Saturday, July 5, 2008

The U.S. of A at 24 Frames Per Second: 200 American Movies Movie-Obsessed Americans Should See

Of course, July 4th is here, so I thought I would serve my country in the best way I know how: by talking about our movie heritage. More specifically, I have decided to list 200 important films that I feel best represent the true nature of America, warts and all. So, we start with:


(1) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 39)
A righteous young senator stands up to a crooked Washington political machine.

(2) The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 83)
The innovative Apollo space flights get underway as America begins a Cold War race with the Russians.

(3) The New World (Terrence Malick, 2006)
English ships sail to the shores of what will be America, and the natives are stunned. The founding of our country, for better or worse, with an angelic, adventurous woman as our guide.

(4) Bound for Glory (Hal Ashby, 76)
Songwriter Woody Guthrie travels the USA, guitar in hand, and discovers what he really always knew: this land is your land.

(5) All The President’s Men (Alan J. Pakula, 76)
Freedom of the press in action; the unveiling of Watergate and a presidency’s most dire crisis.

(6) The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 40)
The Dust Bowl challenge the resiliency of heartland families escaping to the west, where they find that life is not so easy.

(7) Manhattan (Woody Allen, 79)
A romantic ode to the USA’s finest city, and a survey of modern American male/female intrigue.

(8) Primary, Crisis, and Faces of November (Robert Drew, 60-64)
The entire trajectory of JFK's presidency. In Primary, the cameras are intimate as JFK and Hubert Humphrey face off at the start of the 1960 presidential race. In Crisis, JFK and RFK juggle family and work as they confront Alabama governor George Wallace, who's literally standing in the way as two black students plan to enter the all-white halls of an Alabama university. And Faces of November quietly, sadly documents the JFK's funeral and the shattered reactions of citizens commemorating the president's death.

(9) Tucker, The Man and His Dream (Francis Coppola, 88)
The entrepreneurial spirit thrives as an optimistic visionary challenges Detroit automakers to build a better mousetrap.

(10) 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 57)
Our jury system hard at work.

The rest are separated out by subject matter, and are listed in order of their importance within these separations:

(11) Nashville (Robert Altman, 75)
A large cast of peculiar characters descends upon a third-party political rally in Tennessee’s country music capital.
(12) Point of Order! (Emile De Antonio, 64)
The 50s-era Communist witchhunt hears its death knell as its chief perpetrators are vanquished.
(13) Seven Days in May (John Frankenheimer, 64)
A warhawk general attempts a military coup of America, with a weakened president as his nemesis.
(14) Being There (Hal Ashby, 79)
A simple-minded, middle-aged gardener ventures out of his Washington DC home for the first time and is befriended by a politically-connected kingmaker and his wife.
(15) The Candidate (Michael Richie, 72)
A young California senatorial candidate sadly loses his political naivete while striving for victory.
(16) Missing (Costa-Gavras, 82)
A loving married couple living in Chile witness the acts of the brutal Allende regime (and its American backers), with horrifying results that call into service the strict presence of the husband's patriotic father.
(17) Medium Cool (Haskell Wexler, 69)
An unscrupulous TV reporter is shaken by events surrounding the riotous 1968 Chicago Democratic convention.
(18) Primary Colors (Mike Nichols, 98)
Cut-throat presidential politics, fueled by ambition, service, dirty tricks and irresponsible sex.
(19) Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, 2012)
With a country divided and at war, a harried president tries to mend the schism at its core.
(20) The Best Man (Franklin J. Schaffner, 64)
Two presidential candidates (for an unnamed party) combat each other and their own pasts to win the prized nomination.
(21) Advise and Consent (Otto Preminger, 62)
A new Secretary of State is to be appointed; the president's first choice for the post is run through the wringer by a divided Senate willing to argue it at even the cost of their own lives.

