Tuesday, December 20, 2005

All-Time Top 10

Galley Friend J.E. and I have been trading emails about the state of Hollywood--I'm more optimistic than he is. J.E. wanted to know how many movies in recent years could come close to touching classic status. I say that there aren't many, but that there are some. All of which is prelude to asking:

What are your Top 10 movies, all-time? I'll be interested to see how readers weight their lists and how modern cinema fares. I'd ask you to take your time a bit with these--spend a few minutes thinking about it. This post isn't going anywhere.

To help you out, there's the Oscar database, which is wonderful to browse, but that should only be a start. Anyway, to start things, here's my tentative list, which I reserve the right to edit at a later date:

(1) Casablanca - You may have something else in your top slot, but it's hard to argue against it.

(2) The Philadelphia Story - After more than 60 years, it's still laugh-out-loud funny. Not one joke relies on contemporary culture; the acting can't be touched; and if you aren't misty at the end, then you're a robot.

(3) North by Northwest - The best written of the Hitchcock films, it has genuine funny mixed with great suspense and incredible creative economy.

(4) The Godfather - Everything everyone says about it is true. Maybe the most quintessentially American story of the century. Beautiful and immersive.

(5) Citizen Kane - Amazing that a movie as durable and powerful as this hasn't become overrated. It's another classic American tale, told very, very well.

My top 5 is pretty locked down in a rough cardinality, but for the bottom half of my top 10, there's no real point to ranking them, so here they are in alphabetical order:

* Chinatown - So dark, so twisting, so startling. If it had included this line from the sequel--"In this town, I'm the leper with the most fingers."--then it might have been in the top 5.

* Fellowship of the Ring - In a few years I may want to drop this down, out of the top 10, but it's so taut, so exciting, so forceful, so exquisite that I'm just as likely to want to move it up. At the very least, it's the best film of the last 20 years.

* The Godfather, Part II - In many ways better than the first. Shows how well glamour and evil get along.

* The Insider - Very quiet, very unassuming, it creeps up on you. The glowing blue dots that become golf balls sitting on a range under the moonlight; Bruce McGill exploding in the courtroom; Christopher Plummer giving the most perfect and honest portrayal of vanity ever committed to celluloid.

* Sense and Sensibility - It teeters on the edge of sadness, but never goes over the brink. It's a happy movie that isn't "uplifting." And it features Alan Rickman, as a hero.

But that's just me. Now it's your turn. Discuss.


Anonymous said...

Sense and Sensibility? I didn't realize that Jonathan could be a girl's name.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to put Animal House in my list........

Well crafted script, everyman characters......

Anonymous said...

What about Shakes the Clown? The Citizn Kane of Alcoholic Clown Movies...

The characters, the well crafted dialog that is timeless, its brilliant depiction of the eternal conflict between rodeo clowns and party clowns...


Anonymous said...

In no particular order:

Five Easy Pieces
The Wild Bunch
The Deer Hunter
Local Hero
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Stand By Me
Raising Arizona

Dean Barnett said...


Anonymous said...

The Godfather Parts I & II
The Star Wars Trilogy (not the prequels)
L.A. Confidential
North by Northwest
His Girl Friday
It's a Wonderful Life
Mississippi Burning

Anonymous said...

Top 4, in order:
Star Wars
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Empire Strikes Back

The rest depend on my mood, what day of the week it is, and other factors. So any 6 from the following list:
Bringing Up Baby
The Godfather
The Conversation
Lost in Translation
Reservoir Dogs
LOTR 1/2/3
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Blues Brothers
All About My Mother
The Terminator
Some Like It Hot
The Maltese Falcon
Groundhog Day
The Wild Bunch
To Catch A Thief

Anonymous said...

Gosh, has anyone here seen a movie they liked that WASN'T IN ENGLISH? Or are those movies just not good enough to crack our personal Top 10s?

Start with Andrei Tarkovsky. Move on to Carl Dreyer. Head over to Robert Bresson. You'll have 10 before you ever make it to classic Hollywood cinema.

Jay D. Homnick said...

In no particular order:

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
The Shawshank Redemption
A Fish Called Wanda
Where The Money Is
Primal Fear
Scent Of A Woman

Sharon deserves two slots, and not just because she takes the trouble to keep up our friendship:

Last Dance

Honorable Mention:
Groundhog Day
The Hudsucker Proxy
The Return of the Pink Panther
There's Something About Mary

(Caveat: Pre-1960 movies don't exist for me; I can't make the adjustment.)

(Postscript: I agree with Barnett. Make Heat #15.)

(P.P.S. Where The Money Is doesn't truly belong up there. I'm just in love with the performances by Newman and Fiorentino. I could watch it again and again.)

(P.P.P.S. The Apostle really belongs on this list. Oy vey!)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Citizen Kane - Amazing that a movie as durable and powerful as this hasn't become overrated.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! Ohmigod... stop it, you're killing me.

The only movies more overrated than Citizen Kane are all the ones from the last ten years that film critics wildly overpraise to fool/guilt the unwashed masses into seeing. Brokeback, Crying Game, Crash, Manchurian Candidate (the remake), Cider House Rules, Traffic, American Beauty, Million Dollar Baby, Good Night and Good Luck, etc.

Field of Dreams is overrated, too. Not as much as CK, because you can at least find people who will admit that it sucks.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's because I never saw the entire movie until relatively recently, but, although I like Casablanca very much, I could never put it in my own top ten list. I watch it and think, "Nice cinematography, funny lines, clever construction, and Ingrid Bergman was so beautiful." But I never get lost in the movie, and therefore I'm never deeply moved by it.

