By Tom Titus
And now (drum roll please) we come to the best movies of all time – at least in the view of yours truly. And, of course, as Clint Eastwood observed in “The Dead Pool,” “Opinions are like (rear ends). Everybody’s got one.”
So, for what it’s worth, here are my selections from over seven decades of moviegoing. The Academy doesn’t agree – only three of my top 10 earned “best picture” Oscars. But, as I said, these are my personal choices.
There were 10 others that also merited inclusion, so I added them as “honorable mention” winners. Some worthy contenders (“Shane,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Dr. Zhivago,” “From Here to Eternity”) have appeared on earlier category-specific lists. As always, we start from the cellar and work our way up to the penthouse. Here goes:
10. “Titanic.” James Cameron’s masterpiece won for best picture and elicited its share of gasps as the big ship plunged to its watery grave. An awesome spectacle, well presented.
9. “The Godfather.” Another “best picture” winner, Francis Ford Coppola’s big screen treatment of the Mario Puzo novel earned Marlon Brando an Oscar he didn’t accept. Premier performances throughout.
8. “Seven Days in May.” Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas teamed up several times in Hollywood, but this was their best joint effort. Rod Serling wrote the gripping script for this thriller of a near-government coup.
7. “Vertigo.” Alfred Hitchcock’s best picture in a career packed with murderous pleasures. James Stewart and Kim Novak starred in this haunting exercise in romantic chicanery.
6. “E.T.” My family and I enjoyed the local premiere of this wonderful Steven Spielberg fantasy as guests of one of the stars (OC’s Robert MacNaughton, who played the older brother). It’s memorable in all respects.
5. “The Manchurian Candidate.” Laurence Harvey was brilliant as a compromised war hero in this scary political drama. Angela Lansbury deserved an Oscar as his chillingly overprotective mother.
4. “Apocalypse Now.” Coppola again, this time sending Martin Sheen up the river to “terminate with extreme prejudice” a rogue U.S. Army officer (Marlon Brando). Look for a young Harrison Ford in a bit role in an early scene.
3. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Mike Nichols made his debut as a movie director with Edward Albee’s masterpiece, eliciting scathing performances from Elizabeth Taylor (who won the Oscar) and Richard Burton (who should have). Brilliant on all counts.
2. “Gone With the Wind.” It’s number one on most critics’ lists, a historic saga of the Civil War and its aftermath, with Vivien Leigh clearly earning her Oscar as Scarlett O’Hara and Clark Gable strongly supporting her as Rhett Butler. Superbly performed and photographed, an all-time classic.
1. “The Last Picture Show.” Beaten out for the “best picture” Oscar (by “The French Connection,” no kidding), this highly involving drama from Larry McMurtry was brilliantly directed by a young Peter Bogdanovich (who helmed two movies on this column’s best comedies list). Oscars to Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson in support. Truly the top movie of all time, in my humble opinion.
Now we come to the honorable mentions, those movies that very nearly made the top 10. They are, in no particular order:
“Citizen Kane,” “On the Waterfront,” “That Championship Season,” “Giant,” “Shindler’s List,” “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jurassic Park” and “Dr. Strangelove.”
There you have it, a compilation of cinematic classics. There are many mental “best” lists among moviegoers. This just happens to be mine