The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part XXXVIII)
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:
I openly dislike this movie. But it’s Woody Allen and this is considered one of his greatest and most iconic works. So I have to put it here, because while I do have opinions (which also match his opinions. He hates this movie too), I am objective about what should be considered essential.
Norma Rae (1979)
Iconic film and performance. Essential movie. Sally Field won an Oscar for this, and rightfully so. Textile worker agrees to help unionize her mill. You should know you need to see this if you haven’t already.
North Dallas Forty (1979)
Classic sports movie. Loosely based on the Dallas Cowboys of the 70s. This is what sports were like in the 70s. Nick Nolte stars with Charles Durning as the coach. Great stuff. Lot of drugs and sex. Just a really engaging film.
Tarkovsky again. As I’ve said all along with his stuff — the film students tend to like the weirder stuff he made. The Mirror is the one people think is his best. Ivan’s Childhood and Solaris are his two most accessible movies that regular people can watch and enjoy. This movie, to me, is one of the three movies he made that I really love. I saw all of his films as part of a Russian film class I took my junior year. I figured I’d be pretty bored by this film, and within twenty minutes, I was transfixed. This movie is spellbinding. The movie is based around this weird place called the Zone, which is a place where the laws of reality don’t apply. It’s a surreal place that can only be navigated by those who have studied it. In the middle of the Zone is a place called the Room, which is said to be able to grant wishes. A man known only as Stalker guides some men through the Zone in an attempt to find the Room. It is spellbinding. Trust me on this.
The Villain (1979)
Oh my god do I love this movie. It’s a spoof western. It’s playing off all the classic western tropes. It stars Kirk Douglas as Cactus Jack. He’s basically Wile E. Coyote. He’s trying to capture people and it goes hilariously wrong. But the plot is an exaggerated version of what a western would be. Ann-Margret (tits firmly on display) plays Charming Jones, who has to collect inheritance money and take it to her father, Parody Jones (played by Strother Martin). She meets Handsome Stranger (get it?) a good old American cowboy (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. You see where the parody part comes in) who will help her. And hilarity ensues. This movie is so funny to me. It doesn’t have very good reviews, but if you think of this as a live-action cartoon that is spoofing the western genre, it works.
The Warriors (1979)
Do I need to say anything past this?
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Atlantic City (1980)
Nobody remembers this movie. And it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. And yet, if you don’t follow the Oscars, you know nothing about this move. This is one of Burt Lancaster’s last major roles. He pretty much disappeared in the 70s, and then came back with this movie. After this, it’s pretty much just Local Hero and Field of Dreams. (And maybe Tough Guys, too.) Anyway, he’s a small time gangster who runs numbers, and Susan Sarandon is a cocktail waitress married to a drug dealer. And eventually they end up with the drugs, and it turns into — well, I won’t spoil it. But it’s really good. Lancaster is terrific here. It’s one of the few films to have been nominated for all five of the major Oscars (the four I mentioned, plus Screenplay. Everyone knows the three that won all five, but it’s actually not that often a film gets nominated for all five. It’s only happened about forty times).
The Big Red One (1980)
Sam Fuller’s magnum opus. A classic war movie that’s really great. Lee Marvin is the sergeant and it’s about him and his platoon. Which includes Mark Hamill. Terrific film.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
Sissy Spacek won an Oscar for this. Best Picture nominee. Classic film. She plays Loretta Lynn, and it’s one of the great Oscar-winning performances of all time. Costars Tommy Lee Jones as her husband. Should probably be seen.
Everybody knows the song:
And if you haven’t seen it, I’m sure you have preconceived notions of what this is about. But trust me. It’s not that. Whatever you think this movie is, it’s not that. This is a very good movie. It’s about a bunch of kids who attend a performing arts school (that’s basically Juilliard). We follow them from their auditions to get in and over all four years. The main characters are Irene Cara as the singer, actress and dancer, and then two other guys, one a musician and the other a comedian. It’s really great. I mean really great. And it’s very famous. Everyone should see this. I went into this expecting some sort of Glee-type musical and instead I got a drama with a few (great) songs interspersed. (Irene Cara’s “Out Here on My Own” is a really powerful piece of music.)
