand, the wistfulness of love lost.

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Once Upon a Time in China


Tomatometer: 89%
Chosen by Patrick Lee, RT Founder

My movie is Jet Li’s Once Upon a Time in China.
Senh showed it to me when we were floormates freshman year at Berkeley (back in
1992). I used to train in wushu, but had stopped after going to college. I
loved the movie so much, though, that I went to check around to see if they had
a wushu coach in the area. Turns out there was a wushu club at Berkeley!

From wushu, I met a lot of future Rotten Tomatoes folks like Stephen, Paul,
Eric, Mark, Geoffrey, Matt, James, George, Kai, Rae, Suzanne, Billy, Andrea, and
more. I even got Senh to join the club one semester (he was really good, too).
Seems like Jet’s been a part of Rotten Tomatoes for a long time. He’s touched a
lot of people, but in this case you could say that he helped bring the Rotten
Tomatoes team together.

more info…



Tomatometer: 100%
Chosen by
Susan Nakasora, RT Founder

Way back when, a friend raved to me about a film she and her roommate had
seen, Leolo, and how afterwards they were going around declaring that
their name was not Leo, but “Leolo! Leolo Lozone!” Intrigued, I rented this
extremely dysfunctional, disturbing, awesome film, and it became one of my
favorites. I also introduced it to Senh, whose response was “Man,” or “Whoa,”
or something like that, and partial inspiration for RT’s name apparently

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Tomatometer: 100%
Chosen by Tim Ryan, Editor

Whenever anyone asks what my favorite movie is, my stock
answer is that I have a Holy Trinity of sorts. Star Wars was the first
film I watched obsessively, and Pulp Fiction was a formative experience
in that it helped me to appreciate movies as art in a way I hadn’t before. But
I’ve probably watched John Cassavetes’ Shadows more than any other
movie, and every time I see it, I find something new to discover. I rented it
on a whim one cold winter night in Providence, RI, and was instantly
transfixed by its raw, off-kilter charm. The plot is deceptively simple —
three hipster interracial siblings in New York go through a series of
romantic, professional, and familial trials and tribulations — but there’s
something so joyful for me in how well the characters are drawn. I don’t like
these people, I love them; in spite of their occasional personal
failings, there’s a sense of warmth between the characters that permeates
throughout. Cassavetes claimed the film was an improvisation (it was actually
scripted), and it’s got a loose, intensely personal energy unlike anything
else I’ve ever seen; even though I’ve probably watched Shadows 30 or 40
times, every conversation still has a strange weightiness, a sense of mystery,
that deepens each time I see it.

more info…

The Graduate


Tomatometer: 89%
Chosen by Stephen Wang, RT Founder

The Graduate continues to be my sentimental favorite movie. It has
the off-kilter “cynical romanticism” that breathes through so many cool
filmmakers today, but mostly it’s just a really fun, wacky, and brilliant film.
It also helps that the movie is partially set in Berkeley, the birthplace of
Rotten Tomatoes. Many good films try to draw inspiration from The Graduate
(Garden State, Rushmore, Lost in Translation, Punch Drunk Love) but the
film still feels more chaotic and touching than all of the rest despite being a
generation ago made.

more info…

Empire Records


Tomatometer: 24%
Chosen by Joe Utichi, UK Editor

Empire Records is not my favorite film, but it’s the film I most
commonly cite when asked to put something atop my list. It’s a devilishly
difficult question to answer because the question itself is so preposterous.
How do you choose between A Clockwork Orange and The Godfather?
Or Zoolander and Pan’s Labyrinth? Empire Records, for me,
demonstrates the impossibility of this decision and the importance of time and
context in making the choice. It’s not my favourite movie — I don’t even
believe it’s one of the best movies of all time — but I wouldn’t be quite the
same without it. When I first saw Empire Records — on video at the age
of 14 — it spoke to me and it represented who I was at that time. It’s a
feeling I relive any time one of the songs from the soundtrack chances its way
to the front of the shuffle playlist on my iPod, or when I decide to put on
the DVD. But most importantly it’s one of many, many films — probably more
than 50, maybe as many as 100 — that have influenced my path from obnoxious
infant to intolerable adult. Others include those aforementioned strange
bedfellows, along with The Matrix, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, WALL-E,
Full Metal Jacket, High Fidelity, Kill Bill, Apocalypse Now, Dogma, Robin
Hood: Prince of Thieves
, and Annie Hall. I don’t suppose many of
those have been mentioned in the same sentence before, and I doubt I’d list
them all in a ranking of the BEST films of all time, but they’re all essential
in the tapestry of movie-watching that makes me who I am. Or perhaps I should
just leave quietly…

more info…



Tomatometer: 86%
Chosen by Alex Vo, Editor

The best compliment I ever got? I was working retail and someone came up
and said, “You ever see Rushmore? You remind me of Rushmore.”
She explained that I didn’t really resemble Max Fischer or Jason Schwartzman,
but that, enigmatically, I was the physical embodiment of the best movie ever

I saw Rushmore at the right times: once before my
teenage years, once during, and once as I was leaving them, and each time the
movie transformed me. I wanted to smoke cigarettes and play rock music to
every girl I met incredibly loudly. It made me want to wear blazers, shoot
guns and buy dynamite, and build aquariums for everyone I loved. It made me
want to be a writer.

Soon, my friends and all the smart girls moved away to
crenellated colleges where they’d learn about John Berger and take
psychotropic mindbombs. Bored, I watched Rushmore the third time.
There, I realized its coda was the most bittersweet, tender scene ever laid to
film. It’s where Miss Cross takes Max’s hand for a dance to the Faces’ “Ooh La
La,” a slow-motion fade of two friends alert of their past, optimistic about
the future, surrounded by sparklers and the people who have made their story
beautiful. Moments like these tap into the invisible effect of movies.
Specifically, I now believed I knew how to succeed when the world draws the
curtains on our adolescent dreams. I still do.

