With the recent passing of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, the list of movie stars living from the classic era continues to dwindle. Fortunately, for those of us left behind we’ll always have them all to enjoy and remember on TCM and other venues for classic film. On a brighter note, Kirk Douglas recently celebrated his 100th birthday in December and we wish him many more.
This years list, like always, is a mix though in 2016 I was light on foreign films. Subsequently, only two made the list, one from Italy and one from France. Also making the list were two documentaries and one made for TV film. If there is any sort of theme or link to this year’s group, it’s war, the Vietnam War to be more specific. This was not a conscience act on my part, though as a veteran of Vietnam, I have always had a strong interest in films about that era. Anyway, as you will see, three of the films in the top 10 are linked to the Vietnam War and there is one additional Vietnam themed film in the runner-up category.
If you are curious about the previous entries in this series just click on the link below.
I also included a ten honorable mentions. The films, as always, are in alphabetically order.
Amore is Roberto Rossellini’s two short film tribute to the great Anna Magnani. The first film, The Human Voice, based on a story by Jean Cocteau, focuses on a woman trying to locate her husband. She spends most of the film talking to him on film. While it may not sound like a great premise, watching Ms. Magnani is fascinating. The second film, and the better known, is The Miracle which co-stars Federico Fellini. It faced censorship problems when it arrived in New York City due to its controversial subject matter. Whatever the story, Rossellini’s focus is on the great Magnani.
With its visually jazzy rhythmic style, Jean-Luc Godard’s tribute to Bogart and the American gangster film changed filmmaking forever. While much of what Godard did way back then has been absorbed into today’s cinema, it has not lost any of its shine or importance. How I missed seeing this film for so long is beyond even my own comprehension.
A Stolen Life (1946)
The storyline is hard to swallow, but with Bette Davis in a dual role of sisters, its worth watching. The film focuses on twin sisters with completely different personalities. One is an artist and an introvert, the other is more outgoing and sexy. Of course, there is a man in the middle. In this case it’s Glenn Ford. Davis and the New England setting make it worth watching.
Casualties of War (1989)
Casualties of War is not so much a war film as it is a film about morality and moral decisions. In war, morality gets cloudy and one can forget what the purpose of it all is. This is true about every war, but I believe it was especially true about the Vietnam War where it was never clear from the beginning what the hell we were doing there.
Read my full review on the link below.
The Freshman (1925)
Arguably Harold Lloyd’s funniest film as well as one of his most romantic thanks to the addition of the striking beauty of Jobyna Ralston who is excellent in her role as Peggy.
Girl Shy (1924)
Charming and funny Harold Lloyd film about a shy tailor who stutters every time he talks to a woman. In his spare time he writes a book about being a great lover of women. As usual, Lloyd fills the final part of the film with some amazing physical stunts.
Hearts and Minds (1974)
Unbiased, unflinching look at the causes, the lies, the effects and consequences of the Vietnam war. It’s an anti-war themed film that uses the American soldiers who were there speak for themselves. The film is not just an historical look back. It’s as relevant to our world today as it was back in the 1970’s.
Night and Fog (1956)
Alain Resnais’ extraordinary powerful and disturbing short documentary vividly displaying the horrors and hellishness of the Nazi death camps. Not for the squeamish. That said, the is a must see.
Path to War (2002)
LBJ’s legacy on civil rights and the great society were overshadowed by the Vietnam War. The war became an albatross around his neck and it dragged on year after year. John Frankenhemier’s final film is both a study of the era reflecting how the U.S. found itself in a war it could not win and could not get out of. It’s a brilliant character study of the man who found himself in the position of being President of the United States following in the footsteps of a martyred predecessor. Path to War manages to lay out a complicated story with multiple characters smoothly and easy to follow.
Storm Warning (1951)
Storm Warning is not a perfect film, however, more than 60 years later it still has the power and social significance to resonate with us today. Ronald Reagan reveals shades of the politician he would become, and both Ginger Rogers and Doris Day in her first dramatic role, are admirable in the roles of sisters caught in a doomed triangle (A full review of this film will be coming soon).
A Christmas Carol (1999)
A Letter to Three Wives (1949)
All Things Must Pass (2015)
The Bounty Hunter (1954)
Brighton Rock (1947)
Garden of Stone (1987)
The High Sign (1921)
The Quiet American (1958)
Interesting list that reminded me of how I am falling behind on some essentials.
Two favourites there are Girl Shy, which I love, and Storm Warning which I first saw at a very impressionable age.
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I am late in appreciating Harold Lloyd. It’s only in the past few years that I have come to like his work. Of the giants of silent comedy Chaplin and Keaton have always been my favorites with Stan & Ollie just behind. Lloyd has definitely moves up in the rankings. Storm Warning is a powerful film and having virginal Doris Day in it I think makes it even more shocking.
When I was a newspaper critic, I listed GARDENS OF STONE as the one of the best films of 1987, so it was nice to see it get a mention. NIGHT AND FOG is about a potent a film as one is likely to see, I saw it in college long ago.
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Yes, Night and Fog has to be one of the disturbing films I have ever seen. It can give one brutal nightmares on the inhumanly of man.
John! I love this. I wouldn’t quibble with any of your picks, but I must point out (I must!) that the photo of the two Bettes is from “Dead Ringer,” not “A Stolen Life.” Still, she played twins, deliciously, in both. -J
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Joe, Can’t believe I did that! It’s so obvious that Bette is much older in the still. Thanks for pointing it out.
“The Freshman” and “Girl Shy” are two films that I have yet to see, but you’ve placed them back on my radar.
Looks like you had some fascinating movie-watching in 2016. I had not heard of “Night and Fog”, but I will track it down. Thanks for recommending.
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I am late in coming to Harold Lloyd. it’s only in the past couple of years that I have come appreciate him.
Some mighty great stuff there John! NIGHT AND FOG and THE FRESHMAN are my two supreme favorites of this stacked deck! Marvelous capsules!