POLL: What is your favorite Michael Mann film?

Posted by · 8:47 am · June 22nd, 2009

(from left) Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeline Stowe in The Last of the mohicans“Public Enemies” lands at the Los Angeles Film Festival tomorrow, and with it, a slew of reviews and Michael-Mann-centric features is sure to follow.  Next week we’ll be dedicating an edition of The Lists to the director, but this week I thought we’d put a query out to the readership.  In the simplest of terms, What’s your favorite Mann feature?

I’ve gone ahead and included television’s “The Jericho Mile” in case there are those who have seen it and feel it in them to be even more contrarian than picking “The Keep.”  I’m really curious to see where this one goes.  There is plenty of “Miami Vice” and “Collateral” goodwill from our largely younger readership, and plenty, I’m sure (like me) who have a devotion to Mann’s work in the 1990s.  Even still, his 1980s career is at once of a piece with his portfolio and curiously outside of it, sure to nurture a following.

So have your say in this week’s sidebar poll.  Pick your favorite Mann movie and head on back here to discuss why.

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34 responses so far

  • 1 6-22-2009 at 9:31 am

    Kokushi said...


  • 2 6-22-2009 at 9:45 am

    P-Dawg said...

    Gonna go with “Heat” because it takes its time and pays off in an epic way. “The Last of the Mohicans” is a close second. I want that axe thing that Chingachgook uses but I don’t know what the hell I’d do with it.

  • 3 6-22-2009 at 10:28 am

    CCA said...

    The Insider

  • 4 6-22-2009 at 10:29 am

    THE Diego Ortiz said...

    Oh my God! Miami Vice was so f*cking boring! The only thing I liked in that movie was the gun fight at the end. That was cool. And it woke me up!

    I liked Clay. I’m sorry, Ali.
    If his mamma call him Clay, I call him Clay. Now I wanna see Coming to America. I’m sure it’s on Comedy Central right now.

  • 5 6-22-2009 at 10:31 am

    moviefan said...

    Without a doubt, for me, The Insider. To take a story where everyone knows the ending and still make it a suspenseful film is a feat deserved of high praise. Ron Howard did it with Apollo 13 but Michael Mann did it with a film about the tobacco industry!!! He also got incredible performances from everyone, most notably Russell Crowe and Christopher Plummer. I also think it’s one of Al Pacino’s best performances.

    I love Heat and Last of the Mohicans, too, but The Insider is one of my top ten favorite films of all time.

  • 6 6-22-2009 at 10:32 am

    Kirsten said...

    I would have to go with HEAT…..but The Insider is a close second.

  • 7 6-22-2009 at 10:39 am

    Mr. Gittes said...

    The first twenty or so minutes of “Ali” is the best sequence Mann has ever “assembled.” Better than the shoot-out in “Heat.”

    My fav is Heat. But The Insider is Mann’s best movie.

  • 8 6-22-2009 at 10:47 am

    Zan said...

    1- Collateral
    2- The Insider
    3- Heat

    All three are really close, but I love the development and dynamic of the two characters in Collateral. I’ve always maintained that Cruise has top-tier talent if he applies it (e.g. Magnolia).

    The discussions of minutiae, the natural mode of suspense that the film takes on, Cruise’s final words, everything makes it one of my favorite Mann films and one of my five favorite films overall.

    The Insider is consistently great too, and Crowe nails Wigand, at least from the limited footage I’ve seen of the man.

    Mann’s a genius, pure and simple. Always keeping his cameras exploring new angles and environments and always ignoring length convention in order to fully develop everything.

    Can’t wait for July 1.

  • 9 6-22-2009 at 10:48 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Gittes: He owes that entire sequence to Eric Roth.

  • 10 6-22-2009 at 11:00 am

    tony rock said...

    Kris, I know you liked Public Enemies…but putting your positive feelings aside, what do you think or predict the overall critical consensus is going to be?

  • 11 6-22-2009 at 11:02 am

    tony rock said...

    I ask because I’ve read some opinions from others who caught an early screening and I’m starting to get nervous…comments like “most boring movie Mann has ever made” and “dull, flat acting from both leads.”

  • 12 6-22-2009 at 11:04 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    tony: Originally I honestly felt like it would be a big critical fave. There was applause at my screening. But I actually am beginning to think the largely older critical set might not go for it. Maybe my original instinct will fortunately be proven correct, however.

