Jeff's Favorite Movies
As of today, I've watched and rated 2,319 movies, assigning each a numerical rating 1 (a waste of life) and 10 (loved it). Of course, this rating took place over many many years and I can't claim that my ratings have been consistent over the long haul; I'm sure that my tastes have changed during this journey. But although I'd like to, I can't watch all 2,319 movies over again to try and be more consistent, so for what it's worth, here is the list of the 60-or-so movies I've rated 9 or 10, followed by the 300-or-so-next-best films I've rated as 8.
I generally favor movies that are heavy in the plot department; there are many movies which are highly regarded on the Internet Movie Database or by critics which I don't like at all. Breathless is one such example. To me, it felt like nothing happened, and I rated it a 4 (I've since re-rated it as 7, because I now better appreciate it's allure, but it's still not a favorite). Even the highly-regarded Citizen Kane falls into that category; I rated it a 7 since although it might have introduced lots of new film techniques and had many interesting perspectives, the plot itself was totally boring to me. I didn't ever really care what "Rosebud" meant, so the rest of the film's goodness was lost on me. So those are two movies that don't quite make it onto my list of favorite movies. If you strongly disagree with both of these non-recommendations, you might as well stop reading here because my tastes don't align with yours. But if you tentatively agree, keep reading.
To rate a movie highly (that is, rate it as if I'd really enjoy watching it again, which is what my rating of 8 means), it has to have at least one of the following: a great plot, gorgeous photography, be a musical, contain beautiful music such as the way Kubrick used music, be a great science-fiction movie, or include anything about Italy, or especially Rome, for which I'm a total slut. I'm not at all adverse to non-American films; many of my 300-or-so-next-best films are black-and-white subtitled films. So if you're still reading and these things also tickle your fancy, here are my favorite 300-or-so movies out of the 2,319 I've watched.
I welcome you to send me an email with any comments on my choices.
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My Favorite 60 or so Movies, listed alphabetically
- The Best Years of Our Lives: Three World War II veterans return home after the war with difficult adjustments to make. This movie touches a lot of people, including me, and shows a time capsule of an America long gone. Plus, geez, that musical score is just delicious.
- (subtitled) The Big Parade: In my opinion, this silent film is the best ever made demonstrating the horrors of World War I, especially after the innocence and idylism of the first two acts. Difficult to find, but if you come across it, don't miss it.
- The Birds: A classic Hitchcock horror flick. It'll leave a lasting impression on you that you'll contemplate whenever you see an electric power line where a flock of birds are perching. Yikes it maes me shiver just to think about it. Watch this movie!
- (subtitled) Das Boot: Settle down for the slow pace of this movie, with the pay-off that you'll gain an understanding about life in a submarine during wartime. A German U-Boat crew terrorizes British convoys and pays a heavy price for their actions.
- Brief Encounter: The story of an affair, proficiently told with beautiful photography, perfect pacing, great acting by two every-people, and accompanied by Rachmaninov's great Second Piano Concerto. Sit down and enjoy 90 minutes of well-told romantic indulgence.
- (subtitled) Cinema Paradiso: If you're reading this you probably love movies, as I most assuredly do, so you owe it to yourself to watch this love story to the movies. Plus, a thousand bonus points for being an Italian movie.
- A Clockwork Orange: Every Kubrick movie is great, but a few are even greater than the others. This one's about violent youth, and society's way to deal with them, with a typically-superb Kubrick soundtrack. (if you haven't already watched every single movie that Stanley Kurbrick directed, you should stop here and watch them all. Every Kubrick movie is exceptional. After you've watched them all, please continue)
- Crash: I like movies which weave seamingly-disparate stories into a unified theme, and this one does it superbly, with a compelling soundtrack that builds to the climax.
- (subtitled) La Dolce Vita: Just a great glimpse of 1960's Rome, the story of a stale reporter attempting to enjoy 'the sweet life', but not really enjoying anything at all. Great Italian music, plus, a thousand bonus points just for being an Italian movie set in Rome.
- Donnie Darko: Wierd wierd wierd sci-fi, watch it a few times.
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Another wierd sci-fi masterpiece. Can you erase someone from your past? Are you sure you want to?
- Fargo: Jeez I hate that I like this movie so much, but a lot of people do so I guess it's all right. Crime mystery, great likable cops, terrible aweful murderous criminals, the climactic scene has stuck with me for a long time now, makes me squirm in my chair as I write this. Maybe that's part of what makes a movie great?
- Fiddler on the Roof: This one's probably my favorite musical of all time. The songs are fantastic, Topol was born to play the part of Tevye, the other actors are also great, the photography is beautiful, and I can identify with Tevye's loss of control over his children. It's a lesson of humility many of us must learn.
- Fight Club: This movie is just so wacked out, so fresh and original, and so much fun to watch over and over, that I've gotta believe that once you watch it it'll become one of your favorites, too.
- Forrest Gump: One of the few best movies of all time. We just weave through Forrest's life, the mundane, the improbabilities, the impossibilities, and all the while we admire the plain and simple value of being good.
- The Godfather: The life of a New York mafia boss and his sons.
