Over the last two nights my wife and I rewatched The Godfather. What an amazing film that is. It's one of the few movies Nancy and I own. What struck me most this time was Copala's use of color. Somewhere an art teacher or museum docent told me that colors are more saturated in semidarkness. While I knew that bright lights can wash a color out, the claim still seemed unlikely to me. Watching The Godfather, though, I know it's true. The darkness only makes the reds and violets deeper and more sumptuous. And it is one dark film. I swear, it's the only film I've ever seen where someone opens a door and the room gets darker.
This set me to thinking about the best films I've ever seen. This is hard, because there are a lot of very good movies out there, and even some that are stand-out great. But what are the movies at the very head of the list? The ones that shook you by your shoulders until your teeth rattled? Casablanca is a great movie, as is Citizen Kane, but neither of them thrill or chill me. Nancy's list includes Erin Brockovich and Amelie. Here's mine, in no particular order; some if I saw again I might not be so impressed with (this happened with War of the Worlds which I saw first as a child and later as an adult) but at the time, seeing these I thought, "Wow, now THAT was a movie." Parenthetically, I might say the first movie to strike me this way was The Ghost and Mr Chicken, but that was only because it was the first movie I saw in a theater.
The Wizard of Oz - an early favorite that turns out to have legs. I not only love the sometimes jaw-dropping cinematography, but the writing and the performances.
The Color Purple
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Star Wars - I'm sure if I saw it again, I'd roll my eyes, but at the time, I'd simply never seen anything like it before. It was such a movie.
The Godfather I and II
Is that it? Is that all I can think of? Strangely, some of my favorite directors don't make the list. Rear Window is a superlative movie, but it just doesn't measure up to The Color Purple. Who couldn't love Fargo, but it's no Star Wars. Crimes and Misdemeanors. A great, great film. But not Godfather great.
So them's my picks, what's yours?