    The “dull” criticism is apt for Bale, but anyone with a proper critical eye will see brilliance in Depp’s performance.

  • 13 6-22-2009 at 11:17 am

    Brendan said...

    The Insider. What a well-done film. Last of the Mohicans was also wonderful.

  • 14 6-22-2009 at 11:59 am

    limeymcfrog said...

    Thief. Period. Next Question

  • 15 6-22-2009 at 1:43 pm

    Matt said...

    The Insider, without question.

  • 16 6-22-2009 at 2:42 pm

    KATIE said...

    every movies ! even Miami Vice who is a love story with actions scene for me!
    there is more ideas in a Mann movie scene than all Bay filmography!

  • 17 6-22-2009 at 2:58 pm

    BerkeleyGirl said...

    moviefan pretty much said it all about “The Insider.” Though not exactly short, as soon as it ended, I wanted to stay and watch it all over again. There are too many great performances: Crowe’s best so far; Pacino’s best in years, well, since “Heat” – he doesn’t even really yell!; the much-underappreciated Diane Venora; Bruce McGill’s phenomenal scene in the courtroom; last but not least, the great Christopher Plummer.

    The opening scene alone is worth putting the film at the top. Doesn’t even have anything to do with the movie subject, but the whole Mike Wallace interview with the mullah… Plummer’s smackdown is priceless! Something like: What do you think I’m going to do? Kill him with my steno pad?

  • 18 6-22-2009 at 2:58 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Predictably, The keep and Jericho Mile bring up the rear with zero votes each.

  • 19 6-22-2009 at 3:20 pm

    Jacob said...

    For me, his top three films are masterpieces, and the rest are very good (haven’t seen and don’t want to see The Keep).

    1. Miami Vice (2006) – clearly Mann’s best and most innovative creation. It’s this film where Mann got in touch with his characters to the point where watching the film was looking through their eyes, mainly Sonny’s. Mann never presents anything to the audience; he only shows it how the characters are feeling it–undercover. The moment where Sonny phases out and looks to the ocean in the middle of the job like he’s wishing for a way out of the plotting that is his life his the most brilliant moment in Mann’s filmography. Here, Mann built a relationship between Sonny and Isabella that didn’t have any courting, but was all setup by the subtext of their lives before the point Sonny hears her voice call out. And then in a blink, this shot is gone, and Sonny is back on another job to continue his existence.

    2. Heat (1995) – many people get on the length and subplots, but it’s Mann’s choice to make the story about more than just the two leads. Those character are also needed for the world of the leads to matter. Neil driving through the white tunnel is probably Mann’s second best moment.

    3. The Insider (1999) – this is just really well made. The characters aren’t as much Mann’s forte, but they are well written nonetheless. It’s a damn smooth movie and Pacino and Crowe bring enough to put this over the edge. I can’t think of too many “based on a true story” films that are so authentic.

    4. Collateral (2003) – amazingly directed, with a flawed screenplay, especially the ending. But at times I think Cruise embodies Mann’s themes better than any other actor he’s worked with.

    5. Manhunter (1986) – love the psychological side of visualizing the crime used by the main character. It’s also pretty bold with the violence of the story, and the technical aspects shine.

    6. Thief (1981) – I agree with most of what Kris said about this the other day. It’s just a bit too rough around the edges, which is understandable being Mann’s first film.

    7. The Last of the Mohicans (1992) – very well executed, but easily Mann’s most standard film. It’s very good as is, but there is no way in hell Mann would make a film like this today. I mean, just look at the way he’s shooting Public Enemies. Surely he’d do something to it to piss off the masses if he filmed this now, and it’d probably be better for it.

    8. Ali (2001) – by putting this last, I’m not going to the consensus that this is a bad film. It is not even close to being one. It’s a top 20 film of 2001.

    Now I wait for Public Enemies. I don’t think it’ll match Vice, but I’m hoping it could get to Heat level. I’m hearing a lot of people are angry at it and calling it flat with no character development–to me this means Mann put everything in there, he just did it in a way that doesn’t overtly display it to an audience, instead just showing it as it is (like Vice).

  • 20 6-22-2009 at 3:37 pm

    John H. Foote said...

    As much as I love “The Last of the Mohicans” his best work cinematically for me is “Miami Vice” — have never liked “Heat”, over praised and Pacino way over the top (again) — admired “The Insider” and “Collateral” very much — but hey for me, his stylish, moody “Miami Vice” is just brilliant.

