TG10 Guest List: Matt Oakes (Silver Screen Riot)

Welcome to TG10s. This year, echoing another publication, we are posting our top 10s, and taking votes from you. Keep reading The Twin Geeks for lists from our regular writers, as well as some extra special selection of lists from some amazing guests.

Matt Oakes is a must-read film critic at Silver Screen Riot, specializing in great taste for horror films, he is also a fellow member of Seattle Film Critics Society, and a great follow on Twitter.

I’m thinking of this top ten list more as a glimpse inside the mind of Matt Oakes. Ten movies that either I am likely to make you watch if you come to my house, or feel tethered to my past as a developing cinemaphile. hold a special significance to me.

The Lord of the Rings (2001)

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Is it cheating if I include an entire trilogy on this list? While telling the saga in three chapters was the only pragmatic choice, The Lord of the Rings remains a single story, epic in scope though it remains. Peter Jackson’s opus is the apex predator of franchise filmmaking. Shooting the entire thing on location in New Zealand lends the film a scale and majestic that is unmatched. Despite numerous advances in technology, the in-camera production elements simply cannot be reproduced with computer-generated imagery. Just take a look at The Hobbit series for proof. Having reread Tolkien’s novels for the first time since I was a pre-teen, I have to say, Jackson improved upon almost every aspect of the books. Blasphemy? Perhaps but for me the films remain the absolute the pinnacle of fantasy storytelling and adventure entertainment. I remember first seeing LOTR in theaters with my Dad and my brother. It felt like what I assumed seeing Star Wars in the 70s must have been like. It felt monumental. This many years later, I’d argue it remains so. 

The Witch (2015)

“What went we out into this wilderness to find?

I’ve written extensively about ‘The Witch’, Robert Eggers’ captivating and horrifying folktale about a family of pilgrims whose patriarch proves too dogmatic to remain in society. In 1630 America, this must have been quite a stretch. I had the opportunity to interview Eggers about the film ( and it was an early highlight of my work as a talent interviewer. When I compiled a list of my favorite films of the 2010s, ‘The Witch’ claimed the #1 spot. This is in part because I can’t think of another film that feels so much like a living piece of history, refracted through a prism of horror and alternate reality. While the film is a haunting tale of a pilgrimage gone wrong, the real horror is the very real witch trials that it presupposes happened. Eggers presents these often-ignored events in American history with such clarity, and then subjects his characters to the folklore of their times, with chilling results. ‘The Witch’ is transportive and alien, sharp as a knife and booby-trapped with escalating visual horrors and dialogue written with the studious devotion of a scholar. My first viewing of the film was at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, and I can’t think of a better setting to have experienced it.

The Apartment (1960)

“I guess that’s the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.”

I couldn’t assemble a list of favorite films without including one of Billy Wilder’s movies, and ‘The Apartment’ stands out for its unique ability to blend comedy, tragedy, and romance into a single, perfect film. Jack Lemon, a comic genius, is the perfect vessel for Wilder’s satirical take on corporate soul-sucking, playing an insurance clerk who lets his bosses borrow his apartment to sleep with their mistresses. What starts as a funny joke reveals itself to be something much deeper. Wilder shows a macabre fascination with the little man, C.C. Baxter, and the abuse he’s willing to endure for a chance at professional advancement. ‘The Apartment’ is deeply funny but also full of humanity and warmth. It’s the kind of enduring classic that even those who “don’t like old movies” will find themselves drawn into and ultimately enthralled by. The first time I ever watched ‘The Apartment’ was on an airplane, and I was so caught up in it that I forgot I was 10,000 miles off the ground.

Roar (1981)

It’s just playing, I’m tellin’ ya!”

Is ‘Roar’ a “good” movie? Absolutely not. But it is a movie that I probably watch more than any other. I love this depiction of man’s hubris caught on film. What was intended to be a family adventure movie from director-star-producer Noel Marshall and his then-wife Tippi Hedren turned into a filmed circus. Essentially, Marshall wanted to make a movie about big cats, so he bought a plot of land, adopted over 100 untrained wild cats, and started filming. Over 70 cast and crew members were brutally injured during the making of the film, leading it to be known as the “most dangerous movie ever made.” The movie has no plot, with the main appeal being the true terror in everyone’s eyes as they try to navigate hokey lines while being attacked by lions, tigers, leopards, and more. One man is literally scalped on screen. When Drafthouse Films bought the never-released-in-the-US film, they cut it to include maximum chaos. Watching this cut as a secret screening in a packed theater at the 2015 SXSW was maybe the height of all my theatrical experiences.

