Category: Top Tens

The Top Tens: The 1970s

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

When looking at the 1970s, one must consider that among film historians, it’s considered one of the strongest in cinema history alongside the 1930s. For some, it could even be the best and by the number of different films we’ve come up with and even not been able to add to our lists, it’s clear that the decade holds a place in each of our hearts. It’s surprising then that the film that placed on the most lists was one that I thought I might be the only one selecting. Robert Altman’s Nashville managed to pick its way onto three lists. Several films showed on a combination of two lists: Cabaret, A Clockwork Orange, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Exorcist, The Last Picture Show, Network, and Star Wars.

As the directors that had dominated the 1950s and 1960s began to fade and the new voices of the modern cinematic era rose, it’s fascinating to see which directors managed multiple appearances on the list. Far and away the big winner in this situation is Francis Ford Coppola who features a staggering four films on the list including both Godfather films as well as The Conversation and Apocalypse Now. Only two other directors managed a place on the list and both were major presences in 1970s cinema. Bob Fosse had two with Cabaret and All That Jazz and Sidney Lumet had two as well with Network and Murder on the Orient Express.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: The 1960s

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

There are few decades that can rival the 1930s in terms of quality and the 1960s were one of them, with dozens of noteworthy films, each changing the landscape of cinema for decades to come, the 1960s were a treasure trove of films directed by the aging veterans of Hollywood’s Golden Age as well as a new crop of talented up-and-coming filmmakers. The two directors who managed to secure multiple films on the list were both of this latter variety. Stanley Kubrick’s (Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey) career hit its peak in the 1960s (with a handful of films made in the 1960s) and would go on to create only five more films before his death, each tackling a different genre with aplomb. The second filmmaker, Mike Nichols, was truly a new find. Both of his first two films, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate each made the list.

Among films to receive multiple citations, only two landed all four of our recommendations. Lawrence of Arabia, the epic to which all others are compared, and Psycho, the horror thriller to which all others are compared. These two iconic films are unsurprising in their inclusion here. The other films with multiple listings are six in number. They are Dr. Strangelove, The Lion in Winter, The Manchurian Candidate, Midnight Cowboy, The Sound of Music, and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?. This array of thrillers, costume dramas, comedies, and musicals are also among the legendary films of this decade.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: The 1950s

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

As we move into our third month of looking at the best per decade, we come across a decade where agreement is surprisingly limited. With some of the greatest filmmakers in history all working furiously to provide some of history’s greatest films, it’s really not all that surprising that we hardly agreed. Of the forty selections we made, only eight films showed up on multiple lists. That means a total of thirty-two different films made up our lists. Those eight films were All About Eve, All That Heaven Allows, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singin’ in the Rain, Sunset Boulevard, and Vertigo.

In terms of filmmakers, two directors had three films featured on our lists: Alfred Hitchcock was represented in North by Northwest, Rear Window, and Vertigo, three of the eight films with multiple mentions; and Billy Wilder with Some Like It Hot, Sunset Boulevard, and Witness for the Prosecution.

There were five directors with two films each on the list. Stanley Donen (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and co-director of Singin’ in the Rain); John Ford (The Last Hurrah and The Searchers); Elia Kazan (East of Eden and A Streetcar Named Desire); Akira Kurosawa (Ikiru and Seven Samurai); and Fred Zinnemann (High Noon and The Nun’s Story.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: The 1940s

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

As we move into our second decade of flashbacks, we take a glimpse into the best films of the 1940s. Although our lists are quite different, we have a decent amount of overlap. I’d also bet that making one person’s list and not another probably means that they had to pass over that film for something they liked even more. I doubt there’s a film on this list that anyone would vehemently disagree with if given the opportunity.

Comparing titles, it should come as no surprise that one of the films most often cited as the greatest film ever made is also the only film to make all four lists. Citizen Kane holds that distinction with Casablanca falling one short. That film appeared on three lists. Of the films showing up on at least two lists, they are: The Best Years of Our Lives, Bicycle Thieves, Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death, Mrs. Miniver, Notorious, and The Third Man.

In terms of the directors with the most films on the list, John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock each have three titles referenced while George Cukor, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Preston Sturges, Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, and William Wyler each had two films referenced.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: The 1930s and Prior

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

Beginning this month and going through November, we will be taking our monthly Top Ten lists and doing something special, looking at the best films of a particular decade. Starting off, we’re looking at the films from 1939 and earlier, which is a large time period, so we’ll be looking at the top twenty instead.

After skipping last month’s Top Ten list due to the close proximity of the Ocsars, we’ve committed to a full array of lists for the rest of the year covering every subsequent decade. Here are the results of our Top Twenty of the 1930s and Prior.

