Trying to make a top ten list of my favorite movies and failing utterly

07 Mar

I often read lists of people’s favorite films and periodically I try to make my own list, which I’ve discovered is more difficult than one would suppose. I can’t seem to decide. I’ve tried making top ten lists, but they usually bleed into top thirteen or fourteen and it gets unwieldy. Sometimes they grow as big as top twenty-five or even fifty. My holy grail is to someday narrow it down to five.

Perhaps one problem is that I need more time. As a teenager, any list of my favorite movies would have been 70% costume dramas and miniseries. In the past three years or so, I have discovered classic films in a big way and I’m not sure enough time as passed to really see which films will endure and which are mere flash-in-the-pan phases. And there are some films I’ve seen only once, but I’m sure they will become favorites (but then, perhaps not).

For me, another trick was to decide what makes a movie a favorite and I’ve come up with a few guidelines (because I LOVE guidelines) to help me.

1 – It has to be something I’ve watched often and would happily watch again tomorrow. Most movies I have to be in the right mood for, with the right weather outside and so on.  So a favorite movie is the movie I am eternally in the mood for.

2 – It has to be something I would watch alone. I don’t actually watch movies by myself often. If left to myself, I would probably read a book over watching a movie. Movie watching is primarily social for me. Not social in terms of using the movie as an excuse to hang out with people and eat food and chat (though that can be fun, too), but social in terms of watching it with one or two like-minded people and really entering into the film together, to discuss and experience it jointly. Somehow, a movie doesn’t feel quite complete if I don’t have someone to talk about it with.

But with a favorite movie, I would watch it alone anytime and be perfectly happy.

Of course, in making a list there is also a little trouble with the ego. I find myself wanting to make a list that I feel would do me credit and I have to catch myself and be really honest. Is this really a movie I love more than others? Hmm…difficult. So, in all honestly and humility, here is a list of what I (currently) believe to be my top (fourteen) favorite films.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) – My first introduction to Jane Austen. I remember when my mom brought home the VHS set from Costco years ago when I was so young that I actually thought it was boring. All anybody seemed to do was talk! But then I fell in love and essentially I grew up with this version. It has always been one of my favorite and dearest films (even though it’s really a miniseries).

Double Indemnity –  I knew I loved it the moment I first saw it and made me a passionate fan of all three lead actors.

The Band Wagon – I’ll watch Fred Astaire in nearly anything, but this is the one I revisit most often and it never fails to leave me with a huge smile. The movie is my equivalent of “Shine on Your Shoes.”

Show Boat (1936) – For years I was cherishing my disintegrating VHS and was so relieved when it came out on DVD, even if it is a Warner Bros. Archive release.

King Kong – I don’t know why, but I never do tire of seeing it.

The Sound of Music –  It’s been called corn, sentimental, cloying, but I’ve always loved this one. To me, it expresses a joyous reaction to life that cannot be expressed any other way except through music and dance.

I Know Where I’m Going – I so wish Wendy Hiller had made more movies; I’ve liked her in everything I’ve ever seen her in – one of my favorite romances.

Pygmalion – I am obsessed with all things “Pygmalion” and My Fair Lady.

Love Me Or Leave Me – Gangster drama meets musical – James Cagney and Doris Day are a superb match.

Midnight – One of my favorite screwball comedies and one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen

The Lady Eve – ditto

Shadow of a Doubt – Also my favorite Alfred Hitchcock; I keep trying to get other people to watch it, too

The Maltese Falcon – That ending gets me every time – the pleasure is in watching the cast interact, circle each other warily, the lies, the unspoken truths; like Double Indemnity it’s nearly a perfect movie.

Rebecca – not a typical Hitchcock, because of how closely Selznick made him adhere to the book, but for me that is partly what makes it so great.

What are you favorite films? What makes a film a favorite for you?


Posted by on March 7, 2016 in Movies


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27 responses to “Trying to make a top ten list of my favorite movies and failing utterly

  1. B Noir Detour

    March 7, 2016 at 11:44 am

    I love your discussion of the difficulty of such lists. I’m always amazed by some folks’ ability to identify a #1 favorite film of all time. Even 10, as you suggest, can feel impossible. Like you, my mood and phases change. Less than two years ago at this time, I wouldn’t have had a single noir film on my favorites list, for example. And then there is the difference between films I can watch a million times and those that I consider especially excellent. I think I could come up with the former, but the latter? How does anyone do it? Thanks for the enjoyable post and your wonderfully idiosyncratic top ten.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 7, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      That’s very true about the difference between movies one loves and movies one admire as superior films. And when does not admire a movie everyone else seems to admire!

      I’m with you…I don’t know how anyone does it! 🙂 I often wonder if it will always be like that – with film preferences changing – or if, though the years, there will be films that emerge as constantly favorites.

