A few years ago the American Film Institute published its list of the greatest movies of all time, based on a jury of 1,500 film artists, critics and historians. The Institute, of course, has a perspective that we as movie-goers cannot share, given that they (unlike we) are not limited in appreciation to a time period that coincides with our own lifespan. Individually we can only go with those films we have seen, and for the most part they post-date our entry into adolescence while the Institute has reached back over 70 years in compiling what is shared below. Still, it can be an exercise in self-awareness to reflect on our personal “top ten” and to take a moment to consider why, at least for us, they stand apart from others in our hearts and minds. It can also make for some pretty interesting “get acquainted” conversation among friends and lovers.
Here is what the Institute came up with:
- Citizen Kane (1941)
- The Godfather (1972)
- Casablanca (1942)
- Raging Bull (1980)
- Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
- Gone With The Wind (1939)
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
- Schindler’s List (1993)
- Vertigo (1958)
- The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Have fun creating your own list of favorites, and in case you’re looking for some you may have overlooked, here are mine (extended to twelve, which still wasn’t easy!):
It’s a Wonderful Life – the best reminder of how profoundly we impact the lives of others.
The Verdict – Never have I rooted for a character as much as I did Paul Newman’s. Great, great performance.
A Few Good Men – the climactic final scene held the single greatest exchange between two actors I’ve ever seen, bar none.
The Little Mermaid – best music of not just any Disney film, but of any film, period. The joy that it gave my daughters was a priceless gift.
The Passion of the Christ – when it was over and the lights came up, no one spoke, no one moved for a long time. Never before or since have I seen anything like it.
A Man for All Seasons – Thomas More’s courage, humility and conviction were as inspiring as anything ever captured on film.
The Graduate – maybe you had to be a college student in the 1960’s to fully identify with Ben Braddock but if you were, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It captured that era perfectly.
The Sound of Music – what DIDN’T it have? Great story, back-story, scenery, acting, music and…ending.
E.T. – A flying bicycle is every boy’s fantasy. Thank you, Steven Spielberg.
The Godfather – “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” Oh, so sublime.
Fiddler on the Roof – the remarkable story of a remarkable people.
Patton – Perfectly cast; exquisitely delivered.