Les Classiques

by thundsdo-1 | created - 26 May 2012 | updated - 26 May 2012 | Public

The movies that are worth seeing again and again and have a film or life lesson within them.

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1. Casablanca (1942)

PG | 102 min | Drama, Romance, War

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100 Metascore

In Casablanca in December 1941, a cynical American expatriate encounters a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains

Votes: 429,901 | Gross: $1.02M

One way to identify a truly great film is the magic. It's like watching someone pitch a no-hitter. Casablanca exemplifies that movie making magic. Ronald Reagan was originally supposed to play Rick. Ingrid Bergman is at the height of her career. The screenplay was being written while they were filming. So many historical/factual errors they are difficult to count. But does it EVER come together. When I think of movies, I think of Casablanca.

2. High Noon (1952)

PG | 85 min | Action, Drama, Thriller

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89 Metascore

A town marshal, despite the disagreements of his newlywed bride and the townspeople around him, must face a gang of deadly killers alone at high noon when the gang leader, an outlaw he sent up years ago, arrives on the noon train.

Director: Fred Zinnemann | Stars: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges

Votes: 85,234 | Gross: $9.45M

A very strange way to make a movie, the action in High Noon takes place in about the same time it takes to watch the movie. The aptly named Grace Kelly and the Latino woman are absolutely marvelous playing off each other. Gary Cooper is truly a great actor, maybe not at his best in High Noon, but fabulous. I don't generally like westerns, but this really isn't a western as much as a social and political commentary.

3. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

PG-13 | 197 min | Drama, Romance, War

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The life of a Russian physician and poet who, although married to another, falls in love with a political activist's wife and experiences hardship during the First World War and then the October Revolution.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger

Votes: 59,954 | Gross: $111.72M

This is a chick flick and Omar Sharif is the bait. Not that Julie Christie is hard to look at, but she plays a sort of wet fish. Sharif is a poet, Boris Pasternak who prefers to look at the beauty in life rather than the cold reality of the Russian Revolution. There is some action for the guys, but mostly it is beholding the tremendous cinematography of Freddy Young. My favorite Alex Guiness role.

4. Do the Right Thing (1989)

R | 120 min | Comedy, Drama

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91 Metascore

On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson

Votes: 66,592 | Gross: $27.55M

Roger Ebert once said this was the greatest American film on race relations ever shot. It is,indeed a pressure cooker of a movie that meanders through the Bed Stuy neighborhood while you can physically feel the tension growing. You know something is going to happen on this hot day in Brooklyn and Spike's characters are the best.

5. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Approved | 92 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

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An alien lands and tells the people of Earth that they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.

Director: Robert Wise | Stars: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe

Votes: 68,450

A distinction must be drawn from the truly horrid remake. I don't generally like science fiction movies, but like High Noon isn't a western, tDtESS isn't really a science fiction movie. It's an indictment. Really, what a science fiction movie should do is bring important morale questions to the fore. No movie does that better than The Day the Earth Stood Still.

6. Roger & Me (1989)

R | 91 min | Documentary

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70 Metascore

Director Michael Moore pursues GM CEO Roger B. Smith to confront him about the harm he did to Flint, Michigan with his massive downsizing.

Director: Michael Moore | Stars: Michael Moore, Roger B. Smith, Rhonda Britton, Fred Ross

Votes: 23,911 | Gross: $6.71M

Mike Moore's first take at moviemaking was his best. It was done at a time when "documentary" implied an even, unbiased look at the subject. Moore's look back at his hometown and its de-industrialization was a warning that we did not heed. Now, as people commute for an hour to work in a supermall and make minimum wage and Detroit has depopulated, it makes a lot of sense to go back and look at what Moore was trying to say.

