Dusty's 25 Favorite Movies

by dusty56 | created - 04 Jul 2011 | updated - 24 Jul 2019 | Public

Some of these are really great films - others, not so much. But they're my favorites. Friendly comments and lively discussion are welcome.

There aren't a lot of comedies on my list, nor very many recent "action" flicks - not a superhero in sight! - but that's just me. I tend to favor classic movies over newer ones, and movies with great characters and interesting relationships over explosions and bombastic SPFX. I also especially appreciate great dialogue.

Here's looking at you, kid.

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1. Casablanca (1942)

PG | 102 min | Drama, Romance, War

100 Metascore

A cynical expatriate American cafe owner struggles to decide whether or not to help his former lover and her fugitive husband escape the Nazis in French Morocco.

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

Votes: 571,245 | Gross: $1.02M

So many wonderful moments and quotes from this movie, but my favorite scene is when Rick gives the okay for the band to play "La Marseillaise," the French national anthem. Gets me every time. And this exchange - Renault: What brought you to Casablanca? Rick: My health. I came for the waters. Renault: Waters? What waters? We're in the desert. Rick: I was misinformed.

2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

PG | 110 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

66 Metascore

Wyoming, early 1900s. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid are the leaders of a band of outlaws. After a train robbery goes wrong they find themselves on the run with a posse hard on their heels. Their solution - escape to Bolivia.

Director: George Roy Hill | Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin

Votes: 216,844 | Gross: $102.31M

I love this movie for several reasons, not the least of which is that it was what Kathy & I went to see on our first date. For those of you who aren't old enough to remember, that was back in pre-home video days, when studios used to re-release old movies back to the theaters.

3. The Big Chill (1983)

R | 105 min | Comedy, Drama

61 Metascore

A group of seven former college friends gather for a weekend reunion at a South Carolina vacation home after the funeral of another of their college friends.

Director: Lawrence Kasdan | Stars: Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt

Votes: 38,278 | Gross: $56.20M

What's not to love? An amazing cast, a brilliant script, and thoughtful people exploring the meaning of life. Oh, all of that, plus what may the finest soundtrack since "American Graffiti." At the final scene, around the breakfast table, when Jeff Goldblum says, "We're not leaving; we're never leaving," he's speaking for us all.

4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

R | 142 min | Drama

81 Metascore

Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

Director: Frank Darabont | Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler

Votes: 2,667,104 | Gross: $28.34M

Thanks to my brother David for introducing me to this movie, and to my daughter Brittany for giving me a copy of it. Watching the relationship of Andy and Red is an absolute joy, thanks to the performances of two great actors at the top of their game.

5. The Godfather (1972)

R | 175 min | Crime, Drama

100 Metascore

The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty in postwar New York City transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant youngest son.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton

Votes: 1,848,234 | Gross: $134.97M

The perfect telling of the dark side of the American Dream. The scene at the end, where Clemenza kisses Michael's hand and says, "Don Corleone," while Neri is closing the door in Kay's face, is visual storytelling at its very finest. Honorable mention for this list: Godfather II.

6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

PG-13 | 178 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

92 Metascore

A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean

Votes: 1,867,697 | Gross: $315.54M

This really is for all three movies. I love the whole allegory of this story as well as the relationships between and among the various members of the characters. Tolkien was a master storyteller.

7. The Quiet Man (1952)

Passed | 129 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

85 Metascore

A retired American boxer returns to the village of his birth in 1920s Ireland, where he falls for a spirited redhead whose brother is contemptuous of their union.

Director: John Ford | Stars: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond

Votes: 39,253 | Gross: $10.55M

Would still love to know exactly what Mary Kate says to Sean at the end of the film, although the message is obvious enough. Miss O'Hara said she would never tell, and as far as I know, she never did. Must have been something to get that look on the Duke's face.

8. Tender Mercies (1983)

PG | 92 min | Drama, Music

76 Metascore

A broken-down, middle-aged country singer gets a new wife, reaches out to his long-lost daughter, and tries to put his troubled life back together.

Director: Bruce Beresford | Stars: Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, Wilford Brimley

Votes: 10,841 | Gross: $8.44M

Robert Duvall is the best actor of his generation, IMHO, and here is his Oscar-winning performance. Every moment is an absolute gem that resonates with truth, down to the Cowboys team poster on the wall in Sonny's bedroom.

9. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Approved | 129 min | Crime, Drama

88 Metascore

Atticus Finch, a widowed lawyer in Depression-era Alabama, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his children against prejudice.

