If you know me, you know I’m a list guy. I rank ex-girlfriends, job experiences, and even past and current pets (Kimbo still my boy, R.I.P.). The European magazine Sight & Sound comes out every 10 years with a top 100 films list comprised of thousands of filmmakers and critics from around the world voting for their favorites. There are certain movies that, if you’re talking historically, gotta be on this list. I hate “The Wizard of Oz” personally, but historically that is a top 10 pick. What I love about the Sight & Sound list is that multiple film lovers can say straight up their favorite films. As the late Roger Ebert said, every great Top 10 list must have the classics but also some personal picks. These are my Straight Up Top 10 Movies of All Time.
10. “Rear Window” (1954):
Director Alfred Hitchcock has so many movies one could put on such a list. From “Psycho” to “North by Northwest” to “Vertigo”, Hitch is obviously an all-timer. For me, his best has got to be a movie that takes place in a single location. “Rear Window” is an absolute brilliant example of how we compartmentalize and evaluate our neighbors. Jimmy Stewart plays L.B. Jeffries, a photographer for the news papers who suffered a broken leg while covering a big car race. Stuck at home in a wheelchair, Jeffries begins to use his camera and monitor the fellow neighbors living in the tenement. Kinda creepy, particularly his attraction to that sexy dancer across the way, but not call the cops kinda stuff. Then, in his boredom, L.B. witnesses a straight up murder in the apartment directly across the way. From that point the hobbled L.B. becomes obsessed with proving that this dude killed his wife and buried the chick in cold blood. “Rear Window” is all about sneaky great screenwriting that somehow leads into thrilling suspense territory. The girlfriend played by Grace Kelly almost getting killed in the guy’s room is perfectly done. Then you have Jimmy Stewart using flash photography to heed off the bad guy. Absolute classic filmmaking.
9. “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962):
This is the epics of all epics. “Lawrence of Arabia” is one of the most beautiful movies ever to grace the cinema. Peter O’Toole leads an unbelievable two year filmmaking journey in the desert directed by David Lean. This is one you have to see on the big screen. I did not realize the grand scope of this masterpiece until it was re-released on the big screen five years ago. The scope of this picture is unrivaled. My favorite story about “Lawrence of Arabia”, the script had just an 8th of a page that says ‘Lawrence Takes the Train” and it took three weeks to shoot! Yeah, leading a band of various Muslims to take down a train in the desert is gonna take some time to film. Simply a magnificent sight to see.
8. “City Lights” (1931):
If charm was put into movie form, I would have to say none has done it better than Charlie Chaplin as his classic ‘Tramp’ character in the greatest silent movie of all-time, “City Lights”. Even the most extreme edge of youth in the millennial generation know who Chaplin is. The goofy man with a top hat, cane, and weird mustache. Charlie is an all time great. “City Lights” is his pinnacle. A goofy guy who works as a boxing waterboy type is able to convince a far more beautiful woman to fall in love. To be fair, she’s blind. Plus the whole thing is hilarious when Chaplin takes to the ring himself and uses his ability of quickness to ope-de-dope a much larger opponent. So much happiness and hilarity from beginning to end in this story. You can have never watched a silent movie. “City Lights” will give you a warm feeling for at minimum the rest of the day.
7. “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968):
The late Hollywood legend Rock Hudson famously walked out of the premier for “2001: A Space Odyssey” yelling ‘What the hell is this movie about’! Welp Mr. Hudson, “2001” was the first movie to genuinely question the idea of humanitie’s place in the world and how one interprets that position. Not in a biblical sense, instead in a philosophical way that shocked people were use to simple fun sci-fi space movies. Director Stanley Kubrick pushed the envelope and asked you as an audience member to make your own decisions on the concept of how important the human race is or is not. Add in the the biggest jump cut by year in film history, a giant black oblisque, and an evil one-eyed computer named HAL, and you have just a few examples of an indescribable masterpiece.
6. “Come and See” (1985):
This movie is absolute hell from beginning to end. A lot of critics think the flaw with war movies is that they become thrilling in movie form due to big action set pieces. Nobody could claim that with “Come and See”. Director Elem Klimov, fresh off of his wife tragically dying, made war look like what it is, a total nightmare. The child star Aleksey Kravchenko was reportedly hypnotized during several tough scenes so that he would not remember sequences of horror in the film. If you don’t know the history, in WWII the Nazi’s were ordered to invade and kill every person in site when they plowed through the U.S.S.R. border. It wasn’t a takeover like France, it was an annihilation task. That led to even kids having to take up arms. War is horrible for anyone, but no kid should be forced to throw down in real time combat. And that is exactly what “Come and See” details. My favorite scene, the young guy gets caught up in a huge bombing raid and his ears, as well as the actual sound emitting on the screen, has a ringing around it. This is real showcasing of war.