Very courageous of you to choose Sense and Sensibility. I agree with you there.

I have a question for both you and Mr. Matus: If you could re-write Godfather III, what would be your alternate plot outline?

Peter said...

As far as the not English thing goes, I think it's pretty reasonable for most English speakers to prefer films written in their native tongue. Especially with regards to the fact that most people watch movies for narrative/story rather images/visuals, it's simply going to be more difficult to relate. My favorite non-English films are probably Amelie, City of God and La Femme Nikita, and while I own all of them, none crack my top 10.

The bottom 4 rotate in and out, but today...

Taxi Driver
Blade Runner
Fight Club
Lost in Translation
The Incredibles
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (it's one 10hour film, really)
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Godfather
Full Metal Jacket

Anonymous said...

Here's my list:
1) Casablanca - All you pre-1960 movies don't exist people, watch it, will ya, then say that they don't exist. There has not ever been a better movie made.
2) It's a Wonderful Life - This Christmas season this movie has touched me more than any other.
3) The Godfather Saga - This was the made for TV version that put the saga in chronological order. Leave out part III and it is even better.
4) Lord of the Rings Trilogy - In extended version it is an amazing epic production, and best enjoyed over a week, as sitting and watching all eleven or so hours of the film is trying.
5) The Insider - This is Michael Mann's finest, and he is my favorite director of all time.
6) North by Northwest - Splendid Hitchcock classic.
7) The Sting - Redford and Newman love their work.
8) The Shawshank Redemption - This was higher, but if I had a nickel for every time Bill Simmons mentioned how great Shawshank is....
9) Saving Private Ryan - I amy get much disagreement, but this in my opinion was Speilberg's most powerful film.
10) The Usual Suspects -I remember watching it for the first time, spell bound by the story and thinking one way then buying the head fake, hard and saying afterwards, I knew it. I knew it.

Honorable mentions Collateral, Heat, Last of the Mohicans, (Did I mention I like Michael Mann's work) Goodfellas, We Were Soldiers, A Bronx Tale, Sleepers, Groundhog Day, The Caine Mutiny, The Maltese Falcon, The Good the Bad and the Ugly (in spite of the horrible voice dubbing), Julius Caesar, Empire Strikes Back, The Apostle, Duck Soup, Secondhand Lions.

Nice topic, JVL.

Anonymous said...

Because he gets no props from anyone, i'm going to toss in Neil Labute's "In the Company of Men"
It's incredible.

Anonymous said...

Godfathers I & II, and Goodfellas are definitely the first three I always think of. After that, there are a lot of favorites, but not a lot of distinction between them in my mind. Without having my DVD collection nearby, I'd have to say:

Fellowship of the Rings

Raging Bull

The Verdict

12 Angry Men

The Green Mile


Man, I know I'm leaving out a bunch of good ones but just can't think of them right now.

As an aside, based on the earlier comment about Godfather III, back in 1990 I obtained a copy of one of the original scripts, later rewritten many times before the
final version. It had Tom Hagen in it and I'm pretty sure Michael got shot on the steps of the opera instead of his daughter. It's been a long time since I've read it, although I do remember liking it more than the film.

Anonymous said...

My 2 cents.

1. Babette's Feast - the best movie on grace and the Incarnation ever.

2. Jason and the Argonauts - because I love stop motion photography and this is Harryhausen's best.

3. The Lord of the Rings - best epic ever

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark - it's just so much fun!

5. The Thin Man - funny as can be and the chemistry between Myrna Loy and William Powell is one of the screen's best.

6. Sense and Sensibility - my favorite Austen film (Alan Rickman - sigh)

7. Notorious - my favorite Hitchcock film. Great story and excellent acting by Claude Rains

8. Out of the Past - great film noir, it doesn't get much better than this.

9. Our Hospitality - I know The General gets all the praise, but this is my own favorite Keaton film

10. (to be decided later)

Ralphie said...

Here's 15 (I'm weak):

The Sound of Music
History of the World, Part I
They Live (best sci-fi ever)
The Quarrel
Schindler's List
The Untouchables
Annie Hall
The Sixth Sense
Boyz in da Hood
Raging Bull
Pulp Fiction
Back to the Future

Anonymous said...

I have a tough time choosing between favorites and best films. But here's an eminently watchable list of great, favorite films of mine--except the last, which is disputably great but definitely a favorite.

1. The Third Man

2. Rear Window

3. Aliens

4. Best Years of Our Lives

5. Singin in the Rain

6. His Girl Friday

7. The China Syndrome

8. Big Deal on Madonna Street

9. The Fugitive

10. Moulin Rouge

My blog entry here.

Anonymous said...

Whoops--posted my response on the wrong blog entry. Here's my list:

1. The Third Man
2. Rear Window
3. Aliens
4. Best Years of Our Lives
5. Singin in the Rain
6. His Girl Friday
7. The China Syndrome
8. Big Deal on Madonna Street
9. The Fugitive
10. Moulin Rouge (the only debatable "great" entry, but I am very fond of it.)

Blog entry here.

Brian Moore said...

Regarding Bruce McGill - a great character actor - one of my fondest New Orleans memories is seeing him at Jean Lafitte's on Bourbon Street, getting trashed and smoking butts like it was his last night on Earth.

He was yukking it up pretty good, too - glassy eyed but having a ton of fun.

His loud Hawaiian shirt seals the memory.

Aaron Hanscom said...


Lost in Translation


Best in Show


Groundhog Day

Hoop Dreams


Any movie without Jake Gyllenhall also deserves recognition.