As promised earlier, here are a few of my favorite flicks. (And no, that one's not on the list!) But first, a word on my judging criteria:
1/ First impressions - it's not a question of getting me hooked instantly; I will give a slow-starting film a fair chance. ("Batman Begins" is a good recent example.) But if I don't like the movie right off, chances are that it won't grow on me.
2/ Replay value - some movies don't repay closer scrutiny. If I wouldn't consider owning the DVD, or if it doesn't make me stop while I channel surf, you won't find it here.
3/ Mission accomplished - get where you want to go. I give more credit to a lowbrow comedy that makes me laugh than I give to a highbrow drama that bores me to tears. And if you're trying to overcome the limitations of the genre, DO IT. In movies, better a standup double than the last out at third. (But if you can make it to third, don't be lazy and jog into second.)
4/ Entertain me - duuuhhhh. But a movie's a movie. I don't mind learning Life's Lessons from a movie, but that can't be the point; it would be like serving empty clamshells for dinner to protest overfishing. Some guests won't care, and even those that do will care far more about going hungry to satisfy your ego. Even having to say it means too many clamshells at the movies.
Here are many of the flicks that make the cut, in no particular order:
Amadeus - might as well start with grown-up movies.
The Manchurian Candidate (original) - magnificent suspense.
Willy Wonka - enough so that I drop references in my posts.
Mary Poppins - great enough to overcome Dick Van Dyke's mangled-Cockney accent. I got the soundtrack on vinyl when I was nine, starting a lifelong addiction to film music.
The Incredibles - should have been Best Picture, 2004. Wasn't even nominated.
Slap Shot/ Caddyshack - 1 and 1a in screwball movies (sports division). Believe it or not I've never seen "Bad News Bears", but I already know that the remake Never Happened.
Ben Hur/ The Ten Commandments - I read Exodus and still hear Charlton Heston's voice.
Dumbo - the nine twunda o' de univoise! Early Disney at its best.
Raising Arizona - a gem. The chase scene send-up is pure brilliance.
The Blues Brothers - perhaps the Coens had the end of this movie in mind for that chase scene? Great in any case. "I hate Illinois Nazis."
Holy Grail - much like Blues Brothers, didn't quite run through the tape full speed. That's sort of like complaining, after seven courses, that the cherry on your sundae has too long a stem.
Terminator 2 - stands out more than the original in my mind.
Goldfinger - all the Connery Bonds are good (even "Never Say Never Again" - you get to see Rowan Atkinson!), but this has the best villain, best henchman, and best exchange:
-- > "Do you expect me to talk?"
-- > "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."
The Longest Day - the connection is Gert Froebe, whose accent was so thick that they overdubbed him when he played Auric Goldfinger - and did it so well that I saw the movie five times but never noticed it until I saw a "making of" feature.
The Bourne Identity - they don't make clever action thrillers like this too often.
Lord of the Rings - the third did win Best Picture, and it wasn't the best of the three.
A Man for All Seasons - Oscars in '66 for Paul Scofield and Best Picture. Quotable as all get out.
Airplane/ the Naked Gun - 1 and 1a in screwball comedies (standard division). When that guy slid into second and got mauled by the tiger, I totally lost it.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off - I think he's a righteous dude. Good enough to overcome its cast of 30-year old "teenagers." *
Mystery Science Theater 3000 - yes, they cut a movie. One of my favorites. If there's a TV tag you know what's top of the list...
Raiders of the Lost Ark - buckle me swashes, laddies! It's got it all: world-weary hero, comic relief, a great wingman, dastardly French dude, and Nazis. Come to think of it, that pretty much makes it a remake of this:
Casablanca - but with fewer special effects.
The first Star Wars trilogy - only Harrison Ford could be both Han and Indy.
Breakfast Club - the most realistic teenagers ever put on film. Caught Estevez, Ringwald, and Nelson at the absolute apex of their careers.
Yes, I know I left stuff out. In some cases I haven't seen them, in others you're already bored; and besides, there wasn't really the room to spare. I mean, it's a list of 31 films - one a night for a solid month. That'll keep you. If you want three more months, consult The Barking Spider, Joel of ChezJoel, and (bonus!) the Coalition of the Swilling.
* PS - finding out this gave me a queer turn (item #4). I'll be making Luke/Leia jokes for the next three weeks. "Do you have a kiss for Daddee?" Heheheheheh.