100 Greatest Films


Summaries - Part 6



100 Greatest Films
100 Greatest Films
Summaries - Part 6
(Links to Comprehensive Film Reviews)
Selection Criteria

O (continued)

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif, Will Sampson
Director: Milos Forman

Jack Nicholson as a crazy-sane mental patient is one of many fine performances that anchor Milos Forman's adaptation.

A compelling, socially-conscious portrait of mental institution patients pitted against a tyrannical, sinister head nurse, cinematically adapted from Ken Kesey's celebrated 1962 novel. A free-spirited, ebullient, rebellious convict Randle P. McMurphy (Nicholson) feigns insanity to avoid a jail sentence, and is incarcerated in an insane asylum. His heroic, crazed struggles against oppression, conformity and the manipulative, authoritarian Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) symbolize the rebellious 60's era, as he serves as a catalyst and invigorating inspiration for the subdued, troubled patients. He is taken down and pays the ultimate price for his messianic, outrageous non-conformity with a zombie-producing lobotomy. The strong and silent Indian Chief Bromden (Sampson) that he has befriended relieves his pitiful misery. Academy Award Nominations: 9, including Best Supporting Actor--Brad Dourif. Academy Awards: 5, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor--Jack Nicholson, Best Actress--Louise Fletcher, Best Adapted Screenplay.

Out Of The Past (1947)
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Virginia Huston
Director: Jacques Tourneur

Jacques Tourneur's beguiling 1947 noir stars Robert Mitchum as a laconic private detective who falls under the spell of a femme fatale.

A beguiling, complex film noir from the post WWII period. This classic is laced with doom-laden flashbacks from the shady past, about a laconic private detective who is caught in a deathly web - the picture was AKA Build My Gallows High, and based on Geoffrey Homes' novel. Jeff (Mitchum), who has moved to the country to find solitude, is hired for one last assignment and brought out of retirement by gangster Whit Sterling (Douglas). On the way to the job, he describes his past to his fiancee Ann (Huston), and his journey to Acapulco where he first came under the lethal, erotic spell of femme fatale Kathie (Greer) in an ill-fated affair. When the present action resumes, Jeff is doomed and seduced once again by the same charming, but wicked woman he had once loved and lost - a return to the past and involvement in a complex web of intrigue, passion, betrayal, double and triple-crosses and death. No Academy Award nominations.

 

P

Paths of Glory (1957)
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, George Macready, Adolphe Menjou, Timothy Carey
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick delivers a powerfully bleak, predictably intense antiwar drama, starring Kirk Douglas, about a military incursion gone awry.

Stanley Kubrick's classic, powerfully bleak, anti-war drama on the hypocrisy of battle, based on Humphrey Cobb's factual novel. The film is an effective denouncement of self-seeking, pitiless WWI French military leaders whose strategy and mishandling of a failed mission are incomprehensible. During horrendous trench warfare on the French front (filmed with realistic tracking shots), a vain and pompous French General Mireau (Macready) orders his hapless group of soldiers to suicidally attack an obviously-impenetrable German stronghold. When they predictably fail in the ill-conceived attack, he angrily commands his own artillery to fire on the 'cowardly' troops. Further, he arbitrarily picks three blameless men as scapegoats - at random - to stand trial and be court-martialed for cowardice - and face execution by firing squad. Infantry commander and dissenting Army lawyer Colonel Dax (Douglas), aware of the disgraceful cover-up and episode, unsuccessfully defends the condemned men. No Academy Award nominations.

The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard
Director: George Cukor

George Cukor's sophisticated romantic farce stars Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart in a battle of societal wits.

George Cukor's classic, witty romantic comedy - an outstanding film version of Philip Barry's hit play, a sophisticated romantic farce about a socialite wedding. Recently divorced, wealthy, society girl heiress (Hepburn) is torn between her new stuffy fiancee (Howard), her irresponsible ex-husband (Grant), and an intriguing Spy Magazine suitor Macauley Connor (Stewart) who is present to cover the wedding with a photographer Liz Imbrie (Hussey). The film was remade as the musical High Society (1956). Academy Award Nominations: 6, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress--Katharine Hepburn, Best Supporting Actress--Ruth Hussey. Academy Awards: 2, Best Actor--James Stewart, Best Screenplay (Donald Ogden Stewart).

Psycho (1960)
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Possibly the most influential thriller ever made, Alfred Hitchcock's tale of a psychotic mama's boy (Anthony Perkins) hasn't dimmed with age.

The greatest, most influential Hitchcock horror/thriller ever made and the progenitor of the modern Hollywood horror film, based on Robert Bloch's novel. A classic, low budget, manipulative, black and white tale that includes the most celebrated shower sequence ever made. Worried about marital prospects after a lunch tryst with her divorced lover (Gavin), blonde real estate office secretary Marion Crane (Leigh) embezzles $40,000 and flees, stopping at the secluded off-road Bates Motel, managed by a nervous, amateur taxidermist son named Norman (Perkins). The psychotic, disturbed "mother's boy" is dominated by his jealous 'mother', rumored to be in the Gothic house on the hillside behind the dilapidated, remote motel. The story includes the untimely, violent murder of the main protagonist early in the film, a cross-dressing transvestite murderer, insanity, a stuffed corpse, and Oedipal Freudian motivations. Academy Award Nominations: 4, including Best Supporting Actress--Janet Leigh, Best Director, Best B/W Cinematography.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
Starring: John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Samuel Jackson, Ving Rhames, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Harvey Keitel
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino's stylish cult classic interweaves a series of vignettes about low-life criminals, lovers, and thugs.

