Sunday, June 1, 2014

My Favorite Films: Classics

Classics are well... classic. They are part of our film and cultural heritage and everyone should see them. Here is my list of my favorite classics, which I'm defining as pre-1961 because things kind of changed after that.

Note: This list won’t include any Hitchcock films, which need their own list.

1. Wizard of Oz (1939): Not only is this a great, great film, but it's the cultural granddaddy of them all - you almost can't watch a movie or television show today without seeing some reference to this film. This is a must see and I like to watch it at least once a year.

2. The Bogarts: I’m grouping these all at once so they don’t dominate the list. Here are my favorite Humphrey Bogart films in order:
The Maltese Falcon (1941): This film IS noir. Nothing else comes close. The story of a group of unsavory people who are seeking a fabled golden bird that has been stolen and re-stolen many times over the years and which just happens to fall into the lap of detective Sam Spade. With a great cast and all kinds of interesting undertones, this is a fantastic film.

The Big Sleep (1946): Another Bogart detective film, this one is much more complicated than anything else Bogart has done and it's full of great performances and tense moments... and a few errors.

The Have and Have Not (1944): This one is just fun as Boggie and a very young Bacall play a romantic cat and mouse in occupied Martinique.

The Caine Mutiny (1954): Probably Bogart's best performance as the tyrannical Commander Queeg who panics and must be replaced by his crew during a typhoon, only to have the court martial that follows not turn out the way the audience expected. This is an excellent, excellent film.

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948): The only Western I've seen Bogart do, this one is truly memorable and has some amazing moments as the three friends search together for gold and then turn on each other once they strike it rich.

Key Largo (1948): Boggie a coward? It seems that way when he finds himself held prisoner in a hotel by Edward G. Robinson as a hurricane is about to strike, and Boggie won't stand up to defend the people he's trapped with.

Casablanca (1942): Often voted the best film ever, I truly enjoy this film, but honestly, it feels a little light compared to the other Bogart films.
2. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938): Starring Flynn as Robing Hood, Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marion, and some lesser-knowns like Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains and Alan Hale, this is THE Errol Flynn film. Both a rousing adventure, a romantic love story, and a showcase for Flynn's charm, this is another can't miss.

3. High Noon (1952): Gary Cooper plays Marshal Will Kane who has lost his nerve and learns that the people he's defended all these years are deeply ungrateful when it comes time to help him. This is a great character study and it's a powerful film when Cooper stands up in the end.

4. Forbidden Planet (1956): Leslie Nieslen in a serious role? Yep. This is probably the strongest science fiction entry in Hollywood's catalog until 2001, as Nielsen and crew find Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter alone on a planet that once belonged to the Krell, before they destroyed themselves somehow.

5. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957): This is just an awesome movie all around. You have amazing cinematography from David Lean, a tremendous performance from Alex Guinness as the British commander who lets his pride overwhelm his judgement in a Japanese prison camp as the Japanese use the British prisoners to build a railroad, and strong supporting actors.

6. Gone With The Wind (1939): This film has proved so strong and so enduring that it's defined the antebellum American South for most people.

7. Spartacus (1960): Kirk Douglas stars as escaped slave-turned-general Spartacus as he battles Romans for the very survival of his army of slaves and romances Tony Curtis... uh, the girls. Anyway, this is one of Stanley Kubrick's best and you can't swing a crucified slave without hitting a famous actor. Highly recommend.

8. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946): Sappy, depressing and yet deeply heartwarming, this is one of Jimmy Stewart's best films as he contemplates what the world would be like without him around.

9. His Girl Friday (1940): Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in an unforgettable romantic comedy.

10. Ben-Hur (1959): Staring Charlton Heston, this is the story of Juda Ben-Hur, and it's truly epic. Pry my chariot from my cold dead hands.

And of course, don't forget things like the Marx Brothers or war films that may have already appeared on other lists like Sergent York or All Quiet On the Western Front.



