100 Favorite Movies – The Complete List

As a coda to the Top 100 Favorite Movies series this is the complete list. All commentaries on each particular movie can be found in the vault. Once again thanks for reading!!

 

 

1       The Godfather

“I’m with you now. I’m with you.”

 

2       Forrest Gump

“Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?”…”I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.”

 

3       Field of Dreams 

“You know we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”

 

4       It’s a Wonderful Life

“Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole.”

 

5       A Christmas Story

“Frah-gee-lay. It must be Italian!”…”I think that says ‘fragile’ honey.”…”Oh, yeah.”

6    National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

“You want to hurry this up, Clark? I’m freezing my baguettes off.”

 

7       Apollo 13

“Failure is not an option.”

 

8       The Star Wars Trilogy

“May The Force be with you.”

 

9       Die Hard

“Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!”

 

10     The Godfather Part II

“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

 

11     The Passion of the Christ

“Take this and drink. This is My blood, spilled for you and for many. Do this in memory of Me.”

 

12     Home Alone

“He’s a kid. Kids are stupid.”

 

13     National Lampoon’s Vacation

“This is a damn fine automobile if you want my honest opinion. I owe it to myself to tell you that if you’re taking the tribe cross-country this is the automobile you should be using, the Wagon Queen Family Truckster. You think you hate it now, but wait ‘til you drive it.”

 

14     Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

“Those aren’t PILLOWS!!”

 

15     Office Space

“Ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.”

 

16     The Polar Express

“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell. But as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Though I have grown old, the bell still rings for me. As it does for all who truly believe.”

 

17     Bull Durham

“Man that ball got outta here in a hurry. I mean anything travels that far oughta have a damn stewardess on it, don’t you think?”

 

18     Dead Poets Society

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

 

19     The Fugitive

“I’m either lying or I’m gonna shoot you, what do you think?”

 

20     Grease

“Tell me ’bout it…Stud”

 

21     Casablanca

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

 

22     Jaws

“The thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes.”

 

23     A Christmas Carol

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business.”

 

24     Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

“To the last, I will grapple with thee! From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee! For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!”

 

25     The Lethal Weapon Series

“I’m too old for this shit.”

 

26     The Blues Brothers

“We’re on a mission from God.”

 

27     Ocean’s Eleven

“You’d need at least a dozen guys doing a combination of cons. Off the top of my head, I’d say you’re looking at a Boesky, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever.”

 

28     The Ref

“You know what I’m going to get you next Christmas, Mom? A big wooden cross, so that every time you feel unappreciated for your sacrifices, you can climb on up and nail yourself to it.”

 

29     Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

 

30     Rocky

“I was nobody. But that don’t matter either, you know? ‘Cause I was thinkin’, it really don’t matter if I lose this fight.  ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. If I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”

 

31     The Perfect Storm
“She’s not gonna let us out.”

 

32     The Back to the Future Trilogy

“And that’s when you came up with the idea for the Flux Capacitor, which is what makes time travel possible.”

33     Titanic

“God Himself could not sink this ship.”

 

34     A Shot in the Dark

“I believe everything and I believe nothing. I suspect everyone and I suspect no one.”

 

35     Scent of a Woman

“There is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthetic for that.”

 

36     Halloween

“I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil.”

 

37     Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

“There’s nobody dumb enough to knock off a toy store on Christmas Eve.”

 

38     Best in Show

“We have so much in common, we both love soup and snow peas, we love the outdoors, and talking and not talking. We could not talk or talk forever and still find things to not talk about.”

 

39     The Shawshank Redemption

“Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

 

40     Cast  Away

“I’ll be right back.”

 

41     Jerry Maguire

“You had me at ‘Hello’.”

 

42     Rear Window

“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes sir. How’s that for a bit of homespun philosophy?”

 

43     Mrs. Doubtfire

“He was quite fond of the drink. It was the drink that killed him…”How awful, he was an alcoholic?”…”No, he was hit by a Guinness truck, so it was quite literally the drink that killed him.”

 

44     Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

“Computer! Computer? Hello, computer.”…”Just use the keyboard.”…”Keyboard. How quaint.”

 

45     Sleepless in Seattle

“Shall we??”

 

46     When Harry Met Sally

“I’ll have what she’s having.”

