My Favorite Movies
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As we head into the holidays, I can’t help but want to curl up under a blanket and rewatch some of my favorite movies. It’s about the only time I sit down long enough to focus on a movie and I somehow return to the same ones each year. So, here is a list of my top ten favorite movies. Not necessarily cinematic masterpieces or Oscar winners but rather movies that I love for a variety of reasons. If you’ve never enjoyed one of these I highly suggest you take the time to experience it.
So in no particular order...
#1: Singing in the Rain
Where do I start with this movie? It has dancing and Gene Kelly. It has singing and Gene Kelly. It has amazing comedic timing and Gene Kelly! This movie is a timeless piece of old Hollywood when stars were glamorous and MGM owned the hills. On top of Gene Kelly, the movie also stars a very young Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor who never fails to leave me in stitches as Cosmo Brown.
The plot follows a Hollywood studio and the chaos created by the advent of the “talkie” and while this gem is nearly 70 years old even my high school students love it. For the record this is ranked #5 on the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest Films of All Time list which is pretty impressive.
“We’ll always have Paris.” Oh Rick! Casablanca is the perfect melding of a chick flick and an action movie. Set in the Vichy controlled city of Casablanca it follows tales of intrigue, spies and love set against the backdrop of war torn 1942. The lines are now iconic and the music unforgettable plus with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman you can hardly go wrong.
The fact that many of the films actors were victims of the war brings such realism to what was happening at the time. I always cry when they begin singing La Marseillaise. If you enjoy classics and are looking for something somewhere between The Notebook and Saving Private Ryan, this might be it. Also, it is ranked #3 on AFI’s 100 Greatest list.
#3: It’s a Wonderful Life
I cry every time I watch this movie. EVERY TIME! It has become the iconic Christmas movie that runs 24 hours a day and has been parodied by more sitcoms that you can shake a stick at but what I love most is how the message is enduring in spite of its 73 years. It’s a Wonderful Life has humor, romance, heartache and more all tied up with the timeless lesson of the beauty of life. James Stewart’s portrayal of George Bailey is enough to rank it among the best but the entire cast is endearing and memorable.
The American Film Institute ranks It’s a Wonderful Life at #20 on the Greatest Movies List but ranks it as the #1 Cheer of all time which I can’t agree more. Also, the hero, George and the villian, Mr. Potter, are both ranked top ten on their respective lists. If you’ve never given this one a try I beg you to watch it this holiday season when it comes on one of a billion channels.
#4: The Back to the Future Trilogy
Yes, I know this is technically three movies but you cannot just watch one of them! The story must be viewed as a whole piece. I have seen Back to the Future more times than one person should watch any movie and I will gladly watch it again tonight. My brother was obsessed with it as a kid and I currently show it to my students when we discuss product placement. I could easily do a one woman rendition playing each character without a need to rehearse lines. Even with all of this it never grows boring. Am I disappointed that their technology predictions for 2015 fell flat? Of course! Am I glad that their fashion predictions for 2015 fell flat? YES!!!!!
Michael J. Fox was just cute as peach pie playing Marty and Doc is such a lovable goof. You can’t help but get invested in their lives and the outcome of their adventures. Also, the movie is somewhat introspective having you consider your effect on the future of your life which I love though as Doc says, “...your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has! Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one!”
Side note: If you like this movie I suggest looking up Thomas F. Wilson (Biff) singing his Back to the Future Song. Hilarious!
#5: American Graffiti
“Where were you in 62?” CLASSIC! Classic cars, classic music, classic movie! The soundtrack alone makes this worth the watch. The story takes place over one night but has so much emotional sentimentality wrapped up in it. I think we can all remember the fear and excitement that came with high school graduation and I’m not sure those emotions vary that much from generation to generation. American Graffiti follows a group of friends as they graduate and go separate ways. It is poignant, funny and relatable while grasping the popular culture and look of the early 60s.
The American Film Institute ranks American Graffiti at #62 on its list and if making the list isn’t enough of a convincer the movie features a wonderful cameo of Wolfman Jack who was one cool dude! That voice!!!
#6: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Once again, I know this is three movies but as with the earlier trilogy you CANNOT watch just one! You will miss the amazing character arcs and the length is worth the story you’ll get. Try not to fall asleep before Frodo leaves the Shire. (Looking at you Mother!) I’m not sure there is anything I could say about these movies that hasn’t be said far more eloquently so I’m not going to try. I will let you know that it is ranked #50 on AFI’s list and Viggo Mortenson is a fox!
#7: The Wizard of Oz
This is less of a favorite and more of a must see for me. I don’t love The Wizard of Oz but I appreciate it for the historical significance it plays in the story of Hollywood. This was the first “all” color movie. Now, I realize the beginning is black and white but that was a creative choice not a technological one. Also, the iconic ruby red slippers came about because of the coloring of the movie. (The original slippers were silver. Yay Populism!)
