As marketing manager for Classic Cinemas, my job gives me the opportunity to get early studio buzz on coming films, talk about them as they open on the big screen and how they finally perform at the box office. I have had a passion for movies since my early film-student days at Indiana University to now attending movies with my wife and two children. Going to the movies is still my favorite pastime. And now for the difficult task of choosing only ten film favorites (in no particular order):
1) Casablanca, 1942. “Play it Again, Sam” and audiences have continued to watch this film again and again. With its superb cast, headed by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, this romantic adventure against the backdrop of WWII is tough to beat. The dialogue is top-notch and often quoted. Seeing it recently with an audience reaffirms my love for this classic.
2) King Kong, 1933 (original). The classic Beauty and the Beast story with Fay Wray & King Kong, “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” The movie is over 70 years old and continues to thrill with its special effects by Willis O’Brien. Even last year’s new version by Peter Jackson with all its computer special effects could not top the original.
3) The Godfather, 1972. Director Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster epic. If I am channel switching and this one shows up, no matter where it is in the film, I get hooked. Marlon Brando won an Oscar as the “Don,” but a young Al Pacino really steals the film. After this, you’ll be ready for Godfather 2 – 1974, maybe the best sequel ever put on film.
4) Singing In The Rain, 1952. Have to put one musical on the list and this one is tops. Gene Kelly at his best and the title number is the most memorable “song and dance” ever put to film. Watch for Donald O’Connor dancing off the walls in the classic “Make ‘Em Laugh” number. Directed by Stanley Donen.
5) Rear Window, 1954. Director Alfred Hitchcock has given us several films worthy of the list. But for my pleasure it is hard to top James Stewart as a wheelchair-bound “peeping tom” and the beautiful Grace Kelly in this suspense thriller of a murder witnessed from an apartment window. Paramount is planning a remake this summer called Disturbia.
6) Star Wars, 1977. I had the pleasure of re-experiencing this with my children recently and found it to still have the magic I remembered a long time ago-in a galaxy far, far away. This film originated George Lucas’ six-film saga and is still the best of the series with EMPIRE STRIKES BACK a close second. The STAR WARS series and all its merchandising have made it a cultural phenomenon that continues to capture young generation after generation. My 5-year-old son has a light saber and is ready to do battle again with Darth Vader.
7) Wizard Of Oz, 1939. Dorothy’s journey from black & white Kansas to the colorful Land of Oz is a timeless classic for both young and old. Has there ever been a better movie song than “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” or a better witch than Margaret Hamilton, or a better trio of friends than the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion-and Toto, too? The movie is truly magical, no matter how many times we go off to see the Wizard.
8) Duck Soup (Marx Bros.), 1933. The brothers Groucho, Chico, Harpo & Zeppo attack society with all their zaniness. The wise-cracking Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, hired to save the small country of Freedonia while winning the affections of Margaret Dumont. Watch for the mirror scene with Harpo which is a classic. Their witty dialogue and pranks are still funny today. Directed by Leo McCarey.
9) Adventures Of Robin Hood, 1938. Errol Flynn at his swashbuckling best as Sir Robin of Locksley. Done in early rich Technicolor process with a rousing Eric Korngold musical score, this is a big screen adventure film. Just watching Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone crossing dialogue and blades makes this a must-see. With the lovely Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marion, Claude Rains as Prince John and a who’s who of wonderful character actors. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Another film I experienced recently with an audience, everyone applauding and cheering just like they did nearly 70 years ago.
10) A Christmas Story, 1983. What is the holiday season without Ralphie, his Red Ryder rifle and the classic Leg Lamp? From the writings of Jean Shepherd (from Indiana, who narrates) comes this wonderful story of growing up in smalltown America during Christmas. It is the one Christmas movie that hooks me over and over again. I double-dog dare you to watch it again.
Mark Mazrimas is marketing manager for Classic Cinemas (12 theaters in Northern Illinois).