The B+ Movie Guide: Part XXII

In May of 2012, Colin said I should make a list of movies that need to be seen, because he felt there were huge gaps in what he’d seen, and wanted something to do. The idea was that I’d make up a list, as “homework” for him, and he’d use that as things to watch.

So we came up with a giant list of 500 movies that worked, and Colin went about finishing it. And now that it’s finished, we’re gonna write it up. Because you don’t watch a giant list of movies without documenting that you did it.

We’re going through the entire list, little by little, for posterity’s sake. And here’s the next set:


The Hustler (1961)


Paul Newman. Jackie Gleason. George C. Scott. Piper Laurie. Perfection. (2)


There’s something awesome about watching people struggle through games of pool and billiards for like two hours. Gleason is a juggernaut and Newman is out of his element half of the time. More than half of the time. This was one of those movies that goes really slowly for most of it, and is still really enjoyable. There are also these random appearances by people you remember from other stuff, like Charles Dierkop. He wasn’t even credited here, but you remember him as part of the gang from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and as Robert Shaw’s bodyguard (“Doyle, I know I gave him four threes! He had to make a switch!”) in The Sting. I love it when movies do that. 

Judgment at Nuremberg - 35

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)


Trial movie. A historically important trial movie at that. Stanley Kramer. Amazing performances all around. Maximilian Schell, Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland — incredible film. (2)


The cast of this film is unbelievable already. Schell puts out an incredible performance, of course, and then you have this crew of A-listers putting out solid performances themselves. Lancaster in a more reticent, reserved role than we usually see him in, Tracy following up Inherit the Wind, Richard Widmark not pushing any old ladies down stairs…it’s a powerful product when they’re all put together. I was most drawn in by Tracy’s sort of relationship with Marlene Dietrich, who plays the widow of a Nazi general who had been executed already. Then you’ve got a random William Shatner appearance — like I said, I love it when movies do that.

Splendor in the Grass - 20

Splendor in the Grass (1961)


Beautiful movie. There’s a specific genre of movies that always seems to generate classics — which is the romance genre where the lovers start at their highest point, and then life happens and puts them through the ringer. This is Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. Directed by Elia Kazan. And it’s great. You can never go wrong with Elia Kazan. (Especially a Kazan movie you’ve heard of. If you recognize the title, then it’s great.) (3)


There are a lot of these movies, and they’re all pretty devastating to watch. Beautiful, yes, but devastating. You start with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty in love, and then everything goes drastically wrong from there until the end of the movie where everything is shit on the surface, and I suppose you’re allowed to interpret whether there’s any joy to be found at all. I mean, eesh. It’s a movie that makes you feel better about where you are in life, no matter WHAT you’ve got going on. If you’re in a position to be sitting down and watching this movie with a roof over your head, chances are you’re doing better than how things end up in this movie. But you have to watch these.


West Side Story (1961)


We all know how perfect and essential this is. That’s without question. I want to say — I’ve seen a lot of movies in my time. I’ve seen a lot of movies restored and in the highest possible quality. I have not seen a movie look as good in 1080p as much as this one does. This movie holds up better than current movies do. It is gorgeous. Not to mention, you can show this to 7 year olds and they’ll understand it completely and love it. It’s one of those universal movies. (1)


This is not a movie I need to write anything about. It’s West Side Story. If you’ve seen it, cool. If you haven’t…maybe think about joining the world of culture like the rest of us have?

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)


Burt Lancaster. The man. Delivers an incredible performance. (And unfortunately in a year with Attis Finch and T.E. Lawrence. Oh, and Jack Lemmon, who is coming up, too.) Also an incredible movie. Prison movies are the same as trial movies. They’re just fascinating. (3)


This is a Best Actor performance in just about any other year. What an amazing story, and a true one, at that. Murderer, horrible criminal, and he learns about birds and how to cure their diseases while in prison. Becomes a leading authority on avian health and anatomy while serving out a life sentence in a maximum security prison. Burt Lancaster has the perfect amount of melancholy for this role. He always has that sort of misanthropic look on his face, but there’s hope in the eyes. That’s what this movie is. Killer performance, and just a shame he had to go up against Peck and O’Toole, who both deserved it even more.

