Sure I took film classes in college, but I do not pretend to be a schooled critic of the cinema.
I am just a guy who from a very early age loved the dark but shared experience of the movie theater. I loved the larger than life titans on the screen before me.
Lord help me, I even loved the popcorn with fake butter.
The movies I have chosen perhaps betray more of me than I would like. I find as I review the themes and characters that I am a hopeless softy. I am drawn to stories of flawed heroes who nevertheless do not turn away from what they must do. I want to be them.
I admit my list is skewed to a select few actors and directors. Any expert will immediately see there's too much Bogart and Grant and ... "What's Wayne doing there?!"
Humphrey Bogart was the tough guy in the impossible situation. He loved the girl, but couldn't have her. He had a good thing going with a bar, a boat -- whatever -- but would eventually sacrifice it all for the greater good he seemingly detested. He was sometimes bitter, broken, but ultimately always the hero. The one movie I cut from the list simply because I already had too many Bogart movies: "Key Largo" -- the ultimate Bogie and Bacall with an all-star supporting cast.
Cary Grant was smoooooth. Handsome. Funny. What guy wouldn't want to be like him? "Judy... Judy... Judy!"
John Wayne was another thing. Hercules in a cowboy hat. Admittedly, the old west was nothing like what I saw in his movies. And my! He was truly awful in some non-westerns. (The "Quiet Man" was an exception. Any movie with The Duke and Maureen O'Hara is golden in my book.)
So much for the actors, now to my directors' bias. Alfred Hitchcock. Wow, was he weird and frightening! Always a thrill ride with brains. And Steven Spielberg. I grew up with him. Both were master visual storytellers.
One more thing before I get to my list: I have apparently failed the cinematic guy test. No "Terminator" or "Transformers" makes my list. Not even a "Star Wars." Bruce Willis did not "Die Hard" in the one movie of his that made my list.
Enough with the apologies, here's we go:
Rick's. Vichy villains. Nazis. "Play it once, Sam. For old times' sake."
2) To Have and Have Not
The first Bogart and Lauren Bacall movie. The on-screen sparks between those two ignited a real life romance that lasted for life.
3) Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Spielberg proved with this movie that he was the master of getting great performances out of children and even Richard Dreyfuss. Aliens too. And mountains made out of mashed potatoes. How many family vacations to "Devils Tower" were inspired by this movie? (Admit it. Raise your hands. Mine's raised.)
Jimmy Stewart has to be somewhere on a top ten list, why not in a Hitchcock?
5) The Maltese Falcon
Another Bogart! Film Nor at its finest.
6) North by Northwest
Cary Grant stars in this Hitchcock classic of mistaken identity that begins at the UN in New York and ends with a frolic on the faces of dead presidents. Oh, and the love scene in the train is hot -- and it's all dialogue! Go figure.
Picture this: Memorial Day weekend. Packed theater. When that severed head floated out of the gash in the boat, I jumped higher out of the seat than my date!
8) Bringing Up Baby
Cary. Katherine. A big cat. Best slapstick comedy directed by Howard Hawks.
9) The Searchers
An early-to-mid career movie for John Wayne. Probably his best acting in a western. It also features a very young Natalie Wood.
10) To Catch a Thief
There are real fireworks in the love scene with Cary and Grace Kelly. No, really. There were actual fireworks. The birth of a cinematic cliché. Hitchcock hated shooting on location and did so only grudgingly. Watch the "picnic" scene overlooking the French Riviera. He sequences from location driving to sound stage in that scene (And at least a couple others scenes...) See if you can figure out where he made the transition.
This is my guilty pleasure. Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thorton and Cate Blanchett. It's a bank robber buddy film that turns into a love triangle. What could be better? Directed by Barry Levinson. Great Soundtrack too.
Yeah, I know, there are 11 movies in my top ten list. I never was any good at math.