Movies

 

Doug Ledbetter::Hobbies::Movies

I thoroughly enjoy watching movies. I like a variety of movie types, but my favorite genres are: action/adventure, sci-fi, mystery/detective, gangster/crime films from the 30's & 40's, film noir and anything else with enough "eye candy" (I love good CGI (Computer Generated Images) such as The Matrix and Jurassic Park).

Film Noir

One particular group of movies I especially enjoy is "film noir" with examples such as The Maltese Falcon (1941) and The Big Sleep (1946).

Literally "black film or cinema," coined by French film critics who noticed the trend of how dark and black the looks and themes were of many American crime and detective films released in France following the war. Film noir is a style of American films that evolved in the 1940s, and lasted in a classic period until about 1960. Film noir is a distinct branch or subgenre of the crime/gangster sagas from the 1930s (i.e., Little Caesar (1931) or Public Enemy (1931)), but different in tone and characterization. The criminal, violence or greed elements in film noir are a metaphoric symptom of society's evils, with a strong undercurrent of moral conflict. Strictly speaking, however, film noir is not a genre, but rather the mood, style or tone of a film. [ Quote about Film Noir adapted from FilmSite.org ]

Gangster/Crime

Another category of film I enjoy is the gangster/crime flicks from the 30's and 40's such as Public Enemy (1931), The Roaring Twenties (1939) and White Heat (1949). I suppose the "badness" of the bad guys plus the intrigue of the prohibition era are what makes these movies so interesting to me.

Out of these two types of movies, I have developed a particular fondness for a small group of actors and actresses (all but one of which are dead!):

My Favorites

I'm not much on picking a single favorite of any particular type of thing. I tend to select a group of items that I think are outstanding. Here I'll give a partial listing (sorted alphabetically) of movies that are worth seeing. I'll provide a bit of rationale for being in this list as well. If you want to get more of an overall picture of the types of movies I watch, you can view my IMDB list of all the movies I've seen. (free IMDB registration required)

1. Air Force One (1997)

The quintessential airplane/action movie. I dare say your pulse will be quickened and your patriotism encouraged by this one.

2. Amistad (1997)

The tale of what happens when a group of African captives take over the ship that was carrying them from their home to become slaves in America. The impact this movie had on me is second only to Saving Private Ryan. Another movie that everybody ought to see.

3. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

This is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Carey Grant and Priscilla Lane make a great pair in comedy.

4. Big Heat, The (1953)

The story is interesting and this is a great example of film noir. Glenn Ford gets tough after the bad guys attack his family. This one has Lee Marvin in it too.

5. Big Sleep, The (1946)

Definitely one of Bogart's best movies with several plot twists that leaves you trying to figure out all the details. This one requires at least a couple viewings to figure it out.

6. Casablanca (1942)

Do I really need to say anything about this classic? Anybody who considers himself to be a movie watcher must see this one.

7. Cloverfield (2008)

Impressive camera work and special effects. The movie does a great job of teasing you along to make you want to keep watching. The best giant monster movie I've seen in a long time. Much better than Peter Jackson's King Kong in my opinion. I've seen this movie several times now but I want to watch it again.

8. Double Indemnity (1944)

Another great film noir. Barbara Stanwyck isn't my favorite actress for this role, but the movie is definitely worth watching. Directed by Billy Wilder.

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

I laughed. A lot. If you don't like dark comedy, then this isn't for you. Peter Sellers has three roles in this film and George C. Scott is outstanding. I don't know how he kept a straight face. "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room."

10. Fight Club (1999)

This movie really caught me off-guard. The title generated images in my mind of a Jean-Claude Van Damme kung-fu flick (which didn't allure me). I was way off base with that evaluation. (I know...never, never judge a book by it's cover...) Talk about twists and turns!

11. Galaxy Quest (1999)

An extremely funny and well-made comedy starring Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver. The story is about a Star Trek like television series that is cancelled. An alien race, the Thermians, have been monitoring the TV series (believing it is real) and come to Earth to seek the assistance of Commander Taggart (Allen). Allen and the other crew members don't realize that the Thermians are real aliens and the hilarity ensues! One of my favorite things about this movie is how the Thermians talk. It's fun to emulate them! Go ahead, give it a try!

12. Grudge, The (2004)

I like horror. Most of it doesn't quality for this list but I still enjoy it. The Grudge appears on this list because I think it's the scariest movie I've seen so far and I watch a lot of horror. The director of this film (Takashi Shimizu) is a master of suspense.

13. Hero (Ying xiong) (2002)

Japanese film often exemplifies great attention to visual detail but Hero is the best. The fight scene between the two ladies in the falling leaves is the most beautiful scene ever captured on film. That's certainly not the only great scene in this movie. The scene in the water garden is awesome as are others. Even if you don't like foreign movies with sub-titles, make yourself watch this one.

14. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

This is one of those movies that isn't necessarily enjoyable, but it's valuable. This is the true story of what happened during a civil war that broke out in 1994 between the Hutu and Tutsi groups that make up the population of Rwanda. It is told from the perspective of a hotel manager who reluctantly ends up providing refuge from the attempted genocide. This movie is in the same category as Amistad and Saving Private Ryan — movies that everybody ought to see.

15. Jurassic Park (1993)

I must say that for all the Jurassic Park movies, it's all about the "eye candy". Well, mostly. I must admit that I loved the character Dr. Ian Malcolm played by Jeff Goldblum. "Must go faster."

16. Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è bella) (1997)

Life Is Beautiful starts out as a very funny comedy and then becomes more dramatic. It follows the life of three people in Italy during WWII. It's in Italian with English sub-titles so if that's not for you...watch it anyway! It's well worth the effort. After the first half hour, you forget that you're reading the dialogue anyway. "Buon giorno, Principessa!"

17. Little Caesar (1931)

"Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico?" The character Rico is what makes this worth watching.

18. Lord of the Rings trilogy [ The Fellowship of the Ring (2001); The Two Towers (2002); The Return of the King (2003)]

What can I say about this? The series was masterfully created. The story is amazing. The visuals are wonderful. See the extended versions!

19. Lost World: Jurassic Park, The (1997)

This movie contains one of my favorite scenes of all time: everybody is at the dock awaiting the boat carrying the T-Rex that was captured and as they peer into the fog, suddenly the ship appears traveling at full speed and plows into the dock.

20. Luther (2003)

An outstanding dramatic retelling of the events surrounding Martin Luther and his part in the protestant reformation. If you attend a protestant church, you should see this.

21. Maltese Falcon, The (1941)

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Does that count with parody too? I think this movie has been parodied as much as Star Wars and James Bond. If that was the only reason to see this movie, it would be enough, but there's much more to it than just that. Bogart plays the uber-cool detective Sam Spade who's looking for the person who killed his partner.

22. Mars Attacks (1996)

This is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. This one features an all-star cast: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Natalie Portman, Lisa Marie, Christina Applegate. You know it's going to be funny when the stars start getting zapped by the aliens! Ack-ack!

23. Mask, The (1994)

This is Jim Carrey at his finest and the first movie for Cameron Diaz. For 1994, the special effects are impressive. If you need to get a quick synopsis of Jim Carrey, this movie is a good choice.

24. Matrix, The (1999)

This has a large "eye candy" quotient, but it also has an interesting story that calls into question views of reality. The two following movies in the series weren't nearly as good as this one, unfortunately.

25. Mummy, The (1999)

This is a mindless movie. Mindless, but entertaining! You might be tempted to dismiss this movie due to Brendan Fraser's role in George of the Jungle, but rest assured that The Mummy isn't as silly as that. This really isn't a scary movie (although there is some scary imagery of the mummy, etc.) but there is some good humor in it.

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

I like almost everything that the Coen brothers have created. This one is outstanding in almost every aspect: story, filmography, dialogue, acting, soundtrack.

27. Passion of the Christ, The (2004)

This was a difficult movie to watch in some respects. I don't think I've ever seen a movie that concentrates so much violence against a single person. Admittedly, the blood is a little over-done, but I think Gibson was trying to make a point of spiritual significance. This is a "must-see" for those interested in the life and passion (suffering) of Jesus Christ.

28. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Fun. This movie is just fun. Johnny Depp's character looks great and is absolutely hilarious. There was far more humor in this movie than I anticipated.

29. Princess Bride, The (1987)

The type of humor in this movie cracks me up. I'm afraid it's on par with a lot of the Leslie Nielsen films, which might scare some people away, but it doesn't go quite as far into silliness as Nielsen typically does.

30. Public Enemy, The (1931)

Another great gangster film with Cagney as the bad guy. The most famous scene from this movie is when Cagney, in irritation, pushes a grapefruit into Mae Clarke's face.

31. Roaring Twenties, The (1939)

This is a great prohibition-era gangster flick. It has Bogart, Cagney and Lane which is a winning combination. This one was just released on DVD recently.

32. Saboteur (1942)

Alfred Hitchcock directed this mystery/thriller staring Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lane and Otto Kruger. The acting is wonderful and the story is very engaging.

33. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

No other movie has had an effect on me quite like this one (although Amistad comes in at a close second place). For those of us who grew up long after World War II, this movie is a startling look into what it was like on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944 where the landing included over 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and over 150,000 service men.

34. Sherlock Jr. (1924)

This is my favorite Buster Keaton film. The special effects and stunts blow me away! Check it out. You'll normally find this movie bundled together with Our Hospitality on the same DVD.

35. Signs (2002)

A Mel Gibson flick that appears to be about an alien invasion. In reality, this movie has two themes: 1) how a man loses and re-gains his faith and more importantly 2) the sovereignty of God. The alien invasion is just the means for demonstrating these two themes. If you're looking for a cool sci-fi alien invasion movie, this isn't really it. In fact, you don't see very much of the aliens.

36. To Have and Have Not (1944)

Lauren Bacall's first movie and boy did she make a splash! The chemistry between her and Humphrey Bogart is evident. I'm not surprised they were married the following year after this movie! This and The Big Sleep are Lauren at her best.

37. Village, The (2004)

I like most everything that Shyamalan has directed. I often see spiritual themes in his films which intrigues me. The Village is no exception. Parts of this movie are very suspenseful so it's not for the faint of heart.

38. White Heat (1949)

One of my favorite James Cagney films. "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" Cagney plays Cody Jarrett, a ruthless criminal on the run after a prison break. There's an undercover cop (O'Brien) that has infiltrated his gang in an attempt at bringing Jarrett and the gang to justice. Let the tension begin!

39. Wrongfully Accused (1998)

Ok, you're wondering how I can lump Wrongfully Accused into this group of movies? I must admit that I enjoy Leslie Nielsen's movies a great deal even though they are very silly at times. This one must parody at least a dozen other movies and I find it absolutely hilarious. If you abhor Nielsen's work, you should avoid this one as well.