Cape Fear (1962)


This one, the Scorsese one. See them both. They’re great. Different films, same story. Both great. The story is iconic. You need to see at least one of them. (2)


This movie was so messed up. I had only heard about it and never seen it, and so I was a little skeptical about the premise. Guy gets out of jail and menaces Gregory Peck and his family in ways that can’t be traced back to him or can’t be prosecuted for whatever reason. It sounded like the legal equivalent of “not touching, can’t get mad,” which is relatively harmless. People who know Robert Mitchum know how scary he can be as a villain — Night of the Hunter should be sufficient proof of that — and he terrifies you in this. The climax, where he follows the family to their houseboat and murders a deputy before attacking Peck’s wife and daughter is just riveting.

I mean, of the two films from 1962 in which Gregory Peck plays a principled Southern lawyer whose family is threatened and attacked by a creepy white man, you should totally go with To Kill a Mockingbird. But this is also super worth watching, and you don’t really have to watch both of them. Watch both, back to back, and marvel at Gregory Peck’s righteousness.

Days of Wine and Roses (1962)


This fucking movie. Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick. Alcohol. It’s — wow. That’s all I’m gonna say. Wow. (3)


This movie made me want to stop drinking more than The Lost Weekend did. How messed up was THIS? Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick get together, and she doesn’t drink. He starts her drinking, and they both become alcoholics. And it just spirals down from there. It’s terrible to behold, and the worst part is that I always loved the theme song. The theme to this movie, also entitled “Days of Wine and Roses,” is a popular jazz standard that I used to play with jazz combos in high school and college, and I hadn’t seen the movie. I just thought it was a nice song, which it is. But then I saw the movie on the list, put it on, heard the song, smiled, and then proceeded to have the song forever marred by what unfolds during the movie. I can’t listen to the song and smile anymore, because it’s a tough movie to watch. Lemmon is better here than most things he was ever in, and that’s saying something. People probably don’t watch this the way they watch other stuff from that year, and ’62 was a good year.

Dr. No - 6

Dr. No (1962)


James Bond. The first. A great movie, looks beautiful, and actually holds up in a lot of ways. The beginning of an era, must be seen. In fact, see them all. (3)


This is still number four on my list of favorite Bond movies. The beginning of an era, indeed. It’s gorgeous, it changed the film forever and changed the world. You wanna read most about this? We did a whole Bond feature, which was sort of the precursor to Fun with Franchises. Go check those out and see what we were writing three years ago now.

Lawrence of Arabia - 60

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)


See this in 70mm on the big screen. See this on as big a screen in the best quality that you can. And you’ll be watching one of the legitimate five greatest achievements in cinema history. (2)


This is a movie that goes for 227 minutes. If you like movies, you will not be bored, you will not be tired, and you will not need a break. A proper tour de force of the sort that compares favorably with most of the films we already raved about on this list. I saw it as a little kid (THREE VHS TAPES!) for the first few times, and then not again til college. Since then, it’s a once a year thing. Just like Magnificent Seven, my girlfriend put this on knowing nothing of what she was about to see and loved it.

Also, let’s take a moment for the cast, because everyone remembers O’Toole — and deservedly so. But the rest of them are amazing! Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Claude Rains, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle…watching this movie is like eating an entire pizza. It’s all good, and you don’t get tired of it. Oh, and zero calories.

Lolita (1962)


Kubrick. Mason. Winters. Sellers. Iconic story. Very famous movie. Needs to be seen. Kubrick alone should necessitate viewing. (3)


I need to apologize. I think I mentioned, during the blurb for The Diary of Anne Frank, that Shelley Winters was on this list four times and only had one death not involving water, which was in that movie. I left this off, because I forgot. So she was on the list five times, and died with water three of those times. Two of her deaths weren’t with water. Sorry, I just think it’s hilarious that she died in everything she did. The name “Shelley Winters” makes me think of drowning. Oh right, the movie. I mean, it’s Kubrick with James Mason. Probably my favorite James Mason performance.

Just…stay away from those younger girls. Watch the movie, you’ll see.

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Final Thoughts:


Yes. To everything on this list. Yes. You should see all of them, they’re all great and they’re all, in my mind, essential.


There’s nothing here I might make a concession for. Nothing on this list isn’t absolutely essential. Even the stuff you might question, like Birdman of Alcatraz or Days of Wine and Roses — those were both nominated for Best Actor in one of the strongest fields I can think of. You don’t really need Divorce, Italian Style, but we have the top four out of five actor performances covered.

– – – – – – – – – –

More movies tomorrow.

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