Here's the list my brother, Ramon Moore, has come up with. It's NOT in order of preference, hence no numbers. We had maybe a dozen duplicate titles, and there were perhaps a dozen more i had considered for my list but didn't make the cut. i'll give you a taste below; more after the jump...
Silent Running- Douglas Trumbull/ 1972
One of the first movies which comes to mind when someone asks for my favorite. This alone makes it worthy of the top 100. I am unfazed by the complaint that this film is heavy handed, or depressing. As a longtime fan of the Twilight Zone I can deal with heavy handed morality tales and I find the ending somewhat hopeful. Bruce Dern is really outstanding in a veritable one man show, and Peter Schickele (sans the powdered wig of PDQ Bach) wrote a solid score. This film is the forerunner of a number of less effective Environmental warnings, most of which cannot even come close to the emotional charge of this one.
The Adventures Of Robin Hood- Michael Curtiz/ 1938
It’s Errol Flynn!!! The greatest costumed adventure movie of all time with Flynn at his best, and the best collection of supporting actors you could ever assemble to help out. Rathbone and Raines are as evil as evil can be. Olivia DeHavilland is perfect as Marion (I defy you to find me an actress who could hiss with more contempt than she could). Gorgeously garish sets and costumes perfectly utilize the Technicolor and one of Korngold’s finest scores. The cinematography and choreography in this movie are flawless. I also love the dialog in this film. The Marvel comic heroes of my youth spouted the same type of glib phrases while fighting for justice. I wonder where that came from.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail- Terry Gilliam/Terry Jones 1975
Monty Python’s Life of Brian- Terry Jones 1979
I could not choose between these two and can justify both on the list. There is nothing more iconic in comedy of that period than The Holy Grail is. It so indented and infused my brain (and the brains of everyone of my generation) that half of the movie’s dialogue could be retrieved simply by asking a random 40 something pedestrian to report the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. As for Life of Brian, I could absolutely argue that it is a better and funnier picture. The problem is that while I can recall laughing harder when first seeing Life of Brian than I have ever laughed (before or since) in a theater. I had seen The Holy Grail so many times by that point that I could not remember exactly the impact that it first had!
Eight Men Out- John Sayles 1988
I would not argue that this is Sayles’ best film, but it does have that trademark ensemble cast and top notch acting across the board. The balanced script and appealing (to me) subject matter give it the slightest edge over other Sayles projects.
Field of Dreams- Phil Alden Robinson 1989
It’s a Baseball Thing!
Moby Dick- John Houston 1956
Ray Bradbury and John Houston combine to write a near perfect script for an almost impossible project. Casting is spot on, right down to Orson Wells as the Preacher and Royal Dano as Elija. Every moment of this movie is tightly controlled and measured. John Houston’s decision to redub the tavern keeper’s voice with his own is a great example.
The Killer- John Woo 1990
Not a subtle movie, but subtlety is not what you are looking for from John Woo. This was the first of his movies I saw and is still my favorite.
The African Queen- John Houston 1951
The Treasure of Sierra Madre- John Houston 1948
It seems strange to me that when anyone says Humphry Bogart I first think of Cassablanca or The Big Sleep, or those films which most other people love the most. Secondarily I think of these two Bogart films which made me really appreciate him as an actor. The two that I love the most. These two films see Bogart in full character mode. By this I mean that he is free from the need to dance around with the sexual chemistry which is so vital to most of his films. The Treasure of Sierra Madre is a character study with no such trappings and the African Queen only evolves into a love story in the most gradual and natural of ways. One of the things that really makes this film work is that Hepburn and Bogart are so clearly on the same page as far as this decision goes, and it allows the characters to evolve in a richer manner than the more typical romance.
I knew that I was a John Houston fan, but it really drives it home when you start a list like this.
Stand By Me- Rob Reiner 1986
One of the most heartfelt coming of age movies ever made. Rob Reiner has made several films worthy of consideration but this movie struck a chord with me as few others have.
The Outsiders- Francis Ford Coppola 1983
My favorite Coppola film (and let’s not get into the Godfather debate). Only Coppola could have made a film this gorgeous and timeless while keeping a nostalgic feel and supporting a story both personal and melodramatic. Who else would, in the 80’s , use that type of matt or saturate the colors like that?!?