Flash Gordon (1980)
One of the great camp movies of all time. It’s so ridiculous. The real joy is the soundtrack by Queen, featuring the greatest theme song in the history of superhero movies:
Private Benjamin (1980)
Goldie Hawn was nominated for this. It’s also a classic comedy. It’s basically a female precursor to Stripes. Or rather, Stripes meets An Officer and a Gentleman. She’s a housewife whose husband dies, so she joins the army. And of course she’s not cut out for it at all, and it’s a comedy about that along with the tough drill instructor who hates her (Eileen Brennan, who was also nominated). Very fun movie.
Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)
This one is real easy to pitch to people. Because by and large, people don’t know about this. Okay, here’s the pitch: did you like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Because this is also based on a Hunter S. Thompson book, and here, Bill Murray plays him. The defense rests.
Chariots of Fire (1981)
This won Best Picture. I give it shit about being a terrible winner, but it’s a good film. Very iconic, and has one of the most famous theme songs of all time. It should be seen for a variety of reasons.
Classic war movie. Peter Weir directs, Mel Gibson stars. About the famous battle of (insert title here). This crosslists in a lot of places, so I think most people will recognize this as a movie they should see.
Neo noir. Michael Mann. James Caan. He’s a (insert title here) trying to make enough money to go straight but ends up taking a job for the mob, who don’t want him to. Great movie. Tuesday Weld is in this too. Willie Nelson, Jim Belushi, Robert Prosky and Dennis Farina.
Mommie Dearest (1981)
Everyone’s heard of this one. And that’s why you should see it. Because of the wire hangers. This movie ruined Faye Dunaway and Frank Perry’s careers. It’s kind of fucked up. But it’s also a cult classic. And hey — she really went for it with the performance. You have to admire that. And again, the wire hangers.
Pennies from Heaven (1981)
LOVE this movie. I knew it from college because it features a Christopher Walken dance number. He plays a pimp, and his scene is great. But it’s just one scene in the movie. This is based on a BBC miniseries that starred Bob Hoskins. Steve Martin stars in this. He’s a music salesman who wants to escape his life during the Depression. So he starts having an affair with another woman. Bernadette Peters plays the mistress, Jessica Harper plays his wife. It’s a really great movie. I was shocked at how much I loved this. One of the absolute best gems of the 80s that no one talks about anymore.
The Road Warrior (1981)
With Fury Road coming out, this movie is getting a whole lot more eyeballs on it again. Which is nice. Because it’s badass. The original Mad Max is fine, but this is the one that’s best, of the originals. Thunderdome is kind of weird, but decent enough. This franchise is kind of like Star Trek — stick with the even ones.
This movie. Honestly, I had no idea this movie even existed until earlier this year, when they rereleased it. Here’s the backstory: Tippi Hedren (star of The Birds. This will become ironic in a minute) was married to Noel Marshall. They decided to make a movie with their kids (including her daughter, Melanie Griffith) and a bunch of untrained lions and tigers. I’m not making this up. The movie was in production over 11 years, and nearly everyone in the cast and crew were maimed and injured at some point.
To reiterate — this is a movie with actors shot around untrained lions and tigers. So every time you see one of the animals coming toward one of the actors, they are actually ready to kill them. And the actors just have to act around it.
The movie, of course, was a huge flop and a disaster when it came out. But now, it’s been rereleased as an unintentional comedy. Because it’s hilarious. Watch this trailer to get you in the mood. They cut it properly to show you how to watch this movie:
To reiterate, there is no plot to this movie. This is a series of scenes of people pretending to act in a movie around untrained wild animals. So you’re watching with morbid fascination at how close these people are to being killed. And if you’re watching in an audience, you can’t help but laugh hysterically at how dangerous this all is.
I saw this at Cinefamily back in April, and it was one of the greatest theater experiences I’ve ever had. Do yourself a favor and see this movie. And if you can see it with people, do that. Because it’s one of the most legitimately dangerous movies ever made, and it’s so much fun, in a schadenfreude way.
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