Unknown said...

Here's mine (in no particular order):

1) Casblanca

2) The Searchers

3) Treasure of the Sierra Madre

4) Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

5) The African Queen

6) Hold That Ghost/ Pardon My Sarong/ In the Navy/ Who Done It? - to me, the best of Abbot and Costello

7) Singin' In The Rain

8) Cat People - great horror film from 1942

9) Anatomy of a Murder

10) On the Waterfront

Tennessee Jed said...

1) Sunset Blvd.,; North by Northwest; Psycho; Casablanca; African Queen; Ben Hur; Ten Commandments; Big Country; From Here to Eternity; A Night to Remember; .... I know there are 2 Hitchcovks, but some things transcend restrictions.

Tennessee Jed said...

I should point out, in keeping with (mostly) the true spirit of the list .... these are favorites, not necessarily "best" films.

Anonymous said...

I said it before but The Wizard of Oz just never did it for me. And oddly enough, I just referenced Bogart at work the other night. (Thankfully the person I was talking to knew who he was!)

And THANK-YOU for mentioning His Girl Friday and NOT Bringing Up Baby. I detest that movie and I wish Hepburn's leopard had just killed everyone.

Here are mine (in no particular order)
-Citizen Kane
-North by Northwest
-Lawrence of Arabia (not something I put on often but it's there)
-Animal Crackers/Duck Soup/A Night at the Opera
-Double Indemnity
-To Be or Not to Be

There are others (like The Lady Eve) that I enjoy but I wouldn't necessarily call them favorites.

Tennessee Jed said...

Couple of thoughts, Scott. Since this is a "favorites" list rather than "best" list, I would add that while an a great example of film making, and for it's historical value alone, "Lawrence would be on my "best" list, but not on my "favorites." There were too many spots where it dragged a bit, at least for me. I would contrast that with, say, "Ben Hur" or "Big Country" where I never got squirmy despite the length.

Likewise, I know this is the critics darling, but I have never considered "Citizen Kane" as a favorite in the way, say, Casablanca or North by Northwest were and are. Double Indemnity is a great call. It would definitely be on my list, but it didn't jump to mind with the others. I don't know if that means anything other than I just didn't think of it, and I don't like to run to the net to refresh my memory on these cuz it takes away a bit of the fun.

Anonymous said...

Jed -

Re: Lawrence, I can't explain it. There's just something to it that keeps my attention. And with Kane, there's so much going on in terms of craft and technical wizardry, it's just a great movie to learn from. That's why I'd consider it a favorite, versus say, Arsenic and Old Lace which I liked but nothing I need to keep on my shelf.

And if Andrew had moved the year ahead a few years, I could've included a few more movies. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Collin, Excellent additions. I'm particularly impressed by Anatomy of a Murder, which was a really strong film, especially for the era in which it was made.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Nice additions. Agreed on best v. favorites. There are some "best" films that I respect, but truly do not enjoy -- Kubrick often leads that list.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I don't like Baby either.

I can't believe you don't like The Wizard of Oz... commie.

Double Indemnity is very good.

Kit said...


I got a chance to saw Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen recently. Wow!

re Films I respect but do not enjoy, Citizen Kane.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Yeah, that's up there too. I totally respect Citizen Kane, but don't enjoy it at all.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

I think we discussed Oz before. :-)

I appreciate its place in history, I've seen it, and like all of you, I've seen it parodied and referenced too many times to count. But I have no need to see it again. It's the only "classic" movie to which that applies.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I feel the same about Lawrence. It's beautiful, inspiring and intelligent... but dull at times.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, On Lawrence, you don't have to explain it. People have different tastes and you can't really say that someone is wrong for their taste unless you're talking about German fashion.

It's too bad you don't enjoy Oz. To me, it's just a wonderful film that takes you to one of the few fantasy lands that feels real on film.

Floyd R Turbo said...

In no particular order.