Director: Robert Mulligan | Stars: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton, Rosemary Murphy

Votes: 317,293

Not many actors have the moral authority to pull off a character like Atticus Finch, without coming across as phony or preachy or self-righteous. Gregory Peck makes it look easy. "Miss Jean Louise, stand up! Your father is passing."

10. Silver Streak (1976)

PG | 114 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

41 Metascore

On a long-distance train trip, a man finds romance but also finds himself in danger of being killed, or at least pushed off the train.

Director: Arthur Hiller | Stars: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Jill Clayburgh, Patrick McGoohan

Votes: 20,508

I am well aware that this may not be a "great" movie, but it's just fun. It's also my favorite train movie - see that list for more, if you're interested. Wilder and Pryor are hilarious, and Jill Clayburgh is stunningly beautiful, I think. And then there's the train...

11. Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)

PG | 143 min | Drama, Music

59 Metascore

A frustrated composer finds fulfillment as a high school music teacher.

Director: Stephen Herek | Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Glenne Headly, Jay Thomas, Olympia Dukakis

Votes: 39,941 | Gross: $82.57M

A very gentle movie about the difference one man can make in the lives of so many others - kind of like "It's a Wonderful Life" in that regard. Don't miss the wonderful scene where Mrs. Jacobs gives Mr. Holland the compass, and watch the unexpressed emotions pass over Richard Dreyfuss' face. Another gem: Jean Louisa Kelly singing "Someone to Watch Over Me."

12. Fort Apache (1948)

Passed | 128 min | Western

At Fort Apache, an honorable and veteran war captain finds conflict when his regime is placed under the command of a young, glory hungry lieutenant colonel with no respect for the local Indian tribe.

Director: John Ford | Stars: John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, Pedro Armendáriz

Votes: 18,507

I know a lot of people prefer "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (Don't apologize, mister, it's a sign of weakness.), but this is my favorite of the John Wayne-John Ford Cavalry trilogy. Lots of great moments, but I love it when Henry Fonda says to Victor McLaglen, "Sergeant, pour me some scripture."

13. Union Pacific (1939)

Passed | 135 min | Western

In 1862, Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads compete westward across the wilderness toward California.

Director: Cecil B. DeMille | Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Akim Tamiroff, Robert Preston

Votes: 3,137

Some critics think 1939 was the best year for movies, ever. I tend to agree. Here's my favorite from that year. Another great train movie, about the building of the transcontinental railroad. They may take a few liberties with the history, but the visuals are stunning. As is Barbara Stanwyck.

14. Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Not Rated | 132 min | Drama, War

A hard-as-nails general (Gregory Peck as General Savage) takes over a B-17 bomber unit suffering from low morale and whips them into fighting shape.

Director: Henry King | Stars: Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Millard Mitchell

Votes: 14,970

I remember watching this in Dr. Paul Lakey's class in organizational communication at ACU, as a case study in leadership. A war film that is decidedly anti-war. Gregory Peck is brilliant, of course, and Dean Jagger won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as Maj. Stovall.

15. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

R | 169 min | Drama, War

91 Metascore

Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns

Votes: 1,386,192 | Gross: $216.54M

Tom Hanks and Matt Damon lead a great ensemble in another terrific movie from Spielberg. Don't miss the scene where General Marshall reads the letter from President Lincoln to Mrs. Bixby.

16. To Have and Have Not (1944)

Passed | 100 min | Adventure, Comedy, Film-Noir

90 Metascore

During World War II, American expatriate Harry Morgan helps transport a French Resistance leader and his beautiful wife to Martinique while romancing a sensuous lounge singer.

Director: Howard Hawks | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan, Dolores Moran

Votes: 35,307

Bogie is my all-time favorite movie star, the very definition of cool, whether it's this movie, or "The Big Sleep," or "Key Largo" or "The Maltese Falcon" or "The African Queen." He and Bacall shine in this one. "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and ... blow."

17. Field of Dreams (1989)

PG | 107 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy

57 Metascore

Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella is inspired by a voice he can't ignore to pursue a dream he can hardly believe. Supported by his wife, Ray begins the quest by turning his ordinary cornfield into a place where dreams can come true.

Director: Phil Alden Robinson | Stars: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan

Votes: 120,503 | Gross: $64.43M

Here's a baseball movie that's really about fathers and sons, and unfulfilled dreams, and being willing to follow your passion, even if others think you're crazy. Keven Costner, Ray Liotta, and Amy Madigan are all great, but it's James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster who really make this movie. When Archie steps across the boundary and becomes Doc, *sigh* - well, it's a magical moment.