The Trouble with Harry- Alfred Hitchcock 1955
As much as I love Hitchcock this is the only film of his to make my list. Many critics and film snobs trash this movie, but I must defend it. Less ambitious than some others, sure, but what it does is weave macabre subject matter into a delightful romp better than any other movie I can think of. Even Arsnic and Old Lace does not have the flow or controlled pacing that this movie has. Maybe it’s just me.
Used Cars- Robert Zemeckis 1980
Perhaps the greatest “Lowbrow” comedy ever made. All I can say is that I have introduced a considerable number of first time viewers to this movie from all age groups, and never found anyone who did not think that this movie was funny!
Police Story (Ging Chaat Goo Si)- Jackie Chan 1985
Along with Project A, this film might be the perfect example of Chan’s effortless acrobatics used for comic effect. The stunts may be more death defying in other movies , but they are used to perfect effect here. Maggie Cheung is also irresistible as May.
Rashoman- Akira Kurasawa 1950
I think that this was the third Kurasawa film I saw (following Yojimbo and the Seven Samurai) but it is still the one that impresses me the most in terms of pure storytelling.
They Might be Giants- Anthony Harvey 1971
The Lion in Winter might have gotten Harvey the Oscar nomination, but this little film is closer to my heart. Joanne Woodward couldn’t be better as Dr. Watson and I can always watch George C. Scott. I must not be the only one out there to love this movie. Try to get a copy of it and see what it costs you!
The Hustler- Robert Rossen 1961
Speaking of George C. Scott…
Actually, with all of the sterling qualities of this movie it is Jackie Gleason who locks me into watching it every time. You can watch him in this film and not even see his expression change, yet you feel him flicker through a range of conflicting emotion. It’s fascinating …and moving!
Pinnochio- Hamilton Luske/Ben Sharpsteen 1940
Everyone has one. A Disney movie that is truly etched into them from childhood. This is mine, and the scenes with Monstro are still awesome to this day.
Captain Blood- Michael Curtiz 1935
Not as polished as other Flynn swashbucklers but an incredibly exuberant film and that is what a swashbuckler is all about!
The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge)- Albert Lamorisse 1956
I think that this was a favorite of all my siblings growing up, but the director’s son, Pascal, has always reminded me of my brother, Paco, so I am particularly fond of this touching little film.
Ship of Fools- Stanley Kramer1965
I am a big Stanley Kramer fan. I must have had a half dozen of his movies under consideration. I even considered Bless the Beasts and Children; until I finally admitted to myself that it was more due to my fondness for the Glendon Swarthout novel than that the movie was so compelling. Ship of Fools, on the other hand, is a movie I can watch endlessly. What a cool and varied cast. Michael Dunn, Lee Marvin and Vivian Lee in what plays like a Greek drama.
King of Comedy- Martin Scorsese 1983
Both Taxi Driver and Raging Bull got some consideration from me, but this less famed Scorsese picture is my favorite.
Quiz Show- Robert Redford 1994
Simply Redford’s best film (I don’t really think that it is even close). Ralph Fiennes’ best performance to date and a stunning collection of supporting performances led by John Turturro and Paul Scofield. Basically flawless.
A Midsummernight’s Dream- William Dieterle/Max Reinhardt 1935
One of the best adaptations of Shakespeare ever filmed and one more reason to marvel at James Cagney’s versatility as an actor.
Star Wars- George Lucas 1977
With all of the multigenerational hype around this and it’s sequels only people who were there in the theaters when it was first released can truly know what an impact this film had. Even a batch of putrid follow-ups could not diminish what this film did.
Clerks- Kevin Smith 1994
This is what indie films are really about. With virtually no budget Kevin Smith created a really honest and funny look at a few relatively normal people. It deserves its cult classic status.
A Night on Earth- Jim Jarmusch 1991
I think that basically my whole family is one big Jim Jarmusch fan club. I chose this film because it made the greatest impression on me before I really knew who Jim Jarrmusch was. In short, it made me a fan.
