The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
James Fenimore Cooper’s literary work is a masterpiece, no doubt, but it does drag in places. The film is much more intense and exhilarating. It doesn’t hurt that Daniel Day Lewis beautifully chews up screen time and offers one of his masterful portrayals. Plus, you get the amazing visual context.
Donnie Brasco (1997)
In my mind, Ruggiero was easily Pacino’s best role, as it was a perfect synthesis of his early and later work. The character also has a vulnerability and neuroticism absent from many of the post-1970’s Pacino performances. Another testament to Pacino in Donnie Brasco was that he brought out the absolute best in Johnny Depp, a performance that might have been his #1 as well. The film as a whole, while often forgotten, is one of the standouts of the 1990’s. The book is a bit more archaic and doesn’t have the flow of the movie.
The Thing (1982)
We’ll focus on John Carpenter’s masterpiece for this one. The Thing was about as nasty as sci-fi villains come. I guess that’s what Kurt Russell and company get for waking him up from his nap. I get pretty pissed myself when people wake me up. Not take over your body and split you in half pissed, but I’ve been known to throw quite the hissy. The literary iteration is scary, but doesn’t offer the visceral madness of the movie.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Based on a short story, Mrs. Doubtfire is a modern classic. At the time this one came out, there certainly were groans, calling “Mrs. Doubtfire” a “Tootsie” rip-off. When people actually saw this one though, audiences couldn’t help seeing the distinctions between the two films and the incredible performance turned in by Robin Williams. The laughs are plentiful, but there are also enough heartfelt moments to make any viewer emotional, especially given Williams’ recent passing.
The Graduate (1967)
While the book was much more satirical and cynical, the film has a greater sense of whimsy, which allows for a more hopeful message. The film version also includes the incredible Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack which adds so much to the viewing experience. You also get Mike Nichols directorial expertise.
The Godfather (1972)
In my opinion, Marlon Brando is the greatest and most versatile actor in the history of film. Early in his career, he had a number of iconic performances, but in the mid-1960’s, Brando hit the skids. There’s no way an actor as talented as this should struggle for decent roles, but thats’s exactly what happened. Thankfully for Brando and movie-lovers everywhere, there was this little movie called “The Godfather” that was kind of a big deal, reviving Brando’s career. Mario Puzo’s book is wonderful, but Brando and his fellow cast members take the story to another level.
Forrest Gump (1994)
While this one hasnt aged quite as well as others on this countdown, Gump is still a great film with a number of timeless moments. Tom Hanks is terriffic in his breakout role. In the literary version, Gump is much, much more unlikable. So, it seems like the screenwriters and director made proper choices in adaptation.
A lot of times, the most sinister serial killers are those who appear normal enough on the outside. Brewing below though, is a storm of rage and monstrosity. Never was this better typified, than by Norman Bates. Old Norm just seemed like a regular, mother-fearing young man. Little did we know, he liked to wear his dead mother’s clothes around the house and terrorize all those who dare inhabit the Bates Motel. There’s a reason Motel 6 leaves the light on for you…In the book, Bates is a rich and complex character, but it’s without Hitchcock’s mastery.
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
The uber-talented Peter Sellers played numerous roles in this one. It’s a shame how people seem to have forgotten Dr. Strangelove, as the film is an all-time classic. Sellers is brilliant, and his President Muffley is both hilarious and utterly terrifying.
Watching Jaws today, it still holds up as a perfectly executed film and a masterpiece. There really is no element that you could possibly tweak to make the film any better. The acting, dialogue, plot…all superb. The decision to delay the shark’s unveiling was absolutely brilliant and led to even more suspense and tension. People today, bash Spielberg for relatively minor things, but I’m not sure how they can find any fault with Jaws.