 

47     Elf

“This place reminds me of Santa’s workshop. Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.”

 

48     You’ve Got Mail

“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self.”

 

49     Miracle on 34th Street

“Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.”

 

50     Little Miss Sunshine

“Nietzsche? So you stopped talking because of Friedrich Nietzsche? Far out.”

 

51     Father of the Bride I & II

“He’s like you, Dad! Except he’s brilliant.”

 

52     Die Hard with a Vengeance

“Look around man. All the cops are into something. It’s Christmas, you could steal City Hall.”

 

53     Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

“You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”

 

54     Swingers

“Vegas baby! Vegas!!”

 

55     Saturday Night Fever

“You know how many times someone told me I was good in my life? Two! Twice! Two times! This raise today, and dancing…dancin’ at the disco!”

 

56     Batman

“You ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

 

57     This Is Spinal Tap

“It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”

 

58     American Beauty

“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain. And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.”

 

59     Vertigo

“I have acrophobia which gives me vertigo and I get dizzy. Boy, what a moment to find out I had it!”

 

60     Hoosiers

“You know, a basketball hero around here is treated like a god. How can he ever find out what he can really do? I don’t want this to be the high point of his life. I’ve seen them, the real sad ones. They sit around the rest of their lives talking about the glory days when they were seventeen years old.”

 

61     Silence of the Lambs

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

 

62     Meet the Parents

“Shut your pie hole and listen to me when I say that I am finished with the checking-of-the-bags conversation!”

 

63     Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

“You think I’m licked. You all think I’m licked. Well, I’m not licked, and I’m gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause.”

 

64     Raging Bull

“I’m gonna win. There’s no way I’m goin’ down. I don’t go down for nobody.”

 

65     Airplane!

“Surely you can’t be serious?”…”I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”

 

66     The Frat Pack 3 Pak (Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Wedding Crashers)

“Stay classy San Diego”

 

67     Ocean’s Thirteen

“He owns all of the air south of Beijing…”The air?”…”Let me put it to you this way – try building something taller than three stories in the Tiangjin province, and see if his name comes up.”

 

68     The Greatest Show on Earth

“The circus is a massive machine whose very life depends on discipline and motion and speed. A mechanized army on wheels that rolls over any obstacle in its path, that meets calamity again and again, but always comes up smiling. A place where disaster and tragedy stalk the big top, haunt the backyard, and ride the circus train. Where death is constantly watching for one frayed rope, one weak link, or one trace of fear. A fierce, primitive fighting force that smashes relentlessly forward against impossible odds. That is the circus.”

 

69     The Shrek Trilogy

“Once upon a time, there was a lovely princess. But she had an enchantment upon her of a fearful sort, which could only be broken by true love’s first kiss.”

 

70     The Glenn Miller Story

“Maybe it’s good and maybe it ain’t, but it’s radical!”

 

71     The Patriot

“Before this war is over, I’m going to kill you.”

 

72     American Pie

“I got some scotch”…”Single malt?”…”Aged eighteen years. The way I like it.”

 

73     North by Northwest

“That’s funny, that plane’s dustin’ crops where there ain’t no crops.”

 

74     Glengarry Glen Ross

“Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers only.”

 

75     Goodbye Mr. Chips

“I thought I heard you saying it was a pity… pity I never had any children. But you’re wrong. I have. Thousands of them. Thousands of them… and all boys.”

 

76     Twelve Angry Men

“We have a reasonable doubt, and that’s something that’s very valuable in our system.”

 

77     Rocky II

“Yo Adrian!! I did it!!”

 

78     The Godfather Part III

“Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in!!”

 

79     Saving Private Ryan

“James… earn this. Earn it.”

 

80     Big

“There are a million reasons for me to go home but there is only one reason for me to stay.”

 

81     Trapped in Paradise

“Hey! That’s Timmy’s sleigh!”

 

82     Top Gun

“I feel the need…the need for speed!!”

 

83     Dirty Dancing

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner!!”

 

84     Apocalypse Now

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like…victory.”

 

85     Brat Pack 3 Pak (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, St. Elmo’s Fire)

I always preferred to hang out with the outcasts, ’cause they were cooler; they had better taste in music, for one thing, I guess because they had more time to develop one with the lack of social interaction they had. – John Hughes

 

86     Tin Cup

“Sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you’re not good at them.”

