My Top 100, 60-51

Welcome to the next installment of my top hundred movies!  This week is another rather diverse bunch of movies.  Silents, modern stuff, foreign, musicals, suspense, it’s just all over the board.  So let’s get to number 60…

60.  Breathless  (1960)

The definitive French New Wave film.  It’s just such a cool movie.  Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, the style, the jazzy score, everything about it just screams cool.

59.  Rear Window  (1954)

Slasher movies like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street do not scare me in the slightest.  I know that stuff just isn’t going to ever actually happen.  Rear Window, on the other hand, does creep me out because it does seem like something that could happen to anyone.  Everyone has windows, everyone finds themselves cooped up at home from time to time, and everyone can get a little too nosy sometimes.

58.  What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?  (1962)

Every parent who is thinking of pushing their kids into show business/beauty pageants should be required to watch What Ever Happened to Baby Jane first.  If seeing an aging Bette Davis sing “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy” isn’t enough to turn them off of the idea of child stardom, I don’t know what will.

57.  Goodfellas  (1990)

In my book, Goodfellas is the best modern gangster film.  It’s one of those movies where if I start watching it, I have to watch it all the way through.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a butchered TV edit, it’s just that riveting.  There isn’t a bad performance to be seen in this movie, but I was particularly partial to Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill.  Karen is the kind of woman a lot of people see and wonder why she would put up with that kind of life.  I like that Scorsese explored her side of things and we get to see how she was drawn into that world.  I also adored Scorsese’s use of music.  There were a lot of songs I already loved, but the way they were used added a lot of impact.  After seeing Goodfellas, I can’t hear Layla by Derek and the Dominos without thinking of this movie.

56.  I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang  (1932)

If I ever had to pick one movie to represent Warner Brothers in the 1930s, I’d pick I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.  Movies don’t get much grittier or harder hitting than this.  Paul Muni gave a brilliant performance as a man thrown in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and tries to escape from the nightmarish life on a chain gang.  It starts off a little bit slow in the beginning, but once it gets going, it takes off like a shot.  The most amazing part of this movie is the fact that it was based on a true story.

55.  Pandora’s Box  (1929)

Everything about Pandora’s Box just screams 1920s.  It’s a silent movie starring one of the most famous flappers, Louise Brooks.  But despite being so dated on the surface, the story manages to remain quite modern.  It’s really more like three short movies, but it’s all about Lulu, a girl who ends up being the downfall of all the men in her life and eventually meets her own demise at the hands of Jack the Ripper.  Louise Brooks also remains a real wonder to watch.  She was so gorgeous, charismatic, and she moved beautifully.  A beautifully tragic masterpiece.

54.  The Kid  (1921)

Charlie Chaplin had a lot of great co-stars in his career, but to me, he never had a better co-star than Jackie Coogan.  That kid was such a natural, he could do anything Chaplin asked of him.  The scene where the police try to take The Kid from The Tramp and The Tramp chases after him is one of the most devastating things I have ever seen in a movie.

53.  Mildred Pierce  (1945)

I love Joan Crawford and this is the signature Joan Crawford movie.  And as great as Joan was in it, Ann Blyth sure brought her A-game for this.  I always love to watch Mildred finally slap Veda.  Usually, I don’t applaud mothers smacking their daughters around, but Veda was such a cold, ruthless woman, it’s fabulous to watch her get a swift slap to the face.

52.  The Blue Angel  (1930)

Mildred Pierce was the signature Joan Crawford movie and The Blue Angel is the signature Marlene Dietrich movie.  But even though this is widely considered to be Dietrich’s movie, the real star is Emil Jannings.  His portrayal of a man who is drawn in and ultimately destroyed by Lola Lola is both compelling and disturbing to watch.

51.  42nd Street  (1933)

1933 was truly Busby Berkeley’s year.  By that time, musicals were already starting to get a little stale, but then Berkeley came along with 42nd Street and gave the whole genre a shot in the arm.  If he had just made 42nd Street, it would have been a huge achievement, but then he went and completely outdid himself twice more in the same year.


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