Streams

Kenneth Turan's Favorite Movies (Now With Yours, Too!)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kenneth Turan, film critic for The Los Angeles Times and Morning Edition and the author of Not to be Missed: Fifty Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film (Public Affairs, 2014), talks about what makes his favorite films great, from the silent era to recent features. Do you have a favorite movie that rarely makes the "Best Of" lists? What's your pick for the 55th movie to add to the list? Check out listener suggestions and Turan's list below, and be sure to catch him at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria on August 3rd. He'll be screening the film Chinatown (directed by Roman Polanski) followed by a discussion and a Q&A.

Here's a list of your favorite overlooked, underrated cinematic gems, along with streaming links where available. Movies in bold got multiple votes. Keep adding more to the comments below!

Your Off-The-Beaten-Path Movie Recommendations

In the Beginning

The Thirties

The Forties

The Fifties

The Sixties

The Seventies

The Eighties

The Nineties

The New Century

Kenneth Turan's list of "54 Movies Not to Be Missed."

Comments [87]

Susan

80's- without a doubt: Ordinary People !

Aug. 14 2014 01:15 PM
Elisa from Croton on Hudson, NY

1940s: Miracle of Morgan's Creek

1970s: O Lucky Man!

1980s: Four Friends

Aug. 06 2014 01:20 AM
David from Nassau

Perhaps there's a rule against too much Kurosawa. I've made a point of seeing "Ikiru" once a decade for 50 years. It's never failed to move me. I've gone from regarding the film as a moving examination of an old bureaucrat trying to accomplish something before cancer kills him to identifying with the main character.

It is ironic that one translation of "Ikiru", "To Live", is also the name of a sweeping epic from China which follows a man and his family for decades from the end of World War II, through the battles between the Koumintang and the Red Army, to the craziness of the Great Leap Forward, and the frenzied insanity of the Cultural Revolution. A mark of this film's artistry is the stunned reaction of college students as the human cost of China's Communist Revolution sinks in and they recognize their good fortune to be living in America.

A film's importance may be judged by its social impact, e.g., D. W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" or "Days of Glory" ("Indigènes"), whether a film separates the old from the new ("Birth of a Nation" again, or "Gold Rush", "Bonnie and Clyde", "Blade Runner", "Star Wars", "Invaders of the Lost Ark", "Titanic"), but my opinion is that a film's worth is whether it holds up over time and repeated viewing. That's why I was disheartened to note the absence of "La Grande Illusion" and "Rififi" ("Du rififi chez les hommes").

Aug. 03 2014 06:53 PM
David from Nassau

Perhaps there's a rule against too much Kurosawa. I've made a point of seeing "Ikiru" once a decade for 50 years. It's never failed to move me. I've gone from regarding the film as a moving examination of an old bureaucrat trying to accomplish something before cancer kills him to identifying with the main character.

It is ironic that one translation of "Ikiru", "To Live", is also the name of a sweeping epic from China which follows a man and his family for decades from the end of World War II, through the battles between the Koumintang and the Red Army, to the craziness of the Great Leap Forward, and the frenzied insanity of the Cultural Revolution. A mark of this film's artistry is the stunned reaction of college students as the human cost of China's Communist Revolution sinks in and they recognize their good fortune to be living in America.

A film's importance may be judged by its social impact, e.g., D. W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" or "Days of Glory" ("Indigènes"), whether a film separates the old from the new ("Birth of a Nation" again, or "Gold Rush", "Bonnie and Clyde", "Blade Runner", "Star Wars", "Invaders of the Lost Ark", "Titanic"), but my opinion is that a film's worth is whether it holds up over time and repeated viewing. That's why I was disheartened to note the absence of "La Grande Illusion" and "Rififi" ("Du rififi chez les hommes").

Aug. 03 2014 06:03 PM
carolina from Brooklyn

Brief Encounter. Keltoum's Daughter. Beat the Devil.

Aug. 03 2014 03:47 PM
Ted

Petrified forest Spellbound Bad day at blackrock The lonlieness of the long distance runner Junior Bonner

Aug. 03 2014 11:47 AM
Donna Raskin from Pennington, NJ

Toy Story. Overlooked because it appeals to children, but every aspect of it is perfect: characterization, story, design (sound and look), and it is more than the sum of its parts. I teach it all the time to point out to kids and adults alike that just because a book or movie looks simple or simplistic, doesn't mean it can't be great.

Aug. 03 2014 11:23 AM
Jed from Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

Strange that there are only two from the 1970's. In some ways this was the real golden age of film, in my opinion. Where are The Conversation or Taxi Driver?