  • 21 6-22-2009 at 3:50 pm

    h-wigget said...

    the insider is his best film, his masterpiece. it had great performances and a great script. i frimly beleive that besides collateral his post-insider work has been uninspired

    the insider i think works so well because of what he screwed up with in heat. heat was too long and despite great parts didnt work imo, the insider fully incompasses a sealed tight script in epic proportions

  • 22 6-22-2009 at 5:21 pm

    wchawk said...

    The reason Heat is great is precisely because its script isn’t tight. And also because Pacino didn’t overact. He played the role as the character was supposed to be played. Most moviegoers are way too touchy. Hence, The Insider is what Mann has to do to be nominated for an Oscar, not that he makes any movie for that reason.

  • 23 6-22-2009 at 8:05 pm

    Nagads said...

    I gotta go with Collateral–that scene, with the coyotes? Best thing Mann has ever done.

    The Insider runs like a perfect engine. A very close second.

    Heat is filled with beauty–the acting, the editing, the writing, the cinematography, the music–everything. But Pacino’s overacting brings it down for me.

    And somewhere in Miami Vice, there lies a masterpiece. Same goes for Ali.

    Last of the Mohicans is a good film, but I guess it could be made by anyone. It just doesn’t jump out at me as a Michael Mann film like so many of his other films.

    Manhunter still gives me shivers.

    I’m very fond of Thief. As a first film I think it’s quite brilliant.

  • 24 6-22-2009 at 8:23 pm

    tony rock said...

    Pacino only does his overacting schtick in two or three scenes, hardly reason for it to bring the whole film down for people…but to each their picky own, I guess.

  • 25 6-22-2009 at 11:45 pm

    Zac said...

    This one is a no-brainer for me. The Insider and Collateral were Top 5 of the their respective years for me, but Heat is my favorite movie of 1995 and in my Top 10 of the 1990’s. It’s one of the relatively few movies I would gladly upgrade to Blu-Ray whenever I get an HDTV and BR player.

    I’ll stop and watch Heat if it’s on TV, even if it’s edited and pan and scanned to hell.

    The thing that I love the most about the movie, other than the kick-ass bank heist, is that it shows that the line between cops and criminals is very small, blurry and ever-shifting.

  • 26 6-23-2009 at 12:57 am

    Kevin said...

    This is leaving me open to all sorts of ridicule but I must admit I haven’t seen any of Mann’s films. Sure am curious though to find out what all the fuss is about.

    Perhaps I could get some collective recommendations from readers, what’s your favourite (or best) Mann film?

  • 27 6-23-2009 at 2:08 am

    BurmaShave said...

    “If his mamma call him Clay, I call him Clay”

    Would something please escort Lestor Maddox back to his DeLorean?

  • 28 6-23-2009 at 5:10 am

    limeymcfrog said...

    The problem with this poll, nay, the problem with the world is that too few people have seen Thief.

    That film runs backwards laps around every other mann film except for The Insider.

  • 29 6-23-2009 at 6:52 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Much as I’d love to be down with something coolly obscure, I have to say I think “The Insider” stands head and shoulders above anything else Mann has done.

  • 30 6-23-2009 at 8:37 am

    McGuff said...

    I haven’t seen Thief, Manhunter or The Keep. I voted “The Insider” although “Heat” is very close. The movies in the 2000s were all solid, but I’ve yet to see that great Mann movie this decade. Like someone else said, there’s something great in “Miami Vice”, but I don’t think it’s complete.

    Glad for this poll, though, because it was the kick in the butt I needed to rip open that “Last of the Mohicans” DVD that I bought for a few bucks a couple weeks ago. Very good movie, and I’d probably put it fourth on my Mann list behind Insider, Heat and Collateral.

  • 31 6-23-2009 at 9:18 am

    Ivan said...

    Action with soul… that could describe Michael Mann´s work, his main characters always have that subtle distress beautifully framed.

    My top three

    Heat/Well ejecuted action sequences and that two 70´s icons-led a great ensemble.

    The Insider/Visionary way of telling a dilema. Lisa Gerrard score is the best of 1999.

    Miami Vice/Only because that opening sequence tunned by Linking Park in the background and the chemistry between Gong Li and Farrell.

  • 32 6-23-2009 at 6:15 pm

    M.Harris said...

