Archive for May, 2009

The following is a list I’ve compiled of what I think are cinematic classics. These films may not be all well known and may differ from what other critics say are classic films, but I have chosen these because they stand the test of time, and are entertaining years beyond their initial release.

- 1900-1929 -

The Great Train Robbery (1903)
A group of bandits. A train coming at the screen. A really great early cinematic classic!

Birth of A Nation (1915)
Director: D.W Griffith 
Controversial Civil War era film, that is often considered the birth of modern American cinema. Head over to IMDB’s website for tons of trivia on this film.

- 1930-1939 -

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Director: Lewis Milestone 
This film is about the experiences of young German soldiers during World War One and the emotional impact it takes on all of them.

The Public Enemy (1931)
Director: William A. Wellman 
An early James Cagney film about the trappings of mob life and its implications on family members. Watch for the warning about socially unacceptable behaviour the studio put in at the beginning of the film. It’s a classic sentiment of the studio system.

King Kong (1933)
This film featured the musical score of Max Steiner who pioneered the classical music score in films to come.

It Happened One Night (1934)
Director: Frank Capra 
This early Frank Capra film remains one of my favourites since it has tinges of Elizabeth Bennett Mr. Darcy love hate relationship. It’s a darling film that stands apart from Capra’s other films.

The Gay Divorcee (1934)
Director: Mark Sandrich
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in this tale about a woman who desperately wants a divorce so she hires a man to play the part of the man she is having an affair with. All is fine until she mistakes Fred Astaire for the man she hired. 

Sylvia Scarlett (1935)
Director: George Cukor
Cary Grant is hilarious as a not so nice guy, but for some reason you still root for him.

Modern Times (1936)
Director: Charles Chaplin
Do you find yourself struggling to survive in a continually modernizing society? Well, Charlie Chaplin does in this film and it’s well worth a watch. A great film about technology, society and the laughs that is can sometimes create. 

The Awful Truth (1937)
Director: Leo McCarey
Hilarious pairing of Irene Dunne and the remarkable Cary Grant as a couple on the verge of divorce. 

Shall We Dance (1937)
Director: Mark Sandrich
Rumours of marriage complicate the lives of a ballet master and her dance instructor. 

Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Director: Howard Hawks
Another pairing of Catherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in a great Howard Hawks film that is just rich with humour and a little romance. Catherine Hepburn delivers a wonderful performance and is the best when shooting dialogue off of Cary Grant.

Jezebel (1938)
Director: William Wyler
Expertly played by Bette Davis, this film is about a woman’s pride and the consequences it has for her and those around her. 

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Director: Frank Capra
Great film about the troubles of the everyman and how a small time hero can make it big and make a difference.

- 1940-1949 -

The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Director: George Cukor
An ex-husband is intent on ruining the remarriage of his ex-wife. Does he succeed? You must watch for yourself to find out.

The Great Dictator (1940)
Director: Charles Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin’s comedic satire of Nazi Germany. This one is really funny, even today.

Fantasia (1940)
Disney used classical music timed to animation in the same way the Bugs Bunny cartoons did – it’s a way to get kids to hear and appreciate classical music while still being entertained. 

Penny Serenade (1941)
Director: George Stevens
Cary Grant really saved this film about a young married couple who will do anything to keep their adopted daughter.

Suspicion (1941)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
The tension and suspense never leaves the screen until the very end of the film when Hitchcock finally reveals the twist. 

Bambi (1942)
Director: David Hand
Sad. Yes. Very sad, but it’s a Disney classic because of how it portrays the story of a young deer learning how to survive on his own and becoming aware of the dangers of humans. 

Double Indemnity (1944)
Director: Billy Wilder
Classic film noir. It is seriously one of the best.

The Big Sleep (1946)
Director: Howard Hawks
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall shine in this adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel. It still remains as one of the seminal film noir/detective films. 

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Director: William Wyler
Superb film about what happens to men who return to the home front at the end of WWII.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Director: Frank Capra
It’s hard to believe this film had a poor reception when it was released, but since then it has become a classic and beloved holiday film for everyone. And it should be.

T-Men (1947)
Director: Anthony Mann
Another wonderful film noir, this one directed by Anthony Mann whose cinematographer John Alton, to me, really epitomizes what film noirs are, and what they should look like. 

Kiss of Death (1947)
Director: Henry Hathaway
Richard Widmark pushing a woman in a wheelchair down the stairs, complete with sinister laughter. Can you get any more evil than that? This is an excellent film noir. 