 

87     The Big Chill

“A long time ago we knew each other for a short period of time; you don’t know anything about me. It was easy back then. It’s not surprising our friendship could survive that. It’s only out there in the real world that it gets tough.”

 

88     Seabiscuit

“You don’t throw away your life just ’cause it’s banged up a little bit.”

 

89     The Wizard of Oz

“There’s no place like home.”

 

90     The Birdcage

“I’m the Vice President of the Coalition for Moral Order! My co-founder has just died in the bed of an underage black whore!”

 

91     Pride of the Yankees

“Is it three strikes, Doc?”…”You want it straight?”…”Yeah.”…”It’s three strikes.”

 

92     The Ten Commandments

“Let my people go!”

 

93     Honeymoon in Vegas

“We’re the Flying Elvises. Utah chapter.”

 

94     Hook

“Your children love you, they want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts? We have a few special years with our children, when they’re the ones that want us around. After that you’re going to be running after them for a bit of attention. It’s so fast Peter. Just a few years, and it’s over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it.”

 

95     Uncle Buck

“I don’t have a college degree. I don’t even have a job. But I know a good kid when I see one. Because they’re all good kids, until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good.”

 

96     School of Rock

“Dude, I service society by rocking, OK? I’m out there on the front lines liberating people with my music!”

 

97     Risky Business

“Every now and then say, ‘What the fuck.’ ‘What the fuck’ gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future.”

 

98     Fast Times at Ridgemont High

“All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

 

99     E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial

“E.T. phone home”

 

100   Caddyshack

“It’s in the HOLE!!”

 

 

 

 

 

100 Favorite Movies…..6-10

Finally. After over a year we have entered hallowed ground…The Top 10. This will be the last group of five, as I will give each of the top five movies their own entry. Part of me is actually a little sad that this series is almost over because I have had so much fun writing it and doing a self-examination of my own tastes. We’ll do it all again in one form or another in a few years, but until then enjoy the remaining entries, and as always thanks so much for visiting my little corner of this wonderful thing we like to call The Info Superhighway. Fear not, because I have much more to say on a variety of topics.

 

 

 


10 The Godfather Part II

As we have covered a few times in this series, sequels are often a very risky proposition. From a business perspective I understand why they are made, but from a creative standpoint and through the prism of the viewing public it is difficult to not fall into the trap of being lazy, repetitive, and uninspired. Too often we see sequels that are just retreads of the original…same stunts, same gags, same jokes, same effects. Or worse yet, the powers-that-be try to make a sequel where few of the original actors or characters remain and they are only borrowing a broad concept or theme with very loose ties to its predecessor. The Godfather Part II is not a victim of any of these issues. It is quite possibly the greatest sequel ever made. It was the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, a feat that has only been matched once since with 2003’s third part of the epic Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Return of the King (movies that will likely make it onto this list next time around). Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel The Godfather is the source material for both the first and second movies in this trilogy and is a great read. I recommend the book to anyone who enjoyed the movies. However, this is a rare case where I must say that the greatness on film exceeds what one finds on the written page. Part II is fascinating, as it shows us two different stories at the same time. We follow Al Pacino‘s Don Michael Corleone as he moves the family business to the left coast in the 1950’s, making his home in Lake Tahoe while simultaneously trying to become a major player in Vegas, which of course mirrors the real life exploits of infamous gangster Bugsy Seagal. Meanwhile, in turn of the century Sicily we see little Vito Corleone‘s parents killed and his escape to Ellis Island. The adult Vito is then played by Robert DeNiro in a performance that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, the only time that two different actors (Marlon Brando got the nod for Best Actor in the original film) have received Academy Awards for the same role. Vito gets married, has a family, meets new pals Tessio & Clemenza, and quickly rises from small time NY City hood to nationally known, feared, and respected organized crime boss. Flash ahead to the 50’s and we see Michael’s attempt to bring his empire to Cuba, his double cross of rival gangster Hyman Roth and Roth’s henchman The Rosato Brothers, United States Senate hearings with Michael as the chief target that mirror the real life Kefauver investigation of the mob, and the revelation that Michael’s older but dimmer brother Fredo betrayed him which resulted in an assassination attempt and ultimately ends up with Michael having his own brother murdered. I love love love Al Pacino and this movie is neck & neck with Scent of a Woman as his best role. In the original Godfather film he shares the spotlight with Marlon Brando and James Caan, but here he goes toe to toe with DeNiro in what may be his best role as well. The supporting cast is superb, with Talia Shire, Robert Duval, and Diane Keaton returning from the first film and acting legend Lee Strasberg coming out of retirement to portray Hyman Roth. My favorite character though might be Frank Pentangeli, a Corleone family caporegime who replaces Clemenza, a development dictated by a dispute with the actor who played Clemenza. Frankie Five Angels is just tremendous…funny, ham-handed, erratic, and most of all unique. I am not sure Part II would have been quite as good with Clemenza as it ends up being with Pentageli. The flashback sequences with the younger Vito are done completely in Italian, a risky move by director Francis Ford Coppola that pays off. Emulating real events like the coup in Cuba, U.S. Senate hearings, and the mafia infiltration of Las Vegas is a nice touch. There are a significant number of people who rate the The Godfather Part II above its predecessor and say that it is the only sequel in movie history that is actually better than the first film. I can’t go that far for reasons which I will eventually explain. Nevertheless it is an extraordinary achievement and those responsible for it…Coppola, Puzo, Pacino, DeNiro, and many others…can be very proud of what they were able to accomplish. The story arc of the rise & fall of Michael Corleone is truly one of the most inspired ideas in cinema and has been endlessly entertaining for me and millions of others for over 35 years.

