My best 25 US movies of substanceby JuguAbraham | created - 07 Apr 2013 | updated - 9 months ago | Public
Some are famous, some are not.
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1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
G | 149 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi
After discovering a mysterious artifact buried beneath the lunar surface, mankind sets off on a quest to find its origins with help from intelligent supercomputer HAL 9000.
Votes: 534,085 | Gross: $56.95M
The finest work of Stanley Kubrick that has withstood the test of time. It is a fine example of cinema combining visuals and music to provide a profound message. The character of the inanimate HAL appears more real today than in 1968. It is total cinema.
2. The Tree of Life (2011)
PG-13 | 139 min | Drama, Fantasy
The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings.
Votes: 155,221 | Gross: $13.30M
Terrence Mallick has always made films that force the viewer to think rather than spoon-feed the audience. His grammar of cinema is different, where the voice-over provide verbal clues, nature and sublime forces of grace provide visual clues, and the soundtrack musical clues to unfold a tale that each viewer can identify with, on reflection.
3. Citizen Kane (1941)
PG | 119 min | Drama, Mystery
Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.
Votes: 358,948 | Gross: $1.59M
Orson Welles proves that he was not just a brilliant director at age 25, but a good actor and screenplay-writer. Not many individuals have achieved this feat on both sides of the camera. Every bit of the film is well thought out and filmed.
4. The Thin Red Line (1998)
R | 170 min | Drama, War
Adaptation of James Jones' autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War.
Votes: 159,245 | Gross: $36.40M
It is not a movie about why there should be no wars. It is a film about the genesis of wars and why human beings get embroiled in wars. It is replete with quotations from the Bible, the Bhagvad Gita, the Illiad, and Steinbeck’s novel Grapes of Wrath and presents an argument that individuals are less in control of nature than they think they are. Philosophy and nature are important facets of any Malick film. Won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film festival.
5. Heat (1995)
R | 170 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.
Votes: 518,294 | Gross: $67.44M
A film that explores the mind and the feelings of a cop and criminal, in a cat and mouse game. Beyond the thriller is Michael Mann's ability to study several relationships of several sets of spouses and friendship among criminals. The film is also one of the finest examples of a director using and editing music with fascinating camerawork. Plus two great actors at the helm.
6. Runaway Train (1985)
R | 111 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
Two escaped convicts and a female railway worker find themselves trapped on a train with no brakes and nobody driving.
Votes: 24,115 | Gross: $7.94M
Japanese director Akira Kurosawa wrote the initial script but it was the Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky who ultimately made the film in USA. With two Oscar nominated performances, the movie transcends the prison breakout genre to provide a philosophical tale about man battling a hostile universe. Includes one of the finest end-sequences in cinema. My detailed review is at http://moviessansfrontiers.blogspot.com/2015/09/183-russian-director-andrei-mikhalkov.html
7. The Conversation (1974)
PG | 113 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple, on whom he is spying, will be murdered.
Votes: 86,599 | Gross: $4.42M
A crisis of conscience for a lonely surveillance expert who is a Catholic is the subject of Francis Ford Coppola's finest work on film with a superlative performance from Gene Hackman. With an evocative end-sequence. The film won Coppola the Golden Palm at Cannes.
8. Duel (1971 TV Movie)
PG | 90 min | Action, Horror, Thriller
A business commuter is pursued and terrorized by the malevolent driver of a massive tractor-trailer.
A Steven Spielberg film with hardly any spoken dialog that proves the power of good camerawork,editing, and direction and keeps the viewer transfixed to the end.
9. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
R | 229 min | Crime, Drama
A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life.
Votes: 272,885 | Gross: $5.32M
The finest work of Italian director Sergio Leone, the director who turned down the offer to direct 'Godfather'. The film is all about the importance of money in our lives and its ripple effect on values. A film built around robust performances, screenplay, music (Ennio Morricone), camerawork and superb direction.
10. Days of Heaven (1978)
PG | 94 min | Drama, Romance
A hot-tempered farm laborer convinces the woman he loves to marry their rich but dying boss so that they can have a claim to his fortune.
One of the most beautiful movies ever made! Director Terrence Malick won the best director award at Cannes film festival and the Cuban/Spanish cinematographer Nestor Almendros a well-deserved Oscar for the superlative photography. And the music was contributed by Ennio Morricone.
11. Koyaanisqatsi (1982)
Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary, Music
A collection of expertly photographed phenomena with no conventional plot. The footage focuses on nature, humanity and the relationship between them.
Votes: 31,518 | Gross: $1.72M
A documentary that spawned visual ideas to a generation of advertising personnel. Director Godfrey Reggio's work with an environmental consciousness may pale in comparison to cinematographer Ron Fricke's own films made much later but Reggio needs to be credited for starting the innovative trend of mixing amazing images with the music of Philip Glass.
12. Shy People (1987)
R | 118 min | Drama
New York journalist visits her distant cousin for the first time to write an article about her hard life in the bayous of Louisiana. Journalist's wild drug addicted daughter just adds to tensions between two families' cultures.
Votes: 1,037 | Gross: $0.77M
An absorbing study of open-minded urban US values versus close-minded rural US values from the Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky. The film won the Best Actress award for Barbara Hershey at Cannes Film Festival. Konchalovsky was cleverly mirroring the changes in Russia from tyranny to freedom, using US examples. Chris Menges' photography, the miusic of Tangerine Dream and Jill Clayburgh's performance lent additional value. My detailed review is at http://moviessansfrontiers.blogspot.com/2018/05/222-russian-director-andrei.html
13. Greed (1924)
Not Rated | 140 min | Drama, Thriller, Western
The sudden fortune won from a lottery fans such destructive greed that it ruins the lives of the three people involved.
