As summer passes rapidly through July, and each day becomes hotter than the previous, we reluctantly find ourselves heading toward those dreaded sweltering days of August, where yard work suddenly takes a backseat to air-conditioned homes, and as if to rush the season, we eagerly await the arrival of autumn.
In fact, we seem to have completely lost interest in keeping our yards golf-course-like perfect, too.
And to make matters worse, television offers nothing but endless nights of mindless reality shows and numbing reruns; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t enjoy ourselves either.
My suggestion: Spend the next several weekends watching some classic motion pictures in the comfort of your own home. And, along the way, allow me to assist you in choosing those films, in what I humbly refer to as the top 12 motion pictures of all time.
While not every motion picture on this list is an Academy Award-winner, each one selected does include an actor, director or composer who has won Hollywood’s prestigious award at least once in their career.
Granted, some readers may disagree with my selection; in fact, you’ll probably scoff at one or two, which is merely a matter of personal taste.
Considering all this, remember these selections aren’t separated into specific genres, but rather listed according to personal relevance.
There is, however, something for everyone.
So, without further fanfare, pop some corn, grab a drink, find a comfortable chair and send those under age 18 to distant places. They won’t understand the significance of these motion pictures, so there’s no reason trying to explain them either.
12 “From Russia With Love” (1963): In the 50 years since James Bond came on the scene, this is by far the most authentic. It’s pure Cold War-era Bond. No goofy gadgets, characters or plots.
In addition, unlike many other Bond films, this one has authentic Bond music thanks to John Barry.
And, who could forget Lotte Lenya, as the cold, cold, cold, Col. Rosa Klebb. They don’t make ’em this cold anymore.
Sean Connery called it his favorite Bond role. Incidentally, isn’t Connery the only Bond actor worth watching?
11 “Duel” (1971): Long before Director Stephen Spielberg became a household name, he and author Richard Matheson teamed with actor Dennis Weaver (“Gunsmoke”) to create a physiological thriller about a “Mann” pursued by his own demons, which in this case may be a 40-ton tractor-trailer.
Whether real or imagined, it’s pure terror in the rearview mirror.
10 “Planet of the Apes” (1968): Unlike all its ridiculous spin-offs, the original (starring Charlton Heston) remains the most terrifying. I still remember sitting in the theatre when the shadow of the Statue of Liberty appeared, and as the camera panned around to show us what “we really did,” the audience became deathly quiet. And suddenly, as if on cue, everyone seemed to say, “Oh, my God.”
It’s one of those films that will leave you speechless.
9 “The Professionals” (1966): Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Woody Strode and Robert Ryan team in what can only be described as “not your everyday western.” A simple mission of mercy with overtones of hate and prejudice that proves once again, money and power never trumps loyalty and integrity.
Riveting and explosive.
8 “The Maltese Falcon” (1941): Film noir’s finest classic with Humphrey Bogart. “The stuff dreams are made of.”
7 “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” (1977): Politics at its dirtiest and high-voltage tension that’s unbelievable. The end will make even the most passive liberal viewer mad as h---. Starring Burt Lancaster and directed by Robert Aldrich.
6 “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966): Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Sandy Dennis and George Segal star in Edward Albee’s most famous play about liquor, lust and college faculty shenanigans.
This film is why adults send everyone under age 18 to those distant places.
5 “The Seventh Seal” (1957, subtitled): Laden with thought-provoking symbolism throughout and filmed in glorious black and white, this is director Ingmar Bergman’s examination on death and religion and is perhaps the greatest motion picture of all time.
4 “Desert of the Tartars” (1976, subtitled): Based on the novel “The Tartar Steppe” by Dino Buzzati, this film — with music by Ennio Morricone — is a complex and nightmarish tale of soldiers stationed at some remote outpost waiting for an enemy who may or may not come.
The absurdities of war.
3 “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930): By far, the greatest anti-war movie ever made. It goes to prove beyond any doubt that no matter what side you fight on or for, war is unnecessary, and will always involve old men sending young men off to die. Timeless.
2 “Casablanca” (1942): What else can be said? Without question, the greatest love story of all time. “Here’s looking at you kid.”
1 “Elmer Gantry” (1960): With modern-day shades of early televangelism, this is a straightforward observation at how simple it is to sway non-believers and believers into giving their last dollar for eternal salvation without ever knowing such a place exists.
A warning precedes the film indicating, “due to (its) highly controversial nature, we (United Artists) strongly urge (viewers) to prevent impressionable children from seeing it.”
Based on the Sinclair Lewis novel, it’s an indictment of religious corruption, and one even impressionable adults should view with caution.
So, there you have it; the top 12 motion pictures of all time.
And, unlike those films currently playing at your local theater, you won’t find yourselves wishing for Christopher Reeve, or George Reeves for that matter, to save the world, nor will you lament the loneliness of another “lone” ranger that even Rossini can’t save, or scratch your head in dismay wondering how long before “Fast and Furious 54” is released; you’ll merely say, “They just don’t make movies like they used to.”
Larry French lives in Butler. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and teaches composition and literature at East Tennessee State University and Northeast State Community College. You may reach him at FrenchL@etsu.edu.