- (subtitled) The Great Beauty: You've made it to my absolute favorite movie of all time (so far). It's a love story to Rome, with gorgeous cinematography, an incredible soundtrack, and all-to-brief visits to many of the incredibly beautiful places I love in Rome. I wish I could meet Stefano, who has the keys to all the best places in Rome. And if none of this was enough, this movie has the best, most peaceful closing credits in any movie from any era. This is modern Italian cinema at its very best. Plus, a thousand bonus points just for being an Italian movie. If I've convinced one reader to watch this movie, then I'm happy, because this movie deserves to be watched over and over again.
- The Green Mile: A faithful adaptation of a Stephen King book about the inmates and guards on death row. One of the inmates has a special power which the guards discover.
- (subtitled) The Hidden Fortress: Peasants, general, princess and lots of gold travel across borders, similar plot to Star Wars (R2D2 and C3P0 help Solo and Skywalker get Princess Leah to safety). Superb comedy, superb direction, love the scene where the generals fight with spears.
- (subtitled) The Human Condition, Parts I, II and III: A powerful 9-1/2 hour epic anti-war trilogy with superb black-and-white cinematography and great music, telling its tale with very little battle footage. It tells the story of Kaji, a Japanese pacifist during World War II who agreed to improve productivity in an iron-ore mine in Japanese-occupied Manchuria in exchange for amnesty from military service. He worked on treating the miners more fairly to improve productivity, including 300 Chinese POWs that were dumped on the mine by the military and treated very poorly by most of the other mining overlords. For this he was arrested, beaten, and his amnesty revoked for siding with the POWs. Kaji's relationship with his wife, Michiko, is depicted during this movie as well, to setup Kaki's motivations through the rest of the story. That covers the first movie in the trilogy, named "No Greater Love". After having his amnesty from the draft revoked, the second movie, named "Road to Eternity", follows Kaji through reporting for service, basic training, and eventual leadership of his own platoon during WWII, ending with the nearly complete massacre of his platoon in a battle against a Russian tank column. The brutality of the Japanese in disciplining their own troops is one focus of this central part of the trilogy, and it includes the only battle scenes in the trilogy, about 45 minutes worth if memory serves me correctly. In the finale, named "A Soldier's Prayer", Kaji leads the couple remaining survivors from his platoon and various refugees picked up along the way on a long trek on foot through now Soviet-occupied territory to return to southern Manchuria in the hopes that something remains of their towns and families. All he wants is to return to his wife. He has to surrender along the way and becomes a forced laborer being mistreated in a Soviet work camp, reversing the role he held in the first part of the trilogy. The intensely-building suspense of "Will he make it home to Michiko, and will she even still be there?" holds our interest during this superb finale. 9-1/2 hours is a big commitment, but I found this epic trilogy to be well worth the investment of my time.
- Interstellar: Superb sci-fi thriller depicting the search for a new home for humanity after we've finished ruining the Earth due to the poor decisions made during the Trump administration. (I hope I'm wrong about this, but truly fear that the election of this moron is the tipping point)
- It's A Wonderful Life: The best Christmas movie ever stars Jimmy Stewart as George Baily, Donna Reed as his wife, Lionel Barrymore as the town grinch, and Henry Travers as George’s guardian angel, sent to Earth to earn his wings by helping a man in ruin by showing him how much worse the world would have been if he’d never been born, despite the fact that George never was able to live the life of his youthful ambitions.
- The King and I: I just love the songs in this musical. The story is cliche, the acting might not be the best, but wow I do love the music.
- King Kong: A pretty darned good modern remake of the original King Kong.
- (subtitled) Last Year at Marienbad: A movie with polarized reviews. Many people hate it, thinking it's the epitome of pretentious French cinema. I happen to really like the film as a beautifully-photographed black-and-white masterpiece that is a real brain-twister. Sit back, enjoy the photography, the sounds, the mirrors, the talking, the circles that don't quite return to their starting point. For me, this one's a blast! Past, Present and Future are mashed together seemingly randomly. Mantras of the narrator are repeated over and over, sometimes with slight variations. A man tries to convince a woman who claims she doesn't know him that they met here last year and had an intense relationship. My first time watching resulted in sheer confusion. During my next few viewings, I tried to piece together a coherent story, reading articles on the internet (like these) for ideas. But there is no coherent story - each potential explanation makes sense for 80% of the movie, then fails miserably for the other 20%. Eventually, I found I enjoy the film best if I just sit back and enjoy the photography, the narration, the bits of story, and accept that this is abstract cinema at its finest.
- (subtitled) Metropolis: Silent sci-fi film which wrote the book on science fiction in the movies. Watch this film and consider how many of its scenes have been copied over and over again, even still in modern sci-fi movies.
- The Naked Island: A masterfully crafted cinematic poem about a peasant family of four who are the only inhabitants of a small Japanese island where they terrace-farm the land. Their daily workload is tremendous, rowing to the mainland, collecting water, bringing it back and hauling it up the terraces to water their plants individually. Their story is told without any dialog (!), but instead has gorgeous musical accompaniment, and features beautiful black-and-white photography in which many individual frames of the movie could be cut out, printed and hung on a wall as artwork. Be prepared for a very unusual experience when you sit down to watch this movie. It is excruciatingly slow and you must clear your mind and enjoy the photography, the music, the slowly-exposed story of these people and their environment. After watching, be sure to watch again with the original soundtrack (not audio track 2), but with subtitle track 2, which is an English translation of the Japanese director’s and music composer’s commentary track.