Comparing our lists, the amount of overlap wasn’t surprising. One film made it onto all of our lists: The Wizard of Oz while nine others showed up on three lists (All Quiet on the Western Front, City Lights, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, M, Make Way for Tomorrow, Metropolis, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Sunrise, and The Passion of Joan of Arc). A further nine films were on at least two lists. That leaves 32 films that weren’t duplicated.

On the director side, Frank Capra is responsible for four different titles on the list (It Happened One Night, Lost Horizon, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and You Can’t Take It With You). Charles Chaplin and James Whale were represented by three titles (Chaplin had City Lights, The Gold Rush, and Modern Times. Whale had Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein, and Show Boat). Directors with two titles each on the list are D.W. Griffith, F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Jean Renoir, John Ford, Leo McCarey, Sam Wood, and Victor Fleming.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: Top Animated Films

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

This month, we chose to look at animated films. There are a wide variety of them out there, though the animation output has only ramped up in the last three decades. We have each taken a different approach to forming our lists, though they are surprisingly common. While most of us chose strictly animated films, Thomas decided to throw a couple of combined animation/live-action films into the mix.

Of the films that appeared on multiple lists, Beauty and the Beast is the only film to appear on all four lists. Toy Story and Spirited Away each showed up on three lists while Up, Toy Story 2, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, WALL-E, and The Wind Rises were on two each. For directors, Hayao Miyazaki is the most represented with three films on the list. Directors with two titles include Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise, David Hand, Ben Sharpsteen, John Lasseter, Hamilton Luske, and Lee Unkrich.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: 2018 Antici-pation

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

With 2017 now part of our memories, it’s time to look forward to 2018 and what film treasures it may hold. It’s been two years since we last took a look at our most anticipated films of the year, so it’s time to dust off this old chestnut and dig into what our contributors are most interested in.

Looking over the selections, they run the gamut of styles, genres, and moods from directors both popular and critically acclaimed. There is surprisingly little over lap with only a small number of films appearing on all lists. Ready Player One is slated on three lists while Bohemian Rhapsody, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Isle of Dogs, Mary Queen of Scots, and Roma appear on two lists each.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: Is There Any Role They Can’t Play?

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten items based on certain topics. We then feature an alphabetical list of items along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

In cinema, certain actors tend to play the same or similar roles throughout their careers. It takes a certain kind of talent to be able to try new things and succeed at them. This month, we’re looking at actors that we feel are the most versatile. Among the four of us, we have a total of 35 actors who’ve shown to us that they have what it takes to choose any role and excel at it.

Looking over the list, five names stand out as being noteworthy. These individuals appear on two separate lists. Alec Guinness, Katherine Hepburn, Gary Oldman, Rosalind Russell, and Meryl Streep are the names and all are considered among the foremost actors of their generations and of all time.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: Evil…They’re Just Drawn That Way

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

What makes a villain to some may be different to others. Whether it’s a measure of menace, of depravity, of fright, of viciousness, of malice, or of any number of other traits, our choices for villains run the gambit form actual serial killers to Nazis to witches to housekeepers. What we each looked at was different, though we all came to similar rationales for each of our choices.

Looking over the list, none of us unified behind a single choice, but three villains managed to place on three-of-four lists. The Wicked Witch of the West, Reverend Harry Powell, and Janet Iselin are among the universally agreed great villains. Others with two mentions were T-1000 and Mrs. Danvers. Oddly enough, only one character managed to make it in under vastly different interpretations. Hunchback of Notre Dame villain Frollo/Judge Claude Frollo is represented here from both the 1939 film version and the 1996 animated version.

Whether villains make your skin crawl, make you cringe, or make you worry that they are far too real, these monsters, for indeed some of them are monsters, are among the most terrifying and frightening that cinema has ever created.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: The Future Is Ours

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

When we originally scheduled this list’s release, we were not looking at the impending release of Blade Runner 2049 as a tie-in. However, the timing is perfect for that. Although the original Blade Runner did not make any individual lists, it is no less an astute influence on the genre of science fiction, which is the theme of this month’s list.

There are myriad sci-fi features out there dating all the way back to 1902 when Georges Méliès released his futuristic fantasy A Trip to the Moon. Since then, countless directors have tackled the genre from dystopian futures to idyllic ones and a wide array in between. Cross-genre films have also been frequently manufactured from sci-fi comedies to sci-fi horror films. We celebrate the very best of science fiction with this list, but admit freely that there are countless others each of us could have cited on any given day.

Looking over our lists, we have a lot of agreement. All four of our contributors put a single film on the list: Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror classic Alien. It is the epitome of everything the genre had offered up to that point and could be distilled into many future productions. The science fantasy film Star Wars, the biggest blockbuster in history, made three lists while 1977’s other major sci-fi property, Close Encounters of the Third Kind led the list of films with two citations. That list also includes The Day the Earth Stood Still, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Planet of the Apes, and WALL-E.