(22) Fury (Fritz Lang, 36)
A gentleman mistakenly nabbed for murder faces the threats of mob violence before he can prove his innocence.
(23) The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 85)
Texas drifter Randall Cobb is accused of and jailed for a crime he didn’t commit.
(24) Cutter’s Way (Ivan Passer, 81)
A lay-about sailboat salesman witnesses a wealthy man's murderous deeds, and finds himself goaded into action by his best friend, an embittered disabled Vietnam war veteran.
(25) The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, 82)
Failed Boston lawyer Frank Galvin is given a shot at a winning suit against some wreckless doctors and the Catholic Archdiocese that controls their hospital.
(26) The People Vs. Larry Flynt (Milos Forman, 96)
The early life of the famed porn king, whose stubborn confrontation of censorship issues are legend.
(27) Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger, 59)
A small-town lawyer defends a soldier accused of killing a man he believes raped his very sexy wife.

(28) The complete works of Frederick Wiseman (67-present)
The genius documentary filmmaker profiles his multi-faceted country. His films: High School, Meat, The Store, State Legislature, Hospital, Missile, Public Housing, Model, Central Park, Aspen, Racetrack, Deaf, Blind, Multi-Handicapped, Zoo, Domestic Violence, Basic Training, Near Death, The Store, Boxing Gym, At Berkeley, In Jackson Heights, and his first work, a devastating look at a neglected insane asylum called Titicut Follies.
(29) Young Mr. Lincoln (John Ford, 39)
The greatest United States president is seen in his beginnings as a humble country lawyer.
(30) Wilson (Henry King, 44)
Our 28th President faces great personal tragedy, the onslaught of WWI and the resulting political intolerance.
(31) The General (Buster Keaton, 27)
During the Civil War, a Confederate reject tries to retrieve a locomotive stolen by Union spies.
(32) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 62)
An experienced gunman and an Eastern lawyer--both in love with the same woman-- battle a gang of outlaws in their own ways, and thereby help carve civilization into the fabric of the West.
(33) Ragtime (Milos Forman, 81)
In 1900s New York, a sprawling pastiche of diverse American life folds in upon itself.
(34) The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominick, 07)
An adoring fan of western gunman Jesse James slowly turns against his hero, much to his later shame.
(35) Empire (Andy Warhol, 64)
An eight-hour shot of the USA’s most recognizable structure, the iconic Empire State Building, recorded by the country’s leading pop artist.

(36) In America (Jim Sheridan, 02)
A charming Irish family strives to find a new life in 1970s-era New York.
(37) America, America (Elia Kazan, 63)
Moroccan immigrants settle uneasily on the shores of the United States.
(38) Moscow on the Hudson (Paul Mazursky, 84)
A Russian arrives in the US, and he's transformed and fascinated by its freedom and diversity.
(39) El Norte (Gregory Nava, 82)
Mexican immigrants excited about the promise of American life get a rude, rude awakening.
(40) Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 06)
A curious but dunder-headed journalist from Kazakhstan enjoys his first taste of the USA, all for the good of Kazakstani television.

(41) Pork Chop Hill (Lewis Milestone, 59)
The US’s unrelentingly deadly battle against the Chinese army for control of a desolate Korean hill.
(42) Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 98)
Arriving on D-Day’s Normandy beach, a band of US soldiers must find and rescue one of their own, a man who's been called back home after each of his brothers die in battle.
(43) The Red Badge of Courage (John Huston, 51)
A Union soldier experiences cowardice and bravery on a Civil War battlefield.
(44) Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 87)
The full trajectory of life as a Vietnam soldier, from boot camp to Hue City.
(45) They Were Expendable (John Ford, 45)
PT boats patrolling the Philippines are assigned a doomed mission they must carry out.
(46) The Why We Fight series (John Huston, Frank Capra, John Ford, et al., 43-45)
World War II as documented by Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers.
(47) Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott, 01)
Mogadishu, Somalia, 1993, and unprepared US forces slog helplessly through a bloody war with the city's ruthless warlords.
(48) Sergeant York (Howard Hawks, 41)
A young man leaves his Southern home to excel as a soldier in the First World War.
(49) Hearts and Minds (Peter Davis, 74)
Vietnam unfiltered.

