There are many movies I have never seen. None of this year’s films nominated for best picture, more than two thirds of the Pixar cartoons, Avatar, the fourth Indiana Jones film, Independence Day, Pulp Fiction, the list goes on and on. The problem is so little time and so much media. Aside from the Internet which includes writing this article, there is also television, both broadcast and cable, satellite radio, books, video games, and on DVD a huge backlog of thousands of movies and television shows going back over a century. And I also have to sleep at some point. This leaves me with an ever growing number of movies and television shows I have always been meaning to see but just never had the spare time to get around to.
A few years back the American Film Institute released a list of the top 100 greatest movies as vote on by their members, and while watching I realized how many classic movies were out there that I always wanted to see but for some reason never did. So I did what anyone else would do. I made a list of movies made before 1970 that I swore I would eventually get around to seeing ASAP. The list grew, and the only film on it I got around to watching was the ’50s sci-fi thriller Them!. This past Christmas I was reminded of a movie I had on my shelf that I never got around to watching, and the list hit 50. The following is that list along with a description of what I think each movie may be about.
#1] A Countess From Hong Kong ( 1967 )
Charlie Chaplin’s last movie, and reportedly his worst. I have seen all the other feature films Chaplin has made, from Tillie’s Punctured Romance ( 1914 ) through A King In New York ( 1957 ) as well as most of his existing silent shorts. From what I can tell, while Chaplin wrote and directed the movie, he only appears in a cameo role. Back in 1989 Fox Video released the Chaplin Centennial Collection, all the movies he had directed as an independent producer. It had everything but A Countess From Hong Kong. It would be another seven years before the movie finally got a video release. While I had already bought the centennial collection as well as a few other Chaplin silent short collections on video, by the time A Countess… was released I had already moved on to Laser Disc and had all but given up buying movies in the VHS format. An that was the only reason I never bought the video, waiting for the Laser Disc release which never happened. Time passed, Chaplin became less of a priority, and when the movie was finally re-released on DVD I never got around to purchasing it. Plot wise, the story seems to take place on a cruise ship, and appears to be some sort of romance.
#2] A Touch of Evil ( 1958 )
Orson Welles was the man who wrote and directed what would become the all time greatest American movie Citizen Kane ( 1941 ). But for the longest time I thought that he only directed three movies, the other two being The Magnificent Ambersons ( 1942 ) and the unreleased documentary It’s All True, only acting in the rest of his movies. It turned out I was misinformed. Welles did direct other movies, but for small independent usually foreign production companies. The three films he directed for RKO were the only A pictures Welles shot for a major Hollywood studio. They would not touch him after both Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons failed at the box office. A Touch of Evil was one of the rare times a Hollywood studio hired Welles, although the film he was hired to shoot was a cheap B feature. The story goes that Welles was originally only hired as an actor, but that changed when the films star Charlton Heston insisted that Welles be the director as well. Distributor Universal Studio took Welles final cut of the movie and had it edited down to 93 minutes. Welles sent the studio a memo detailing how the movie should be edited, but the memo was ignored. In 1998 when the memo resurfaced Universal took all the available footage they still had and attempted to make a restoration that was closer to Welles’ original directors cut. From what I can tell, the story takes place South of the border, and is a film noir.
#3] Beau Geste ( 1939 )
There was this story on Entertainment Tonight once on how 1939 was considered by critics to be the best year in motion picture history, this because of the unusually large number of great movies released. I had already seen a good number of the movies mentioned including The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind, and wanted to continue the trend by seeing Beau Geste, a movie that is probably about men who enlist in the French Foreign Legion and end up fighting the Arabs.
#4] The Big Parade ( 1925 )
The greatest war movie of the silent era. Have been wanting to see it ever since it was featured on Kevin Brownlow’s series Hollywood.
#5] The Birth of a Nation ( 1915 )
Birth of a Nation was the first great American movie. It is also incredibly racist. A Civil War epic that morphs into the creation of the Ku Klux Klan. In this version the Klan are heroic and the freed slaves are the villains, eventually going on a murdering and raping spree until the Klan shows up to stop them. Perhaps it was the unfortunate racist plot that has kept me from finally seeing this classic.
#6] Bonnie and Clyde ( 1967 )
Waren Beatty revitalized the American gangster film with this classic. It was also one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to ignore the strict censorship codes that had existed since the 1930s, codes that were put in place in part because of the extreme nature of gangster movies in the early sound era. The plot is easy to figure out. It is based on real life outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, a couple that went on a murdering and robbing spree until they were finally gunned down by the authorities in a roadside ambush. This film also contains one of my all time favorite movie themes, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, which makes it even more surprising that I have still never gotten around to seeing it.
