For this year's 'Best of Hollywood' theme we picked 13 movies that had broad appeal and had won critical acclaim. With so many great pictures to choose from no matter which films we picked we were certain to leave somebody's favorite off the list. By looking at a variety of Top 100 lists from at IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and the American Film Institute we were able to create a shortlist of movies that many people reported as one of their all time favorites, and that film critics thought were classics. I feel each film can stand on its own, but the 13 films together hopefully represent the breadth and depth of some of the best Hollywood has to offer.
- Thursday, October 5th, Opening Night -
The Godfather (1972): 'R' Rating, 99% Tomatometer Rating
Popularly viewed as one of the best American films ever made, the multi-generational crime saga The Godfather is a touchstone of cinema: one of the most widely imitated, quoted, and lampooned movies of all time. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino star as Vito Corleone and his youngest son, Michael, respectively. It is the late 1940s in New York and Corleone is, in the parlance of organized crime, a "godfather" or "don," the head of a Mafia family. Michael, a free thinker who defied his father by enlisting in the Marines to fight in World War II, has returned a captain and a war hero. Having long ago rejected the family business, Michael shows up at the wedding of his sister, Connie (Talia Shire), with his non-Italian girlfriend, Kay (Diane Keaton), who learns for the first time about the family "business." A few months later at Christmas time, the don barely survives being shot by gunmen in the employ of a drug-trafficking rival whose request for aid from the Corleones' political connections was rejected. After saving his father from a second assassination attempt, Michael persuades his hotheaded eldest brother, Sonny (James Caan), and family advisors Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) and Sal Tessio (Abe Vigoda) that he should be the one to exact revenge on the men responsible. After murdering a corrupt police captain and the drug trafficker, Michael hides out in Sicily while a gang war erupts at home. Falling in love with a local girl, Michael marries her, but she is later slain by Corleone enemies in an attempt on Michael's life. Sonny is also butchered, having been betrayed by Connie's husband. As Michael returns home and convinces Kay to marry him, his father recovers and makes peace with his rivals, realizing that another powerful don was pulling the strings behind the narcotics endeavor that began the gang warfare. Once Michael has been groomed as the new don, he leads the family to a new era of prosperity, then launches a campaign of murderous revenge against those who once tried to wipe out the Corleones, consolidating his family's power and completing his own moral downfall. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Godfather was followed by a pair of sequels. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi.
- Friday, October 6th -
Sunset Blvd. (1950): 'Passed' Rating, 98% Tomatometer Rating
An aging silent film queen (Gloria Swanson) refuses to accept that her stardom has ended. She hires a young screenwriter (William Holden) to help set up her movie comeback. The screenwriter believes he can manipulate her, but he soon finds out he is wrong. The screenwriters ambivalence about their relationship and her unwillingness to let go leads to a situation of violence, madness, and death. Directed by Billy WIlder, and considered a true classic, Sunset Boulevard. won 3 academy awards for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Black-and-White, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. It was also nominated for 8 other Oscars.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967): 'Approved' Rating, 96% Tomatometer Rating
Producer/star Warren Beatty had to convince Warner Bros. to finance this film, which went on to become the studio's second-highest grosser. It also caused major controversy by redefining violence in cinema and casting its criminal protagonists as sympathetic anti-heroes. Based loosely on the true exploits of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker during the 30s, the film begins as Clyde (Beatty) tries to steal the car of Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway)'s mother. Bonnie is excited by Clyde's outlaw demeanor, and he further stimulates her by robbing a store in her presence. Clyde steals a car, with Bonnie in tow, and their legendary crime spree begins. The two move from town to town, pulling off small heists, until they join up with Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman), his shrill wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and a slow-witted gas station attendant named C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard). The new gang robs a bank and Clyde is soon painted in the press as a Depression-era Robin Hood when he allows one bank customer to hold onto his money. Soon the police are on the gang's trail and they are constantly on the run, even kidnapping a Texas Ranger (Denver Pyle) and setting him adrift on a raft, handcuffed, after he spits in Bonnie's face when she kisses him. That same ranger leads a later raid on the gang that leaves Buck dying, Blanche captured, and both Clyde and Bonnie injured. The ever-loyal C.W. takes them to his father's house. C.W.'s father disapproves his son's affiliation with gangsters and enters a plea bargain with the Texas Rangers. A trap is set that ends in one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history. The film made stars out of Beatty and Dunaway, and it also featured the screen debut of Gene Wilder as a mortician briefly captured by the gang. Its portrayal of Bonnie and Clyde as rebels who empathized with the poor working folks of the 1930s struck a chord with the counterculture of the 1960s and helped generate a new, young audience for American movies that carried over into Hollywood's renewal of the 1970s. Its combination of sex and violence with dynamic stars, social relevance, a traditional Hollywood genre, and an appeal to hip young audiences set the pace for many American movies to come. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi
Some Like it Hot (1959): Not Rated, 96% Tomatometer Rating
After witnessing a Mafia murder, slick saxophone player Joe (Tony Curtis) and his long-suffering buddy, Jerry (Jack Lemmon), improvise a quick plan to escape from Chicago with their lives. Disguising themselves as women, they join an all-female jazz band and hop a train bound for sunny Florida. While Joe pretends to be a millionaire to win the band's sexy singer, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), Jerry finds himself pursued by a real millionaire (Joe E. Brown) as things heat up and the mobsters close in. Some Like It Hot opened to largely positive reviews and is today considered to be one of the greatest film comedies of all time. It was voted as the top comedy film by the American Film Institute on their list on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs poll in 2000. The film is also notable for featuring cross dressing, and for playing with the idea of homosexuality, which led to it being produced without approval from the Motion Picture Production Code. The code had been gradually weakening in its scope during the early 1950s, due to increasing social tolerance for previously taboo topics in film, but it was still officially enforced. The overwhelming success of Some Like It Hot was a final nail in the coffin for the Hays Code. Some Like it Hot won 1 academy award, and was nominated for five others.
Schindler's List (1993): 'R' Rating, 96% Tomatometer Rating - With special introduction by Oscar Winning Producer Jerry Molen
Based on a true story, Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, a German businessman in Poland who sees an opportunity to make money from the Nazis' rise to power. He starts a company to make cookware and utensils, using flattery and bribes to win military contracts, and brings in accountant and financier Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) to help run the factory. By staffing his plant with Jews who've been herded into Krakow's ghetto by Nazi troops, Schindler has a dependable unpaid labor force. For Stern, a job in a war-related plant could mean survival for himself and the other Jews working for Schindler. However, in 1942, all of Krakow's Jews are assigned to the Plaszow Forced Labor Camp, overseen by Commandant Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), an embittered alcoholic who occasionally shoots prisoners from his balcony. Schindler arranges to continue using Polish Jews in his plant, but, as he sees what is happening to his employees, he begins to develop a conscience. He realizes that his factory (now refitted to manufacture ammunition) is the only thing preventing his staff from being shipped to the death camps. Soon Schindler demands more workers and starts bribing Nazi leaders to keep Jews on his employee lists and out of the camps. By the time Germany falls to the allies, Schindler has lost his entire fortune -- and saved 1,100 people from likely death. Schindler's List was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Picture and a long-coveted Best Director for Spielberg, and it quickly gained praise as one of the finest American movies about the Holocaust. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975): 'R' Rating, 95% Tomatometer Rating
With an insane asylum standing in for everyday society, Milos Forman's 1975 film adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel is a comically sharp indictment of the Establishment urge to conform. Playing crazy to avoid prison work detail, manic free spirit Randle P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is sent to the state mental hospital for evaluation. There he encounters a motley crew of mostly voluntary inmates, including cowed mama's boy Billy (Brad Dourif) and silent Native American Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), presided over by the icy Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Ratched and McMurphy recognize that each is the other's worst enemy: an authority figure who equates sanity with correct behavior, and a misfit who is charismatic enough to dismantle the system simply by living as he pleases. McMurphy proceeds to instigate group insurrections large and small, ranging from a restorative basketball game to an unfettered afternoon boat trip and a tragic after-hours party with hookers and booze. Nurse Ratched, however, has the machinery of power on her side to ensure that McMurphy will not defeat her. Still, McMurphy's message to live free or die is ultimately not lost on one inmate, revealing that escape is still possible even from the most oppressive conditions. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest won 5 academy awards and was nominated for four others. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