Aliens- James Cameron 1986
This is an odd one since I remember going to the opening of Ridley Scott’s “Alien” much more vividly than I remember first seeing this movie. For me, however, this is one of the finest sequels ever made, and I can watch it over and over again for pure fun. I could just watch loops of Bill Paxton whining and crying for hours.
Knightriders- George Romero 1981
This is the movie that separates real Romero fans from those who just like zombies (yes, more so than Martin). A surprisingly rich morality and cautionary tale with real acting! All those who are anachronistic romantics at heart love this movie, and many who are not love it just as much!
Village of the Damned- Wolf Rilla 1960
While John Carpenter’s remake was not bad by Hollywood remake standards, it cannot hold a candle to the original. This is one of two really good film adaptations of John Wyndham novels of this period (along with 1962’s Day of the Triffids). I am fond of both, but this film is more successfully atmospheric.
The Haunting- Robert Wise 1963
Speaking of atmosphere… This movie exists, and succeeds, on pure atmosphere. It really is impressive to watch it work even on the eleventyseventh viewing!
Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (Se Ying Diu Sau)- Woo-Ping Yeun 1978
Long before his action choreography brought him fame in this country for the Matrix Yeun was directing this breakout Jackie Chan picture. I remember sitting in the Northgate Theater and watching this one when it was first released in the US. WOW! Instant Chan Fan!!! Plus Neal Adams poster art!
Birdman of Alcatraz- John Frankenheimer 1962
Forget the crap that Frankenheimer has directed in recent rears (say the last 25) this was before he turned into a borderline hack. That being said it is not so much about the direction with this film. It is about Burt Lancaster given a script which he really sinks his teeth into. There are certainly other great Lancaster performances, but this was the one I remember from when I was a kid. This is the first film where I sat there and thought (after it was over) about what the art of acting really was.
Slingblade- Billy Bob Thornton 1996
I have a fondness for films that are truly and uniquely American. This is, and must be, an American film. There is not a single moment in this film where I think it goes off track. Not in the performances, nor the scripting, nor the sets, nothing is left floating or seems out of place.
Fargo- Joel and Ethan Coen 1996
Another film which is uniquely American. There is great debate about which Coen brothers film is actually the best. I think that it is this one and it also happens to be my favorite.
Swing Time- George Stevens 1936
I was finally vindicated when this year’s AFI top 100 films of all time came out and this film was on it. For years I have argued (mostly to people who couldn’t care less) that this is a better film than Top Hat (which is certainly a great film). Even without Edward Everett Horton this film surpasses the other Astaire/Rogers pictures. Jerome Kern’s music is better than the music in any of the other Astaire/Rogers films, and that is saying something!
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring-Peter Jackson 2001
It is more than rare that any filmmaker can truly capture the feel of any book, much less a book of this magnitude. Jackson accomplished the near impossible with this adaptation. All three films are really strong. The truth is that I always felt that the first book was the strongest so it is not surprising that this is my favorite of the three films.
Brewster McCloud- Robert Altman 1970
Of all of Altman’s great films it is this little one that I hold closest to my heart. It is perhaps my favorite insidious counterculture film (even better than Harold and Maude). It really does have all of the usual Altman trappings as far as the large and eclectic cast and the energetic dialog, but it has a more overtly transcendent/fantasy setting from Doran Cannon’s script which is less standard for Altman. This is apparently off-putting to most film critics. Just look at the Way they turned on Popeye…another Altman film which I think is really underappreciated.
Tales from the Hood- Rusty Cundieff 1995
This is the best of all of the “Tales” type movies (…from the Crypt, …from the Dark Side, etc). Spike Lee is credited only as the Executive Producer but this movie has a wonderful feel for characters throughout the different vignettes which is a Lee hallmark. The movie is funny (really funny), horrific and socially dedicated. In most films of its type you would be happy to get one out of three!
