Arsenic and Old Lace, Cary Grant, Cinderella Man, Dracula, German Expressionist Film, Hugo, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Calighari, The Great Dictator, The Man Who Shot Linberty Valence, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Up, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The farther along the list I climb, the more I find my taste in films is deeply connected to my childhood and college education. Tomm Moore, creator of The Secret of Kells (2009) and The Song of the Sea (2014), remarked that films he saw as a child shaped him and stayed more readily with him unlike those he sees as an adult. The same is true for everyone, I think.
As far as those connected to my education, they opened my mind to the world. Many of the silent films I became deeply attached to because of the months I dedicated to them. So, as this list continues I feel my obvious preference for these type of movies will resurface.
40. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962)
This is an interesting anomaly on my list. I like western films well enough but I could hardly say I am a die hard fan. Starring Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne, this movie presented a different more historically accurate take on western history. The premise of the story is the collision of social order and the untamed wildness of the early west. Jimmy Stewart represented the first, being a lawyer and deeply educated. John Wayne, true to his image, played the strong armed tough guy born into the more “dog eats dog” lifestyle.
I loved this idea of order gradually changing the more amoral power system in the west. What I mean is truth, justice and virtue of character provided the structure surely lacking in so many settlements in the west. The characters were well rounded and thoroughly interesting as well. The movie’s title denotes the hidden truth needed to progress society. But the colliding relationship between Stewart’s and Wayne’s character remained the most interesting. My advice, if you love western history (especially if you are a Louis La’mour fan) I guarantee you will love this film and should definitely watch it.
Tom Doniphon: [Doniphon has just told Stoddard what really happened the night Liberty Valance was shot] Hallie’s your girl now. Go back in there and take that nomination. You taught her how to read and write; now give her something to read and write about!
39. Cinderella Man (2005)
Here is another strange addition. (I do not like sport movies much either) Compared to the Rocky films, this obscure movie appeals to me more. I think it is the setting, midst the Great Depression. What was Russel Crowe’s character fighting for? The simple answer is his family. I love virtuous, genuinely good men in films and stories. Watching him, I could see the love he had for his wife and children. The lengths he went to carry his family during such turbulent times really touched me as a teenager.
The whole idea of this movie in my mind is that heroes do not don capes and super powers. They give people something to believe in and set a defining example for them. Why else is it so hard when our heroes and idols fall from grace or lead double lives? The love I feel emanating from its story and characters has stayed with me a long time, a land marked vision of the type of man I wish to marry someday.
1. Mae Braddock: Maybe I understand, some, about having to fight. So you just remember who you are… you’re the Bulldog of Bergen, and the Pride of New Jersey, you’re everybody’s hope, and the kids’ hero, and you are the champion of my heart, James J. Braddock.
2. Jim Braddock: Max, my wife Mae.
Max Baer: You are far too pretty to be a widow.
Jim Braddock: That’s not nice, Max. Not nice. Come on.
[starts to leave]
Max Baer: On second thought, maybe I can comfort you after he’s gone.
Joe Gould: Hey, I said shut your goddamn mouth, you punk!
[Mae throws her drink in Max’s face]
Jim Braddock: Sorry. Send me the cleaning bill.
Max Baer: Get that boys? Now he’s got his wife doing his fighting for him!
Jim Braddock: Yeah.
Jim Braddock: Ain’t she something?
38. Nosferatu (1922)
Ahh Nosferatu. How many hours spent delving deep into your complex messages? I do not tend to watch the oldie monster movies outside of October but in studying German Expressionist film I became fascinated with F. W. Murnau’s genius. For my senior thesis, I chose this movie from his list of masterpieces. It is a truly haunting watch, even after almost a century. Much of Dracula’s (1930) famous imagery, like the ship tossing through the ocean, and it’s dramatic use of shadows comes directly from Murnau’s original work.
What struck me hardest, the first time I saw it, was the hopelessness permeating the film. It was a feeling of dread and loss only conceived from the mind of a people fallen into despair. So, to put it simply, I always feel like I am looking into the heart of inter-war Germany. I find its whole premise fascinating and do not view it as a “horror” or “monster” film. It is definitely more than that.
Knock, ein häusermakler: It will cost you sweat and tears, and perhaps… a little blood.