- 1917: Two men from the trenches of WWI France are given the assignment of warning troops some distance away to not attack the Germans tomorrow morning since it’s a trap. Amazingly shot in a few no-cut segments which were cleverly blended together to make a movie that looks like it has no cuts at all. The director’s commentary is excellent, explaining a lot about how the movie was made. The cinematographer’s commentary is superb, though, explaining the shots, cameras used, lighting, etc.
- The Pianist: A terrific holocaust movie that will leave you a changed person. Beware that this will be depressing and disturbing, but it's a film you won't forget.
- (subtitled) The Piano Teacher: A young student falls in love with his much older sadistic and masochistic piano teacher.
- The Prestige: Watch carefully to this rivalry between two magicians.
- (subtitled) Raise the Red Lantern: Wicked treachery between the four wives and servants of a Chinese prince, with the real star of the show being the superb photography, especially of the gorgeous palace.
- (subtitled) Rashomon: Conflicting testimony of crimes of rape, murder and robbery are told by the three participants in these actions. Then they are recalled during a pounding rainstorm by three people taking refuge under the Rashomon Gate in 12th-century Kyoto, Japan. They seek to figure out the truth, but are frustrated in this effort. Perhaps each testimony is the truth that each witness would have been proud of? This 1950 Japanese movie, directed by Akira Kurosawa and featuring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura is a true classic, along with The Seven Samurai. So influential worldwide that the term 'the Rashomon Effect' has come to mean what occurs when an event is given contradictory interpretations by the individuals involved.
- (subtitled) Run Lola Run: Lola run through Berlin to help her criminal boyfriend, and you gotta love it. Rinse & Repeat. All with fast-paced nearly non-stop action. My favorite non-war-related German movie.
- Schindler's List: The very best holocaust movie ever made. You will never forget this one.
- (subtitled) A Separation: Superb story of a married Iranian couple in which the wife decides to separate, setting off a chain of events that might destroy her husband. Prepare for intense drama from start to finish.
- Se7en: Detectives chase a serial killer who picks his victims according to the seven deadly sins. Terrific thriller. Shocker of an ending.
- (subtitled) The Seven Samurai: This is another superb Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa and featuring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, as is Rashomon. In this one, seven unemployed samurai soldiers are hired in 1587 by a small peasant farming village to defend the village from impending attack by bandits. It took me a few viewings (and listening to the DVD commentary tracks) to understand the Japanese culture and history in this movie, but once I did so the movie advanced from a really fun action movie into a masterpiece. It's been imitated many times, but never bettered.
- (subtitled) The Seventh Seal: A knight and his squire return home from the Crusades through a Europe ravaged by Black Plague, while Death threatens that the knight’s end is near. He buys time to do one last good deed by playing a game of chess against Death and uses that borrowed time to save a young family. A superb movie filled with never-to-be-forgotten scenes, great photography, some humor, several memorable characters, and an intense message.
- The Shawshank Redemption: This is one of the very best movies of all time. Based on a Stephen King short story, a man is wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. The characters he meets and friends he makes there will pull at your heartstrings. Perhaps it's all a bit contrived and unrealistic, but it's a terrific way to spend 2 hours or your life. Or 4, or 6, or...
- The Shining: The ultimate horror movie, based on a book by the master of horror, Stephen King.
- A Simple Plan: Three guys happen upon a stash of lost cash and decide on a simple plan to keep it for themselves. Things unravel and become less and less simple as time goes on.
- (subtitled) Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans: This silent film tells the story of a farmer and his girlfriend who plan to murder the farmer's wife. Be careful what you wish for! This is a great example of a well-done silent film: the musical soundtrack is perfect, and the story is so well told visually that very few intertitles are needed.
- Titanic: Spectacular disaster film meets love story meets standing on the bow of a ship and flying through the air. What could be better? If you're the person who hasn't seen this yet, you should watch it.
- To Kill a Mockingbird: A father teaches tolerance to his children by example. If only this lesson had been learned back in 1962 instead of still not yet...
- Twelve Angry Men: No color, no special effects, almost completely one setting, but superb acting and great storytelling combine to show how a great movie was made back in the day.
- (subtitled) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: A musical (actually an OPERA, since all words in this movie are sung, none spoken) about idyllic young love interrupted by separation due to war, and the long-term impact of that separation on it’s young lovers.
- West Side Story: Everybody knows the musical about the Jets against the Sharks, right? Romeo and Juliet in 1960's New York. Great music by Leonard Bernstein, great dancing, great singing.
- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: Wow, if there was an opposite of White Christmas, it's this one. A bitter married couple tear each other apart during a night of drinking. Be prepared to be depressed and to hate the characters, but Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton do a heck of a job of acting in this one.
- (subtitled) The Young Girls of Rochefort: Superb lighter-than-air pastel-colored musical about 3 couples searching for love in care-free Rochefort, France, during the construction and the weekend of a carnival. Lots of singing and dancing, humor, likable characters, a forward-moving plot, and really enjoyable music are to be found in this totally over-the-top fantasy.
In case you agree with my list of favorite movies, here are my 300-or-so-next-best films that you might also enjoy, again listed alphabetically
(The best 34 in this bunch are in bold font)
- Ace in the Hole
- Advise and Consent
- (subtitled) After the Wedding: The owner of a poor orphanage in India tries to obtain funding from a wealthy man in Denmark, and after the wedding of that man's son, everything changes bit by bit.
