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Ranking the Greats: The 10 Best Films by Oliver Stone

He's chronicled both war and peace, politics and passion. Here's the ten best films in this controversial writer/director's intriguing canon.

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#5: Platoon

For many, this is the first real and final serious word on the police action that came to be known as Vietnam. For others, it was a showboating parable with all the good and evil elements wrapped up in an authentic if fictional package. To this day, few films on the subject have felt so knowing and inside. On the other hand, the byplay between Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe feels forced and unfocused. Still, as Stone statements go, this one transcends itself to become both a personalized journey into Hell and a window into a tumultuous time for America.

 
#4: Natural Born Killers

After taking Quentin Tarantino's script about celebrity serial killers and turning it into a diatribe about the media, Stone delivered one of his most shocking, sentient works. Like Network on steroids and speed, he took the opportunity to mix his various obsessions with the recent outcry his film on a certain Presidential assassination caused. Always eager to stir some shit, Stone even went so far as to turn Rodney Dangerfield into a vile, foul-mouthed pedophile who enjoys raping his own daughter. For that alone, the movie deserves it earns its negative notoriety. For everything else, it becomes a classic.

 
#3: Nixon

He's a hot button historical figure that turned the US into his own corrupt playground (and sparked one of the most significant government scandals ever - Watergate). Stone's look at perhaps the most controversial US President is actually a very moving, fully realized biography. Still using his collage style to capture many meanings and moments in one, we get the story of an underappreciated politician who, when finally given the reins of power, takes far too full advantage of them. With superb supporting work from his incredible cast and a brilliant lead performance from Anthony Hopkins, this remains one of Stone's strongest.

 
#2: Scarface

Yes, Brian DePalma directed this. True, Al Pacino's over the top Cuban characterization still makes many a film fan giggle. But it was Stone who took the '30s story of a mobster with a massive familial flaw's rise to power and contemporized it, using the recent Mariel boatlift as a backdrop. As much a comment on immigration and crime as it was on South Florida and the booming cocaine trade in and around Miami, it's current status as a hip-hop badge of honor is odd, if wholly understandable. Tony Montana is the marginalized America dream, and it was Stone who saw that potent parallel.

 
#1: JFK

Here's all you need to know about this undeniable masterpiece: Stone may have the truth all screwed up, but the historical significance of his subject (the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the controversial findings of the Warren Commission) cause a major uproar among scholars and supporters, so much so that long unreleased documents on the event finally saw the light of day. It requires chutzpah the size of a city block to take on the Federal Government's desire for secrecy and survive, let alone win. This magnificent epic may not have solved the crime, but it certainly raised many of the right questions. A true work of genius.

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