Best movies (add yours)

June 2, 2010 • 9:33 am

As I’m off for a while, I thought I’d leave with a post that can get readers involved in a mutually beneficial way. I’m speaking of a list of favorite movies.  I’ve given below my twenty all-time favorites, and since I’ve seen a lot of movies let me just call these the “best movies”.

And yes, I know this isn’t about biology or atheism or cats.  And I also know that many of you will take issue with these choices, and argue that better movies were left out.  I plead that this list is of course subjective, and also constructed this morning from memory.

To point us all to good films, do post your own list of five (or more) of your favorite movies, highlighting your all-time favorite with a few words. When I return I’ll send an autographed paperback of WEIT to the commenter who provides the best list (which of course includes a good blurb for the top movie).

For each movie I’ve added a link to the group of reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, my favorite movie-rating site.

The Last Picture Show. My all-time favorite, a haunting black-and-white essay, at once hilarious and ineffably sad, on our loneliness and failure to connect with others. It’s set in the oil town of Archer City, Texas (called “Anarene”) in the 1950s, and has an all-star cast—before many of them became stars.  I’ve put below a YouTube clip of my favorite scene, Sam the Lion’s (Ben Johnson’s) soliloquy. Shoot me for saying this, but I find the scene the emotional equal of anything in Shakespeare.  Because of this movie I made a pilgrimage to Archer City in 1972, and found it exactly as it was in the movie.

The Passion of Joan of Arc. The only silent movie on this list, and the best silent movie of all time.  Maria Falconetti gives a fantastic performance of Joan during her trial and execution.  You won’t believe that a movie without sound can be this good.

Chinatown My favorite film noir, a wonderful interaction between Jack Nicholson, who plays a detective, and director Roman Polanski.  This is the kind of movie that makes you feel really unsettled as you leave the theater.

Wings of Desire Wim Wender’s masterpiece.  Angels hover over post-war Berlin, listening to the thoughts of its inhabitants and sometimes falling in love with them.

The Best Years of Our Lives. This was a “popular” movie, made to entertain Americans after WWII.  But it far transcends entertainment. It’s a gripping story of three veterans as they return from the war and try to put their lives together.  Harold Russell, a genuine vet and non-actor, who lost his hands in the war, gives a stirring performance.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Klaus Kinski’s best performance in Werner Herzog’s twisted tale of a group of conquistadors, led by a madman, trying to find the city of El Dorado.

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937).   You won’t have heard of this movie, for it’s simply been forgotten. I was put 0nto it by my film-maven nephew after telling him how much I liked Tokyo Story (see below). Like that movie, it’s a meditation on age—specifically, the rejection of aging parents by their children.  Parts of it seem a bit cheesy now, but it will still break your heart.  There are no reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, so I’ve linked to Roger Ebert’s review.

Tokyo Story, Late Spring, Early Spring, and Late Autumn. If you haven’t heard of director Yasujiro Ozu, you’re in for a treat.  These four movies are, I think, his best.  They’re slow moving essays on family life in postwar Japan, and not for fans of quick-cut, fast-paced plots. Tokyo Story, which deals with the relationship between aging parents and their children, may be (along with Ikiru) the best foreign film ever.

Lawrence of Arabia. The best Hollywood blockbuster of all time. Great acting (especially by Peter O’Toole, who was born for the part), great photography, great story.

On the Waterfront. Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando.  Enough said. (Oh, and it was a tough choice between this movie and the other great film of this duo, A Streetcar Named Desire.)

The Wizard of Oz. Any list of best movies that leaves this out is deficient.  Have you seen it lately? This is the only movie on the list that’s a masterpiece for both children and adults.

The Godfather Parts I and II. We all know that Part III sucked, but Part II is the best sequel ever made (unless you consider Ozu’s movies as sequels).  I still consider Part I the best, but others disagree.

Y Tu Mama Tambien.  Loosely translated as “So’s Your Momma,” this is a Mexican film directed by Alfonso Cuarón. It’s the only coming-of-age movie on this list (I suppose The Last Picture Show might qualify) but it’s more than that.  It’s a depiction of class differences in modern Mexico, set within a comedy that includes a tragedy.  Oh, and it’s the most erotic movie here.

Ikiru. I’ve seen all of Kurosawa’s “epic” films, but this, an early black-and-white movie, is far better—perhaps the best foreign film ever made. It’s about a Japanese bureaucrat who finds meaning in life only after discovering he has terminal cancer.  Unless you have no feelings, it will make you cry.  The last scene is unforgettable.

Here are two movies that don’t come up to the others as world-class films, but I love them nonetheless:

Comedy: Annie Hall. Outstrips by a huge margin all other movies by Woody Allen.  Every scene is a classic, and just thinking about them makes me smile.  The Marshall McLuhan scene, the lobster scene, the dinner scene from Alvy’s childhood contrasted with that from Annie’s—sheer comic genius.

Musical: Yankee Doodle Dandy. You didn’t know that Jimmy Cagney could dance? He could—brilliantly, and his singing, dancing, and acting skills all make for a high-energy story of the songwriter George M. Cohan. As a kid I used to watch this every fourth of July (like It’s a Wonderful Life, it was always shown on the appropriate holiday), and I still have to watch it whenever it’s on. (Singin’ in the Rain runs a close second).

I’ve left off some universally acclaimed movies because I either haven’t seen them (e.g., The Bicycle Thief) or I can’t evaluate them properly because there’s been too much hype (Citizen Kane).

Now, tell us what you like.

Finally, a scene from The Last Picture Show:

159 thoughts on “Best movies (add yours)

    1. Great studies of the American psyche.
      The Night of the Hunter (1955)
      Tender Mercies (1983)
      Lone Star (1996)
      Check the reviews.

      1. Oh, “Lone Star”. A truly great film. In a similar vein, check out “Silver City”, a somewhat more humorous wade through the same swamps of the American psyche.

  1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Love and Death, 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, Pollock, Just Another Love Story, Annie Hall, L’Annee Derniere a Marienbad, The Door in the Floor, Belly of an Architect, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, A Zed & Two Noughts, Enduring Love.

  2. Singin’ in the Rain.
    I just sent the Donald O’Connor “Make ’em Laugh” segment to some friends. Awesome.

  3. Some great ones in your list! I agree wholeheartedly with your inclusion of the Passion of Joan of Arc, Aguirre, Chinatown, Wings of Desire (although I prefer using the original German title, ‘Der Himmel über Berlin’), Make Way For Tomorrow, and Lawrence of Arabia.

    Some of my personal favorites are (sorry if my list is overly long):
    The Wages of Fear (Le salaire de la peur) by Henri-Georges Clouzot
    The Third Man by Carol Reed
    Last Year at Marienbad by Alain Resnais
    Hunger by Steve McQueen
    M by Fritz Lang
    Der Untergang by Oliver Hirschbiegel
    The 400 Blows by François Truffaut
    8 1/2 by Federico Fellini
    Grand Illusion by Jean Renoir
    The Rules of The Game by Jean Renoir
    Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa
    Yojimo by Akira Kurosawa
    Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa
    The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman
    Wild Strawberries by Ingmar Bergman
    Fanny & Alexander by Ingmar Bergman
    Out of the Past by Jacques Tourneur
    Rope by Alfred Hitchcock
    The 39 Steps by Alfred Hitchcock
    The Lady Vanishes by Alfred Hitchcock
    Sleuth by Joseph Mankiewicz
    The Thing by John Carpenter
    Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead by Sidney Lumet
    Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein
    Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky
    Solaris by Andrei Tarkovsky
    Children of Men by Alfonso Cuarón
    The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by Robert Wiene
    Days of Heaven by Terrence Malick
    A Prophet by Jacques Audiard

    Favorite Comedy: probably a tie between Amelie and In Bruges

    Favorite Musical: High Society by Charles Walters (I love Bing, Grace, Frank, and Louis)

  4. Blow-up
    Pleasantville (B&W to technicolor!)
    Almost anything by almost any French director

  5. Did “The Godfather Part III” really suck? I thought it was merely Excellent compared to the previous Superlative films. Doesn’t bother me that Sofia Coppola was insecure and gawky: her character was insecure and gawky too. 8)

    Other great films:
    Spirited Away
    The Big Sleep
    Seven Samurai

    1. People don’t like III because they don’t like how it ends. Michael’s life of crime didn’t pay, he lost everything he ever loved, and he ultimately died sad and alone. But that is the ‘right’ ending to the saga!

