What do you like in a movie? I probably like the same things you do in a movie, with a slant.

Virtually all movies have the same premise. They mainly consist, in varying degrees, of 3 items:

  • Humor,
  • love affairs,
  • and bad guys.
The love affair always must overcome some obstacle. The bad guy can come in any form, from an obnoxious neighbor to a political tyrant.

Pure humor movies are probably the most enjoyed, but laughter does not stick with you. There must be a deeper meaning to the movie to be appreciated long after you leave the theater.

That said, I most appreciate movies that have the 3 items slanted toward my interests . I like subtle humor and passionate love stories. My disdain for injustice leads me to prefer overcoming institutional bad guys, instead of mere petty thieves or ogres . Institutions can be governments, religions, or social dogmas. Great one-liners (in italics below) revealing universal truths get extra credit.

Only 3 (*) from my top 25 list made the American Film Institute Top 100. Movies with Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Wood, Meryl Streep (once in a very minor role) and Peter Sellers made my list twice.

My Top 25 Movies of All Time.

25 Brief Encounter (1945)The pressure of convention pulling a relationship apart.
24 Like Water for Chocolate (1993)Deliciously funny. True love suppressed by religious dogma cannot be contained forever.
23 Cool Hand Luke (1967)Paul Newman. All human suffering summed up in one line: What we have here, is a failure to communicate.
22 Little Big Man(1970)Dustin Hoffman torn between two worlds.
21 The Graduate (1967)*Dustin Hoffman. Family tyranny.
20 An Affair to Remember (1957)What we have here, is a failure to communicate.
19 Born on the Fourth of July (1989)Any teenage male of the 60s can identify with this movie. Most personally emotional movie I ever experienced.
18The Deer Hunter (1978)Disastrous effects of Viet Nam war on the people of a small Pennsylvania town.
17 Enemy at the Gate (2003)Intense WWII attack on Stalingrad. Dedicated communist journalist in triangle love affair has the epiphany that there will always be envy, that pure social equality can never exist.
16 Gods and Generals (2003)Civil war depiction of Stonewall Jackson. How the delusions of one man can be disastrous for thousands.
15 Long Hot Summer (1958)Paul Newman and JoAnne Woodward burn for each other until Newman is unjustly accused of burning a barn.
14 Babettes Feast (1988)Lucious. The inspiration of one woman can be uplifting for many.
13 Being There (1979)Peter Sellers proves anyone can be president as long as he is white
12 The Gods Must Be Crazy (I and II) (1980)Hilarious expose of the folly of modern thinking.
11 The Big Chill (1983)Try to go a week without a rationalization.
10 Picnic (1955)Holden and Novak. Almost too much.
9 The Fountainhead (1949)Look at history. Everything we have, every achievement has come from the independent work of some independent mind. Every horror and destruction cam from attempts to force men into a horde of brainless, souless robots without personal rights, without personal ambition, without will and hope or dignity.
8West Side Story (1961)Modern day Romeo and Juliet with the addition of Leonard Bernstein.
7 Splendor in the Grass (1961)Intense passion and tyrannical control by Natalie Wood's passive aggressive mother, and Warren Beatty's overbearing father.
6 Manhattan (1979)Woody Allen ascends as a comic genius. That's one of my problems. I dont get angry, I grow a tumor instead.
5 Dr. Zhivago (1965)One devastating institution replaced by another.
4 Yanks (1979)Richerd Gere and Lisa Eichorn overcoming international destiny.
3 Casablanca (1942)*The problems of 3 little people don't make a difference.
2 Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)*Peter Sellers is the president, and doomsday is near. The arms race is over, but the tunnel race has just begun, if, of course, you are among the Washington chosen. For the rest of us, its Slim Pickens.
1 Life is Beautiful (1998)But Buddha said that life is suffering, which is it? It is both, and this movie has everything. Humor, deepest love, and the human spirit overcoming the ultimate tyranny.