The Time Machine- George Pal 1960
This is the one. The H.G. Wells adaptation that got the balance right. David Duncan’s screenplay adds the pace and energy which Well’s style lacks (for purposes of film) without losing touch of the intent of the work. Pal’s skills at melding special effects (which still hold up today) with perfectly chosen cast of actors (most of whom I have little use for in other films) does the rest. Like other Pal films, he doesn’t need great actors. He needs the right actors. This film just seems to me to avoid the pitfalls which damage other adaptations of Wells. The 2002 version of this story is well acted, but strays so far from the book that it is basically moot. Things to Come (1936) is a visually impressive film, but that story is even more heavy handed than the Time Machine and the style of that period makes it a little too preachy, even for me! War of the Worlds (1953) is an enjoyable movie, but does not carry the full terror of the invasion necessary to make such a film really work. It does do a better job than Spielberg’s lame and effects laden 2005 failure. Basically Hollywood has tied dozens of times and this is the one that really works!
The Stunt Man- Richard Rush 1980
It seems like this black comedy treasure has largely been forgotten. I have no idea why. At the time it was well regarded by many and people fell over themselves to praise Peter O’Toole’s performance, which is, indeed, grand! It does not feel dated to me, and, hey…Steve Railsback!!!
City Hunter (Sing si lip yan)- Jing Wong 1993
I know, I know! Even Jackie Chan doesn’t like this movie! I, on the other hand, LOVE IT! Its silliness is ridiculously over the top as is appropriate for a manga adaptation. That plays right into Jackie’s wheelhouse as I see it. The stunts in this film are top notch Chan and the fight choreography is superb. This move has 2 scenes, either of which is entertaining enough to make this movie memorable. I can’t even describe the Scene with Chingmy Yau and who wouldn’t want to see Jackie ape the characters from the Street Fighter video game?
Cinema Paradiso (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso)- Giuseppe Tornatore 1988
I have never met a human being that did not like this movie. One thing is for certain. If I ever do meet one (assuming that they are, indeed, human) they are not film fans!
Serial Mom- John Waters 1994
I don’t think that John Waters has lost his edge over the years. In fact, while I understand why some fans prefer his older, rawer pictures, I really think that the polish of his newer films works well. This is a great example, though with films as quirky as his everyone is going to have a different favorite. I strongly considered Crybaby for this list as well.
Evil Dead 2- Sam Raimi 1987
Much as I love Army of Darkness, this is still funnier!
A Christmas Carol- Brian Desmond Hurst 1951
Not only does this movie boast the best Scrooge in Alastair Sim, but the best Bob Cratchett in Mervyn Johns, the best Mrs Dilber in Kathleen Harris and by far the best Marley in Michael Hordem. I have to love a film which has become such a family tradition as this one.
To Kill a Mockingbird- Robert Mulligan 1962
Everyone likes this movie, and for good reason.
Radio Flyer- Richard Donner 1992
I am a Richard Donner Fan and while he has never directed a movie that I consider great, there are a couple which strike a cord with me. This movie might be a bit saccharine for some people, but not me.
Theater of Blood- Douglas Hickox 1973
My favorite of many enjoyable Vincent Price performances. This movie is surprisingly effective for it’s time. Just a touch darker and more unsettling than a host of similar projects and Diana Rigg is always a pleasure to watch!
Do the Right Thing- Spike Lee 1989
Several Spike Lee movies were contenders for this list. . Like so many people, this movie made me keep an eye out for everything this guy did and I have never yet seen a Spike Lee film that was not worth my time. That cannot be said about many filmmakers! Besides, it gives me a way to get a John Savage movie onto the list!
Inherit the Wind- Stanley Kramer 1960
Another reason to be a fan of Kramer. This is a great example of his ability to modulate performances. His social commentary films of this type are orchestral in construction and he couldn’t have a better lead musician than Spencer Tracy.
Remains of the Day- James Ivory 1993
Where do I begin? When I first saw this film a couple of things really struck me. The first was that while I had always liked Anthony Hopkins as an actor this was another plane. To this day I consider this performance as, arguably, the finest acting performance which I have ever seen on film. I do not make this statement lightly and I have to say that the other performances in this film (Emma Thompson particularly) are not so very far behind in quality. The second reason for my fondness for this movie is that a strategy I had been employing for some time really paid off in this case. When I see a film which is based upon a book and which really impresses me I try to remember the author and go out and get some other novel by that author. It is basically pointless for me to try to get an opinion of the writer while dragging the images of film into my reading. In this case I saw the movie and thought how brilliant it was to frame the life of an English butler in terms akin to a Samurai. When the credits rolled and I saw the name of the author it all made sense, I had never heard of Kazuo Ishiguro (I don’t really read that much contemporary non-genre fiction) so I got one of his books, then another, and another…
I found a new author to love and that is worth a slot on the list by itself! Incidentally, Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” is one of the finest novels I have ever read.
