"We all have our little preferences and prejudices," says Chuck Palahniuk, author of 20 novels, including Fight Club, Choke, and Beautiful You. This spring, he publishes Adjustment Day, his first novel in four years. "I, for example, vow never to resolve a plot by having a character commit suicide. In my opinion, the most noble goal of any story is to depict a character facing the readers' worst fear, better yet a fear that outstrips their worst-case scenarios, then show the character in question enduring the challenge."
He continues, "In fact, 99 percent of writing--like 99 percent of the insurance industry and organized religions--involves informing innocent people of hideous, painful, humiliating possibilities beyond their wildest imagination, then selling those same people the hope of salvation. Therein lies my secret hypocrisy: I adore films in which the hero finds salvation through self-murder. My own novel Fight Club resolves with an apparent-but-not-quite martyrdom. What follows is by no means a complete list, but to date, they constitute my favorites."
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Without further ado, here they are in reverse order.
10. Harold and Maude (dir. Hal Ashby, 1971)
"Movie reviewers hated this story when it was first released. Those critics are now dead and rotted meat while this film lives on... a coincidence? Dismiss this one at your own peril."
9. Heathers (dir. Michael Lehmann, 1988)
"Here's more proof that all the reviewers can be wrong at the same time. As Christian Slater explodes himself, lighting Winona Ryder's cigarette, who can forget the line, "Now that you're dead, what are you going to do with your life?" Just that one line is better than all of The English Patient.
8. Aliens 3 (dir. David Fincher, 1992)
"Nobody does feel-good martyrdom better than director David Fincher."
7. The Game (dir. David Fincher, 1997)
"Another protagonist leaping into the abyss care of Fincher."
6. Seven (dir. David Fincher, 1995)
"It's death-by-cop, but nobody plays a better crack-pot religious martyr than Kevin Spacey. And nobody kills them better than Finch."
5. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (dir. Sydney Pollack, 1969)
"Red Buttons dies wonderfully to the calliope strains of 'California, Here I Come,' and with a little help they shoot Jane Fonda. This counts as my all-time favorite date flick.
4. 30 Days of Night (dir. David Slade, 2007)
"If you can't beat 'em join 'em, even if them is dead."
3. The Hunger (dir. Tony Scott, 1983)
"With Bauhaus music, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve, movies don't get any better."
2. The Poseidon Adventure (dir. Ronald Neame, 1972)
"I could watch Gene Hackman die over and over. Of course, Charlton Heston self destructs in Earthquake as does Jennifer Jones in The Towering Inferno, but Hackman sets the standard for disaster movie self sacrifice.
1. The Exorcist (dir. William Friedkin, 1973)
"Here it is, plausible proof that David Fincher was raised as a Catholic."