Shame of a Nation: 12 Angry Movies by Sidney Lumet

Shame of a Nation is where we reveal our dark, dirty, secret shame. Stay tuned as we admit the awful truth about the classic films we’ve yet to see . . . Veritas vos liberabit.

Acclaimed director of socially conscious cinema classics and continued purveyor of moral melodrama, Sidney Lumet, passed away on Saturday. He will be missed. With a career that spanned more than 50 years, Lumet worked with some of the greatest actors from every generation since Hollywood’s golden age: Henry Fonda, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Katharine Hepburn, Walter Matthau, Lee J. Cobb, John Cazale, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway, Sean Connery, Al Pacino, Rod Steiger, Alan Arkin, Nick Nolte, River Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, to name a few.

A prolific filmmaker, Lumet worked well into his 80s, directing a plethora of prestigious films, many of which I’m ashamed to say I have not seen. I have seen some of the big ones: Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network–a few of his “lesser” films: Find Me Guilty and The Wiz–and his last film: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Sadly, that’s it . . . and so I present my special Sidney Lumet list of shame, 12 films I’ve yet to see.

12. Running On Empty (1988)

River Phoenix plays the son of two former political activists wanted by the FBI, Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch. It seems like a complex story about loyalty and the ties that bind family together. But, since I was 5 when it came out it just never really made an impression on me. I don’t know that it’s a classic, but it’s Lumet and River Phoenix is in it, so I feel obligated to see it.

11. Deathtrap (1982)

Michael Cain plays a successful playwright whose latest plays have flopped. After receiving a near-perfect manuscript from a student, Christopher Reeve, Cain plots to kill him, take credit for the play and produce it himself.

It’s a dark comedy/crime thriller/mystery. It looks fun. It stars Michael Cain and Christopher Reeve. And it’s directed by Sidney Lumet. I have no good reason for why I haven’t seen this film.

10. Family Business (1989)

Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, and Matthew Broderick play three generations of a family of thieves in a crime comedy. Yes, please.

What can I say? I just forgot about this movie. I don’t know how it slipped off my radar, but it did.

9. Q & A (1990)

I just discovered this movie, and Nick Nolte as a corrupt, larger-than-life cop in a Sidney Lumet movie is reason enough for me to see it.

8. Prince of the City (1981)

Basically, it looks like Serpico 2, but with Treat Williams. The title is a bit off-putting to me, but once you get past it and watch the trailer, the movie looks pretty awesome, in the same vein as Serpico and The French Connection.

7. The Hill (1965)

Sean Connery and Ossie Davis in a Lumet drama about a military prison during WWII. Sold. Basically, I think every man should see every Sean Connery movie ever made.

6. Fail-safe (1964)

Released the same year and telling essentially the same story as Dr. Strangelove, Fail-safe is the dramatic-thriller take on mutually assured destruction. Just in case the satirical look at an impending nuclear winter wasn’t disturbing enough, here we trade satire for suspense. Instead of Peter Sellers as the President and the advising scientist we have Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau, respectively.

5. Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

An Agatha Christie murder mystery with an all-star cast including: Albert Finney, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, and Jacqueline Bisset. But, I’ve just never found Hercule Poirot that appealing. Christie’s stories always seemed a bit posh for me. I’m more a fan of the hard-boiled mysteries,  Dashiell Hammet’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. But, I like mystery in general, so I suppose I should finally check out Murder on the Orient Express.

4. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)

Sidney Lumet directs Katharine Hepburn in a play by Eugene O’Neill.

3. The Verdict (1982)

I don’t know why I have an aversion to courtroom dramas, but I do. Still, I know that I should see The Verdict. Paul Newman’s performance as Frank Galvin is generally hailed as one of his best. The film was nominated across the board for all the major Oscars. And David Mamet wrote the screenplay.

2. The Fugitive Kind (1960)

Another easy one: Sidney Lumet directs Marlon Brando and it’s in the Criterion Collection.

1. Twelve Angry Men (1957)

I know, I know. It’s a classic. Lumet’s first film, and he was nominated for an Oscar right out of the gate. Again, all I can say is that I’m not big on courtroom dramas. Still, I know I should see it.

What say you? What have I left off? What’s your favorite Sidney Lumet movie?

One response to “Shame of a Nation: 12 Angry Movies by Sidney Lumet

  1. Dude 12 angry men is such a must.
    Dog Day is one of my all-time favs and what I deem Pacino’s best performance.

    I haven’t seen 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11…Express is a little more tongue in cheek and Finney is great. Verdict is a tad overrated but Newman is awesome. Fail Safe is solid but is stuck in Strangelove’s shadow.
    Running on empty is solid but Phoenix is the stand out and his oscar reaction is priceless.

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