37. The Great Dictator (1940)
Here is my favorite Charlie Chaplin movie. His first sound film, it is a comedic satire against Adolf Hitler, who was still rising in power and not yet the world wide horror people remember. It is certainly a brave film but for me it is a testament of Chaplin’s disgust for the dictatorships rising from the dust of World War I.
Many have surmised that the ending speech, where Chaplin makes it clear what the purpose of making his film was, is unnecessary and bloated. For me, it sealed my love for the film. It brought me to tears and shifted my whole focus on war and those who dictators would force into poverty, enslavement and death. If I ever taught in schools again, specifically in history, I would show this film. Much like most of Chaplin’s films, it is a well-rounded experience full of comedy, drama and emotionalism.
Favorite Quote: (If you wish to watch it click here —-> Chaplin’s Speech)
A Jewish Barber: I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite! Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up Hannah! The clouds are lifting! The sun is breaking through! We are coming out of the darkness into the light! We are coming into a new world; a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed, and brutality. Look up, Hannah! The soul of man has been given wings and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow! Into the light of hope, into the future! The glorious future, that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up, Hannah. Look up!
Mr. Jaeckel: Hannah, did you hear that?
36. The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
The reason why I read the original 1995 novel by Duchess Emma Orczy was this movie. True, it is not superb but it ingrained itself deeply into my mind throughout my childhood. It stars Ian Mckellen (Gandalf!!!), Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour and is an easygoing romance that takes place during the French Revolution. Though I like the historical aspect of it, Anthony Andrews as Sir Percy Blakeney seals my adoration for the movie.
Sir Percy, on the outside a pompous and ridiculous man, maintains such a facade to clear away any thought of him being the Scarlet Pimpernel. I enjoy all his disguises and witty insults for French revolutionists. Though technically a TV special, I think the romance is utterly charming, the action scenes sublime and the characters thoroughly enjoyable. Too bad not very many people know this movie exists.
1. Marguerite: They seek him here,/ They seek him there,/ Those Frenchies seek him everywhere./ Is he in heaven,/ Or is he in hell?/ My own elusive Pimpernel.
Sir Percy: Sink me, the lady is a poet.
2. Marguerite: I don’t know whether you’re mad, or…
Sir Percy: Desperately in love? ‘Tis all the same. Tell me, if you can, that you do not feel it, too.
3. Sir Percy: [on his poem] Well, the pretty thing rhymes in four places, don’t you see? And if a rhyme rhymes, it makes a poem, if you follow me.
Prince Regent: As if it were crystal clear… my dear!
(Agh! No more quotes or I wil take up another page! Just watch the movie 😉 )
35. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
This movie is pure comedic gold. My family watches it every Halloween and laugh and laugh at jokes we know by heart. Starring Pricilla Lane, Cary Grant and Perer Lorre, it is the story of a marriage critic getting married and finding out his aunts are burying old men in the basement they have killed for charity. How to talk about an ingenious movie such as this? Frank Capra, an AMAZING director, (Think It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It Happened One Night) is truly one of those few directors who can pull off such a satire.
I love so many things about this movie. Of course, it is meant to make fun of old horror movies (not in the way the Scary Movie series does. Bleh) Wherher it’s “Teddy Roosevelt” yelling CHARGE! up the stairs or Grant’s cousin Jonathan being likened to Boris Karloff (the original Frankenstein) the movie has me laughing till it hurts every time.
1. Mortimer Brewster: Look I probably should have told you this before but you see… well… insanity runs in my family… It practically gallops.
2. Mortimer Brewster: [finding a second body in the window seat] Ye, Gods! There’s another one!
3. [ In regards to his aunt’s habit of killing old men…]
Mortimer Brewster: Look, you can’t do things like that! Now, I don’t know how I can explain this to you. But, it’s not only against the law, its wrong!
Martha Brewster: Oh, piffle!
Mortimer Brewster: It’s not a nice thing to do. People wouldn’t understand. He wouldn’t understand. What I mean is… Well… This is developing into a very bad habit!
34.Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Starring Gen Wilder, this was a low budget film meant to promote a chocolate bar and fall into obscurity. Ironically no one recalls the candy but many fondly remember the magic the film brought to them. I love this movie because it acknowledges that kids are not stupid. Each of the kids did horrible things and rightfully paid the consequences for their actions. Adults, when it first came out, went up in arms for what the writers did. Kids on the other hand, like myself, fully understood that the children’s actions were self inflicting.
