Happy 50th, 55th… 105th?!
Celebrating Movies Released in 1969, 1964... 1914?!
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the article where we mention the movies celebrating significant birthdays this year. We’ll start with the movies turning 50, and end with the movies turning 105… I’m really trying to keep this brief!
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – If you didn’t watch it when William Goldman died last year, now is your second chance. It was one of his three favorite things he ever wrote, and there’s a reason why: it’s gold.
The Wild Bunch – The tonal opposite of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. If Butch is sweet and nostalgic, The Wild Bunch is gritty and bloody. I saw it for the first time in 1999, right before Columbine happened, and I found a lot of metaphors between some of things this movie says with the horrible events of that day.
Midnight Cowboy – Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight star in this movie, and if you want to see the origin of “I’m walking here! I’m walking here!,” this is it.
Easy Rider – One of the original counter culture movies, which is about two bikers who head from LA to New Orleans.
True Grit – Maybe not the greatest John Wayne movie, but an ode to the man and to all the movies that came before.
A Boy Named Charlie Brown – The first feature-length Charlie Brown movie. Until this point, he had only lived in the comic section in the newspaper.
Once Upon a Time in the West – Sergio Leone directed this Spaghetti Western of epic proportions.
Where Eagles Dare – The tagline on the poster for this movie says it all: “One weekend Major Smith, Lieutenant Schaffer, and a beautiful blonde named Mary decided to win World War II.” Clint Eastwood played Lieutenant Schaffer. Enough said.
From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Sean Connery’s second to last movie as James Bond (Never Say Never Again in 1983 would be his final performance as 007), and George Lazenby’s only outing as the British Secret Service agent. Respectively, Lazenby’s movie is also notable because it’s the one which Bond gets married.
Mary Poppins – If you’ve never seen it, get to it.
My Fair Lady – Based on the play by George Bernard Shaw, it was turned into a musical. It would be later remade as She’s All That.
Goldfinger – James Bond meets the villain who likes to coat his victims in gold paint. This is one of the better Bond movies.
A Fistful of Dollars – Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood introduced us to “The Man with No Name” here, borrowing a story by Akira Kurosawa.
Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles. Need I say more?
The Pink Panther – Which came first? The animated pink panther or the movie about the inept Inspector Clouseau? You know what…. just enjoy the jazzy Henry Mancini score, and don’t worry about it.
Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) – The ending was changed after JFK was assassinated in November of 1963. Good thing, because it would be very hard to enjoy this biting, hysterical satire of the military-industrial complex. “You can’t fight in here – this is the War Room!”
Godzilla vs. Mothra – Godzilla faces off against a giant moth, who has a connection to two tiny women. Later, of course, Mothra will become one of Godzilla’s allies.
Ben-Hur – Forget that remake that came out last year, this is the one worth seeing. Also, do you remember that pod race scene in The Phantom Menace? It was inspired by the chariot race in this movie.
Some Like It Hot – Marilyn Monroe is at her comedic best in this movie. See it for her, but also for everyone else in it – namely Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. This is definitely a classic comedy.
North by Northwest – The story of Roger O. Thornhill, an ad exec who gets mistaken for George Kaplan and inspires a North by Northwest adventure across the United States. The scene where Cary Grant sees a “plane dusting crops where there ain’t no crops” is iconic.
The 400 Blows – Francois Truffaut’s story about a young boy who is left without attention and delves into a life of petty crime.
Hiroshima Mon Amour – Almost more documentary than movie, which is mostly about a very deeply personal conversation between a man and a woman about memory and forgetfulness, as they discuss where they were on the day the U.S. bombed Hiroshima.
Rear Window – My favorite Hitchcock movie because you can’t help but fall in love with Grace Kelly when she comes in for a kiss.
Dial M For Murder – This movie introduced us (and Hitch) to Grace Kelly.
White Christmas – If this movie is a Christmas movie, then so is Die Hard. Die Hard takes place entirely on Christmas Eve and on Christmas, while White Christmas waits until the final reel to celebrate the day. Also, this movie only has two Christmas songs, while Die Hard has three. So, there!
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Bob Mattey created the giant squid that attacked the “Nautilus” in this adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic. Twenty years later, some kid named Spielberg would ask him to design a great white shark for a movie called Jaws.
