Friday, April 20, 2012

25 All-time favorite movies

I haven't ever posted a list of my favorite movies here.  It's probably about time.  My list will probably surprise a lot of people, as despite the sheer quantity of classic movies I love, they don't actually tend to make my favorites list.  There are reasons for that.

I think that word “favorite” means different things to different people.  What makes a favorite movie to me is something above and beyond what makes me simply love a movie.  There are many movies I absolutely love and adore (and I’ve seen them enough times you’d think they were favorites) – but they don’t actually make the favorites cut.  Why?  Well, it’s actually easy to explain:

For me, “favorite movie” means:

1) a film with which I have a special, emotional bond.  Favorite movies move me emotionally in ways movies I simply love have not.  I am passionate about them, and quite a few of them have changed my life in various ways.

2) a film I have seen many many times, often in the theater.  This is why quite a few of my favorites are newer films – I bonded with them over repeat viewings in the movie theater when they came out.

3) a movie with a score that matters deeply to me.  This may seem odd, but the musical element is almost more important than any other piece.  The score is part of what forms that emotional bond with a film.  The soundtrack alone is often the difference between a well-loved movie and a favorite movie, and is one of the primary reasons many of the older 1940's films I love don't make the favorites list.  I simply don't love their music the way I do other films.  With only one exception (and that's only because the CD is currently out of print), I own the scores to every film on this list. I sing the scores, I listen to the scores, I hum them, I live and breathe them.  Many of the scores to the movies listed below rank among my top favorite music of all time.  So yeah, music really is one of the most important things in my life, and that applies absolutely to movies.

On this list, the top seven movies haven't changed in years. Nothing really displaces those films, particularly the top three, which I don't think will ever budge.  The rest of the movies change order depending on my mood.

1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
2. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
3. Big Jake (1971)
4. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
5. The Thirteenth Warrior (1999)
6. The Wind and the Lion (1975)
7. The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)

8. Ben-Hur (1959)
9. The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
10. The Wild Bunch (1969)
11. Aliens (1986)
12. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
13. Galaxy Quest (1999)
14. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
15. Star Wars (1977)
16. The Mask of Zorro (1998)
17. The Untouchables (1987)
18. Avatar (2009)
19. The Vikings (1958)
20. Time After Time (1979)
21. Where Eagles Dare (1968)
22. South Pacific (1958)
23. The Shadow (1994)
24. Ride the High Country (1962)
25. Diamonds are Forever (1965)


  1. Anonymous2:00 PM

    You know, this just screams "meme" to me. But I'm not even vaguely sure I could pick out my top 25 movies. I shall have to think on this...

    Like your list, though. Number 12 in particular... :-D

    1. "He didn't slip on his tea, did he?"

      You know, if I didn't have this list already compiled from years ago, where I just update it each year (or whenever I feel like it), I would have a hard time picking my favorites from scratch. I've actually done that over the past years, started new favorite movie lists -- and when I check them, they match the original. So, I'm fairly confident in my list's accuracy nowadays.

      I'd definitely be interested in seeing your list!

      "You lost another submarine?"

      You know, that's kind of another requirement for a favorite movie of mine... must be quoted constantly. :-D

  2. It is interesting to read how you differentiate between movies you love and movies which are your favorites. I am SO with you on favorite films being those films which move you and with which you have an emotional connection. That is why many of my top 25 are tearjerkers.

    I know it won't surprise you to know that I am not familiar with many films on your list; however, Ben-Hur IS a beloved film for me as well. It's an Easter week tradition in our family, and no matter how many times I watch it, I never fail to be touched deeply by it...or to be impressed with the acting of both Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd.

    Thanks for sharing your list...oh, and I agree about movie quotes...our family is constantly quoting something.

    Have a great day!!

    1. Yay for more people who quote movies!

      My sister and I sometimes text each other conversations in nothing but movie quotes. But yeah, my whole family does, and has done so since we were very very little. My parents still quote all the time too. When we send cards for holidays and birthdays, we usually fill the interior with movie quotes. Sometimes themed, sometimes from just one movie, sometimes just every funny line we can think of. We also buy wacky cards to send each other with funny pictures of old-timers on the front, and then white out the interior and make up something funny about one of our favorite movies. Er... that's kind of hard to explain. LOL! My dad is particularly good at it, which cracks us up.

      And Ben-Hur really is a fabulous movie. I was reading in Stewart Granger's book that they wanted him for Messala, and I'm just so happy that didn't work out, despite how much I love Granger. Stephen Boyd owns that role, and no one could have played that character as well.

    2. One of our most common movie lines is when the word "security" comes up. Then we say, "Yeah, security!" Bet you can guess where that comes from!!!