Opera- Dario Argento 1987
I might get a little heat for this one from Horror snobs who would always favor Deep Red or Susperia. However, this is my list so I am going with this movie which I think is just as stylish as his earlier films and I got to see it in the theater!
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead- Tom Stoppard 1993
Another family favorite, this film has some of the most fun and entertaining dialog you have ever heard. A must view for fans Tim Roth or Gary Oldman (or Richard Dreyfuss) because they all are having a blast in this one… and it shows.
Isle of the Dead- Mark Robeson 1941
I love most of the Val Lewton produced movies and it was tough to choose just one. The Greek island setting of this one gives it, I think, and even more foreign and surreal flavor than some of the others, and the wonderful cinematography is there as always. I also consider this Karloff performance one of his best.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wo Hu Cang Long)- Ang Lee 2000
An Ang Lee Martial Epic! That says it all for me! I love basically everyone in the cast which doesn’t hurt either. I had such high hopes for this movie before its release that it says a lot for it that I was not disappointed!
Sullivan’s Travels- Preston Sturges 1941
I have always loved this movie and it was a bit of a shock when our little group was “correcting” the AFI’s top 100 list that I was the only one of our group to see it. The younger members didn’t surprise me so much but Don and Juana and Juana are longtime movie fans and it is very rare for me to have seen any movie which Juana has not seen (at least not any that are more than a couple of years old). I am glad to say that my strongly voiced support for this film was honored by the group and it stayed on the corrected list. There are a lot of reasons why I love this film but one of its unique qualities is that Preston Sturges manages to completely shift gears in the middle of this movie… and make it work! Many films try to do this. In most cases it is an accident and a disaster. In a few it is intentional and a disaster. In this case it is neither an accident nor a disaster!
Angus- Patrick Reed Johnson 1995
This unassuming teen angst film is just better, more charming, more heartfelt, and better balanced than most. It’s sort of like a gender reversed Pretty in Pink. No Harry Dean Stanton here, but Kathy Bates and George C. Scott are more than up to the task.
Pan’s Labyrinth (Laberinto del Fauno, El)- Guillermo de Toro
The most recent film on my favorites list and it didn’t take a lot of consideration. I have liked everything del Toro has done, going back to Cronos (OK Blade 2 was a little soft), but even I didn’t expect this good of a movie this soon!!!
Big Trouble in Little China- John Carpenter 1986
Talk about a film before it’s time. If this movie were released today if would be a gargantuan hit! John Carpenter should send me royalty checks for all the work I put in getting people to see this when it came out. I drove half way across the state to find theaters who were running it, then dragged everyone I knew to see it!
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (Yin Shi Nan Nu)- Ang Lee 1994
I am not saying that this is a better film than the Wedding Banquet. I am saying that this is the movie that cemented my fixation on anything that Ang lee made. The cooking scenes are the greatest ever filmed, and for me, that counts for something! I should blame this movie for the fact that I actually rushed out and saw The Hulk!
Miss Firecracker- Thomas Schlamme 1989
This movie is simply a treat for anyone who loves a little, off kilter movie with great cast of characters brought to life by a perfectly constructed cast. Alfre Woodard (as Popeye) is my favorite, but Scott Glenn, Mary Steenburgen,Tim Robbins, Holly hunter… what more could you want!
The Atomic Café- Jayne Loader/Kevin Rafferty 1982
One of only 2 Documentaries I chose for my list. There might well be more if I was more responsible about watching more of them. This one has all the humor, poignancy and pertinence which you could ask for, plus I remember good times with Juana and Neal watching it for the first time. Let's face it. Nothing is funnier than Nuclear Holocaust, Ignorance and Fear.
