Welcome to Films and Figures. I’m so glad that you’ve decided to join me on this lovely tour through AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list (I’m using the original list because I’m an old-fashioned kind of guy). I’ve always loved movies and making my way through this list as always been a goal of mine. Unfortunately, watching 100 movies is relatively time consuming and does not always fit well into a busy high school or college schedule. But frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I’m going to do it. And you’re going to be the beneficiaries because you are going to get the benefit of my wit and wisdom on each of these “classic” films.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!
Not only will you get to read what I’ve thought of the films I watch, each film will be accompanied by an informative and beautifully designed infographic that imparts some valuable information about the film and my feelings on it.
But before we can start on this journey, I have a confession to make. I’ve already seen 15 of the movies on the original AFI list. So I figured we’d start with a review of those that I’ve already seen and then next week we can jump on the other 85.
So fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night. (Note: Numbers next to film are their ranking in the 100 Movies…100 Years list)
How I rank the AFI Top 100 films I have already seen.
6. Wizard of Oz
Watched: A lot
Big names: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Frank Morgan, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr
One sentence summary: A plucky girl from Kansas tries to find her way back home after a twister plops her in the magical world of Oz.
Scene that sticks out: I’m a sucker for “I’m melting…I’m mellllllllttttiiinnnnggg.” Classic.
Thoughts: I love this movie. Love it, love it, love it. I’m so glad that this is one of the movies that TBS and TNT have decided they need to randomly air at least once a month. Whenever I see it’s on, I’ve found what I’m watching. The story, the music, the message, the visuals are all incredible. I will admit that the Wicked Witch terrified me as a child to the point where I was afraid of her when she was part of a parade at Disney World. But I was cool with the flying monkeys. They were chill. This movie is great because not only is the book it’s based off of a classic, but I am also a huge fan of the stage progeny The Wiz and Wicked. But it all comes back to Minnesota-bred Judy Garland and an incredible ensemble cast that brought L. Frank Baum’s world to life.
Ranking: 10/10 – This is an all-time favorite. Will watch it whenever.
14. Some Like it Hot
Big names: Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis
One sentence summary: Lemmon and Curtis try to avoid a mobster’s gun by assuming female identities in an all-girl’s orchestra where Cupid starts having some fun.
Scene that sticks out: Marilyn Monroe.
Thoughts: I watched Some Like It Hot as part of a Film Studies class I took in 9th grade. Honestly, I don’t remember much about the film. It just didn’t really leave an impression on me. I remember that Marilyn Monroe was in it but that’s about it. I think I remember my teacher telling me that Monroe was high almost the entire time they were filming, but I very well could be making that up. Although from reading a summary, it sounds like it had some pretty forward thinking views on gender which I can dig. But that could also be BS because I really don’t remember this film.
Rating: N/A – I don’t remember it well enough to give it an honest ranking. File this under the “Need to Re-Watch” list.
15. Stars Wars: A New Hope
Watched: 2005 (and numerous times since)
Big names: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, James Earl Jones and Sir Alec Guinness
One sentence summary: A young Tatooinian learns the story of his past and begins to fight the Evil Empire with the help of a two whiny robots, an old codger, his (SPOILER) sister and Harrison Ford.
Scene that sticks out: I love the bar scene. It’s just great. And Han shot first.
Thoughts: So I had a deprived childhood. Not actually but it did take me until Episode III: Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005 for me to watch any Star Wars films. And when I did, I watched them in episode, not chronological order. So for all you prequel haters out there, we don’t need you. Liam Neeson, Darth Maul and I don’t need you guys. Back to this movie. Because I had watched the new ones first (and was an uncultured 5th grader), I was not initially impressed with the film that started it all. But as I have aged and matured, I have come to fully appreciate the beauty of this film. Alec Guinness is great as Old Ben, Darth Vader is a brilliant villain and Princess Leia kicks some serious ass. Plus you have Harrison Ford being classic Harrison Ford and a complex yet simple story of good versus evil.
Ranking: 8/10 – Classic film that I truly enjoy watching. But I can’t watch it on demand. I need some down time between viewings.
Big names: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh and Vera Miles
One sentence summary: Leigh steals money from her bosses and ditches town ending up in a motel run by a guy with a serious Oedipal complex.
Scene that sticks out: Hitchcock has a way of ending his films with a splash that leaves an indelible mark upon your psyche. This holds true in Psycho where the last scene beats out the shower scene in my mind.
