Do you have a list of movies that might not make it onto the critics’ all time great lists, but that you can watch over and again?
I have some favorite movies that just happen to be classics. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) is my favorite movie ever, and I’ll be sharing a memory about that one soon. The Civil War movie Glory (1989) may be the best of its genre. Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979) brilliantly captures both a great city and some of its neurotic people. For humor, Mel Brooks’s The Producers (1967 version) is at another level, while The Exorcist (1973) still rings the fear bell for me. And Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) gets me every time with that twisty story and gorgeous Bay Area cinematography.
But whenever I watch and enjoy these movies and others like them, there’s a part of me that feels obliged to study them, too. They’re so darn good, I need to appreciate them at an aesthetic level, as well for their pure entertainment value.
But then there are the comfort movies, what I call my subclassics, that I can watch repeatedly, without feeling tugged by my inner film critic.
They’re the movies that may get a solid three stars from the critics, though rarely four. They’re not dumb movies, but they don’t overly tax my brain either. I can miss a few lines and not worry about missing the whole point of the film.
Several World War II movies make my subclassics list. In Harm’s Way (1965) is a WWII naval flick, with John Wayne and Patricia Neal leading a star-studded cast. Its opening scene takes place in Hawaii on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack. Sink the Bismarck (1960) portrays the British mission to sink Germany’s most powerful battleship, starring Kenneth More and the incredibly lovely Dana Wynter. And Battle of the Bulge (1965) depicts Germany’s final major offensive effort of the war, featuring Henry Fonda and lots of other Hollywood stars.
As a Civil War buff, I’ve given Ron Maxwell’s Gettysburg (1993) repeated viewings. And going back in historical time, The Patriot (2000), a highly fictionalized story of the American Revolution, and Master and Commander (2003), a rousing naval actioner about the Napoleonic Wars, have received similar attention on my DVD player.
I’ll accept the twist of a blue state liberal enjoying war movies, but I like other types of movies as well.
For late Cold War-era humor and suspense, WarGames (1983) is thoroughly entertaining period piece, starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy as privileged teens who get caught up in the possibility of computer-generated nuclear war. I also love seeing the early 80s personal computer gadgetry playing a key role in the movie.
For more serious Cold War stuff, I love Thirteen Days (2000), the story of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis as seen from the Kennedy White House (with a little bit too much Kevin Costner). And for fake international intrigue, there’s Patriot Games (1992), a Tom Clancy novel turned into celluloid, featuring Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan.
Another subclassic favorite, Twister (1996), stars Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as diehard storm chasers and weather researchers. I’m fascinated by tornadoes and have gone on five storm chase tours since 2008, and I can watch this (scientifically shaky) flick anytime. And the steak dinner scene at Aunt Meg’s never ceases to arouse my taste buds.
On the funny side, Major League (1989) is a favorite and hilarious sports flick (anything with Bob Uecker usually qualifies), and Hairspray (1988 version), starring a young Ricki Lake in one of John Waters’ tamer productions, blends slightly gross humor and great tunes. And That Thing You Do! (1996) is charming and funny story of a small Pennsylvania band that suddenly hits the big time, starring Tom Hanks, Tom Everett Scott, and Liv Tyler.
There are many others I could add to the list, but you get the idea. These are the movies that put us in a good place or give us a respite from everyday stuff.
Feel free to add yours, either here or when I post this to Facebook!