The Shining (1980)

“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just going to bash your brains in.”

Steven King famously despised Stanley Kubrick’s take on The Shining. In King’s view, Kubrick bastardized his  1977 novel by stripping out a lot of the more supernatural elements and leaning into Jack Torrence’s earlier troubles as a family man. What King gets wrong is that’s precisely what makes The Shining much a masterpiece. A frightfully evocative story of mania and madness, The Shining works as well as it does because it examines an abusive father relieved of the pressures of society’s prying eye. Yes, the Overlook Hotel haunts Jack but it also releases him to his madness. Jack Nicholson gives a career-best performance as the struggling writer and his most unhinged moments make my jaw drop regardless of how many times I’ve seen this movie. My most memorable watching experience was popping this on with a few friends when I was in high school and us all just nervously laughing together the whole way through. 

Jurassic Park (1993)

“Hold onto your butts”

You’re either a ‘Jaws’ guy or a ‘Jurassic Park’ guy, and although I adore Spielberg’s breakout smash, nothing beats ‘Jurassic Park’ in terms of sheer popcorn summer entertainment. When I think of ‘Jurassic Park’, I imagine myself at a drive-in theater on a dewy summer night, with a stash of movie snacks and maybe a cold beer in hand. What was once an impressive, effects-driven adventure movie has aged beautifully, with five milquetoast sequels trying (and failing) to reach the heights of the original. ‘Jurassic Park’ blends family-friendly adventure with survival horror, bringing dinosaurs to life for generations to come. Every time I watch it, I’m filled with that childlike nostalgia that so many moviegoers inevitably chase.

Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

“What characters? This is a bunch of little kids dressed up in animal costumes.”

My introduction to Wes Anderson was Royal Tenenbaums. The first time I watched it was my freshman year of college in a common room with a dozen or more people, extremely stoned. The entire movie swept me up, from Alec Baldwin’s perfectly paternal voiceover to Anderson’s striking aesthetic perfection, but the moment when Margot steps off a Green Line bus to greet her adoptive brother/forbidden romantic partner Richie Baumer and Nico/The Velvet Underground’s “These Days” erupts, it’s like the world stopped for a second. Anderson has an ability to communicate complex emotions through the synthesis of sounds, colors, and expression and for me this moment, and the movie it’s in, is pure magic. 

There Will Be Blood (2007)

I hate most people.”

Perhaps there is no better representation – nor a greater summation – of American capitalism than Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece, ‘There Will Be Blood’. At once an indictment of a distinctly American form of greed and a rich character study of the very capitalist whose rapacity sets him at odds with all around him, this prospector period piece channels Daniel Plainville, one of the most important and unforgettable movie characters of all time. Daniel Day-Lewis’s depiction of him is in the hall of fame for performances for a reason: it’s simply on another level. Every time I watch ‘There Will Be Blood’, I discover some novel element because I’m in a different place in my life when watching it. Behind each corner lies a new critique of religion, of careerism, of fatherhood. PTA’s historical epic is a living text that invites repeat viewings because you can take something new from it with each encounter.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

“You will ride eternal, shiny and chrome!”

I’ll start this entry off by letting you know that my dog is named Furiosa, so clearly we live in a ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ household. ‘Fury Road’ is quite simply the greatest live action stunt spectacle ever put to film. Director George Miller breathes fire and ferocity into every single frame of this big top show, delivering first-rate world building, minimalistic yet always effective dialogue, and a there-and-back-again story that doesn’t let up for a millisecond once it gets going. ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is probably the movie I’ve watched more than any other in the last decade because it just rips. There’s not a single ounce of fat here nor one frame that wouldn’t look stunning mounted in a theater room. It’s no wonder making this movie almost killed everyone.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

“Don’t you call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease!”

I debated leaving ‘Star Wars’ off for something with more cinephile cred, but since my focus here is on films that had the deepest impact on me, it would be deeply disingenuous to omit the George Lucas film that I based a significant portion of my childhood play around. Although ‘A New Hope’ set the scene and ‘The Return of the Jedi’ was actually the first ‘Star Wars’ I saw, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is the epitome of what made this series so lovable – and it’s a high that the franchise has been chasing now for over 40 years. The iconic good vs. evil heroics are amplified here, but it’s the comedy and chemistry that take place inside the Millenial Falcon that makes ‘Empire’ such an iconic classic. I probably would have earned more critic cred if I put Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’ here instead (a film I truly adore), but I’d just be lying to myself and you all.

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