24 Frames: 3rd Annual 10 Best Classic Films Watched…For The First Time

 Welcome to the third annual Twenty Four Frames Top Ten List of Classic Films Watched… For The First Time. In 2012, more than ever the list turned out to have an international flavor with only three films from the U.S. making the top 10. Three films from Italy also made the list as well as two from Great Britain and one each from Japan and France. The decade of the 1960’s had the most films with three. Both the 1940’s and 1950’s had two films each. The 1980’s was the most recent decade  and the 1910’s was the earliest. There are 10 honorable mentions all of which are worthy works in and of themselves and deserve to be seen. For easy access, I have provided a link to all the films watched in 2012.

A Matter of Life and Death  (1946) Michael Powell

Matter of Life and Death

Beautifully photographed (thanks to Jack Cardiff), innovative, thought provoking. emotionally moving masterpiece from Michael Powell and Michael Pressburger collectively known as The Archers.  The film is filled with drama, humor, empathy and David Niven gives one of his best performances as the pilot who cheats death.

                A Night to Remember  (1953) Roy Ward Baker

Night to Remember

The finest film to be made on the Titanic disaster. The film brilliantly recreates the events, the class distinction prevalent in Britain at the time. Historically accurate, meticulously filmed with terrific special effects for its time. Screenplay by famed author Eric Amber.

The Heiress (1949) William Wyler

The Heiress

Fabulous stunning performances from Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift. de Havilland’s character, at first shy and quiet turn into her father… cold with no heart. Not that Clift’s character doesn’t get what he deserves. Ralph Richardson as the father also deserves mention. Wyler’s direction moves the film at a nice pace and the art direction is superb. Remarkable recreation of Washington Square circa 1850′s.

Gloria (1980) John Cassavetes


Former gun moll helps a young Puerto Rican kid whose family is killed when the father, an accountant for the mob, was going to squeal to the police. Gena Rowlands is excellent as the former mistress/whore of a big time hood. The young kid is a bit to “grown up” to be believable but Rowlands, a good soundtrack from Bill Conti and some nice camera work from John Cassavetes captures the seedy feel of 1980’s New York make this a treat.

Mr. Klein (1976) Joseph Losey 


Fascinating study from film director Joseph Losey. This neglected work, a complex study of bigotry and paranoia, is a nightmarish journey with shades of Hitchcockian elements and more. Extraordinary performance from Alain Delon. A film that deserves more attention!

Nights of Cabiria (1957) Federico Fellini


Exquisite performance by Giulietta Masina in a beautiful film. One of the greatest, most striking and unique endings in all of cinema. Fellini took what could have been a cliché ending and turned it into a remarkable original touching moment; the silence, the one streak of mascara, her smile, all just perfect.

The Organizer (1964) Mario Monicelli

The organzier

Superb look at class struggle, exploited textile workers fighting for better conditions in the workplace before unions. Decent pay and working conditions were  not just bestowed upon the working man because of kind caring corporations. They were fought for long and hard by unions. Something too many people forget about today. The film’s final scene is a heartbreaker. A must see!

Seduced and Abandoned (1964) Pietro Germi

Seduced and Abandoned

A dark satirical tale of old world Sicilian honor where the whore/madonna complex is the curse of every woman and murder and kidnapping are traditional reactions to protecting family respect. Director Pietro Germi and his writers skewer the world of Italian double standards in marriage, family values  and religion.

Sunrise (1927) F. W. Murnau


A masterpiece of silent cinema. Director F.W. Murnau created a story profoundly human yet so technically advanced  with exquisite cinematography,  way ahead of its time; superimposed shots, tracking shots and lighting all add to this visual gem. The film contains its fair share of humor, poignancy,  suspense and melodrama. Just  brilliant.

Yojimbo (1961)  Akira Kurosawa


Tightly constructed, well edited, visually stunning  Kurosawa masterpiece. The westerns of John Ford, which are said to have been an influence, are clearly evident. A great film to introduce someone to Japanese cinema.


The Sand Pebbles (1965) Robert Wise

A Double Life (1947) George Cukor

Eyes Without a Face (1960) Georges Franju

Woman of the Year (1942) George Stevens

Hail, The Conquering Hero (1944) Preston Sturges

The Fireman’s Ball (1967) Milos Forman

A Dog’s Life (1918) Charles Chaplin

Patterns (1956) Fieldler Cook

Stage Door (1937) Gregory La Cava

29 comments on “24 Frames: 3rd Annual 10 Best Classic Films Watched…For The First Time

  1. Jon says:

    John, this is a fun post and glad to see your list again this year. Alot of us are doing this sort of thing and I really like it. I just posted my top 10 this week too. You and I saw some similar films for the first time! Seduced and Abandoned is on mine. The Heiress just barely missed my cut. I also watched A Night to Remember for the first time and really liked it. A Matter of Life and Death is one of P&P’s best works. Gloria and Mr. Klein look really good and I have never seen those. Will have to find them.


