There’s been another “100 Best American Movies” list just released, this one solicited by the British Broadcast Corp. from 63 international film critics. As a long-time movie buff and occasional movie critic since my high-school newspaper days, these best-movies lists always interest me.
The new list is interesting because the critics were asked to name their favorites based on their emotional reactions to movies, the ones they enjoyed, whether or not the films are cinematic masterpieces. What pleases me about the list is most of the movies are indeed masterpieces, which proves once again brilliantly made movies can be crowd-pleasers as well as “art” films, entertaining as well as thought-provoking.
The top 10 on the list are Citizen Kane, The Godfather Part II, Vertigo, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Searchers, Sunrise, Singing in the Rain, Psycho, Casablanca and The Godfather Part I.
Nine of the films on that top-100 list I haven’t seen, not yet anyway. Thirty-eight of the movies on the list are also long-time favorites of mine.
I decided to make my own top-100 list of American movies, using the same criteria. If I could add foreign movies, they would bump about one-fourth of my American choices. The following movies I liked so much I saw many of them multiple times. All of them I would be happy to see again. If I could convince somebody to see any of these movies, there would be five uppermost: Detour (the most riveting low-budget film noir ever made), Smile (a whimsical satire of a beauty pageant), W.C. Field’s It’s a Gift (the funniest movie ever made), Picnic (a vivid drama of small-town life in Kansas) and Boyhood, which I just saw last week. It astonished me and left me feeling exhilarated by its transformation of “ordinary” daily life into the realm of “extraordinary.” It’s a very great movie. Please consider seeing it.
My choices are not in order of favorite status, although the first 10 listed are, at least currently, my top 10. I placed my faves into genre categories and added the date of each movie’s release. I also added each director’s name, as I’m a firm believer a great director (visionary) generally equals a great movie.
Top 10: Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock); Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles); The Searchers (1956, John Ford); Bonnie and Clyde (1968, Arthur Penn); Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz); Sunset Boulevard (1950, Billy Wilder); Picnic (1955, Joshua Logan); Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau); A Streetcar Named Desire (1951, Elia Kazan); and Fargo (1986, Joel and Ethan Coen).
Dramas: Greed (1924, Erich von Stroheim); The Grapes of Wrath (1940, John Ford); Splendor in the Grass (1961, Elia Kazan); The Apartment (1960, Bill Wilder); Hud (1963, Martin Ritt); The Hustler (1961, Robert Rossen); Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962, Sidney Lumet); Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958, Richard Brooks); There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson); The Last Picture Show (1971, Peter Bogdanovich); Baby Doll (1956, Elia Kazan); Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, Mike Nichols); The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, Welles); Rebel Without a Cause (1955, Nicholas Ray); East of Eden (1955, Elia Kazan); Giant (1956, George Stevens); On the Waterfront (1954, Elia Kazan); The Member of the Wedding (1954, Fred Zinnemann); A Star is Born (1954, George Cukor); Clash by Night (1952, Fritz Lang); The Misfits (1961, John Huston); To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, Robert Mulligan); Three Women (1977, Robert Altman); 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick); It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, Frank Capra); Days of Heaven (1978, Terence Malik); Badlands (1973, Malick); Spartacus (1960, Stanley Kubrick); Lolita (1962, Kubrick); Madame Bovary (1949, Vincente Minnelli); They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969, Sydney Pollack); One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975, Milos Forman); Mildred Pierce (1949, Michael Curtiz); Gone with the Wind (1939, Victor Fleming); Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, Robert Aldrich); All About Eve (1950, Joseph Mankiewicz); Beyond the Forest (1949, King Vidor); Raging Bull (1980, Martin Scorsese); Hugo (2011, Scorsese); and Boyhood (2014, Richard Linklater).
Crime-Mystery: Detour (1945, Edgar G. Ulmer); Touch of Evil (1958, Orson Welles); Double Indemnity (1944, Billy Wilder); The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946, Tay Garnett); Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch); In Cold Blood (1967, Richard Brooks); Klute (1971, Alan J. Pakula); Shock Corridor (1963, Samuel Fuller); Shadow of a Doubt (1943, Alfred Hitchcock); Notorious (1946, Hitchcock); Strangers on a Train (1951, Hitchcock); Rear Window (1954, Hitchcock); The Trouble with Harry (1955, Hitchcock); The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956, Hitchcock); North by Northwest (1959, Hitchcock); Psycho (1960, Hitchcock); The Birds (1963, Hitchcock); Marnie (1964, Hitchcock); The Maltese Falcon (1941, John Huston); Rosemary’s Baby (1968, Roman Polanski); Chinatown (1974, Polanski); The Tenant (1976, Polanski); The Godfather Parts I and II (1972, 1974, Francis Ford Coppola); Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorsese); and Goodfellas (1990, Scorsese).
Westerns: McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971, Robert Altman); Red River (1948, Howard Hawks); Johnny Guitar (1954, Nicholas Ray); and The Wild Bunch (1969, Sam Peckinpah).
War: The Big Red One (1980, Samuel Fuller); Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick); Saving Private Ryan (1998, Steven Spielberg); and Schindler’s List (1993, Spielberg).
Comedies: A Christmas Story (1983, Bob Clark); Smile (1975, Michael Ritchie); The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Fleming); Modern Times (1936, Charlie Chaplin); Some Like It Hot (1959, Billy Wilder); National Lampoon’s American Vacation (1983, Harold Ramis); National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985, Amy Heckerling); W.C. Fields’ It’s a Gift (1034, Norman Z. McLeod); The Graduate (1967, Mike Nichols); Annie Hall (1977, Woody Allen); Love and Death (1975, Allen); Dr. Strangelove (1964, Stanley Kubrick); It Happened One Night (1939, Frank Capra); Bringing Up Baby (1938, Howard Hawks); and The Seven-Year Itch (1955, Billy Wilder).
Cartoons: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937, Walt Disney); and Pinocchio (1940, Disney).
Musicals: Cabaret (1972, Bob Fosse); and Singing in the Rain (1952, Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen).
(I would enjoy seeing top-movie lists from readers. Send them to me, and I’ll put them in a future column.)