I have been a movie buff ever since I can remember. It really began with my father’s passion for ‘English movies’, as we called the Hollywood movies that made their way to our Indian movie theater screens, and my mother’s passion for Hindi cinema, or Bollywood movies as they are termed these days.
So, a large chunk of my growing years were spent in darkened cinema halls as I experienced the thrills of war movies, action films, and westerns, the chills of horror movies, going into splits over the comedies, and being enthralled by the dramas and the historical epics… Indeed I have seen Hollywood movies ranging across a wide spectrum of genres, right from their black and white days to the movies of today with their computer generated special effects.
Hence, it’s really hard to make a list of the top 10 best Hollywood movies without leaving out many, many others that deserve to be chosen, because so many are unique and great in their own way.
Of course, selecting the top 10 Hollywood movies is a subjective exercise at best; however, great movies usually have a few common factors about them. First of all, as far as I am concerned, I enjoy movies that have great performances, a storyline that grips my imagination and that indefinable something about them that just reaches out and touches your inner core – a universal human experience, is the best way that I can describe it. Secondly, great movies have an ageless, timeless quality about them, and can be seen over and over, without ever getting old. And that is certainly the case with the movies I have listed below (and many more besides) – I can see them again and again, which I have, without ever tiring of them. And thirdly, great movies are not merely entertaining, but somehow manage to get themselves etched in your memory because of a certain statement they make – it could be about an era, or about a philosophical conundrum, or about the human situation… anything, really!
Anyway, so here are my top 10 best Hollywood movies, with brief movie reviews, which are given in a chronological order:
Casablanca: This 1942 Oscar winning romantic movie, with the backdrop of World War II, starring the brooding Humphrey Bogart in the role of Rick Blaine and the beauteous Ingrid Bergman in the role of Ilsa Lund, has become an all-time classic. Redolent with smoke filled, emotionally charged scenes, it is about the conflict faced by Rick of choosing between doing the right thing and helping the husband of his former lover, Ilsa, and his love for her. Today, Casablanca is ranked amongst the all time best Hollywood movies ever made.
Singin’ in the Rain: This wonderful musical-cum-comedy movie of 1952, which stars Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, directed by Stanley and Kelly Donen, with the choreography also provided by Kelly, is a hilarious take on the transition of Hollywood movies from the silent film era to the talkies. And of course, one of the most memorable scenes in the movie is Gene Kelly’s performance in the title song, Singin’ in the Rain, which is regarded now as iconic.
Ben-Hur: This epic film first screened in 1959, based on the novel by Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ, and directed by William Tyler, starring Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, Jack Hawkins, and many more, is one of the most memorable movies in my mind. Who can forget that galley scene, and of course that simply stupendous chariot race scene! Even by today’s hi-tech, computer-generated special effects standards, that chariot race scene in Ben-Hur is regarded as one of the most sensational action sequences ever to be captured on film. Ben-Hur won eleven Academy Awards, which included Best Picture.
Psycho: This genre defining horror-cum-suspense movie of 1960, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, has won acclaims as one of the most effective in its class. Practically all the scenes have become legends cinematically, and have gone on to spawn several remakes and sequels, none of which have managed to come anywhere close to the original. The movie is about the encounter between Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, a secretary who goes to hide at a motel after stealing from her employer, and the lonely owner of the motel, Norman Bates, played brilliantly by Anthony Perkins. Can one talk about Psycho and not mention the shower scene? It still sends shivers down my spine! It has been studied closely and has aroused endless debates about why it inspires such terror and how it was made.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Oh, how can I ever forget the languid, gun-on-hip toting saunter of Clint Eastwood, his blue eyes crinkled against the sun, the comic effects of Eli Wallach, and the villainous depiction of Lee Van Cleef . And then there is the famous score of the film, of course, which was composed by Ennio Morricone. This 1966 film, categorized as a spaghetti Western and considered an epic, was directed by Sergio Leone. The movie’s spectacular widescreen cinematography was created by Tonino Delli Colli, the director of photography. The plot revolves around the three gunslingers who are competing with each other to locate the hidden Confederate gold, which involves gunfights, Civil War battles, hangings, violent chaos, and prison camps – all the classic themes of a great Western.
2001: A Space Odyssey: Based partly on the short stories written by Arthur C. Clarke, particularly ‘The Sentinel’, this science fiction movie of 1968, directed by Stanley Kubrick, extensively collaborating with Clark, deals with fascinating themes like extraterrestrial life, artificial intelligence, technology, and human evolution. The special effects used in it were pioneering, and it was marked by its scientific realism, and the intriguingly equivocal sound effects and imagery used instead of the traditional techniques of narrative. Although the movie got mixed reviews when it was released, critics today proclaim it as one of the greatest movies ever made.
The Godfather: This 1972 movie, which has won the Academy Award, based on the Mario Puzo novel of the same name, is another of my all-time favorites. With the direction given by Francis Ford Coppola, from the screenplay written by him and Puzo, the movie has some fantastic performances given by Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Al Pacino, James Caan, and Diane Keaton. This crime film, spanning ten years from 1945-1955, is a chronicle of the Corleone family. No other movie made about the mafia since this movie comes anywhere close to The Godfather, in my opinion. I found the two sequels, The Godfather Part II (1974) as well as The Godfather III (1990), equally engrossing.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: The viewer is taken into the environs of a mental hospital in this 1975 movie. It delves into the life of a man called Randall McMurphy, a convict who chooses to spend time in the hospital, rather than serve time in prison. He achieves this by feigning to be slightly crazy. The time he spends in the mental ward, the interactions he has with the other patients there, his conflicts with the insensitive and cold nurse, named Ratched, are what make this one of the best Hollywood movies. The movie went on to sweep all the major Oscar awards of that year, such as Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. Its star cast includes Jack Nicholson, Danny Devito, Louise Fletcher, William Redfield, Peter Brocco, Michael Berryman, and Alonzo Brown.
Apocalypse Now: This 1979 movie, takes you as much into the dark jungles of Vietnam where Benjamin L. Willard, an army captain, is sent to eliminate Walter E. Kurtz, a Colonel of the United States Army Special Forces, who is thought to have gone insane, as it takes you into the dark depths of the human psyche. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and based in large part on the novel, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, it has the brooding presence of an aging and corpulent Marlon Brando at his best, Robert Duvall in the Oscar-nominated role of Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore, Dennis Hopper in the role of a photojournalist, and of course Martin Sheen in the role of Captain Benjamin, which was based on Conrad’s character, Marlow. Apocalypse Now is the winner of the Academy Award of 1979, the Cannes Palme d’Or, and the Golden Globe.
Schindler’s List: Although Oskar Schindler was an unlikely figure to be an historic hero, he became exactly that, and his story has been told brilliantly in this evocative film of 1993. Schindler, the businessman, whose primary motive was to make money, spends all his fortune on saving one thousand Jews from the gas chambers of the Nazis. Starring Ben Kingsley and Liam Neeson, many consider it to be a masterpiece of the director, Steven Spielberg’s film making career.
Inception (2010): Movie: Inception
Release Date: July 16, 2010 (conventional and IMAX theaters)
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenwriter: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Summary: Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan directs an international cast in an original sci-fi actioner that travels around the globe and into the intimate and infinite world of dreams. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible—inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming. This summer, your mind is the scene of the crime.