A stylish, immensely-popular, violent, off-beat, modern B-movie cult classic from writer/director Tarantino - his second feature, about corruption and temptation. An interwoven series of three vignettes about low-life criminals, thugs, drug-dealers, hitmen, a washed-up crooked boxer, and restaurant-robbing lovers in the sleazy underworld of Los Angeles. Small-time hold-up artists - "Pumpkin" (Roth) and "Honey Bunny" (Plummer) - plot a robbery in a restaurant. Meanwhile, philosophically-talkative hit men Jules Winfield (Jackson) and Vincent Vega (Travolta) carry out a hit for their vengeful, underworld boss Marsellus Wallace (Rhames) against double-crossing college-aged kids. Vincent entertains Marsellus' irresponsible wife Mia (Thurman) one evening - and then she overdoses on heroin. By not taking a dive, boxer Butch (Willis) scams Marcellus during his last bout and plans to skip town. The two hitmen call on gangland cleanup specialist The Wolf (Keitel) when their jobs get messy. Academy Award Nominations: 7, including Best Picture, Best Actor--John Travolta, Best Supporting Actor--Samuel L. Jackson, Best Supporting Actress--Uma Thurman, Best Director, Best Film Editing. Academy Awards: 1, Best Original Screenplay.

 

Q

The Quiet Man (1952)
Starring: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Victor McLaglen, Barry Fitzgerald
Director: John Ford

Lushly filmed on location in Ireland, John Ford's gorgeous 1952 romance follows John Wayne as he travels to the country and finds a wife.

John Ford's Irish romantic comedy/drama about an American ex-prizefighter (Wayne) who retires to his native, childhood Ireland (the greenish town of Inisfree) to begin a new life and find an Irish lass for a wife. Lushly filmed on location - a Taming of the Shrew tale in which Sean Thornton courts and subdues the fiery, red-haired, strong-willed Mary Kate (O'Hara), and fights an epic marathon brawl with her disapproving brother Will 'Red' Danaher (McLaglen) to secure her dowry and precious heirlooms. Along the way, he is aided by the impish leprechaun-like matchmaker Michaeleen Flynn (Fitzgerald). Academy Award Nominations: 7, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor--Victor McLaglen, Best Screenplay. Academy Awards: 2, Best Director, Best Color Cinematography.

 

R

Raging Bull (1980)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci
Director: Martin Scorsese

A visceral black-and-white drama about an aging boxer (Robert De Niro), Martin Scorsese's 1980 flick is one of the best of its decade.

A magnificently visceral, vivid and real, black and white bio/docu-drama of the rise and fall of a violent, suicidally-macho prize-fighter. Hard-headed, animalistic, unlovable slum kid Jake LaMotta (De Niro) becomes the 1949 middle-weight champ. The boxer experiences bouts of ring and domestic violence with brother Joey (Pesci) and second, beautiful teenage wife Vikki (Moriarty), and slowly but predictably descends into fat slobbishness. Robert De Niro's transformation from a sleek professional boxer to an out-of-shape, stand-up nightclub entertainer is simply remarkable. This film is regularly voted the Best Film of the decade of the 80s. Academy Award Nominations: 8, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor--Joe Pesci, Best Supporting Actress--Cathy Moriarty, Best Director. Academy Awards: 2, Best Actor--Robert De Niro, Best Film Editing.

Rear Window (1954)
Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock's voyeuristic triumph finds James Stewart and Grace Kelly navigating the twists and turns of a nail-biting thriller.

Hitchcock's voyeuristic masterpiece - a suspenseful, nail-biting thriller about a wheelchair-bound, immobilized photographer who believes he has witnessed a murder during his convalescence. During a hot New York summer, photo-journalist L. B. 'Jeff' Jeffries (Stewart) recuperates in his apartment from a broken leg. He wiles away the time by observing - and spying on neighbors through his rear window (with binoculars and his telephoto camera), while being cared for by his fashionable girlfriend Lisa (Kelly) and nurse-therapist Stella (Ritter). He experiences all of life's extremes - a honeymooning couple, dancer Miss Torso, spinsterish Miss Lonelyhearts, and the bickering, intriguing Thorwalds. Dissuaded by his police detective friend, Lisa, and Stella, he persists with attentive observations and suspicions about Thorwald (Burr) killing his wife. Academy Award Nominations: 4, including Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Color Cinematography, Best Sound Recording.

Rebecca (1940)
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

The only Hitchcock movie with a Best Picture Oscar, this gothic mystery stars Laurence Olivier as a moody widower.