18. Jaws (1975)

PG | 124 min | Adventure, Thriller

87 Metascore

When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community off Cape Cod, it's up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary

Votes: 606,219 | Gross: $260.00M

This is the movie that created the summer blockbuster, launched Spielberg's career, and made an entire afraid to go into the water - and we STILL shudder with just two notes of John Williams' soundtrack: daaaah dum. Even though they got some of the details of the history wrong, when Quint tells the story of the Indianapolis, it's an absolutely mesmerizing moment.

19. Apollo 13 (I) (1995)

PG | 140 min | Adventure, Drama, History

77 Metascore

NASA must devise a strategy to return Apollo 13 to Earth safely after the spacecraft undergoes massive internal damage putting the lives of the three astronauts on board in jeopardy.

Director: Ron Howard | Stars: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise

Votes: 296,498 | Gross: $173.84M

Ron Howard has talked about the awesome power of letting a story tell itself, and that is certainly true here. A great cast and an incredibly compelling story, even though I remember when it happened: "Failure is not an option!"

20. The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Not Rated | 158 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

72 Metascore

A team of Allied saboteurs are assigned an impossible mission: infiltrate an impregnable Nazi-held Greek island and destroy the two enormous long-range field guns that prevent the rescue of 2,000 trapped British soldiers.

Director: J. Lee Thompson | Stars: David Niven, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle

Votes: 51,905 | Gross: $28.90M

One of my very favorite war movies, with great performances by Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quayle, among others. "To tell you the truth, sir, I didn't think we could do it." "To tell you the truth, neither did I." Whoever thought it would be a good idea to make a sequel of this should be stood up against a wall and shot (even if Barbara Bach was beautiful in it).

21. Steel Magnolias (1989)

PG | 117 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

56 Metascore

A young beautician, newly arrived in a small Louisiana town, finds work at the local salon, where a small group of women share a close bond of friendship, and welcome her into the fold.

Director: Herbert Ross | Stars: Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Julia Roberts

Votes: 56,821 | Gross: $83.76M

Easily my favorite "chick flick." I love the relationships between these women and the way they support each other through the ups and downs of their lives. Life goes on.

22. The Glenn Miller Story (1954)

Approved | 115 min | Biography, Drama, Music

Biography of bandleader Glenn Miller from his beginnings to his death over the English Channel in December 1944.

Director: Anthony Mann | Stars: James Stewart, June Allyson, Harry Morgan, Charles Drake

Votes: 8,966

Jimmy Stewart made a LOT of bio-pics in his day, and I've always thought this was one of the best. There's no telling how many people have discovered the music of Glenn Miller by watching this movie. I know I did.

23. Die Hard (1988)

R | 132 min | Action, Thriller

72 Metascore

A New York City police officer tries to save his estranged wife and several others taken hostage by terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.

Director: John McTiernan | Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson

Votes: 874,935 | Gross: $83.01M

I was already a Bruce Willis fan from "Moonlighting," but this movie really cemented his stardom. This is that rarest of movies - a breathless, action-filled adrenaline rush of a flick that actually does a good job of character development. And what an amazing cast - especially Alan Rickman as the "exceptional thief," Hans Gruber.

24. The Electric Horseman (1979)

PG | 121 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

64 Metascore

A rodeo star past his prime steals his company's horse and rides into the desert, with a feisty reporter accompanying him.

Director: Sydney Pollack | Stars: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Valerie Perrine, Willie Nelson

Votes: 9,596 | Gross: $61.80M

It probably annoys some of my friends that I have a Jane Fonda flick on this list, but I love this movie. A very nice telling of rebellion against corporate America. Willie Nelson is great in a supporting role, and his music is used well in the soundtrack, especially when Sonny releases Rising Star and "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" is playing. Due to legal issues involving Willie's music, some video versions of this movie use generic instrumental music in that scene - very annoying.

25. Gettysburg (1993)

PG | 271 min | Drama, History, War

In 1863, the Northern and Southern forces fight at Gettysburg in the decisive battle of the American Civil War.

Director: Ron Maxwell | Stars: Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen, Stephen Lang, Richard Jordan

Votes: 29,594 | Gross: $10.77M

A great study of how personalities shape battles, and battles shape history. Lots of really nice performances by a really strong cast, but two that stand out to me are Sam Elliott as the historically under-appreciated Union Cavalry General John Buford, and Jeff Daniels as Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who would eventually receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg.

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