      And, yes, I agree on Stephen Boyd. NO ONE could have done that role as he did. He was brilliant...totally Oscar-worthy. I know Heston won Best Actor, but, surely, Stephen Boyd ought to have won Best Supporting Actor. Not sure why he didn't!!

      Another of our movie lines would be "They're not dead, Judah."

    3. Hahahah! Must be Stalag 17. At least that's the first thing I start thinking of when I think of "security." LOL!

  3. Oh, forgot to say...the movie I bonded with through repeated viewings at the theatre is Dirty Dancing. I'm pretty sure I saw it about 2 dozen (or more) times at the theatre...including 10 times in just 1 week. I even saw it 3 times in 1 day!!!

    1. Woo! My family would call that a "triple-borch!" I've seen quite a few movies twice in a row in the theater, but the only one I sat through three times in one day was "Raiders of the Lost Ark." With my sister and mother. I think the people at the theater thought we were nuts. Of course they kind of knew us by that point. "Those three, again, seeing the same movie, again." LOL! It is great fun to just absorb and memorize a film during multiple viewings on the big screen. It's always a different experience from movies you've seen just as many times, but only on a tv screen. (You probably won't be surprised either, but would you believe I've never seen Dirty Dancing?)

    2. Well, "Dirty Dancing" is the ONLY movie I've ever seen 3 times in 1 day...and always with the same girlfriend. To this day, I call her my "Dirty Dancing Buddy."

      And, no, I'm not surprised to know that you haven't seen it. While you and I adore many of the same guys, we usually have very different movie tastes...which is a very okay thing since we respect each others' preferences.

      I have to be honest with you...I am a totally different person now than I was then...big difference between being 50 and being 27. I watched the film about 2 years ago with my daughter, and it definitely didn't hold the same appeal for me that it did back then.

    3. Love your list, Deb, and the reasons behind your selections.

      EMPIRE STRIKES BACK would definitely be on my list of top most meaningful films in my life. I went and saw EMPIRE and JEDI weekly for the first month of their release -- love that your family sat through RAIDERS over and over again in a single day! I wonder if the delight in doing that is something that people like us, who grew up with movies being much more "inaccessible," especially enjoy? I used to beg relatives to take me to SOUND OF MUSIC over and over, greedily trying to soak up and remember every bit of blessed grandparents took me more times than I can count. I was touched when many years later SOUND OF MUSIC was on TV and my grandpa told me it gave him good memories of taking me to see it.

      You can probably relate that although it wasn't a favorite film or anything, I really appreciated the chance to see SUDDENLY twice in a theater last weekend. I noticed a lot of details I'd missed the first time and enjoyed taking in all the store signs and other bits like that. It was a fun opportunity.

      Best wishes,

    4. Patti - Raiders is the only one I've seen in the theater three times too. Interestingly, I haven't changed all that much. I find that fascinating. But the movies I loved when I was young or in high school, I still love, which is why 20,000 Leagues is still number one. It's been number one forever.

      Laura - I think you are absolutely right about sitting through movies twice is all about the fact that we thought they'd disappear from our lives, only to show up -- if lucky -- on tiny television screens in pan and scan form. We would try to engrave every moment in our memory... and I can tell you, I can't listen to the soundtrack to Raiders without hearing the sound effects that go at certain points, because we saw it so much, they're just burned into my memory. I love your Sound of Music story! And I love that your grandparents took you to see it so many times. That is so cool.

  4. Great list - especially the inclusion of the Shadow. I thought I was the only person to have liked that film. That and Dune :)

    1. Likewise! I don't know many people who love The Shadow either. Too bad, as it may not be a great movie, but I find it thoroughly entertaining. I saw that one many many times in the theater.

  5. I agree that a movie should capture me emotionally otherwise, it does not deserve the “favorite” title. You have a few on here that definitely captured my heart especially, with “Star Wars” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. I travel frequently on business related to my job at Dish, so movies are a passion that beckons me on my trips. I keep myself relaxed by subscribing to Blockbuster @Home, which allows me to get movies by mail for my laptop giving me a way to fulfill my passion, when I’m not at home. I am watching “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” tonight, as a special treat to myself after a hard days work.

  6. I always enjoy learning about other classic movie fans favorite films.. My favorite classic films from your list are.. number 3. Big Jake (1971)and 4. The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

    My husband and I often quote something from a John Wayne movie or something from the classic "The Out of Towners"..

    1. John Wayne films do seem very quotable, don't they! My family has a bunch of lines that get passed about from several of his movies too. Alas, I've never seen "The Out of Towners." :-( One of these days!