- All Quiet on the Western Front: World War I disillusionment.
- All the President's Men: The Watergate scandal
- (subtitled) Alphaville: A mix of sci-fi, film-noir, comedy, and over-the-top music
- Amadeus: Mozart's life story
- American Beauty: Disturbing drama of suburban America
- American History X
- (subtitled) Amores perros: A Spanish film similar to Crash. Three interwoven stories: a young man who wants to make enough money from dogfighting to steal his brother's wife away, a model who gets in a car accident and falls apart from her husband, and a hired murderer who wants to avoid his last assignment.
- The Apartment: Clerk in huge company is intimidated to provide his apartment to executives for their use to have sex with female employees, but becomes disgruntled with the arrangement when he learns that the elevator operator he likes is being had in his apartment by the company president.
- (subtitled) Apocalypto: I enjoyed the heart-pounding action from minute one through minute 139. There's very little dialog, so the subtitles are pretty easy to keep up with.
- Arlington Road: A spy thriller
- (subtitled) Ashes and Diamonds
- Atonement: The 5-minute steadicam scene of the British retreat from the Germans at Dunkirk is spectacular, but the entire movie is a beautiful masterpiece. Maybe that's why it won an Oscar and was nominated for 6 others?
- (subtitled) Autumn Sonata: Narcissistic mother, a concert pianist, comes to visit grown daughter and her husband, who are taking care of her other daughter who is suffering from a degenerative neural disease. Things start out cordial, but after a while a fierce recollection of harsh feelings from daughter toward her neglectful mother is unleashed, now that she is grown and emboldened and can reflect on her childhood.
- (subtitled) Ballad of a Soldier: A Russian WWII soldier performs some heroics in battle that prompt his commanding officer to grant him a 2 day trip home as a reward, so he can fix his mother’s roof. The journey home is filled with adventure and various kinds of love, taking much longer than expected, turning his 2-day stay at home into a 10-minute stay, just enough time to see his mother and say hello. A touching film with surprisingly little Soviet propaganda; really just credit to a soldier who fought for his country.
- (subtitled) The Battle of Algiers: The story of Algerian resistance fighters during their 1950s fight for independence from the French government.
- (subtitled) A Beautiful Mind
- Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
- Being John Malkovich: A puppeteer discovers a portal into John Malkovich’s mind in this very funny and clever movie.
- (subtitled) The Bicycle Thieves: Great story of the desperation of a man struggling against society in post- WW II Rome.
- (subtitled) The Big City: An entire conservative Indian family’s life is changed when the wife has to get a job to make ends meet.
- Big Fish
- (subtitled) Black Book
- Black Hawk Down: Intense modern war movie about a helicopter shot down during fighting in Somalia.
- Blade Runner 2049: The sequel to Blade Runner, not as superb as the original, but still quite good.
- The Box: Married couple receives the Box with a button inside. Push it and someone dies, you get a million dollars, and by the way your life will become hell.
- Brand Upon the Brain: Experimental black-and-white imitation-silent film with narration (choose audio track from 8 different narrators) about a man who goes back to paint-over his childhood home to erase the memories that he recalls while doing so. Not for those who dislike or don’t appreciate silent films like Metropolis or The Passion of Joan of Arc.
- Brazil: Highly inventive dystopian sci-fi comedy about a worker in a senseless super-bureaucratic government who becomes just another terrorist enemy of the state while trying to free a wrongfully-arrested man and chasing after the woman of his dreams.
- Breach: An aide in the Pentagon is charged with exposing his boss as a spy.
- Breakfast at Tiffany's: Audrey Hepburn falls in love with George Peppard in the New York of 1960.
- (subtitled) The Bridge (Die Bruecke): In the final days of WWII, 7 German high-school-aged teenagers idolize the war effort, then are drafted. They’re thrilled to serve until they learn what fighting is really like.
- Bridge of Spies: Spies in cold-war Berlin.
- The Bridges of Madison County: All right, maybe it's a glorified soap opera, but it sure did leave a silky milk chocolate taste in my throat.
- The Bridge on the River Kwai: Epic tale of rebellion and sabotage by prisoners of war charged with building a bridge for the enemy.
- The Browning Version: The life of a harsh schoolteacher (the antithesis of Mr Chips) is turned completely upside-down and thoroughly destroyed on his last day before retiring from the school where he’s taught for 30 years.
- The Bucket List: Dying guys Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman decide to see stuff on their bucket lists before death.
- The Butterfly Effect
- (subtitled) Capernaum: A 12-year-old boy living in extreme poverty with his family in Beruit tries to prevent his parents from giving away his 11-year-old sister for marriage to a 30-year-old, but fails, so he runs away and is taken in by an even poorer Ethiopian refugee woman with a young baby. While she works during the day he takes care of the baby for her, until one day when she’s arrested by immigration and when she fails to come back home for a few days he realizes its up to him to help the baby and himself survive. He returns home for his non-existent papers and learns his sister died from pregnancy, so he stabs the 30-year-old husband and is sent to prison. He sues his real parents for neglecting all their children.
- (subtitled) The Captain (Der Hauptmann): In the last days of WW II, a German soldier who is deserting finds an abandoned Captain's uniform. He puts it on to save himself from pursuit, other solders see him and follow him as a leader, and we watch as he commits a series of atrocities as more and more people follow him and no one steps forward strongly enough to stop him.
