MY THIRTY FAVOURITE MOVIES
I just finished watching one of my all-time favorite movies on Netflix, The World’s Fastest Indian. Sir Anthony Hopkins gives a marvellous performance as Burt Munro, a 67-year-old Kiwi from Invercargill, New Zealand, who broke the speed record for his class of motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in 1967; the record still stands. Hopkins is best known for The Silence of the Lambs but I like Indian the best.
It’s time to list my top thirty movies. Not all of them won Oscars and not all made it into the big cinemas. Elva and I have been avid patrons of City Cinema for as long as it’s been in operation, and we’ve seen many excellent movies there that would not have made a nickel for Empire Theatres. Whittling down all of the excellent movies I’ve seen over the years to make a top-thirty list is not easy.
I had to include a movie directed by the Coen brothers, those masters of ironic comedy. My favorite is O’ Brother Where Art Thou with George Clooney.
When it comes to low-budget independent movies, the list includes The Straight Story and Amal. The Straight Story is about a man, played by Richard Farnsworth, who must travel to see his dying brother on a lawn tractor because a visual impairment prevents him from obtaining a driver’s license. Amal is a touching love story of a poor auto-rickshaw driver, Amal Kumar, and the young beauty he hopes to marry. It’s set in crowded, chaotic New Delhi.
The Rocket falls into this category as well, starring the intense Roy Dupuis as Maurice “The Rocket” Richard. It offers as good an explanation of Québec’s Révolution tranquille as I’ve seen anywhere. Then there’s Les Intouchables, the story of a down-and-out African immigrant who finds his calling as caregiver for a wealthy French quadriplegic.
I chose the Deer Hunter because it’s one of the first big-budget movies to question America’s participation in the Vietnam War, and because of Robert De Niro’s Oscar-winning performance (Meryl Streep played his girlfriend). Good Morning, Vietnam is on the list because of Robin Williams, and also because of the way it deals with the Americans’ failed war effort.
Deliverance is the first movie I saw that deals with sodomy, including overtones of incest, as well as how easy it is for a group of good ole’ boys to get themselves into a heap of trouble. By the way, Burt Reynolds is damn good in this movie, and the tune Dueling Banjos must be both seen and heard to be appreciated fully.
The first Australian movie I saw was The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It’s on my list because of the way it employs humour to deal with the then-sensitive subject of trans-sexuality. Other Australian films that impressed me are Rabbit-Proof Fence and Muriel’s Wedding, the latter featuring Toni Collette.
Dustin Hoffman’s Rainman ranks as one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by an actor, and Tom Cruise doesn’t do too bad a job either as his brother.
I love it when Clint Eastwood spits tobacco juice on the dog in The Outlaw Josey Wales. Caught in flagrante delicto with a much younger woman, Chief Dan George is priceless peeking out from under their shared blanket. If I had a top-one-hundred list, it would include several more of Eastwood’s; at least The Unforgiven and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
One of the most powerful movies I’ve seen is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Jack Nicholson didn’t win an Oscar for his role as Randall Patrick McMurphy – Louise Fletcher did as Nurse Ratched – but he was amazing. So was the Chief, played by Will Sampson. Nicholson’s obsessive-compulsive character in As Good As it Gets did win him a much-deserved Oscar.
Meryl Streep can pull off any role. I had a hard time narrowing down all of her great movies to two: The Devil Wears Prada and Hope Springs. I also love Julia Roberts’ movies; she gives an amazing performance in Erin Brockovich.
I had to include a James Bond movie, and the newest one is the best in my view. There have been many good 007s over the years (and some awful ones), but no character has impressed me more than M, played by the incomparable Dame Judi Dench. Too bad Skyfall will be her last.
Few consider Sylvester Stallone to be a serious actor, but I loved his first Rocky. He wrote and starred in the movie, made on a shoestring in 28 days. It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1976.
To Sir, with Love is an old movie; 1967 vintage. It starred Sidney Poitier and was the first movie I saw with a black actor in a lead role. The Cider House Rules is on the list because I love John Irving’s novels. This movie adaptation is over-the-top, thanks to a superb performance by Michael Caine.
I’ve seen many biopics over the years; the Iron Lady and Walk the Line are among my favourites. But the one I liked best was Ray, with Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. The music score is incredible.
I chose The Shawshank Redemption for one reason: Morgan Freeman. I also loved him in The Bucket List and Seven. I’ve included Invictus because of Freeman and an incredible performance by Matt Damon.
The Godfather is my favorite Marlon Brando movie, although I loved his character in The Missouri Breaks. I’m not attracted to movies about the Holocaust, but Life is Beautiful is the exception to this rule; Roberto Begnini is incredible as the director and lead actor.
Al Pacino gives a command performance as a blind man in Scent of a Woman. The Dirty Dozen features an all-star cast, including some of my old favorites: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, George Kennedy and Canadian Donald Sutherland.
I chose M*A*S*H because it was one of the first movies I watched as a young university student, and it left quite an impression on a teenager who’d led a sheltered life until then. My Left Foot with Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve seen in a movie. It’s the true story of an Irish boy afflicted with cerebral palsy who learned to write with his left foot and became a famous author.
Here’s my list!
1. The World’s Fastest Indian
2. O’ Brother Where Art Thou
4. The Straight Story
5. The Rocket
6. Les Intouchables
7. The Deer Hunter
8. Good Morning, Vietnam
10. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
12. The Outlaw Josey Wales
13. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
14. As Good As it Gets
15. The Devil Wears Prada
16. Hope Springs
17. Erin Brockovich
20. To Sir, with Love
21. The Cider House Rules
23. The Shawshank Redemption
25. The Godfather
26. Life is Beautiful
27. Scent of a Woman
28. The Dirty Dozen
30. My Left Foot