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Top Ten Ensemble Films

Written by on February 11, 2010 

5. Reservoir Dogs (1992) (dir. Quentin Tarantino)

Finally I get to put my favorite Tarantino film on a Top Ten list. Here we’re treated to the everything about a jewel heist gone wrong, except the heist itself. We see the planning and the aftermath of a job gone wrong. Tarantino just knows how to make characters that you can enjoy from beginning to end and you just need to know what they have to say. Characters? Mr. White, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, Nice Guy Eddie and Joe Cabot.

4. Traffic (2000) (dir. Steven Soderbergh)

Soderbergh takes us through the drug world in the U.S. and its sources in Mexico with three very separate stories that have three completely different tones. Soderbergh even went to the extent of actually filming each story with different filters so as to make it ever more clear to the viewer which story’s being told and when. It is a masterpiece of a movie that everyone should see. Characters? Javier Rodriguez, Robert Wakefield, Ray Castro, Montel Gordon and Helena Ayala.

3. Requiem for a Dream (2000) (dir. Darren Aronofsky)

In a story of how the streets isn’t the only place to get addicted to drugs, we see a slew of characters handle their own addictions and aspirations in New York City. I love that this movie is completely uncompromising in its message. And while that makes it tough to watch more than once, it’s the one viewing that’ll stay with you forever. Characters? Sara Goldfarb, Harry Goldfarb, Marion Silver, Tyrone C. Love and Tappy Tibbons.

2. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) (dir. James Foley)

What happens at a real estate sales office when people’s jobs are on the line. Some may say that this film is disqualified because it doesn’t really delve into each character like the other films mentioned above, but I don’t care. When I think of an ensemble on screen I think of this movie without a shadow of a doubt. Characters? Ricky Roma, Shelley Levine, Blake, George Aaronow, Dave Moss and John Williamson.

1. Magnolia (1999) (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Is there a better film out there than P.T.A’s Magnolia? It’s hard to say. It may not be my all-time favorite, but it might just be my all-time favorite film of the last 20 years. All of these characters are followed over the period of 24 hours in L.A. and you can’t help but get emotional as a loving wife (Julianne Moore) nearly breaks down at the pharmacist’s counter, the child-genius (Jeremy Blackman) feels used by everyone around him, the self-help guru (Tom Cruise) is forced to deal with his past, along with so many other tales. It is fantastic and even though the ending comes out of nowhere and is hard to explain, it doesn’t take away from the brilliant storytelling on display. Characters? Frank T. J. Mackey, Linda Partridge, Jimmy Gator, Stanley Spector, Officer Jim Kurring and Donnie Smith.

Do you agree with the list? What are your favorite ensemble films?

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