- Saturday, October 7th -
The WIzard of Oz (1939): 'G' Rating, 99% Tomatometer Rating
L. Frank Baum's classic tale comes to magisterial Technicolor life! The Wizard of Oz stars legendary Judy Garland as Dorothy, an innocent farm girl whisked out of her mundane earthbound existence into a land of pure imagination. Dorothy's journey in Oz will take her through emerald forests, yellow brick roads, and creepy castles, all with the help of some unusual but earnest song-happy friends. The Wizard of Oz film received much acclaim upon its release. Frank Nugent considered the film a "delightful piece of wonder-working which had the youngsters' eyes shining and brought a quietly amused gleam to the wiser ones of the oldsters. Not since Disney's Snow White has anything quite so fantastic succeeded half so well." Nugent had issues with some of the film's special effects, writing, "with the best of will and ingenuity, they cannot make a Munchkin or a Flying Monkey that will not still suggest, however vaguely, a Singer's Midget in a Jack Dawn masquerade. Nor can they, without a few betraying jolts and split-screen overlappings, bring down from the sky the great soap bubble in which the Good Witch rides and roll it smoothly into place." According to Nugent, "Judy Garland's Dorothy is a pert and fresh-faced miss with the wonder-lit eyes of a believer in fairy tales, but the Baum fantasy is at its best when the Scarecrow, the Woodman, and the Lion are on the move". The Wizard of Oz won 2 academy awards and was nominated for four others.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): 'PG' Rating, 94% Tomatometer Rating
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is no ordinary archeologist. When we first see him, he is somewhere in the Peruvian jungle in 1936, running a booby-trapped gauntlet (complete with an over-sized rolling boulder) to fetch a solid-gold idol. He loses this artifact to his chief rival, a French archeologist named Belloq (Paul Freeman), who then prepares to kill our hero. In the first of many serial-like escapes, Indy eludes Belloq by hopping into a convenient plane. So, then: is Indiana Jones afraid of anything? Yes, snakes. The next time we see Jones, he's a soft-spoken, bespectacled professor. He is then summoned from his ivy-covered environs by Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) to find the long-lost Ark of the Covenant. The Nazis, it seems, are already searching for the Ark, which the mystical-minded Hitler hopes to use to make his stormtroopers invincible. But to find the Ark, Indy must first secure a medallion kept under the protection of Indy's old friend Abner Ravenwood, whose daughter, Marion (Karen Allen), evidently has a "history" with Jones. Whatever their personal differences, Indy and Marion become partners in one action-packed adventure after another, ranging from wandering the snake pits of the Well of Souls to surviving the pyrotechnic unearthing of the sacred Ark. A joint project of Hollywood prodigies George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, with a script co-written by Lawrence Kasdan and Philip Kaufman, among others, Raiders of the Lost Ark is not so much a movie as a 115-minute thrill ride. Costing 22 million dollars (nearly three times the original estimate), Raiders of the Lost Ark reaped 200 million dollars during its first run. It was followed by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1985) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), as well as a short-lived TV-series "prequel." It won 5 academy awards, including a special achievement award for Sound Effects Editing, and it was nominated for four others. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The African Queen (1951): 'PG' Rating, 100% Tomatometer Rating
After years of wooing director John Huston via good reviews, film critic James Agee was given a chance to write the screenplay for a Huston picture. Adapted from a novel by C.S. Forester, The African Queen stars Humphrey Bogart in his Oscar-winning portrayal of Charlie Allnut, the slovenly, gin-swilling captain of a tramp steamer called the African Queen, which ships supplies to small East African villages during World War I. Katharine Hepburn plays Rose Sayer, the maiden-lady sister of a prim British missionary, Rev. Samuel Sayer (Robert Morley). When Germans invade and Samuel dies, Allnut offers to take Rose back to civilization. She can't tolerate his drinking or bad manners; he isn't crazy about her imperious, judgmental attitude. However it does not take long before their passionate dislike turns to love. Together the disparate duo work to ensure their survival on the treacherous waters and devise an ingenious way to destroy a German gunboat. The African Queen may well be the perfect adventure film, its roller-coaster storyline complemented by the chemistry between its stars. The profound difficulties inherent in filming on location in Africa have been superbly documented by several books, including one written by Katharine Hepburn. Screenwriter Peter Viertel (who worked, on an uncredited basis, on the script of this film - assisting with some of the dialogue) incorporated some of the African Queen anecdotes in his roman a clef about a Huston-like director/adventurer, White Hunter, Black Heart. It won 1 academy award and was nominated for three others.