#7] Bringing up Baby ( 1938 )
What is suppose to be one of the all time funniest movies. I believe it has something to do with Cary Grant, Katharine hepburn and a pet leopard. One of those movies that keeps showing up on the all time comedy lists along side Animal House ( 1978 ) and Airplane! ( 1980 )
#8] Broken Blossoms ( 1919 )
Groundbreaking silent movie about an interracial love affair between a white girl ( Lillian Gish ) and a Chinese man ( Richard Barthelmess ).
#9] Bullitt ( 1968 )
Most probably a police drama. Star Steve McQueen was the ultimate Hollywood action star. A badass who even had Bruce Lee as a teacher. I have seen a lot of his movies, The Blob ( 1958 ), The Magnificent Seven ( 1960 ), Hell is for Heroes ( 1962 ), The Great Escape ( 1963 ), The Getaway ( 1972 ), Papillon ( 1973 ), The Towering Inferno ( 1974 ) and The Hunter ( 1980 ), just to name a few. So how could I have missed this one? Bullitt contained what was one of the greatest car chases of all time, taking place on the hilly streets of San Francisco. I have seen clips from that car chase so many times on various television shows, but never the complete chase nor the movie that goes with it.
#10] The Cabinet of Dr Caligari ( 1920 )
Actually, I have no idea what this movie is about, but it is considered one of the all time greatest horror movies. I have seen plenty of stills from the movie, and they look freaky.
#11] Don Q, Son of Zorro ( 1925 )
I am a huge fan of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. The Thief of Bagdad ( 1924 ) is among one of my all time favorite films. I am also very fond of The Mark of Zorro ( 1920 ) and The Black Pirate ( 1926 ). But for some reason I have never seen the rest of his movies. My original reason was that the films were just not available on home video. Since then it has just been laziness. This movie is a sequel to The Mark of Zorro, although for some reason Fairbanks is playing the son of Zorro rather than Zorro himself. This would have made sense if Zorro was killed off in the first movie. But as Zorro was alive and well when the first movie ended, it is puzzling why Fairbanks chose to play his kid in the sequel. Imagine they did that with the Batman films. Joe Wayne, Son of Batman.
#12] Easy Rider ( 1969 )
Drugged out hippies on a cross country motorcycle trip with Steppenwolf blaring in the soundtrack. Somewhere along the way they pick up Jack Nicholson. I always wanted to see this film despite the fact that there have been many television shows that chose to spoil the film by showing the final scene.
#13] The Fire Brigade ( 1926 )
After watching Kevin Brownlow’s multi part documentary Hollywood, and reading his book it was based on called The Parade’s Gone By, I found myself wanting to see most of the silent movies he had talked about. Many of them I got to as they became available on home video. Unfortunately The Fire Brigade has so far evaded home video, even though excellent prints of the movie do still exist. The plot looks like an early version of Backdraft ( 1991 )
#14] Freaks ( 1932 )
A gold digger marries a circus midget, and when she tries to kill him the other circus freaks hunt her down. A controversial pre-code horror film which was unavailable for the longest time, then re-released on home video with much fanfair in the ’90s.
#15] The Golem ( 1920 )
Classic German silent horror movie. A Jewish community creates a monster out of clay to protect them against persecution.
#16] Greed ( 1924 )
The few who were able to see the screening of the seven hour directors cut of Erich Von Stroheim’s Greed all agreed that it was the greatest movie ever made. But MGM wanted a shorter version, and it was edited down to two and a half hours. Even edited and disowned by it’s director, it remained a powerful motion picture.
#17] Harvey ( 1950 )
James Stewart is a drunk who has an imaginary giant rabbit friend.
#18] The Incredible Shrinking Man ( 1957 )
Something happens to some guy, probably exposure to radiation, which causes him to shrink. At one point he is so small that he has to take refuge from a hungry house cat in a doll house. Aside from the odd clip ( usually with the cat scene ) I have never seen this movie, even though I did see the 1981 remake The Incredible Shrinking Woman with Lily Tomlin.
#19] Intolerance ( 1916 )
After the backlash director D.W. Griffith received for his film Birth of a Nation, he decided as a follow up to make a movie about racial intolerance throughout the centuries. From what I know about this film, it is several different stories about persecuted individuals in different eras. The movie cuts back and fourth between the stories as each has a parallel arc.
#20] J’accuse ( 1919 )
Able Gance’s anti war epic. Made while the first World War was still raging.
#21] The Iron Mask ( 1929 )
Yet another Douglas Fairbanks Sr. movie I have yet to see. A sequel to The Three Musketeers ( 1921 ). One of the last great silent movies, made by Fairbanks when he knew that the film industry was switching to sound.
#22] It ( 1927 )
No, not a horror film. Clara Bow is the “it” girl. I am not sure what that means, but it looks like she becomes some sort of popular party girl. One of the most popular films of the silent era.