- (subtitled) Carmen: Bizet's opera Carmen features great music and a story involving a soldier who falls into unrequited love.
- Cinderella Man
- (subtitled) Cleo from 5 to 7: Two hours in the life of a gorgeous woman singer in Paris who is awaiting the results of a biopsy, fearful of a cancer diagnosis.
- Cloud Atlas
- Contact: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence finally detects a signal; one with a difficult message to decode that leads to the journey of a lifetime
- (subtitled) Cranes are Flying
- Crimson Tide
- Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Dancer in the Dark: Wow, I watched this for the first time in December of 2016, and it's the most unique musical I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot of them). I recommend this one very highly if you want a unique instance of the genre, along with some superb music and dancing.
- The Dark Knight
- The Day the Earth Stood Still: One of the great sci-fi films of all time. A space traveller has important news for Earth, but a hostile greeting from humans makes it difficult to deliver.
- The Devil All the Time: A young boy is surrounded by evil through his entire life with disasterous results.
- (subtitled) Les Diaboliques
- (subtitled) Divorce Italian Style
- Dog Day Afternoon: A suspenseful bank robbery goes bad and becomes a media circus
- Dogville: This one offers a fresh way of storytelling, and is worthy of a watch if only to enjoy great art expressed through creative filmmaking. If you have the attention span for this one, there is a nice pay-off.
- (subtitled) Downfall (Der Untergang): Powerful story of Hitler's last days in the bunker, and the surrender of Germany.
- 8 1/2: The surrealistically-told story of a film director with director’s block, who is under pressure to make a movie but has no idea what it’s about, who the characters are, who the actors will be, or what they will say, constructed from episodes from Fellini’s lifetime, with dreams and fantasies seamlessly interwoven with reality.
- Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A search for closure after 9/11.
- Eye in the Sky: How to deal with civilians during wartime?
- Eyes Wide Shut: Kubrick's last film, a married couple plays with fire when they reveal temptation and jealousy.
- A Face in the Crowd: Andy Griffith plays a small-town southern singer and schmoozer who is discovered by a radio show host, gains in popularity, and rises into a powerful media star.
- Fail-Safe: 1960's tale of military’s control of nuclear weapons going wrong. A real thriller.
- Falling Down: Michael Douglas, a successful engineer, suddenly snaps.
- Femme Fatale: Erotic thriller
- (subtitled) A Film Unfinished
- (subtitled) Floating Weeds: Well-made movie about the leader of a troupe of travelling actors who returns to the city where his illegitimate son and one-time-girlfriend live. The troupe returns there occasionally, where he sees his son, masquerading as an uncle. The son is now grown and falls in love with a girl in the troup. This is Ozu’s remake of his own 1934 silent film ‘A Story of Floating Weeds’ (Floating Weeds means Drifters). This version of the film features superb photographic compositions in every scene, with splashes of color (especially red) in most compositions, especially in the lower-right corner.
- The Fly: Superb sci-fi horror movie with great character development, great acting, a love triangle, and a super-intense last half hour. A scientist has developed a teleportation machine that works great for inanimate objects. He must make adjustments to let it work on living flesh.
- Full Metal Jacket: Kubrick's tribute to the harshness of boot camp, the horror of combat, and the effect they can have on their pawns.
- The Game
- The Grey Zone: This is an intense Holocaust film about the Jewish assistant of Dr Mengele and the Jewish work crews in the crematoriums of Auschwitz, who remain alive day by day in a moral dilemma by working for the Nazis against their fellow Jews. They finally strike back but at huge cost.
- Ghost World: Interesting story about a punk rocker and an older lonely dork.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Gone Girl
- The Good Earth
- The Good Liar: Swindler old man romances an old rich woman to fool her into giving him her money. Things turn more serious than he’d hoped for.
- Good Will Hunting
- Grand Canyon: A study in friendships, especially an unlikely one that lasts.
- Gravity: An accident on the space station threatens the lives of the astronauts
- Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
- (subtitled) Harakiri: An aging ex-Samurai comes to a clan’s headquarters, asking them to let him commit suicide in their courtyard. They tell him the story of another Samurai who did the same thing a few weeks ago. He slowly reveals the family relationship between him and that prior samurai, and the revenge he’s extracted for the cruelty of that prior suicide. Gets a bit silly during the final battle scene, but other than that an intense drama.
- (subtitled) High and Low: An employee’s son is kidnapped, and the rich executive boss has to decide whether to pay to have the son recovered. Then the 2nd half of the film deals with the attempt by the police to find the kidnapper and bring him to justice.
- His Girl Friday
- A History of Violence: A small-town family man is visited by people claiming to be from his criminal past
- Hotel Rwanda: Compelling story about genocide in Rwanda
- Hour of the Wolf: Great horror movie about an artist who suffers a nightmarish mental breakdown after he and his young wife move to a sparsely populated island. Great soundtrack, great special effects, brief scenes remind me of Eraserhead, Dracula, and The Birds.
- The Hurt Locker
- I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang: Returning vet looking for a career falls in with bad friends and participates (at gunpoint) in a $5 robbery. He's sentenced to a chain gang, and we follow his life as he tries to rehabilitate himself.
- I, Robot
- (subtitled) Ikiru: A worker in the bureaucracy of the post- WW II Tokyo city hall with terminal cancer decides to make a contribution to society that will outlast him.
