These are my favorites. They aren’t all my favorites, but they represent a good chunk of the films I want to watch again. And again. The most obvious element they share are brilliant scripts.
For me, first and foremost, it’s always about the words. I give extra points for wit and humor, even more points for inside jokes, cleverness, and quotable dialogue. All of these movies have these qualities. I also give extra credit for a great score and amazing cinematography and all of these have those elements too.
I have watched each of these many times. I keep discovering new things to love about them. Of course, there are plenty of other movies I love and not enough space or time for me to write about them all.
I guarantee, you can’t go wrong with any of these ten great ones.
THE LION IN WINTER
Awesome performances by everyone, from Hepburn and O’Toole, to Anthony Hopkins in his first screen role. Wonderful script and matchless screen chemistry. It’s not accurate history … but the interaction of the members of the family is surprisingly close if you want to examine only the emotional content. In the end, it’s all about the performances.
From top to bottom, every performance is extraordinary. Hepburn got an Oscar, one of three wins for the film. Many more nominations plus three Golden Globes. All well-deserved.
THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY
Paddy Chayevsky‘s script is among the best movie scripts of all time. Add superb performances by James Garner and Julie Andrews in her first dramatic role. The whole movie would be worth it just for Garner’s monologue on war. But there’s so much more. It’s funny, sharp, downright brilliant.
The cast knew they’d never have a better job. All of them list this movie as the favorite or as one of the top one or two of their professional lives. Roles like this don’t come along often in any actor’s career. The actors showed their appreciation by working their hearts out. Everyone is at the top of his or her game.
This is one of those movies that I like better each time I watch it … and I watch it often. We can recite dialogue with it. It’s got everything you want a western to have: passion, revenge, violence, humor and brilliant cinematography. It’s Val Kilmer’s best performance and arguably Kurt Russell’s shining moment.
This is my go to movie if I need a revenge and violence fix. It manages to have a satisfying body count without the gore. I like that in a movie.
A MIGHTY WIND
Maybe it isn’t one of the all time greatest films, but reminds me of some of the best of times in my life as well as music I dearly love.
It’s funny, often laugh-out-loud hilarious, a loving parody. It’s a warm-hearted and nostalgic look at a time many of us look back on with great affection. The music manages to be humorous and good — a difficult act to pull off.
Not the most original choice, but it’s so good and it has worn well despite the years. We saw it on the big screen not long ago. Wonderful. It’s pure mythology, but it’s the way we wish it had been. I need heroes.
Three Oscar wins — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay plus nominations for just about every member of the cast. Seeing it on the big screen was like seeing it for the first time and gave me an even better appreciation of the brilliant script.
It’s hard to pick only one Mel Brooks movie, but if I have to choose, this is it.
It was a tough choice. “Young Frankenstein,” “High Anxiety,” and “History of the World, Part I” are right up there too. “Blazing Saddles” wins because it’s got some of the all-time great movie lines. That’s HEDLEY Lamar!
Science fiction movies usually disappoint me because they aren’t science fiction, but westerns in space using spacecraft for horses, featuring millions of dollars of special effects, but no script. This is all acting. A fine script, wonderful performances, romantic, touching and believable. A great performance by Jeff Bridges. And I almost forgot to mention the haunting score.
It’s the best kind of science fiction … concept and character based. Unforgettable. It’s by far the best movie John Carpenter ever made and ranks as one of the best science fiction movies ever made by anyone.
THE THREE AND FOUR MUSKETEERS (1973 – 1974)
I know they were issued as two movies, but they were filmed as one. The stars of the film(s) sued the studios since they had only been paid for one movie, and they won. Nonetheless, both movies play like a single film in two parts. You can’t watch one without the other. They keep remaking it, but none of the others come near this version. It’s fast, funny, and surprisingly true to the books.
Dumas would have been pleased. I love the sword fights. I used to fence in college, and this has some of the best choreographed fencing I’ve ever seen. It’s not the elegant fencing you usually see, but brawling — the way men really fought — not to get points for good form, but to win without getting sliced up.
THE SEVENTH SEAL
Not everyone is quite as enthralled with the 14th century as I am. The Black Death, the split papacy, the brigands, the inflation, the complete depopulation of regions … and the crazed religious fervor that gripped the western world is not everyone’s idea of a fun movie.
And I’m not a big fan of Ingmar Bergman. I admire his work, but mostly find it too intense and depressing. This is the exception. Probably it’s the history buff in me, but better than any other movie I’ve ever seen (except for the obscure “A Walk With Love and Death”), it portrays the mood and feeling of this strange century that was the end of everything and the beginning of everything else.
