Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cinema Bestius: Your Favorite Movie

A concession or a cheat—you be the judge and jury!

#1 – Your Favorite Movie

Who is the Pope to dictate your tastes? Yes, he is infallible, but he is also a realist. The Pope has tried this year to chart a roadmap of excellence, gently guiding his followers toward gems they may not have already discovered on their own. The Pope has suggested that silent movies can stand the test of time, has opined that horror films can be high art, has asked you to check out the wonderful film Once if you haven’t ever seen it. Yet this Pope will not require you to eat fish on Fridays. The single best film of all time is a decision, like contraception, best left to the individual.

I therefore give unto you: the “number one” film of all time is Your Favorite Movie.
This has been a year of navigating the twin philosophies always bubbling under the surface here at F This Movie. Is one’s love for a work of art (in this case a movie) sufficient for appreciation, recommendation, criticism, and further study… or are there rules? Yes, yes… I know that all art is subjective, but should we let personal preference (and perhaps bias) hold sway, or are we part of a larger community that can—must—also use history, aesthetics, and critical judgment to (in the words of Madonna) justify our love?

Although the Pope would be a monster if he thought that any film that made anyone happy could be a bad thing, critical study and journalism, by their very natures, need guidelines and rules. There is a reason that someone going on and on in the comments section defending a piece of garbage generally leaves the rest of us scratching our heads.

Let me put it another way. You can like 1930s German documentaries. But if you like Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will because it gives you a boner… THAT’S JUST WRONG.

(I know, I know… in floundering about for a hypothetical, the Pope chooses the well-worn, low-hanging fruit of “let’s hate Nazis.” Sorry, but you get my point. Also, not sorry because Nazis are the WORST.)
Thought and methodology went into the fabrication of the original list. The Pope did not simply plunk himself down on a barstool with a copy of Leonard Maltin and his iPad, begin ordering margaritas, and solicit the help of Skeevy Pete and the other barflies. The list was designed to encompass all genres, eras (eras), and canons (though, sorry to say, not Cannon). I decided that silent films, documentaries, and musicals would all get their due, and that particularly movie-mad decades (the 1930s, the 1970s) would not monopolize the list. Film is a director’s medium, but I made sure that crazy terrific directors would be limited to two films apiece. Hitchcock, Welles, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, Demme, and the Coen brothers are all on that rarified list and only together account for a third of the Pope’s Top 50 films.

Here’s the entire list for quick and easy reference:

1. Your Favorite Movie
2. Citizen Kane and The Godfather (TIE)
3. Casablanca
4. Do The Right Thing
5. Singin’ in the Rain
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
7. Jaws
8. Psycho
9. Dr. Strangelove OR: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

11. Star Wars
12. Blade Runner
13. The Searchers
14. The Gold Rush
15. Duck Soup
16. 12 Angry Men
17. The Graduate
18. The General
19. North by Northwest
20. Apocalypse Now

21. To Kill A Mockingbird
22. Silence of the Lambs
23. A Hard Day’s Night
24. Touch of Evil
25. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
26. Sweet Smell of Success
27. Pinocchio
28. Some Like It Hot
29. Goodfellas
30. Fargo

31. The Wizard of Oz
32. The Wild Bunch
33. The Deer Hunter
34. The “Up” Series
35. Bride of Frankenstein
36. Stop Making Sense
37. Forbidden Planet
38. Chinatown
39. Raging Bull
40. Toy Story

41. It’s A Wonderful Life
42. The Big Lebowski
43. Annie Hall
44. Pulp Fiction
45. The Thin Blue Line
46. Nashville
47. The French Connection
48. All the President’s Men
49. Once
50. Miracle on 34th Street
The Pope tried to turn his love and knowledge of film into a serious overview. If only the Pope’s personal favorites had held sway, then Quiz Show, Inherit the Wind, It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, A Trip to the Moon, the original King Kong, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Galaxy Quest, Matinee, What We Do in the Shadows, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Exorcist, National Lampoon’s Animal House, Lolita, and Meet Me in St. Louis would surely have made the list.
This has been an interesting yearlong journey. When the Pope first conceived a “Best(ius) Movies of All Time” column, he thought it would be easy. After all, these are the greatest films ever made; it would be easy to write about them! This proved not to be the case for a number of reasons. The Pope gained newfound respect for those who write on strict deadlines. The fact that these films are so universally beloved posed a problem. How exactly does one say something new about Psycho? This is one reason the Pope punted on Jaws—but to be fair, he only did that once.

