Now I move into my top 50 movies. For my reasons for each selection, check out the link to my blog, below.
41. Witness: Studied in film schools as the perfect script, this is a fascinating story of a Philadelphia detective who ends up in Amish country in Pennsylvania, injured and hiding from the dirty cops who killed his partner. But he is also protecting the 8-year-old Amish boy, Samuel, who is the only witness to the killing (Samuel is played by Lukas Haas, who received an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Ryan White, then recently played astronaut Michael Collins in First Man). The movie is so rich in texture, from the rousing barn raising to Harrison Ford witnessing Kelly McGillis sponge bath. Danny Glover, usually the good guy, is excellent as the bad cop. The cinematography and Maurice Jarre’s music are nearly magical. Eli Lapp (the Amish elder overseeing Ford’s character trying to milk a cow): “I don't think you've ever squeezed a teat before.” John Book (Harrison Ford): “Never one that big.”
42. E.T.: Steven Spielberg changed our movie view of aliens forever in this surpassingly brilliant movie of ET, the extra-terrestrial, left behind by mistake by his fellow travelers, but found by Elliott, the 10-year-old boy with whom he bonds. “E.T. phone home.”
43. Metropolis: In my opinion, the best silent movie ever made. A futuristic vision of man and machine that still stands up nearly a century after it was made.
44. Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck’s classic of a desperate family traveling from Dust Bowl Oklahoma to California is transformed in John Ford’s film that is equal to the novel. Henry Fonda gives a legendary performance as Tom Joad, but the heart and soul of the movie are provided by Jane Darwell as Ma and John Carradine as a preacher who has lost his faith
45. An American in Paris: Gene Kelly and 18-year-old Leslie Caron star in this musical about an ex-patriot American artist of modest talents who finds love with a French girl. Set to the music of George Gershwin, the movie concludes with a 17-minute ballet sequence that cost nearly half of the film’s budget – and it was worth it.
46. Jaws: In 1975, a young Steven Spielberg brought Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel to the screen, and going to the beach was never quite the same again. Oddly, troubles with operation of the giant mechanical shark meant that much of the movie was filmed with techniques that hid the shark from view, which added to the sense of terror. So, too, did John Williams unforgettable score. “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
47. Anatomy of a Murder: The best courtroom movie ever made. Period. Otto Preminger masterfully directs the movie. The movie was shocking for the time with its frequent use of the direct language of rape, including“panties,”“sexual climax,” “penetration” and “spermatogenesis – so much so that Chicago’s mayor Richard Daly banned it from Chicago theaters. Jimmy Stewart is a low-key lawyer defending an Army officer for the murder of the man who raped his wife. Duke Ellington’s jazzy score sets the tone, supported by a stellar cast including Lee Remick, Eve Arden, Arthur O’Connell and George C. Scott. Most interestingly, the roll of the wise and sometimes frustrated trial judge is played by Joseph N. Welch, the real-life lawyer famous for his confrontation with Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy Hearings. “For the benefit of the jury, but more especially for the spectators, the undergarment referred to in the testimony was, to be exact, Mrs. Manion’s panties. I wanted you to get your snickering over and done with. . . . There isn’t anything comic about a pair of panties which figure in the violent death of one man, and the possible incarceration of another.”
48. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Paul Newman and Robert Redford play these train-robbing buddies who find fun, romance, adventure and ultimately an untimely end in Bolivia while trying to escape the law. “Who are those guys?”
49. The Bridge on the River Kwai: British prisoners of war led by Alec Guinness are tasked with building an essential bridge for their Japanese captors, while escapee William Holden is sent back to the jungle to blow up the bridge. A indictment of the folly and insanity of men who fight wars. “Madness. Madness.”
50. L.A. Confidential: One of the best noir movies ever, set in the seamy side of Los Angeles in early 1950s. A brutal shooting at the Nite Owl Diner sets in motion a chain of events the exposes the underbelly of corruption and brutality in the L.A. Police. Spectacular performances by Russel Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito and James Cromwell.
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