Here they are, the top 10 classic films watched for the first time in 2010. The list is truly an international one with five American, two French, one Italian, one Japanese and one German. Two of the films are silent works and two from the 1960’s, the most recent decade on the list. Anthony Mann was the only director to have more than one film in the top 10 (if you include the HM’s, Mann had three and Kurosawa had two). There are 15 honorable mentions all of which are worthy works in and of themselves and deserve to be seen. For easy access, I have provided links to the films on the list I have written about.
1 –High and Low (1963 – Akira Kurosawa) Based on American mystery writer Ed McBain’s novel, “King’s Ransom,” Kurosawa has created a brilliant vision of class distinction wrapped up in a unique combination of a morality play with a bit of Hitchcock tossed in.
2 – Metropolis The Restored Version – (1927 Fritz Lang) I have seen truncated versions of “Metropolis” before but this restored version with the recently discovered additional 25 minutes makes this the most complete version and nearest to Lang’s original vision.
3 –Make Way For Tomorrow – (1937 Leo McCarey) Unflinching, emotionally moving film about the elderly parents of five adults who have to move out of their home because they have failed on their mortgage payments. The children are selfish and uncaring; the parents victims of living too long. Beautifully directed by McCarey who paints a strong though sensitive portrait of old age. The last 20 minutes are poignant and the final shot of Beulah Bondi watching her husband leave knowing they will never see each other again is just unforgettable. Moving and great performances by all.
4 –The Man From Laramie ( Anthony Mann) – James Stewart gives another mesmeric performance as Will Lockhart, one more in the line of Anthony Mann’s obsessed cowboys on a revenge seeking mission. This was the final collaboration between Mann and James Stewart culminating a brilliant artistic partnership with one the finest westerns of all time.
5 – Pepe Le Moko (1937 Julien Duvivier) One of the great French crime films from the 1930’s with the magnifcent Jean Gabin as Pepe on the lam from both the law and from fellow gangsters. Safe while he hides in the Casbah he risks it all for the love of a woman. Crime, love and sleaze all combined into a poetic vision of doom. Filmed with stylistic themes that would become main stays in American film noir of the 1940’s.
6 – The Spiral Staircase (1945 Robert Siodmak) Taunt direction and eerie magnificent cinematography make this a most terrorizing film, perfect for a dark stormy evening.
7 – The Circus (1928 Charles Chaplin) Undeservedly not as well known as some of Chaplin’s other classic features but just as funny and poignant as the best.
8 – Le Doulos (1962 Jean Pierre Melville) One of the gems of French noir by one of the masters of the genre. The film is filled with allusions to Melville’s passionate love of American crime films. His characters act as if they came out of a 1930’s Warner Brothers gangster flick.
9 –I Vitelloni (1953 Federico Fellini) – Autobiographical in part, Fellini third film focuses on five young men whose life revolves around their tight friendship. Unemployed, womanizing, drinking, shunning any and all responsibility, Fellini gives us a superb slice of life at a transitional point in time in a country still recuperating from the war.
10 – Men in War (1957 Anthony Mann) Along with Sam Fuller’s “The Steel Helmet” and Robert Aldrich’s “Attack” this Anthony Mann film is one of the most unwavering works dealing with war. A stark, unflinching character driven film with Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray locked in their own personal conflict while in the mist of battle with the enemy. A film that at times is more reminiscent of the Vietnam War than the Korea conflict.
|Bigger Than Life||1956||Nick Ray|
|Casque d’or||1952||Jacques Becker|
|Classe Tous Risques||1960||Claude Sautete|
|Devil’s Doorway||1950||Anthony Mann|
|Diary of a Chambermaid||1964||Luis Bunnel|
|Four Days In November||1964||Mel Stuart|
|Hangover Square||1945||John Brahm|
|Il Posto||1961||Ermanno Ormi|
|Le Femme Infidele||1969||Claude Chabrol|
|Night Train to Munich||1940||Carol Reed|
|Stray Dog||1949||Akira Kurosawa|
|The Dead||1987||John Huston|
|The Mortal Storm||1940||Frank Borzage|
I have seen most, but not all of the films on your list, John…the one I haven’t seen that most intrigues me is Melville’s “Le Doulos”…I think it was in 2010 that I first saw his “Bob Le Flambeur” and became a fan. I really like your idea of top 10 classics you saw for the first time last year…& may have to copy you. Wonderful post…
Thanks Eve, and I would like to see your own list.
