All-Time 100 Best Movies

by Time Magazine

Part 5

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

All-Time 100 Best Movies
(part 5, alphabetical)

Descriptions are excerpted or abridged
from the copyrighted Time Magazine site.

Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Directed By: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Screenplay: Betty Comden, Adolph Green
Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds
Everybody's all-time favorite musical—and justifiably so. Ham actor (Kelly) falls in love with pert ingénue (Debbie Reynolds) while his best pal (Donald O'Connor) kibitzes from the sidelines. Meantime, Hollywood makes its panicky adjustment to the coming of sound pictures. The score is joyful, the comedy smart and knowing, the dancing spectacular in the most easily (and genuinely) likeable movie ever made.

The Singing Detective (1986)
Directed By: Jon Amiel
Screenplay: Dennis Potter
Cast: Michael Gambon, Patrick Malahide, Joanne Whalley
Jon Amiel was the director of this magnificent six-part BBC series, and a suave job he made of it. But the true guiding and compelling force was the author, Dennis Potter. He poured much of his own biography into the script—a childhood in the Forest of Dean, a lifelong siege of crippling eczema—then extended it into the interior epic of a hospitalized pulp-fiction writer (named Philip Marlow!) whose agonized misery drives him into dark fantasy and bitter memory.

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Eva Dahlbeck, Ulla Jacobsson, Harrient Andersson, Margit Carlqvist
It was this comedy that earned "the solemn Swede" his first international eminence. On the long night of the summer solstice, ten people from the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie and the servant class stumble through brief trysts until they find their proper mates. Indefatigable lover of women's wisdom, remorseless anatomizer of men's insecurities, Bergman would make sterner, possibly more profound works, but never again one so blithely understanding of the mischief humans commit on one another—the folly they know is sex and fleetingly convince themselves is love.

Some Like It Hot (1959)
Directed By: Billy Wilder
Screenplay: Robert Thoeren, Michael Logan (story); Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond (screenplay)
Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon
Two guys (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) dolled up as girls, and Marilyn Monroe between them...Some Like It Hot is also plenty smart in its twisting of gender stereotypes (Lemmon gets more romantic action in a dress than he did in pants) and the possibility that a wolf (Curtis, donning thick glasses and a Cary Grant accent) could find true love the hard way.

Star Wars (1977)
Directed By: George Lucas
Screenplay: George Lucas
Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness
It changed forever the way movies are marketed. Forget the endlessly hyped sequels. Try to recall the rushing joy in your heart when Harrison Ford first threw the Millennium Falcon into hyperspace. Remember the innocence (and technological inventiveness) of the film, the fun of the dialogue, the astonishment of the creatures we encountered, the propulsive dash of the editing.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Directed By: Elia Kazan
Screenplay: Tennessee Williams (play); Oscar Saul (adaptation)
Cast: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden
It has been called the best adaptation of a great play ever made, and we're not going to dispute that judgment. Marlon Brando, repeating his stage performance as Stanley Kowalksi—half child, half animal, all menacing masculinity—is simply great. And so is Vivien Leigh, as his flirtatious, half-mad sister-in-law who teases him toward the brutal rape that destroys her. Tennessee Williams saw them symbolizing the contest between genteel civility and crude lower-class vitality.

Sunrise (1927)
Directed By: F.W. Murnau
Screenplay: Hermann Sudermann (novella Die Reise nach Tilsit); Carl Mayer (scenario)
Cast: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston
The acclaimed German director made his first, masterful American film the same summer Warner Bros. was cranking out The Jazz Singer, the talkie that brought the silent cinema to a (literally) screeching halt. History thinks the story of a farmer who deserts his wife for the bright lights of the big city, then returns to her sadder but wiser one of the last poetic masterpieces of a dying cinematic era.

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Directed By: Alexander Mackendrick
Screenplay: Ernest Lehman (novelette); Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison
Psychopathic gossip columnist (Burt Lancaster) rules Broadway with an iron fist, destroying everyone who dares to cross him. These include a small time press agent (Tony Curtis) and a sister (Susan Harrison) on whom he casts an incestuous eye. The dialogue (by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets) is etched in acid, and Mackendrick's direction perfectly captures the dark side of The Great White Way.

Swing Time (1936)
Directed By: George Stevens
Screenplay: Erwin S. Gelsey, Howard Lindsay, Allan Scott
Cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers
Astaire's grace, as he gently steered Ginger Rogers across those parquet floors, defined easy elegance and defined the American style in Hollywood's Golden Age. In the comic duet "Pick Yourself Up," Fred turns Ginger from an angry competitor into a perfectly synchronous partner. The climactic number, "Never Gonna Dance," pours courtship, conquest, lovers' quarrel and loss into a five-minute poem in synchronized motion.

