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, 20 in 2015, 12 more in 2016, and this year we made it through another 12. As before, we’ll include our reactions.
This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Here’s the full list.
Note: just like last year, since some of these are family-friendly, we thought we’d include them in our family movie nights. So they’ll appear out of order, but we still intend on watching them all.
#50: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Becky: Amazing. I cried several times from the sheer beauty and sweep. Love these movies.
Ben: Oh man, so good. After having watched most of the Hobbit, you start to lose sight of how good Peter Jackson can really be at this, but these films were done well. There are even subtle things that you’ll only really notice if you’ve read the books. Truly a masterpiece. But looooooong.
#5: Singin’ in the Rain (1939)
Becky: Meh, it’s okay, but just not my style. Maybe these are better if you grew up with them?
Ben: It’s fairly obvious why some of the films are on here. This seems to be the biggest, best example of the all-singing, all-dancing giant film extravaganza, but it didn’t bore me. Maybe this is a transitional fossil; you can see some of the newer techniques in effect, better editing, and good visual storytelling. But it’s still an old-timey musical, not my style.
#59: Nashville (1975)
Becky: Confusing and not fun to watch.
Ben: I didn’t like this one. I think I needed to watch it with a real nerd to get why it’s significant, and what all the allegories are. As it is, it just seems like a movie where things happen, and the dramas are small. Occasionally there’ll be a mystery you can’t figure out for a while, but there’s never a big reveal.
#58: The Gold Rush (1925)
Becky: I can appreciate the beginnings of film, but it’s really not my favorite.
Ben: Clearly a classic of narration-over-silent-film comedy. It’s well-made for what it is, with the wind machines and tipping sets. There’s a lot of cleverness in how Chaplin makes his movies. But I’m just not that into slapstick.
#57: Rocky (1976)
Becky: I very much enjoyed the behind-the-scenes making-of moments more than the actual movie.
Ben: Watching this with modern eyes, you think it’s just all slow characterization, and there’s no denouement; the climactic fight happens, and the movie ends very abruptly. Having read the story of how this was made, and the things it invented (the training montage, the steadicam), it’s more impressive, and the editing and camera angles are right on.
#56: Jaws (1975)
Becky: I’ve always been terrified of the open ocean and seeing parts of this movie as a kid may have something to do with that.
Ben: I really enjoyed this. The big rubber shark only looks fake maybe twice, and otherwise still triggers the nerves and horror it’s supposed to. It’s interesting that this movie invented the big summer blockbuster, but it did it on accident.
#55: North by Northwest (1959)
Becky: I don’t even enjoy modern spy movies, this didn’t thrill me.
Ben: It’s easy to draw a straight line from this to every single Bond film. Apart from the gross 50’s sexuality and gender roles, I really enjoyed it, though having watched the Bourne series I kept writing all the spies off as silly amateurs.
#54 M*A*S*H (1970)
Becky: The “why” of the movie was more interesting than the actual movie.
Ben: Yet another film without a real plot. This was more entertaining than some of the others on this list, but still kind of hard to get into. The way the surgeons are almost gleefully cruel and heartless, the complete moral isolation from how people behave “back home,” the complete ineptitude and fecklessness of the people who are supposed to be in charge… actually, now that I type it out, I see how this is a metaphor for the rest of the war. Maybe there’s good stuff here after all.
#53 The Deer Hunter (1978)
Becky: Sad movie about a sad town impacted by its’ youth leaving for and returning from the Vietnam War.
Ben: Another poignant Vietnam-war film. This one seems to focus on the various ways people deal with the horrors of war – some emerge out the other side with visible wounds, some with hidden ones, and some are driven mad. In any case, after surviving such an ordeal, it’s difficult to go back to the people and places you once found normal.
#52 Taxi Driver (1976)
Becky: There’s some debate about the ending, which was about the most interesting thing.
Ben: This film’s central theme is loneliness, which isn’t something I can easily empathize with. So it’s hard to identify with the main character, and most of the plot just seems like things happening. It’s interesting that Travis didn’t really care what cause he ended up giving his life for, he just needed some target for the violence inside him.
#51: West Side Story (1961)
Becky: Dance Fight! I’ve never liked the Romeo & Juliet story, this was just another version, albeit with brown-face and a heaping helping of racism. And some singing. And lots of dance fighting.
Ben: Yikes. To hear a white actor in brown-face sing about how life is only great in America if you’re white is pretty cringey. Apart from that, the film was pretty well-done. The sets were gorgeous, and some of the transitions seemed pretty cutting-edge for the time. In the end, though, it’s one of those sing-dance-stravaganzas that just aren’t are cup of tea.
#49: Intolerance (1916)
Becky: This is a 101 year old film of epic proportions, but boy did it go on forever. Very preachy and morality driven, but it was visually pretty interesting.
Ben: So this one is interesting. It’s hard to watch for my 2017 eyes, since it’s in black and white and is silent, but there’s a lot to like. The sets are huge and amazing, and it’s interesting how they fit four films into one, a clear inspiration for Cloud Atlas. The misogyny is strong with this one, though – it’s assumed that the women driving the prohibition movement are doing so because they’re not pretty enough to get a man. Still, it seems like this might be the Ben-Hur of silent films, so I understand why it’s on the list.
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