Eve, have you seen Melville’s “Army of Shadows?” If not, it is a must!
No, I haven’t…have just seen the one mentioned. Will have to take a start watching his other films. Thanks for the recommendation.
John, what a delight to see THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE and THE MAN FROM LARAMIE on your list. The latter garners very little attention (sidenote: my favorite of the Mann-Stewart Westerns is THE FAR COUNTRY). I have not seen Mann’s MEN IN WAR and will definitely add to my must-see list.
I have yet to get a hold of THE FAR COUNTRY yet, but look forward to watching it. Let me know what you think of MEN IN WAR, I would be interested in hearing. Thanks!!!
I don’t know how you do it, John. What a terrific list. I saw Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” recently. An astonishingly witty and original film that must have truly dislodged the opinions about movie-making held by anyone seeing it in its first release in this country. The statue of Christ being helicoptered over buildings where bikini-clad women wave cheerfully from the rooftops is pure genius, if I may deliberately misuse that word.
I have to watch LA DOLCE VITA again. Have not seen it in many years and you actually remind me that it is time to take another look. I do remember it being visually stunning. Thanks again!!!
“Make Way for Tomorrow” was a really heartwarming and touching film. I loved it. I almost think it was a current topic.
I don’t think people today really appreciate the elderly either and are always wanting current things and ideas.
Did you spot the woman with the cell phone in “The Circus”? 😉 just kidding 🙂
An extremely touching film I agree,and one I think many can relate too. The elderly unfortunately seem to get pushed aside. Didn’t see the cellphone but I did see the I Pad (LOL). Thanks!
Very interesting. I’ve seen about half (not HIGH and LOW, THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE or either of the Anthony Mann films). HIGH AND LOW has now leapt to the top of my to-see list.
There are still so many famous films I haven’t seen that I would like to from the 30s to 50s (I don’t mean between my 30s and 50s!)
It’s rare that I see James Stewart’s acting praised thus (“mesmeric”) and I’m glad you do it here John.
Happy New Year.
Thanks Stephen! HIGH AND LOW and THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE are must sees as are the Mann films. I am glad to see HIGH AND LOW make the big leap!
Happy New Year to you too!
I must tell you with all honesty and conviction that this “list” is far better and more meaningful than any ten-bets list of any year’s best films, as it’s gloriously celebratory of cinema’s richest moments as well as being a fitting testament to the magic of discovery. Are there great films on this list? Masterpieces, one after the other! So many of these (MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW, THE CIRCUS, THE MAN FROM LARAMIE, I VITTELONI, METROPOLIS)are among the greatest films the cinema has ever produced, so you no doubt experienced epiphany after epiphany! I am of course of the opinion that THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE is a very great film as well, as I am delighted you have boosted this brooding Gothic thriller to the list! I can see that commanding matriarch Ethel Barrymore standing at the top of the stairs. Of course your runner up list contains a plethora of exceptional works, which would one and all reward enrichments on repeat viewing.
I know you’ve had one of your greatest cinematic years in 2010 John, and an encore won’t be easy. But TWENTY FOUR FRAMES has already been ushered in with exceeding cinematic grandeur!
Many of the films I “discovered” this past year are due to the blogging community, that includes bloggers like yourself and others, as well as the many folks who leave comments here.In many cases I would not have ventured out in search of some of these films were it not for the input and recommendations. Thanks to you and everyone.
I failed to mention your #10, Anthony Mann’s MEN IN WAR, which I saw at the festival. One of the greatest of all anti-War films!
For me, Mann’s status as a filmmaker has risen dramatically this past year as I have revisted many of his films and discovered a few new ones.
[…] John Greco gives the ‘ten best’ treatment a most interesting take with his survey of classic films seen in 2010: https://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/24-frames-10-best-classic-films-watched-in-2010-for… […]
A fantastic list, John – I also saw the restored version of ‘Metropolis’ at the cinema in 2010 and think that would be near the top of the list for me too. I am not such a big fan of ‘Make Way for Tomorrow’ as you and Sam are, but very glad to have seen it – I also have ‘The Spiral Staircase’ recorded and am looking forward to it, after thoroughly admiring Ethel Barrymore’s performance in ‘None But the Lonely Heart’. Most of the others I still need to see, and will be referring back!
Thanks Judy. THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE is a terrific thriller, one I think you will enjoy. I apoligize for the late response. This somehow slipped by me.