Votes: 8,199 | Gross: $0.16M
The story is not as important as the way the film is made. My favourite scene: the marriage scene in the apartment, while the camera captures a funeral procession on the street. That one brilliant sequence captures the entire film. There are many other less prominant sequences. Birds and cats are significant in the film.
14. Limbo (1999)
R | 126 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller
In an economically devastated Alaskan town, a fisherman with a troublesome past dates a woman whose young daughter does not approve of him. When he witnesses the murder of his shady brother, he, the woman and the kid run to the wilderness.
Votes: 5,514 | Gross: $2.00M
This superb work from Sayles can be considered as 'The Ox-Bow Incident' reworked with more craft and subtlety. Sayles proved he could write an original story, edit the film imaginatively and direct a group of talented actors and provide an ending to a film incomparable in American cinema--with a little help from the talented cinematographer Haskell Wexler.
15. The Kid (1921)
Not Rated | 68 min | Comedy, Drama, Family
The Tramp cares for an abandoned child, but events put that relationship in jeopardy.
Votes: 94,352 | Gross: $5.45M
The best Charlie Chaplin film where the actor Chaplin was overshadowed by child star Jackie Coogan. But the film was so charming because of the direction, the editing and the music (yes, music!) of Chaplin.
16. Castle Keep (1969)
R | 107 min | Action, Comedy, Drama
During the Battle of the Bulge, an anachronistic count shelters a ragtag squad of Americans in his isolated castle hoping they will defend it against the advancing Germans.
A stylistic surreal and philosophical film on war and violence that was far ahead of its time, when released. The true "heroes" of the film were its director Sidney Pollack and cinematographer Henri Decae.
17. F for Fake (1973)
PG | 89 min | Documentary
A documentary about fraud and fakery.
A documentary about fraud and fakes that makes the viewer wonder if the film took the viewer for a ride. A brilliant film from a clever director that makes one wonder how movies can trick your senses without your realizing that you have been had.
18. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Not Rated | 131 min | Drama
A bitter, aging couple, with the help of alcohol, use a young couple to fuel anguish and emotional pain towards each other.
Who is afraid of living life without false illusions? Great performances by the Burtons, a great play by Edward Albee, a great screenplay by Ernest Lehman, a great debut in direction by Mike Nichols and fascinating b&w camerawork by Haskell Wexler.
19. Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969)
M | 98 min | Drama, Western
In 1909, when young Paiute Indian Willie Boy returns to his California reservation to be with Lola, whose father disapproves of him, a killing in self defense takes place, triggering a massive man hunt for Willie.
A revisionist Western from the talented and once ostracized scriptwriter-director Abraham Polonsky that portrays the native Indian with empathy, well ahead of its time--with stunning photography. Robert Redford and Robert Blake play the major roles.
20. The Petrified Forest (1936)
Not Rated | 82 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Romance
A waitress, a hobo and a bank robber get mixed up at a lonely diner in the desert.
A rare film that discussed inequality, power, wealth and nexus between government establishments and gangsters in USA. It even provides an astute study of the behavior of blacks in USA. It touches upon the exploitation of women, blacks and artists by people in power. Amazingly well made for its time, it is relevant even today.
21. The Night of the Iguana (1964)
Approved | 125 min | Drama
A defrocked Episcopal clergyman leads a bus-load of middle-aged Baptist women on a tour of the Mexican coast and comes to terms with the failure haunting his life.
Director John Huston adapts Tennessee Williams's play with bravura. A fine cast (including Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr, and Ava Gardner) shows how a defrocked and ruined priest can find redemption in life. The way the tale is presented on screen (thanks to Huston's screenplay) makes the film superior to the fine work of the written play.
22. Hombre (1967)
Approved | 111 min | Western
John Russell, disdained by his "respectable" fellow stagecoach passengers because he was raised by Indians, becomes their only hope for survival when they are set upon by outlaws.
The subject and the story are commendable. A revisionist Western. Racism against the native Indians is highlighted. So are the negative traits of the white men who made money out of the subjugation of the the native Indians. Even the attitudes towards Mexicans are well etched. The film is all about values and humanism and not about killing. The opening sequence of the black stallion leading wild horses is amazing.
23. The Barefoot Contessa (1954)
Not Rated | 128 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
At Maria Vargas' funeral, several people recall who she was and the impact she had on them. Harry Dawes was a not very successful writer/director when he and movie producer Kirk Edwards ... See full summary »
Truffaut was dead right. This is a superb film--structurewise and contentwise. Way ahead of its time. And Ava Gardner is stunning.
24. The Swimmer (1968)
Approved | 95 min | Drama
A man spends a summer day swimming as many pools as he can all over a quiet suburban town.
Social satire on the typical WASP US male, an abstract morality tale, rewinding in time, presented with intelligence, rarely encountered in Hollywood cinema My detailed review is at http://moviessansfrontiers.blogspot.com/2015/11/186-us-directors-frank-perrys-and.html
25. Night Moves (1975)
R | 100 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Los Angeles private investigator Harry Moseby is hired by a client to find her runaway teenage daughter. Moseby tracks the daughter down, only to stumble upon something much more intriguing and sinister .
More than a thriller, it is an existential statement. The director states it visually in the last shot.