Thoughts: I was in a Film Studies class in 9th grade and we had to do a final project. My partner and I had made a great video about a murder mystery dinner party involving all the teachers and staff at our school portrayed by our friends. We shot it, it was great…and then we realized that the camera we used couldn’t connect to a computer for editing. So instead of turning in a great, hysterical original film, I wrote a paper on three AFI Top 100 films. I had already seen one Hitchcock film, Vertigo (see below), and I had always wanted to see Psycho. It did not disappoint. It takes a little bit to get cooking but once it does it’s action packed. Hitchcock makes his own rules and he knows just how to play with your emotions.
Rating: 9/10 – Incredible film but the slow start keeps it from cracking the elite 10/10.
29. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Released: 1939 (not a bad year in cinema)
Big names: James Stewart, Jean Arthur and Claude Rains
One sentence summary: Idealist Jimmy Stewart becomes a U.S. senator, stands up against corruption and does a filibuster the right way.
Scene that sticks out: Stewart’s filibuster scene is a classic that makes you wish our senators were a little more like him.
Thoughts: I watched this movie during Civics class in 9th grade. 9th grader + class he despises + black and white movie from the 1930s is usually going to equal automatic rejection of the film. But not this time. I enjoyed this movie. I didn’t love it, but I certainly understand why it’s considered a classic. Jimmy Stewart gives a great performance per usual and the subject matter is heartwarming and patriotic. A classic feel good American movie.
Ranking: 6/10 – I like it a lot but it’s not the type of movie I need to watch again and again. If it was on TV, I might watch it, I might not.
34. To Kill A Mockingbird
Watched: 2007/2008-ish (I think)
Big names: Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall (in his film debut)
One sentence summary: A tale of racism in the 1930s and the most upstanding, honest lawyer you’ll ever meet told through the eyes of a precocious six-year-old girl.
Scene that sticks out: Gregory Peck delivers in a courtroom scene that displays both incredible acting chops and noble values.
Thoughts: I read the novel To Kill A Mockingbird for 8th grade English, and it remains one of my favorite books of all time. Film adaptations rarely live up to their source material but this one comes damn close. The subject matter is so real, the narrative is told so well and Gregory Peck’s acting is so phenomenal that it’s almost like the filmmakers looked into my head as I was reading it and produced that film. The fact that these filmmakers could apparently time travel and read minds likely also contributed to their success. And young Robert Duvall is eerie and excellent.
Ranking: 8/10 – I love the story and the acting but I’d still rather read the book then watch this over and over again.
41. West Side Story
Watched: Not really sure
Big names: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer and Rita Moreno
One sentence summary: Romeo and Juliet retold through 1960s Puerto Rican and American gangs in New York whose initiation involves several years of intensive dance classes.
Scene that sticks out: I really like the dance scene where the Puerto Rican boys and girls sing “America.” Fun song and poignant message about racism in America.
Thoughts: This is a solid flick. I’m a big fan of musicals, and I like a lot of the music in this movie. I’m not a huge fan of films styled after Romeo and Juliet, but this certainly is one of the best attempts at updating that classic story. The move to 20th century America rife with racism and classism and the quality score make it a good, not a great film.
Ranking: 6/10 – I wouldn’t hate if I had to watch it, but I would look around for a while before settling on it.
49. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Watched: Who knows
Big names: Doc, Dopey, Bashful, Grumpy, Sneezy, Sleepy and Happy
One sentence summary: A princess hangs out with seven old guys while waiting around for a good looking dude to save the day. Classic Disney.
Scene that sticks out: Mirror, mirror on the wall is a classic line that does not have anything to do with seven old, emotional dwarfs.
Thoughts: I, like most American children, watched this movie at some point during my early childhood when Disney films are about all that our entertainment platter consists of. This isn’t a bad movie, but it certainly isn’t my favorite Disney movie. It’s not even my favorite classic Disney or Disney princess film. But it is notable for being Disney’s first full-length animated feature, which seems to have paid off okay for the Disney family.
Ranking: 4/10 – Not bad but I’d rather watch Netflix.
Big names: F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce
One sentence summary: A crazy old Austrian composer recounts his contentious relationship with the brilliant yet eccentric Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Scene that sticks out: No specific scenes come to mind but the film left me with the clear impression that Mozart was quite cookoo.
Thoughts: I watched this film in my 11th grade European History class while we learned about Classical music. It was certainly an interesting film, and I believe much of that has to do with its subject matter. It did do the trick of taking a period of time and a topic that I care relatively little about and made it interesting. The intrigue that Salieri introduces is fascinating and his storytelling perspective adds even more layers.
Ranking: 7/10 – Interesting film that I enjoyed watching once. But that was likely enough.