Of course, you can’t help but love the splendid Judy Garland, one of my favorite actresses, the hilarious Ray Bolger and the rest of the cast who dance and sing their way into your heart. Also, AFI ranks The Wizard of Oz as its #6 choice for the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time which explains why so many people adore it.
#8: Gone with the Wind
This is by far one of my favorite movies for the costuming alone but beyond it has a great storyline, amazing characters and beautiful scenery. This movie is four hours long but once again the time is worth the story you will get. Vivian Leigh could not be a more perfect Scarlet and Hattie McDaniel’s performance was so spectacular it won her an Oscar, the first for an African American. And need I mention Clark Gable as Rhett Butler? I know he’s a cad but he still makes me swoon! Of course Gone with the Wind makes AFI’s ranking landing at #4 because of the cinematic masterpiece it has remained in its 80 years.
#9: Funny Girl
I know that I am partial to musicals and Barbra Streisand but I really think Funny Girl is a great movie. The movie is based off the Broadway show of the same name which is loosely based on the life of comedian Fanny Brice and her rise from obscurity to the Ziegfeld Follies.
The storyline is lovely, the costumes are fantastic, the humor is timeless and the music is so freaking catchy! Sometimes I put on Funny Girl while I’m cleaning or doing laundry just so I can sing along. With numbers like “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and “My Man” you can’t help belting it out along with Barbra. Add the gorgeous Omar Sharif as Nick Arnstein and you’ve got a winner.
If one movie defined my childhood it wouldn’t be a cartoon or a Disney original but the 1978 classic Grease! I’m not sure what that says about the movies I watched as a kid but I vividly remember watching Grease for two summers straight when I was eight and nine years old. (Don’t worry! They were recorded off of TV so the truly dirty stuff was cut.)
This may have been the first musical I watched outside of the traditional Disney lineup and I adored it! While my parents were at work I would dress up in an off the shoulder blouse and my mother’s high heels so I could feel like a Pink Lady. I thought they were the coolest things ever and by the end of that first summer I knew every word by heart even if I didn’t exactly understand the innuendos. I even made my own mixed-tape of my favorite musical numbers on my boombox! This was my jam!
Fun fact: My daddy knows how much I loved Grease that for my 31 birthday he got me front row tickets to see Olivia Newton John in concert! At one point during the show she put on her Pink Ladies jacket and asked all the women in the audience to be unofficial Pink Ladies for the night and join her in the songs. My third grade heart about exploded! Here I was a mere three feet from Sandy and she was asking me to be a Pink Lady. I could have died! Still ranks as one of the coolest moments of my life!
I know I said I was only doing ten but during the holidays some movies just become favorites. I don’t typically watch either of these at any other point in the year but I can’t help but adore them during this season.
Bonus #1: White Christmas
First, the song White Christmas makes me cry. It’s so sentimental and lovely but I also have a secret dream of seeing snow at Christmas which is pretty tough in South Mississippi where it is potentially 85 on Christmas Day. Second, this movie stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney so you know the singing and dancing is going to be superb!
It follows the story of two friends who become entertainers after WWII and the hijinks they and their new women friends get into while trying to save their former commanding officer’s inn in Vermont. There’s tons of humor, romance, miscommunication and holiday cheer to put this on your Christmas list every year. And yes, I always cry at the end. I can’t help it and the tears start long before “White Christmas” hits your ears.
Fun fact: Irvin Berlin did not write “White Christmas” for this movie but rather for a Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire picture 12 years earlier called “Holiday Inn”.
Bonus #2: A Christmas Story
This is another Christmas movie that runs 24 hours a day and with good reason. It is so funny and brings back the nostalgia of Christmases gone by. I think we can all relate to being children and desperately wanting one specific toy for Christmas and the weight it was on our little minds. For the record, I often judge movies by how “quotable” they are and this movie’s got some doozies! It also holds a special place in my heart because it is one of the movies we always watch while decorating the Christmas tree and yes, my brother had a Red Ryder.
So, do you have movies you could watch on repeat forever? Ones that always make you cry? And for those of you who know me well...I realize I didn’t include any Harry Potter films. That’s for several reasons including the fact that I love the Harry Potter world as a WHOLE and the movies just aren’t my favorite part of said world. I think you have to watch all 8 of the original films to appreciate the storyline and while I’ll stretch and put a trilogy on the list I can’t put 8 films! Finally, as much as I love the films, I feel that too much information from the books is needed to truly understand Harry’s world therefore that is a movie and book experience not just a film. Forgive me Harry!