(50) The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 42)
A once-great turn-of-the-century family sees its fortunes change upon the arrival of the automobile.
(51) It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 46)
A downcast family man has a wish to have never been born granted by an angel sent to save him.
(52) Giant (George Stevens, 56)
Generations of the Benedict oil clan see attitudes change rapidly over years of Texas time.
(53) The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 78)
A Pennsylvania steel town is touched by the tragedies of the Vietnam conflict.
(54) Breaking Away (Peter Yates, 79)
Four young Indiana friends combat their university town’s classism by competing in a bike race.
(55) Sherman’s March and Time Indefinite (Ross McElwee, 86-93)
A lovelorn filmmaker seeking to trace Sherman’s destructive Civil War path through the South instead turns his camera towards a host of Southern females, eventually finding familial death, love, marriage and fatherhood at his quest’s “end.”
(56) The Sullivans (Lloyd Bacon, 44)
The heroic Sullivans make the ultimate of ultimate sacrifices during WWII.
(57) A Raisin in the Sun (Daniel Petrie, 61)
A black limo driver aches to see his family enjoy a better life, and he's willing to lay it all on the line to do so.
(58) Kramer Vs. Kramer (Robert Benton, 79)
A New York ad exec sees his neglected marriage fall apart, but thereby enjoys a new and deeper relationship with his 8-year-old son.
(59) Little Women (Gillian Armstrong, 94)
A New England family of women find joy, independence and sorrow as the father is away on military assignment.
(60) Ordinary People (Robert Redford, 80)
A well-to-do New England family is shattered by the accidental death of the oldest son and the attempted suicide of his guilt-ridden brother.
(61) A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries (James Ivory, 98)
A family of intellectual expatriates living in France find their American heritage difficult to conceal.
(62) Best Boy (Ira Wohl, 79)
A 50-ish mentally challenged man prepares for independence from his doting, aging parents.
(63) Ulee’s Gold (Victor Nunez, 97)
Ulee, a taciturn Florida beekeeper and a prideful cultivator of Tupelo honey, juggles exhausting work and a deteriorating family, with troubles to come he could not have envisioned.
(64) Places in the Heart (Robert Benton, 84)
A newly widowed Texas woman struggles to keep a roof over her children’s head by going into the backbreaking business of cotton farming.
(65) The World According to Garp (George Roy Hill, 83)
A young writer and his feminist mother encounter cultural and familial storms as their successes rise.

(66) The Pride of the Yankees (Sam Wood, 42)
Lou Gehrig, the record-holding New York baseball legend, faces the battle of his life, with his loving wife at his side.
(67) Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 76)
A losing Philadelphia boxer gets a one-time miracle shot at romance and the heavyweight title.
(68) The Natural (Barry Levinson, 84)
The greatest baseball player America’s ever seen has his mythic present disrupted by a dark and forboding past.
(69) Hoop Dreams (Steve James, 94)
Two African-American high school students from Chicago chase their desires for success in the basketball world.
(70) The Longest Yard (Robert Aldrich, 74)
Two of America’s obsessions, prison and football, collide in an exciting fashion as the inmates of a Georgia lock-up are pitted against the Guards in an exhibition game, with a jailed former pro quarterback as their leader.

(71) Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 44)
The Smith family, in turn-of-the-century Missouri, joyously perform numbers from the American songbook while finding love and change affecting their lives.
(72) The Music Man (Morton De Costa, 62)
A tricky travelling salesman of band instruments has his heart stolen by an Iowa town, all against the backdrop of a local Fourth of July celebration.
(73) On The Town (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, 49)
Four sailors on leave for the weekend in New York City search for fun and romance.
(74) Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood, 80)
The close-knit, idiosyncratic members of a modern traveling Wild West show stir patriotism in the hearts of their audiences.
(75) Field of Dreams (Phil Alden Robinson, 89)
An Iowa cornfield becomes the site of a magical occurance involving baseball, literature, community service, and fatherhood.
(76) Oklahoma! (Fred Zinnemann, 56)
Two cowboys struggle for love in the wide-open Oklahoma territory circa 1904

