We live in interesting times. Information is so easy to get and long gone are the golden days of hunting down movies in physical media and grabbing certain editions before they went out of print. It wasn’t too long ago when collectors bought new releases on VHS for $79.99 brand new rather than waiting for them to endure the rental cycle and be sold for under $20.00. One of the primary ways audiences digest media now is digital and iTunes ranks very high in that world, especially for those who want to own a copy of the movie and don’t do the awful and job-killing illegal downloading of films. Since buying habits are so intriguing and since the world is so list-driven, I’ve taken it upon myself to look at iTunes all-time bestsellers in five categories and look deeper. And to suggest titles that aren’t listed here that would be better choices in an ideal world.
#1 – The Wolf of Wall Street
A perfect choice. While it’s not the best movie Martin Scorsese has made, it’s a Martin Scorsese movie and it’s #1 on iTunes. I’ll take it. This vulgar virtuoso of every trick in the great director’s bag features all the things one needs to have a fun evening. Provided the viewer has a thick skin. It’s not for the faint of heart. But it’s a celebration of the form and that difficult balance of sneakily smart and joyously dumb.
Alternate Deeper Cuts: Glengarry Glen Ross, Goodfellas, Catch Me if You Can
#2 – American Sniper
This makes sense up here, though it’s not nearly as complete a film as the box office and accolades would lead you to believe. Clint Eastwood’s adaptation features solid work from Bradley Cooper and timeless subject matter but it doesn’t lend itself to repeat viewings. It was a huge hit and came out at just the right time to maximize exposure. Apparently it dug in deeper than most expected.
Alternate Deeper Cuts: Black Hawk Down, The Deer Hunter, The Hurt Locker
#3 – Dallas Buyer’s Club
A great movie. A couple of great performances. Timely subject matter. This movie is so much better than it could have been. The material lends itself to a “movie of the week” vibe but it’s directed with such flair and the commitment by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in their roles is so absolute that it transcends expectation. It’s great to see this movie still holding strong.
Alternative Deeper Cuts: And the Band Played On, The Machinist, My Life
#4 – Argo
There are two versions of this film on iTunes. And it’s still #4 on the list even with two options out there. Argo‘s a movie that surprised everyone and one that got a little backlash after winning a bunch of awards. The one thing people hate almost as much as failure is too much success. Ben Affleck’s film is one of those really down the middle dramas that end up overshadowing the more boutique fare but the bottom line is that this is a really good flick. And anything with Scoot McNairy is a good thing.
Alternate Deeper Cuts: Munich, Hanna, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
#5 – Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow has joined the best of the best when it comes to making intense wartime combat movies and though her The Hurt Locker got all the big attention it’s this movie that is the most rich and rewarding. It’s a movie that gets more and more compelling and it’s the repeat viewings where the signature assault on the most wanted terrorist in the world is almost an afterthought. It’s everything that leads up to it. The red tape. The passion. The law-bending. Everything about this movie is a showcase for a filmmaker (and her writer Mark Boal) operating at the very top of their game.
Alternate Deeper Cuts: Platoon, Patton, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
#6 – The Great Gatsby
This movie is pretty to look at. Seriously, it’s just as opulent as opulent gets in a Hollywood picture. It’s just really, really good to look at. Look out your window and then look at this movie. The movie looks better, regardless of where you live. Such a pretty movie to just look at. The problem I see is that film requires more sometimes than just pretty pictures and I’m not totally sure the rest of the product lives up to just how super gorgeous it is to look at.
Alternate Deeper Cuts: A River Runs Through It, Bulworth, Pretty Woman
#7 – The Imitation Game
This is a refreshing addition to the list, if not because of how low-key the film is but also because of the film’s controversial third act. It’s not a film that can fit in a tiny box that’s easy to define. It’s complex, raises some rather interesting questions, and asks a little more of its viewers than the standard Hollywood movie. Benedict Cumberbatch is uniformly terrific and the whole thing just works. You stay classy, iTunes buyers!
Alternate Deeper Cuts: A Beautiful Mind, The Conversation, Das Boot
#8 – Gone Girl
This movie had no right being good, let alone great. That’s what happens when an amazing director approaches pulpy material. It elevates it. Ben Affleck is fantastic and Rosamund Pike is even better in a movie that’s a weird jambalaya of thriller, horror movie, drama, romantic comedy, and scathing relationship movie. Gone Girl is a blast and it has some serious stones to take a book that was decent and give it this much wattage.
Alternate Deeper Cuts: War of the Roses, Missing, Kramer vs. Kramer
#9 – Life of Pi
A beautiful and elegant movie that delivers on so many levels. Ang Lee took a book many felt couldn’t be adapted and adapted the daylights out of it. It’s a movie for all audiences that gets its hooks in and doesn’t let go, giving CGI animals tremendous screen time and selling it to perfection. A classic, and if it ever is available in 3-D in your area again you simply have to make a point to see it in the format it was made for.
Alternate Deeper Cuts: Cast Away, The Edge, Koyaanisqatsi
#10 – Gravity
This is a movie that loses a lot on the small screen but one that delivers plentifully even when stripped of the large immersive scope. It’s a brilliant achievement in design, claustrophobia, and sound design. It features great work from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It features an astronaut with a huge hole in his head Basically everything you could want from a space movie.
Alternate Deeper Cuts: Contact, Moon, Sunshine
Tomorrow: Action & Adventure