On the Waterfront – “You don’t understand. I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am.” Marlon Brando stars as Terry Malloy, an ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman who is struggling to stand up to corruption. Director Elia Kazan testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952 at the time of the Hollywood blacklist, and this movie is seen as a metaphor for the Committee.
A Star Is Born – The first remake of this is apparently timeless classic.
Them! – Atomic fear came to the U.S. with this, which imagined ants growing to giant size and terrorizing the populace in the American Southwest.
Godzilla – The movie that introduced the world to the giant green monster, who was initially a metaphor for the atomic bomb. Since this, he has truly taken on an iconic status.
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic gets another big screen adaptation — the first was in 1933.
Mighty Joe Young – Produced by the same creative team as the original King Kong, this is the young story of a woman who raises a big gorilla in Africa, and then brings him to Hollywood in order to try and save her family farm. You can imagine what happens, and you’d be right, but the story doesn’t end there.
The Third Man – Carol Reed directed Orson Welles in the piece that has come to define what it means to be film noir, which in no small part was helped by the expressionism in black-and-white cinematography with harsh lighting and a distorted “Dutch Angle” camera technique. Based on a novella of the same name, this is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made.
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo – Michael Bay and Randall Wallace tried to shoehorn the plot of this movie into the last 30 mins or so of Pearl Harbor. Skip that movie entirely, watch Tora! Tora! Tora!, and then watch this classic — a revenge tale in which Col. Jimmy Doolittle surprises Japan with a daring sneak attack of our own.
Arsenic and Old Lace – Based on a play, this dark comedy by Frank Capra is still considered to be one of the funniest movies ever. “Good, macabre fun” is what The NY Times called it. If there is more apt way to describe this movie in three words, I’ve never found it.
Lifeboat – This movie is set entirely aboard a lifeboat from a sinking passenger vessel after a World War II naval attack. It has a decidedly fixed cast, but that doesn’t stop Hitch from making a cameo.
Gone with the Wind – If you’ve never seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to do so —if for no other reason than to see the germ of the Han Solo-Princess Leia relationship in Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. You might even recognize some of the dialogue exchanges, and if you really want to do yourself a favor, you’ll read Margaret Mitchell’s novel!
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – How lovely it would be if Washington could be fixed by a nice guy like Mr. Smith in this Capra classic that comes across today like a fantasy.
The Wizard of Oz – There isn’t anything to say about this movie you don’t already know. I’m sure you’ve already seen it, but now you have an excuse to watch it again.
Gunga Din – Based on a poem of the same name by Rudyard Kipling, this was the original Temple of Doom.
Ninotchka – Starring Greta Garbo, the posters read “Garbo laughs.” You will too.
Stagecoach – This movie launched John Wayne to stardom, and it confirmed John Ford’s place as an important director. The climactic stagecoach chase and suspenseful horse-jumping scene are admired still to this day.
It Happened One Night – The movie that launched the career of one Mr. Frank Capra. Reportedly, Claudette Colbert couldn’t have been more bored with the movie, but Clark Gable knew the young director would go on to do bigger things after this.
The Count of Monte Cristo – This is the first time Alexandre Dumas’ epic tale of revenge hit the big screen.
The Hound of the Baskervilles – One of the more popular Sherlock Holmes stories— it is among the best known cinematic adaptations of the novel, and stars the iconic Basil Rathbone as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective.
Sally – A musical entirely in Technicolor, which is a rarity for the late 20s.
The Thief of Bagdad – A silent swashbuckler of a movie starring Douglas Fairbanks, which is considered to be one of his finest works. Fairbanks’ biographer Jeffrey Vance writes, “An epic romantic fantasy-adventure inspired by several of the Arabian Nights tales, The Thief of Bagdad is the greatest artistic triumph of Fairbanks’s career. The superb visual design, spectacle, imaginative splendor, and visual effects, along with his bravura performance (leading a cast of literally thousands), all contribute to making this his masterpiece.”
Test of Honor – John Barrymore’s first movie. Thinking of Drew Barrymore, his family is still acting today.
Cabiria – It may not be the first moving dolly camera shot, but it may be the first moving dolly camera shot produced in a movie— and it was a certified blockbuster for 1914.
The Squaw Man AKA The White Man – A silent Western drama, which was Cecil B. DeMille’s directorial debut.
…And that does it for this short lesson in film history.
Hope I made you curious to see at least a few of these movies.
Until next time,