It’s that time of year when film critics award their favorite movies, actors and directors. Those that get nominated or actually win the awards usually get a bump in interest from fans who become curious about why they were chosen. Nonetheless, those winners are not always the ones that become favorites for all time. Taste in movies is quite personal. One person’s list of the best of the best might be totally different from that of another individual. Critics may rave over a particular flick that has no interest for the vast majority of people.
Just as with books, we each choose different types of movies based on our experiences and interests. We are touched by particular stories or performances because they somehow speak to us. Often there is no telling how the general public will respond to a film until it has seasoned over time. Sometimes a movie becomes more significant and beloved as it develops a relevant message or demonstrates its capacity to makes us think or smile or cry. A good production speaks to some part of our minds or hearts in ways that only become better and more meaningful with time.
I remember reading a review of A Christmas Story when it premiered years ago. The critics savaged it, asking why anyone would want to submit their children to a viewing of fighting, bullying, foul language, guns and a creepy Santa Claus. I purposely avoided going to see the film because it sounded like a third rate production that would eventually end up on the dung heap of failed efforts to entertain. It was years after it premiered when I just happened to watch it and instantly fell in love with its wonderful impressions of Christmas from the eyes of a young boy of another time. It was almost poetic in taking me back to my own youth and reminding me of my own Christmases of long ago. Apparently many others found a connection to Ralphie and his family as well because it is a classic shown in homes alongside It’s A Wonderful Life every Christmas season. Evan Hallmark designs ornaments inspired by the leg lamp and Ralphie’s house.
Whenever someone asks people to name their favorite movies it becomes apparent that award winning films do not always remain picks over time. I don’t think that I have ever seen a single vote for Shakespeare In Love and yet it won the best picture nod years ago. In fact, I always get a kick out of noting how beloved many films that did not win or were not even nominated become national treasures.
The Wizard of Oz is a mainstay in American film and yet it did not win a best picture award along with brilliant movies like Pulp Fiction and even the another Christmas classic, It’s a Wonder Life. On the other hand there have been highly touted films that most of us think of as clunkers like Birdman or The Artist. Who among us would choose American Beauty over Sixth Sense, and yet that is exactly what happened at the Academy Awards in 1999.
I much prefer hearing what ordinary people like to watch. Friends and family members have guided me to some of my favorite films ever. The list of great ones is long and worthy of repeat viewings over the years. Surprisingly one of the most oft mentioned favorites is The Princess Bride, a classic from the eighties that seems to age like a fine wine. Likewise The Shawshank Redemption is often named as a perfect movie by viewers, but even with a number of nominations it went home empty handed on Oscar night.
My own picks are quite eclectic. My favorite film from last year was Belfast which only won honors for best original screenplay. I’ve generally differed from the critics in my votes for the best in most years, but now and again I’ve seen something or someone in a movie that was a breakout for everyone. I still find Denzel Washington’s acting in Glory to be one of the most extraordinary efforts in movie history. For his talent he won the best supporting actor Oscar and only grew in his craft over time.
The movie Philadelphia was a game changer for me. It not only demonstrated Tom Hanks’ versatility as an actor, but it also awakened me to the struggles of the LGBTQ community. Other films have stuck in my mind for decades after viewing them like Judgement at Nuremberg and Schindler’s List. On the lighter side I love all of the Harry Potter movies and could watch Under the Tuscan Sun over and over again.
So, in no particular order these are movies that I often recommend. They touched my heart or my mind and stayed with me long after I viewed them. Perhaps you may enjoy them as well:
Philadelphia, Zulu, Good Will Hunting, Under the Tuscan Sun, Rear Window, The Hundred Foot Journey, North by Northwest, Glory, Terms of Endearment, Belfast, Inception, the Harry Potter movies, Interstellar, The Lord of the Rings movies, American History X, all of The Godfather movies, The Usual Suspects, Apocalypse Now, Alien, The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, Field of Dreams, Inglorious Bastards, To Kill a Mockingbird, Amadeus, The Princess Bride, Full Metal Jacket, Schindler’s List ,The Elephant Man, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dial M for Murder, Lawrence of Arabia, Gandhi, Judgement at Nuremberg, The Wizard of Oz, Vertigo, Psycho, The Dark Knight, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Gosford Park, Chinatown, The Crucible, Silence of the Lambs, Unforgiven, Singin In the Rain, Misery, Dr. Strangelove, Pulp Fiction, A Streetcar Named Desire ,The Rainmaker, Gangs of New York ,A River Runs Through It, Platoon, O Brother Where Art Thou, High Noon, Fargo, The Pianist, Glengarry Glen Ross.
If you’ve missed any of these you might want to check them out. I’d love to hear of favorites of your as well.