MY TOP 10 MOVIES OF ALL TIME
I wonder if there would be two critics in the entire world who would come up with the same Top 10 Movies of All Time in the exact same order. Come to think of it, the same might apply to any two people period, unless they be husband and wife who have spent a lifetime together watching the same pictures over and over.
Some of my movie buff friends and I were discussing this recently and it quickly became apparent that our tastes varied widely. To be expected, I suppose, given the diversity in movie genres for one thing, not to mention the tens of thousands of genuinely good movies that have been churned out since 1905. To narrow them all down to the Top 10 Movies of All Time takes some doing. The odds of any two souls arriving at precisely the same end result should indeed be substantial.
One of my friends had no fewer than three Shakespearian films in his list. Personally, I find Shakespeare decidedly dull, so there is absolutely no possibility of even one of the Bard’s efforts finding its way into my Top 10 Movies of All Time. Indeed, I could name my Top 100 Movies of All Time (and I have) and he still would not feature, (although Shakespeare in Love would scramble in, if that counts at all).
Another of my group has a penchant for film noirs, so a couple of these made it into his Top 10. None made mine, but the wonderful Double Indemnity (1944) finished a respectable fifteenth in my Top 100 Movies of All Time, so we have more in common with each other than with our Shakespearian colleague. Mind you, the rest of our lists were not even remotely similar.
It almost goes without saying that most of my learned friends placed Orson Welles’ 1941 ‘classic’ Citizen Kane at or near the head of their lists. I did not. It is almost compulsory for movie ‘experts’ to wax lyrical over Orson’s movie, as if not doing so might risk relegating them to the ranks of the ill-informed. I have never much been interested in my reputation as a critic. I like what I like and that’s that. Most movie-goers, I believe, feel the same way. If they walk out of a cinema satisfied that their money has not been wasted, that they have been entertained sufficiently, then who cares if the direction was a little amateurish or the lighting wasn’t quite up to scratch?
Entertainment must always be the yardstick by which we assess movies, in my humble opinion. (I should confess here and now that, in all honesty, I have never really had a humble opinion in my life). Nor should I. Nor should any of us. Our opinions are very much who we are, so why apologize for them? If your favourite picture is Disney’s Dumbo, then say so. Your opinion, your taste, is as good as everyone else’s. I place a western at No 2 in my Top 10 Movies of All Time! Shock, horror! And why? Because it fulfils every requirement that goes to make up a terrific movie in my eyes: It has marvellous characters, a sensational script, some of the finest actors ever to grace the silver screen, and it makes me care about what happens. It is moving. It entertains. That is enough for me.
Anyway, for what it is worth, here is my Top 10 Movies of All Time:
#1 CASABLANCA (1942)
Humphrey Bogart – Ingrid Bergman – Claude Rains
A wonderfully scripted film that reeks of atmosphere and intrigue. The score is perfect for the mood and the characters are all rich and believable. Bogart is ideally cast as the laconic, world-weary hero, but he is ably supported by Rains and, to a lesser extent, Bergman.
#2 LONESOME DOVE (1989)
Robert Duvall – Tommy Lee Jones – Diane Lane
The ultimate historical western. Although technically a mini-series, it has been released on Blu-ray and is really in effect a very long movie. Lonesome Dove has everything that goes to make up superb entertainment – a great story, a sublime script, two of the finest lead actors ever to appear on the screen, and an assortment of supporting players that is second to none. There is not a discordant note or dull sequence in the entire picture. A brilliant depiction of a bygone era.
#3 ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976)
Robert Redford – Dustin Hoffman – Jason Robards Jr
There are two amazing things about this movie. First, it was made pretty much at the time Tricky Dicky Nixon was playing funny buggers, and second; even though the audience knew the result it maintained tension and suspense throughout. Robards is first class.
#4 FARGO (1996)
Frances McDormand – Steve Buscemi – William H Macy
A superb black comedy typical of the Coen Brothers. McDormand is always good, as are Buscemi and Macy, but it is the characters and situations created by the writers that make this movie exceptional. Regardless of the opening credits, this story is not based on an actual crime spree, but who cares? It is wildly entertaining throughout.
#5 MY COUSIN VINNY (1992)
Joe Pesci – Marisa Tomei – Fred Gwynne
There is scarcely a scene in this entire movie that does not produce a laugh or, at least a chuckle. Pesci and Tomei are ideally cast, but the supports are all highly watchable and funny in their own right. My Cousin Vinny is one of those films that is watchable over and again because it is rich in memorable moments.
#6 LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)
Peter O’Toole – Omar Sharif – Alec Guinness
The story and actors almost play third fiddle to the cinematography and the score. It is certainly a slow-paced movie, but it is rich in superb characterizations and the action sequences are exciting. Guinness, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy and Anthony Quinn all add to the mix, but it is really O’Toole and Sharif’s picture. Not a single female has dialogue or close-up screen time.
#7 A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958)
Kenneth More – Michael Goodliffe – Honor Blackman
Easily the best ‘Titanic’ movie ever made. More is cast perfectly as First Officer Lightoller and the entire tragedy is handled with great historic accuracy (and great tension) by the British director.
#8 MISSISSIPPI BURNING (1988)
Gene Hackman – Willem Dafoe – Frances McDormand
Hackman proves again why he is one of the most watchable actors in the history of American cinema. He and Dafoe take on the KKK in this fact-based drama of racial hatred and cold-blooded murder in the Deep South of the 1960s. Mcdormand is her usual excellent self, but so is an array of supporting players who add class to an already classy production.
#9 THIRTEEN DAYS (2000)
Bruce Greenwood – Steven Culp – Dylan Baker
Speaking of history lessons, this one covers in compelling detail the thirteen days that saw the world poised on the brink of nuclear annihilation in 1962 courtesy of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kevin Costner is top-billed here, but it is Greenwood and Culp as the Kennedy brothers who dominate the story (and the acting). This is dramatic history story-telling at its finest.
#10 LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING BARRELS (1998)
Jason Statham – Vinnie Jones – Jason Flemyng
Considering the enormous amount of violence in this film, it is quite a surprise to discover an endless supply of witty, humorous dialogue. Statham was always going to be a star and ex soccer-player Vinnie Jones has similar star quality, if a little less refined. A wonderful mix of Cockney good guys and bad guys populate a fast-paced, action-packed caper.