(77) Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 42)
Rick and Ilsa may have to forsake their passion for the good of the war effort, with the exotic locale as backdrop.
(78) To Kill A Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 62)
His children watch carefully as 30s-era Southern lawyer Atticus Finch fights local racism and injustice.
(79) Mister Roberts (John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy, 55)
Navy men itch to get in the 1940s fight but end up instead sitting fatally bored on a non-combat cargo ship.
(80) Apollo 13 (Ron Howard, 95)
The tale of a troubled mission to the moon.
(81) The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 69)
A group of mercenary gunmen face a moral dilemma when one of their members is kidnapped and tortured by Mexican rebels.
(82) 1941 (Steven Spielberg, 79)
The Japanese attack the coast of 1940s California, with chaotic and hilarious results.
(83) Raggedy Man (Jack Fisk, 81)
A lonely mother of two in a small Texas town circa 1943 launches a fleeting romance with a jilted sailor on his way to war.

(84) Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 89)
Summer heat raises racial tensions embedded in a Brooklyn neighborhood’s diverse population.
(85) King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis (Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 70)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, caught on film in his quest for the country’s civil rights.
(86) Glory (Edward Zwick, 89)
The story of America’s first all-black calvalry regiment, assigned to fight Civil War Confederates.
(87) The Times of Harvey Milk (Rob Epstein, 84)
The inspiring and tragic story of America’s first elected gay official.
(88) 9 to 5 (Colin Higgins, 1980)
Three women literally fight sexism in the office.

(89) All Bugs Bunny Warner Brothers cartoons (Chuck Jones, Friz Freling, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, Robert McKimson, Mel Blanc [voice], et al., 40-2008)
America’s leading smart-ass bests all comers with humor, craftiness, confidence and intelligence.
(90) Reds (Warren Beatty, 81)
Jack Reed and Louise Bryant, left-wing journalists witnessing the 1917 Russian Revolution, have their love, lives and beliefs put to the test.
(91) The Straight Story (David Lynch, 99)
Longing to visit his dying brother, a tortured old man travels across many states on his riding lawnmower, assisted along the way by an assortment of sympathetic friends.
(92) Frank Lloyd Wright (Ken Burns, 98)
The acclaimed American architect’s life is given a colorful overview.
(93) Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 94)
A loving, slow-witted man bumbles his way through the historical events of the 20th Century’s latter half.
(94) Harry and Tonto (Paul Mazursky, 74)
Thrown out of his NYC apartment, an elderly man travels cross-country to visit each of his children, with his faithful cat Tonto in tow.
(95) Patton (Franklin J. Schaffner, 70)
WWII’s maverick General George S. Patton and his undying devotion to military ideals.
(96) Citizen’s Band (a.k.a. Handle with Care) (Jonathan Demme, 77)
A group of middle-American CB enthusiasts are inextricably connected by their communications with one another.
(97) Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 94)
A Hollywood B-movie filmmaker contributes his every fiber towards his unusual cinematic vision.
(98) Conrack (Martin Ritt, 74)
A Southern writer accepts a job teaching poor rural black children how to read and write.
(99) The Dirty Dozen (Robert Aldrich, 67)
A tough WWII sergeant whips into shape an antagonistic group of jailed soldiers in order to train them for a deadly mission against the Nazis.
(100) Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg, 02)
The can-do American spirit of reinvention and innovation is embodied in the form of an impossibly clever young con-man.
(101) Jimmy’s Story (Billy Yeager, 03)
A struggling white Florida musician gains what recognition he can by posing as the illegitimate son of Jimi Hendrix.
(102) American Movie (Chris Smith and Sarah Price, 99)
A nearly hopeless Wisconsin filmmaker attempts to overcome his personal demons to complete his first production, a horror movie called Coven.