  6. Don’t know many of those. And don’t watch all that many films anyway.

    As chance will have it, Yankee Doodle Dandy is about the only Cagney I’ve seen.

    You’ll have to excuse me, though, if I don’t rush out to fill the coffers of Polanski.

  7. I should add that, despite the recent supersaturation of the vampire genre with horrible teenage love-stories, I watched the Park Chan-wook vampire love-story entitled ‘Thirst’ on the weekend, and found it engrossing. A “must see” vampire flick, IMO.

  8. “The Wizard of Oz. Any list of best movies that leaves this out is deficient.”

    Agree! But similarly: Casablanca!!

  9. Brazil by Gilliam

    Ikiru by Kurosawa

    Changeling by Eastwood
    I like Changeling because it gives such a sharp view of how hard life could be if your not one of the ones in charge of things. A woman’s anger and persistence in searching for her lost son are twisted by the cops who have her committed to a mental hospital, apparently a common occurrence in Los Angeles at the time.

  10. “The Maltese Falcon.” Bogart nails it dead-on, with his almost savage, egomaniacal cunning, with a deep-seated code underlying his apparent cynisism. His final declaration of “don’t think I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be” still sends shivers up my spine. And Greenstreet’s Gutman remains one of the creepiest villains ever.


    “Unforgiven” – Clint Eastwood deconstructs how much so-called “heroism” (as opposed to whisky) is really necessary to blow a bunch of people away.

    “The Last of the Mohicans” – Michael Mann’s directorial high point.

    “Airplane” – None of the jokes are individually that funny, but the barrage is relentless.

    “Bachelor Party” – Who can ever think of a mule the same way again?

  11. “The Man from Laramie” 1955 dir. Anthony Mann. James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy. Euripides goes west.

    1. Reminds me of this terrible pun:

      Athens, early morning, shops have just opened. A man nervously carries a pair of trousers into a tailor’s shop and places them on the counter.

      The shopkeeper looks up in recognition and says, “Euripides?”

      The man nods his head in reply. “Eumenides?”

  12. Crimes & Misdemeanors – Woody Allen (1989)
    Simply amazing film about morality and rationalization and the meaning of life. Very roughly paraphrasing Roger Ebert’s review from when the movie was released, “This film is Woody Allen asking himself whether God exists – and answering, ‘No.'”

    The Lion in Winter – Anthony Harvey (1968)
    Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn give performances that exceed all superlatives as Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Quoth Eleanor, neatly summarizing the plot, “Well, every family has their ups and downs.”

    And while you’re at it, why not watch a slightly younger Peter O’Toole as a much younger Henry II in Becket (1964), opposite Richard Burton in the title role. Plot summary from Henry: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

  13. Casablanca must be on any best movie list.

    Although “Y tu mama tambien” might be translated “So’s your momma”, in the context of the film the literal translation “And your mama, too” is more correct. If I recall correctly, near the end of the film, one of the young protagonists is telling the other whom he has had sex with, and adds, “Y tu mama, tambien.”

    1. Yes. And yes; but mother would be a better translation for mamá in this case. For a mama/momma translation, madre should have been used. Any Mexicans out there who disagree?

      1. I’m pretty certain that madre = mother

        and mama = mom

        So, “Y tu mama tambien” is most accurately translated as “And your mom, too”

        Oh, and I’m mexican…. but any others around here to confirm?

  14. Scarface. Oliver Stone should never have left writing.

    M. You’ll never be able to watch Peter Lorre in a John Huston film again.

    Jerry mentions Apocalypse Now above, which makes heavy use of Michael Herr’s essential Dispatches; Kubrick used Herr’s black joke “How can you shoot woman and children?! A: You don’t lead ’em as much!” from Dispatches for Full Metal Jacket. Okay, and Dr. Strangelove.

    Miller’s Crossing or O Brother, Where Art Thou?. But not The Big Lebowski.

    Once Upon a Time in the West. Just great. The climax of Henry Fonda’s career.

    Sunset Boulevard. I always wanted a pool.

    Los Olvidados. Look for Buñuel’s statue of the mother caring for her infant above the abandoned child in the street .

    The Battle of Algiers. Puts the real in Italian neorealism. See also The Flowers of St. Francis to see what a great director can do with non-professional actors.

    Inglourious Basterds. His very best. Trivia: uses music from The Battle of Algiers.

    The Shop Around the Corner. Except at Christmas when you have to watch him over and over and over and over, who doesn’t love James Stewart?

    And of course:

    Viridiana. Most blasphemous film ever made runner-up #1.

    Life of Brian. Most blasphemous film ever made runner-up #2.

    There are several more in this category (which does not include that unmentionable film starring Tom Hanks), but the winner is …

    Mulholland Drive. The most blasphemous film ever made. And hardly anyone knows it.

    1. “Life of Brian. Most blasphemous film ever made runner-up #2.”

      Doesn’t even qualify as blasphemous in my mind. Terrific movie.

      What is blasphemous is a best movies list that does not include Casablanca!

    2. Personally, I thought Inglourious Basterds was B-grade crap. But opinions seem to differ dramatically on this one.

  15. My list (in no particular order of preferences; in fact I’m not sure if I can order this particular selection due to problems with comparability:

    Ikiru (See above)

    Pather panchali/ Aparajito (of the Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray): Simply brilliant film making by one of the greatest exponents of neo-realist cinema.

    The Godfather (Parts I and II): See above

    Fargo: Has almost everything; captures a mood perfectly; one of the most entertaining movies I have ever seen. A true American classic. As Roger Ebert memorably said “films like ‘Fargo’ are why I love the movies.”

    Annie Hall (see above), but I’m kinda partial to Woody Allen; So will also mention, among his other films, “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” Zelig, and the somewhat goofy “Manhattan Murder Mystery”

    The Departed: one of the more recent movies that I immensely enjoyed

    Psycho: enough has been written about this classic; also loved Vertigo.

    Waiting For Guffman: This is somewhat under-appreciated, but Christopher Guest and his crew were superb

    The Great Dictator and Modern Times: What can one say about Chaplin except that if/when this particular human civilization is destroyed I hope a future civilization finds his movies and watches them carefully

    8 1/2 [Otto e mezzo] (Fellni): One of my favorite dissertation years’ movies and also sentimental favorite for that reason along with

    The Shining and

    Barton Fink: (“I’ll show you the life of the mind”!!) another Coen brothers’ classic

  16. Scarface. Oliver Stone should never have left writing.

    M. You’ll never be able to watch Peter Lorre in a John Huston film again.

    Apocalypse Now is rightly mentioned above, which makes heavy use of Michael Herr’s essential Dispatches; Kubrick used Herr’s black joke “How can you shoot woman and children?! A: You don’t lead ’em as much!” from Dispatches for Full Metal Jacket. Okay, and Dr. Strangelove.