One director makes an appearance with three different films on the list. No other than Steven Spielberg, whose varied history includes a number of different sci-fi spectacles received mention for his films Close Encounters, E.T., and Jurassic Park. Two others directors are represented on the list for two film each. James Cameron has both his first and second Terminator films cited on separate individual lists, and Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future and Contact are also mentioned.

This isn’t the definitive list of our members as we each agree that on any given day and with different criteria, an entirely different set of films could have been referenced. After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: Male Supporting Performances

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

This month, we finish out our individual performances series by looking at supporting actors. Considering the long history of film, it should come as little surprise that our selections are so broadly distinct from one another. It’s rather surprising then that only five performances manage to show up on multiple lists and none of them more than once. Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Claude Rains in Notorious, Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street, Martin Landau in Ed Wood, and George Sanders in All About Eve are those five. A further 30 other individual supporting performances grace the list.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: Female Supporting Performances

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

In May and June, we looked at the best performances by actors and actresses in leading roles. These were the big performances that dominate a film in an obvious way. For the next two months, we’ll be looking at performances that dominate the screen in different ways. A supporting actor or actress has the unenviable task of building on the world that the lead must inhabit. Their characters form the backbone of the production, but are seldom given the due they should be thanks to a societal focus on leads in movies. That doesn’t mean many aren’t memorable. Some are indelible part of our cinematic landscape.

This month, we’re looking at the women. In our lists, six actresses appear on multiple lists. The strange part is, compared to previous lists, each of them appear twice (or more) for the exact same performance. That isn’t to say that these actresses don’t have a bounteous array of performances from which to choose, it’s that these are oftentimes iconic performances that transcend the average performance they would give. One of those six shows up three times: Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. Talk about iconic. The other five actresses, showing up twice each are Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca; Judy Davis as Sally in Husbands and Wives; Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate; and Thelma Ritter as Moe Williams in Pickup on South Street.

Now, let’s give our contributors an opportunity to explain just why these performances are so great to them. After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: Our Funniest Favorites

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

We take a comedy break this month between our lists of favorite individual performances. They say drama is easy and comedy is hard. There’s also a fine line between crass and humorous and that line can be crossed without sacrificing comedic value. These films, while many are quite traditional, also feature some obscure films that some may not have seen. Our contributors put together a list of their favorite films. Four films appear on two lists, but none appear on three or more. That gives us a total of 36 films to look at this month.

The four films that were cited twice are Auntie Mame, The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby, and Dr. Strangelove, all from prior to the 1970s when comedy began morphing thanks in some small part to films like these four, especially Dr. Strangelove. Of the directors most frequently cited, George Cukor comes out on top with three titles on the list: Dinner at Eight, The Philadelphia Story, and The Women. Three other directors place two titles on the list. Joel Coen (ostensibly with brother Ethan Coen even if not credited such on the two films listed, Fargo and Raising Arizona), Woody Allen (a surprising pair of films: Manhattan Murder Mystery and Midnight in Paris), and Billy Wilder (two of his most famous and popular: The Apartment and Some Like It Hot).

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: Male Lead Performances

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films fitting certain topics. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

Last month, we took a look at our favorite female lead performances. Now, we’re taking a glimpse at the men’s side of the equation. Of the forty submissions made by our four contributors, only one single performance appears on more than one list: Henry Fonda’s work in The Grapes of Wrath. Beyond that, only two actors are cited twice each. Jack Nicholson shows up for both Five Easy Pieces and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Daniel Day-Lewis makes the cut for both My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each film.

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The Top Tens: Female Lead Performances

Every month, our contributors submit lists of ten films or individuals fitting certain topics or themes. Each month, we feature an alphabetical list of films or individuals along with commentary explaining our selections. There will also be an itemized list at the end of each of our individual selections.

For our new top ten list, one of four we’ll be doing by the end of the year, we look at the top individual lead performances by a female actor. While some actors are great each time, many still have a singular great performance that stands out. Others were never greater than the performances we name here. Any direction you look at them, these magnificent performances are among the best.

Looking over the list, we have four actresses whose performances in the same film were recognized. Olivia de Havilland was cited twice for To Each His Own, Diane Keaton was mentioned two times for Annie Hall, Rosalind Russell made two lists for Auntie Mame, Maggie Smith was referenced twice for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and Gloria Swanson was selected for Sunset Boulevard twice. Meanwhile, not all actresses are recognized for the same pinnacle performance. Five actresses were also referenced twice but for different films: Ingrid Bergman, Ellen Burstyn, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, and Diane Keaton. Keaton is in both of these groups, making her the only person mentioned more than twice.

After the break, dig into our setups and follow that by reading about each performance.

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