55. The Sound of Music
Watched: Many times
Big names: Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer
One sentence summary: Julie Andrews melts the heart of an old Austrian military man after turning his children into an epic vocal group.
Scene that sticks out: Comes down to the opening scene on the hills and “So Long, Farewell.” Give the nod to “So Long, Farewell.”
Thoughts: This is such a fun movie. Again it’s a musical, which is almost always a plus in my book. Julie Andrews is outstanding and I learned my musical scales from this movie. It is fun, fast-paced and intriguing. The warmth of the musical numbers with the family contrasts nicely with the dark tension of Nazi control over Austria. As an added bonus, my dad loves to randomly belt out, “The hilllllllllls are alive with the sound of muuuuuusic.” Always a good time.
Ranking: 8/10 – I would absolutely stop to watch this on TV, but it’s still not an all-timer for me.
59. Rebel Without A Cause
Big names: James Dean, Natalie Wood and Dennis Hooper
One sentence summary: James Dean is a kid who just can’t stay out of trouble, and his parents just don’t understand him.
Scene that sticks out: The chicken scene is disturbing yet all too predictable.
Thoughts: This was another movie I watched for English class and it didn’t suck. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this movie. It has its tense moments and it’s nice scenes, but nothing about it really grabbed me. I didn’t connect with James Dean, and I really didn’t care what happened to him. It was a crisp less than 2 hours which is always nice.
Ranking: 4/10 – Not bad but nothing special in my mind.
Big names: James Stewart and Kim Novak
One sentence summary: Jimmy Stewart is a semi-retired private investigator who has some killer vertigo. (Get it?!)
Scene that sticks out: The ending is crazy, twisted and leaves so many questions unanswered. And it’s great.
Thoughts: I lost my Hitchcock-virginity to this movie and I couldn’t have asked for a better first time. I am affirmatively not a horror fan. I don’t like being scared. Who needs that? I want to laugh, not scream. But I like Hitchcock and I loved Vertigo. Jimmy Stewart is an incredible actor and Hitchcock’s suspense and twist filled plot is breathtaking.
Ranking: 8/10 – Great film but not quite elite in my book.
Big names: Robert Duvall, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and William Holden
One sentence summary: Satire on news media that gets too crazy and made me mad as hell.
Scene that sticks out: It’s all a terrible, terrible blur.
Thoughts: This was another one of the movies that I watched for my Film Studies final project in 9th grade. It was suggested by my mother who said that it was a “grrrrrrreaat movie.” I call shenanigans. This movie is supposed to be a satire, but it just turns into 2 hours of people yelling and doing more and more ridiculous things. This movie did absolute nothing for me.
Ranking: 2/10 – Only avoids 1/10 because I’m correcting for remote possibility that I was not as attuned to well-crafted sarcasm as a 9th grader as I needed to be.
75. Dances With Wolves
Big names: Kevin Costner (also directed)
One sentence summary: Costner plays a Union soldier who abandons his post for the simplicity of life with a tribe of Sioux Indians.
Scene that sticks out: Costner rocking his Civil War-era mustache. And that scene where he legit dances with wolves.
Thoughts: I did not like this movie. Not one bit. Granted, I was in 8th grade American history class and I was beyond done with the Civil War and westward expansion. Still, not a fan. I honestly don’t remember all that many specifics from the film, other than Costner’s epic stache and what seemed like a relatively simplistic and non-nuanced view of Native Americans. But I remember with incredible clarity that I did not like this movie.
Rating: 2/10 – Only avoids a 1/10 because I’m correcting for the fact that I was a snotty, pubescent 8th grader when I watched it.
79. The Deer Hunter
Big names: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep
One sentence summary: De Niro and Walken go to Vietnam, make it out alive but not alright.
Scene that sticks out: 40 minute Russian wedding that has almost nothing to do with Vietnam or the rest of the plot.
Thoughts: I had to watch this movie for a class last semester during a unit on the Vietnam War. We couldn’t find the movie online or at the local rental store so we watched it on a TV cart in a small room in the basement of MU’s Academic Support Center which feels eerily like an abandoned pre-school. Anyway, the film was okay. The acting by De Niro, Walken and Streep was phenomenal, but the plot was kind of all over the place. It’s a three hour long movie and they don’t even get to Vietnam until hour number 2. Once we get to Vietnam, the story does get very interesting. It displays the horrors of the Vietnam War and the terrible consequences for all the soldiers involved. Christopher Walken’s character in particular pays a brutal price for his service.
Rating: 6/10 – Good movie but took too long to get to the goods.
NEXT WEEK: We get things started with Pulp Fiction.