    Miller’s Crossing or O Brother, Where Art Thou?. But not The Big Lebowski.

    Once Upon a Time in the West. Just great. The climax of Henry Fonda’s career.

    Sunset Boulevard. I always wanted a pool.

    Los Olvidados. Look for Buñuel’s statue of the mother caring for her infant above the abandoned child in the street .

    The Battle of Algiers. Puts the real in Italian neorealism. See also The Flowers of St. Francis to see what a great director can do with non-professional actors.

    Inglourious Basterds. His very best. Trivia: uses music from The Battle of Algiers.

    The Shop Around the Corner. Except at Christmas when you have to watch him over and over and over and over, who doesn’t love James Stewart?

    And of course:

    Viridiana. Most blasphemous film ever made runner-up #1.

    Life of Brian. Most blasphemous film ever made runner-up #2.

    There are several more in this category (which does not include that unmentionable film starring Tom Hanks), but the winner is …

    Mulholland Drive. The most blasphemous film ever made. And hardly anyone knows it.

    1. I loved Mulholland Drive, in the way that many of David Lynch’s films have been simultaneously amazing, beautiful, frustrating, impenetrable, etc. But as I recall it, I wouldn’t call it blasphemous. Maybe obscene and outrageous in spots, but not blasphemous.

      1. Mulholland Drive, as well as being an extraordinary film, is a puzzle film. The solution to the puzzle is an enormous blasphemy against Christianity.

        “Adam”, who catches his wife in bed with a man sporting a serpent tattoo and is thrown out of his garden-like home to “Cookies downtown” is the Biblical Adam, ejected from Eden, representing all mankind. Adam is returned to his home by a “judge” after he makes the choice demanded of him by a “Godfather”. The “Godfather” demands that Adam choose Jesus Christ, who is represented in a concealed fashion by many characters in the film: The Cowboy (Christ resurrected, who will return one more time if Adam does good, and twice on his horse in Revelation 19:21 if Adam does bad), Camilla Rhodes (whose initials are Chi Rho: Christ, ☧; her execution is botched and her missing body is missing from what should be her tomb), the Jesus look-alike Ed (executed for his “history of the world, in numbers”, i.e., the Bible), and Woody Katz. Lynch uses some pretty obvious symbolism—once you’ve put a few puzzle pieces together—to show that these all represent Jesus, and that the “Godfather” Castigliane brothers, the manager of “Havenhurst” (heaven) Coco Lenoix, Mr. Roque, and the Bum behind Winkies all represent God. Cynthia is the Virgin Mary. Diane/Betty represents Judas and all unbelievers—she arrives onscreen with the words “I can’t believe it!”

        Every single character of the film has clear allegorical representation within the Christian Gospel. Lynch’s Christian allegory in Mulholland Drive is profoundly blasphemous. Read the link above for more.

  17. One of the best is Tuntematon sotilas/ The Unknown soldier. It’s based on novel written by Väinö Linna and the book was very different from other war books in 1954. In his book, Linna gives realistic picture about Continuation War against Russians and soldiers who fought for independence of Finland (he also fought there). The soldiers aren’t heroic war machines without fear but real people who are scared for they lives. This kind of picture of Finnish soldier was unheard of before The Unknown soldier. It is a anti-war movie with unforgettable characters and their different dialects. It also contains humour*. This movie is aired every Finland’s Independence Day and I watch it always.

    * Watch this little evolution vs creation debate in 5:10 :

    The second movie is from my childhood. It is a comedy from 1960 called Pekka ja Pätkä neekereinä/Pekka and Pätkä as negros. It is slightly racist but I guess it reflects it’s own time. The story takes off when Pekka and Pätkä use some kind of job-choosing-machine, which tells them: ”You have great future as ‘negros’ ”. It’s not the best Pekka ja Pätkä movie, but I will remember it forever. They have to speak English but only thing they can say is ”yes box holirei”. Maybe not the best movie for eight-year-old:

    Coraline was great in 3D. I know it is a children’s movie but I found it scary and had nightmares after watching it. I fell out of bed.

    Muumi ja pyrstötähti/Comet in Moominland is a great movie for children and adults. Moomin cartoons are based on Tove Jansson’s comics which weren’t really for children:

    ”How can I be so thirsty even though…”
    ”… I’ve been drinking all night?”

    I really liked Inglorious bastards when I saw it.

    1. Thanks for making me aware of Tuntematon sotilas/ The Unknown soldier – I’ll try to find it in the US. In the early 80’s I met two soldiers from the Winter War in the sauna at Haikko Spa outside Helsinki. They were very proud to show me their scars – it was a very moving encounter, I guess particularly since it was still the Cold War era then.

      BTW, in probably a completely different genre I recently saw Mies vailla menneisyyttä (The Man Without a Past) and enjoyed it very much. Is that a classic of any sort in Finland?

      1. I don’t know. I haven’t seen it but people talk a lot about Kaurismäki’s movies. Mies vailla menneisyyttä won the best manuscript in European Film Awards and was nominee in Oscar awards so it is at least famous here.

  18. The good, the bad, the ugly. Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricones masterpiece. L’estasia dell’oro and Il Triello scenes are amazing.

    Hable con ella. I love this Almodovar film. He’s probably the only director that can make you feel sorry for a guy who rapes a girl in a coma.

    Gallipoli. Historically incorrect Aussie movie, but still a good watch. Has a young Mel Gibson before he went to Hollywood.

    Terminator & Terminator II. Loved ’em. Terminator II is the best sequel I’ve seen.

    There’s heaps more movies I love, but half have probably been said and the other half probably aren’t that good but I like ’em for whatever reason.

  19. 1) Lawrence of Arabia
    David Lean’s masterpiece and the epitome of pre-CGI epic filmmaking. Among its many superlative-worthy traits: the vast desert landscapes, masterful jump cuts, complex characters, bombastic score, and superb acting. When I say that the film is miraculous, please understand that I mean it in a strictly secular way (i.e., hours of hard work from hundreds of cast and crew members).
    2) Seven Samurai
    3) Fargo
    4) North by Northwest
    5) The Shawshank Redemption

  20. Excellent topic! It would take me a while to come up with a top-25. Here’s my current top-5 from my facebook page (I mix it up every month or so):

    Dr. Strangelove (Director: Stanley Kubrick)
    In the Mood for Love (Director: Wong Kar Wai)
    The Passion of Joan of Arc (Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer)
    The Darjeeling Limited (Director: Wes Anderson)
    The Seventh Seal (Director: Ingmar Bergman)

  21. Jerry said that this isn’t about religion, but coincidently my favourite movie, The Mosquito Coast, doesn’t think too highly of religion.

    See here:

  22. A bunch of my favorites (making no claims of “importance” or “classic” status) in no particular order or genre:

    Breaker Morant
    Godfather II
    Forrest Gump
    The Sting
    The Color of Money
    Tess (The cinematography!)
    Seven Samurai
    Sweet Land
    Apocalypse Now
    Latcho Drom (Gypsies)
    Michael Clayton
    Three Kings
    Slumdog Millionaire
    The Cider House Rules
    The BBC Series Planet Earth (Especially the opening sequence to the Caves episode.)
    The Bucket List
    All Quiet on the Western Front
    Das Boot
    Terminator 2 (Best sequel)
    Catch Me If You Can
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    Richard III (the Ian McKellan version)
    Henry V (Brannagh)
    Pride and Prejudice (2006 Keira Knightly version, surprisingly)
    Lawrence of Arabia (Maybe my No. 1)
    Dr. Zhivago (David Lean version. The later one is good too; but I love Lean’s movies)
    The Sound of Music
    The Wizard of Oz

    Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
    Young Einstein
    Trading Places (It’s aged well)
    The Gods Must Be Crazy
    Love Actually

    The above are the movies I keep watching again and again.