Jackknife- David Hugh Jones 1989
As Juana would say… “They be acting their asses off “ in this movie! Basically this film is a less over staged, better scripted, and even more effectively acted look at the post Vietnam vet than the ever-praised “Coming Home”. Ed Harris is as good as it gets, and you can count on Robert DeNiro (as always). The third piece of the acting is puzzle is one of the best never noticed actresses of her generation, Kathy Baker.
Ran- Akira Kurosawa 1985
This film locks you in from the opening shot and is as beautiful as a tragedy can be. The operatic scale of this movie is stunning. One caveat in placing this film on this list is that I have not seen Kagamusha in a very long time (since it’s release, actually) and there is a possibility that if I saw it again it would supplant this film, though I doubt it.
Freaks- Tod Browning 1932
I am truly relieved that we are not obligated to place these favorites in any order. That being said, I hold this film in as high a regard as any film I have ever seen. It does exactly what the very best films do which is to make you really look at yourself. What kind of person are you? What feelings are you proud of and not so proud of? I don’t think that anyone who is honest with themselves can watch this movie and not feel unsatisfied with themselves as human beings. Probably the most disquieting film I have ever seen and among the most mesmerizing.
1941- Steven Spielberg 1979
No doubt Spielberg has directed better films but the question is whether there has ever been a better use of a giant Ferris Wheel with Eddie Deezen in a movie or another film that boasts both Toshiro Mifune and Slim Pickens. Simply a classic!
Roman Holiday- William Wyler 1953
This movie is simply charming. No other word describes the performances or the tone of this movie. It’s as good as this type of film gets.
Ice Cream Man- Paul Norman 1995
Clint Howard gets the Lead!!! This is the quintessential silly horror/comedy with Clint chewing up the scenery and feeding maggots to Kids!!!. Olivia Hussey, David Warner…even Steve Garvey, and including this movie gets Sandahl Bergman on my list even though I didn’t include “Hell comes to Frogtown”.
28 Days Later- Danny Boyle 2002
One of my favorite up and coming directors (I considered including “Sunshine” on this list). We are living in a time of wonderful glory for zombie movies. I have seen more good zombie movies in the last few years than I had seen in my entire life. I think that this is the best of them. It’s like “Night of the Living Dead” meets “On the Beach”!
One Spy Too Many- Joseph Sargent 1966
Hey, it’s the Man from U.N.C.L.E. on the big screen! Actually I saw this movie projected onto the side of a building at the park so I am not sure that qualifies as the big screen. Also, it is merely a couple of TV episodes sew together with some extra footage, but when you are a kid you have to make do so it’s the big screen, and it has Rip Torn!!!
Hard Eight- Paul Thomas Anderson 1996
By far my favorite P.T. Anderson film. It has an infectious nervousness which drives the suspense and the staccato violence which gives a reality to the foreboding mood. Phillip Baker Hall is great, and anchors this twisty noir. He gives it an honesty which could have been lost with a lesser performance. In truth, beneath the noir exterior lays a true character study, which might explain why I love this film even though I am not a great aficionado of film noir.
Defending Your Life- Albert Brooks 1991
I really love several of Albert Brooks’ movies, but when forced to pick I choose this one as my favorite. It certainly survives the repeated viewing test. I watched this movies a few weeks ago and laughed as hard as ever. Rip Torn is terrific and I really like Meryl Streep in comedies, but it is Brooks’ writing which makes this ridiculous premise not only work for comedic effect, but for earnest observations about us all.
Walkabout- Nickolas Reog 1971
I have to admit that I have not paid that much attention to Nicholas Reog in more recent years, but his early stuff was stunning, including this film. I remember seeing this film at the Traverse Theater Drive. Talk about being locked in from the first scene… This movie grabs you! Also, thankfully, this was my introduction to Jenny Agutter, because I think the next time I saw her was in “Logan’s Run” and that would not have made me a fan.