Well, he danced instead of writing a proper column about Stop Making Sense and delegated the Blade Runner column to an expert, but you get the idea.

This ends my fifth yearlong weekly column. I enjoy writing for this website and love all the feedback I receive. I will continue to be a part of the podcast as long as Patrick will have me, and the Glutton for Punishment columns will continue, but sporadically. As I head into retirement in 44 teaching days, the Pope needs some time to recharge. I offer you all the comments section below to share Your Favorite Movie, with a line or two about why you love it, to keep this conversation going.

God bless you all.


  1. In the words of Doug, "I did Nazi that coming."

    Seven Samurai is one of the best films I've seen. It amazes me how a 1954 Japanese movie set in 1586 remains relevant and modern. Regarding personal preference, Alien is my favorite movie for its tension and characters.

    Thank you very much, JB, for another great series of columns. I look forward to your future contributions. Enjoy retirement!

  2. Well, my top 3 of all time (Apocalypse Now, Blade-Runner and Goodfellas) are all on your list, as are a lot of my other favourites, but in the spirit of recommendation I'd like to share my favourite foreign film and my favourite film not on the list, Werner Herzog's jaw dropping Aguirre, The Wrath of God. For my one or two lines, all I can say is that everything in movies is in there. Every aspect (Score, visuals, acting, theme) are perfect.

  3. i always come back to 2 movies, Blues Brothers and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. the former has great jokes and awesome music, the later is just a masterpiece of writing

  4. The pope is a kind and generous pope.

    If anyone couldn't tell from my avatar, my favorite movie is and probably always will be Almost Famous. For me, it is the ultimate wish fulfillment, as going to work for Rolling Stone is what I had in mind in my youth. It didn't turn out that way, but I will always have the movie to fulfill that dream in some way. Add on to that the movie's good heart, humor, great cast, and wonderful sense of the period, and it's a true masterpiece for me.

    Rounding out my top 5:
    Singin' in the Rain
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Back to the Future
    Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

    1. And little did you know, Skeevy Pete is also an accomplished film scholar. ;)

  5. You truly are a wise and generous Pope.

    I made a Letterboxd list in case anyone is interested: https://letterboxd.com/jhillman/list/cinema-bestius-the-fifty-greatest-films-according/

    1. Just so anyone isn't confused, that's my number one, Modern Times, inserted into the list (although The Adventures of Robin Hood could have also found its way in there).

  6. Happy retirement JB! That certain school in northern Minnesota will miss you, no doubt.

    As for my #1, that's pretty easy for me, it's been the same since I was about 8, Die Hard. I wish I could speak eloquently about the masterful filmmaking, I simply think it's the most exciting and well-written action film I've ever seen. It's got great humor, menacing villains, an interesting hero. Most of all, it has a great sense of ratcheting tension. Things are getting worse for McClane, worse for the hostages, better for the terrorists, and those lunatic FBI agents are headed up. And they all meet on the roof. Perfect.

    There have been challengers to the title; Alien, American Psycho, The Guest, Robocop, There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men. But it's always had the top spot in my heart.

    Cute story. When I was in 3rd grade, we had a Parent's Night, and all the kids had to make a little collage of their favorite things. And I included Die Hard as my favorite movie, and my teacher told me very sternly "you can't choose Die Hard, you're too young to see that. You have to pick something else." I think I went with Jurassic Park, very disappointing.

  7. Local Hero is the best movie of all time - thanks for validating that for me Mr. Pontiff

  8. On most other websites I don't think this would work as a number one, but there is such a great community of movie lovers here that I think it's perfect. This was an incredible series and it put a lot of movies on my list. Enjoy your retirement JB!

    Oh, and my favourite movie of all time is Mad Max: Fury Road. It was also the first F This Movie podcast I ever listened to!

  9. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, on a technical level, is one of the most impressive movies I've ever seen. After seeing it in 70mm at the Music Box a few years ago, an amazing theatrical experience filled with people who love the movie, it was cemented as probably my favorite movie of all time. No movie makes me happier.

  10. Having a hard time deciding between Seven Samurai and Total Recall. I'll probably have to go with Samurai if only because Recall isn't 3 1/2 hours, so I can't stay as long in a world that makes me so happy.

  11. i want to add that this is a very sad day for me because one of the local critics here just announced he was stopping his blog. he was almost as smart and interesting as you mr. JB.

  12. My avatar gives my choice away. Vertigo has been my favorite film for the past 30 years. It has Jimmy Stewart's best performance (arguably) and Kim Novak's best performance (inarguably). Bernard Herrmann's best score, Hitch's best use of color, one of Saul Bass's best title sequences. And a deeply felt story about the great social divide between men and women, where men create their fantasies of the "perfect" woman and despair when women cannot live up to them. A masterpiece on every level.