  23. The Scottish character-based comedies of Bill Forsyth: Gregory’s Girl, Comfort and Joy and Local Hero.

    Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring

    THE BBC/PBS mini-series A Town Like Alice — perhaps the best mini-series ever.

    David Attenborough’s series: The Private Life of Plants

    John Huston’s film version of Joyce’s The Dead

    Lost in America (particularly apt in the current environment)

    Jonathan Miller’s Rough History of Disbelief

    Ingmar Bergman’s Shame, Scenes From a Marriage, The Seventh Seal, Fanny and Alexander

    Soldier of Orange

    The Navigator: A Mediaeval Odyssey

    The original Bedazzled with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore

    Breaking Away

    Hope and Glory

    The Great Escape


    Sorrow and the Pity

    The Dresser

    The BBC’s Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth

    Shakespeare in Love

    Knife in the Water

    The Princess Bride

    Robin and Marian (Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn)

    Searching for Bobby Fischer

    The Man Who Would Be King


    Wrestling Ernest Hemingway


    Mona Lisa (Bob Hopkins, Michael Caine)

  24. ZULU is a 1964 historical war film depicting the Battle of Rorke’s Drift between the British Army and the Zulus in January 1879, during the Anglo-Zulu War.

  25. My favorites lists are probably as long as JBlilie’s and Justin Wagner’s. And many of my favorites, including Wings of Desire, Singin’ in the Rain, and The Thing (1982) have been mentioned.

    But here are twelve (with two tied as the 11th and 12th), not necessarily my top picks.

    The Magnificent Ambersons (1943). Even in its mangled, truncated form (we’ll never know what the complete film might have been), one of the best “period films,” pregnant with nostalgia (William Bayer wrote that by the time the film ends, we are nostalgic for its beginning). Perhaps the only Welles-directed film in which he does not appear as an actor (His narration is wonderful).

    The Seven Samurai (1954).

    The Man in the White Suit (1951). My favorite of the Ealing Studios comedies with Alec Guiness, and arguably a very good “science fiction” film as well as satire.

    2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

    Sunrise (1927). No silent film can push my “transcendence” buttons like this one does. Don’t ask me why.

    The Searchers (1956). The best western ever directed by John Ford . . . or by anyone else, and John Wayne’s best performance. John Milius once said in an interview that Ford and Wayne managed to sum up the entire essental American character (good and bad) in the character of Ethan Edwards.

    People Will Talk (1951). A small-scale, literate comedy-drama written and directed by Joe Mankewicz at the height of the McCarthy-HUAC era. People didn’t really speak the sophisticated dialogue that Mankewicz wrote here, but I don’t care. This is as good a paean to “liberal secular humanist” values as any picture turned out by Hollywood in the last 60 years.

    I Know Where I’m Going (1945). A great romantic drama, for grown-ups, from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

    The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Much as I liked the new Ridley Scott film with Russell Crowe, this version, in resplendent Technicolor with Korngold’s Oscar-winning score, is still my favorite mishmash retelling of the tale(s).

    The Changeling (1973). I am one rationalist / methodological naturalist who loves horror films when they are done well, and subtly, and this movie (with George C. Scott, directed by Peter Medak) is for my money the most effective “ghost story” ever put on film.

    Duck Soup (1933) and A Night at the Opera (1939). (A tie). Because the Marx Brothers couldn’t be beat when they started with a good script.

  26. Second “Best Years Of Our Lives”. Absolutely sterling performances by all and brilliant directing by William Wyler. My dad, a foot soldier in Patton’s 3rd Army, cried when he saw this the first time, and my father never cried about anything. Another second for “Local Hero”, a lost jewel.

    Dodsworth (1936). William Wyler again
    Forbidden Planet (1956)

  27. Dr. Coyne (and everyone) — Make sure you see “The Fall.” It’s visually stunning with a great story; it has amazing landscapes and costumes; and Charles Darwin is one of the characters.

  28. Ying Xiong, aka Jet Li’s Hero, about a nameless assassin on a plot to kill the emperor.

    Violence, calligraphy, choreography, and colorful scenery, and Rashomon-style flashbacks blend to create a layered allegory and tell a paradoxical story.

    Much love for Dr. Strangelove, Fight Club, 2001: A Space Odysse, and others too.

  29. Dr Strangelove – I’m amazed that it took until #26 to get to it.

    Lone Star.

    Little Dorritt; dir. Christine Edzard.

    Holiday – Hepburn and Grant, and Edward Everett Horton and Lew Ayres.


    Those very long lists a few people are doing? I just skip them. Be selective. Your 500 favorites isn’t a useful list. Just saying.

  30. Don’t you folks have a sense of humor? I want a movie that makes me laugh, not think.
    Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Airplane!, The Naked Gun, The Producers (not the remake), Bananas, Take the Money and Run, The Hangover.

  31. Gattaca (

    One of my favourite science fiction films ever made. It’s a near-future scenario that deals with genetic prejudice, where people are discriminated against based on their genes.

    Imagine being turned down for a job, even if you’re extremely qualified, for no other reason than having ‘inferior’ genes.

    I think the plot of this movie is becoming even more relevant today than when it was made in 1997 as we enter an age where we can have our genes sequenced, and even begin to alter an embryo’s genes to make ‘perfect’ babies.

    If you haven’t seen Gattaca yet, check it out!

  32. Some that I have not seen mentioned:

    Amacord (Fellini)

    Closely Watched Trains (Menzel) A Czech coming of age film that is starkly poignant

    Excalibur (Boorman)

    Frenzy (Hitchcock)

    A Man and a Woman (Lelouch)

    Raising Arizona (Coen Brothers)

    Gone with the Wind (Fleming)

    Alien (Ridley Scott)

    Arsenic and Old Lace (Capra)

    Taxi Driver (Scorsese)

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards)

    Cheri (Stephen Frears)

    Barry Lyndon (Kubrick)

    Any good movie is a favorite of mine.

  33. Jerry,

    I missed something in your post…

    Watch The Bicycle Theif when you get the chance. It’s a beautiful film in many ways and one of the greatest ever…

  34. Network (1976)
    Beale’s speech about news media (and television in general) being in the “boredome killing business” and Ned Beatty’s corporate cosmology rant are more horrifying than any psycho posturing by Hannibal Lecter.

    Lonely Are the Brave (1967)
    Kirk Douglas in fine form as a cowboy lost in modernity.

    Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) Nick Adams does science as a 50 ft. Frankenstein fights a flop-eared, chicken eating dinosaur. ‘Nuff said.

    The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) Harryhausen’s most evenly paced, authentic Sinbad film. The six-armed dancing godess is just is a truimph of fantasy filmmaking.

    Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
    Sellers in his “Godfather” disguise is worth the price of admission. But watching Herbert Lom try to deliver Clouseau’s eulogy with a straight face is the highlight.

  35. Citizen Kane
    King Kong (original)
    Seven Samurai
    When Harry Met Sally
    Groundhog Day
    Godfather 1 & 2
    Bicycle Thief
    This Is Spinal Tap
    Star Wars (the original)
    Synechdoche, NY
    The Lady Eve
    Tokyo Story
    The Conversation

      1. I thought I was rather concise. I mean, I could have listed twenty more.
        For instance:

        The Rules of the Game
        Dr Strangelove
        Apocalypse Now (Director’s cut)
        Two or Three Things I Know About Her
        The Manchurian Candidate (original)
        Best in Show
        The Palm Beach Story
        North by Northwest
        Jules et Jim
        Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
        The Third Man
        Touch of Evil
        Grand Illusion
        Ghost World
        Pierrot le Fou
        The General
        La Chinoise
        The Gold Rush

  36. Quite a number of great films listed here, but come now, 47 comments long and no mention of Jean-Luc Godard? For shame!

