The top 50 pre-50

With my head hung low and my back bowed under the weight of the tremendous shame of not having written in so very long, I slink back to you, quaking at the thought of all the films and books I have yet to account for. To ease my troubled soul, I thought I would mark my return to blogging with a milestone celebration: I have reached the year 1950 in my 1001 Movies project ("Huzzah!" [blaring of trumpets]).

What follows is a list of my favorite 50 films from the first half of the century covered by the book "1001 Movies you must read before you die." A few disclaimers:

-My criterion in choosing these films was simple: they should be films that delighted or intrigued to the extent that I would be happy to revisit them and unashamed to recommend them. Thus, many great (GREAT) films, like Battleship Potemkin, failed to make the list, not because I failed to admire them, but because I am not eager to watch them again.

-Several of the films from "1001 Movies" book and the first half of the century have been difficult for me to obtain as of yet, but I intend to watch them all and thus reserve the right to update this list at any time and with any degree of whimsicality.

-There are several films from the list that I have watched but not (in my opinion) truly absorbed. These are the films that I will return to first when I am finished with my rampaging progress through the 1001, and perhaps then a new appreciation of them will merit their inclusion on another version of the top 50 pre-50.

-If there is a pre-1950 movie that you feel I have neglected (whether or not it is on this list), please do let me know. I am always eager to be won over by other people's enthusiasm.

Ok, the list:

THE TOP 50 PRE-1950 FILMS (chronological order)
A Trip to the Moon (1902)
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Intolerance (1916)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
Nanook of the North (1922)
Strike (1924)
Greed (1924)
Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
Sunrise (1927)
The Unknown (1927)
The Crowd (1928)
Un Chien Andalou(1928)
Love Me Tonight (1932)
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
L'Atalante (1934)
Olympia (1938)
Stagecoach (1939)
Daybreak/Le Jour se leve (1939)
Wuthering Heights (1939)
Rebecca (1940)
Fantasia (1940)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Casablanca (1942)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
To Have and Have Not (1944)
Laura (1944)
Henry V (1944)
The Children of Paradise (1945)
I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Brief Encounter (1946)
The Stranger (1946)
Beauty and the Beast (1946)
The Killers (1946)
Great Expectations (1946)
Notorious (1946)
Black Narcissus (1946)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Gilda (1946)
Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
Red River (1948)
Rope (1948)
The Snake Pit (1948)
Adam's Rib (1949)
The Third Man (1949)

1946 was a VERY good year, apparently.

4 Responses so far.

  1. That's a great list, including many great movies I'm ashamed to say I hadn't seen, but will now .. of the ones I have seen, my favorites would have to Grapes of Wrath, Notorious, and the Third Man

  2. I agree totally that "Notorious" is one of my favorite movies on this list (and almost certainly my favorite Hitchcock). For pure delight, the film I would most recommend trying next is "Love Me Tonight," if you haven't already seen it. It is filled with utterly unexpected pieces of whimsy and innovation, and features stellar performances from a number of the actors (Maurice Chevalier and Myrna Loy not least).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good to have you back but you have made some major errors. In increasing order of importance:

    A) "Rope" is a weak choice but I understand your theoretically-oriented attraction to it. I think you'll find it's inferior Hitchcock on re-viewing. Ditto "The Killers" which gets less interesting every time I watch it.

    B) Swap "To Have and Have Not" for "The Big Sleep". Only a girl would make such a bonehead mistake.

    C) 2 Carne GOOD. But no Renoir BAD! At least one of Boudu (which I know you disliked), Illusion, Bete humaine, or Regle MUST be on any such list. What the hell is your problem?!?!

    D) WHERE IS "ORPHEE"????!!!???!??!??!!!!!!!

    - J.M.H. Troll

  4. Wow, you are a troll. A troll that lives under a snobby snobby bridge.

    I have no defense against your trollishness except to say:

    - I found Rope to be (yes) inferior Hitchcock but a fascinating exercise that I would like to rewatch. And it is worth noting that a lot of the superior Hitchcock is actually post-1950, and thus is not being slighted by my inclusion of "Rope."

    -"The Killers" I have only seen once, so I can't speak to its diminishing returns. However, I really enjoyed it, and would love to watch it again, so there it is on the list.

    -I didn't care for "The Big Sleep." Sorry. I just found it bewildering, which I know is the desired response, but still. "To Have and To Have Not" probably is a sort of girly choice: it is more enjoyable because it is a better vehicle for the charismatic relationship of its stars.

    -I really haven't found Renoir that compelling thus far. (I think I just got myself kicked out of the Film Snob Society in one easy step). "La Grande Illusion" was my favorite of the ones you mention, and it is definitely on my list of films I must revisit to properly appreciate. Ok, so a second draft of the list would probably include "La grande illusion." But now that you are feeling triumpant, I want you to brace yourself: "La Bete Humaine" wasn't even on my 1001 Movies list, so I have yet to see it. I know.

    -I need to review "Orphee." I was rather alienated by it last time. Maybe this time it will catch me in a better frame of mind.

    -Oh, Pour of Tour, what of all the many many other shocking omissions? Where is the Lang love, for instance? What kind of a cracked out weirdo chooses "Strike" over "Potemkin" (the kind who likes Renaissance drama)? What of "The Passion of Joan of Arc"? "The Man with the Movie Camera"?

    What can I say? I am capricious.

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