  13. The Prestige is my 12 Angry Men, if it comes on,I have to watch it no matter what. Everything about it works for me. Along with The Shining, American Psycho, and 12 Monkeys. Oh, and Jaws.

    But thank you for including the entire list. I'm going to try and work my way through all the ones I have not yet seen.

    As for your retirement, JB, I wish you all for best. The education world is losing a true master of teaching. I feel sad for the future generations who will never experience the sheer joy of attending your classes, but I'm forever grateful that I was able to.

    Thank you, JB!

  14. Wonderful end to the column! I feel like if your religious counterpart did something analogous to this it could bring great peace and harmony to the world.

    Mine, of course, is Jaws. It's the first movie I remember seeing and I've loved it my whole life. It's inextricably woven into the fabric of my soul. It washes over me like the warm, loving urine of a Russian prostitute as will one day be a popular expression. My cinematic tastes have changed in so many ways - there are many movies I've discovered - many thanks to you and this site - that I think are "better" than Jaws but it is the movie love of my life and, barring a traumatic head injury of some sort, I'm sure it always will be.

    Mr. JB, oh captain, my captain, congratulations on your retirement - glad you'll still be sticking around to school us from time to time!

  15. Thank you for the great articles your Popeliness, it's been a pleasure reading your countdown!

    I flop back and forth on my favorite movies, some days its Seven Samurai, some Jaws, some Raiders, some Maltese Falcon or Casablanca, some its Vertigo (I think Steve K summed up my love for that movie perfectly), often it's whatever movie I'm watching and falling in love with at that moment.

    Thanks for turning me onto a lot of new movies and helping me re-evaluate some old favorites JB! I hope you have a great retirement, it sounds like you have made a huge impression on a lot of young students and that is the mark of a truly great teacher.

    Now it's time to ride your Popemobile into the sunset.

  16. This is a very Americocentric list. Dr. Strangelove, A Hard Day's Night and The Third Man are the only non-US film on the list, and the directors of two of these are American.

    Does His Holiness represent all the movie-loving peoples of the world or just those in North America? F Those Movies! does reach an international audience, you know. In nomine santorum, this could be the greatest scandal to hit the See since revelations emerged in the previous century of links between that organisation and the Cosa Nostra (I cannot think of any other recent causes célèbres involving the Church). With that in mind, I think we are entitled to ask just why this Primate is retiring at such a young age. I notice The Godfather takes first place on his list, and Smashing Chaps (the title given to Goodfellas on its British release) is up there as well. Ego accusatis!

    I look forward to the Pope's (or rather "JB's" — this calculating cleric played the long game, it seems, in setting up an alternate identity for himself in the event of his machinations being exposed, but rather gave it away with the admission in this column that the Pope of Film and JB are one in the same) future appearances on F This Movie!, via Skype from some sun-kissed paradise that does not believe in extradition, no doubt.

    It does not have to be this way. If the Pope makes a public admission on this site that Monty Python's Life of Brian is a superior filmic experience to Some Like It Hot, I will 'forget' everything that has been written (by me, just this minute; that's how things work nowadays) having to do with his connections to the Mafia, and he can continue in his indispensable role on the (probably) money-laundering F This Movie! podcast and website.

    Don't leave, JB. I only just got here.

    1. Ooh, silly me, The Third Man isn't even on this list. You're down to two non-American films, Your Holiness.

    2. The list was always only English-language films.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. I wasn't expecting Babette's Feast or Jacques Tati's Playtime to be included on your list, JB. Trainspotting, Lawrence of Arabia and Muriel's Wedding are not American films, but most of the people in these productions speaks English.

    5. Although I evidently don't. "Most of the people speaks English." Flippin' hell.

  17. My favourite movie? There are too many to pick just one. Depending on the day, it could be Master and Commander, Das Boot, or A Bridge Over The River Kwai.

    See! I have a hankering to watch a war movie, and suddenly my favourite movie is a war movie!

    So, no I don't have a favourite. But a very special, and sometimes favourite movie for me is Aguirre: The Wrath Of God. I discovered this VHS in my small bumkin country library at the age of maybe 12. It opened my eyes that there could be different movies than what I was used to. Heck, it wasn't even in English!

    Congrats JB on the retirement, and happy you'll be visiting this "virtual" Patrick's basement from time to time.