    A few films I adore:

    Metropolis, Lang
    Breathless, Godard
    Contempt, Godard
    Masculin Feminin, Godard
    Pierrot le Fou, Godard
    Le Circle Rouge, Melville
    Kameradshcaft, Pabst
    Face of Another, Teshigahara
    Ace in the Hole, Wilder
    Paths of Glory, Kubrik
    Network, Lumet
    Taxi Driver, Scorsese

    I’ll stop… there’s too many to name.

    1. I absolutely adore Breathless. Did not much care for le Fou however. Later Godard doesn’t do much for me. Weekend was… a bit much, I think, in spite of a fantastic opening tracking shot. Melville’s Le Samourai was way too cool. By far my favorite Alain Delon movie.

  37. Any quotes by memory and thus approximate.

    First, the G rated group:

    King Kong (1933; perhaps best closing line ever, on which the entire movie may well have been crafted – “It wasn’t the planes, it was beauty that killed the beast.”)

    Harvey (Dr Chumley: Get a grip on reality man! Dowd: “Well, it’s interesting you should mention that doc, I’ve struggled with that for years and I’m happy to say I finally won.”)

    Harry & the Hendersons: After Oz & King Kong, the next movie you can take the kids to and enjoy yourself. And after that:

    My Cousin Vinny

    And also for the kids – the best comedy short ever:

    The Piano (Laurel & Hardy)

    But their education will not be complete without seeing some Buster Keaton, too. My favorite is The Scarecrow.

    Serious group:

    Schindler’s List: Of course for the whole story, and cinematography, but also the scene where Schindler gets thrown in jail for kissing a Jewish girl. His cellmate asks, “Did your dick fall off?” A retort that makes itself useful quite often.

    Fanny & Alexander: My Bergman pick

    Citizen Kane: And it’s twice as good once you know the significance of Rosebud: altho Gore Vidal offers an alternate explanation (see Wikipedia).

    Sunset Boulevard

    The End of August at the Hotel Ozone: (Czech, ~1966) For post-apocalyptical, it has The Road beat by many kilometers.

    My essential Bogarts:
    Casablanca, as already noted

    Key Largo (Bogie: What is it you want, Rocco? Rocco: I – I don’t know, soldier. B: I’ll tell you what you want, Rocco, you want more. Rocco: Yeah, that’s it soldier, more, yeah, MORE!)

    Big Sleep: (early scene, Gen’l Sternwood: At my age I am forced to indulge my vices by proxy.

    African Queen (if you ever watch Rooster Cogburn, note the many identical plot elements, and with Katharine Hepburn to boot! How did she let that happen?)

    Neo Bogart, dark heroes:
    Raiders of the Lost Ark
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – just as good as the book, which you should read first, and perhaps again afterward too.

    Not sure what to call this pair but they seem to belong together:
    Forrest Gump
    Fried Green Tomatoes

    And for documentaries:
    One Man’s Wilderness, an Alaskan Odyssey. Filmed, acted and directed by the same person, Dick Proennekke, it stands out to the extent that it is the first hit on Googling: man cabin Alaska

  38. Brazil
    The Wild Bunch
    Man Bites Dog
    Das Boot
    Taxi Driver
    Raise the Red Lantern
    Barton Fink
    There Will Be Blood
    Blade Runner
    Glengarry Glen Ross

    … to name a few

  39. Don’t forget Bogey’s ‘To Have and Have Not.’ Similar to but better than Casablanca, imo, which is also great, of course. Lots of sharp banter/innuendo between him and Bacall – her first film; they had an affair on set (she was 19) and were married shortly thereafter.

  40. The Third Man, my favorite film noir. And The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn, a movie that makes me happy no matter what sort of mood I’m in.

    1. and anything Richard Linklater! Before Sunrise/Before Sunset are my favorite romantic movie(s). On that list I’d also include David Gordon Green’s All the Real Girls. And maybe High Fidelity, yes.

      1. And my final few to round off my list: my favorite horror movie of all time would be Nick Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, about the horrors of superstition and not being able to let go of the past. It also has wonderful photography of Venice.

        My favorite westerns include -Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence, gorgeously shot in the snow and co-starring Klaus Kinski – and Rio Bravo, (simultaneously my favorite John Wayne and Howard Hawks movie) which can be best described as hanging out in the not-quite-yet post-modern Old West with your best friends.

  41. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 of course, Keanu should have played Gort in the remake)
    The conclusion (live in peace or we’ll crisp you) is fascistic, but the theme, made as it was in the depths of the cold war, and the SFX (zipper and all) are fantastic. Klaatu barada nikto!

    Forbidden Planet (1956 of course, Keanu should play Robbie in the remake)

    1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
      Brokeback Mountain
      Bride of Frankenstein and its tribute movie, Gods and Monsters
      (You may start to discern a theme here)

      1. Logan’s Run (Best of the “escape from the hermetic dystopia” genre; The Island, THX 1138, City of Ember – though that’s pretty good)

  42. Other sick comedies: Orgazmo, Baseketball, Top Secret, Amazon Women on the Moon…

    A few Gilliams not yet mentioned: “12 Monkeys”, “Adv. of Baron von Munchausen”, “Tideland”

    From a different plane of existence altogether: Eraserhead, Un Chien Andalou, Fando y Lis, Holy Mountain… anything else by Jodorowski especially including:

    A Jodorowski film that must have been made under less psychedelic influence than his others: “The Rainbow Thief”. Excellent Omar Sharif and Peter O’Toole.

    More O’Toole: The Ruling Class

    More mockumentary: The Rutles

    Favorite foreign: “Gabbeh”, “The Tin Drum”, “Yol”

    …and quirky, bizarre and ages very strangely: “Space is the Place”…

    Spoken word: Swimming to Cambodia

    Musically-themed: Tom Wait’s “Big Time”, Stop Making Sense, Home of the Brave

    Political intrigue: “The Manchurian Candidate” (older version), “The Conversation”, “A Year of Living Dangerously”

    I’ll stop now.

  43. A few of my favorites:

    Grave of the Fireflies (1988): I can’t think of any movie that better portrays the meaningless suffering that war causes. The fact that it does it in such a matter-of-fact way without overt moral preaching is what makes it so effective. This movie was what first really made me realize that war should never be glorified, no matter how just the cause may be.

    Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985): I’ll admit, this movie may only work if you saw it when you were younger. It’s great at evoking emotions from kids – the wonder when you first see Pee Wee’s bike, all the really frightening imagery. Watching it as an adult, it’s fun to notice the difference in your own reactions – realizing that all the naive things Pee Wee does seem totally reasonable to a child (the scene where he unquestioningly believes a fortune teller is classic).

    Groundhog Day (1993): It’s really enjoyable to see the progression in the way Bill Murray decides to live the same day over and over again. Even though the premise is unrealistic, it’s something you can relate to if you consider how you would probably react in a similar situation.

    Primer (2004): A time travel movie that skips the normal science fiction movie gimmicks, concentrating on the sort of day-to-day complications – how the protagonists avoid being seen in two places at once, all the personal disputes that enter into the picture. I think this is the only movie I’ve ever seen where I immediately wanted to watch it through again.

    Spellbound (2002): Documentary about the national spelling bee competition. A great American story, following kids from a wide range of backgrounds.

  44. imagine watching ground hog day every day until you know all the lines.

    I can’t bring myself to watch any movie twice. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was worth reading the book years after I saw the movie. The book was very different and a classic in it’s self it was written from the prospective of inside the big Native American’s head as he watched everything around him.