Aug. 03 2014 10:04 AM
Bill from NJ

King Kong. For the special effects alone.

Others of note: You Can't Take it With You (Jean Arthur!!) and Arsenic and Old Lace (Cary Grant is amazing!)

Aug. 03 2014 09:50 AM
Eugenia Renskoff from NYC

Laura from 1944, a film noir that is one of the classiest movies ever. The set design, acting, photography, clothes, all great.

Aug. 02 2014 05:20 PM
alan

YOJIMBO

Aug. 02 2014 07:38 AM
Vanya from NY

Blade Runner - so influential. Completely changed the look and sensibility of sci-fi films.
The Seven Beauties - incredibly powerful on the sacrifices - physical and moral - for survival.

Aug. 01 2014 04:45 PM
Steve from Staten island

North by Northwest

Aug. 01 2014 09:49 AM
Carolyn from Hamburg NJ

Life is Beautiful; Appocolypse Now; The Graduate; Il Postino;

Aug. 01 2014 09:23 AM
Chet Dalzell

Indochine (1992), Children of Heaven (1997)...

Aug. 01 2014 08:56 AM
Marian from New York, NY

I love "The Americanization of Emily" with Julie Andrews and James Garner from the sixties.

Aug. 01 2014 08:56 AM

"Sleeper" by Woody Allen

Aug. 01 2014 08:54 AM

The Alec Guiness 40s/50s UK domestics - Kind Hearts & Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob, etc.

Two Way Stretch - w/ Peter Sellers & the Carry On mob.

Aug. 01 2014 08:51 AM
Alice Twombly from Englewood, NJ

Zev Shanken from Teaneck has great choices but doesn't have Powell and Pressberger's "Stairway to Heaven" 1947. ("A Matter of Life and Death") filmed in both black and Technicolor with Kim Hunter and David Niven. Martin Scorcese restored it brilliantly several years ago. Also "The Red Shoes "

Aug. 01 2014 07:41 AM
Eric from Maplewood NJ

The Americanization of Emily

Jul. 31 2014 11:10 PM
wendy from Bridgeport Ct

A Patch of Blue (1965) with Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Hartman and Shelley Winters who won an Academy Award for this role.
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) with Ingrid Bergman.

Jul. 31 2014 09:53 PM
Bill from NJ

Four Friends (1981)

Jul. 31 2014 09:19 PM
Hugo

Very hard to find, because there is no DVD , but worth seeing when shown is Krzystof Zanussi's "Camouflage." Also in my top ten, but not listed are Kieślowski's "Camera Buff". (Polish title: "Amator." Errol Morris's "Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control."

Jul. 31 2014 08:36 PM
Arturo from Santiago, Chile

The Shining, Stanley Kubrick (1980)

Jul. 31 2014 08:16 PM
suzinne from bronx

Mr. Turan deserves his opinion, but so few movies from the Thirties? That throws into question his whole viewpoint.

Jul. 31 2014 07:20 PM
Fran from Upper East Side

Ikirau! For goodness sakes. Nothing can top it.

Jul. 31 2014 07:20 PM
Julie from Westchester

Ryan's Daughter

Jul. 31 2014 03:17 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Yes, The Conversation.

Jul. 31 2014 02:53 PM
Zach S from East Brunswick, NJ

Fanny and Alexander

Jul. 31 2014 01:51 PM
Joan from B'klyn from Brooklyn

How about 81/2 and Rashomon? Also, Woman in the Dunes.

Jul. 31 2014 01:08 PM
Rhet Butley

1960's 'Bonnie and Clyde' Beatty and Dunaway

Jul. 31 2014 01:02 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

To Connie-

How could I have forgotten it. I Know Where I'm Going is the best romantic movie ever. I've seen it a dozen times and look forward to seeing it again.

Jul. 31 2014 12:30 PM
RJM from 10017

Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) The best movie about unrequited love I have ever seen...suspenseful, stylish with a great cast and the beautiful presence of Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant

Jul. 31 2014 12:27 PM
Connie from NJ

"I Know Where I'm Going!"; a Powell/Pressburger film from 1945 with Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey.
Also, "Local Hero", 1983, by Bill Forsyth.

Jul. 31 2014 12:26 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

1950s

- North by Northwest
- Rear Window

1930s
- Bride of Frankenstein

Jul. 31 2014 12:18 PM
zev shanken from Teaneck, NJ

Here are the movies left out of the top 54.

