Wednesday, February 22

All-time Favorite Films

It can be difficult to come up with a list of favorite films... at least for me.  It is hard to limit myself to a decided few.  What is a favorite film?  One that is more appealing above all others; a front-runner; something preferred; regarded with favored liking; in some cases, beloved. 

I have come up with 50 of them.  It was going to be just 25 but so help me, I had a helluva time limiting myself to that number.  There are some films, especially the top 10, that I have no doubt whatsoever that they belong in that positioning.  I don't even have to think about it.  Once in a while the order changes because some new film enters the picture and captures my heart.  It's for that middle bunch I forced myself to come up with a ranking.  In some cases, frankly, I don't know that my 38th favorite film isn't really my 42nd favorite or my 18th is really my 19th.  Since I have seen thousands of films, I think they're all pretty special to be included in a group of a mere fifty.

One thing I knew for sure, all I had to do was look at the database I created for my DVD collection which, as of this writing, totals 1,531 films.  All my favorite films would seem to be there.  Well, one isn't there because it's not out on DVD yet, which means something very new has made my top 50.  Otherwise, they're all in my collection.  As I started down the list, I wondered what it is that makes a favorite film.  Obviously, it's a host of things, so what are they?

I love little films more than I do epics.  More and more I like art house films, independent stuff.  I used to love the big studio films but there aren't really big studios anymore.  I am not as fond of a cast of thousands as much as I am taken with a cast of 8-10 and they all interact with one another, maybe in a room or a ship or a plane or some place rather contained.  I really eat that up, watching actors tear it up together.

I certainly am drawn to well-written films.  Good writing gives me goosebumps and much of that writing, fun or clever expressions, has found its way into my everyday language.  I also have favorites films based on famous books from famous writers.  And tweaking this just a tad, I love films about writers.

That leads me to a biggie.  I love biographical films or "based on" or even "sorta based on."  I love truth although it's often good enough for me that I am spoon fed someone's version of the truth.

I am drawn to films that take place in certain locations.  I am a fool for most anything shot in Africa, although I think I have only two of those in my 50.  I have about eight favorites that take place in the U.S. south.  I have always been drawn to southern people and southern ways.  Oddly, as much as I love film noir, I think only three of the favorites qualify to be called that.

From friends who revere films as much as I do and are knowledgeable about them, I have always taken guff on my love of westerns and musicals.  I'd be the first to admit that both are dying art forms but when I love a given musical or a western, don't even waste your time trying to talk me out of it.  I'll get surly.  These spurs are made for walking.  Once said, however, only five are westerns and just four are musicals in my favorites.

The thing with westerns and musicals and a few more here is that they are childhood favorites.  If I loved it in my childhood, it's part of who I am and that film and I are attached.  If any of them are not really highly regarded films, I don't care.  That might even make them more of a favorite.

I place a lot of stock in Oscar winners, I guess, and yet only six of my top 50 won the best picture Oscar. 

I love films on family life.  You already know animal stories rock my foundation.  I like kids in starring or featured roles and like it even more when they're in peril. I love period movies especially English. Many of my favorites could certainly be considered love stories. I am a sucker for a good love story.  I prefer dramas to comedies.  I like films that make me think, that arouse my passions and fire up my emotions, including sadness.  I am drawn to films where the human spirit triumphs.

Gay-themed films racked up the largest grouping at 13.  I am  delighted that gay life is represented as well as it is these days in American films.  Europeans have a more prolific output but I don't think the quality is as good as American films. You'll hear more when we get to the individual films. 

I certainly have some favorites based on who starred in them. Some of those people I have written about.  I was surprised to find that the actor most represented in this collection is Robert Redford... three he starred in and one he directed.  I've always liked Redford and yet I am still a bit surprised he's the go-to guy here. I do know that I think he has great taste in film projects.  I was never all that wild about Charlton Heston and yet he is in two of the top 10, no less!  I liked Paul Newman and John Wayne and yet just one film each. Jimmy Stewart was a big favorite and only two films. I have more Robert Mitchum films in my DVD collection than for any other big name star and yet none of his films make the cut.  Go figure.

We know how much I love Marilyn Monroe and yet none of her films are on my list either.  I think the actress most represented is Dorothy McGuire with three.  I have long loved Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood and yet I have only one each of their films in this list. 

I scribbled down the years of these films.  I do not think movies were very good in the early 1930s.  By the mid-30s they got better and yet only one is respresented here.  What surprised me is that I have only three films from the 1940s and I haven't the words to say how much I loved films from that decade.  I had to check my list over twice to be sure.  

The 1950s win with 14 films followed by the 1960s with 10 and these were the days of my youth and those films have stuck with me all these years.  There are five from the 1970s, seven from the 1980s, five from the 1990s (most are from 1997, another very good year for films) and so far in the new millenium, five more.

So this is it.  Here you are.  I guess it's an eclectic bunch at best.    You will no doubt agree with some and scratch your head at others, much as I imagine it would be if I looked over your list.  And as usual, I would love to hear what you think of my choices... one way or the other... and perhaps tell me what your favorites are.

The next posting will be the first film.  We will start with number 50 and work our way towards number one.  I am thinking of doing one film a week, so it's going to take a year to handle them all.  We will discuss them in detail... until they're exhausted... or I am... or you are.  My plan is to re-watch each film before the write-up... get my juices flowing again.  I'm looking forward to it.  Revisiting all these films is part of why I love movies.

NEXT POSTING:  50th Favorite Film


  1. I'm looking forward to reading your posts and comparing with my favorites! I've been a movie lover since childhood, so it will be interesting to see what you liked "way back when" and what you like now. My tastes have changed as I've aged. Have yours?

  2. First of all, thanks Jayne for being such a fan of my blog. I look forward to hearing from you. Actually, I don't think my tastes have changed much since childhood. I used to think "little" films and English films were boring but that changed about 20 years ago. The newest would be gay-themed films, but that's really only because they weren't around when I was a youngster. My surprise is that I still hold on to childhood favorites as though they are my favorite "bankey." Wait til you see the first one coming up on Friday. Talk about whacked out...!

  3. 50 films, a year to read and's a mega-project! I've got a case of "the vapors" just thinking about it! Guess you've got some "blog security" built in as well.
    Is there a graduate certificate when we complete the project?