Vanessa Armstrong’s Favorite Movies of All Time

Hello /Film readers, hello! My name is Vanessa Armstrong and I like movies. That’s a good thing, I suppose, since I’m now a regular contributor to /Film.

When I was given the opportunity to write about my Top 15 favorite movies I thought it’d be easy. Turns out, it wasn’t! Here’s what I finally came up with. Keep in mind these aren’t what I think are the best movies ever made — they’re my favorites, and sometimes things that are your favorites defy all reason. Take a gander below to see what movies bring me joy.

15. National Treasure

My Top 15 had to have a movie with Nicolas Cage in it. Are there “better” Nic Cage movies out there? Undoubtedly. But this very dumb, very over the top Nic Cage production about there being a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence holds a special place in my heart. For whatever reason, National Treasure has become my litmus test for how good or bad a movie is. Those who’ve seen more than one movie with me have heard me say something like, “That was no National Treasure.” And it’s true — all other movies are not National Treasure.

14. Brick

Rian Johnson is also one of my favorite writers-directors (yes, I loved The Last Jedi). Brick is Johnson’s directorial debut and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a California high school student who’s caught in the middle of a hardboiled detective story. The juxtaposition of the tough detective tale in a SoCal high school setting is genius and a must-see for anyone who loved Knives Out.

13. The Nightmare Before Christmas

I watch this every holiday season (Halloween and Christmas). Don’t think I need to say much here except that I love the songs, the aesthetic, and the ghost dog, Zero.

12. Atomic Blonde

This spy action thriller starring Charlize Theron is one of the best of its kind (though granted, it’s no National Treasure). Theron just kicks so much ass in it. So. Much. Ass. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should rectify that immediately.

11. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade

I broke my own arbitrary rule and have two movies on here by Steven Spielberg. Oh well! Harrison Ford and Sean Connery’s father-son dynamic is delightful, and our heroes punch Nazis. I’ve realized while putting together this list that fantastical adventure stories are in my movie wheelhouse. And as someone who loves that type of movie, Indiana Jones is a requirement on any Top 15 list.

10. Goonies

Another fantastical adventure movie! Goonies is no National Treasure, but I dare say it is better than National Treasure, even though there’s no Nic Cage. But there’s a treasure map, a group of misfits, dead pirates, and booby traps. What’s not to love?

9. Galaxy Quest

Arguably one of the funniest sci-fi movies out there, the awesome cast (minus Tim Allen) is a parody of shows like Star Trek but also a love story to fandom. The premise is that real-life aliens abduct the cast of a popular show that’s very similar to Star Trek in the mistaken belief they are their characters. Every fan has a little bit of Enrico Colantoni’s alien Mathesar in them.

8. Avengers: Infinity War

I’m a big Marvel fan, and Avengers: Infinity War will be my stand-in movie for that entire franchise. It’s certainly not the best standalone MCU movie (Captain America: Winter Soldier probably holds that spot for me), but it’s a movie that is a culmination of the last decade of Marvel films. I also saw this for the first time half-delirious in a room full of hardcore Marvel fans who just completed a 30-hour Marvel marathon, which was a memorable experience in and of itself.

7. Arrival

This sci-fi movie, directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer, is an exploration of love and family and free will. There are also aliens. Part of why I love this movie so much is because the short story it’s based on — “Story of Your Life,” by Ted Chiang — is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Arrival veers from its source material a bit, but it still touches on the short story’s key themes and includes a few of Villeneuve’s expansive landscapes.

6. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

I’m also a big Star Wars fan — the design of my wedding ring is R2-D2 inspired. There’s nothing new I can say about why I like Star Wars. I decided to have Episode IV represent the franchise, however, as the first 20 minutes is all about Artoo, the best Star Wars character.

5. Ghostbusters

Another movie from my youth that I’ll never get enough of. Again, there’s not much new I can say about why it’s so good. It’s funny. It’s silly. There are ghosts. I love it so much I spent way too much money on putting together Ghostbuster cosplay for me to wear at cons.

4. Rushmore

Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, like most of his films, is a mood. I like Anderson’s mood in Rushmore the best out of all his movies — it was one of his first films, and it brought upon the Bill Murray Renaissance we’re still enjoying. Jason Schwartzman as a very particular kind of child is also something that tickles me every time I watch it.

3. Jurassic Park

I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, but there’s this director named Steven Spielberg who makes pretty good movies. This movie terrified me when I saw it in theaters at too-young an age. Almost 30 years later (ugh, I’m old), the movie holds up. The dinosaurs are still suitably terrifying, and the characters, especially Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are memorable and moving. Dern’s character — a wicked-smart botanist who can handle her shit — was ahead of her time in terms of female leads (and so much better than the female lead we’re stuck with in the recent iteration).

2. Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro is one my favorite directors, and while many of his movies could be in my Top 15, I’ve limited it to just Crimson Peak because I’ve arbitrarily decided I can only have a director show up once on this list. Anyhoo, Crimson Peak is a movie I like to marinate in. The imagery in this gothic romance is just amazing, and the complexity of Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain’s characters brings something new to the gothic romance genre. I also wish I had a bathroom like the one in the titular Crimson Peak, ghosts or no.

1. The Mummy

I’m talking about the 1999 version starring Brandon Fraser and Rachel Weisz. There is no other relatively recent version of this movie in my head canon — please let me live in this reality. How much do I love this movie? Let me count the ways. There’s Fraser and Weisz, who have great chemistry. There’s Fraser by himself, throwing chairs at feckless Beni (Kevin J. O’Connor). There’s Weisz herself, talking about her love of being a librarian. There’s the tone of the film, which nails the silliness of the concept with horrific scenes of people being eaten alive by scarabs. I saw this movie numerous times when it was first in theaters, and I’ll watch it a hundred more times and there’s nothing you can do about it.

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