The American Film Institute puts out a list of the 100 greatest movies of all time, and we just can’t resist a good list. We watched ten of them in 2014, another 20 in 2015, and this year we made it through another 15. As before, we’ll include our reactions.
This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.
Note: we’ve decided that, since some of these are family-friendly, we’d include them as choices in our family movie night every week. So we’re taking some out of order to show them to the kids. We still intend on watching them all.
#10. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1937)
Becky: My first memory of watching this movie is at my grandmother’s house. I have since seen the movie countless times; watched a couple different stage adaptations; performed in a large stage production; and read the whole series of books. It was fun to take Lucy and her friend to a local production and then show her the original movie for her first time. She really enjoyed comparing and contrasting the book/stage show/movie.
Ben: I remember being annoyed at the performances in this movie as a kid, and that’s still there, but it’s such an achievement. This is one of those movies that’s better when you see it as a grownup, because you can imagine yourself having never seen anything like it. The switch to color must have been jaw-dropping.
#20. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
Becky: Tedious. Stewart goes the whole movie shouting with marshmallows in his mouth.
Ben: Saccharine sweet and super 50s. It’s really well-made, except for a few sloppy cuts in the middle, but otherwise the experience is really smooth and seamless. Our eyes were rolling at the celestial-body special effects, and the romance was kind of weird to 21st-century watchers, but the characters were strong and consistent, and the story is well-told. It’s easy to see why this is such a classic.
#34. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)
Becky: I see why this was groundbreaking, and it has its sweet moments, but I was not fond of outdated relationship dynamics portrayed and much to my movie-companions’ annoyance had to pause the film several times to point out how this is not how things really work.
Ben: There’s a lot to like about this movie. Snow White’s movement is so natural it’s hard to believe that it’s hand-drawn. The morality and love story are contrived and weird, but a good portion of the humor has survived intact (Lucy laughed out loud several times).
#40. THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
Becky: As kids, my friends and I would watch parts of this film over and over and then head to the backyard and practice all the songs and accompanying dances. It holds up well. I enjoyed sharing this with Lucy! And oh, the lush lighting. Beautiful.
Ben: Wow. I remember seeing this once or twice as a kid, but I didn’t realize how beautiful a film it is. It has some 60s morality that’s a bit out of date, and the politics will be lost on you unless you know the history (it was tricky to catch Lucy up), but all in all a masterpiece.
#60. DUCK SOUP (1933)
Becky: We actually watched this one with Lucy and she was baffled. She had to keep asking what what happening. I agree with her.
Ben: Further evidence that I don’t like the Marx Brothers. I totally get that they pioneered a lot of filmmaking techniques, and that this is a great example of the influence they had. Maybe it’s an important film, but I didn’t think it was good.
#61. SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941)
Becky: Fairly interesting.
Ben: I think of this as a mostly-unremarkable 50s comedy. Thing is, it was made in 1941. Maybe it was ahead of its time? Probably the best reason for this to be on the list is its treatment of black people, though – there are few non-white speaking roles, but basically everybody is portrayed as being equal. The fact that this is remarkable is kind of sad, but there you go.
#62. AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973)
Becky:This film was not for my generation. Knowing the history of the era helps, but it will never be a resonate story for me.
Ben: Interesting. At first this seems like yet another Movie Where Nothing Happens. But put yourself in the shoes of the person this movie is for: people who grew up in the 50s, who love American cars, and have a ton of nostalgia for the soda-jerk-cruise-the-main-street culture of that era. Now it starts to look better. Then add in that the characters all have a losing-innocence moment, in the same way that the entire US did when JFK was killed. Turns out this has a lot going for it.
#63. CABARET (1972)
Becky: I honestly didn’t care about any of these characters and couldn’t sympathize with their plight(s). It was a rather annoying film.
Ben: I can’t seem to dredge up any sympathy for anyone in this movie. At least it wasn’t super hard to watch, but it just seemed long and drawn-out.
#64. NETWORK (1976)
Becky: This wasn’t that “out there”. It’s interesting to realize that the creators of this film were simply predicting the rise of FOX News.
Ben: The personification of TV, the postmodern twist of describing the plot in terms of a script, the church imagery… it’s easy to see why this won awards. Oddly, with how network news is in 2016, none of the “outrageous” parts of the plot seem really all that out of the ordinary. Again, I’m finding that I have to imagine how things were at the time the film was made in order to figure out why it’s on this list.
#65. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951)
Becky: I don’t know. This was a feat for its time, what with how difficult it was to film in the Belgian Congo, but it was pretty hokey. It was almost cringingly overdramatic at times and the romance was laughable. I enjoyed reading about the filming far more than the film itself.
Ben: I didn’t like either of the main characters, though they were consistent and well-acted, and the plot seems to hold together, sort of. Lots of good little details, and the sense of the enormity of Africa comes through.
#66. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
Becky: Classic and awesome. This forms part of my childhood memories. My dad dressed as Indiana Jones for Halloween once and I was so proud. Loved reading about the making of while watching this time around.
Ben: The movie itself is pretty great, though not without its problems. But the behind-the-scenes trivia is fascinating. Did you know that Jeff Bridges and Steve Martin were also considered for the role of Indy? That this was supposed to be a comedy? Instead Harrison Ford is, and it created an entire new genre of movies. Awesome.
#67. WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966)
Becky: I understand how these were stellar performances by seasoned actors, but wow, so much malice and anger. Not an uplifting film.
Ben: I liked how there was this mystery woven into the whole story line, and when it was resolved the whole movie takes on a new light. Lots of great performances here, although I’ve never known people that are anything like these people.
#68. UNFORGIVEN (1992)
Becky: Super hard to watch. Gritty and violent.
Ben: This was really well done. I was never a fan of westerns growing up, but I imagine they were mostly about glamorous gunfights and badassery. This depicted the lifestyle as realistically hard, and that you couldn’t do it just because you thought it was cool. I can see how this was sort of a turning point for Clint Eastwood, who up until then had mostly played unapologetic badasses, and now had to play the guy they turned into.
#69. TOOTSIE (1982)
Becky:I thought I had seen this before, but it turns out I was just really familiar with the experience that Dustin Hoffman had making this film. What a great portrayal of why gender equality is so important.
Ben: Really well-done. I can imagine this taking a lot of courage to work on in the early 80s, much like In the Heat of the Night did. I know the director guy was meant to be portrayed as a jerk at the time, but it also seems like he was meant to be a sympathetic character. I wonder if his behavior would still be treated as normal in some corners of our society. Anyways, I really enjoyed this one.
#70. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)
Becky: This was unfortunately my third time being subjected to this film and the result is still the same. I hated every moment.
Ben: Yipes. I didn’t exactly enjoy this film, but it did disturb me, which I guess means it was good? Not sure what I’m supposed to have learned. Morality doesn’t matter, and things just happen? We’re not in control of our own destinies, and our choices don’t really matter? There’s a lot of technical stuff to like, but other than that… whew.