 

 


9 Die Hard

I know I have said it before but it bears repeating…I am not an action flick aficionado. Most anything starring Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Seagal, or Chuck Norris just doesn’t frost my cupcake. I have never seen a James Bond film in its entirety. Indiana Jones has never graced a screen big or small in my presence. But as with any rule there are exceptions, and this is the biggest one of them all. 1988’s Die Hard finds Bruce Willis starring as John McClane, a NY City cop whose marriage is on the rocks because his wife took a corporate gig in Los Angeles and now lives there with the kids, estranged from her husband. She invites him out to the Left Coast for Christmas to visit the children and maybe smooth things out. However, upon arriving at the wife’s company Christmas bash near the top of an unfinished skyscraper McClane finds himself the lone wolf fighting against a contingent of foreign terrorists who invade the party, kill the CEO, and hold everyone else hostage. The bad guys are unaware of McClane’s presence and even when he does make himself known he does not reveal that he has the skills to fight back. Soon enough the LAPD and the FBI are involved. There is lots of shooting and explosions, but thankfully they are accompanied by a good story and surprising levity for an action movie. I think maybe that’s why I like it…the humor sets Die Hard apart from others in the genre, who tend to take themselves too seriously. Don’t misunderstand…Die Hard is a serious movie about terrorism and one man’s battle to save the life of his beloved wife, but along the way we get airheaded FBI agents (agent Johnson and Special Agent Johnson), a limo driver that personifies the generation gap between himself and McClane, and the Dad from Family Matters, an 80’s sitcom best known for its nerdy star Urkel, who bonds with McClane over the two-way radio. We also get Hans Gruber, one of the most memorable villains in movie history. Gruber is portrayed by Alan Rickman, who is widely known today as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films. But in 1988 he was an unknown who ended up creating such a great character. It is implied that Gruber is a ticked off German who has taken over Nakatomi Plaza for political reasons. However, we eventually learn that he is nothing more than a thief whose goal is to steal a half billion dollars worth of bonds, destroy the building making everyone think the terrorists perished as well, and escape with the loot. It is an ingenious plan, and Gruber seems to know everything that will happen. He especially knows the playbook of the police and the feds, who are portrayed as predictable buffoons. But what he and his men don’t plan on is the “fly in the ointment” named John McClane. Willis was a television star at the time, coming into our living rooms each week alongside Cybill Shepherd in the detective rom-com Moonlighting. He had done a few forgettable films, but it was Die Hard that made him a star and he has continued to ride the wave for over 20 years. Die Hard, in my opinion, is the gold standard of action movies. It has just the right mix of drama, action, humor, suspense, good writing, and excellent performances. It is not gratuitously bloody, and it is just plausible enough for the viewer to suspend disbelief and become engrossed in the story and characters. 1988 was, of course, long before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and for that I am thankful if only because Die Hard would likely never get made in a post-9/11 world. McClane has resurfaced in three sequels with plans for yet another, but those efforts have been hit & miss. I keep using the phrase “lightning in a bottle”, and it applies here as well. Countless films have borrowed elements of Die Hard in the last two decades, and I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But I have yet to stumble upon a knockoff that comes anywhere close to being as good as the original.

