Here’s a compilation of films that have stood the test of time and those I believe will. I think you’ll find that they are blessed with the greatest special effects every conceived: story, character, and dialogue.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. The most colorful film, ever, with Errol Flynn the quintessential swashbuckler, ROBIN HOOD sparkles with action, witty dialogue and one of Hollywood’s best musical scores.
Maid Marion: “Why, you speak treason.”
"In Paradise you will be the great artist God meant you to be. Ah, how you will delight the angels!" A dinner guest acknowledging the abilities of an obscure chef in this 1987 Oscar winning Foreign Film.
Bogart: “I came to Casablanca for the waters.”
Claude Rains: “The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.”
Bogart: “I was misinformed.”
DR. STRANGELOVE, OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964).
"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the war room!" An outraged President Muffley (Peter Sellers).
ENCHANTED APRIL (1992). Joan Plowright, Polly Walker. A delightful fable about four women in the 1920s escaping their repressed lifestyles in London by renting a castle in Portofino. They soon discover the estate has a magical effect on all those who stay there. At last, a PG film with no sexual activity, profane language, violence or religion-bashing. A romantic comedy that nourishes the spirit.
“Have you noticed how difficult it is to be improper when there are no men about?”
FRIENDLY PERSUASION (1956). This unforgettable Gary Cooper tour de force concerns a peace-loving Quaker family caught in the Civil War conflict.
“If thee talked as much to the Almighty as thee does to that horse, thee might stand more squarely in the light.” Eliza Birdwell (Dorothy McGuire) admonishing her husband, Jess (Gary Cooper).
GROUNDHOG DAY (1993). Bill Murray learns how to treat others after being caught in a surreal world where he wakes up each morning to re-live the same day.
Andie MacDowell: “What did you do today?”
Bill Murray: “Oh, same old, same old.”
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941). Tenderhearted adaptation of a devoted family in a Welsh coal mining community, this winner of five Oscars was directed by John Ford and starred Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Pidgeon and Donald Crisp.
“Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever. How green was my valley then.” Narrator
IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. From 1963, this non-stop laugh-a-thon has a group of motorists chasing after a fortune buried 200 miles away. Besides all the visual and verbal gags, and its constellation of comic greats, Mad World also contains some of the best car chases and stunts ever filmed.
“Listen, everybody has to pay taxes. Even businessmen who rob and steal and cheat from people every day. Even they have to pay taxes.”
JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961). Well-crafted drama by director Stanley Kramer, it concerns a U.S. a judge presiding over war crimes. The exceptional cast includes Spencer Tracy, Maximillian Schell, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, Montgomery Cliff and Marlene Dietrich.
“Ernest Janning said he is guilty. If he is, Ernest Janning’s guilt is the world’s guilt. No more and no less.” Maximillian Schell defending Burt Lancaster for Nazi offenses.
KEY LARGO (1948). Humphrey Bogey and Lauren Bacall captivate, John Huston's direction hypnotizes, and Edward G. Robinson unnerves. A scintillating script about a gangster holing up in a Florida hotel during a typhoon, this romantic adventure features a first rate supporting cast and a terrific mood-setting score by Max Steiner.
“You were right. When your head says one thing, and your whole life says another, your head always loses.” Bogey to Bacall.
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Peter O'Toole. I first saw this Best Picture of 1962 on TV and was disappointed. Years later I saw the restored version in a theater and was overwhelmed. Like Hitchcock, director David Lean is very visual. His work has to be seen on the big screen in order to capture all he's saying. Look for LAWRENCE at revival houses or when re-released every ten years or so. This one's too great to be imprisoned on television.
“It’s clean.” Peter O’Toole (Lawrence) on what attracts him to the desert.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960). The best non-John Wayne western ever made!
“I’ve been offered a lot for my work, but never everything.” Hardened gunfighter moved by farmers hiring him to protect their village.
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963). Jerry Lewis is in top form in this comic version of Jekyll & Hyde with Lewis providing some of his greatest sight gags. (Caution: contains one kid-scaring scene where the kindly professor transforms into a beast before becoming the handsome but obnoxious Buddy Love).
“Actually…” Professor Julius Kelp
ON THE WATERFRONT (1954). Best acting I ever saw in a movie? Marlon Brando in this one.
