In a series of illustrated articles, the author gives personal easy-to-read reviews of some of the most watchable films in Hollywood history
WHAT DO GREAT FILMS HAVE IN COMMON?
What makes a great film? Everyone will, of course, have their own views, and no one view is definitive. I give my own opinion during the course of compiling this list. At this stage, I would merely suggest that no one should be prejudiced by any one single criterion. Films can be great even if they star a cast of unknown actors. Films of course can be great even if they are written in a foreign language or screened in black and white. Films can be great even if they are all action with no dialogue, or all dialogue with no action. Conversely, the world's best directors have all made turkeys, and the world's best actors have starred in them. I trust that in my selection of great films, there are very few defining qualities - other than quality itself.
Active links to my reviews of some of the films featured here will be highlighted below.
THE HOW AND WHY OF THE COMPILATION OF THIS LIST
Many people enjoy the old party game of compiling lists of 'favourites', and one of the most popular topics for such lists is 'favourite movies'. This is my list, and for me it serves two purposes;
- It satisfies the desire to put down in writing my feelings, and to promote these films so that others unfamiliar with all on this list, can be introduced to them. I hope anyone who chooses to watch any of these films for the first time, will enjoy the experience; that will be sufficient justification for the list.
- The list also serves as a page of links to my reviews of these movies. Links to each of the films on this page will be highlighted as each new review is added. I hope you enjoy the reviews.
As with everyone I suspect, my tastes change with time. Some films I watch for the twentieth time, and I find something new with each viewing. Other films wear a bit thin with repeated screenings, and I will eventually grow bored with a movie I once loved. Some date less well than others, and viewed ten or twenty or fifty years after first screening, they just do not seem so good anymore. And of course, there are always new movies coming along to add to the list. Consequently this list will be dynamic, and will be adjusted on a regular basis to reflect my current opinion.
Finally, I should point out something about the 100 movies on this list. They are my favourites, and I can defend the fact that they are all great films, but I cannot claim they are definitively the greatest ever. I am not a professional film reviewer; I am a casual film viewer. I do not spend all my evenings at the local cinema, catching the latest offerings, and many of the most universally admired films from the past are works which I have never seen. I therefore make no claims for the movies on this list, except that they are my favourites, and they are all worth watching.
This then, is my list of 100 favourite films, with links to reviews, and accompanying notes.
THE TOP 20
01) The Big Country
04) In the Heat of the Night
05) The Untouchables
07) Star Wars : Episode IV - A New Hope
08) The Terminator
09) Apollo 13
10) Kingdom of Heaven
11) Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
12) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
16) For a Few Dollars More
17) The Sting
18) The Fugitive
19) Die Hard
ENTERTAINMENT v QUALITY
For many people a list like this would be full of action packed entertainment movies with amazing special effects (yet in my opinion - ineptly stupid). For others the list would be full of serious-minded well directed movies, full of talent, and perhaps with a philosophical or moral message (yet in my opinion - mind-numbingly pretentious or boring). It's my belief that all of the movies on my list have both entertainment value and great quality of direction and production. Neither is enough by itself.
I am quite proud of the fact that every decade from the last sixty years is represented in just this top 20 ranging from 'The Big Country', made in 1958, to 'Kingdom of Heaven', in 2005. It's true there are no foreign language films or black and white films (though a few of these are featured further down), but the top 20 list does include almost every genre from comedy to period drama, and sci fi to westerns. Some are unashamedly fun ('Dirty Rotten Scoundrels') or fantasy ('Terminator'), while some portray real events ('Apollo 13' and 'Zulu').
The top 20 includes just two Best Picture Academy Award winners ('In the Heat of the Night' and 'The Sting') and these two films plus 'Star Wars' garnered a total of 18 awards between them. Half of the films in my top 20, however, didn't get a single Oscar between them; though whether that says something about my taste, or the tastes of Academy members, is for you to decide.
FILMS 21 - 40
23) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
24) The Day of the Jackal
25) The Apartment
26) The Battle of Britain
27) Jurassic Park
28) The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill .....
