I’m not much of a movie person. It’s not that I don’t like movies exactly, it just doesn’t often occur to me to go to the movies, or flip over to HBO, or pop a DVD in the player. As a result, the gaps in my movie-viewing knowledge are huge. I’ve never seen “Casablanca.” Or “Citizen Kane.” Or “The Godfather.” I’ve never seen a single “Star Trek” movie, and I only saw my first James Bond movie a year or so ago. (I didn’t particularly like it and won’t be seeking out others.)
Thus, when I saw this week’s 10 on Tuesday topic, my first question was whether or not I had actually seen 10 Best Picture winners. I googled my way over to the Academy Awards website, and – much to my surprise – discovered that I had seen almost a third, though nearly all were films released in my lifetime. Overall, I would say that few of the movies I list below are what I would really call my favorites; they’re merely the best of what was on the winners list. And while the first half of the list is in order by how much I like them, the rest of the list is in no particular order, because I just don’t have especially strong feelings one way or another.
1. “West Side Story” (1961) – My dad and I used to watch this on tv all the time when I was a kid, and the stage version was the first live theater I ever saw. It’s the origin of my love for musicals, and I’m pretty sure I still know the words to all the songs.
2. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003) – To me, this is really a cumulative award for all three movies in the LOTR series, and they really are a triumph. Peter Jackson created a gorgeous, entirely believable Middle Earth, and also managed to take the most excruciatingly boring books ever written and make them into incredibly enjoyable movies. Also: Viggo Mortenson. Need I say more?
3. “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) – I lack the suspension of disbelief necessary, in most cases, to find scary movies frightening. Not the case with this one – it scared the living crap out of me.
4. “Gone with the Wind” (1939) – I saw this in a theatrical re-issue when I was in the sixth grade, and it’s a big part of what made me a huge history geek. It may well also be the genesis of my loving characters on screen (though for me, usually tv) who I would not tolerate for one minute if I actually knew them in real life.
5. “Schindler’s List” (1993) – An absolutely epic achievement. In a film full of heartbreaking moments, the little girl’s red coat, the lone spot of color in an otherwise black-and-white film, is an image that will never leave my mind.
6. “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) – A brutal and uplifting look into a part of the world I know very little about.
7. “The Departed” (2006) – This might have made the top five if not for the last shot of the film, which all but ruined it.
8. “A Beautiful Mind” (2001) – I thought Russell Crowe was brilliant in this, and committed so thoroughly to both reality and his delusions that I found myself forgetting which characters were “real” and which were not.
9. “Titanic” (1997) – Unpopular opinion, but I liked it. I thought it was moving and that – unlike so many movies – the special effects were actually deployed in service of the story, rather than just to show how fancy they could be.
10. “Amadeus” (1984) – This is one of the few movies that I will always stop on if I flip by it on tv.
I’d love to hear your favorites – as well as any you think I’m crazy for having missed. (I know: “Casablanca.” I can hardly believe it myself.) The official list is here.