#23] Lawrence of Arabia ( 1962 )
Peter O’Toole is T.E. Lawrence, an officer in the British Army who apparently leads an army of Arabs in Arabia during the first World War.
#24] The Maltese Falcon ( 1941 )
A bird statue that everyone is after. One of the great film noirs. And I never saw it. But, for some unexplained reason, I did see the tongue-in-cheek sequel The Black Bird ( 1975 )
#25] Mr Smith Goes to Washington ( 1939 )
Jimmy Stewart is a naive senator who discovers that ( *gasp* ) congress is corrupt.
#26] Nanook of the North ( 1922 )
A documentary on a real life Eskimo and his family depicting their daily struggle for survival. Apparently Nanook starved to death shortly after the filming was completed.
#27] Noah’s Ark ( 1928 )
Yet another great silent movie I have wanted to but never seen. This movie is famous for it’s climatic scene, shot on a set using thousands of gallons of real water dumped on the actors, three of which drowned during production.
#28] The Nutty Professor ( 1963 )
I can’t explain why I have never seen this movie. Every one of my friends caught it on television and would regularly discuss how funny it was. Occasionally the local 4:30 movie would have a Jerry Lewis week where five of his films would air. And for some reason I would catch every other movie, but on the day The Nutty Professor aired something would come up, usually homework or detention, and I would be forced to miss it. Lewis plays a nerdy professor who invents a formula that turns him into an ultra cool hipster named Buddy Love. A modern take on the old Jekyll and Hyde story. While I ended up never seeing the original, I did see the disappointing remake with Eddie Murphy and it’s sequel.
#29] On the Waterfront ( 1954 )
Marlon Brando is an ex-boxer who ended up as a dock worker after throwing a fight, or something like that. The only part of the film I have ever seen is the “I could have been a contender” scene, a clip which is shown a lot.
#30] Rashomon ( 1950 )
This I feel really guilty about. I am a fan of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. I have watched The Seven Samurai several times, and have seen most of his other movies. Rashomon aired on a PBS station nearly 20 years ago, and when it did I video taped it in SP mode. I had intended to watch the film first chance I got. Now two decades later I realized that the tape was never touched, sitting on the same shelf I left it with a thick layer of dust. I understand the plot is about a murder. Some witnesses are asked what happened and each gives a slightly different story, each shown as a flashback. It is suppose to be a ground breaking film, yet I can never find the time to watch it.
#31] Rebel Without a Cause ( 1955 )
I have never seen a James Dean film. One of the most iconic actors of the 20th Century and I have never seen him act aside from a few clips. I had always intended to see Rebel Without a Cause, but it just never happened. I did see the Paula Abdul video Rush Rush that pays homage to the movie, Paula playing the Natalie Wood part and Keanu Reeves playing the James Dean part. I assume that the movie was not that much different plot wise.
#32] The Ritz Brothers ( 1934 – 1943 )
This is no so much “a” movie, but any movie. Any movie starring The Ritz Brothers. I have seen movies by all the other comedy teams. Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, martin and Lewis, The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers, even Bing and Hope. But I never even heard about the Ritz Brothers until the mid ’80s. Suddenly i was seeing testimonials from film historians and comedians who said that The Ritz Brothers were one of the funniest screen comedy teams of all time. Then came the quote from Harry Ritz. A lifelong fan of Laurel and Hardy, I have quite a few books about them. Many of those books discuss how they ended up under contract for 20th Century Fox, where they were under the control of producer Sol M. Wurtzel. Since Laurel and Hardy fans consider their Fox films the weakest the team made, they usually blame Wurtzel for the poor scripts and cheap production values. In giving a brief biography of the producer many books quote Harry Ritz. The brothers had worked for Fox for years, but when they staged a walk out during the production of the movie The Gorilla they were bumped down to the B division as punishment, and under the control of Wurtzle. It is here that Harry told a reporter “Things have gone from bad to Wurtzel.” That quote always cracks me up. I always intended to see a Ritz Brothers movie, even if some of them were crap. Just never did.
#33] Robin Hood ( 1922 )
Yet another Douglas Fairbanks movie I have not seen yet. Reportedly the set for this movie was the most expensive one made during the silent era, a claim I find hard to believe considering the massive sets used for The Thief of Bagdad.
#34] Safety Last ( 1923 )
Harold Lloyd is a department store worker who hires a daredevil to pull a human fly stunt and climb up the side of a building to promote his store. The daredevil fails to show up, and Harold ends up having to do the stunt himself. A great thrill movie that I have only seen clips of.
#35] The Searchers ( 1956 )
A girl is kidnapped by native Americans. Her racist uncle, played by John Wayne, leads a posse to rescue her. I have seen many other John Wayne movies. This is one of the two I never seen but always intended to.