  45. Those of you who like movies with great soundtracks—and I mean all of the music, not just a song or two—the following are some of my favourite:

    • Ennio Morricone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly;

    • Vangelis’s 1492: Conquest of Paradise; and

    • Hans Zimmer’s Crimson Tide.

  46. Glad to see so many recommending Barton Fink. Another excellent (and short) Coen Bros. film is “Burn After Reading”.

    A pretty good strategy of mine is to take favorite movies, and use them to unearth others by the same directors/writers.

    Using this strategy, I’d recommend absolutely anything by Kurosawa, Kiarostami (if you can appreciate the Iranian film gestalt, which seems to be a different approach to the medium altogether), Coen Bros., Brooks (Mel, not Albert), Roland Joffé…

    Speaking of Roland Joffé… “The Mission”. …and “The Killing Fields.”

  47. The Name Of The Rose. The 1986 movie with Sean Connery based on Umberto Eco’s novel.
    It has marked me because watching it as a kid was the first time I noticed the similarities between the scientific approach and criminal investigations… you know following the evidence and discarding woo-woo. The latter is easy enough nowadays, but not so much in a 14th century monastery.

  48. I think it’s harder to do a good comedy than a good drama (I may be biased having spent some time doing standup) and so I’ll limit my selections to comedies. By “comedy” I mean a film that’s supposed to be funny — I’m not talking about a light drama that has a few mildly amusing scenes. So here is a short list of a few all-time great comedies:

    This is Spinal Tap
    Raising Arizona
    O Brother Where Art Thou
    Le Diner de Cons
    Being John Malkovich

  49. Shakespeare on film:

    Lear adaptations:
    Kurosawa’s Ran
    David Lean’s ‘Hobson’s Choice’ Lear for laughs
    Kozintsev’s King Lear
    Peter Brooks’ Kink Lear, starring Paul Scofield

    Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight
    Macbeth (tacky sets and all)
    Branagh’s Henry V
    Olivier’s Henry V

    1. You left out Forbidden Planet, the science fiction version of The Tempest (think Robbie as Ariel and the Id Monster as Caliban).

  50. By Preston Sturges:

    The Lady Eve
    The Great McGinty
    The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
    Sullivan’s Travels
    Unfaithfully Yours

    By Howard Hawks:

    His Girl Friday
    Red River

    By Henry King

    12 o’clock High
    True Grit

  51. “Blade Runner” by R. Scott
    “Alien” by R. Scott
    “The Last Temptation of Christ” by M. Scorsese
    “Citizen Kane” by O. Wells
    “Stalker” by A. Tarkowski
    “Nostalghia” by A. Tarkowski
    “2001: A Space Odyssey” by S. Kubrick
    “The Deer Hunter” by M. Chimino
    “Le scaphandre et le papillon” by J. Schnabel
    “American Beauty” by S. Mendes
    “Cidade de Deus” by F. Meirelles end K. Lund
    “Fight Club” by D. Fincher
    “Seven” by D. Fincher
    “Zodiac” by D. Fincher
    “Vozvrashcheniye” (aka “The Return”) by A. Zwiagincew
    “Izgnanie” (aka “The Banishment”) by A. Zwiagincew
    “Bin-jip” (aka “3-Iron”) by Ki-Duk Kim
    “Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom” (aka “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring”) by Ki-Duk Kim
    “Rok dábla” (aka “Year of the Devil”) by P. Zelenka
    “Príbehy obycejného sílenství” (aka “Wrong Side Up”) by P. Zelenka
    “The Shawshank Redemption” by F. Darabont
    “Le Grand bleu” by L. Besson
    “Hunger” by S. McQueen
    “The Sting” by G. Hill
    And now some Polish movies:
    “Dom zły” (aka “The Dark House”) by W. Smarzowski
    “Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie” (aka “The Saragossa Manuscript”) by W. Has
    “Ziemia obiecana” (aka “The Promised Land”) by A. Wajda

    And above all: ALL KIND OF STAR TREK tv series and movies;)

  52. I’m surprised that there only 2 nominations for “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly” which is obviously the greatest film made, ever (well, perhaps I’m exaggerating slightly).

  53. Some of my favorite movies, without thinking about it to much, is:

    Big Lebowski, by Cohen. I like as a sort of postmodern/absurdist saga, very funny.

    Master and Commander, with Paul Bettany and Russel Crowe. If you like historically placed movies, ships and the like see this movie and hopefully you´ll like it!

    Nightmare before christmas, Corpsebride, Charlie and the chocolate factory, all of them good Tim Burton movies.

    1&2 jurassic park, for those of us who can´t get enough of dinosaurs.

    Fanny och Alexander & Det sjunde inseglet(the seventh seal), by Ingmar Bergman. Fanny och Alexander becomes even more interesting if you read some of Bergman selfbiografical writings, such as “The magic lantern” and “Private confessions”

    Pride and Predjudice, both the newer movie and the older tv-version. My favorite in english costume-dramas. The dialogue is superb, read the book as well!

  54. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (directed by Andrew Dominik)

    Although a western by genre, it is not really a western at all. Beautiful on so many levels. The film is driven ahead by cinematography, music, characters, and dialogues. It also has a superb narration the lines of which are taken from the movie’s blueprint, the novel of the same title by Ron Hansen. The ethereal score is composed by the Australian musicians Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

    The acting is excellent, especially Casey Affleck’s performance is noteworthy whose gradual psychological transformation from a mere fanboy to the celebrated killer of the “hero” he used to adore is the main theme of the movie. This film went largely unnoticed, which might be due to its rather leisurely pace, but I still think it succeeds tremendously as a whole.

    Let this tiny piece of cinema belong to that handful of people who think this is what filmmaking ought to be about.

  55. Another film I’d like to add is …

    An Education

    A superb British production. One of the films I’ve seen so far this year.

    1. I did a post on this movie not too long ago (try putting “An Education” in the search box). Agreed-it’s fabulous, a world-class film. And one of the five best of the past several years, I think.

  56. OMG. You saw Ikiru! I loved that movie.

    I have a ton of movies that pop in and out of my “top lists,” they include:

    Jerry McGwire. I don’t like Cruise as a rule, but his “falling apart after being on the top” performance in the movie was spot on. My favorite scene is when he takes “his” two goldfish from the aquarium.

    The Big Red One. That was the first “anti-John Wayne” war movie I saw that didn’t go over the top the other way (Platoon). Spielberg, I have little doubt, took a big cue from the Omaha scene to make his famous Saving Private Ryan opening.

    The Deer Hunter. I’m still creeped out by Walken’s performance to this day.

    Being John Malcovic. It was weird… I can’t even explain it…

    Zelig. Woody Allen’s masterpiece of a man who is a living chameleon.

    Airplane. The greatest movie spoof ever made.

    Cabaret. Fossee’s brilliant masterpiece featuring a young Liza Minnelli.

    Zulu. Often parodied in later years, it never looses sight of the characters in what appears to be a hopeless situation.

    Midnight Cowboy. The hustler and the rat…

    Das Boot. A WWII submarine movie featuring the German perspective. Like all the movies I like, it’s more about the characters than the action.

    The Bridge on the River Kwai.


    Saving Private Ryan.

    Cyrano De Bergerac (the one with Gerard Depardieu).

    As Good as it Gets. Life and love with an OCD main character…

    Cool Hand Luke. A brilliant movie with a young Paul Newman.

    Blazing Saddles. Mel Brooks’ best movie.

    One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Gave me occasional nightmares for years… That Nurse… Then the Chief, at the end… Wow.