Every Girl Should Be Married (1948)
Director: Don Hartman
Hilarious romantic farce about a woman who is essentially stalking the man of her dreams (who else, but Cary Grant) because she wants to marry him.

Key Largo (1948)
Director: John Huston
Humphrey Bogart is really great in this film about a man trapped in his friend’s hotel that becomes overrun by gangsters. 

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Director: John Huston
Humphrey Bogart is really great in this film as the quest for gold renders him virtually insane. 

The Third Man (1949)
Director: Carol Reed
This film is unique in how a dead man takes on the role of a character – he is mentioned all throughout the film and yet you do not see him. It’s a clever way of keeping the audience aware of the magnitude of his presence. Watch for the stunning cinematography!

Border Incident (1949)
Director: Anthony Mann
John Alton did great cinematography in this Anthony Mann film about human trafficking and lawlessness along the border between the United States and Mexico.

- 1950-1959 -

Harvey (1950)
Director: Henry Koster
I just love this film. It’s whimsical and charming, and just delightful every time I watch it. 

Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Director: Billy Wilder
A reclusive actress, an unknown screenwriter, murder and tragedy are all intertwined in this classic film from Billy Wilder. 

Winchester ‘73 (1950)
Director: Anthony Mann
Anthony Mann’s portrayal of the strained relationship between brothers – one good, and the other one not so good – as they both battle for ownership of the best gun in the west. 

All About Eve (1950)
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
It’s the young versus the old, the understudy versus the star in this tale of jealousy and manipulation.

The African Queen (1951)
Director: John Huston
Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn are magnificent in this film set in Africa circa WWI. 

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Director: Elia Kazan
The intense emotions literally leap off the screen in this wonderful film. It is a must see for everyone. 

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Director: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
Classic musical. One of the best with Gene Kelly!

Stalag 17 (1953)
Director: Billy Wilder
Poignant film about American POWs in a German camp. Very dramatic and full of tension.

The Wild One (1953)
Director: Laslo Benedek
Early Marlon Brando = awesome Marlon Brando = fantastic film.

Rear Window (1954)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
One of my favourite Hitchcock films with its tale of voyeurism. Plus James Stewart is in it so what’s not to love?

On the Waterfront (1954)
Director: Elia Kazan
Marlon Brando is fantastic in this film about a man who must give up his dream of being a championship boxer to work as a longshoreman who incites the other workers to take down the corrupt bosses. 

Guys and Dolls (1955)
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
This musical is so great! I’m not a musical person but I love this one. You can’t go wrong with Sinatra and Brando in the same film! 

The Man From Laramie (1955)
Director: Anthony Mann
A really great Anthony Mann western starring the very awesome James Stewart. Mann’s westerns are the best there is.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Director: Nicholas Ray
Because of his short-lived career, every James Dean film is a classic but this one stands out among the rest because it introduced the world to a new kind of rough and tough hero. Someone you might have to look at twice (and who wouldn’t want to?).

Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Director: Richard Brooks
Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier in an early film about a teacher trying to get through to a bunch of kids who just don’t want to listen. The film is full of social problems of the day including race relations and social standings.

The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Director: Billy Wilder
Much like James Dean, all of Marilyn Monroe’s films should be considered classics and this one is no different. This film shows her comedic and charming side which is opposed in The Misfits, which displays her more dramatic and emotional side. 

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955)
Director: Otto Preminger
Frank Sinatra is excellent in this film about drug addiction and the repercussions it has on life and relationships. 

The Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske
Classic tale about love, societal class and how it is overcome.

The Ten Commandments (1956) 
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
One of the best epic bible films ever. 

Sayonara (1957)
Director: Joshua Logan
Red Buttons the dramatic actor? You got that right. Marlon Brando is full of charm in this look at racial prejudice in postwar Japan.

The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957)
Director: Norman Taurog
This is a cute film about an actress who gets kidnapped, unfortunately the public doesn’t really care, and her kidnappers aren’t all that bad. 

12 Angry Men (1957)
Director: Sidney Lumet
Courtroom drama with a number of big players here including Henry Fonda and Jack Klugman in a film about morality and social expectations. 

Paths of Glory (1957)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick’s WWI era film starring Kirk Douglas. I love the tracking shot in the trenches, it’s one of the best. 

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Director: David Lean
On one side, they are building the bridge. On the other allied side they have plans to destroy it. 

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Director: Richard Brooks
Terrific pairing of Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman in a dramatically rich film. 

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Probably one of the few Elizabeth Taylor films people don’t usually hear about, but you should see it. It’s full of dramatic tension and Taylor offers one of her best performances without being outshined by Catherine Hepburn.