Sic transit
but art will never die.

more info…

Moulin Rouge!


Tomatometer: 78%
Chosen by Paul Lee, RT Founder

Wow, this is a tough one. But if I had to name one movie, then I’d have to
say it’s Moulin Rouge.

I remember the first time I
watched Moulin Rouge in the theater. I really had no idea what the movie
was about, not even that it was a musical, even though I was at RT.

The movie began in a promising way, I thought, but I wasn’t
sure what to make of it. But when Ewan McGregor burst out singing,”The hills are
alive with the sound of music,” dressed rather ridiculously as the sensitive
Swiss poet goatherd, that’s when I got the movie. I was totally absorbed
from that moment, and I understood what the movie was about, despite the
zaniness in the beginning.

Moulin Rouge is a story about love, of course, but a
story about love expressed through song, just as Strictly Ballroom was a
love story expressed through dance and Romeo+Juliet was one told through
poetry. I saw it four more times in the theater, and Baz Luhrman remains one of
my favorite directors.

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2001: A Space Odyssey

Tomatometer: 96%
Chosen by Ryan Fujitani, Community Manager

I’m not sure I could write much about this movie that hasn’t already been
written more eloquently and by more qualified people. Gorgeous cinematography;
groundbreaking special effects that hold up even to this day; an iconic
musical score; screaming monkey-men with bones, a giant black monolith, a
killer supercomputer, and abstract notions of time travel/human
existence/higher intelligence… The experience is so deep, I get the bends
when the credits roll. At its simplest, it is to me the most beautiful sci-fi
movie ever put on celluloid (and quite possibly one of the most beautiful
movies ever, period), and at its most thought-provoking, 2001 embodies
so many of the ideas I’d always entertained about the universe, but which I’d
lacked the capacity to express or illustrate accurately or meaningfully. I’m
not even very big on sci-fi, and while the film’s true message may forever
remain ambiguous, 2001 somehow never fails to make me ache, shiver, and
melt all at once. I find it simply breathtaking, and I become absorbed in
every minute of it.

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Nobody’s Fool


Tomatometer: 89%
Chosen by Jeff Giles, RT Staff

When I was a kid, in an
effort to show me that being a smart aleck doesn’t pay, my parents showed me Cool
Hand Luke
. It didn’t have much of an impact on my smart mouth, but
watching the movie did spark a lifelong hero-worship of Paul Newman for me —
and my unabashed fanboy love is most pronounced for 1994’s Nobody’s Fool,
the Robert Benton-directed adaptation of Richard Russo’s wonderful novel.
Newman has made a career out of playing irascible losers, but his portrayal of
absentee dad and off-the-books construction worker Donald “Sully” Sullivan is,
for me, the best of them all. He’s at the top of his game here, playing off a
stellar cast that includes Jessica Tandy, Melanie Griffith, Philip Seymour
Hoffman, and a toned-down Bruce Willis. Though the film wasn’t a huge success
at the box office, critics responded positively, and Newman, Benton and Russo
clearly enjoyed working together; they went on to re-team for 1998’s
(admittedly inferior) Twilight, and Russo — who won the Pulitzer for
his 2001 novel Empire Falls — is now working on a sequel to Nobody’s

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Tomatometer: 98%
Chosen by Nick Hershey, RT Staff

For me, Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly sets the
standard to which every other western must aspire (come to think of it, every
crime drama, buddy movie, etc.). The third film in the Man With No Name
Trilogy follows three gunslingers on a quest to find a fortune in buried gold,
and what a ride it is. Unlike many earlier westerns which typically feature
the standard fantasy face-off between good and evil, it’s refreshing that Ugly‘s
protagonists are all of dubious morals; with even the most honorable of the
trio (Clint Eastwood as ‘Blondie,’ aka The Good) a habitual lawbreaker. The
film is memorable on so many counts: the majestic landscape (Southern Spain
making for a convincing Old American West), knockout performances (Eastwood,
in perhaps his most famous role, Lee Van Cleef as the sinister hit man, and
especially Eli Wallach, who as Tuco the outlaw injects a humor and charisma
not seen in the earlier installments of the trilogy), tense gunfights (the
final three-way standoff is a killer), all backed by Ennio Morricone’s
immortal score. What more needs to be said? I love this movie!

more info…

My Life to Live


Tomatometer: 90%
Chosen by Sara Schieron, RT Staff

Every bit of my favorite film sounds pretentious. Vivre
sa Vie
(My Life to Live) is in black and white, it’s French, at one
point the protagonist dialogues with a philosopher, I first saw it in a film
class. Seriously, answering this way is like huge film buff cliché, but like
most clichés it’s super functional. I love this movie in about every way I can
love a thing — though it’s wrong to call such an animate film a “thing.” Vivre
sa Vie
is intelligent, poignant, reflexive, sexy, and now, as in 1962 when
it came out, tragically hip. The star, Anna Karina, is the most magnetic bad
actress in history! Karina’s character Nana leaves her husband and child to
take middling stabs at an acting career but ends up a prostitute. The moments
when Nana comes slowly undone in the face of the camera (and perhaps because
of it) are awful: the sort of thing surgically accurate language can’t ever
hope to wrap itself around. Vivre sa Vie‘s self-awareness is
revelatory; it never vies for our affections and it’s unapologetically
imperfect. Implicitly, the film makes you part of Nana’s undoing and her
undoing is somehow yours too. Ironic, since the film begins with the Montaigne
quote, “Loan yourself to others. Give yourself to yourself.” See what I mean?