 

 


8 The Star Wars Trilogy

Yes, I know…I am kinda sorta cheating just one more time. In pondering the three original Star Wars movies…Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi…I just couldn’t find a sensible way to justify any type of separation. It is true that most fans of the trilogy will say that The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the three and that Return of the Jedi comes in third. But I cannot look at these three films as separate entities. The story is an arc with huge themes of good vs. evil, destiny, vengeance, justice, fear, anger vs. patience, self-sacrifice, and betrayal. There are elements of religion, philosophy, and mythology so intertwined yet so subtle that the films may be enjoyed as simple popcorn entertainment by some and appreciated on another level by those who like to ponder life with a deeper, more esoteric thought process. Writer/producer/director George Lucas was heavily influenced by a number of sources, including the Flash Gordon comic books and movies of the 1930’s, the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa, and Joseph Campbell’s 1949 book The Hero With A Thousand Faces. I am making the assumption that most adults have seen the trilogy and know the basic story, but…just in case…allow me to summarize. Star Wars and its sequels is the story of Luke Skywalker, a young man of meager means who is thrust into an ongoing adventure involving the battle between The Rebel Alliance, a resistance group that desires to restore The Republic, and The Empire, which is what has become of The Republic under the tyrannical rule of Emperor Palpatine. One must remember that this story was written and the movies made in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, so there are obvious parallels to The Cold War and the ongoing battle between The United States and The Soviet Union. Throughout the trilogy we are exposed to a plethora of memorable characters…Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Pricess Leia, Chewbacca, R2D2, CP30, Hans Solo, Jabba the Hutt, Lando Calrissian. I could go on and on. I have never been a big fan of westerns, but what Star Wars does is take many of the elements of the typical western and utilize them in a futuristic space motif. It is a concept brilliant beyond comprehension. Lucas has done some other notable films…The Indiana Jones Series, American Graffiti, Hook, Howard the Duck (well…okay…maybe that isn’t such a great example)…but his crowning achievement is most certainly The Star Wars Trilogy. Over 30 years since the story was first introduced to the public these three films are still among the world’s most popular. They pop up on television all the time and people like me, who have seen them dozens of times, still watch. Earlier this decade when Lucas was preparing to launch a new prequel trilogy…Episodes I, II, and III…the excitement and anticipation reached a fever pitch. People waited in line days in advance for tickets. Unfortunately the prequels did not live up to their predecessors, but honestly how could they?? They aren’t really bad films, especially the third, but there was no way they could possibly approach the greatness of the original trilogy. Every new generation that is introduced to The Star Wars Trilogy embraces it which is a testament to the timelessness and superb quality of the story. And make no mistake…it IS the story. Are there any truly special performances here?? Not really. The only acting that was ever critically recognized was Sir Alec Guinness’ Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV: A New Hope, and even that was likely more a function of his legendary status. Most of the other actors involved have had middle-of-the-road, mildly successful careers but are still primarily known for their roles in the trilogy. The only exception is Harrison Ford, who over the course of the past three decades has become one of the biggest movie stars in the world. So one must conclude that the enduring appeal of these movies is the epic nature of the tale itself.