    Manhattan. Another brilliant Woody Allen movie.

    Dr. Strangelove. Peter Sellars at his best in a brilliant movie.

    Twelve Angry Men… A very powerful movie about opposing group-think and going along with herd. And in a compelling adult situation.

    The Seven Samurai. The movie that got me into Japanese movies. Still one Kurosawa’s best.

    The Shawshank Redemption… “Oh Andy…”

    And more…

  57. Many of the movies mentioned are pretty dusty classics. Fargo – so fun to laugh at outrageous sleaze and violence. For edgy indy, Tod Solondz’s Happiness; Storytelling. Come to think of it, for the same reason as Fargo.

  58. I can’t believe no one has mentioned Blazing Saddles. Aggressively non-PC, funny as heck, and the best use of fart noises in the history of cinema. It probably couldn’t be made today (or would carry an NC-17 rating for use of the “n” word). Mel Brooks’ magnus opus. Much funnier than Young Frankenstein or Space Balls.

    Blue Velvet is classic in the exact opposite direction. One of Dennis Hopper’s (RIP) most-memorable performances. I think I have copies in Beta, VHS, DVD, and Blue Ray (though not laser disk).

    If you’re looking for classic noir, Double Indemnity with Fred McMurray and Barbara Stanwick. Somehow, you end up rooting for McMurray, even though he’s playing an amoral insurance salesman (is there any other kind?) who gets caught up in a scheme to murder Stanwick’s husband.

    And, playing on the same theme of guy suckered into making BAD decisions by a beautiful woman, there’s Body Heat. People forget how absolutely HOT Kathleen Turner was back in the day. Who could forget the chair-through-the-glass-door scene?

    Everyone also forgets Marty. A classic “small film” Academy Award winner with Ernest Borgnine as a less-than-average Joe trying to untangle himself from his mother’s apron strings.

    And for the kids, The Incredibles, if only for the hidden Richard Nixon reference. No other movie has explored the “superhero gone to seed” theme; even though the Batman franchise surely is due by now.

    1. Oh dear, I forgot Marty, too! It’s a classic movie, forgotten but splendid. Borgnine’s performance is unforgettable.

  59. Here’s mine from my flickchart. The order isn’t as important as the movies on it.

    1. Singin’ in the Rain
    2. Brazil
    3. Lawrence of Arabia
    4. Annie Hall
    5. The 400 Blows
    6. Shoeshine
    7. Sunset Blvd.
    8. Ikiru
    9. Apocalypse Now
    10. Jaws
    11. City Lights
    12. 12 Angry Men
    13. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    14. North by Northwesta
    15. The Good, the bad and the ugly
    16. Gallipoli
    17. Raise the Red Lantern
    18. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    19. Rebecca
    20. Fanny and Alexander

  60. Wow, for a group so familiar with classic movies, I can’t believe there is not one vote for Charade. Everyone I have shown this movie to has loved it, even those who swore they could never like classic movies. It has everything, suspense, comedy, action, romance, mystery. It is smart, and it is still one of the only mysteries that ever left me surprised. Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn make a great couple in this, despite the age difference. It also has some great one-liners.

    With that in mind, I am really partial to movies that fit in multiple genres. It is easy to make a good movie (although perhaps not a great one) that fits in a single genre, but very hard to make a good movie that fits several genres. That is why most of my favorites are genre-benders:

    Notable examples are:
    Le pacte des loups (in the U.S., Brotherhood of the wolf): As one reviewer said “If you see one French costume drama martial arts werewolf secret society romance this year, make sure this is it.”

    Princess Bride: Enough said

    Stardust: Basically the Princess Bride with modern special effects and a bit more magic.

    Beverley Hills Cop: Action/comedies are not that uncommon, but this is probably the best.

    The Quiet Man: John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Enough said.

    Father Goose: Cary Grant, again.

    And I do like many straight-up genre movies:

    Aliens: My absolute favorite movie until I saw Charade. I have to disagree with people who say Terminator II is the best sequel, I think this is.

    Terminator II: Probably the best sequel relative to the original, which I did not like that much.

    Hot Shots Part Deux: No matter how much I love Mel Brooks and Leslie Nielsen, this is still my favorite slapstick comedy.

    Goldeneye: I will probably be killed for this, but it is my favorite Bond movie.

    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: best sequel of a sequel, and certainly best comeback after a bad sequel.

    National Treasure – Book of Secrets: Not as good as the Jones but still very good.

    Pirates of the Caribbean: Best video game movie ever 😉

    The Hunt for the Red October.

  61. When I first saw Citizen Kane it was in a film class. Prior to that class we had been watching all the big movies in chronological order from the dawn of the industry. It was in that context that I was able to appreciate what Orson Wells did with that movie, which is truly a masterpiece.

    As for my favourite movies: The Godfather Part II will likely never be surpassed in my books. It is truly a perfect movies by a perfect cast. All of the performances were worthy of an Oscar: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Robert Duvall, Robert Deniro, Lee Strasberg, Michael Gazzo, and Diane Keaton to name a few.

    The rest of my favourite movies in no particular order:

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
    Dr. Strangelove
    The Empire Strikes Back
    King Kong (1933)
    Pulp Fiction

  62. The Third Man
    Holiday (Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn)
    A Matter of Life and Death
    Groundhog Day
    Singing in the rain
    Some like it hot
    Pulp Fiction

    and guilty secrets….

    The Vikings (Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis)
    Man of La Mancha (Peter O’Toole, Sophia Loren)

  63. Patton; Director Franklin J. Schaffner; With George C. Scott, Karl Malden

    There are many good WWII movies, but this one is my favorite. Based largely on Gen. Omar Bradley’s memoir “A Soldier’s Story” it is fairly factual, though judiciously dramatized of course. The cinematography is fantastic and George C. Scott makes it clear that he was born to play this role. Patton is shown as a man who has developed an image of what he would like to be, and then stuffs himself into it regardless of the consequences. As well as being a fairly accurate record of the major campaigns of WWII in the European and African Theaters, it is the story of a fascinating real life character that was a major player in many of those campaigns. “An entire world at war, and I’m left out of it!? God will not allow this to happen!”

    Gigi; Director Vincente Minnelli, With Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Leslie Caron, Eva Gabor

    If you only see one musical in your life, this is the one you should see. I do not like musicals and was very surprised that I really liked this movie.

    Eye Of The Needle; Director Richard Marquand; With Donald Sutherland

    A creepy performance by Donald Sutherland as a German spy.

    A Fish Called Wanda; Director Charles Crichton; With John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin

    In my humble opinion this should be at the top of any comedy list. Never laughed more in a theater than when I saw this movie.

    October Sky; Director Joe Johnston; With Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern

    A well told true story (more or less) of a teenage boy inspired by a teacher to learn and reach for the stars rather than follow his expected path into the coal mines.

  64. And now for some camp, which I shamelessly love to indulge in. No one could possibly consider themselves cultured without admitting to sheer joy upon viewing the following movies.

    Flash Gordon; 1980; Director Mike Hodges; With Sam Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von (freaking) Sydow (I mean come on! This can’t be bad!)

    The Fifth Element; 1997; Director Luc Besson; With Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker, Tommy “Tiny” Lister

    Seriously. If you don’t have fun watching this movie you may as well just give up now and go getcha some religion.

    The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension; 1984; Director W.D. Richter; With Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd

    Leading brain surgeon, rock star, cutting edge physicist, saving the world with a bunch of friends. And, just look at that cast! Come on!