(103) The Insider (Michael Mann, 99)
Cigarette execs attempt to silence a disgruntled, sorrowful scientist ready to talk on TV’s 60 Minutes about nicotine’s absolute addictiveness.
(104) Hair (Milos Forman, 78)
A band of friendly hippies meet up with a green, Midwestern inductee into the Vietnam-era army and, together, they experience the wonders of 1960s NYC.
(105) Born on the Forth of July (Oliver Stone, 89)
Patriotic soldier Ron Kovic returns home from Vietnam a politically awakened paraplegic.
(106) Running on Empty (Sidney Lumet, 88)
A family of long-in-hiding underground radicals are dazed when their son wants independence from them.
(107) The China Syndrome (James Bridges, 79)
A nuclear power plant reaches its meltdown point and a low-level TV reporter joins with one of the plant’s managers to expose the danger.

(108) Salesman (Albert & David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerlin, 68)
Door-to-door Bible salesmen ply The Word, with pressures put on them to succeed at all costs.
(109) Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 41)
Capitalism, ambition and pride run roughshod over a millionaire’s once-great ideals.
(110) Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, 36)
A lowly factory grunt is driven mad by the unthinkable demands of industrial work life.
(111) Matewan (John Sayles, 87)
A West Virginia coal mining town is disrupted by a clash between union supporters and the cruel, unfeeling company that employs them.
(112A and 112B) Harlan County USA and American Dream (Barbara Kopple, 76/90)
America’s greatest female director looks at two impassioned union/corporate conflicts: the first at an Appalachian coal mine, the next at a Midwestern meat-packing plant.
(113) Red River (Howard Hawks, 48)
Herds of cattle are driven hundreds of miles by an anguished band of overworked cowboys.
(114) It’s a Gift (Norman Z. McCleod, 34)
A grumpy family man withstands an endless array of headaches while on the road to wealth.
(115) Norma Rae (Martin Ritt, 79)
A southern textile worker’s life is enriched and troubled by the possible unionization of her factory.
(116) Used Cars (Robert Zemeckis, 80)
Two rival used car salesmen in L.A. compete ruthlessly with each other for the customer’s cash.
(117) The Music Box (James Parrott and Hal Roach, 32)
Laurel and Hardy attempt to deliver a piano, with their only obstacle being a loooooooooong flight of stairs.

(118) Oh, God! (Carl Reiner, 77)
A supermarket manager is embroiled in a media frenzy after he’s visited by God and charged with delivering a message to mankind.
(119) The Gods of Times Square (Richard Sandler, 99)
The 1990s bring change to the NYC site as religious zealots of all stripes jarringly speak out.
(120) Wise Blood (John Huston, 79)
A crooked street evangelist encounters a series of strange characters while traveling the South.
(121) Inherit The Wind (Stanley Kramer, 62)
The debate over Evolutionism vs. Creationism finds a home in a 30s-era southern town trying to jail a man for teaching Darwin's theories to his students.
(122) The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
A cult leader and a determined individualist both clash and become best friends.
123) Say Amen, Somebody (George T, Nierenberg, 82)
An exhilarating exploration of faith through the passions of two groundbreaking gospel giants.

(124) American Graffiti (George Lucas, 73)
On the 1960s crest of young adulthood, a California town’s teens cruise the streets one final time.
(125) Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 93)
It’s the Fourth of July in 1970s Texas as college-bound local teens face up to their uncertain futures.
(126) Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 99)
An ambitious private school kid impresses all who encounter him with his precocious genius.
(127) Smile (Michael Richie, 75)
A small-town beauty pageant highlights the US-flavored combo of sex and competition.
(128) All Little Rascals shorts (Hal Roach, et al., 22-44)
Early 20th Century American childhood exuberantly captured on film.
(129) E.T. The Extraterrestial (Steven Spielberg, 82)
A California boy strikes up a secret friendship with a benevolent alien from another galaxy.
(130) George Washington (David Gordon Green, 00)
Modern life as seen through the eyes of a group of Southern black children.
(131) Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 82)
The goings-on at an average California high school.