Hitchcock's debut American film and the only film for which he received a Best Picture Academy Award. A Gothic mystery/romance that was adapted from Daphne Du Maurier's 1938 novel. The film opens with the haunting line: "Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again." An innocent, nameless shy young bride (Fontaine) struggles to settle into the country estate - Manderley - of her new wealthy husband (Olivier), a brooding English nobleman/widower who appears moody and haunted by the memory of his first wife. She is tortured, anguished and fearful that she must compete with the ghostly memories of the first Mrs. De Winter - a glamorous Rebecca, especially when tormented by the sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Anderson). Mysterious family secrets about the first Mrs. De Winter, who was drowned at sea, are eventually revealed and change her perspective on her husband and their love. Academy Award Nominations: 11, including Best Director, Best Actor--Laurence Olivier, Best Actress--Joan Fontaine, Best Supporting Actress--Judith Anderson, Best Adapted Screenplay. Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best B/W Cinematography.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus
Director: Nicholas Ray

The drama that made James Dean an anti-hero for decades to come is also an unmissable snapshot of the fifties generation gap.

The classic, melodramatic film that made James Dean an anti-hero icon for generations to come - this was the second of his three films and the best 50s film of its kind regarding the generation gap. A story of rebellion and angst in the life of an unsettled, teenaged, new-kid-in-town Jim Stark (Dean) who crosses paths with two other alienated, misfit youth - Judy (Wood) and Plato (Mineo) - at a police station in the first sequence. The outcast trio of juveniles forms a strong bond against both their insensitive parents (completely unjust, dysfunctional, ineffectual, or callous) and their peers, and search for their identities. After a deadly drag race and a confrontation with his milquetoast father (Backus), Jim spends the night with Judy and Plato in a deserted mansion. The adolescents find refuge and solace in their own company. In the tragic finale, Plato is killed by police when he foolishly brandishes an unloaded gun. Academy Award Nominations: 3, including Best Supporting Actor--Sal Mineo, Best Supporting Actress--Natalie Wood, Best Motion Picture Story.

Red River (1948)
Starring: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru, John Ireland
Director: Howard Hawks

For Montgomery Clift's first-ever role, he stars as the adoptive son of John Wayne's vicious rancher in this Howard Hawks Western.

A classic 40s Western, one of the best American westerns, from action director Howard Hawks, featuring Montgomery Clift in his first film. The story of a father/son battle of wills and the first monumental, historic cattle drive along the Chisholm Trail to Abilene. Texas rancher Tom Dunson (Wayne), a self-made, dictatorial, vicious, authoritarian father is stubbornly pitted against his adopted son Matthew Garth (Clift). Their vicious confrontations, capped by Dunson's tyrannical, unbearably harsh treatment of deserters, leads to a mutinous revolt - a western Mutiny on the Bounty - when the cowpokes support the natural leader - Matt. Dunson vows to pursue and kill his son that climaxes in an inevitable, brutal fist-fight and show-down. Academy Award Nominations: 2, Best Motion Picture Story, Best Film Editing.

Roman Holiday (1953)
Starring: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert
Director: William Wyler

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck's chemistry drives this old-fashioned courtship story, which was nominated for ten Oscars in 1953.

An Oscar-winning story from Hollywood Ten blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was fronted by Ian McLellan Hunter. The delightful, old-fashioned, dramatic, fairy-tale courtship film, a variation of Capra's It Happened One Night, was shot on location and contains the first major starring role of the much-beloved Audrey Hepburn. A modern-day Princess (Hepburn) is quickly bored with ceremonial protocol during an official visit to Rome. After slipping away from her attendants and entourage, she goes 'incognito' and encounters an American newspaperman Joe Bradley (Peck) who sees an opportunity for an exclusive scoop. However, romance blossoms between them during their 'common people' adventures throughout the city, as they are pursued by the journalist's photographer friend Irving (Albert) who takes candids. The newspaperman's intentions change when he realizes he's falling in love. Academy Award Nominations: 10, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor--Eddie Albert, Best Screenplay. Academy Awards: 2, Best Actress--Audrey Hepburn, Best Motion Picture Story.

 

S

Schindler's List (1993)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Steven Spielberg

Often considered Spielberg's masterpiece, this wrenching drama starring Liam Neeson as the titular hero is based on true events.

Spielberg's greatest dramatic, black and white masterpiece, based on a true story of an opportunistic German businessman and charming womanizer Oskar Schindler (Neeson), who profits from WWII by employing cheap labor from Polish Jews in his Cracow cookware factory during the Third Reich's Holocaust, and provides them refuge from the horrors of the Nazis. The film also documents the hideous, disturbing evil personified by Nazi Amon Goeth (Fiennes) - the Plaszow camp commandant, Schindler's relationship with his Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern (Kingsley) and their list-making to courageously save over 1,000 Jews from the senseless, brutal extermination in Auschwitz. Academy Award Nominations: 12, including Best Actor--Liam Neeson, Best Supporting Actor--Ralph Fiennes. Academy Awards: 7, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay.



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