We see references to movies like those on this list throughout our culture. They have embedded themselves as icons and in doing so give you a sense of “I get it,” and you have enough information to throw a pithy remark at your house-warming guests. But, in the end you’re cheating yourself because movies that have sunk so deeply into our collective consciousness, by that very fact, are important. Whether you like it or not, they’ve struck a chord in our world and that makes it matter.
So, think twice before you load in your desiccated copy of One Fine Day (1996) because you just want to sit there, not thinking and vegging on your 100 calorie packs of Kraft cheese. You can take just a couple of minutes to make yourself a decent sandwich and bask in the visual tone-poem that is (1968). You might broaden your horizons 2001: A Space Odyssey… and finally get that joke from The Simpsons.
1. Gone With The Wind – 1939 (dir: Victor Fleming)
Why I should have seen it: It’s the definitive American epic of the Golden Age. One of several movies on this list that I know only from references in other things, like UHF.
Why I haven’t: Mostly because it drives a friend of mine lunacidal, and that makes me laugh. But in the end it hurts me; I’ve missed two opportunities to see it on the big screen and I promise the third time will be the charm.
2. Schindler’s List – 1993 (dir: Steven Spielberg)
Why I should have seen it: Spielberg. Neeson. Holocaust.
Why I haven’t: Everyone goes through a holocaust phase and I saw a chunk of it a long time ago during a commercial free airing on ABC, presented by Ford. I even read the book for a school assignment. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to sync up my mood with access to the List.
3. The Sound Of Music – 1965 (dir: Robert Wise)
Why I should have seen it: I love musicals, and everyone has seen it so many times that Christopher Plummer will leave an interview if you bring it up.
Why I haven’t: I feel like I’ve heard all of the great songs and even most of the scenes themselves elsewhere.
4. Mean Streets – 1973 (dir: Martin Scorsese)
Why I should have seen it: Scorsese and DeNiro at the start of an amazing director/actor relationship. The greatest pairing next to Cliff and Ron Howard. Also, the New York of the 70’s, painted with grime and dusted with porn, which should be a sub-category on Netflix.
Why I haven’t: Inexcusable neglect. It’s even on my Netflix queue right now and I could have it tomorrow. But will I get it? History says no but, “Tomorrow is another day.”
5. The Bridge On The River Kwai – 1957 (dir: David Lean)
Why I should have seen it: I am woefully ignorant of Alec Guiness and this is generally agreed to be his best film. “Whistle! Whis-Whistle Whis-Whis-tlllllle! Whistle. Whis-Whistle Whis-whis-tlllllle. Whistle. Whis-Whistle-whistle. Whist-Whistle-Whistle, whis-whistle, whis-whis.”
Why I haven’t: General discontent among friends that it doesn’t live up to its prestige. Are they crazy?
6. Midnight Cowboy – 1969 (dir: John Schlesinger)
Why I should have seen it: Jon Voight is famous for a reason right? Also, the appeal of New York in the 70’s. Which could only be beaten by 60’s Paris for cinematic beauty.
Why I haven’t: The story doesn’t excite me as much as the actors do and there have been other Dustin Hoffman films* on my plate.
7. Breaking Away – 1979 (dir: Peter Yates)
Why I should have seen it: I feel like less of a man. I’ve heard too many guys say it’s their favorite movie to tell if that’s a good thing or not. Although, fellow-men have been pretty solid on film with me, Glengarry Glen Ross, Cool Hand Luke and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. Also, Dennis Quaid rocks.
Why I haven’t: General disinterest in sports movies. The formula gets tiresome with me. Yet, I could watch Law & Order all day long. I’m complicated.
8. Easy Rider – 1969 (dir: Dennis Hopper)
Why I should have seen it: The cultural touchstone for the 70’s. It’s in the title of the definitive book on films of the period, Easy Rider, Raging Bulls, and has changed the way films are made.
Why I haven’t: The need to have distance from Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild.’
9. Cars – 2006 (dir: John Lasseter)
Why I should have seen it: You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger Pixar fan than me and I unabashedly love everything they do. I’ve seen some chunks of CARS and the natural scenery is probably Pixar’s best work.
Why I haven’t: Even with my blind desire for Pixar,I have not been able to get into the idea of the CARS universe. I’m not a car guy and I know it’s short-sided but everything except the CARS are made for use by humans. I only hope the real history is that a race of sentient demon auto’s took over the world. Maximum Overdrive 2: Love’s Pursuit.
10. The Last Picture Show – 1971 (dir: Peter Bogdanovich)
Why I should have seen it: I could listen to Peter Bogdanovich gab about Hitchcock and Brando for hours on end. But, I’d also like to know what he learned from them. Oh, and Cybill Shepherd**. RrRrRrRrRrRowww.
Why I haven’t: For some reason it sounds like someone other than Tennessee Williams doing Tennessee Williams. I also don’t know why that’s a hurdle. I’m complicated.
* Billy Bathgate is not going to watch itself.
** Fun Fact! My dad’s best friend once dated her.