(132) The Zapruder Film (Abraham Zapruder, 63)
The assassination of our 35th President, the 20th Century's most notorious crime, miraculously caught on 8mm.
(133A and 133 B) The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 72-74)
Three generations of the Corleone crime family navigate the 20th Century with bloody brute force.
(134) Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 64)
An accidental-on-purpose attack on Russia reaches its Doomsday conclusion, and is seen through the views of a British RAF officer, the harried political inhabitants of an underground war room, and the in-flight members of a determined B-52 crew.
(135) Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 92)
A former gunslinger is coaxed back into the violent world he now reviles in order to avenge the slashing of a prostitute by one of her customers.
(136) Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 76)
Travis Bickle, a NYC cabbie, is driven by loneliness to destroy the perceived enslavement of a young call girl.
(137) GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese, 90)
A New York crime family’s rise and fall.
(138) Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 67)
The famed bank robbing lovers barrel their way to a bloody end.
(139) Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 03)
Two teenagers answer the bullying of their peers by staging a bloody mass murder.
(141) No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 07)
A Texas man's discovery of a hidden fortune leads to a long line of dead bodies.
(142) Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 50)
An adventurous femme fatale convinces an admirer to go on a bank-robbing spree.
(143) Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore, 02)
An examination of the American fascination with firearms.
(142) Casino (Martin Scorsese, 96)
A mini-history of the Mafia's latter-day hold on Las Vegas

(143) Chi-Raq (Spike Lee, 2015)
In Chicago's black community, the women band together to deny intimacy to their men in order to halt the never-ending cycle of gun violence.
(144) Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 71)
A nonconformist San Francisco detective fights to vanquish a crazed serial killer.

(145) Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh, 70)
The rocking sights and sounds of the largest and most famous peace gathering of 1960s America.
(146) Coal Miner’s Daughter (Michael Apted, 80)
Loretta, a Kentucky girl in a destitute mining town, travels the USA with her determined husband Doolittle Lynn and becomes country music’s biggest superstar.
(147) Jazz on a Summer’s Day (Aram Avakian and Bert Stern, 60)
Cinema’s first concert film, highlighting the sounds of the USA’s most original contribution to world music.
(148) American Hot Wax (Floyd Mutrux, 78)
A look at Cleveland DJ Alan Freed, the man who allegedly coined the term “rock n’ roll.”
(150) Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 84)
A vibrant, unforgettable concert performance delivered by art-rockers Talking Heads.
(151) The Last Waltz (Martin Scorsese, 78)
The final, star-studded Thanksgiving concert staged by those masters of Americana, The Band.
(152) Monterey Pop (D.A. Pennebaker, 69)
The original rock and roll Event.
(153) Wild Style (Charlie Ahearn, 83)
The premier document of the Hip Hop's birth.
(154) Don’t Look Back (D.A. Pennebaker, 67)
America’s poet, Bob Dylan, tours the UK.
(155A and 155B) Heavy Metal Parking Lot and Neil Diamond Parking Lot (Jeff Krulik, 86/96)
The fans of heavy metal act Judas Priest, and then light rock act Neil Diamond, hang out on differing nights in the parking lot outside the concert venue, all the while extolling the virtues of their idols to the roaming camera.
(156) Yankee Doodle Dandy (Michael Curtiz, 42)
In song and dance, the rich life of legendary American showman George M. Cohan.
(157) Champion Blues (Alethea Rogers, 02)
The story of Mickey Champion, a stunningly talented but now nearly forgotten L.A. blues singer
(158) The Decline of Western Civilization (Penelope Spheeris, 81)
The beginnings of and participants in the often shocking L.A. punk movement of the 1980s.