Lawrence of Arabia
On the Waterfront
High Noon
Il Postino
Cinema Paradiso

Jul. 31 2014 12:15 PM

In Bruges, The Conversation, Playtime

Jul. 31 2014 12:14 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

Last Picture Show

Jul. 31 2014 12:13 PM
Jeff from Jersey: yes New Jersey

Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein should be #55. Just for the reason that the genres of Science Fiction, Horror, and Comedy could be mixed together in one film. Especially with Universal*s Greatest Monsters vs. their greatest comedy team. By the way, the cameo appearance by Vincent Price in the film was the icing on the cake.

Jul. 31 2014 12:12 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Oops, I see "Chimes at Midnight" is listed at the very end. Never mind.

Jul. 31 2014 12:10 PM
Rhet Butley

My fav sport film of all time is 'Eight Men Out'... not your corny "rah rah rah" fare,by any stretch. 1980's

Jul. 31 2014 12:10 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Orson Welles' "Chimes at Midnight" (1966), the muddy, chaotic battle scene of which is still being ripped off.

Jul. 31 2014 12:08 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Great list here, folks. Thanks

Jul. 31 2014 12:07 PM
fuva from harlemworld

A Lion in Winter, yes!
Witness for the Prosecution

Jul. 31 2014 12:05 PM
Carla from Franklin, NY

Suite Habana (2003)

Jul. 31 2014 12:04 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Only two films from the 70s? Come on. Woody Allen, Kubrick, Scorsese, Peckinpah, Cohen Bros, ... HELLO??
His list is extremely arbitrary and outdated, in regard to the films listed as well as the diner menu style font (Broadway?).

Jul. 31 2014 12:04 PM
Andrea from Rockland

Arsenic & Old Lace, 1944
Seven Beauties, 1975
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, 1995

Jul. 31 2014 12:03 PM
Sandy from Brooklyn

"The Best Years of Our Lives" and my Labor Day fav, "Picnic"

Jul. 31 2014 12:02 PM
Rhet Butley

1970's- 'The Dresser' with Albert Finney & Tom Courtenay.. brilliant film...!

Jul. 31 2014 12:01 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Kurosawa's "High And Low" (1963), a terrific adaptation of an Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain) novel.

Jul. 31 2014 12:01 PM
Geoffrey Perry from Hillsdale, NY

A Lion In Winter

Kate Hepburn delivers some of the best "burns" in film.

Jul. 31 2014 12:00 PM
Richard Simons from Garfield, NJ

5000 Fingers of Dr. T.

Dr. Seuss sets!!!

Jul. 31 2014 12:00 PM
Janet from Brooklyn

No Robert Altman! Gotta fix that. I nominate Nashville. So many interesting characters seemingly randomly interacting. So many aspects of American life in the 70s--so many important themes: political apathy, complacency, craving fame, sexual mores, patriotism and hypocrisy, etc.

Jul. 31 2014 12:00 PM
Hubert Herring from Dobbs Ferry, NY

Another vote for Trouble in Paradise, an early Lubitsch gem, and for Some Like It Hot. And I'd add Breaking Away, a brilliant coming-of-age film. And Children of Paradise -- yes, of course, the greatest ever.

Jul. 31 2014 11:59 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

1970s - How about TAXI DRIVER!

Jul. 31 2014 11:58 AM
Tony from Canarsie

My problem with Howard's End is that never actually show Howard nor his keister. Was it edited out?

Jul. 31 2014 11:58 AM

My number 55: Betrayal - from the Harold Pinter stage play. Ben Kingsley, Jeremy Irons and Patricia Hodge. An inside out look at friendship, marriage and the corrosive effect of long-term infidelity. Too talk-y for some but fits me just right.

Only possible improvement might have been Helen Mirren for Patricia Hodge. Have fun looking up the rumored reason why she was not cast.

Jul. 31 2014 11:57 AM
Patrice Tyler from westchester

Madame Rosa with Simone Signoret and Cinema Paradiso

Jul. 31 2014 11:57 AM
Andrea from Rockland

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, 1947: Gene Tierney & Rex Harrison

Jul. 31 2014 11:56 AM
Rhet Butley

caller Vincent would've gone on forever.

Jul. 31 2014 11:56 AM
MarkG441 from NYC

To Have and Have Not
The Searchers
Bringing Up Baby
Only Angels Have Wings
Apocalypse Now
12 Angry Men

Seems like we've left off a lot of great movies for some amusing bu mediocre ones. "Importance of Being Ernest"? Really? I mean, it's ok but BEST FILMS?

Jul. 31 2014 11:56 AM
fuva from harlemworld

My favorite Hitchcock is Rope.