#36] The Sheik ( 1921 )
Rudolph Valentino. A silent actor so loved by the ladies that when he suddenly died of appendicitis at age 31, that over 100,000 showed up for his funeral, and there were multiple reports of distraught fans committing suicide within days of his death. I never thought that Valentino was an actor I would be interested in. Then one day I caught The Eagle ( 1925 ) which aired on PBS, a revenge story where he played a masked bandit avenger, and discovered that Valentino was pretty cool. I vowed to see his most famous film, The Sheik, but that just never happened. Best I can tell, the plot is about an Arab ( Valentino ) who kidnaps an American or European girl, and while molesting her she falls madly in love with him.
#37] Singin’ in the Rain ( 1952 )
I have seen a few clips from this movie, mainly Donald O’Connor’s performance of Make em’ Laugh and Gene Kelly singing the theme song while dancing around in a rain storm. These scenes have also been parodied and re-enacted many times elsewhere. I know that the movie’s plot revolves around the time when the sound era just began and silent stars faced losing their jobs. I know it is the greatest American musical ever made. And I’ve always wanted to see it. So why have I ended up watching The Sound of Music ( 1965 ) over a dozen times, The Wizard of Oz ( 1939 ) about fifty times, Grease ( 1978 ) over 20 times, West Side Story ( 1961 ) over 10 times, and other movie musicals multiple times, but never see this one once?
#38] Stalag 17 ( 1953 )
Prisoners at a Nazi concentration camp, and possibly an escape.
#39] Strangers on a Train ( 1951 )
You kill my wife and I’ll kill yours. A classic Alfred Hitchcock plot that was later remade as the comedy Throw Mama From the Train ( 1987 ).
#40] Some Like it Hot ( 1959 )
Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are two men are on the run from the mob, and end up disguised as women and traveling with an all girl band. There the meet Marilyn Monroe, and I guess risk exposing themselves to the gangsters in order to get into her pants. Yet another great American comedy I have never seen.
#41] Spartacus ( 1960 )
In ancient Rome a group of slaves rebel under the leadership of Spartacus. There is that iconic scene where Spartacus and another 100 or so slaves have been captured by the Romans, and the general demands that Spartacus step forward or he will have the entire group killed. But just as he is about to step forward, another slave jumps up and says “I’m Spartacus!”, then another steps forward and says “I’m Spartacus!”. Soon the entire 100 slaves stand up claiming to be Spartacus. A great inspiring scene. They probably all got killed after that. I can’t say for sure as I never seen this film.
#42] Sunset Boulevard ( 1950 )
William Holden hooks up with Gloria Swanson, and old silent film actress now fallen on hard times, and ends up dead in the pool. That is not a spoiler. The movie starts with Holden face down in the water and a voice over coming from his ghost telling you the events that lead up to his demise, followed by the flashback. And that is all I know of this movie. I do know it was one of the most parodied classic movies in television history.
#43] The Third Man ( 1949 )
Speaking of spoilers, for many years I have seen shows air the same clip from this movie. The one where Joseph Cotten yells at a man standing in the shadows to show himself, a woman opens a window to see who is making all that noise, and the light exposes the man in the alleyway while some corny music plays. I later learned that knowing who that man was in advance spoils most of the movie. Still would like to see it though.
#44] The Three Musketeers ( 1921 )
And another Douglas Fairbanks Sr movie I have put off seeing.
#45] To Kill a Mockingbird ( 1962 )
A black man is accused of a crime, and although defense lawyer Gregory Peck comes up with enough evidence to prove him innocent, the all white jury finds him guilty anyway. There is probably more to this movie, but the trial part is the only one shown in clips.
#46] The Treasure of the Sierra Madre ( 1948 )
A group of men search for lost treasure, and probably end up killing each other
#47] True Grit ( 1969 )
Just recently remade, this is the other John Wayne movie I have been meaning to see. I believe this is the first Move that John used any foul language in, calling a bad guy a “son of a bitch”. The story revolves around a patched eyed ex-marshal hired to track down a murdered by the murdered man’s daughter.
#48] Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? ( 1962 )
Betty Davis and Joan Crawford play sisters who were former child stars, now in their old age. Joan is an invalid being taken care of by Betty, who has a sadistic streak, pulling such pranks as putting a dead rat in her sister’s lunch.
#49] The Wild Bunch ( 1969 )
Sam Peckinpah changed the America western by introducing blood and gore. A group of cowboys and Mexican army men have a gun fight for some reason, and everyone gets the crap shot out of them.
#50] Wings ( 1927 )
At the very first Academy Awards ceremony, this was the first film ever to receive the statue for best picture. And it was the last time the best picture award ever went to a silent movie. It is the story of the air force during the first World War. There are plenty of spectacular dog fights and crashes.
A bit of irony. In the time it took me to write this article I could have watched two of the short films on this list.