I love the music. It is charming, and pulls you in without huge dance scenes or operatic conclusions. The song “I’ve got a Golden Ticket” gets in my head a lot. Charlie is also a wonderful character because of how genuine he is. Flawed perhaps. But still a loving child. Gene Wilder is obviously my favorite character though. Ahhh, I love his bantering with the other parents and naughty children. If you have not seen this movie I recommend it wholeheartedly.
1. Willy Wonka: [touching the gobstopper Charlie has just set on his desk] So shines a good deed in a weary world.
2. Mr. Turkentine: I’ve just decided to switch our Friday schedule to Monday, which means that the test we take each Friday on what we learned during the week will now take place on Monday before we’ve learned it. But since today is Tuesday, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Pencils ready!
3. [last lines]
Willy Wonka: But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.
Charlie Bucket: What happened?
Willy Wonka: He lived happily ever after.
33. The Cabinet of Dr. Calighari (1920)
Out of all the German Expressionist films I studied I like this one the best. Perhaps it is because of the two film writer’s background. Then again, maybe it is the twisty ending that so many other films like Shutter Island (2010) have copied half mindedly. For sure, the whole film seems like a strange, bizarre dream into a nightmare but, if you understand the ending it all makes sense. It stars Conrad Veidt (one of my all time favorite actors) and Werner Krauss as the sunombolist Cesare and Dr. Calighari respectably and features the artwork of the most esteemed Expressionists of the time.
Imagery is key to early films like this. It employs chiaroscuro, a stark contrast between light and shadow, and twisted sets recognizable only in horror films and Tim Burton movies. (Note for the Tim Burton fan. This is the movie he gets all his wacky imagery and character designs from.) Overall, Calighari is the ultimate balm for my German soul.
Francis: You all think I’m insane-! it isn’t true – it’s the director who’s insane! – He is Caligari… Caligari… Caligari!
32. Hugo (2011)
Thinking back, a lot of movies about Paris came out 2011. This one is definitely my favorite. It combines my love of books, 19th century inventions and gears, clocks and wheels, and films. It has quite an array of famous actors and actresses: Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen (This surprised me) and Jude Law being only a few. Asa Butterfield stars as Hugo, a boy desperate to fix an automaton he and his father found.
I love everything about this movie: the brilliant visuals, Howard Shore’s lovely soundtrack, the clips from old masterpieces like Safety Last! (1923), Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès, and Martin Scorsese’s directing. I think it is a wonderful film to help introduce children to old classics and a beautiful reminder to adults where the magic in our lives is born.
1. Georges Méliès: If you’ve ever wondered where your dreams come from, you look around… this is where they’re made.
2. Hugo Cabret: I’m sorry, it’s broken.
Georges Méliès: No it’s not. It worked perfectly!
3. Georges Méliès: My friends, I address you all tonight as you truly are; wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, magicians… Come and dream with me.
31. Up (2009)
I remember seeing Up six years ago. I was with my brother, Spencer, and as we sat in the theater we discussed his new relationship with Sarah (his soon to be wife). As the movie started, I laughed at its silly humor and marveled at its setting. Then came Carl and Ellie’s married life. When Ellie died both my brother and I were crying and as we looked at each other I knew deep in my heart we had seen something spectacular. It main voice actors Christopher Plummer as Charles Mutz and Edward Asner as Carl Frederichson were certainly a fresh addition to the heroes and villains audiences have been pummeled with for over a century.
This movie carries me on an emotional roller coaster. I have cried at Carl’s painful moments, laughed at Dug’s cute phrases and sat on the edge of my seat watching the action scenes in the blimp. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack? This movie is truly special and the last great Pixar film (so far).
1. Dug: I was hiding under your porch because I love you.
2. Young Ellie: [to Carl] You know. You don’t talk much… I like you!
3.Carl Fredricksen: [after his house hits a cliff and shatters a window] I am nobody’s master, got it? I don’t want you here
[points his cane at Dug]
Carl Fredricksen: and I don’t want you here!
[points it at Kevin]
Carl Fredricksen: [addressing Russell] I’m stuck with you, but if you two don’t clear out of here by the time I count to three…