7. True Grit (2010)

PG-13 | 110 min | Adventure, Drama, Western

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80 Metascore

A stubborn teenager enlists the help of a tough U.S. Marshal to track down her father's murderer.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen | Stars: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin

Votes: 262,551 | Gross: $171.24M

Usually, a movie remake is a sure kiss of death. The John Wayne, Glenn Campbell version (with good ol' Dennis Hopper as the villain Moon) is a pretty tough act to follow and it is certainly done very well. But Joel and Ethan defied my expectation and came up with a better movie. The mood, the development of the female lead. I liked it all. Matt Damon's Texas Ranger is a bit goofy, but he had a low mark to reach.

8. Double Indemnity (1944)

Not Rated | 107 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

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An insurance representative lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator's suspicions.

Director: Billy Wilder | Stars: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Byron Barr

Votes: 110,790 | Gross: $5.72M

I never really liked Fred MacMurry, but I can't see enough of Barbara Stanwyck. Literally. I love film noir and this is a diabolically crafted rollercoaster that will have your nerves on edge--exactly like a good film noir should. Chinatown isn't bad, but if I have to pick just one...Plus, a good film noir simply must have Edward G. in it.

9. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Not Rated | 100 min | Film-Noir, Mystery

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A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.

Director: John Huston | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre

Votes: 125,727

A tremendous ensemble cast led by Bogart. The action revolves around a legendary jeweled bird, or, more accurately, what people are willing to do to get it. Lie, cheat, do-over friends--even kill. You don't know who to trust in this one until the end, and then, the answer is "no one."

10. Glory (1989)

R | 122 min | Biography, Drama, History

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Robert Gould Shaw leads the U.S. Civil War's first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices from both his own Union Army, and the Confederates.

Director: Edward Zwick | Stars: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman

Votes: 107,993 | Gross: $26.83M

Matthew Broderick? Yes indeed. Even Matthew can't screw up this amazingly good screenplay. He's really not bad at all. But he does spend the entire movie getting his Thespian ass kicked by Morgan and Denzel. The story of an all-black regiment participating in the fighting of the Civil War. A very, very strong cast. I would have ended the movie as the soldiers get ready to make the advance, but it is a war movie and some people like to see more action than I do.

11. Cleopatra (1963)

G | 192 min | Biography, Drama, History

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60 Metascore

Queen Cleopatra of Egypt experiences both triumph and tragedy as she attempts to resist the imperial ambitions of Rome.

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz | Stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Pamela Brown

Votes: 24,089 | Gross: $57.78M

Wow. She wouldn't make it in the films today, but I'm going to crown Elizabeth Taylor the greatest movie star today. She was beautiful and she knew what she wanted. The poster girl for feminism. A classic movie that seems to go on and on. I love Richard Burton's part and the scenery pre-CGI. Cleopatra was almost certainly black, but looking past that we can enjoy the historical mistakes.

12. The Blues Brothers (1980)

R | 133 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

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60 Metascore

Jake Blues, just out from prison, puts together his old band to save the Catholic home where he and brother Elwood were raised.

Director: John Landis | Stars: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cab Calloway, John Candy

Votes: 155,228 | Gross: $57.23M

I'm not a big fan of musicals, so this is the one I'm putting on here. Dan Akroyd's dream child is more than a wild car-crash, potty mouth teen flick, it is a dissection and accurate look into Blues music. Where it comes from. Where it's influences reach. All the big names. Cameos by big shots like Frank Oz and Stephen Spielberg. This movie could never be filmed in today's Chicago--shutting down streets in the loop? Are you kidding me?

13. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

PG | 216 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

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100 Metascore

The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins

Votes: 215,641 | Gross: $44.82M

Peter O'Toole carries this movie. Omar Sharif is good, but it is a character study and there are few actors that can bring off a movie like this. It is about the evils inherent in colonialism and the racism which permeates that system. Lawrence, like Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, goes native to such a degree that he ends up fooling both British officers and Turkish sodomites.

14. Metropolis (1927)

Not Rated | 153 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

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98 Metascore

In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.

Director: Fritz Lang | Stars: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge

Votes: 126,218 | Gross: $0.03M

I have yet to see the completely restored version, but I can't wait. It is, technically, another science fiction move (which I said I do not like), but it also is about class relations. German studios were far ahead of American students in the area of special effects and German mad scientists get away with tantalizing bits of females which would never had made code in Hollywood. I think this is the best of the pre-war German films.