(159) Network (Sidney Lumet, 76)
A TV newsman threatens to commit suicide on the air and thereby launches a new career as a sage truthteller—and the network is there to exploit him every step of the way.
(160) A Decade Under the Influence (Ted Demme and Richard LaGravanese, 03)
An overview of the 1970s film culture, possibly the greatest period in cinematic history.
(161) The Day of the Locust (John Schlesinger, 75)
Nathaniel West’s daunting novella is given life, portraying the unimaginable terrors of 30s-era Hollywood.
(162) Barton Fink (Joel and Ethan Coen, 90)
A heady New York playwright travels to Hollywood and struggles with the writing of a wrestling movie.
(163) Radio Days (Woody Allen, 87)
The director recalls childhood episodes centered around his family’s favorite radio shows.
(164) Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney, 05)
The dramatic '50s-era rivalry between legendary TV newsman Edward R. Murrow and communist-hunting senator Joe McCarthy.
(165) The complete works of Stan Brakhage (1952-2003)
The joy and revelation of cinematic experimentation.
(166) America at the Movies (George Stevens Jr., 76)
A comprehensive survey of the then-AFI-approved 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.
(167) Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, 41)
A comedy filmmaker attempts a dramatic project, researching it by becoming a train-bound hobo.
(168) Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There (Rick McKay, 03)
The early history of New York’s Great White Way, with over 200 of its stars as witnesses.
(169) My Favorite Year (Richard Benjamin, 82)
A 50s-era writer for live TV remembers his one-time relationship with a booze-sodden Hollywood idol.
(170) Fantasia (Various directors, Leopold Stokowski [music], Walt Disney, 40)
A variety of classical music pieces are given animated interpretation.
(171) Steamboat Willie (Walt Disney, 28)
The first screen appearance of Mickey Mouse.

(172) No End in Sight (Charles Ferguson, 07)
The War in Iraq, clearly laid out for all to survey.
(173) Sicko (Michael Moore, 07)
The controversial film essayist turns his attentions to the rising costs of health care in America.
(174) Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and The Era of Predatory Lenders (James Scurlock, 06)
Consumers in the USA struggle desperately with mounting, unmanageable debt.
(175) Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election (Richard Ray Perez and Joan Sekler, 02)
The outcome of the titular election is wholly, hotly contested by both sides.
(176) When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Spike Lee, 06)
A look at the disasterous effects of Hurricane Katrina on the great city of New Orleans, and at our government's irresponsible failure to react properly.
(177) Office Space (Mike Judge, 99)
A cubicled office employee bucks workplace politics and chases love with the frustrated waitress at a cheesy local chain restaurant.
(178) Traffic (Steven Soderburgh, 00)
The American fight against the influx of cocaine is seen through the eyes of a Washington official with an addicted daughter, a Mexican lawman combating his government's corruption, and the wife of a California drug lord struggling to keep her family and home intact.
(179) United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 06)
The passengers on one of 9/11’s doomed flights bravely take matters into their own hands.
(180) Little Children (Todd Fields, 06)
A dissatisfied wife begins an passionate affair with a nearby family man; meanwhile, the town is scared and outraged by a convicted sex offender who’s moved back into their neighborhood.

181) The Jerk (Carl Reiner, 79)
The American dream gets a ripe razzing.
182) Punishment Park (Peter Watkins, 71)
In a possible future America, draconian measures are taken to control dissenting voices.
183) American Pop (Ralph Bakshi, 81)
American music, animated in total.
184) Last Night at the Alamo (Eagle Pennell, 83)
The sodden patrons at a Texas bar get together for one final time before the place is razed.
185) The Apostle (Robert Duvall, 97)
A deeply religious man has to go on the run after committing a mortal sin, and thus finds his true soul.
186) Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, 2010)
The premier indictment of those involved in the U.S. financial meltdown.
187) Jazz (Ken Burns, 2001)
The filmmaker documents the creation and propagation of America's one truly indigenous art form.
188) The Living Desert (James Algar, Walt Disney, 53)
Animal and plant life in a US desert, perfectly dramatized.
189) Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
Ten years in the lives of a boy and his family flash by in a bold narrative experiment.
190) All That Jazz (Bob Fosse, 79)
A successful filmmaker and Broadway director faces his demons, and Death.
191) My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 46)
Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
192) Mystery Train (Jim Jarmusch, 89)
The world converges, in one day, upon the blues-soaked town of Memphis, Tennessee.
193) Pennies From Heaven (Herbert Ross, 81)
The 1930s Depression gets a singular musical treatment.
194) The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 46)
A set of afflicted military friends deal with coming home after World War II.
195) You Can Count On Me (Kenneth Lonergan, 2000)
An average family, in unusual circumstances.
196) Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen, 2003)
A love letter to a city, as seen through the history of film.
197) Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 69)
They went searching for America...and they blew it.
198) 12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
A stunning tale of freedom stolen.
199) Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 43)
Middle-America gets a taste of the sinister, as a family deals with the arrival of an uncle who is a wanted serial killer
200) Since You Went Away (John Cromwell et al., 44)
An American family deals with life on the homefront during World War II.