30) Batteries Not Included
32) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
34) The Naked Gun
35) The Dam Busters
36) Falling Down
40) I Robot
DIRECTORS AND STARS
Two names may already be standing out to readers of this list. Director Steven Spielberg collaborated with actor Harrison Ford in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'. Spielberg directed no less than five movies in my top 40, the others being Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Duel (his early made-for-TV film). Harrison Ford meanwhile has appeared in five movies (the two Indiana films, Star Wars, Witness and The Fugitive).
Spielberg undoubtably knows how to make entertaining, box office hits, with a professional expertise. Some of his work could be criticised for being overly commercial, but I would nevertheless regard him as the greatest of directors for the continuing high standard of his work. I don't generally follow film stars - the movie is more important than any face which appears on screen - but Harrison Ford does seem to possess a happy knack of picking the big winners when it comes to selecting his movie roles.
In my full top 100 list, Spielberg has directed seven films (no other director has more than four to his credit). Ford has starred in six.
In my list of films 21-40, I include the German movie 'Downfall' which explores the last days of Adolf Hitler in his Berlin bunker. Perhaps to my shame, it is the only foreign language movie in my top 100, but no doubt I - and all of us - should be less lazy about reading subtitles and should embrace such works; to ignore the vast majority of the world's cinema just because of language difficulties is surely to miss out on a treasure trove of great work.
FILMS 41 - 60
41) The Man Who Never Was
42) Terminator II - Judgement Day
43) The Grissom Gang
44) The Cincinnati Kid
45) The Caine Mutiny
46) War of the Worlds (2005 version)
47) The Outlaw Josey Wales
49) Key Largo
50) Torn Curtain
51) The African Queen
52) Red Corner
53) Pretty Woman
54) Aces High
55) Ice Station Zebra
57) A Fistful of Dollars
58) Quatermass and the Pit
59) Operation Crossbow
SEQUELS AND SERIES
Franchises and sequels and remakes seem to have become the staple of an ultra-cautious film industry where fortunes can be made - or lost - on the box office success of a movie. Why risk capital on a new and untested story when you can repackage a formula which has been a proven success in the past, and which seemingly guarantees profits in the future?
It's something of a cliché to suggest that sequels are rarely as good as the original, and there is some truth in that (the reasons will be explored in a future page), but nonetheless there have been some extraordinarily good remakes of classic films, and many stories which are continuations of an original film idea, but which have stayed true to the qualities which marked the original for greatness.
In this list I include several films which have been remade, including 'Rear Window' and 'War of the Worlds'. Usually it is the older version which is favoured - the high standard of entertainment which decreed that a remake should eventually be made, inevitably makes the original a hard act to follow. However in the case of 'War of the Worlds', I believe the remake scores highly for the quality of acting and direction, the emotional pull, and of course for the vastly superior special effects which were not possible in the 1953 original.
Of course in this list, franchises such as Terminator, Predator and Harry Potter also figure prominently. Indiana Jones has three entries in my top 100 list, and so does the never-ending sequence of James Bond movies.
A few lesser known pictures are now appearing in my top 100 list - movies like 'The Man who Never Was', 'Starman', 'Genevieve' and 'Red Corner', and an early Hugh Grant feature with the absurdly long title of 'The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill, But Came Down a Mountain'. (Hugh Grant in a romantic comedy would you believe?) I guess a particular pleasure would be to introduce a few visitors to this site to some of these slightly lesser known movies.
FILMS 61 - 80
62) Dances with Wolves
64) Phone Booth
65) Kind Hearts and Coronets
67) Big Deal at Dodge City
68) School for Scoundrels
69) Deep Impact
70) In the Line of Fire
71) The Last of the Mohicans
73) The Man with the Golden Gun
75) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
76) Destry Rides Again
77) The Towering Inferno
78) Blast from the Past
79) The Birds
THE GOLDEN ERA ?