Lili- Charles Walters 1953
It is a little hard to describe my fondness for this film. I think part of it might stem from a strange, dreamlike quality which this film has and I don’t mean this in the superficially pleasing way but, rather, in reference to the unreal and not wholly pleasant way that dreams effect you. Not all happy and light but carrying a darker surreal tone. This movie has the trappings of a more conventional musical. With the romance and the charming ingénue, but its characters are more deeply and realistically flawed than tradition dictates. Mel Ferrer is too tragic a character to fit into a stock musical and Leslie Caron’s Lili is dangerously naive. When the “happy” ending comes it is still somehow not as satisfactorily happy as in other musicals because the characters are not really formulaic enough to fit the mold. I still see trouble on the horizon. I can accept this as a flaw in the movie as I am not so sure that this was intended but, for me, it enriches the film and makes it unique. I also love Kurt Kasznar who you never saw in a lot of films.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame- William Dieterle 1939
Charles Laughton in one of the iconic performances in film history. No one is unmoved by this movie.
Night of the Hunter- Charles Laughton 1955
It is tragic that this is the only film which put Charles Laughton in the director's chair because if this film is any indication ... who knows what could have been. As it is I will settle for perhaps the best pure suspense movie ever shot. Mitchum is perfectly dark and dangerous. He’s even scarier than he is in Cape Fear. That says it all!
Hobson's Choice- David Lean 1954
I conclude my Charles Laughton fan fest with this forgotten gem. This wonderful little family comedy is a far cry from the epics which people think of when talk turns to David Lean, but it is actually my favorite of his films. A special treat for fans of Fawlty Towers as you get to see young Prunella Scales!
Father Goose- Ralph Nelson 1964
There are a few Cary Grant performances which I can watch endlessly but I am a sucker for the slightly older, curmudgeonly Grant and I think that this is the best of those films. Leslie Caron's quiet aloofness is a more perfect foil than say Sophia Loren's more effusive character in "Houseboat" and Trevor Howard is perfect as the paternally manipulative commander.
The Wicker Man- Robin Hardy 1973
A true cult classic and truly unique film. What can I say except... Holy Shit! Some Idiot (Neal Labute) remade this movie without having the slightest idea what the film was about!
Marty- Delbert Mann 1955
The quintessential Paddy Chayefsky script and sterling performances from both Betsy Blair and Ernest Borgnine. That's right. There was a point in time when Ernie actually acted. Younger filmgoers might assume that he was always the cartoonish figure that they have grown to love (or hate) but there are a couple of older films which might come as a bit of a surprise. This movie is simple and touching in the way of the best Chayefsky work. Not a lot of frills but it really works. It also is the only time I ever remember Jerry Paris appearing in a film.
Support Your Local Sheriff - Burt Kennedy 1969
The perfect James Garner vehicle and another movie which I first saw at the Traverse City drive In. An unpretentious comedy which is written for Garner’s self deprecating style and includes perfect supporting cast including Joan Hackett, Walter Brennan and Bruce Dern. The Sequel is nearly as good.
Much Ado About Nothing- Kenneth Branaugh 1993
I think that this is the best Shakespeare adaptation to film, and certainly the best comedy. Branaugh brings enough experienced cast with him to bolster the Hollywood cast members and he keeps the pace of the dialog from the stage. The pacing in this film is almost as fast as seeing it performed on stage but with the more elaborate settings and shots which film allows.
4 Little Girls- Spike Lee 1997
Spike Lee takes on the bombing of the 16th street church in Birmingham in 1963. One of the best documentaries you will ever see.
Enter the Dragon- Robert Clouse 1973
I must admit that I still stop and watch this movie when it's on. A true classic with the added bonus that by adding this movie I can eswage my guilt at not including "Deadly China Doll" as this movie at least has Angela Mau in it!
Brotherhood of the Wolf (Pacte des Loups, Le)- Christopher Gans 2001
What if Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had been a French movie? That is how I look at this film. All of the sublimated passion of Ang Lee's movie is right out front in this film which is no less beautiful or poetic.
Mr Scoutmaster- Henry Levin 1953
As a big Clifton Webb fan I consider this the perfect use of his crotchety persona.
Francis Dee is appropriately maternal and Edmund Gwynn is always fun to watch. I also consider my discovery (and purchase) of Clifton Webb's original shooting script for this movie is one of the most bizarre and serendipitous occurrences of my life!
Viewer Discretion Advised- Eddie Beverly Jr. 1998
This is a mixed bag movie just like it predecessors, “Kentucky Fried Movie” and “Amazon Women On the Moon”, No budget here! It makes the list because of one small segment which has become iconic in our personal circle. When Kevin first bought this movie at Dragoncon we watched the “Cowboy” segment about 50 times on the way home and it cracks me up every time! Being punchy from the long drive might have contributed to its original appeal, but now it is ingrained.