      Liked by 1 person

      • B Noir Detour

        March 7, 2016 at 2:00 pm

        I’ve loved Young Frankenstein since I saw it as a pre-teen, ditto Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But I don’t watch Star Trek II much anymore nor Disney’s Fantasia. Some things stick and some fall away. We can just enjoy the ride and worry less about lists 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        • christinawehner

          March 7, 2016 at 2:36 pm

          Yes, that is probably best! Though it is fun to try, occasionally, to make lists…even if they usually end up in the trash. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Drew Martin

    March 7, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I know what you mean. Something about movies make it hard to give a Top 10 list. I find it’s a way easier process with books, albums, almost anything else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 7, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      You raise a great point! I haven’t tried to make a list of top books, but in reviewing them in my mind now, I can already come up with some much easier than with movies. I wonder if movies preferences are just more dependent on shifting moods?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Drew Martin

        March 7, 2016 at 1:22 pm

        It could be. Then again, once you start a movie you have to either watch the whole thing or give up. A book you can stop and keep going back to.

        Liked by 1 person

        • christinawehner

          March 7, 2016 at 2:30 pm

          That’s true…movies are hard to do that with. There’s been a few movies I came back and finished later, but very few. Maybe two.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. FictionFan

    March 7, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    I get round the problem by just saying ‘one of my top 5 movies’ every time anyone mentions a film I love. I reckon my ‘top 5 movies’ must have at least 50 in it! 😉 Love your list – any list with both Mr Darcy and Mr Cagney on it works for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • christinawehner

      March 7, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      That is awesome! 🙂 Very ingenious and has the virtue of being both sincere and all-encompassing. I might have to “borrow” that method.

      Ah, Mr. Darcy…thinking about him is making me want to watch Pride and Prejudice again…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Julia

    March 7, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Love this! I agree–top 10 movie lists are difficult. When someone asks me what my all-time favorite movie is, I have a hard time coming up with just one, so I just tell them what my favorite is at that moment. I can’t choose just one; I like different movies for different reasons. And it’s too difficult to rank them.

    In my undergraduate film studies classes, the professor would have us keep a journal, and every semester we’d have to list our Top Ten favorite movies and why. I chose mine by the same guidelines as you mention above. Each semester a few of them would change, and I would never rank them. I’ll go back and revisit them every once in a while to see what changes I made and why. I love that favorite movie lists evolve over time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 7, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      That’s true…it might be rather worrying if it stayed static! What a cool record of the films you love, though. Was that challenging, having to come up with reasons why a movie was a favorite? Sometimes, I found that when I love a movie, I think about it less than a movie that frustrates me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Julia

        March 7, 2016 at 4:02 pm

        It IS hard; sometimes you can’t put into words why you like a movie, you just do. It wasn’t too difficult because we had to give our rationale in terms of the theme of the class. One class was centered on genres, so we had to write about the genre we thought the movie fit under. That was my favorite list because I recognized a pattern in the types of movies I liked. Several of them were screwball/romantic comedies. Today it would include more Billy Wilder films.

        Liked by 1 person

        • christinawehner

          March 7, 2016 at 4:30 pm

          Ah, that makes more sense in the context of class themes. That sounds fun, too…to be able to identify the patterns! It can be surprising, sometimes. I used to say that I didn’t like romances until I took a good look at the kind of movies that were filling up my shelf.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. The Animation Commendation

    March 7, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Great list and I know what you mean about the struggle. I once made a top 5 list, but not a top 10.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 7, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      I’m impressed you were able to make a top five list! I still haven’t managed that…though I have been working on it. I can settle on three, but have trouble with the other two. It’s so hard to cut movies from the list, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Animation Commendation

        March 7, 2016 at 5:53 pm

        Double Indemnity was an excellent film. I wasn’t entirely fond of The Maltese Falcon, but I did love Sydney Greenstreet in it.

        In terms of classic films, 12 Angry Men was my #2 fave film and Gone with the Wind was my #3.

        Liked by 1 person

        • christinawehner

          March 7, 2016 at 6:37 pm

          Yes, Sydney Greenstreet is awesome! Would you believe it…I have not seen 12 Angry Men yet! I’m not sure how that happened. My cousin told me how great it was and now you’ve mentioned it – I really ought to see it.

          I first saw Gone With the Wind as a child and I think it went over my head at the time, but every time I see it I like it better. Last time I saw it on blu ray and thought it was gorgeous!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Film Music Central

    March 8, 2016 at 9:50 am

    you’re right, it’s so difficult to make a list of favorites (of any length)…so I cheated and made multiple lists of favorites according to genre. But if i really HAD to pick, I do know one film would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy (it’s three movies I know, but still…), beyond that…yea, it just varies

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 8, 2016 at 11:57 am

      Multiple lists – that’s a good idea! I kind of count Lord of the Rings as one film, too….and one book. I always thought it would be fun to watch it all in one day (though perhaps not with the extended editions).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. mikestakeonthemovies

    March 13, 2016 at 5:20 am

    I always say that my top list has 100 films! Easier that way to include so many that I love but hate to exclude.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 13, 2016 at 11:23 am

      That is a great way of handling it! It’s those films, as you say, that one “hate(s) to exclude,” that makes it almost painful to make a top ten list.



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