Interrupted Melody (1955): 'Passed' Rating, No Tomatometer Rating- With a special introduction by Glenn Ford biographer, Peter Ford
Eleanor Parker stars in this fact-based biography of Marjorie Lawrence, a famed opera singer who discovers she has polio. After falling in love with her physician, Dr. Thomas King (Glenn Ford), they marry, and despite her ailment, Lawrence battles to appear one final time at the New York Metropolitan Opera. According to Eleanor Parker, the filmmakers could not use Marjorie Lawrence's voice because she had lost her upper register. The singing was done by Eileen Farrell, who plays a small part in the film. Glenn Ford would only appear in the film if he got top billing. Parker says "I wanted to do what was right for the picture so I said let him have the top billing. Glenn was a kind of a difficult man, but he was right for the picture and a very fine actor." it won 1 academy award and was nominated for two others.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969): 'PG' Rating, 89% Tomatometer Rating
Opening with a silent "movie" of Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang, George Roy Hill's comically elegiac Western chronicles the mostly true tale of the outlaws' last months. Witty pals Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) join the Gang in successfully robbing yet another train with their trademark non-lethal style. After the pair rests at the home of Sundance's schoolmarm girlfriend, Etta (Katharine Ross), the Gang robs the same train, but this time, the railroad boss has hired the best trackers in the business to foil the crime. After being tailed over rocks and a river gorge by guys that they can barely identify save for a white hat, Butch and Sundance decide that maybe it's time to try their luck in Bolivia. Taking Etta with them, they live high on ill-gotten Bolivian gains, but Etta leaves after their white-hatted nemesis portentously arrives. Their luck running out, Butch and Sundance are soon holed up in a barn surrounded by scores of Bolivian soldiers who are waiting for the pair to make one last run for it. It won 4 academy awards and was nominated for 3 others. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
- Sunday, October 8th -
The Sound of Music Sing-A-Long Version (1965): 'G' Rating, 86% Tomatometer Rating
One of the most popular movie musicals of all time, The Sound of Music is based on the true story of the Trapp Family Singers. Julie Andrews stars as Maria, a young nun in an Austrian convent who regularly misses her morning prayers because she enjoys going to the hills to sing the title song. Deciding that Maria needs to learn something about the real world before she can take her vows, the Mother Superior (Peggy Wood) sends her off to be governess for the children of the widowed Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). Arriving at the Trapp home, Maria discovers that her new boss is cold and aloof, and his seven children virtual automatons-at least, whenever the Captain is around. Otherwise, the kids are holy terrors, as evidenced by the fact that Maria is the latest in a long line of governesses. But Maria soon ingratiates herself with the children, especially oldest daughter Liesl (Charmian Carr), who is in love with teenaged messenger boy Rolf. As Maria herself begins to fall in love with the Captain, she rushes back to the Abbey so as not to complicate his impending marriage to a glamorous baroness (Eleanor Parker). But the children insist that Maria return, the Baroness steps out of the picture, and Maria and the Captain confirm their love in the song "Something Good." Unhappily, they return home from their honeymoon shortly after the Nazis march into Austria. Already, swastikas have been hung on the Von Trapp ancestral home, and Liesl's boyfriend Rolf has been indoctrinated in the "glories" of the Third Reich. The biggest blow occurs when Von Trapp is called back to active duty in the service of the Fuhrer. The Captain wants nothing to do with Nazism, and he begins making plans to take himself and his family out of Austria. It won 5 academy awards and was nominated for five others. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
West Side Story (1961): 'PG' Rating, 94% Tomatometer Rating
This romantic musical update of 'Romeo and Juliet' won ten Oscars. The tale of a turf war between rival teenage gangs in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen and the two lovers who cross battle lines has captivated audiences for four decades. The Stephen Sondheim/Leonard Bernstein score is just one of the reasons. The story is set in the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City in the mid-1950s, an ethnic, blue-collar neighborhood (in the early 1960s much of the neighborhood would be cleared in an urban renewal project for the Lincoln Center, changing the neighborhood's character. The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks, from Puerto Rico, are taunted by the Jets, a white gang. The young protagonist, Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theatre. Bernstein's score for the musical includes "Something's Coming", "Maria", "America", "Somewhere", "Tonight", "Jet Song", "I Feel Pretty", "A Boy Like That", "One Hand, One Heart", "Gee, Officer Krupke", and "Cool". The film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won ten, including George Chakris for Supporting Actor, Rita Moreno for Supporting Actress and Best Picture.
The Tomatometer Rating – based on the published opinions of hundreds of film and television critics – is a trusted measurement of movie and TV programming quality for millions of moviegoers. It represents the percentage of professional critic reviews that are positive for a given film.