Friday, June 22, 2007

The Ten Best Movies of All Time

by Barbara D'Amato

One question can start an argument faster than “How do you like dem Cubs?” What are the ten best movies of all time? Like politics and religion, you should not discuss this at dinner.

So—my ten favorites:

1.SNOW WHITE
2.RED RIVER
3.SHANE
4.PINOCCHIO
5.THE WIZARD OF OZ
6.BEAT THE DEVIL
7.ODD MAN OUT
8.STAR WARS
9.PULP FICTION
10.FANTASIA


If you haven’t seen BEAT THE DEVIL, find it and watch it. Trust me on this. Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley, and Peter Lorre, all at their best.

ODD MAN OUT is a James Mason film, and he’s not playing James Mason this time. It's a tear-jerker -- in a good way.

My sorry-to-have-to-leave-out list is long, of course. It includes VERTIGO, DUMBO, THE GODFATHER, CASABLANCA, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, and THE GENERAL. And KELLY’S HEROES [Telly Savalas, Clint Eastwood, Don Rickles, Donald Sutherland and Lalo Schifrin’s music] -- a truly funny film.

What riches there are!

Overlooked of the Orson Welles movies is TOUCH OF EVIL. The one that heads all lists is CITIZEN KANE.

I’m sure we all have the utmost respect for CITIZEN KANE, but does anyone watch it for enjoyment?

10 comments:

Michael Dymmoch said...

You have to ask best for what. Citizen Kane may be best for artistry, character development, etc. but others are great for different reasons.

A Man Alone (Ray Milland, 1954) starts with 20 -30 minutes of story with no dialog. And no confusion. (Can you imagine anyone making a film like that today?)

Shake Hands with the Devil (James Cagney, 1959), though flawed by certain casting choices, was one of the best pictures of the dilemma of Northern Ireland until The Crying Game came along.

Also terrific:
Fargo,
Memento,
Groundhog Day,
Ferris Buehler’s Day Off,
Falling Down,
Blade Runner,
Manhunter,
China Town,
Tootsie,
The Mark of Zorro
, (Tyrone Power, 1040),
and just about any Errol Flynn swashbuckler, from Captain Blood, to Robin Hood.

Matt said...

Barbara,

I think your list is great. My list includes my 10 FAVORITE movies, which isn't to say that they are the 10 greatest movies ever made; that's a whole other list.

Here's my list:

1. THE HUSTLER
2. GODFATHER, PART II
3. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
4. SOME LIKE IT HOT
5. DR. STRANGELOVE
6. ALL ABOUT EVE
7. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
8. THE EXORCIST
9. MASTER AND COMMANDER
10. THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER

Runners-up: ASPHALT JUNGLE, CLOCKWORK ORANGE, JAWS, MALCOLM X, THE SET-UP, CASABLANCA and I WAS A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN-GANG

RB said...

Always fun to think through and see what changes with time.

1. Annie Hall (Best comedy)
2. The Great Escape (Best War film)
3. Three Days of the Condor (Best spy film)
4. Butch and Sundance (Best Western)
5 All the President's Men (Best Suspense)
6. French Connection (Best thriller)
7. Witness (Best mystery)
8. Princess Bride (Best fantasy)
9. 2001 (Best scifi)
10.Exorcist (best horror)
Next in line - Pulp Fiction, Adaptation, Memento, Manhunter, Cinema Paradiso, There's Something About Mary, Marathon Man, Parallax View, Jaws, Indiana Jones...pretty evident lists are fun and you realize how interesting some of the selections can be.

Marcus Sakey said...

I'll have to think of my top ten list. But in the meantime, Barb, beautifully put about Kane; it's a wonderful film, gorgeously shot, masterfully planned, changed cinema forever, etc., etc., but though I've seen it at least four times, and enjoyed it, no, I have never thought, "Gee--I'm bored. I know! I'll watch Citizen Kane"

:)

Sara P said...

I can't list ten favorites off the top of my head, but I love Some Like It Hot, Stalag 17, and Becket, also the Thin Man and the Robert Mitchum version of Cape Fear. I know it's heresy, especially among PI writers, but I don't like Pulp Fiction, even though, as Tarantino himself acknowledges, his work is similar to Shakespeare's.

Anonymous said...

Can Chicago’s mystery writers come up with a good list of ten good movie mysteries? I can hardly think of even one. It’s not because the reading experience is much better than the visual, because there are stage plays that put their movie counterparts to shame and in some cases also exceed the reading experience. Think of Witness for the Prosecution (I was stunned seeing it on Broadway; compared to the play, the movie has one hand tied behind its back). Think of Deathtrap, everything that theatre should be. And that brings up Mousetrap; there’s a reason for its being the world’s longest-running play. And Dial M for Murder? Even with Hitchcock directing the movie, even with the movie being shot in 3-D, and throwing in Grace Kelly, the movie can’t come close to the stage version if the latter is well directed. Tell us: what explains this strange mystery hierarchy:

1. Book
2. Play
3. Movie.
Tony D'Amato

Kevin Guilfoile said...

