The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part II)
I gave Colin a giant list of 500 movies, and he finished it. Of course I’m gonna come up with another list.
This one is for everyone, though. Not specifically for Colin. This is raw material for everybody, should they choose, to go out and see more movies. Not all of them are essential. Most of them are just awesome. I told Colin that once he finished this list, I’d give him another one that was more fun than work. Geared toward cool stuff that he’d enjoy.
I went through and found 1,000 more movies that I think either need to be seen (leftover “essential” films) or are just really great and would be enjoyed by most who see them. Here they are:
The Champ (1931)
One of those stories you’ve seen told over and over. They remade it with Jon Voight in ’79, and probably some other times in between. It’s the boxer and his son. Most people will remember the final scene. I won’t give it away if you haven’t seen it, but one you do, you’ll feel like it’s one of those films you’ve seen before. It’s that kind of story they repeat in cartoons. You’ve probably seen a version of this on something like Hey Arnold. (Also won Wallace Beery an Oscar.)
Best Picture winner. Early western. But this is an epic western. Very different. Man uproots his family because of the call to adventure. They go out and homestead. We watch as these people show up with wagons and stake out claims on empty land. And slowly, a town is built. And we watch the town go from nothing to a big city. And we watch as our main character goes from a guy who put all his money into the promise of a new start to a big newspaper mogul. It’s pretty great.
It’s Dracula. Not as good as Frankenstein, but you know, it has to be mentioned.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Great early horror movie that’s worth it because it showcases special effects. The makeup job on Fredric March is terrific. He also won an Oscar for this (tied with Wallace Beery, in fact).
The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)
Chevalier and MacDonald again. He’s a royal guard and winks at the chick he’s banging as the princess goes by. The princess thinks the wink is for him, and falls for him. He has to marry her, though he still has his other girl. She has to become more… worldly, to win him back. Kinda like Grease.
Doctor X (1932)
“SYNTHETIC FLESH!” This movie is great. It’s a weird comedy/horror hybrid, and is in two-strip Technicolor, so the whole movie has red/green tones all over it. Great for early color, and actually a pretty good horror movie. Plus, the “reveal” moment is hilarious. Highly recommended as an early horror movie that is worth seeing for a lot of reasons (early horror, early color), and is also funny in an unintended way. (They also made a sequel to this with Bogart. That is not on this list, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.)
A Farewell to Arms (1932)
Just looking at the title, it feels like one of those movies people ought to see. Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes. Borzage directed. Not essential and not not essential. See it, don’t see it. It’s good. I like this better than the overdone David O. Selznick version (though that one is in color and is worth it for that). Plus, my favorite thing about watching old Gary Cooper movies is thinking about how he banged everyone. But yeah, it’s a big romantic war movie. You know what you’re getting with this.
Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)
Pre-Code. Kind of an early Days of Wine and Roses. He’s a drunk, but she marries him anyway. And eventually they both start having affairs. If you like Pre-Code movies, and like seeing Hollywood blatantly deal with sex and alcoholism, these movies are great for that.
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
A guy has a ship wreck near his island so he can hunt for (insert title here). Really solid movie. And really short, too.
One Hour with You (1932)
Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette Macdonald. HILARIOUS movie. Pre-Code, and the whole movie is about fucking. It’s about a married couple who really like to fuck each other. And they do it a lot. Though eventually, they start thinking about fucking other people too. This is the Chevalier musical everyone needs to see. These Pre-Code movies are amazing.
Red-Headed Woman (1932)
Pre-Code. A woman will do anything to get ahead, including her boss. Very brazen. It’s movies like this that led to the Code.
Dancing Lady (1933)
Joan Crawford is a dancer, but because she can’t get work, has to become a stripper. (As we all have done.) And then she gets involved with a millionaire and a broadway director — it’s that “girl becomes a star and finds romance” kind of movie. Clark Gable is in it, Franchot Tone, Fred Astaire (as himself), and an early appearance by the Three Stooges.
Design for Living (1933)
Pre-Code. Lubitsch. Two men and a woman decide to live together, because she can’t decide which one of them she wants to be with. Gary Cooper, Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. Very famous movie of the era.
Footlight Parade (1933)
In the 42nd Street and Gold Diggers ilk. The backstage musical. Busby Berkeley did the musical numbers. “By a Waterfall” is perhaps his most famous one. This one stars James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell.
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
If you liked Doctor X, you’ll love this. A spiritual sequel, in many ways. Two-strip Technicolor horror movie. Guy creates beautiful wax statues of historical figures that look exactly like them. Problem is, nobody cares. And then his partner burns the place down for the insurance money. Cut to ten years later, and the guy shows up again, horribly disfigured and slightly… “off.” And now, his wax figures look just a little too realistic. You know where this is going. Great for the two-strip Technicolor and the wildly fluctuating tone between humor and horror. Not as good as Doctor X (or the Vincent Price remake, which is also on this list later), but definitely good if you like color.
State Fair (1933)
I loved this movie. Because when you’ve seen so many films from this era, you understand the formats, and how things generally look and feel from each year/era. This movie just completely abandons all structure. And it was such a breath of fresh air. I like when movies are wildly different from the norm in the 30s and 40s. They really stick out. Basically — a family goes to the fair. And we see them at the fair. And there are all these subplots, but mostly we’re just watching this family at the fair. The father’s in a prize hog contest, the mother baked pies, one son is trying to win at a particular game, the daughter has a budding romance — it’s basically a day at the fair, and we watch these people exist for two thirds of the movie. It’s really terrific. Highly recommended, just because of how unique it is.
Torch Singer (1933)
Pre-code movie. Claudette Colbert has a kid outside of marriage. But she can’t afford it, so she gives it up for adoption and then goes on to become a successful singer, and all the dark stuff that entails. (Hint: She bangs a lot of guys.)
Evelyn Prentice (1934)
Powell and Loy. A drama. They only made two of these, I think. He’s a big lawyer and she’s his neglected wife. But it’s Powell and Loy. Who cares what the story is?
The Gay Bride (1934)
Screwball comedy. Carole Lombard marries a gangster, but he gets bumped off. So she goes to the next gangster. And meanwhile there’s the budding romance and snide comments with the bodyguard — you know the drill. If you like those movies that feel like 30s and 40s movies (and I know Colin does), this is one of them.
One of those film student essentials. A ship captain and his new wife deal with marriage while also on this ship. It’s a weird and pretty great movie. Pere Jules and his cats! And that weird sex scene where they’re in different places. On all those lists of essential movies. Not necessarily fun, but if you’re going for the film school essentials, this is one of them.
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