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?