    • John Greco says:

      Hey Jon! I will definitely stop by your place and check out your list. Glad to see we are in synch with some of the films.


  2. lassothemovies says:

    You have some really great movies here. I saw four of these films for the first time in 2012. Sunrise completely overwhelmed me, and I have watched it three more times already. There are a couple of movies on your list that I have yet to see… but I will check them out soon!


  3. R. D. Finch says:

    John, it sounds like you had a great year of film watching. There are so many wonderful films on your list (I’ve seen a lot of them but not all) that it would be impossible to comment on all of them. A couple you mentioned, though, caught my attention. I certainly agree that “Yojimbo” is a great way to introduce newcomers to Japanese cinema, and I think the same could be said of “Sunset” in relation to silent movies (the dramatic variety, that is). “Mr. Klein” is one I saw for the first time myself last year and found its Kafka-like ruminations on identity intellectually intriguing. Another I too saw for the first time last year was “A Dog’s Life.” It was interesting to see how Chaplin took what was basically a vaudeville routine and by breaking it down into separate shots and changing point of view turned it into something entirely cinematic. It seemed to be some kind of advance in his concept of filmmaking. Lots of other great movies mentioned here. I’m still trying to locate a copy of “The Organizer” after reading your earlier review of it, and I’ve got “A Double Life,” which I haven’t seen in many years, in my DVD queue.


  4. Page says:

    Glad you did your list! I adore David Niven so your first choice, I was off to the races with a big ol smile. I also agree that A Night to Remember is the BEST film every made on the Titanic. (Sorry Cameron) ANTR proves you don’t need a multi million dollar budget, all of the special effects, CGI you can dream up to tell a story. Oh, and you don’t need 3 hrs either. ha ha

    The only film on your list that I’m not crazy about is The Heiress although I know it’s very popular with many classic film buffs. As much as I adore Power, I was a bit bored and at times it was tedious.

    Thanks for mentioning A Dog’s Life in your honorable mentions. A great choice!

    I wanted to ask you if you’ve seen the BBC series, Sherlock by chance? It is rich in content and cast brilliantly. I didn’t think I would like the modern day version but boy is it fantastic. Only 3 episodes a season but they are glorious.

    All the best to you in 2013. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us this year.


    • John Greco says:

      Hi Page,

      I think you mean Monty Cift in THE HEIRESS??? Yeah, the Cameron film TITANIC is overblown and definitely does not hold up upon second viewing except as a love story.

      Unfortunately, I have not seen SHERLOCK but have read and heard good things about it. Hopefully, I will catch up with it.

      A Happy and healthy New Years to you too!!!


      • Page says:

        Oh dear! ha ha I was thinking about Shearer and Marie Antoinette, how much I liked it vs how much I dislike The Heiress. (So sorry, Monty C.)

        I forgot to say that I took a friend to see Titanic in 3D over the summer, realizing once we arrived that he had never seen it. I must be a great friend to sit through it on the big screen twice. I looked over at the end and my friend who never shows emotion, was in tears. (I’m glad it moved someone) Perhaps I’ll find A Night to Remember and screen it for him some night.

        Sherlock will be airing on Masterpiece in May here. Hopefully they’ll re-air S1 with it.

        Have a great weekend!


      • John Greco says:

        You are a good friend, indeed! Thanks for the info on SHERLOCK, I will keep an eye out for it. You have a great weekend too!


      • ashley wales says:

        Hi John good to see the Heiress in your list, i remember the first time i saw this on TV and the shock i felt at the end as i sat with tears rolling down my face at Olivia de Havillands transformation at the hands of her father and suiter, even knowing Monty is a gold digger i still felt sorry for him, still brings a tear to my eye now as i explained the plot to my daughter. Also mention should be made of Aaron Coplands magnificent score one of his finest which never seems to get a mention when discussing his film scores. Iv’e never seen the organizer so will try and hunt that down.
        Regards Ash


      • John Greco says:

        Hi Ashley,

        Copland’s music is a definite assess to the film. Both de Havilland and Clift are superb and I agree her transformation is wonderful. Can’t say I felt sorry for Monty, but he’s an actor I always admire. Cannot believe it took me this long to finally catch up with this film.


  5. The Lady Eve says:

    Wonderful selections from a banner year of first-time films, John. I’d not heard of “A Matter of Life and Death” ’til I noticed it available on a British Airways flight a few years ago & have watched it a few times since. The Archers rarely missed. Nor did Fellini, and “Nights of Cabiria,” highlighted by Giulietta Masina’s performance, may be my favorite of his films. I still haven’t seen “Mr. Klein” and you remind me that it’s high time I did.