- In Bruges: Can murder in a picturesque city be high comedy? Yup.
- In Cold Blood: Two drifters murder a rural family because they think that family has a stash of cash in their home, then the police try to catch them.
- In the Heat of the Night: A talented black homicide policeman passes through a southern town during the 1960s and is arrested for a murder. He clears himself with the good-old-boy sheriff and goes on to lead the murder investigation, proving the worth of a black man to this town of bigots.
- (subtitled) Infernal Affairs: This is the original version of 'The Departed", and is a much tighter film than the remake, being more cinematic, with a great succinct plot. A gangster infiltrates the police and a policeman infiltrates the gang. Each team wants to find and eliminate the traitor.
- Inside Man: Can the bank robber walk right out the front door of the bank and get away with it all?
- Into the Wild
- (subtitled) La Jetee: The precursor to Twelve Monkeys
- Joker: The back-story of the Joker’s life before he became Batman’s arch-enemy.
- (subtitled) Kapo: Superb story of a Jewish girl who, with the help of a kind man, outsmarts the Nazis to survive WW II in a work camp.
- The Killing: A superb early-Kubrick movie about a heist at a racetrack, what can go right, and what can go wrong.
- (subtitled) The King of Kings: Cecil B DeMilles' legendary silent film about Jesus Christ's oppression, death and resurrection.
- Kramer vs. Kramer
- La La Land: Music and aspiring performers in today's Los Angeles
- The Life of David Gale
- Life of Pi
- Little Children: Sarah & Brad and their small children, and their spouses and friends, and the town pervert and an ex-town-cop intersect and build to a crashing climax.
- (subtitled) The Lives of Others: The East German habit of spying on each other
- Lolita: A middle-aged man goes to all lengths to win the heart and the body of a teen-aged girl who is the daughter of a woman who takes him in as a boarder for the summer.
- (subtitled) Love Me If You Dare: Childhood friends taunt each other through life. The final 15 minutes will leave you reeling.
- The Maltese Falcon
- The Man Who Wasn't There: Superb black-and-white film-noir about barber who bumbles his way into setting off a chain of events which has tragic consequences for everyone involved. Great cast, great acting, great photography. Didn't like the ending, but still, its a great movie.
- Manhattan: A Woody Allen romantic comedy about friends in New York and a midlife crisis.
- Marnie: Hitchcock thriller about a man who gets involved with a disturbed woman
- Marriage Story: Couple (director and actress in New York plays) with a young child, decides to get divorced. Wife and child move to LA for her to act in a TV show, and the divorce turns ugly.
- The Martian: an astronaut stranded on Mars tries to survive.
- (subtitled) Modern Times: Silent Charlie Chaplin comedy
- Monsieur Hire: Erotic thriller about an unpopular middle-aged man suspected of murdering a young woman, and peeping at another woman across the courtyard of his apartment building.
- Moulin Rouge!
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: The nice-guy (Jimmy Stewart) finishes first for once.
- My Fair Lady: Henry Higgins takes on the challenge to teach Eliza Dolittle how to speak properly and behave like a lady in this really funny musical with clever lyrics.
- My First Mister
- My Man Godfrey
- The Next Three Days
- No Country for Old Men: Horror chase thriller about a man who discovers a drug transaction gone bad and tries to steal the money he finds on the scene.
- Nocturnal Animals
- The Notebook: An old man reads his demented wife the notebook that detailed their love.
- (subtitled) Le Notti Bianche: Romantic story of a love triangle, with superb filming and compositions, beautiful sound track, and some unforgettable scenes, set in a small neighborhood of Venice.
- Olive Kitteridge: a great character study that grabbed my interest at the start and held on through the 4 one-hour episodes.
- On Golden Pond: Grumpy old grandpa is mellowed out by a month-long visit from his 13-year-old step-grandson.
- On the Waterfront: Good story about bad boy Marlin Brando rebelling against the crooked shipping bosses. He gets the babe, too.
- (subtitled) Open Your Eyes
- Ordinary People
- The Painted Veil
- (subtitled) Pan's Labyrinth (Laberinto del Fauno)
- (subtitled) The Passion of the Christ
- (subtitled) The Past: A man returns from Tehran to Paris at his wife's request for divorce finalization, and walks into a complicated family situation from events of the past year or so.
- (subtitled) Pather Panchali: The story of an impoverished family in India at a time of great crisis.
- Paths of Glory: Kubrick explores the divide between leaders and workers, in the context of WWI trench warfare. After soldiers take extraordinary losses during a battle and therefore retreat, the general raises charges of cowardice and their commander must defend them in a court martial which might result in executions.
- (subtitled) Persona: Gorgeous abstract film something like Last Year At Marienbad in that there is no way to make complete sense of the movie, you can attempt several theories but none of them work correctly to explain the entire film. The closest, for me, is that an insane woman actress, who didn’t want children and wished her newborn son would die, goes crazy, and splits into two personalities who argue the facts of her life to try and reconcile her insanity. Roger Ebert, on the other hand, argues for a literal interpretation: the actress Elizabeth suddenly stops talking in the middle of a play, is committed to a psychiatric hospital, and nursed and cared for by the chatty Alma at a summer house on the water, where the two women somehow merge. Regardless of interpretation, this movie contains many many gorgeous photographic compositions and is an interesting romp through unreality. Plus, we get to watch two beautiful women for 90 minutes.