15. Triumph of the Will (1935)

Not Rated | 110 min | Documentary, History, War

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The infamous propaganda film of the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg, Germany.

Director: Leni Riefenstahl | Stars: Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, Max Amann, Martin Bormann

Votes: 12,249

A movie that everyone should have to watch in high school. Director Leni Refensthal documented the Nuremburg rallies, showing (and not particularly dispassionately) the great rise of the Nazi party from a Ratskeller full of hateful drunks to a carefully planned and staged political machine built on discipline and love of the fatherland. However, it rings down through the ages and we see it's influence in party conventions here in the US today.

16. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

PG-13 | 107 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime

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69 Metascore

In the deep south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen | Stars: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman

Votes: 244,650 | Gross: $45.51M

Another musical, this one is somewhat less organized than the Blues Brothers treatment of the Blues. Wrapped very loosely around the story of the Odessy, Clooney clowns around the depression south. Charles Durning is a delite. Holly Hunter is also shines through.

17. The Great Dictator (1940)

G | 125 min | Comedy, Drama, War

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Dictator Adenoid Hynkel tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution from Hynkel's regime.

Director: Charles Chaplin | Stars: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner

Votes: 157,766

This movie is a masterpiece. Chaplin's first and only talky, it is the story of a young Jewish barber who returns home from WWI after an extended stay in the hospital. He doesn't know that his country has fallen in to anti-semitism. Chaplain's speech at the end is extremely powerful. Chaplain funded, wrote and directed this movie himself and was so meticulous it cost millions. After the war, Chaplin was forced out of the US for his left leanings.

18. Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Not Rated | 66 min | Drama, History

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In the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1905, the crew of the battleship Potemkin mutiny against the brutal, tyrannical regime of the vessel's officers. The resulting street demonstration in Odessa brings on a police massacre.

Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein | Stars: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barskiy, Grigoriy Aleksandrov, Ivan Bobrov

Votes: 44,305 | Gross: $0.05M

The revolution is on and it starts in the kitchens, where Czarist officers have been skimming off the food budget forcing the men to eat meat crawling with maggots! It's easy to say that Potemkin is cliche, but Eisenstein really shines with his photography. The scene with the baby carriage is a classic and resurfaces in many modern movies. You really can't call yourself a movie buff without seeing Potemkin.

19. Amélie (2001)

R | 122 min | Comedy, Romance

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69 Metascore

Amélie is an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love.

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet | Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta

Votes: 594,773 | Gross: $33.23M

Audrey Tatou is at her naughty best. Doing little things to bring some justice to the world while looking for the love of her life, who makes art out of discarded pictures from camera machines. Ultimately, she finds love, undermines the fascist grocer and gets her father to get out and see the world a bit.

20. Spartacus (1960)

PG-13 | 197 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

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87 Metascore

The slave Spartacus leads a violent revolt against the decadent Roman Republic.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton

Votes: 105,780 | Gross: $30.00M

Slave revolts, gladiators, innuendo, intrigue, and one really, really not happy ending. Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis make this movie shine, but don't forget the Dalton Trumbo screenplay, his first after coming off the blacklist.

21. Seven Samurai (1954)

Not Rated | 207 min | Adventure, Drama

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98 Metascore

A poor village under attack by bandits recruits seven unemployed samurai to help them defend themselves.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima, Yukiko Shimazaki

Votes: 254,376 | Gross: $0.27M

I really love all Kurosawa's, movies, but the down-to-earth samurai in this one make up his best ensemble of characters. It's the story of how mercenaries end up as part of the community. Their protectors. Kurosawa sure knew how to make a technically flawless movie.

22. Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Not Rated | 89 min | Drama

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In post-war Italy, a working-class man's bicycle is stolen. He and his son set out to find it.

