The Great Movie List: A Theory of Everything

Top 101-? Double Features

  1. Messianic: Ben-Hur (1959), Spartacus (1960), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Superman (1978)
    And The Dark Knight, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Wonder Woman (2017).
  2. Raising Hell: Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Harder They Come (1972), Heat (1995), City of God (2002)
  3. Hell Erupted through the Pavement: The Battle of Algiers (1996), Sin City (2005)
  4. The PoW Canon: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), La Grande Illusion (1937), Stalag 17 (1953), Schindler’s List (1993)
    The tropes of a prisoner of war film compare similarly to action adventures, fantasy, and science fiction, highlighting as they all do acts of perserverance, ingenuity, and camaraderie, all elements of a fun time at the cinema. It’s always good to add a dose of reality, however. Something like Schindler’s List reminds us of the heinous realities of war, while also embodying all these same acts in Spielberg’s momentous moviemaking itself. More: 10 Great Prisoner-of-War Films
  5. ZAZ: Airplane! (1980), Top Secret! (1984)
    Also there’s Police Squad! which only ran for 6 episodes in 1982 but still should be watched in the particular order 1, 2, 5, 4, 3, 6, which you can do so here: Police Squad Full Series. More: Airplane! at 40: the best spoof comedy ever made?, How We Made: Airplane!, Airplane! Is Considered One of the Best Comedies of All Time. But 40 Years Ago No One Saw it Coming.
  6. Smells Like Teen Spirit: Kids (1995), My Own Private Idaho (1991)
  7. Thrilling Detective: BlacKkKlansman (2018), Serial Podcast (Season 1, 2016)
  8. Old White Dudes & Their Muses: Wild Strawberries (1957), Manhattan (1979), Color of Money (1986), Lost in Translation (2003), Up (2009)
    Old white guys reconnect with the world through energetic youth.

  9. Opposition to Conflict: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), A Christmas Story (1983), A Little Princess (1995)
    Great films for 13 year olds that use a narrative device called Kishōtenketsu.

  10. Traumatize the Kids: Bambi (1942), Mary Poppins (1964), The Witches (1990)
  11. Invaders from Space: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Under the Skin (2013), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  12. Astonishing Adventures in Evolution: Altered States (1980), The Planet of the Apes (1968), Sense8 (Season 1, 2015)
  13. The Tiers of Love: Women in Love (1969), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
  14. On Failing: Hoop Dreams (1994), The Last Jedi (2017)

    Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters. ~ Yoda

    Other films in this “genre”, as discussed here, include Manchester by The Sea, You Were Never Really Here, Inside Llewyn Davis, A Serious Man, Sideways, Pursuit of Happyness, Election, Little Miss Sunshine, Man on the Moon, Synecdoche, New York, Adaptation, Birdman, The Merchant of Four Seasons, Fat City, Tin Cup, 8 Mile, and The Wrestler.

  15. Playtime, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
  16. Graphic Design Production Porn: Comic Book Confidential (1988), Helvetica (2007)
  17. Darwin’s Monkey: King Kong (1933), The Fall (2006)
  18. The Emerald Forest, Deliverance
  19. Immortality, Incorporated: Being John Malkovich (1999), Get Out (2017)
  20. Utopian Moments, Moral Malformations: Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013), Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux (1984/2018)
    Dune is a great book. Maybe the best science fiction novel. The six books in Frank Herbert’s Dune series are extremely dense, bizarre, philosophical experiments encompassing family intrigue, war, politics, sex, genetics, and purpose-driven climate change. Herbert’s visions beg for visualization. The first two big screen attempts, however, were pretty much catastrophies. First, Alejandro Jodorowsky couldn’t get his adaptation from pre-production to filming. Second, David Lynch couldn’t pull together all the elements of the book and wrestle with studio politics to deliver a coherent version. These failures are fascinating, though, particularly on the eve of the release of the third attempt by Denis Villeneuve, scheduled for 2020, and through the lens of two works that highlight the intricacies of the creative process: the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune and the fan edit by “Spicediver” of Lynch’s film titled Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux.

    Pair the “Alternate Edition Redux” with a Spicediver interview, available at Reconstructing Lynch’s ‘Dune:’ A Look at ‘Dune Redux’, to discover how the creative process can be a circuitous experience. Then watch the documentary, which reveals not only how Jodorowsky recruited his amazing team of ’70s artists to build out the world of Dune, from costumes to sets to wacky new scenarios, but also how the creative fallout from the cancellation of the production eventually informed Lynch’s movie as well as Alien, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, among others.

    But on top of that, the doc also introduces a charismatic and slightly unhinged Jodorowsky who also at times voices some rather morally reprehensible recollections.