“You don’t understand! I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987). Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright. Fairy tale of lovers separated by the bad guys. (Caution: does contain a couple of profanities, sorcery and some violence).
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”
THE QUIET MAN (1952). John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara. John Ford won a deserving Best Director Oscar for this production of a man returning to his roots and discovering that love with an Irish redhead can be as rocky and beautiful as the Emerald Isle itself. Romance, humor, great music and cinematography, plus one of the longest fight scenes ever filmed make this one of the Duke's best.
"If you say three, mister, you'll never hear the man count ten." Ex-boxer Sean Thornton (John Wayne) to threatening bully Victor McLaglen.
REAR WINDOW (1954). Stuck in a wheelchair, a voyeuristic photographer (James Stewart) suspects the neighbor across the courtyard of murdering his own wife. The recent DISTURBIA is a sort of teen version of REAR WINDOW. Entertaining, no question, but viewing DISTURBIA side by side with the Hitchcock classic reveals its shortcomings as it lacks the wit, style and inventiveness of the master of the macabre. Caution, REAR WINDOW is for mature viewers.
“That would be a terrible job to tackle. Just how would you start to cut up a human body?”
THE SEARCHERS (1958). Considered John Ford's most complex western and certainly the most visually majestic, it is a powerful look at the emptiness of hatred and bigotry.
"That'll be the day." Ethan Edwards (John Wayne).
THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL. Geraldine Page won an Oscar for her performance as an elderly woman on a pilgrimage to her childhood home in this drama from 1985.
“I guess when you’ve lived longer than your house and your family, you’ve lived long enough.”
UNITED 93. This intense drama tells of the actions of 9/11/01 aboard the hijacked flight bound for Washington D. C. The film is a cautionary tale that states united we stand, divided we fall. Beware, it’s rated R for intensity and for profanity. While I include this film for its potent message, it does contain harsh and profane language.
“Guys, what are we waiting for, let’s roll. Come on, let’s go, already.” An actual statement overheard by way of cell phone just before the passengers rebelled.
VON RYAN’S EXPRESS (1965). Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard lead a daring escape from a prisoner-of-war camp in this first rate, action charged war drama.
“If only one gets out, Colonel Ryan, it’s a victory,” asserts Trevor Howard.
“Sure it is,” responds the more cynical Sinatra.
WEST SIDE STORY (1961). I am not a fan of musicals, let alone ones that featuring dancing gang members, but WEST SIDE STORY transcends the typical Hollywood musical. Based on Shakespeare's tragic ROMEO AND JULIET, now set in early-1960s New York barrios, not only is every scene filled with artistry, but every frame.
“I have not yet learned how to joke that way. I think now I never will.” Maria to her beloved Tony about romantic matters.
X-MEN UNITED (2003). This comic book sequel has the prerequisite action format - ear-piercing special effects and well-choreographed fight scenes. But it also contains a message about the sanctity of human life as our superheroes are determined to help their fellow man. Caution: rated PG-13 for one profanity, three obscenities and frequent battle scenes.
YOURS, MINE AND OURS (1968). Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda. Based on a true story of a widow with eight kids who marries a widower with ten, this comic tale incorporates religious reverence, a moral and a realistic approach to such a family coupling. All that is gone in the 2005 update with Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo. The new version contains one adolescent slapstick situation after another, adding fuel to my theory that man is evolving into primates. That said, the humor in the remake was aimed more at children. Preschoolers and their older siblings aren’t looking for life lessons. They came to this movie for the children’s pack (a small Coke, popcorn and candy bar) and the sight of helpless adults covered in green, pulpous goo.
“It isn’t going to bed with a man that proves you’re in love with him. It’s getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful, everyday world with him that counts.” Fonda’s character setting his daughter straight about the birds and bees while preparing to take his expectant wife to the hospital.
ZELIG. Inventive and funny, Woody Allen’s mockumentary is set in the 1920s, where a mild-mannered soul, wanting to be liked, assumes the characteristics of those around him. Rated PG, this 1983 release is the cleanest of Woody’s works.
“Near the end it was not after all the approbation of many but the love of one woman that changed his life.”