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Summer 2003 | Volume 26, Number 3 | Features

The Critics' Picks

10 Favorite Films 


With tongue firmly in cheek, Medved says about the request to provide a list of favorite movies, “I hate, resent and despise the very notion of ‘All-time Best’ lists of motion pictures. As a working critic, it’s difficult enough to come up with a ‘Best of the Year’ list each December, let alone engage in some gaseous survey of more than 100 years of cinema history to compile some collection of deathless classics, inscribed on tablets of stone. With this prejudice in mind, I submit the following list of classics for which I feel conspicuous enthusiasm. I do so only under duress, and under protest, with the condition that the titles will appear without further comment.”

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939).
“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (1945).
“The Wild Strawberries” (1957, Swedish).
“The Bicycle Thief” (1948, Italian).
“E.T.” (1982).
“The Wizard of Oz” (1939).
“Casablanca” (1941).
“Rules of the Game” (1939, French).
“Schindler’s List” (1993).
“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946).


“Wings of Desire” (1987, German). Spend a few hours following angels down the streets of Berlin, and your sense of awe at God’s glory will be rejuvenated.

“Three Colors — Blue” (1993, French). The richest episode of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s extraordinary “Colors” trilogy, “Blue” features Juliette Binoche’s most exquisite performance as a woman who must overcome fear and denial in order to mourn the tragic loss of her husband and daughter.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”
(2001). Peter Jackson’s labor of love gave Tolkien fans and newcomers the most elaborate, engrossing big-screen fantasy ever made, full of powerful lessons about courage, friendship, trust and the corrupting nature of power.

“Apocalypse Now”
(1979). Francis Ford Coppola offers an unflinching vision of the horrors of war and discovers how power in the hands of well-intentioned warriors makes them vulnerable to their own hearts of darkness.

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980). Everybody has a favorite popcorn movie, and for me the myth, whimsy, imagination, character development and spiritual leanings in these two classics set them apart.

“The Fisher King”
(1991). In this bittersweet comedy, a romantic fool who believes he is one of Arthur’s knights teaches an egotistical shock-radio DJ about the healing power of faith and imagination.

“Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail” (1975). Absurdist comedy at its best — the Pythons never mock the sacred, only the folly of men in their anxious and misguided attempts to apprehend it.

“Blade Runner” (1982). In this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick sci-fi nightmare, an android journeys through rage toward mercy, and a world-weary cop sees judgment fall on men who play God.

“The Dekalog”
(1987, Polish). Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 10 short parables explore how the Ten Commandments relate to our everyday decisions.


“Angels With Dirty Faces” (1938). James Cagney delivers a searing performance as sympathetic gangster Rocky Sullivan in the greatest of Warner Brothers’ socially conscious crime dramas.

“The Awful Truth” (1937). Charming, effortless screwball comedy finds Cary Grant and Irene Dunne divorcing, fussing over custody of Mr. Smith — their dog — and inevitably falling back in love.

“Chinatown” (1974). Roman Polanksi’s unsettling tale of corruption in L.A. excels on two levels: as a mysterious, two-fisted film noir and as a mirror of ’70s political despair.

“Dead Man Walking”
(1995). Tim Robbins’ adaptation of Sister Helen Prejean’s memoirs achieves the sublime: It reveals points of view from all sides of the death penalty controversy and listens with patience and compassion.

(1946). The chemistry is electric between Joan Crawford as a wealthy patron of the arts and John Garfield as a struggling violinist. When Crawford staggers into the ocean in the fi nale, it’s the screen’s most enduring symbol of romantic tragedy.

“Meet Me in St. Louis”
(1944). A perfect movie musical, this is the closest we have to a visual valentine from Vincente Minnelli to fiancée Judy Garland.

“The Night of the Hunter”
(1955). Still spine-tingling, this movie stars Robert Mitchum as Reverend Harry Powell, who preys on widows and orphans during the Depression. You’ll never hear “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” in quite the same way again.

“North by Northwest”
(1959). Hitchcock’s wildest, most satisfying ride has it all: Cary Grant being mistaken for a U.S. intelligence agent, running from a malevolent crop duster, hanging from the top of Mount Rushmore and wooing American spy Eva Marie Saint. All in four short days.

“Singin’ in the Rain”
(1952). “Come on with the rain, got a smile on my face!” And did he ever. Gene Kelly’s mile-wide grin and his earthy, graceful dancing were never more joyously celebrated.

“Working Girl”
(1988). Mike Nichols’ stylish, deft big-business comedy has Harrison Ford as the leading man, Sigourney Weaver as the villainous boss and Melanie Griffith in her gutsy signature role.

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