Jul. 31 2014 11:56 AM
beryl from Upper West side

12 years a slave

Jul. 31 2014 11:55 AM
Joe c from Brooklyn

Tokyo Story for its heartbreaking story and beautiful cinematography.

Jul. 31 2014 11:55 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Coen Brothers, yes!
Wasn't a fan of Daughters of The Dust.

Jul. 31 2014 11:55 AM
Brendan from Brookly

In contrast to the other decades you list, the silent era lasted almost three decades, during which the art of sequential storytelling was invented…for the first time in history.

Although I know you don't prefer science fiction or societal critiques, but what about METROPOLIS which is still influencing filmmakers 90 years later?

Since you like romantic tales, what about SUNRISE, the original long-form love story?

Jul. 31 2014 11:54 AM
William Finke from Westchester

Raging Bull

Jul. 31 2014 11:53 AM
Molly from New Jersey

off the top of my head: Rebecca by Hitchcock? African Queen? Gaslight?

Jul. 31 2014 11:53 AM
Bob from East Village

From the 50's: In A Lonely Place.

Jul. 31 2014 11:52 AM
Michael from Bushwick

1930s: TROUBLE in PARADISE (Ernst Lubitsch)!

Jul. 31 2014 11:51 AM
Adrienne from NYC

Here are a couple of suggestions:

add to 1940s: Lifeboat
add to 1980s: This is Spinal Tap

Jul. 31 2014 11:51 AM
Fred from Bushwick

"Some Like It Hot" of course....not to mention "Murder on the Orient Express"

Jul. 31 2014 11:51 AM
Tony from Canarsie

What, nothing by Samuel Fuller?

Jul. 31 2014 11:51 AM
Dan Edelstein from Old Greenwich

Something Wild.

Jul. 31 2014 11:51 AM
riley

1946 Stairway to Heaven is one of my most favorite and one of the first in my memory confronting racism and the treatment of non white people

Jul. 31 2014 11:51 AM
Liza

Some Like it Hot
The Graduate
Coen brothers - take your pick

Jul. 31 2014 11:50 AM
Jeff J from New York, NY

Where's 2001: A Space Odyssey

Jul. 31 2014 11:49 AM
tom from astoria

How about the little gem "To Have and Have Not"? Walter Brennen is fantastic, the humor drama, moral cause! It's brilliant. And it's a template plot for Casablanca. My favorite!

Jul. 31 2014 11:47 AM
jc

Glad to see "The Best of Youth" made the list but its wasn't made as a movie. It was a tv series.

Jul. 31 2014 11:47 AM
hilts

Brian,

How did Turan arrive at the number 55? Why not 47 or 38?

Jul. 31 2014 11:46 AM
Steve from Rockville Centre, NY

Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders

Jul. 31 2014 11:46 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

No Scorsese, Kubrick, Malick, Peckinpah, Cohen Bros, Allen, Lynch or Lee... Are you serious? 0/10 for not even trying to troll me.

Jul. 31 2014 11:03 AM
Walter from Across the Hudson

This is Mr. Turan's "favorites" list ... not necessarily what he considers the "best" movies?

For #55: a Bergman, another Kurosawa, a Godard? Coen Bros? I like Mr. Turan's choices, I wish there were more!

Jul. 31 2014 11:02 AM
Betsy from NYC

The Saddest Music in the World
Closely Watched Trains
Metropolis

Jul. 31 2014 10:02 AM

Dr. Strangelove & Fail Safe

Jul. 31 2014 10:00 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

I'm so happy to see "Make Way for Tomorrow" on the list. It is the most heartbreaking movie ever.

Movies I'd add are "The Three Strangers" with Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet and Geraldine Fitzgerald and "The River," 1951, directed by Jean Renoir, based on the novel by Rumer Godden.

Jul. 31 2014 09:57 AM
hilts

This is a very good list, but I'm shocked to find Lawrence of Arabia and Citizen Kane missing from it.

Other worthy candidates for such a list in my opinion would include The Godfather Part II( I like it better than The Godfather, but I'm glad that one of these two made Mr. Turan's list), In the Heat of the Night, A Man For All Seasons, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Paths of Glory, The Seventh Seal, The Grand Illusion, On the Waterfront, and A Streetcar Named Desire.

Three favorite movies of mine that rarely make a "best of list" are The Great Escape, The Swimmer, and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

I'm thankful that Mr. Turan left comic book superhero movies off of his list. I wish Hollywood would kick its obsession with this garbage. We don't need to see Spiderman 17, Batman 15, or Avengers 12.

Jul. 31 2014 09:52 AM

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