  65. Sorry Professor Coyne, this post is sorely off-topic…


    Okay, I’ll play along anyway, Professor C.. (Do I need two periods in a row to be punctuationally correct here? Arrghh! So many tough details on Coyne’s erudite blog!) But boy-o-boy this is a TOUGH question! I’ll just write down the ones that come to mind first, with perhaps a quick Tequila-shot of actual thought, because, ya see, the way I figger it, the ones that are foremost in my mind are either (A) great Dawkinsian memes; or (B) great movies. (Or (C) I’m a culture-less dork. But we’ll disregard (C) for the time being. So here goes nuthin’:

    1) Alien : perhaps the first movie that really, genuinely shocked me.

    2) Aliens : an unexpectedly great sequel.

    3) Titanic : I didn’t think I’d like it, so I held off for months until the overwhelming reviews forced me to go. Then, I understood why all the fuss was being made.

    4) The Matrix : yes, The Matrix. One of the few movies I actually saw twice in the big theater.

    5) Anything by Martin Scorsese.

    Honorable Mention: Avatar : the first viewing was absolutely thrilling, but in the second viewing I realized the surprises and computer graphics were what had riveted me, and in BB King’s immortal words: the “thrill was gone”.

  66. Damn! Just saw somebody else list Pulp Fiction — it would have displaced Aliens in my Top Five.

  67. The wonderful thing about this thread is that it made me think of all the great movies I’ve seen plus ideas of things to look for.

    and Spinal Tap, Holy Grail, life of Brian.

  68. – Tokyo story (and all the other films by Ozu)
    – Ikiru (Kurosawa)
    – Ugetsu monogatari (Mizoguchi)
    – Ran (Kurosawa)
    – City lights (Chaplin)
    – Dersu Uzala (Kurosawa)
    – The good, the bad and the ugly
    – 24 eyes (Kinoshita)
    – Drifting clouds (Kaurismäki)
    – Fireworks (Kitano)

    1. Dersu Uzula is one of Kurosawa’s best, and is sadly overlooked. Ran is just awesome and proves that Shakespeare can be mined for meaning in any culture in any time.

      1. I also have to toss Dodeskaden (I think this was Kurosawa’s first color film) into the mix.

        I is just impossible to come up with a list because there are so many great movies…

  69. There are many wonderful films, but I have a special place for silent films and Chaplin in particular. To wit:
    Modern Times
    The Great Dictator

  70. One of my favorites: Il Postino (The Postman), sweet, scenic, character-rich story about an italian postman who falls in love and seeks out the advice of poet Pablo Neruda. In italian, but no less fun to watch for the subtitles. (Not to be confused with the Costner POS).

  71. When I’m painting, I like big creative cooncepts and big effects playing in the background. My most watched are:

    -Transformers (2007)
    -Star Wars prequels (yeah you heard me)
    -Pirates of the Caribbean series

    or a comedy like:

    -Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy
    -Kung-Fu Panda.

  72. When I’m switching around the TV, bored, these are the movies I’ll stop to look at and suddenly find I’ve watched the whole thing:
    1) The Adventures of Don Juan – Errol Flynn in the role that fit him best; a swashbuckler near the end of a glorious career, but still the man for stopping a tyrant and stealing the heart of a queen. Only Errol Flynn could be convincing as a man who gets away with forgetting the name of a paramour, becomes friends with the dwarf that is the court jester, and an inspiration to the good people of Madrid. Though talented with the sword, Don Juan informs the traitorous Duke de Lorca, “You die by the knife!”
    2) American in Paris – Whether it’s the magic that is Gershwin, the power and poetry that is Kelly, or the fresh charm and delightful grace that is Caron, somehow I can never switch past this movie. The movie evokes Paris without representing it. The love story is not particularly convincing, but the dancing makes up for that. And you get Oscar Levant as well.
    3) Donovan’s Reef – John Wayne was a very funny fellow. He’s too old for the role in Donovan’s Reef, but the switched/mistaken identity plot, the remarkable performance of the unfortunately little known Elizabeth Allen, and Lee Marvin prefiguring half of his Oscar winning performance in Cat Ballou bring such joy to the human heart that you’ll forgive that. The moral of the story drops like a ton of lead and feminist objections can be raised about the conclusion, but I always seem to finish it when I start.
    4) The Lion in Winter – The dialogue sets the standard for wit, savagery, and pathos. Nothing but acting giants in the cast, though clearly Hepburn and O’Toole are the deities here. Stills smells of its stage roots from time to time, but such a pleasure.
    5) That Thing You Do – The music is right, the mood is right, the kids are right. The story, though told to death, is true enough, and it makes me happy to see the right people wind up together.

  73. OK, my favorite movies are movies I can watch over and over again. They aren’t necessarily Oscar quality, but I love them non-the-less:

    Better Off Dead
    Sixteen Candles
    The Breakfast Club
    As Good As It Gets
    Something Has to Give
    The Ring (2nd scariest movie ever made)
    The Exorcist (scariest movie ever made)
    The Descent (have slight fear of caves)
    Halloween (the original and I used to babysit a kid named Michael Meyers)
    Kill Bill Vols. I and II and everything else by Quentin Tarintino
    Every movie Meryl Streep has been in.

  74. Tim @ 46:

    “Lonely Are the Brave (1967)
    Kirk Douglas in fine form as a cowboy lost in modernity.”

    And the film version of Ed Abbey’s Novel The Brave Cowboy which is excellent as a re all his books.

  75. A Man for All Seasons – 1966 version

    Paul Scofield, who played the leading role in the West End stage premiere, played More again in the first of two film versions (1966), winning an Oscar in the process. The film also stars Robert Shaw as Henry VIII, Orson Welles as Wolsey, a young John Hurt as Richard Rich, and an older Wendy Hiller as Lady Alice, More’s second wife. It was directed by Fred Zinnemann. In addition to the Best Actor Oscar won by Scofield, the film won Academy Awards for screenplay, cinematography, costume design, Best Director, and Best Picture. (from Wikipedia)

    The film contains one of my favorite scenes of all time where Thomas More defends the rule of law, even if it means defending the Devil. His son-in-law, Roper, argues the Devil is not entitled to the protections of the law, to which More replies:

    “What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? … And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s, and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

    (My other favorite scene is Jack Nicholson’s Chicken Salad San scene from Five Easy Pieces.)

    1. My vote for best scene ever is from Jaws, where the long monologue about the USS Indianapolis is scarier than most of the “special effects” shark attacks.

  76. A few faves without regard to artistic merit:

    Wonder Boys
    Bull Durham
    Shawshank Redemption
    Marathon Man
    Burn After Reading
    No Country For Old Men
    Reign Over Me
    The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
    Raiders of the Lost Ark
    Y Tu Mama Tambien (I’m with you on this one)
    High Fidelity
    War, Inc.
    Blade Runner
    Escape From New York
    Dr. Strangelove
    V for Vendetta
    A Day Without A Mexican
    Most anything Pedro Almodovar has done

  77. The Ten Commandments (Charlton Heston & Yul Brynner)
    North by Northwest (Cary Grant)
    Cool Hand Luke (Paul Newman)
    Easy Rider (Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper)
    Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (Newman & Redford)
    Patton (George C. Scott)
    Blade Runner (Harrison Ford)
    Terminator (Ahnold)
    Dead Poets Society (Robin Williams)
    A Few Good Men (Cruise & Nicholson)
    Unforgiven (Eastwood & Hackman)
    Good Will Hunting (Matt Damon)
    Man on Fire (Denzel Washington)
    Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) 1994
    Band of Brothers (miniseries)
    Shogun (miniseries)
    Godfather I (Brando & Pacino) & II (Pacino & DeNiro)
    Jerry McGuire (Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger)
    Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino)
    The Graduate (Dustin Hoffman)
    *Little Big Man (Dustin Hoffman)

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