- The Place Beyond the Pines: Relationship between a cop and a robber transfers 15 years later into a relationship between their children
- A Place in the Sun
- (subtitled) Il Postino: The Postman gets an education about poetry, love and friendship.
- The Prince and the Pauper
- (subtitled) Purple Noon: The original French version of "The Talented Mr Ripley", interesting to see the differences in interpretation of the story. I like both, but probably the American version better.
- The Railway Man
- A Raisin in the Sun
- The Reader: Young man in Germany is seduced by a 30-year-old woman who turns out to have been a Nazi guard, who is subsequently tried. The movie probes the guilt felt by the after-WWII generation in Germany due to their love for parents, teachers and clergy who they later learned might have done terrible things during the war.
- Red River
- Red Sparrow: The masochist in me loves the training of this Russian agent.
- Reign Over Me
- Requiem for a Dream
- Reservoir Dogs: A jewel theft goes very wrong and the gang members suspect one of them tipped off the cops, in this very brutal film that features great storytelling technique.
- (subtitled) The Return: The absent father of two boys returns after 12 years to take them on a fishing trip which exposes his poor fathering skills and abusive personality, and which ends in tragedy and mystery in this contemporary Russian masterpiece.
- The Revenant
- (subtitled) Rififi: The perfect heist.
- The Right Stuff: The heroic story of the 7 original astronauts for NASA
- Russian Ark: A single-scene steadicam walk through The Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia
- (subtitled) Le Samourai: A hitman evades capture despite the police suspecting his alabis are faked
- Samurai Rebellion: A young woman is forced to marry into a family when the local clan leader rejects her after she bears his child. The family finds her to be a great wife. The local clan leader then wants her back once the child becomes the only heir to that leader, and the family doesn’t want to let her go. Their rebellion against authority has consequences.
- Saving Private Ryan: Heroism and sacrifice set over a week of time beginning with the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach, then searching for a soldier named Private Ryan in order to send him home, and finally helping his platoon defend a strategic bridge from the Germans.
- Seance on a Wet Afternoon
- The Searchers: Macho John Wayne hunts down the Comanches that captured his niece through Monument Valley
- (subtitled) The Secret in their Eyes
- Seven Pounds: Will Smith's character donates his organs to seven deserving people
- The Shape of Water: A cleaning lady at a top-secret government facility falls in love with the sea monster being studied.
- Shop Around the Corner: Jimmy Stewart is a clerk in store in Budapest, and falls in love with a pen pal he writes to, who he learns is a fellow clerk in the store. Lots of good comedy in this feel-good Christmas movie.
- (subtitled) The Shop On Main Street: A kind-hearted poor Arian man is given control of a button shop run by an elderly Jewish woman during the purge of Jews from a Slovakian city. He and his wife think he is being given the riches of the shop and the Jewish family, but she is nearly deaf, nearly blind, and confused, thinking he’s just looking for work.
- (subtitled) The Silence: Crime thriller about the killing of 2 teenage girls, 23 years apart, in which the wrong man is blamed in the end
- The Sixth Sense
- (subtitled) Sleep Tight
- (subtitled) The Soft Skin: Married middle-aged author meets single young stewardess and they have an affair. They spend more and more time together and this takes a toll on his marriage and also their relationship.
- Something the Lord Made
- Sophie's Choice
- (subtitled) Il Sorpasso: A loud-mouthed intensely dislikable braggart takes a shy introverted law student on a very humorous 2-day road-trip through Rome to the Tuscan countryside, visiting relatives and friends, convincing him to enjoy life the way the braggart does. Will they ever make it back to Rome?
- The Sound of Music
- Source Code
- A Special Day: A gay man spends the a day with a woman who’s in a loveless marriage, while nearly all other people in the apartment building spend the day at a Mussolini rally in Piazza Venezia.
- Splendor in the Grass
- Stalag 17
- Stonehearst Asylum
- (subtitled) Stray Dog: Excellent Kurosawa detective thriller with a superb view into life in postwar Japan.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
- Synecdoche, New York: Psychotic director of plays has many unusual illnesses and directs a play to end all plays with a cast of thousands in a huge warehouse, rehearsing for several decades while working out the script.
- The Talented Mr. Ripley: Tom Ripley is hired by Dickie Greenleaf's father to convince Dickie Greenleaf to come back home from Rome to New York. Things in Italy get complicated.
- Taxi Driver: A socially-inept taxi driver deteriorates into a psychopath in his attempt to woo a campaign worker and save a child prostitute, but somehow gets away with it all after being proclaimed a hero in the newspapers.
- 10 Cloverfield Lane: A woman is held in a basement without her consent, for her own good (?), and then escapes into a totally different genre of a movie.
- 3:10 to Yuma: (2007)
- 3:10 to Yuma: (1957)
- (subtitled) Tristan und Isolde: If you'd like to try out opera, but have always been afraid, then this opera by Wagner, or 1984's Carmen by Bizet would be a great way to dip your toes into the water. Tristan und Isolde if your a bleeding Romantic like me, Carmen if you're not. This particular version of Tristan und Isolde is in great sound, unlike other DVDs of great performances you might find.
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- True Grit: Feisty girl hires federal marshal to hunt down the man who killed her father.
- The Truman Show
- 12 years a slave: A free black man is sold into slavery.