1. Fritz Lang's "M". Genius concept, German Expressionism at its peak, Peter Lorre at his creepy best, and a kangaroo court scene rivaling any court drama ever produced.

2. My Man Godfrey... William Powell, Carole Lombard, and Gail Patrick... hilarious and satirical.

3. All six The Thin Man movies... Myrna Loy and William Powell = greatest chemistry ever.

4. John Ford's Cavalry Trilogy: Rio Grande, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Fort Apache... each is genius.

5. The Searchers

6. Spartacus

7. Ben Hur... saw this on the BIG screen a few weeks ago.... classic barely scratches the surface.

8. Singin' in the Rain

9. The Quiet Man

10. The Caine Mutiny

Kit said...

In no particular order:

The Searchers: Maybe John Wayne's best.
Casablanca: "We'll always have Paris".
Lawrence of Arabia: Again, you can only appreciate this movie if you see it on the big screen.
Double Indemnity: Great film noir with a mix of tragedy in there.
Stagecoach: What a fun western.
Singin' in the Rain: I also got to see this one on the big screen. Incredible fun.
Ball of Fire: Funny movie. Barbara Stanwyck is hot.
Duck Soup: I think Obama sang "Laws of my Administration" about 5 years ago.
Adventures of Robin Hood: Incredibly fun movie.
The General: Very fun Buster Keaton comedy.
Modern Times: Very good Chaplin flick. Huge inspiration for Wall-E

All I can think of right now.

Tennessee Jed said...

The 1950's, for me, was dominated by big screen epics and musicals. Of the musicals, I really loved South Pacific, Carousel, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers. It was also the decade of wide screeen including "Cinerama" Of those, I enjoyed Around the World in 80 Days, and How the West Was Won.

Kit said...

By the way, Lawrence of Arabia came out in 1963. 2 years after Andrew's cut-off date.

Tennessee Jed said...

On the Sci-Fi front. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" was huge

Tennessee Jed said...

1963 is close enough by my reckoning. Bridge Over the River Kwai, Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur all have stunningly good restorations and transfers. I have the Blu-ray Discs for all of them. I enjoy these films so much, they are regularly screened for guests in my theater which features a 105" Stewart firehawk screen. Interestingly, the move to non-compressed soundtracks is every bit as just as amazing and reminds me how great these films look and sound

Tennessee Jed said...

Lawrence is also in that group with spectacular restorations

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Excellent list! I'm not sure what it is, but there is something about Ben-Hur that is just amazing. I love it every time I see it.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Ball of Fire was really fun. :D

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I can't believe I forgot Around the World in 80 Days! I love that film! I should also add My Fair Lady, which is another one I love from the era.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, On the sci-fi front, we should also add The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which was really a solid, classic film.

Tennessee Jed said...

I had forgotten it too, until I started thinking what a huge marketing thing "Cinerama" was. But, it was epic, and th first role for a very young Shirly McLaine. I always struggled with "My Fair Lady" the film because they used Audrey Hepburn instead of Julie Andrews.

As for Ben-Hur, I think I have mentioned it is my #1 favorite film, ever. When you realize it was made in 1959, it is amazing how well it holds up. The story was written by Lew Wallace, a general in the civil war. It was that experience, I think that prompted him to write th book. I cannot think of one thing about the 1959 version I would change. I ws 11 years old when I saw it at the Boyd in Philly. The restoration on blu-ray is jaw dropping.

Anonymous said...

Kit -

Agreed on Miss Stanwyck. :-)

And if I can move the year up a little bit, I'll also include The Great Escape and Dr. Strangelove.

shawn said...

I love the old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies. And the Hope and Crosby "Road" pictures.

Tennessee Jed said...