Talk to Her (2002) - BEST FILM OF ITS DECADE
Directed By: Pedro Almodóvar
Screenplay: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Javier Cámara, Darío Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, Rosario Flores
The male nurse tending a beautiful comatose woman bathes her nude body, talks endlessly to her of art (she was a dancer) finally makes love to her and impregnates her. Escandalo. The nurse is jailed but, giving birth, speech and movement are restored to his patient. And out of dark materials and an offhand surrealist style, Almodóvar fashions a wondrously ironic tale of redemption.

Taxi Driver (1976)
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Paul Schrader
Cast: Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster
Robert DeNiro's portrait of that increasingly familiar American figure-the lone (psycho) gunman-grows ever scarier and more relevant. The movie's great twist, in which he becomes a media hero, also engenders deep, dark thoughts about the world we live in. The power of Scorsese's filmmaking grows ever more punishing with the passage of time.

Tokyo Story (1953)
Directed By: Yasujiro Ozu, Screenplay: Kôgo Noda, Yasujiro Ozu
Cast: Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama
An old couple comes to the big city to visit their children, who are more irritated than pleased by this interruption of their lives, which are scarcely glamorous. "Isn't life disappointing?" one of them says. "Yes, it is" another replies. But this wry, ironic movie is anything but, as it patiently, wisely explores the generational and universal tensions between the generations.

A Touch of Zen (1971)
Directed By: King Hu
Screenplay: King Hu, Songling Pu (story)
Cast: Billy Chan, Ping-Yu Chang
In this three-hour epic, a modest scholar (Shih Jun) hooks up with a resolute girl (Hsu Feng) to challenge a vicious warlord. Influenced, like so many major Hong Kong action directors of the period, by the samurai epics of Akira Kurosawa and other Japanese directors, Hu brought a unique buoyancy to the action genre.

Ugetsu (1953)
Directed By: Kenji Mizoguchi
Screenplay: Matsutarô Kawaguchi, Akinari Ueda, Yoshikata Yoda
Cast: Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyô, Kinuyo Tanaka, Eitarô Ozawa
Ugetsu is both a magnificent war film and a parable of careless love. A villager, Genjuro (Masayuki Mori), leaves his wife to go to battle, not to serve the Emperor but to find wealth in war's spoils. In a spooky castle he meets the glamorous Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo)and falls under her spectral spell. Ozu wants to define man's restless, acquisitive nature and woman's homing instinct.

Ulysses' Gaze (1995)
Directed By: Theo Angelopoulos
Screenplay: Theo Angelopoulos, Tonino Guerra
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Maia Morgenstern, Erland Josephson
Ulysses' Gaze is nothing less than a synopsis of 20th century Greek history in a film of about three hours and 60 shots. Dozens, then hundreds of protestors materialize on an Athens street. A ship with a huge bust of Lenin floats down a canal. The most amazing scene, again a single shot, tells the story of five family gatherings on New Year's Eve during the Communist insurgency from 1945 to 1950. "Auld Lang Syne" is sung; a son is arrested; the son returns; a death is announced; "Auld Lang Syne."

Umberto D (1952)
Directed By: Vittorio De Sica
Screenplay: Vittorio De Sica (screenplay uncredited); Cesare Zavattini (screenplay); Cesare Zavattini (story)
Cast: Carlo Battisti, Maria-Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari
One of Italian Neorealism’s last and deepest sighs, with Carlo Battisti as a retired civil servant, impoverished and isolated trying to survive in a society that has dispensed with him. His only relationship is with his beloved dog, and when it runs away the effect on him—on us watching—is devastating.

Unforgiven (1992)
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Screenplay: David Webb Peoples
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman
A bad man who thinks he has reformed returns to his old ways in order to revenge the death of his best friend. The actor-director achieved his masterpiece with this dark, brooding tale of souls seeking redemption but doomed by their flawed natures to a tragic outcome.

White Heat (1949)
Directed By: Raoul Walsh
Screenplay: Virginia Kellogg (story); Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts
Cast: James Cagney, Margaret Wycherly, Virginia Mayo
James Cagney's gangster at one point in this film climbs on to his Mommy's lap, seeking comfort from one of the blinding headaches that are the chief symptom of his raging psychopathy. But that's the only "explanation" this wonderfully vicious movie offers for his relentlessly bad behavior. The rest is all snarl and gunfire.

Wings of Desire (1987)
Directed By: Wim Wenders
Screenplay: Wim Wenders, Peter Handke
Cast: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin
Angels are poised on Munich’s rooftops, privy to every conversation, every stupid idea and intention going on below, but powerless to intervene. Or, for that matter, to smell, taste or feel an apple. One of them (the superb Bruno Ganz) notices an equally lost and lonely trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin) and encouraged by Peter Falk (playing a version of himself) his needs break through the barriers of angelic convention, love sweetly triumphs and a black and white film blushes into color.

Yojimbo (1961)
Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Screenplay: Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai
A Samurai (the great Toshiro Mifune) having lost his master discovers an utterly corrupt town and uses both his cunning and his sword to clean it up. The filmmaking is marvelously austere, yet in its sudden bursts of action electrifying, in its stern morality sobering, in the blackness of its comedy often quite delicious.

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