    Also glad to see that “A Double Life” and “Hail, the Conquering Hero” garnered honorable mentions. And I completely agree about the kid in “Gloria” – I thought he detracted from the film overall.


    • John Greco says:


      Giulietta Masina’s performance in NIGHTS OF CABIRIA has to rank as one of my favorite performanaces by an actress ever, extremely moving. I agree with you on The Archers. I have yet to see a film of theirs that I did not like.


  6. ClassicBecky says:

    Hi John – excellent list, very diverse. I think “Gloria” was one of the finest performances by any woman ever — Gena Rowlands was hypnotizing to me. I particularly like the scene on the street where her mob friends follow Gloria and the little boy, when she shoots to kill and protect the child. She plays that final decision and break with her mob with a stance and expression that just stuck with me.

    The Heiress — well, who could top that ending?!! Fabulous. Great stuff all around.

    I’m sure glad you included “A Double Life” in your mentions. Ronald Colman was superb in that movie.


    • John Greco says:

      Rowlands blows you away in this film. Like you say, she’s hypnotizing, you just cannot take your eyes off her. Thanks. Glad you like the list!


  7. Jnpickens says:

    “A Matter of Life and Death” is wonderful and underrated! I think it’s my favorite Michael Powell film-just a totally different topic. I also like “A Night to Remember” because we see the technical side of the Titanic sinking rather than the mushy romance fiction.


    • John Greco says:

      Hi Jessica! As I mentioned to Page earlier, I don’t think Cameron’s TITANIC holds up very well. Overblown and yes, it’s more of a “mushy love story!”

      Wonderful to have you stop by!


  8. Rick says:

    John, awesome list and a great idea for a post. I’m an admirer of several of the films you covered (especially A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, NIGHTS OF CABIRIA,and YOJIMBO (which Leone remade as A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS). i probably would have listed PATTERNS in place of THE HEIRESS. Everett Sloane is sensational in the former, a textbook film about business politics…and I love the ending.


    • John Greco says:

      Rick, There were some close calls on what made the top 10 and the HM list. I am abig admirer of Montgomery Clift and that certainly added a point or two to Wyler’s excellent film. I actually have a half written review of PATTERNS that has been hanging around unfinished since I first watched the fim. Someday, I will get around to finishing it and publishing it here. It’s realistic and gut wretching film. Anyone who has worked in an office, or anywhere, will relate to the office politics.


  9. Sam Juliano says:

    A towering list of screen masterpieces Jon, and in that sense an unforgettable year for you! THE HEIRESS, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, SUNRISE, EYES WITHOUT A FACE, FIREMEN’S BALL, A DOG’S LIFE all among the greatest films ever made, and the others within hailing distance! Can’t really argue a single admission, and as the months go forward I am sure you will further elaborate with some glorious assessments.

    Happy New Year to you and Dorothy my very good friend!


    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Sam! looking forward to another year of discoveries and near gems! Happy New Year to you, Lucille and the young ones!


  10. Judy says:

    A fabulous list here, John – I saw ‘The Heiress’ for the first time this year too, and loved it, and am also a big fan of ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ (one I’ve seen many times over the years, as it is always coming on television in the UK) and ‘Sunrise’. Also absolutely love Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn in ‘Stage Door’. Quite a few of those you have listed I haven’t seen, but do hope to catch up with in the future.


    • John Greco says:

      Thanks, as always Judy. The more Powell/Pressburger films I see, the more I like these guys. Still have a few to catch up with.


  11. Loved your list and I have seen most of the films you listed except for the French and Italian titles. I write a blog for our local newspaper, and decided that my Friday posts would be about classic movies. I was glad to see that you picked Hail the Conquering Hero as one of your honorable mentions as I just wrote a blog on it last Friday. I like a lot of Sturges’s work, but that one is my favorite, second place would be Miracle at Morgan’s Creek.


    • John Greco says:

      Hi Jenni,

      Welcome! I am a big admirer of Sturges. I love witty writing and he was an expert at it. I like MIRACLE AT MORGAN’S CREEK too, though my favorite Sturges films would be THE LADY EVE AND SULLIVAN’S TRAVEL’S.


  12. Very nice site John, I’ve made it a favourite.
    We share a taste for many of the same things in film… I’m writing up Lang’s Human Desire at the moment for my site, and I think you nailed it very well.

    keep up the great work.

    cheers from Down Under.
    Michael R


    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Robert and welcome! I have just been looking at your website and it looks great. Love some of the directors you have written up on, Scorsese, Lang, Dassin, Altman and so many others. I am going to link your site on my sidebar.


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