Of the movies I have seen and I have only seen approximately 2500 to 3000 these were my favorites back when I was writing about movies and still watched several a day. You may find I lean toward grim-mouthed films about virile men going along dark paths with the occasional woman to throw their arms around and a good buddy to watch one’s step.
1. The Searchers. In my humble opinion, this is the best John Wayne/John Ford movie there is and they made some wonderful films that could easily replace this title like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon or The Quiet Man et al. I think they push this above the rest of the titles mentioned. I may have seen it ten to fifteen times. Wayne plays a bitter Civil War veteran returning home. When his brother and family are killed by marauding Indians, Wayne begins a search for the missing girl Lucy with help from half-breed Jeffrey Hunter. Wayne hates Indians and as time passes Hunter begins to wonder if Wayne is out to rescue his niece or destroy what he feel the Indians have corrupted. This has beautiful scenery, a great performance by John Wayne holding it together and a dark, compelling plot. Last but not least is the uncertainty of it’s climax as though we ever doubted.
2. Apocalypse Now. This film has been suggested as a rip-off of Sergio Leone and there is a resemblance to certain of his films but it does not demean the source if he is one because this is a great film better than Platoon I personally feel. This film is dubiously about Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. A military assassin is sent up river to kill a colonel who has gone mad and declared himself something like king among the natives. Along the way we see the nightmare which is war. There is a massacre, a tiger jumping out of a forest and a magnificent helicopter battle scene not to mention a bevy of beauties. Robert Duvall turns in a great performance as Colonel Kilgore “who loves the smell of napalm in the morning.” Dennis Hopper is wonderfully nutty and of course there is obese, mumbling Brando at the end of the journey.
This is a brutal mythic film. There are no other films like it and though there are few answers on display ( well, maybe none) it is harrowing at times and memorable.
3. The Big Sleep. From Raymond Chandler’s detective yarn, Humphrey Bogart plays cynical hard-boiled detective Philip Marlowe in this atmospheric Howard Hawks classic. Lauren Bacall adds sizzle to a complex unwinding plot.
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie is like a visual myth. The opening section of prehistoric man is realistic and one of the most amazing sequences on film. The second part is of 2 astronauts on their way to Jupiter when HAL their computer turns on them. The final part is at the far reaches of the universe where time and space are bent. With mind-bending special effects for its time though tedious too as well as uninspired in its acting it is still a visual masterpiece.
5.Rear Window. This is a potentially claustrophobic but surprisingly potent thriller from 1956 or thereabouts under the authoritatively skilled eye of Alfred Hitchcock. There are a few wonderful closeups of beautiful Grace Kelly and James Stewart is effective as usual. Truly a wonderful film from the master.
6. From Russia With Love. Made around 1963 this James Bond 007 film is my personal favorite. Yes I like it better than Goldfinger. With Robert Shaw as the villain and Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb and Danielle Bianchi ( I may have the names wrong) and of course the best Bond for many Sean Connery. The best action film ever made.
7. Casablanca. This movie which I have written about elsewhere is one of the most famous and culturally familiar films ever made along with others like Wizard Of Oz, Gone With The Wind, and….
8…The Empire Strikes Back. Everyone practically has seen this film a number of times. If you have not you should give it a try.
9 Schindler’s List. This is one of the saddest and most grim-mouthed films ever made. It is by Steven Spielberg at his best. Perhaps the sex scenes are inappropriate an attempt by the director to be taken more seriously but one finds them unnecessary. Still along with Apocalypse Now one of but a small number of masterpieces.
10. The Wild Bunch. This brutal nightmare has a lot of machismo to spare and excellent direction by Sam Peckinpah. I have not seen a lot of the new movies so that is why these are such old pictures.The old ones were a lot better anyway in my opinion.