It’s been a while since the last entry in this series, so let’s get going again! Here are the next ten of my favorite movies (give or take a few I may have forgotten about), starting at #80 and going to #71.
80. Forrest Gump
I’m not sure which movie has suffered the greater backlash, Titanic or Gump. (Come to that, Dances With Wolves also always has to be mentioned in the topic of backlashes against once-beloved movies.) I can sort of understand the backlash, but the sheer hatred that both movies now seem to inspire amazes me. I’ve never found Gump to be what its detractors say it is; I’ve never found it to be an apologetic film for either a conservative or a liberal mindset. In fact, I’ve never much found it to be an mouthpiece kind of film for any real viewpoint at all. I just think it’s a very well-made film with a well-told story about characters who are sympathetic, but not too sympathetic. For a film that takes the basic form and feel of a fable, it really doesn’t offer much by way of easy answers, and Gump’s own answer to the central question of the movie basically boils down to “I dunno.”
Signature moment: Lieutenant Dan’s final “reconciliation” with God, if that’s even what it is.
79. Every Which Way But Loose
Yes, I am openly admitting to loving this incredibly goofy flick. It stars Clint Eastwood as Philo Beddoe, a truck driver who earns extra money by bare-knuckle boxing in the backlots of southern California, with his buddy Orville (the always wonderful Geoffrey Lewis) and his pet orangutan at his side. Yes, this is a movie whose main characters include an orangutan named Clyde. And it’s full of country music, barroom brawls, and a motorcycle gang that’s only slightly less competent than the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. I’ve never really believed in the idea of a “guilty pleasure”, but darn it, this movie might just well qualify. This is about as goofy a movie as you’re likely to find. (I also like its sequel, Any Which Way You Can, although the first film is better by virtue of its bittersweet ending.)
Signature moment: When Philo finally meets Tank Murdock.
I wonder sometimes if this film gets its due, with the current renewal of interest in fantasy filmmaking. Granted, Braveheart isn’t fantasy (although it certainly isn’t history, either), but its approach to depicting the realities of a medieval kind of life turned out to be enormously influential. No suits of armor here that shine in the morning sun and somehow remain clean throughout days of travel; no banners of brightly colored cloth. Instead, everything is mud-spattered and worn, and the atmosphere of the exteriors is one of chill. The battle scenes of The Lord of the Rings would look very different if this film hadn’t pioneered the brutally violent approach to such sequences.
I love this film’s first half, with its dreamy appearance and pacing and dialogue that occasionally rises to poetry. The film slows down a bit in the second half as the court intrigues take over, but that’s fine by me. This film deserved the plaudits it got.
Signature moment: It would be easy to note the Battle of Stirling, with Wallace’s “Sons of Scotland!” speech, but for me, the film’s essential sequence is the courtship and secret wedding of Murron. Without those scenes, the rest of the film would be a dull exercise in medieval history.
77. Bull Durham
Almost my favorite baseball movie of all time! This is just one great moment after another, one of those movies that takes us to an offbeat location (a minor-league baseball team) and lets us live alongside the offbeat characters who live there. The film just oozes authenticity in its setting, which helps us to overlook the frankly bizarre nature of Annie Savoy’s approach to dating (“Within the confines of the baseball season, I am, strictly speaking, monogamous.”). Crash Davis is one of the great characters in moviedom, as far as I’m concerned.
Signature moment: So many, but I’ll take one little touch of minor league baseball lore that may or may not be the way things are done, but it just feels so right that if I found out that this never actually happened at all, I’d be disappointed. I’m referring to when the Durham Bulls’ radio broadcasters have to do an away game, so they get the game action via a teletype, and when there’s a hit, the guy takes a mallet and smacks a block of wood, as if to fool the listeners that they’re hearing the crack of the bats. I love that.
76. Field of Dreams
Definitely my favorite baseball movie of all time! It’s just a great piece of American fantasy. Yes, that’s exactly what it is: a fantasy. What else to call it? The film’s approach to the supernatural is as refreshing as the unlikely subject matter. No one ever sits around drearily theorizing as to just what particular power is at work in Ray Kinsella’s corn field, or why this particular power is steering Ray toward a reconciliation with his father. I love it when a film has enough confidence in its story to simply posit whatever it needs to posit, and then proceeds accordingly.
Years ago, during my college years, The Girlfriend (now The Wife) and I went to the Field of Dreams itself, in Dyersville, Iowa. It seems trite to say so, but it really does look like that, and yes, I was a bit disappointed when I walked out into the corn and found myself…in a field of corn.
Signature moment: My favorite part of this movie has always been the scene when Burt Lancaster as Doc Graham describes his one half-inning of play in the Majors, which was enough of a baseball career for him to put down his glove and return home to be a doctor.
75. The Poseidon Adventure
Ahhhh, the cheesy 70s disaster flicks! And this one’s just so much fun, with everyone in scenery-chewing form. One can almost sense the director saying, “OK everybody, overact as much as you want, just as long as you don’t overact more than Hackman or Borgnine!” As engrossing as the post-disaster stuff is, I also find something sweetly engaging about the first half hour or so, when we’re being introduced to the cast. This is definitely the only movie you’ll ever see where one of the characters offers the bit of wisdom to “Don’t let your son grow up to be a haberdasher!”.
Signature moment: Any of the arguments between the Preacher and Mr. Rogo. (I changed my Signature Moment for this movie after it was pointed out in comments that the first one I had up here was, really, a big spoiler for the movie.)
74. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
I heart Audrey Hepburn. End of story.
Signature moment: “Moon River.”
73. For Your Eyes Only
I always cite this movie to people who insist that Roger Moore played James Bond for laughs most of the time. After the Bond films of the 70s, which were all studies in various kinds of excess and self-parody, the producers returned to the sorts of lesser-scaled espionage that marked the first couple of films in the series, resulting in FYEO, which was the strongest Bond film to come from Moore’s tenure in the role. It’s just a very well-made thriller, very welcome after Moonraker.
Signature moment: Bond’s final confrontation with Locque. In this scene, Moore is as ruthless and cold as Sean Connery ever was.
72. The Living Daylights
Timothy Dalton took over as Bond for TLD in 1987, which turned out to be another instance in which the producers had to dial down the previous film’s excesses (1985’s A View to a Kill). Dalton based his portrayal of Bond on the character as actually written in the books by Ian Fleming, resulting in a fascinatingly vulnerable type of James Bond. The plot is a complex espionage tale, seemingly more in league with a Robert Ludlum novel than a typical Bond flick. It also features one of the series’s best heroines.
Signature moment: The fight in the cargo plane at the end.
71. The Abyss
Perennially overshadowed by Aliens, but not in my book, as this is one of the finest SF films ever made. Seriously, this movie’s got it all – a unique setting, a mystery, loads of conflict between interesting characters, and some terrific “sensawunda” to boot. I actually prefer the Director’s Cut, although that version of the film does tend to lay on the preaching of the film’s “message” a bit thick. Still, this is one wonderful film.
Signature moment: Bud and Lindsay, trapped on a flooding submersible, with one functioning set of SCUBA gear, and too far from the undersea rig to swim for it. I always find this sequence harrowing.
And there we are. Next up: Numbers 70 down to 61!