Director: Vittorio De Sica | Stars: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Elena Altieri

Votes: 108,788 | Gross: $0.33M

An amazing movie shot in post-war Italy. A bicycle is stolen and it may cost the lead character his job. His wife is really a tough bird and no one seems to understand, or care how much his bicycle means to him. He could lose his job, his home and his family if he fails to recover it.

23. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama

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Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.

Director: Richard Brooks | Stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Jack Carson

Votes: 37,002 | Gross: $17.57M

I really don't like Tennessee William's writing. But the triangle of Burle Ives, Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor is just amazing. Big Daddy is dying and members of the family are angling to be in the will. Brick has made a mess of his life and his marriage to Maggie the Cat, and it may cost him his share of the inheritance. The story is somewhat annoying, but the acting is first class all the way.

24. The Pink Panther (1963)

Approved | 115 min | Comedy, Crime, Romance

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Inspector Clouseau travels to Rome to catch a notorious jewel thief known as "The Phantom" before he conducts his most daring heist yet--a princess' priceless diamond with one slight imperfection, known as "The Pink Panther."

Director: Blake Edwards | Stars: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner, Capucine

Votes: 41,419 | Gross: $10.88M

The story goes that Peter Sellers stole this movie from David Niven. His inspector Clousseau is fabulous and generated a ton of spinoffs including the animated TV series. The inspector can't seem to do anything right when a huge diamond disappears. Somehow, it all comes around in the end--though after a car chase in a gorilla outfit.

25. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Not Rated | 118 min | Comedy, Crime, Thriller

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A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Jack Carson

Votes: 58,108

About as good as screwball comedy gets. Cary Grant is a confirmed bachelor who decides to marry his childhood sweetheart. Leaving his two old aunts and uncle (who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt) is a big problem, however, as his mass murdering brother comes home to hide out. Excellent film to watch on Halloween.

26. Some Like It Hot (1959)

Not Rated | 121 min | Comedy, Romance

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97 Metascore

When two male musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in.

Director: Billy Wilder | Stars: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft

Votes: 196,025 | Gross: $25.00M

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are two musicians down on there luck. When things get really bad, they accidentally witness the St. Valentines Day massacre and have to escape to Florida with an all-women band. Curtis gets the happy assignment of falling for Marilyn and does a Cary Grant imitation that can't be beat.

27. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Not Rated | 136 min | Drama, War

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A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.

Director: Lewis Milestone | Stars: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy

Votes: 50,222 | Gross: $3.27M

The thread from the excitement and exuberance of the first days of WWI gradually grinds into the horrors of prolonged trench warfare and how the war maimed, killed and stunted the men who fought it.

28. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

PG | 95 min | Comedy, War

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96 Metascore

An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically tries to stop.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn

Votes: 379,014 | Gross: $0.28M

During the sixties and seventies, we were constantly afraid of someone accidentally starting a nuclear war. In fact, though the stories are classified, it almost happened a few times. Here, Kubrik takes a sucker punch at the insane masculinism of the nuclear arms race. How you make all-out nuclear war funny is beyond me, but he does it.

29. Paths of Glory (1957)

Not Rated | 88 min | Drama, War

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After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready

Votes: 136,960

Wow. This movie really packs a punch. It's late in WWI and the French are having problems getting people to fight. So they come up with a plan to shoot some people to show the other fellas that one way or another, they're going to die. Douglas takes up their case, but he can't win. It's not a trial, but a matter of policy.

30. Father Goose (1964)

Approved | 118 min | Adventure, Comedy, Romance

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During World War II, a man persuaded to live on an isolated island and spot aircraft finds himself responsible for a teacher and several students, all female.

Director: Ralph Nelson | Stars: Cary Grant, Leslie Caron, Trevor Howard, Jack Good

Votes: 8,055 | Gross: $12.50M

Leslie Caron is so beautiful. Cary Grant gets to play some of his great comedy parts. Marooned on a desert island, drunkard Grant must host Caron and a gaggle of school girls while spotting Japanese ship movements during WWII. Not sure if this one or Operation Petticoat is better.