The Vanishing (Spoorloos)- George Sluizer 1988
More than any other film I can think of this film brings you inside the obsession of the character and compels you to watch until the end. It works like the best suspense films and the best horror films at the same time. It is as visceral as any of the modern films which try to approach the psychological attraction of death through more direct and graphic visual cues.
The Road Home (Wo de fu Qin mu qin)- Zhang Yimou 1999
This is one of the most quiet of Zhang’s films, but it is just as touching as the more extravagantly made and operatic films like “Raise the Red Lantern” It also is the feature film debut of Zhang Ziyi and she is wonderful!
Matinee- Joe Dante 1993
I have always been a big Joe Dante backer. I am one of those stalwarts who will go on record that I think that “The Howling” is a better movie than “An American Werewolf in London”. This movie typifies Dante’s best work with its cute little inside jokes and casting. John Goodman is perfect as a William Castle type hype man and Cathy Moriarty is at her droll best but the casting coups are Dick Miller and John Sayles as the two toughs!
The Apartment- Billy Wilder 1960
Simply put, this is Billy Wilder’s best and, to me, most enjoyable film. I respect the iconic stature of Sunset Blvd. but this film is much more genuinely touching (albeit not so entertainingly over the top). Don’t even bring up “Some Like it Hot”, which shows neither Tony Curtis nor Jack Lemon at their best. The Apartment is more balanced and a richer movie than any other Wilder film.
Cemetery Man (Dellamorte Dellamore)- Michael Soavi 1994
I love zombie comedies as a rule and this one rules over the rest. More sly and less broad than other laugh fests it was a great introduction to Rupert Everett. Soavi is a protégé of Argento and the visuals are accordingly interesting but it is really Everett’s performance that makes this film really memorable.
Ed Wood- Tim Burton 1994
My favorite of Burton’s films. It seems like a given that fans of low budget genre films are going to like this movie. I have rarely seen a biopic which so transparently reflects the filmmaker’s affection for the subject so if you hold a special place in your heart for Ed Wood then this is a favorite.
Searching for Bobby Fischer- Steven Zaillian 1993
Yes I like chess but that has little to do with my love of this movie. I have a soft spot for “Young Genius” films which is practically a genre of its own. I considered “Little Man Tate” for my list but this movie is better. Well acted does not begin to describe this film. It might have the best supporting cast I can remember seeing! I would list them but it would take too long! This film works as an underdog movie, and outsider/odd kid movie, a father/son movie, an art vs formal achievement movie… It works…well!
Moon Warriors (Zhan shen chuan shuo) - Sammo Hung 1994
There are a couple of films which contain even more memorable performances by the late, great, Anita Mui but this movie has it all. The grand Tristan and Isolde storyline. The great kung fu action sequences. Even a jumping Orca! Sammo lets it fly in this colorful epic and both Maggie Chueng and Andy Lau are excellent!
Unforgiven- Clint Eastwood 1992
A truly remarkable film. One of the few westerns which actually transcends the genre and the only western to make my list (barring comedies).
Something Wicked this way Comes- Jack Clayton 1983
This is far from a perfect movie but it is the closest anyone has come to translating Bradbury onto the screen in a full length film. Even Truffaut had trouble with this task and while “Fahenheit 451” might be a better film than this one, I don’t think that, as a story, it is as good an insight into Bradbury as this one. Bradbury’s recurring themes of youth, aging, death and vitality are intrinsic to “Something Wicked this way Comes” and while Bradbury always changes things around bit when he revisits his work he kept this one fairly close to the book. Johnathan Price is perfectly cast as Mr. Dark and the Scene in the library is good enough to give this movie a spot on my list by itself. I also get a kick out of the use of Royal Dano as Tom Fury…Perfect!
Throw Mama from the Train- Danny DeVito 1987
I really went back and forth about this one. I love Danny DeVito, and I love his performance in this film. “War of the Roses” is probably a better movie but this is a favorites list and I am going with this one.