In my introduction I suggest that one should not be prejudiced by the age of a film and in this latest batch of movies, numbers 61 to 80, there is the oldest work on my list. 'Destry Rides Again' starred James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich and was made in 1939. Was there a 'Golden Age' of Hollywood? Perhaps yes, if one considers glitter and glamour, and the wealth and the power of the movie moguls as the key criteria, but in terms of quality, I think not.
If one can generalise grossly, I would say that films from the first half of the 20th century tend to characterised by beautifully simple plots (which even I can understand), clear dialogue and clear morality, with good guys wearing white hats and bad guys wearing black. Entertainment is the priority. But there is also some atrociously over-the-top acting, banal dialogue, and clichéd scripts.
Films from the second half of the 20th century have tended to be characterised by an ever increasing professionalism in presentation, as movie makers have learned how to use film to express themselves with greater realism. I would say that the general quality particularly of acting and script writing has improved immeasurably. But sometimes this has been at the expense of entertainment value, with blurred moralities, muffled incoherent conversations, and gimicky camera work.
These are generalisations, and there are plenty of classic movies from every decade since film was invented which stand out from the rest, and I just hope I have included some of these stand out films on this page.
FILMS 81 - 100
82) The Ipcress File
84) Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1956 version)
85) Small Soldiers
86) United 93
87)The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
88) Where Eagles Dare
89) North by Northwest
90) Monty Python's Life of Brian
91) Mrs Brown
92) The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951 version)
96) Ben Hur
97) The Blue Max
100)My Fair Lady
THE BEST FILMS
So this is my list of 100 favourite films.
Already I can imagine the shakings of many heads in amazement, and the bursting of blood vessels as readers try to comprehend the selections, and even more so - some of the absences. For something so trivial, few subjects manage to raise temperatures so high as a person's list of favourite films.
If it's some comfort to such people, the list will change, so maybe some of your favourites will be added in due course when I see the light (or at least see the movie).
Anyway, we can't agree on politics, or religion. What would the world be coming to if we all agreed on movies?
If you read any of my reviews (links are in blue) I hope you enjoy them.
LINK TO MY OTHER NON-FILM RELATED PAGES
PLEASE ADD COMMENTS IF YOU WILL. THANKS, ALUN
Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on October 18, 2014:
Craig Easom; Thanks very much for that. The list is probably overdue for a slight overhaul - a change to the running order, and maybe a few additions and deletions from the list. And I'm currently in the process of completing a review of 'Witness', one of my all time favourite movies.
I note from your profile Craig that you are keen on cinema and movies. As soon as I can, I think I shall have to take a look at some of your pages on the world of film. Alun
Dreammore from British Empire on October 18, 2014:
Some great films here. I love that you've clearly put a lot of thought into doing the list. My "top 100" films list would look very different but as you said, everyone's favourite films will be entirely different. Liked and shared.
Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on September 07, 2014:
Adventuretravels; I'm sure many would dispute my choice of films Giovanna, but if a film is skillfully made (acting, dialogue, direction etc) and if I enjoy it enough to see it time and time again, then that makes it a great film as far as I'm concerned. I think I've now seen all of these films at least three times, and some I've seen many more times than that!
I like all genre of movies; probably sci-fi is my favourite genre, but as with other genres, special effects and action are not enough. There has to be thoughtfulness in the writing and acting as well. Cheers, Alun.
Giovanna from UK on September 06, 2014:
Wow you do know a lot about what makes a great movie - wish I had time to watch all of these!
Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on November 28, 2012:
Many thanks PDXKaraokeGuy; I appreciate your visit and comment. Whatever the excitement that action and special effects can generate in a movie, one needs to identify with and believe in the characters and the situation they are in, if one is to really get involved emotionally in a movie. I think great direction and/or great dialogue is therefore hugely important. Alun.
Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on November 25, 2012:
This is a great list. Very unusual and unique... much like my music lists. I alsao don't like action films and I think Michael Bay is one of the worst film dirctors ever. Action for the sake of action is annoying. Well done.
Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on November 20, 2012:
Audra; thanks so much for visiting and for indexing my list. As you can see - like you - I enjoy all genres, and as long as the film has talent in the script, acting, or direction, yet isn't too elitist and dreary, it may appeal.
Certainly 'Mrs Brown' isn't typical of the movies I like (because I do generally enjoy at least a little action in a movie) but the relationship between Judi Dench and Billy Connolly is brilliantly executed. 'The Birds', like all Hitchcock movies. has some great set pieces (notably the crows gathering on the climbing frame) and 'Nottinghill' has such a witty and charming theme. 'The Untouchables' briefly replaced 'In the Heat of the Night' as my all-time favourite movie when I first saw it. As for 'Enemy at the Gates', that's one of my favourites from the new millennium.
I must make special mention of 'Downfall' though. I recently hired a DVD because I needed to refresh my memory of the film before writing a hub review. I watched it several times in quick succession. First, it's intriguing to see how a German director and actors handle this terrible part of their history. The film avoids some of the typical Nazi cliches, and shows the characters as real human beings, but certainly doesn't flinch from showing the brutal depravity of the Nazi regime. Secondly, as a psychological drama it is so powerful - desperate people in desperate circumstances, some traumatised, some confused, some still adhering to Nazi principles - none of them really knowing what to do next as the Russians encroach on Berlin. I certainly recommend it.
Cheers Audra. Pleasure to hear your views.
AudraLeigh on November 20, 2012:
Hi Alun! I am a big movie fan! I enjoy watching almost all genres! I really like how you took time to list your faves and be a moderator at the same time. This reminded me of Siskel and Ebert tv show without the fighting.
I am eager to see ‘Downfall’…putting that on my list! Of the 30 movies on your list I have seen, the following are my favorites.
1. ‘ Notting Hil’l: Love Hugh Grant in anything! Love the brownie scene!
2. ‘Mrs Brown’: Billy Conolly was brilliant in this drama!
3. ‘The Untouchables: Deniro, Connery!
4. ‘Enemy at the Gates’’: Jude Law was a good actor then What happened to him? It is a hard one to watch,
5. ‘The Birds’: Funny, I sat down to watch it one day. It was really good. So I sat there and watched, the birds came out, the credits rolled. I had no idea I was watching The Birds until the end! It was wild!
I am indexing this as a must see list. Thanks for writing and sharing!
Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on June 24, 2012:
darkland; thanks so much for paying a visit to this page and checking out my list, and for your comments.
As far as 'Saving Private Ryan' is concerned. I actually agree. As you appreciate, I'm a fan of Spielberg's films generally, and this is one of his most respected projects in England. It took me several viewings to take to this film. I think my problem was that most of the soldiers seemed a bit too ill-defined and indistinguishable in the mud and rubble - at first viewing I couldn't even figure out which members of the platoon had survived the film and which hadn't! However, having watched it several times I've enjoyed it more and more, it's genuinely moving, particularly at the beginning and the end, and the D Day landing sequence is extraordinarily powerful and realistic, I intend updating this page once or twice a year, so next time round 'Saving Private Ryan' will definitely get a listing.
Thanks for mentioning 'Eye of The Needle' - one of my favourite wartime dramas. 'Duel' is such a simple film in many ways, but so well directed - it's hard to think of how any scenes could be improved. The ending is particularly good - any lesser director would just have the truck explode in a cliched ball of flames - Spielberg has it dying slowly like a great monster.
Daniel Brinker from Anchorage, Alaska on June 23, 2012:
I loved every movie on your list. I don't think I'd have them in the same order, of course, but it is a great list.
Conspicuously missing in my mind was "Saving Private Ryan". Do you have any thoughts on how it was received in England and what did you think of it (presuming you've seen it)?
Thanks for adding "Eye of the Needle" and "Duel". two films that have never gotten the attention they deserve.
Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on December 08, 2011:
Thanks for that message. Best wishes to you too, both for the holidays, and during the present situation in Virginia Tech. I have responded by e-mail regarding your involvement in this incident.
Derdriu on December 08, 2011:
Alun: Purple is good. So are photos on animals and flowers.