Monday, June 27, 2011

Top 100 Films of the Last 50 Years (1960-2010): Part IV

70. My Fair Lady (1964) - George Bernard Shaw set out to prove he could write the greatest play of all time, and then created the timeless Pygmalion. In 1964, the great George Cukor, the screenwriting talents of Alan Jay Lerner, and the screen presence of Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, and Gladys Cooper combined together to recreate Shaw's classic as a big movie musical. The formula worked, and today My Fair Lady remains one of the greatest movie musicals of all time, and a model for successful films of similar theme. Winning 8 Academy Awards, My Fair Lady forever cemented Hepburn's status as a star (well that and Breakfast at Tiffany's), and remains a timeless classic to this very day.

69. The Lion King (1994) - In high school, I wrote a paper on how The Lion King was actually more of a work of art than its predecessor, yes I'm talking Billy Shakespeare's Hamlet. While it may have been a stretch, the truth remains that The Lion King is not only one of the best animated films of all time, but one of the most colorful, entertaining, and life-changing ones as well. Between some stellar voice acting from the likes of James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeremy Irons, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and the classic Jim Cummings, and a wonderful and inventive retake on an old classic, Disney's Africa-inspired adventure was a defining movie for an entire generation, and was one of the classic films that helped to reboot the company's position at the top of the animated pyramid.

68. Up in the Air (2009) - A quiet, and subtle film, 2009's Up in the Air today remains one of the best modern dramas, truly touching us in a time of economic downturn, and providing for a real look at human connections. Between stellar performances from George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, and Vera Farmiga, and one of the sharpest, wittiest scripts written in the last ten years, Up in the Air is a film that thrives on humanism, never stretching for a laugh, but instead presenting the irony and pain of the world around us, and all the humor and emotion that exudes from basic human relationships. What made Up in the Air such an incredible film experience, was the ambiguity, the differing messages that the viewer can take away from it, and the fact that it was still able to remain engaging and entertaining all the way through, which is a triumph indeed.

67. Cool Hand Luke (1967) - There have been many great prison films over the years, and all of them can trace their origin back to this 1967 classic, the incredible Cool Hand Luke. Paul Newman is simply incredible, as is the rest of the cast including George Kennedy, and others. Furthermore the sharp and searing script, and some excellent direction from Stuart Rosenberg make this an entertaining adventure to say the least. Probably the most important message that makes Cool Hand Luke is the timeless notion that sometimes it is better to dare to be different than to conform to society's whims. With Newman making that look so easy and fun, it remains a wonderful movie for those who feel that society is holding them back.

66. Unforgiven (1992) - Good old-fashioned westerns are hard to come by nowadays, and when you do stumble upon some they are few and far between, and usually are not very good. But in 1992, Clint Eastwood, and his wonderful cast which includes legends such as Gene Hackman, Richard Harris, and Morgan Freeman, help revive, if only briefly, the western drama with this rousing western adventure which deservingly won Best Picture at the Oscars. In many ways, Eastwood's film is even more brilliant because while it has many classic western elements, it also is not too old-fashioned, and while it may be a little more violent than the classics, and have a few newer elements too it, it never loses its gritty and raw exterior, or its rustic nature that made it stand tall as a thrilling American western.

65. American Graffiti (1973) - Before George Lucas became the inventor of Star Wars, and revolutionized the American film industry, he created what today has become a wonderful teenage classic, which shows a group of high school grads spending one last night cruising with their friends and raising hell before they head off to college. What Lucas did, with the help of a great cast including Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard, was not just create another teen comedy where they drink and cruise, but instead capture the heart and soul of an entire generation. Before this generation of the 1960's would lose its innocence with the turmoil and struggles of the latter part of the decade, American Graffiti represents the wonderful times where fun and enjoying basic human relationships were the only worries on young people's minds. Lucas may have become famous for Star Wars, but in many ways, this is his true classic.

64. Avatar (2009) - Say what you will about this pick. I know someone is going to think I'm a populist goon who is so blinded by cool visuals that I am dumb enough to put this film on this list with the rest of these prestigous films. But, whether you love Avatar or don't, no one can deny the importance that it has had on pop culture with its box office total, and the way it has revolutionized film technology for years to come. But when it comes down to it, it is on this list for one reason, and one reason only: it is a damn good movie. It is visually stunning, a new take on a wonderful old story, and one of the most entertaining, and thrilling sci-fi adventures that has graced the silver screen in the last decade. So love it or hate it, you cannot stop the Avatar train.

63. When Harry Met Sally (1989) - This year, No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits hit, or are going to hit theaters, presenting the age old story of a friendship turning into something much more. All of these films however, pale in comparison to the similar-themed 1989 comedy classic, When Harry Met Sally... Featuring some stunning performances from Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, and a nice combination of writing and direction by two veterans Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner, When Harry Met Sally is one of the funniest and most romantic films of the last half-century. Unlike many of its successors, When Harry Met Sally never gets too sentimental or schmaltzy, it thrives on its excellent characters, and presents a real and touching look at the complicated nature of friendships.

62. The Color Purple (1985) - If I had had the opportunity to have voted for the Academy Awards in 1985, I would have campaigned diligently to make sure that the much better historical/literary epic, The Color Purple, won out over its less-than-stellar advesary Out of Africa, which ended up winning the big prize. While the Academy completely ignored this classic, the rest of us will never forget the incredible story of emotion and abuse that was aptly put together by the always-stellar Steven Spielberg. It didn't hurt that the cast, including Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, and Oprah Winfrey, was at its best, and that its source material was flawless from the beginning. While it is a bit long, it is definitely one that is worth a look.
61. The Sound of Music (1965) - The hills are still alive with music, and The Sound of Music has become forever cemented in film history as one of the most elegant, epic, and stunning musicals of all time. The stunning Julie Andrews, who has unfortunately lost her magnificent singing voice in recent years, may have won her Oscar for Mary Poppins (deservedly so), but I will forever put this performance as Maria at the top of my list. With top-notch direction, beautiful cinematography, and a cast of kids that are as good as most adult actors, plus of course the wonderful and immortal songs that are still known to this day, The Sound of Music is one incredible movie experience that should not be missed.

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