For the record, John Ford stands as America's most important filmmaker with seven entries, and 1979 stands as the century's most patriotic year with 12 titles.

I hope you all had a happy July the 4th. This land is your land. 


Lisa said...

What a stupendous list and effort! It's unbelievable how much you know and love film and always precisely hone in on the characteristics which make the films important and memorable, and entertaining. This list would make an awesome college course -- heck, a whole college education! I need to admit how many of these I haven't seen and get to watchin', pronto, but am pleased to see some of my favorites on hhere. Absolutely amazing list, Dean!

Anonymous said...

Thanks to your list I went and added "Salesman" to my Netflix queue. I saw it many years ago and have been wanting to revisit it.

I'm glad to see you included "Primary." That's a great movie, and illustrates how important the projection of image became in political campaigns in the latter half of the 20th century. Hubert Humphrey seems sweaty and overheated compared to the cool of JFK. An irreplaceable film, to be sure.

Did you include "Easy Rider" anywhere on the list? Or "Woodstock"?

--Brad Hundt

Anonymous said...

Doh! I just looked a little closer and saw the "Woodstock" mention.

--Brad Hundt

Dean Treadway said...

Easy Rider is definitely a great American movie in its effect on the industry--we would not have had the 70s boom without it. But I really think it's a movie with some unbelievably great scenes padded out with nonsense. I prefer Hair, strangely enough, and Medium Cool as the 60s counterculture reps. And, of course, all the music docs like Woodstock. Honestly, the best thing about ER is Jack Nicholson and the last 15 minutes. Oh, and the soundtrack, which was groundbreaking.

I just bout Robert Drews 2nd and 3rd Kennedy films, which I might add onto PRIMARY as companion pieces. CRISIS tells the story of JFK and RFk tring to navigate the George Wallace debacle in Alabama, and FACES OF NOVEMEBER focuses in on the faces of mourners at JFK's massive funeral. I'm sure they'll be good. I'll watch them in the next few days.

Anonymous said...

I saw "Crisis" and "Faces of November" in '03 on TCM, when they showed some JFK-related movies to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his assassination. Fascinating stuff.

My favorite moment in "Easy Rider": Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on their bikes, riding through the desert as The Band's "The Weight" plays on the soundtrack.

--Brad Hundt

Anonymous said...

Speaking of "Easy Rider," have you ever seen "The Last Movie," the flick Dennis Hopper made after "Easy Rider"? How about "The Hired Hand," Peter Fonda's sole directorial effort? I saw the latter a handful of years ago and liked it, and have never seen the latter. I'd be curious to read your thoughts...

--Brad Hundt

Dean Treadway said...

Never seen THE LAST MOVIE--always heard it was pretty unintelligible, since Hopper was at his megalomaniac apex while completely high during its making. Is there anything to this? Should I take a chance on it? As for THE HIRED HAND, yeah, I like this low-key western quite a bit. Well, anything with Warren Oates, I can get through. Not to denegrate the movie, but that actor just made anything better just by virtue of his inimitable presence. FAVORITE SCENE IN ER? Jack taking trash around the campfire, of course, before getting kicked in the head.