The black and white photography is breathtaking, the performances (yes, the movie is in Swedish with subtitles — deal with it) are wonderful. The Knight is playing chess with death every night and as long as he keeps playing and doesn’t lose, his little band will survive.
If you haven’t seen it and aren’t completely allergic to foreign movies with subtitles … and especially if you have a taste for medieval history, you should see it.
It’s one of just a handful of movies about which Garry and I disagree. He doesn’t argue about its quality. It’s just too dark for his taste. Which considering some of the movies he loves, that seems a bit out of character. Every once in a while he will watch it with me. I keep hoping he’ll change his mind.
OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR
I saw “Oh! What a Lovely War” in the theater when it was released in 1969 and never forgot it. Based on the long-running British stage production, it’s World War I – in song, dance and irony. Its catchy score sticks in your brain. The songs are those sung by the troop during that long war. The cast includes everyone who was anyone in British stage or screen during the 1960s. The credits are a who’s-who of English actors.
Says the movie at the beginning: “The principal statements made by the historical characters in this film are based on documentary evidence, and the words of the songs are those sung by the troops during the First World War.”
Did General Haig, when looking at the staggering loss of life on both sides, really say: “in the end, the Germans will have 5,000 men and we will have 10,000, so we will have won.”? Apparently he not only said it, he meant it.
The war is told with music and dancing. Songs are mixed with pithy comments by generals, kings, Kaisers and occasionally, soldiers. It’s a long movie — 144 minutes — and I can promise you that you will have a far better and more visceral understanding of World War I after watching it … even if you already know your history. It was the war to end all wars. Until the next war. And the one after that.
I am a movie junkie but I have never seen or heard of a majority of these films
Many young people haven’t seen any of the classics … or anything in black and white … or anything made before they were old enough to go to the movies. That’s the value of posts like this — to introduce you to great movies that you otherwise may never know about.
Some of these are arguably a bit obscure — in this generation — but you’ve REALLY never heard of Casablanca? It’s SO famous that’s hard to believe.
I have seen Casablanca before. My local movie theatre plays older films every wed night
Lucky you. Ours does too, but a lot of the stuff they show is not very good. They made just as many bad movies in the old days as they do now.
Ours shows mainly the box office blockbuster like gone with the wind
I have not seen all of these, but probably should. Casablanca in my number 1. Starman was really good. I liked that it was different. Blazing Saddles will make my list of best comedies. I missed some of the dialogue in the theater as people were laughing so loud.
They are all great movies. I’ll watch anything about the middle ages unless I hear it’s very bad … in which case I save myself the aggravation and don’t. But not everyone is thrilled about the 14th century and A Mighty Wind is really aimed at the boomer generation. It was such a wonderful piece of nostalgia. They are all classics and you aren’t going wrong with any of them 🙂
I night have to check out a couple of these movies. I adore Blazing Saddles!!! 🙂
I actually bought the whole Mel Brooks collection. Whenever we need a laugh, that’s what we watch! That and Airplane, Hot Shots Deux and a few other great comedies.
Great choices. I’ll be your huckleberry.
You are the core of my apple and the pit of my peach 🙂
Some wonderful movies – Classics. Pass on Saddles tho – have not seen 7th Seal (have to fix that) – Heston as Richelieu (nice call), Lion in Winter (Extraordinary!) …
Not everything is everyone’s cuppa tea … but they are all really fine movies and worth at least a viewing 🙂 I LOVE the Musketeers … and Richelieu was a perfect role for Heston. For once, he wasn’t a hero.
I really enjoyed reading this, Marilyn. Such an interesting and diverse collection of films. It was lovely to reacquaint myself with a few old favourites, but even better, in many ways, to learn about films I have never seen/heard of. ‘The Seventh Seal’ very much appeals to the Mediaevalist in me! Thanks for sharing. xxx
I tried to pick my favorite in each genre. But I notice that almost all of them have some sort of historical context. Hmm. Whatever could that mean?
Funny, we tried making that list at the weekend… but really couldn’t trim it back to double figures 🙂
So many great movies. It wasn’t an easy list to make. There are dozens more that should be on it.
We cam to the conclusion you’d need at least a top ten in every genre 🙂
I agree, but that would be ten posts as the very least and I’m not sure anyone is quite that interested 🙂
Perhaps not… though we spent a whole evening happily debating them 🙂
Oh, around here, movies are a constant hot topic. Garry is The Maven!
He’d get on well with Stuart when he’s here then 🙂
I have never seen Blazing Saddles. I guess I should make a point to see it.
It’s funny. Weirdly, I didn’t like it when it first came out but over the years, I kept seeing it and liking it more and more until it got to the top ten and there it has stayed!
Yes you should.., absolutely, and not a moment too soon either…