Friday Fiction: My Best Movies of All Time

I grew up in a movie-going family. We drove 30 minutes to the nearest theater to see the latest movies, watched films at home whenever they came on TV, and rented videotapes for viewing as soon as that technology became available.

The Paramount, Abilene, Texas

In college, one of the very best things about going to school in Abilene, Texas was the Paramount Theatre, built in 1930, renovated, and showing a classic film almost every weekend. It was there that I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.

Seeing that my family is full of list-makers, from time to time we would ask one another: “What are your 10 Best Movies of All Time?” I’ve probably given more thought to this complex and challenging question than figuring out who gets my stuff when I die someday. You can dispute the reasonableness of my priorities, but it’s an interesting line of inquiry nonetheless.

As usual, I can’t settle on a Top 10, but I have 12 movies that would make the list. My standard is that they are perfect films; I can’t think of anything to change to make them better. Here they are (in no particular order and with descriptions provided by the Internet Movie Database).

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Archeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Black. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

When Harry Met Sally (1989). Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship. Starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby. Directed by Rob Reiner.

Ordinary People (1980). The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son. Starring Timothy Hutton, Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland. Directed by Robert Redford.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952). A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound. Starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen. Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.

Sunset Boulevard (1950). Gloria Swanson, William Holden. A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity. Directed by Billy Wilder.

Rear Window (1954). A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. Starring Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

All About Eve (1950). An ingenue insinuates herself in to the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends. Starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Roman Holiday (1953). A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome. Starring Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert. Directed by William Wilder.

Schlinder’s List (1993). In Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis. Starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

A Room with a View (1986). When Lucy Honeychurch and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett find themselves in Florence with rooms without views, fellow guests Mr Emerson and son George step in to remedy the situation. Meeting the Emersons could change Lucy’s life forever but, once back in England, how will her experiences in Tuscany affect her marriage plans? Starring Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Simon Callow.

Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 (1998). Four guys, best friends, have grown up together in Dancer, Texas Pop. 81, a tiny town in West Texas. Years ago, they made a solemn vow to leave town together as soon as they graduate. Now, it’s that weekend and the time has come to “put up or shut up.” The clock is ticking and as all 81 people in the town watch, comment, offer advice and place bets, these four very different boys with unique backgrounds struggle with the biggest decision of their lives . . . whether to stay or leave home. Starring Breckin Meyer, Peter Facinelli, Eddie Mills, Ethan Embry. Directed by Tim McCanlies.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980). While Luke (Skywalker) takes advanced Jedi training from Yoda, his friends are relentlessly pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke. Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford. Directed by Irvin Kershner.

I wavered on whether to include a Star Wars flick, but I truly believe that episode was the best and could not have been improved in any way. As for the other selections, my taste runs from drama to suspense to humor.

So what movies would you deem to be the “Best of All Time”? Could you get your list down to a Top 10? Which of my movies do you agree with? Which ones do you disagree with? Are there movies on my list you haven’t seen? Doyou enjoy making Top 10 lists?