    “Heat” number one.Barely squeaking out the number one spot over “The Insider.”

  • 33 2-01-2010 at 4:51 am

    Jacky Boi said...

    HEAT! without a shadow of a doubt.. great film.. outstanding actors… intriguing story.. but Mann’s Directing, and how the story was portrayed was the best part of the film… in my opinion… also the music in the film was perfect.. i picked this one because unlike most people i think it wasnt Pacino or De Niro that carried it… it was the story and the way it was shot… GREAT MOVIE!!! 10/10

    Public Enemies is good… although i dont like how he changed so much of what actually happened.. Melvin Purvis did not kill Pretty Boy Floyd and actually he had him executed right there in that orchard, and Pretty Boy Floyd was killed months after John Dillinger. On Top of that Babyface Nelson was not killed at Little Bohemia… He also outlasted Dillinger… becoming public enemy #1 after Dillinger was shot and killed.. i just think that all the changes just weren’t necessary… he could have stuck more to what actually happened and the movie story would have been just as good… I liked the action… the realness of it… i like the quality and the effort that went into this Period Piece… the costumes, the guns, the cars, the buildings, the lingo, and all that… i just expected it to be more on point with what really happened… He left out alot of things Dillinger did… the man didnt only break of jail one time… he broke out several times and that was not included.. like i said the changes were completely unnecessary 6/10

    Miami Vice is also good… I think that it is a good carry over from television to film.. it has a nice intricate undercover story.. and the film really makes you feel like your in Miami… I love Mann’s use of colors and hues in shots.. i feel like he went more all out on this film than his others…dunno just how i feel… O and like heat… The Music was awesome.. Mann, unlike alot of directors, has great ability to use music to bring emotion into the scene… the movie would be a 5 or 6 but because of the soundtrack and how it was used 7/10

    The Kingdom… Another Goodie… I really enjoyed this movie… Jamie Foxx carried the film… Story.. well… a bit iffy… thought it coulda been better… i liked Mann’s Action scenes… always good… and the shock, awe, and surpirse you get when seeing the terrorist attack unfold.. just one after another… good movie 7.5/10

    Ali… Good movie… but once again, me being the history buff i am… i must say there are things that he left out that are so significant it causes me to dislike the movie more than i should… i understand how much of a big deal it was that he beat Foreman in the “Rumble In The Jungle” but prolly Ali’s biggest and best fight was his 3rd fight with Frazier “The Thrilla In Manilla” that fight was so dramatic it would have been the perfect ending to the film.. just my opinion… Will Smith did a good job though… like most others… the music was on point… 5/10

    Hancock… horrible movie… prolly his worst… what was he thinking… why do this? there are plenty of awesome comic books out there he could have used to make into a movie, but he does this… wow… 2/10

    Collateral.. AWESOME!!! this is my #2… Great story, great director, great actors… Cruise & Foxx.. Cruise was awesome in this movie.. other than a few good men this is prolly his best ever. I just totally believed him in this one… he did his thang! so did Jamie Foxx!! But the icing on the cake was Mann’s depiction of LA at night.. the shots, the vivid colors, and once again perfectly timed & placed music made the film great… 8.5/10

    as for the others… i have seen all of his movies… The Insider is a great movie… my opinions on it are just that… Aviator was a flop… i went and sow it in the theater and i fell asleep… long and boring… Leo did good in it… from what i saw.. again these are my opinions… other than that i love Michael Mann’s work… I FUCK WIT HIM… another opinion.. he just need to stick to the Action/Drama… he knows how to sell that shit.. build up of scenes… the timing of some hardcore shoot-outs.. plus the use of his soundtracks to use emotion and suspense to have you on the edge of your seat… ill always pay the 10 bucks to go see a Mann flick…

    BUT AGAIN… HEAT!!! without a shadow of a doubt…

  • 34 4-06-2012 at 6:21 am

    Cash Ripley said...

    Pretty much in step with Jacky Boi. Heat is my all-time favorite movie followed closely by Collateral. DeNiro was king cool as Neil McCauley and Tom Cruise’s character Vincent was true genius. His hit on the two street thugs was probably the coolest close-action killing ever, and Heat’s downtown LA shootout with automatic weapons was as good as it gets. Loved the coyotes in downtown LA- intense, surreal, epic. Felix telling the story of Pedro Negro- awesome, intense.