Tony's point about mystery plays is really interesting. There have been an awful lot of good ones and it was a thriving genre there for awhile. I think there have been some very good mystery films (I'll start with Chinatown and two dozen films from the Noir era and then I'll kick off a new debate by saying I'm a fan of The Usual Suspects), but mystery does love the stage.

To your examples I'd also add Sleuth, which also was made into a movie that fell just short. But films of plays (including all the ones you mentioned) are almost always a step backward. As you say, this is true of books to film, as well, except when the filmmaker has a vision beyond the page (I'm an admirer of Phillip K Dick's, but Blade Runner is a far greater and more ambitious work than When Androids Dream of Electric Sheep). I think when a director uses film to its strengths (the way Rob Marshall did with Chicago) you get a movie that holds its own against the play.

In some ways I think the stage might own the mystery but the screen probably owns the thriller. I could give you a hundred great movie thrillers. Can we name even one great thriller play?

My top ten films would probably change every time you asked me. But a couple that haven't yet been mentioned that would make my list today:

1. Diva
2. The Thin Blue Line (I assume documentaries are fair game; this would be on my list of the great film mysteries, by the way)
3. Taxi Driver
4. The Conversation
5. M*A*S*H
6. Raging Bull

And Sara, count me among the big fans of Pulp Fiction. And Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill. But I think Tarantino's best film is probably

7. Jackie Brown

Anonymous said...

If we combine what Kevin Guilfoile said about thrillers with what I said about mysteries, we have the following chart:



Mystery Thriller

Play 10 1

Movie 1 10


What explains these rather astonishing scores? I think the difference in “thrillers” is that it’s what you don’t see that counts.

The scene is a darkly lit room; the heroine (in a negligee, of course) is frightened because she thinks she is locked in the house with a maniac on the loose; she hears some noises; she moves around carefully carrying an iron poker, glancing behind things.

STAGE VERSION: We see the maniac right behind the heroine, silently stalking her, coming ever closer. In the audience we are wondering what kind of stage action we will see that will resolve this lady’s problem. And we hope that the person next to us does not shout out: “Turn around, you dimwit!” But we don’t share the heroine’s fear.

MOVIE VERSION: We start with a full-body view of the heroine, cut closely so that we can’t take in anything five feet away from her. As she moves through the room, the camera zooms in and up: we see the top half of her body in close-up. As she expresses increasing fear (and the organist in the next room turns up the volume), we zoom farther in to a closeup of her face. More zooming and we see filling the screen her eyes, her mouth, and especially her neck. The throbbing increases (both in her neck and in the music). We’ve all seen this scene many times. And every time, it scares us. We are manipulated into sharing her fear. The unseen maniac wins every time.

And that’s my nomination for the difference between plays and movies under the “thriller” column. I still don’t know what accounts for the difference in the “mystery” column.

What score would you give books if they were added to the above chart? One generalization I can make about books that are thrillers is that they try to be movie-like in the thrilling scenes. This may be attributable to a hope on the part of the author for a movie deal. But perhaps a better explanation is that we’ve learned to associate thrillers with the movie scenario.

However, I don’t know why Agatha Christie’s mysteries are for me more thrilling than thrillers. Maybe it’s because the unseen killer, whose invisible presence is in every one of her scenes, is like the unseen maniac above described. More likely it is Christie’s control over the reader that accounts for the suspense. The cinematographer has that kind of control in a movie, but he has the use of a camera. For Christie, I think she pulled it off just by the extreme spareness and focus of her prose.

Tony D'Amato

Brian D'Amato said...

1. SNOW WHITE, Disney
2. 2001, Kubrick
3. L'AGE D'OR and UN CHIEN ANDALOU,Bunuel
4. THE WIZARD OF OZ, Fleming
5. ALEXANDER NEVSKY, Eisenstein
6. STAR WARS (1976), Lucas
7. MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, Vertov
8. PSYCHO, Hitchcock
9. Fellini's SATYRICON
10. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, Donen
11. ALIEN, Scott

Maryann said...

OKK...my 10 are:

Laura
Casablanca
Sleepless in Seattle
Auntie Mame
It Happened One Night
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Princess Bride
Stalag 17
The Usual Suspects

Of course my criteria for this is simple: if I'm flipping channels and happen across any of these, I have to stop and watch it, even those I own! SO you could say they're my favorites, greatest movies or not. :o)