5. “Casablanca” (1941):
Of all the gin joints in all the world… “Casablanca” is simply timeless. A love affair that was never meant to be, Bogart and Bergman will always have Paris. This story of love loss with the backdrop of a French spy trying to get information to his fellow agents under the nose of the Nazi occupied African city is captivating to this day. So many classic lines of dialogue. My favorite, albeit not the most well known; BOGART: “I came here for the waters”, CAPITAN: “The waters Rick this is the desert”, BOGART: “I WAS MISINFORMED”. Did you know this movie went into production without a finished script? Yeah, they were literally writing scenes in the hotel to shoot the next day. And somehow these collection of misfit elements turned into the most classic piece of old school Hollywood ever.
4. “The Godfather” (1972):
If you are compiling a list of the historically most classic movies ever “The Godfather” would have to be numero uno. The epic story of the Corleone family is the stuff of legends. So many storylines surrounding this classic. From Marlon Brando stuffing tissues in his cheeks to Al Pacino actually getting a black eye when his counterpart actor didn’t pull his punch, this is the stuff you write books on. But beyond all the typical gangster stuff, this is a story about family. It is something all can relate to, minus the killing stuff. The greatest piece of acting I have ever seen is here above. Al Pacino’s Michael is the golden boy and not meant to be a part of the family business. When the rival gangs try to kill his father, he agrees to kill two of the people responsible in the attempted hit. When he returns from the restroom having retrieved the planted gun, you see in his eyes without a word how this golden boy becomes what will be a legendary mob boss. This chronicling tale of murder is somehow a thing of beauty.
3. “8 1/2” (1963):
Director Federico Fellini is hands down the most well known Italian filmmaker of all time. When he made “La Dolce Vita” in 1960 the worldwide counter-culture scene went nuts. While “Dolce” is also a classic, by far the auteurs true masterpiece is “8 1/2”. With his worldwide success growing, Fellini was given a blank check to make a big budget sci-fi movie for what would have been his ninth film. Only problem, he got straight writers block. So what did he do? He made a movie about that. A movie about hitting the wall creatively. A movie about how success can become surreal. A movie about how celebrity is simple insanity. This surreal tale about how art and celebrity, combined with growing egotism, is a great ode to why we love the movies and the crazy auteurs willing to make them.
2. “Say Anything…” (1989):
This is my one pick no film nerd will have on this list. They’ll call it a classic, as it is, but nobody is going Top 10 ever. Don’t care. Most kids growing up wanted to be a superhero or astronaut. I wanted to be Llyod Dobler standing outside of the girls house holding up a boombox just hoping there is a chance she will love me again. Everyone knows girls often go for the a-holes, hell every one of my exes has done exactly that. But I don’t care as I will always be a softy, and also far from perfect. But that early scene when John Cusack finally gets a phone call from the girl of his dreams and makes sure his hair is well cleaned in the mirror, and he is on the phone, that is the true boss I always hope to at least attempt to be. Long live Lloyd Dobler and that boombox!
1, “A Clockwork Orange” (1971):
Once again Stanley Kubrick appears on this list. Of all the greats, Hitchcock, Spielberg, Scorsese, Kurosawa, the only director that has never made a bad movie in his career to me is Stanley Kubrick. He was an egomaniac, but he produced the best stuff the world has ever scene. My favorite is “A Clockwork Orange”. This is a twisted alternate universe tale where crime is rampant and the best hotspot to hang as a youngster is at the milk bar with beverages served out of statued women’s titties. This movie is so stylistically brilliant that it has become a pinnacle icon of pop culture. Even Hot Topic is still selling merchandise based on this classic. There are so many things I love here including the marathon sex scene with Beethoven playing, the open-eyed torture for a convicted killer, and of course the ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ sequence. Yet what puts “A Clockwork Orange” over the top for me is its understanding of how humanity at its core has a tendency to continually promote violence, so we just have to unfortunately accept it. Even today, mass shootings occur all the time but gun owners refuse to sacrifice their 2nd Amendment rights because they like their guns. In “Clockwork”, a serial rapist and murderer having the government brainwash him to not kill people is not ok because he should be allowed to do what he wants. That is humanity. Plus the movie is just cool, which makes no sense considering the content.