"How dare you call me a ham!”
I first saw Carole Lombard in the film 20th Century, where I thought she was amazing both for her dramatic skills and comedic timing. Interested, I sought out the Ernst Lubitsch masterpiece To Be or Not to Be, where she is just brilliant. Playing alongside Jack Benny, the film glides along and still works perfectly some 70 years after its creation. There is also a distinctly modern, and hilarious, moment in that last plane sequence where ‘Hitler’ gives one last order to his loyal guard.
59. Groundhog Day (1993) A perfect blend of gentle comedy and philosophical investigation, this provided Bill Murray with one of his greatest parts, as a man stuck in time and space. One of those rare films that grows funnier, and deeper, the more times you see it.
58. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) I am not terribly fond of musicals, but who could argue with this one, Gene Kelly's greatest work. Inventive all the way through, then takes a sudden turn during the finale into jazz, accompanied by Cyd Charisse’s legs.
57. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) If there is a universe in which Nicholas Roeg and David Bowie didn’t make a movie together, then I prefer not to live in it. Stark, ultimately depressing, but hypnotic in the way Roeg’s best films tend to be. Bowie, perfectly cast, is mesmerizing.
56. Do the Right Thing (1989) The weird thing about Spike Lee is how old-Hollywood he is. It’s a quality I like, but it is sometimes odd to see Lee taking on whatever the current issues are of the day and applying techniques learned from All That Heaven Allows to them. This film remains his masterpiece, although there are arguments to be made for Malcolm X and 25th Hour.
55. The Conversation (1974) So, yeah, Coppola made these two unknown films called The Godfather and The Godfather Part II – very obscure – and in between he made this brilliant slice of paranoid cinema. A perfect film for the Watergate era – which is our era too since it never ended – with one of Gene Hackman’s greatest performances as sound expert Harry Caul.
53. Network (1976) This is the picture that successfully predicted what television would become, and why – it was also the picture that lost out to Rocky for the Oscar. As director Sidney Lumet said, “Boo.” Featuring one of the all-time great scripts from Paddy Chayefsky and played out by an ace cast with relish.
52. Breathless (1959) One of the most definable films of the French New Wave, this is dazzling from start to finish, as director Godard and writer Truffaut spit back the pop American gangster films they loved into a soufflé of their own. Jean Seberg was one of the most gorgeous creatures ever to appear on Earth, and she was rewarded with sadness and tragedy – the film makes it all seem like a terrible portent.
51. Sorcerer (1977) The film that did more to kill the Auteur decade of the 70’s probably more than any other, William Friedkin wasted millions and made none on this bizarre remake of Cluzot’s The Wages of Fear. Roy Scheider is perfect as the gangster seeking anonymity in Latin America, and together with the incredible tension and Tangerine Dream score, makes this journey an unforgettable one. One of the few remakes to be better than the original, in my opinion, and another film that gets better with repeat viewings.