I am listing 25 movies I believe everyone should see. I am not saying they are the best movies of all time but that I believe them to be very entertaining for various reasons. I will list the movies in no particular order, just as I think of them.
1. It Happened One Night — Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable star in this 1934 movie that was quite remarkable in its day. Clark Gable appeared in his t-shirt, unheard of back then. It’s a marvelous movie about a relationship that starts on a bus trip.
2. The 39 Steps — This 1935 movie is an early Alfred Hitchcock movie set in England. In some ways it gives a prelude to England’s involvement in WWII as it deals with spies and double-dealing. There is one scene in which a gyrocopter appears. This was the predecessor to the helicopter but in this movie it is an unedited chance occurence that has nothing to do with the movie at all.
3. Gone With The Wind — This 1939 movie was an instant classic. This is one of the earliest full length color movies. Margaret Mitchell’s story of the south in the Civil War was the standard that movies afterward were judged.
4. Citizen Kane — This 1941 movie is still considered a giant. It is film noir at its best. Orson Welles directed and starred in this classic that is based on the life of William Randolph Hearst.
5. The Best Years of Our Lives — This 1946 movies shows the lives of soldiers returning from war. It is an unapologetic portrayal of how the wounds of war, seen and unseen, plagued the returning veterans.
6. Dr. Zhivago — This is the 1965 screen version of Boris Pasternak’s novel of two people’s lives at the time of the Russian revolution. Some of the most beautiful cinematography ever brought to the screen. But Julie Christie and Omar Shariff excel, maybe the only time in their careers.
7. The Great Escape — This 1963 film is based on the actual attempts of men in a German prison camp to escape. Steve McQueen is part of a stellar cast in possibly his finest moment.
8. On Golden Pond — This 1981 brought together Jane and Henry Fonda on the big screen for the first time. In its making it helped mend their real life relationship. The scene in which Henry goads Jane into doing a diving trick is something that was a reality in her relationship with her father. It is also the first time Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn had ever met, let alone acted together. It is said that upon their first meeting Katherine quipped, “Well, it’s about time.” The hat that Henry wears as he arrives at their summer place originally belonged to Spencer Tracy, Katherine’s long time love interest.
9. E.T. – The Extraterrestrial — A great “boy and his dog” story. Drew Barrymore makes her debut.
10. Star Wars – A small budget movie that changed everything in movies from then on. Special effects took on a whole new meaning.
11. She Done Him Wrong — This 1933 movie starred Mae West. The movie is remarkable for two things. First, Mae West had a running battle with the “decency board” that some cities had. She was the master of the double entendre which flew right over the heads of 1933 audiences. Evidence of this is her saying “is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me.” Cary Grant, who costars in this movie, came to prominence from this role.
12. The Bank Dick — This 1940 movie shows W. C. Fields at his best. It’s hard to chose from his films for one over another. Fields shows many of his vaudeville and juggling routines in this movie.
13. Duck Soup — This 1933 flick stars the Marx Brothers in one of their many movies. There is an irony to this movie as it tells the tale of an unscrupulous land dealer, Groucho playing Rufus T. Firefly, in Florida. You also get to see Chico Marx show his piano skills. One dialogue between Groucho and Chico stands out. The dialogue is classic. Note that Margaret Dumont, Groucho’s foil in this and many of the Marx Brothers movie, was a real life New York City socialite as she always portrays in Marx Brothers movies.
14. To Kill a Mockingbird — In this 1962 movie, Gregory Peck gives possibly his finest performance as Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch. I doubt this movie will ever be remade, it was done so well the first time.?
15. The Wizard of Oz — 1939 movie is a classic, what more is there to say?
16. 12 Angry Men — 1957 movie about a hung jury, where a single man holds out for the innocence of the accused. A veritable cast of who’s who argue over guilt and innocence.
17. The Caine Mutiny — On the heels of number 16 this movie is the court-martial of a naval officer, Captain Queeg, played by Humphry Bogart. Queeg is a very unpopular ship’s captain who sees his men mutiny over their perception of his leadership. The men maintain he was mentally unstable. Throughout the movie Bogart plays with three steel balls in his hands lending to the perception of his mental capacity.
18. Libeled Lady — This 1936 movies stars Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, William Powell, and Myrna Loy. A newspaper man, his jilted fiancée, and his lawyer hatch an elaborate scheme to turn a false news-story into the truth, before a high-society woman can sue for libel.
19. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — This 1939 movie stars Jimmy Stewart as a political unknown who runs for office against the establishment and wins. In Washington he starts a filibuster to get people to listen to his uncovering political corruption.
20. Harvey — This 1949 movie stars Jimmy Stewart as a seeming eccentric man who has an invisible rabbit as a friend who advises him in life. It’s a good movie that challenges one man’s beliefs against those of society at large.
21. Patton — George C. Scott starred in this 1970 biographical movie of Gen. George S. Patton. Scott won an academy award for his portrayal of Patton but in a first, and maybe last, declined the Oscar. This may be the best war movie ever made.
22. The Godfather — This 1972 movie is a classic that needs no explanation.
23. Blazing Saddles — Mel Brooks 1974 comedy is, in my opinion, one of the funniest and most groundbreaking movies ever. Brooks’ genius shows in this spoof of western movies mixed with racial prejudices.
24. Monty Python and the Holy Grail — Some of the funniest dialogues ever written are in this 1974 vehicle.
25. Fantasia — Disney’s 1940 full length animated movie starring Mickey Mouse may be this finest of this genre ever made. The movie is a wonder mixture of animation and classical music.
Well, there they are. I’m sure I could think of another 25 but these are the ones that came to mind first.