21. West Side Story: Glorious. The story of Romeo and Juliet updated to 1950s New York City. Instead of the Capulets and the Montagues, the battling families are youth gangs of Puerto Rican Sharks and American Jets (“When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way.”). The star-crossed lovers are played by Natalie Wood as Maria and Richard Beymer as Tony. All of this is set to the stunning music of Leonard Bernstein. In my opinion, the best musical ever made.
22. Patton: George C. Scott becomes General George Patton in this remarkable biopic. The opening scene of Patton giving his address to the troops in front of an oversized American flag, is one of the two best opening scenes in film. “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
23. African Queen: Another Bogart movie, this time with Katherine Hepburn. Filmed in Africa by director John Huston, this film tells the story of a determined woman who convinces a low-life captain of a decrepit boat carrying the moniker “African Queen” to battle hippos, leaches and river currents to attack a German boat during WWI. In the process, it becomes a wonderfully unexpected love story.
24. The Godfather Part II: The best sequel ever made. It continues the Corleone saga started in The Godfather, adding at both ends of the story. It carries the same richness of the original. “I've always taken care of you, Fredo.”
25. Dog Day Afternoon: Based on a bizarre real-life1972 bank robbery, it is the story of Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) and an attempted robbery of a Brooklyn bank to get money for a sex change operation for Sonny’s “girlfriend.” A silent alarm brings the cops and sets up a standoff on a sizzling summer afternoon. Al Pacino is unforgettable. “Attica! Attica! Attica!”
26. North by Northwest: In this Alfred Hitchcock movie, we are not always sure who are the good guys, but who cares? Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason are delicious in a movie of an ordinary man caught up in international intrigue. Hitchcock works his magic with Cary Grant dodging a crop duster that attacks him on a lonely road, and in the climactic scene played out on the faces of Mount Rushmore.
27. The Searchers: Director John Ford teamed up with actor John Wayne in 24 movies, but none approached The Searchers. In 2008, American Film Institute named it the best western ever made. And with good reason. Wayne later won the Best Actor Oscar for True Grit, but this is his best, most complicated, most nuanced performance, playing a growingly bitter man searching years for his kidnapped niece, played by Natalie Wood.
28. Fargo: The Coen Brothers quirky filmmaking is on view in this black comedy / drama about the kidnapping of the daughter of a wealthy car dealership owner, arranged by her husband. Frances McDormand won the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of a pregnant police chief investigating the crime. William H. Macy as the husband and Steve Buscemi as one of the kidnappers, give great performances. Ironically, the movie is set in Minnesota, not North Dakota – and you’ll never look at a wood chipper the same way again.
29. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrik’s look at the near future, the distant past, and our destiny in the stars. Mesmerizing imagery and a movie that will leave you talking long into the night on what does it all mean.
30. Some Like It Hot: Hiding out from New York gangsters after witnessing a murder, jazz musicians played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon dress in drag and join an all-girl band, including singer Marilyn Monroe, for an escape trip to Florida. Attracted to Marilyn, Curtis dons another alter ego as a wealthy playboy, while Lemmon finds himself fending off the advances of millionaire Joe E. Brown. Then the gangsters show up. Just fun.