 

 


7 Apollo 13

This is what NFL scouts might call at quick riser, a movie that has improved its stock the most in the shortest amount of time. Released in 1995 and based on the true story of NASA’s 1970 “successful failure”, Apollo 13 is a film that I honestly didn’t pay that much attention to when it first came out. Looking back I have to assume that is due to the timing. June of 1995 was a bad month, one that I look back on almost daily as a negative turning point in my life. So I guess I was engrossed in my own drama and didn’t make it a priority to go to the theater and pay money to watch tragic events of others’ lives. But over the course of the past 10 years I have discovered its greatness and become familiar with the real life situation. Directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton as astronauts whose planned mission to land on the moon goes horribly awry, Apollo 13 is just the sort of movie I can truly embrace. It is beautifully written, has understated, moving performances, and the direction by Ron Howard is magnificent. I don’t usually recognize the function of the director because honestly I am not familiar enough with what a director really does and what his/her role is in the final product. But here one can easily see that this story, in the hands of someone else…maybe James Cameron (Terminator, Titanic), Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger, Die Hard 2), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator), Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs), or God forbid as a Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer production (Bad Boys, Pearl Harbor)…would have been completely different and likely lacked the subtlety and class brought into the mix by Howard, aka Lil Opie Cunningham, who turns it into something better than a cookie cutter action flick. Two supporting performances, Ed Harris as flight director Gene Kranz and Kathleen Quinlan as astronaut wife Marilyn Lovell, were nominated for Academy Awards. The film itself was nominated for Best Picture and Howard for Best Director. Somehow all four of these awards went to others. Braveheart won Best Picture and its director, Mel Gibson, won that award. Kevin Spacey was Best Supporting Actor for his role as Keyser Soze/Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects. And Mira Sorvino was Best Supporting Actress in some movie no one remembers. I suppose many may disagree, but it is my contention that Apollo 13 was robbed and should have won atleast 3 of these 4 awards. Harris’ performance is especially exceptional and cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s most underappreciated actors. Various television stations show Apollo 13 quite often, and I almost always stop whatever I am doing to watch, which in my mind is the mark of a really good movie. There is a scene near the end of the film where the fate of the astronauts is in question for about 3 minutes. This plays out in real time and is very dramatic. Since this is a true story I know what happens, and even if it wasn’t a true story I have seen it enough times that I know how everything plays out…yet every single time I watch I get goosebumps and am on the edge of my seat. Now THAT is a great movie.

 

 


6 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

This is an oddity simply because it is the third movie in a series, and while traditionally the third movie in a series is better than the second (which is usually a poorly written, hastily produced money grab in response to the public’s love of the original) it is unusual that it would outrank the first. I suppose on most lists the tradition would hold true here, as the vast majority of folks would likely opine that 1983’s Vacation, where we first meet The Griswold Clan, is the best in the series. But by now loyal readers know of my fierce passion for Christmas movies, and that is why Christmas Vacation ranks higher than its parent film, which is 13th on this list. Clark, Ellen, Rusty, and Audrey don’t actually go anywhere this time. They stay home to host a good old-fashioned Christmas for the extended family, which includes Clark’s parents, Ellen’s parents, and the elderly Uncle Lewis & Aunt Bethany, though their exact relationship is never explained. Showing up unexpectedly is cousin Catherine and her redneck husband Eddie, along with two of their small children. Fans of the Vacation series will recall that Catherine & Eddie and their brood make a memorable appearance in the original, and Eddie turns out to be the big star of this film. There is too much goodness for me to go into detail here, but suffice to say that Clark proves himself to be as big of a buffoon as usual, all the grandparents are nuts in that special grandparent way, and Eddie’s antics are the icing on the cake. Virtually every scene in this move has become legendary, from the oversized Christmas tree that Clark stubbornly determines is going in the living room, to Eddie cleaning out his RV’s toilet in his bathrobe, to the 25,000 lights with which Clark adorns the house. As a matter of fact, every December channels like HGTV and The Travel Channel have shows featuring wacky, over-the-top, gaudy Christmas light displays from across the country, and I’d be curious to know whether those kinds of garish exhibits were always around or if Christmas Vacation was the impetus for an odd new holiday tradition. I remember the first time I ever saw this movie, and there is a scene where Clark crashes a saucer sled oiled up with some sort of food varnish that he supposedly invented straight into a WalMart. At the time we did not have a WalMart in my hometown and it was just becoming a big deal. I remember thinking “Man, I wish we had a WalMart”. I laugh at that thought now since WalMart has become such a ubiquitous part of every day life. At any rate, Christmas Vacation has quickly become part of the pantheon of great Christmas movies, one of the half-dozen or so that everyone watches annually. It isn’t high art and it isn’t supposed to be. It is fairly innocuous entertainment, and that’s just fine by me.