Rick’s annual National Classic Movie Day ‘dos have been part of things on Taking Up Room from the get-go, and every year we film bloggers always wait with bated breath to see what angle we’ll be working. Whatever it is, we all know it’s going to agitate the brain cells nicely because it often involves picking a favorite or making lists of favorites. Put it this way: Asking a film blogger to narrow down their favorites is like only eating one Twix bar or Reese’s cup out of the package of two. While that blogger is generally happy with their choice, that other piece is still there…haunting and taunting.
With that in mind, may I present my six favorites from six decades of film history. If you’ve been reading my blog at all you may notice some repeats from past posts, but every one of these are favorites, so I will talk about them as much as I can. Here we go…
1920s: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
I was surprised at how tough it was to choose a favorite film from the twenties, because I’ve been seeing a ton of great movies from that decade lately and it feels fine. The General, Nosferatu, The Cat and the Canary, and The Sea Hawk all duked it out for the top spot because they’re awesome, but in the end Caligari won out and it deserves it. My regular readers know I’ve talked about this one before, but Caligari really is amazing. It’s visually stunning, it’s got an airtight storyline, and the acting is note-perfect. I’ve seen it several times and it always reveals something new.
1930s: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Twenties have nothing on the Thirties, because the decade sported sooooooo many amazing movies, and 1939 still holds the prize for the highest number of successful films released in a single year. So yeah, I have a lot of favorites, but I have to go with The Wizard of Oz for this decade because it’s my OG. Not only was it the first film I watched on TV, it’s one of the movies that sparked my interest in film history, especially once I got to see the ruby slippers at the Smithsonian.
1940s: Since You Went Away (1944)
This is another movie that I constantly go back to, and that’s saying something because the 1940s are my favorite decade of history and film. So many things changed in those years, and movies, particularly during the war, reflected those changes. I may be repeating myself, but one of the things I like about Since You Went Away is that it allows the viewer to time travel. We don’t see the cast glammed up, necessarily, but looking and living like regular people, albeit people with a little bit of money. We see stale cake in school lunches and uniforms mixed with caps and gowns at a high school graduation. There are tons of details that probably resonated with people during the war and are instructive for those of us coming at it years later.
1950s: Rear Window (1954)
Rear Window is an awesome movie. I hesitated to include it here because one of my other absolute all-time favorites from the fifties is Roman Holiday, but Window won out because it’s so unique. It’s a contained story without being contained. While its protagonist, Jeff (James Stewart) never leaves his apartment, or even stands up, he experiences a world of action through his long lens. It could be creepy but it’s not. Jeff might check up on his neighbors first thing in the morning, but he generally minds his own business. I also like this movie because it captures the quirkiness that is apartment living so well. With so many people living in close quarters and stories going on right next to each other, unexplained randomness is a way of life. The only difference is, obviously, most of us don’t have murderers living next door. At least we hope not.
1960s: To Kill A Mockingbird (1960)
Here’s another one that has made my Favorites list before, but I have no problem bringing it back. I have loved the book since high school and the movie almost that long, and one of the reasons is that they’re both made very intelligently and naturally without being cloying or contrived. It’s not only about the Tom Robinson trial, but about how people need to view each other through the lens of character and not color or prejudice. While Boo Radley might be strange and mysterious because he keeps to himself all the time, he still just might surprise us. He might even be our best friend.
1970s: Star Wars (1977)
I’ll be honest: The seventies are probably my least favorite decade of film. Maybe it’s a familiarity thing, since I was born in the seventies and I always feel like movies and shows from back then have a fuzzy, dusty, shabby quality to them. There were good movies, but they had to be really good to stand out from the malaise of the era. I may have to write more about this later.
Anyway, Star Wars was one of the game-changers. It got people excited about film again. It has John Williams’s iconic score. It has a stellar cast. It has the trash compactor scene on the Death Star and Aunt Beru’s infamous pasta-ish meal (or is it sauerkraut?) with that mysterious blue milk. Most importantly, it has the classic hero’s journey. I saw it for the first time on TV when I was twelve and knew it was something special. I still think it’s something special.
And there you have it. What are your favorites from each decade?
To see more bloggers’ favorites across the years, please visit Classic Film & TV Café. Thanks, Rick, for another great blogathon, and thanks, everyone for reading. A new Reading Rarity is coming soon…
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (multi-format Blu-ray), The Wizard of Oz (DVD and Blu-ray), Since You Went Away (DVD and Blu-ray), Rear Window (DVD and Blu-ray), To Kill A Mockingbird (DVD), and Star Wars (DVD and Blu-ray combo) are all available from Amazon.
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