Shawn - I recently bought the 5 disc blu-ray Complete Sherlock Holmes collection on blu-ray. 14 films. Yes, they aren't as true to Doyle's stories as the Jeremy Brett, but I am a huge fan of Basil Rathbone, and these will always hold a special place for me. While at college, I got to meet Rathbone shortly before his tragic death. He was speaking at our school, and I was on the committee so I got to spend a little time chatting him up prior to his lecture.

Koshcat said...

Some of these movies I love and others not so much. Love Casablanca. Find Wizard of Oz to be boring and whiney. I really like Sunset Boulevard and Maltese Falcon. I would still put Psycho here. Hitchcock had a lot of good films but this still holds up well as a horror film. How about King Kong and the other monster movies from the 30s such as Dracula and Frankenstein (and of course his bride). The 50s also had a lot of good movies besides Hitchcock, although I have to say that I fell in love (lust?) with Grace Kelly in Rear Window. There is Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Touch of Evil, Godzilla, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Old Yeller.

When I first read this I wasn't sure I could come up with any but I forget just how old some of these classics are. Again, these aren't necessarily the best films just a few of my favorites.

Backthrow said...

In no particular order:

King Kong
The Quiet Man
War of the Worlds
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The Hunchback of Notre Dame ('39)
It's a Wonderful Life
Sullivan's Travels
I Remember Mama
A Matter of Life & Death (a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven)
The General
Rear Window
The More the Merrier
Night of the Hunter
The Wizard of Oz
Island of Lost Souls
Yankee Doodle Dandy
The Devil & Daniel Webster
The African Queen
North by Northwest
How Green Was My Valley
Red River
High Sierra
White Heat
Pride of the Yankees
The Incredible Shrinking Man
It Happened One Night
Citizen Kane
The Thief of Bagdad ('40)
The Invisible Man
The Searchers
His Girl Friday
Gunga Din
Bridge on the River Kwai
The Bank Dick
The Thin Man
Bride of Frankenstein
Stalag 17
The Westerner
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Black Narcissus
Random Harvest
It's a Gift
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
The Big Heat
The Lady Eve
Mighty Joe Young
Great Expectations
The Four Feathers
Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Sunset Boulevard
Sergeant York
Around the World in Eighty Days
The Crimson Pirate
Song of Bernadette
The Greatest Show on Earth

--and a host of others.

Kit said...

I can't believe I left out It's A Wonderful Life. I always cheer at the ending!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, It is a fantastic movie. And no, I can't think of anything I would change either.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The Great Escape is a great film, but it does have a 1960s sense to it rather than a pre-1960s sense.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, The "road" films are fun.

AndrewPrice said...

Nice additions Koshcat! I thought about adding 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. That's a great movie and I enjoy it over and over.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I thought about adding Fantasia, but I ultimately decided it was better left for a cartoon list. Great movie though.

Koshcat said...

By the way, I watched Battleship with the kids. They were cheering by the end. Really fun movie and great recommendation.

Koshcat said...

I guess it was Scott who recommended it. I would still rather watch ten Battleships than one more Transformers even with Megan's assets. It was cheesy. Sometimes cheesy is good.

AndrewPrice said...

It was Scott. I didn't like it the first time through, but I have seen it a couple times since and I think it's ok. It's better than the Transformers, that's for sure.

My favorite line, btw: "That's not what [Sun Zu] meant. Not even close." LOL!

Anonymous said...

Koshcat -

I see my review was correct: kids would love it!

I haven't watched it since but I'd sit through it again before another Transformers.

PikeBishop said...

Classic that I just can't stand! "Gone with the Wind." Boring, over-long, tedious uninteresting, technicolor soap opera!

Despite a few technically great set pieces (the crane shot of the Atlanta wounded and the burning of the city), it puts me to sleep.

Can't stand this movie.

Koshcat said...


I was afraid of the Wrath of Bev but I feel the same way. The movie is too long. However, the primary reason I don't like it is because I don't like either of the 2 main characters. They are mean, vindictive users. I cannot relate to them and I think they deserve everything bad coming to them.

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