- 25th Hour
- (subtitled) Umberto D: A retired man apparently cast-out by society struggles to survive financially in Rome, along with his dog Flick.
- V for Vendetta
- (subtitled) A Very Long Engagement
- Water for Elephants
- What Dreams May Come
- (subtitled) The White Sheik: An early Fellini comedy, in which a newlywed wife leaves her husband for an hour to meet a movie star she admires, until it turns into much more than an hour.
- (subtitled) Wild Strawberries: A grumpy 78-year-old retired Doctor or Professor Isak Borg wakes from a nightmare foretelling his death on the day he’s to travel 400 miles from Stockholm to receive an honorary degree from the University of Lund. He travels there by car with his daughter-in-law, Mariana, being grumpy along the way. The journey represents his life, and will presumably end with his death. It's clear that Mariana doesn't like Borg. They stop at a house on a lake which was where his family spent their summers during his childhood (he was one of ten children), where the Wild Strawberries grow. There he relives a day from his childhood as his present self watching that day as in a dream. Sara, the cousin he was to marry is gathering strawberries for her elderly uncle's birthday when Borg's younger brother Sigfrid kisses her, she responds passionately, and the stains on her apron from the strawberries that tumble away represent her losing her cherry that day. A young woman who looks just like that cousin and is also named Sara wakes him up in the present and asks him for a ride to the University. He agrees, and she brings along 2 male friends, her fiancée (a minister, representing the conservative Borg) and a chaperone who is more interesting to her, representing Sigfrid. This Sara represents Borg's second-chance, a sort of do-over. They get in a car accident and take on 2 more passengers – the married couple in the other car which was wrecked badly. That couple fights constantly in the car, so are kicked out so as to not corrupt the children (Sara and her 2 boyfriends). The remaining 5 stop for lunch and to visit his 96-year-old cold-as-ice mother. He is the last surviving of her 10 children. She shows him photos and toys from his childhood, and a pocket watch with no hands on it which had been in his nightmare. After they leave it starts raining and he sleeps in the car. He dreams of the day he learned that Sigfrid had stolen Sara from him, then he dreams of a test at the university, administered by the husband from the fighting couple, in which he fails all questions about becoming a doctor. He is declared incompetent, then taken to a scene where his wife Karin cheats on him, telling her lover what a cold man Borg is, and that he won't even care about her infidelity. He awakes in the car and tells Mariana about his recent dreams about death and judgment. She says her husband, his son, Evald, has similar dreams, because when she told him she was pregnant, he said it was wrong to bring a child into this world, and that though her dreams are to live and give birth, his dreams are to die. So she is questioning what to do about her fetus - it comes from a line of 3 generations of cold, unlikable people. At one point in the journey he asks Sara which of her men she prefers; she cannot choose either one. They arrive at the University, he receives his honorary degree, Evald and Mariana get back together, deciding to have the baby, and attend a party that night without Borg (that party is Borg's funeral, the party his family goes to without him). Meanwhile, Sara and her 2 men serenade him and congratulate him. Sara, in fact, tells Borg that she really loves him, always and forever. He recalls the day as he goes to sleep, (i.e. as he dies), with a smile on his face, because Sara finally chose him after having rejected him earlier in life.
- (subtitled) Wild Tales: An excellent Argentinian movie made of 6 unrelated short stories about people under extreme stress.
- Witness for the Prosecution: Beautifully made crime/courtroom mystery with great acting and a few real twists at the end
And finally, a few TV series which I've especially enjoyed, again in alphabetical order
- All in the Family
- The Americans: Spy thriller series about a husband-and-wife team of Russian spies implanted into a Washington DC neighborhood.
- Black Mirror: a modern Twilight Zone
- Bloodline: Watch the first and second season, third season is terrible
- Breaking Bad: The best TV drama series ever, watch it start to end, it's the best series that's ever been on TV, IMHO.
- Chernobyl: 5-hour HBO documentary about the Chernobyl disaster, how it unfolded, the first responders, the attempt to prevent the disaster from becoming catastrophic, and the trial that uncovered exactly why the disaster happened.
- The Crown
- (subtitled) Deutschland 83
- Downton Abbey: I can't believe I was suckered into this soap opera, but darn if I don't love every character and wish they were still on my TV set
- The Expanse: Season 1 had a great story line and superb effects; shows great promise for a long-term great sci-fi show if they continue
- The Fall: Ice Queen policewoman solves the cases of the Belfast Strangler, a serial killer in Belfast who tortures and strangles women, and has been doing so for 15 years.
- The Good Wife
- The Handmaiden's Tale
- Homeland: Especially the first 3 or 4 seasons, subsequent seasons are not as intense
- House of Cards
- I, Claudius: 1000 bonus points for being about the Roman Empire
- Lost In Space
- Man in the High Castle
- Ozark: Another great show along the line of Breaking Bad. Accountant gets involved in money laundering, then has to scramble and get deeper and deeper into drug business trouble to launder enough to save his family.
- Outlander: Season 1 is quite good. Beyond that, not so much. A happily-married English woman on vacation in Scotland with her husband visits a stone circle, touches a stone, and is transported back 200 years to the time of Scottish Clans, with some people planning rebellion against England, and a constant struggle between the fiercely independent people and the British occupying forces, led by a Sadistic captain who is dedicated to punishing her new Scottish husband.
- The Practice
- The Sopranos
- Twin Peaks
- The West Wing
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