North by Northwest (1959)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Of course Hitchcock will appear on this list more than once since he is the master of making films that really stand the test of time and become inspirations for future films.  And this one is no exception. A masterpiece about mistaken identity, and how far that can go.

A Hole in the Head (1959)
Director: Frank Capra
Sinatra plays the classic Capra dejected hero/everyman, as a widower who runs a hotel but is constantly in debt and on the verge of losing custody of his son and his livelihood.

- 1960-1969 -

The Apartment (1960)
Director: Billy Wilder
Everyone says you should see this film. And you should!

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (1960)
Director: Karel Reisz
Albert Finney is remarkable in this film about working class youth in England. 

Ocean’s Eleven (1960)
Director: Lewis Milestone
The remake is pretty good. But nothing beats Sinatra and his rat pack in their film about a casino heist. 

Spartacus (1960)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Thanks to IMDB I learned that Anthony Mann shot the salt mines sequence, then had a falling out with Kirk Douglas so they brought in Stanley Kubrick. This film follows the numerous epic bible-era films to come out in the 1960s and is one of the best. 

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
Director: Stanley Kramer
The title of this film is it’s main focus and there are great performances in here from Richard Widmark, Burt Lancaster and Maximilian Schell.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Director: Robert Aldrich
Bette Davis is superb as an evil maniacal woman whose childhood fame has since been forgotten so she takes out her anger on her poor sister.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Director: John Frankenheimer
A great film about hypnosis, ‘the communist next door’, and poor Frank Sinatra is in the middle of everything. 

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Director: Robert Mulligan
Gregory Peck is just perfect in this film. You have to see it.

James Bond Series (1962-Present)
James Bond has become such an iconic character, what’s not to love about these films no matter who is in the title role.

The Great Escape (1963)
Director: John Sturgess
Allied POWs plan to escape from a German POW camp. A long film but definitely worth anyone’s time to watch. 

Lord of the Flies (1963)
Director: Peter Brook
What would you do on a secluded island? This film tells the story of how young children revert to savage behaviour and divided groups in the quest for survival. 

A Hard Day’s Night (1963)
Director: Richard Lester
This film is so well written, it seems as though the entire film is ad libbed by the Beatles and shows off their boyish charm and fun loving ways. Not to mention the inventive use of camera techniques and editing set against wonderful black and white cinematography.

The Pink Panther (1-4) (1963-1978)
Director: Blake Edwards
Peter Sellers showing how subtle his comedic inclinations are, and these series of films are some of the best in the pantheon of comedy films. 

Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb (1964)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick was at his all time best here with a superb cast and an offbeat take on nuclear war.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Director: Sergio Leone
Classic Cint Eastwood western by Sergio Leone, it’s the best of his western trilogy about the man with no name. “Yojimbo” is the film it’s based on so you might want to see that one too. 

The Sound of Music (1965)
Director: Robert Wise
Who doesn’t know all the songs to this wonderful musical? It’s a favourite of many, and with just cause. 

A Thousand Clowns (1966)
Director: Fred Coe
Jason Robards stars in this film as a man who is content to be unemployed. Hard to find, but if you do hold onto it!

The Fortune Cookie (1966)
Director: Billy Wilder
Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon star in this film about an injured man and his friend that tries to milk that injury for all its worth!

Fahrenheiht 451 (1966)
Director: François Truffaut
An oppressive future where books are burned is the backdrop for this Truffaut film, and is a must see for everyone.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Director: Arthur Penn
Critics had to retract their dismissal of this film after a backlash from viewers and reissue the positive reviews this 1960s masterpiece deserves.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Who doesn’t like this film? Paul Newman is wonderful and keeps you cheering for him until the very end. 

The Jungle Book (1967)
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
A great adaptation of the book by Rudyard Kipling about a boy who befriends jungle animals. 

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967)
Director: Stanley Kramer
A film where the relevance about race relations still exists today. It’s well crafted and genuinely acted.

The Odd Couple (1968)
Director: Gene Saks
A great pairing of Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon that goes down in cinematic history.

The Party (1968)
Director: Blake Edwards
Hilarious Peter Sellers doing what he does best, even though it is in the same fashion as Charlie Chaplin or Jacques Tati, it is still wonderful!

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Director: Sergio Leone
Harmonica man. Henry Fonda as a super bad guy. Jason Robards. It is a long film, but is a classic western.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Director: George Roy Hill
Paul Newman is in this, so you have to see it. 

Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Director: John Schlesinger
As a male prostitue and his ailing friend, Ratso and Joe form an intense bond in this moving film about unlikely friendships.

- 1970-1979 -

Catch 22 (1970)
Director: Mike Nichols
Adapting this novel into a film must have not been an easy task  but the end result is rich with irony, humour, juxtapositions. It may not be easily understood by all but should be appreciated for its cinematic value and watched by all.

The Aristocats (1970)
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Just like Lady and the Tramp, this film portrays the unlikely bond between a rich cat and her kittens and a poor stray. 

The Godfather (Part One) (1972)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
I read in an interview that Coppola had only intended to make one godfather film and this is it. The studios demanded more, so he had to concede. It shows why this first film, is the most revered and the best.

Mean Streets (1973)  
Director: Martin Scorsese
One of Scorsese’s earliest films and quite possibly one of his best detailing a group of friends in 1970s New York and their struggle with violence, and survival.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)
Director: Hall Bartlett
Undeserving of its criticism, this film was way beyond its time. It took the idea of a live action animal film and infused it with highly spiritual ideals about life, transcendence and morality. The seagull speaks in a more intelligent way then say, Francis the Talking Mule or The Shaggy Dog  and perhaps it soars way over the heads of those who pan the film. Think of March of the Penguins with intellectual thought about one’s own mortality and you’ve got Jonathan. Did I mention the entire soundtrack was done by Neil Diamond? Just one other reason to watch this. 

Chinatown (1974)
Director: Roman Polanski
Classic neo-noir. A good counterpart to any film noir you watch.

Blazing Saddles (1974)
Director: Mel Brooks
This film is always funny no matter how many times to watch it. Seriously. 

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Director: Sidney Lumet
Possibly the best Al Pacino movie to date. 

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Director: Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones
The best Monty Python movie ever, and it really showcases the troop’s creative humour. 

Jaws (1975)
Director: Steven Spielberg
One of the first films declared as a blockbuster, and it’s still relevant and entertaining today.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Director: Milos Forman
Superb acting by Jack Nicholson about patients in an mental institution attempting to overthrow the dictator-like head nurse. 

Star Wars (Episodes 4-6) (1977-1989)
These films depict the classic battle between good and evil and are among the best in the space adventure film pantheon. 

Star Trek (TOS cast films) (1979-1981)
Only films with the original cast members, these ones are classics because like the series the films are highly entertaining and have become classics in the realm of space adventure films. 

- 1980-1989 -

The Fox and the Hound (1981)
Director: Ted Berman, Richard Rich & Art Stevens
Another Disney classic about two friends who in all reality shouldn’t be friends but they form an inseparable bond.

Indiana Jones (1-3) (1981-1989)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Well, Temple of Doom isn’t the best but as a whole the trilogy stands alone as a set of really entertaining films you can watch over and over with Indiana Jones as the perfect hero.

A Christmas Story (1983)
Director: Bob Clark
A classic film you can watch anytime at all but is most special during the Holiday season. 

Ghostbusters (1984)
Director: Ivan Reitman
Why is this here? Because it’s a classic comedy. Everyone knows that. It’s original, funny and entertaining.

Back to the Future (1-3) (1985-1990)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
These films are creative, unique and inventive. Who doesn’t enjoy watching these today?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
This is one of the first films to fully incorporate live action and animation and in my bet it is the best one to date. 

The Land Before Time (1988)
Director: Don Bluth
Despite the numerous sequels, this first film in the series remains a classic about the bonds of friendship between dinosaurs.

- 1990-1999 -

Goodfellas (1990)
Director: Martin Scorsese
I know this is a pretty recent film, but Scorsese’s look at the intricate structure of mob life remains one of the best.

Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Director: Jonathan Demme
Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster are remarkable in this film that continues to resonate throughout pop culture. 

The Lion King (1994)
Director: Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff
Classic Disney animated feature with memorable music. 

Toy Story (1995)
Director: John Lasseter
The first computer generated feature length film. This makes it an instant classic. 

Trainspotting (1996)
Director: Danny Boyle
Yes this is very recent. But it is rare that a film comes out of a country and defines that generation and breaks all barriers. This film does just that, showing audiences the reality of the drug culture in the U.K and literally becomes one of the most poignant films to come out of the country of that decade.

- 2000-Present -

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Director: Wes Anderson
Yes this film is very recent to be considered a classic. But Wes Anderson came on the scene with Bottle Rocket and solidified his status as an ingenious filmmaker with this film. He brings back the auteur of days long ago.