    1. Now I have to seek out Aguirre: The Wrath Of God. German Heart of Darkness set on the Amazon, and apparently Kinski shot off an extra's finger during filming?? That's insane. Thanks Paul!

    2. The Bridge Up the River Kwai is one of my favourite films, too. A wonderful British motion picture.

      Fuck, I've just googled it and it's British-American. Carry On Up the Khyber. There, that's a wholly British movie. It doesn't have the "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me!" line from Carry On Cleo that was voted the funniest film one-liner in a poll of 1000 comedians in 2007, but it has Bernard Bresslaw as a character called Bungdit Din and Hancock's Half Hour alum Sid James as Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond. Ah, it's... it's fucking unwatchable.

      The Pope has Psycho at number eight on his list, and that's terrible, although I've heard it's a remake of an earlier black-and-white movie which bears the same name and is supposedly pretty good. But who wants to watch something that isn't in colour? Peeping Tom from 1960 is a much better film, and one doesn't have to endure the sight of Vince Vaughn jacking it whilst he looks at a showering Anne Heche.

    3. @Chayse The making of Fitzcarraldo was even crazier. There is a documentary about it called Burden of Dreams (1982). And there is another doc about the tumultuous relationship between Herzog and Kinski during the making of these 2 films called My Best Fiend (1999).

      @Nonnymouse I nearly said A Bridge Too Far (which apparently is also British American), but defaulted to the other bridge movie, because it's better, and also because it was the first memory I have of my siblings going to bed, and I was allowed to stay up and watch it with my parents.

    4. The first film I was ever allowed to stay up to watch was an old black and white horror/mystery with Peter Lorre called The Beast with Five Fingers about a severed hand that terrorises the occupants of a large manor house. This thing messed me up for quite a while. A couple of years later I saw Magic with Anthony Hopkins and ventriloquist dummies replaced dissevered extremities in my nightmares.

      To this day, though, whenever I happen across a disembodied human hand, I'm a little creeped out by it.

      I've never seen A Bridge Too Far, but I do genuinely love The Bridge on the River Kwai, although I have an aversion to war movies generally. The Great Escape is the only other one for which I have any love. I think John Wayne killed this genre for me. Kwai is different because it's less about battles and stuff and is more of a character study about cultural conflict and individual obsession. Alec Guinness is the best he's ever been, although Sessue Hayakawa as Colenel Saito is terrific, too, and should have received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. That movie swept the board in 1957 and Hayawaka was the only nominee not to win.

      RIP Don Rickles. That guy was the best thing about the mostly (and deservedly forgotten) Innocent Blood. His appearances on 'Letterman' were always a tonne of fun as well, probably because he and Dave seemed to have a genuine friendship and affection for each other. By most accounts, Rickles was one of the nicest people you could meet.

    5. *mostly (and deservedly) forgotten

    6. So many new recommendations, and they all sound amazing! Thanks Paul I'll check them out.

  18. Wel, Fargo's already been listed... The Good The Bad and the Ugly would be my choice. I think. Idunno. Finding Nemo? Gaaaah!
    This has been a delightful column. I wish you all the best in your retirement JB.

  19. John, I love you but you have broken my heart with no Kurosawa. I guess I can use my #1 for one of his films. Great job, that is a tough list to create.

    1. The list was always only English-language films.

    2. So it is JB! I see that now. Okay, well...you cannot include any Jimmy Stewart films then! I get so lost in his whining voice that it does not sound like English to me!!! Sorry that was uncalled for. I will say my seven hail Jan-e's now. Again, tough list to create so nice job!

  20. I enjoyed reading this series so much. Thanks again, JB.

    My thunder has already been stolen but mine has to be Aguirre: The Wrath of God. The opening sequence alone will change your life.

  21. Clearly, Number One goes to John Carpenter's The Thing, the most perfect movie.

    Great series, JB. Enjoy the retirement!

    1. Carpenter's The Thing is a masterpiece, tragically ignored when first released.

  22. Nice to read how popular Aguirre is! My film friends all prefer Fitzcarraldo, which I still love, but to me there's no competition.

    1. Fitzcarraldo is pretty amazing too. I wouldn't fault anyone for preferring it.

      I believe Patrick said on a podcast (last Autumn) that he has never see either of these.

    2. I have! I like Fitzcarraldo (and maybe Burden of Dreams even more), but I looooove Aguirre. Saw it for the first time maybe two years ago and my immediate reaction was "Well, that's one of the best movies I've ever seen."

    3. Ah. It must have been an older podcast I heard you say it. Glad you loved it!