This “top 10” all-time favorite movie list is not in any numerical order. These movies span the decades from 1957 – 2017. Many included are critically acclaimed films, and a few others are simply “guilty favorites.” Three of the movies on the list were released before my birth, including Some Like It Hot, Ben-Hur, and The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Ben-Hur is a 1959 epic drama film starring Charlton Heston. This movie had the largest budget ($15 million +) as well as the largest sets built of any film produced at the time.
The nine-minute chariot race is one of cinema’s most famous sequences. In fact, one of the highlights on my visit to Rome was standing at the back of Capitoline Hill looking down where actual races were held.
Not only was Ben-Hur the second highest-grossing film in history at the time, it also won a record 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Wyler), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Heston), Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Cinematography – Color. The American Film Institute (AFI) ranks Ben-Hur as the 2nd best epic film ever. The National Film Preservation Board selected Ben-Hur for preservation by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” motion picture.
Another film classic is the 1957 British-American epic war film The Bridge on the River Kwai. The cast included William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness, and Sessue Hayakawa. River Kwai won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. Guinness won an Oscar for his performance as a British colonel.
The movie is included on AFI’s list of best American films ever made, and the British Film Institute voted The Bridge on the River Kwai the 11th greatest British film of the 20th Century. It also was named culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress
Being a Marilyn Monroe admirer my whole life, not surprisingly Some Like It Hot makes my top 10. The 1959 filmed in black and white romantic comedy stars Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. The supporting cast includes George Raft, Pat O’Brien, Joe E. Brown, Joan Shawlee, and Nehemiah Persoff.
The film is about two musicians who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit a crime inspired by the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Some Like It Hot opened to critical and commercial success. It received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay and was voted as the top comedy film on AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Laughs poll.
Viva Las Vegas is a musical film starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. The film is regarded by fans and film critics as one of Presley’s best films. Viva Las Vegas was a hit at film theaters, as it was #14 on the Variety year-end box-office list of the top-grossing films of 1964.
It is noted for the on-screen (and off-screen) chemistry between Presley and Ann-Margret. It also presents a strong set of musical song-and-dance scenes. Admittingly, as a youth in the early 70s, I can remember sitting in front of the TV recording the two sing “The Lady Loves You.” Later in life, a friend and I were fortunate to sit right next to the Caesar’s Palace stage to see Margret perform songs from the movie. I even reached my hand out on to the stage and got a handshake from the star.
The Graduate is a 1967 romantic comedy-drama that tells the story of 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate with no well-defined aim in life, who is seduced by an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), and then falls in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross).
In this classic, Benjamin has earned his bachelor’s degree from a college on the East Coast and returned home to celebrate his graduation at his parents’ house. Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father’s law partner, insists that he drive her home. Benjamin is coerced inside to have a drink and Mrs. Robinson attempts to seduce him.
Wow! That was an impactful movie to see as a young teenager. The Graduate won the Academy Award for Best Director and was nominated in six other categories. The movie currently sits at number 17 on AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list. It was also selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
The next movie was a critical and commercial science fiction hit that launched a franchise consisting of films, books, television series, comics, and other media. Released in 1968, The Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston is about a world in which humans and intelligent apes clash for control.
The movie has received attention from film critics for its treatment of racial issues. Cinema and cultural analysts have also explored its Cold War and animal rights themes. The series has influenced subsequent films, media and art, as well as popular culture and political discourse. Spoiler alert: Who can forget the shocking ending with Heston riding his horse along the beach when he runs into the Statue of Liberty!
Rollerball is a 1975 science fiction sports film starring James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn and Ralph Richardson. In the movie, Jonathan E. played by Caan is the team captain and veteran star of the Houston Rollerball team. He has become the sport’s most recognizable and talented player.
After another impressive performance against Madrid, Mr. Bartholomew played by Houseman, chairman of the Energy Corporation, announces that Jonathan will be featured in a “multivision” broadcast about his career, signaling a forced retirement. He then preaches the benefits of corporate-run society and the importance of respecting executive decisions, never explaining exactly why he must retire.
Jonathan refuses and what ensues is an engrossing film of the individual up against corporate power. The crowd chants of “Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan” are haunting considering the lead character’s situation.
Platoon is a 1986 anti-war film written and directed by Oliver Stone, starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen, Keith David, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Forest Whitaker, and Johnny Depp. Since my uncle served two tours in Vietnam and told me about his experience, I was eager to see a believable account of this war. Platoon was the first film written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War.
The film follows a U.S. Army volunteer (Sheen) fighting in the war while his two sergeants (Berenger and Dafoe) argue over the leadership of the platoon. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won four including Best Picture, Best Director for Stone, and Best Sound and Best Film Editing. AFI placed Platoon at #83 in their “AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies” poll. Spoiler alert: The scene with Dafoe running from the enemy at the movie’s conclusion is an all-time classic.
Malena is a 2000 romantic comedy-drama film starring Monica Bellucci and Giuseppe Sulfaro. It won the Grand Prix at the 2001 Cobourg Film Festival. The movie about a young boy coming of age resonated with me, especially with the obsession one can have as an inexperienced youth. In the movie, Renato, 13 years old, discovers something that would change his life forever… Malena. Monica Bellucci plays the beautiful young war widow who was the obsession of every man and the envy of every woman. Because of her, Renato learns valuable life lessons and find himself in places he never could have imagined.
Also, in my Top 10 is my guilty favorite Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot. Opening in 2017 to mostly positive reviews, the movie quickly became the 8th-highest-grossing superhero film domestically. At the time of this post, the movie has grossed over $821 million worldwide. In Wonder Woman, Amazon princess Diana sets out to stop World War I, believing the conflict was started by the longtime enemy of the Amazons, Ares.
Rotten Tomatoes has listed the movie as No. 3 on its list of the “Best Superhero Movies of All Time”, and AFI selected it as one of the top 10 films of 2017. Hope you enjoyed reading the list and have a chance to watch one that might sound interesting. As they say in the movies “that’s all folks.”