    As outlined in an article for Jodorowsky’s Dune Didn’t Get Made for a Reason… and We Should All Be Grateful For That, and in the comments below the article, for the author and for most of her readers Jodorowsky’s offensive language regarding sexual violence erases all positive takeaways of the documentary. The exploration of the creative process stumbles into the realm of patriarchal excess, potential criminality and cancel culture. A very troubling and confusing twist in the whole narrative.

    Here’s another approach to the matter. In considering cancel culture, author Robin Sloan described in a 9/15/20 dispatch of his newletter how he uses a lesson from one favorite author to deal with the offensive writings of another favorite author:

    In fact, Breaking Bread with the Dead was in my mind very recently as I read T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. I should say: when I started, I thought it was a reread, but then I got past the early episodes of The Sword in the Stone and realized: hey, this is all new to me?! I can report to you now that the book is wonderful, but/and, there are a few slaps of truly gnarly sexism and racism along the way. You’re barrelling through the legend, enjoying a somewhat wacky adventure well-told, when, SMACK, a vile assumption. For me, these passages were not—could not be—disqualifying, because the heart of the book is so bright and kind. But I couldn’t ignore them, either. So I thought of Breaking Bread with the Dead, the part where Alan invokes Patrocinio Schweickart, who says: ‘You should look for what she calls a “utopian moment”—a moment when something deeply and beautifully human emerges from that swamp of patriarchal ideology. Another phrase she uses for this is the “authentic kernel,” something perhaps hidden deep inside the book that speaks to you, that articulates an experience you can share. From this point on you read in a double fashion. You don’t silence the part of you that sees the problems with the book, its errors, its moral malformations; neither do you silence the part of you that responds so warmly to that “utopian moment.”‘ I quoted that passage in my previous newsletter, but reading The Once and Future King, I actually put it to work. I encountered those distressing passages; I felt my relationship with the book stutter; I remembered Patrocinio and Alan’s admonition; and I read, from that point on, in “double fashion.” The Once and Future King doesn’t just have a utopian moment; it is a utopian moment. It’s wonderful, and we can, in 2020, still experience that wonder. We, as thoughtful readers, can in a sense rescue the book’s innermost heart from its moral malformations.

  21. Noir Spree: The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Murder, My Sweet (1944), Mildred Pierce (1945), Detour (1945), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Out of the Past (1947), The Naked City (1948), White Heat (1949), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), In a Lonely Place (1950), The Big Heat (1953), The Killing (1956), Bob le Flambeur (1956), The Long Goodbye (1973), Reservoir Dogs (1992)
    Making heists fun, smoking cool, crime stylistic. The noirs, neo-noirs and straight crime flicks contain all the great names you should know at least a little about, from writers like James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, Auguste Le Breton, W. R. Burnett, to actors like Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford, Lee Marvin, Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, John Garfield, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Glenn Ford, James Cagney, Sterling Hayden, to directors such as Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, John Huston, Michael Curtiz, Raoul Walsh, Stanley Kubrick, Jules Dassin, Edward Dmytryk, and Jean-Pierre Melville. Noir drew the most creative, who all lead directly to the Cruises, Clooneys, Pitts, and Damons, as well as the De Palmas, Altmans, Soderberghs, and Tarantinos.

    Most of us who love film noir and have seen all the classics are tantalized by the hard little gems that turn up now and then—lost or forgotten noirs that are sometimes as atmospheric as the better-known ones. In his essay “Notes on Film Noir,” from 1972, the director Paul Schrader argues that, measured by “median level of artistry,” the noir cycle of the nineteen-forties and fifties represented Hollywood at its most creative: “Picked at random, a film noir is likely to be a better made film than a randomly selected silent comedy, musical, Western, and so on.” When a noir obscurity shows up on TCM, or is restored under the auspices of the indispensable Film Noir Foundation and screened at one of its Noir City festivals around the country, chances are it will be well worth seeing. It’s likely to be a B movie—so many noirs were—but that won’t mean it’s any less appealing. Noirs were ideally suited to low budgets and low lighting, tight editing and short running times, stolen shots on city streets. ~ Margaret Talbot, “Cause for Alarm!,” a Film Noir That Feels Accidentally Feminist, The New Yorker, February 21, 2020

  22. The Great Chases: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Italian Job, Bullitt, The Last of the Mohicans, The French Connection, The Road Warrior, Project A, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, To Live and Die in L.A., Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Ronin, The Fast and the Furious, The Bourne Identity, The Matrix Reloaded, Casino Royale, The Dark Knight. More :Ranked: The 28 Best Car Chases in Movie History
  23. Loaded with Gags: Monty Python’s Life of Brian (“Biggus Dickus”), Modern Times, The Philadelphia Story, Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera, It Happened One Night, Roxanne, The Jerk, L.A. Story, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, The Producers, The Gods Must Be Crazy
  24. Best Fights: Gravity (Bullock fights Zero G), Iron Monkey, House of Flying Daggers, every Marvel movie since Iron Man