The Best Movies I’ve Seen

Earlier today, Joie Schmidt, posted a question on her Facebook page about which movies people thought we the best. She asked why people liked them. After I posted a response to her, I decided that I wanted to share some of my thoughts on my blog. I’ve edited and expanded my comments below.

Note: Her page doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

I think these are the best movies I’ve seen:

•    2001: A Space Odyssey,
•    Koyaanisqatsi,
•    The Third Man,
•    Casablanca,
•   Fog of War,
•    La Strada,
•    The Draughtsman’s Contract,
•    City Lights, and
•    Blade Runner

2001: A Space Odyssey

I first saw 2001 when I was 15. I went to see it for the special effects, but after seeing it, I knew that I had missed something important. I went back to see it again, maybe 20 times, read the book 3 or 4 times, and even wrote a high school essay on it. I eventually decided that I understood it. Years later, I keep seeing more in it that I didn’t see earlier, so now I am not so sure that I really understand it. It changed my whole view of the world.


I first saw Koyaanisqatsi when my brother showed me a videotape he had rented. It wasn’t until many years later that I saw it in a theatre. I saw it three times on the big screen, once at a live performance of the score by Philip Glass. The movie seemed to me to be completely abstract, yet it held my fascination every time I watch it. It does have a “story” and a “message”, but I’m not sure you can really put them into words.

The Third Man and Casablanca

I find that both of these movies have somewhat sad endings, in that the protagonists don’t get what they really wanted. Even so, they survive and maybe grow as people. I just wrote a blog where I talked about my fascination with this kind of plot.

I’d heard of both of these movies many years before I watched either of them. I never saw either on the big screen. I find both movies affect strongly at an emotional level.

I noticed that Roger Ebert has an image from The Third Man on his Twitter page.

Fog of War

Fog of War is an extended interview with Robert S. McNamara, who was the US Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. Sometimes it could be a horror movie, and other times a philosophical discussion.

La Strada

Federico Fellini’ La Strata is the only movie of his that I really like. I saw it first in a movie appreciation course. It is about a brute of a man and the woman that travels with him. The end is both sad and surprising. This is another movie that I never saw on the big screen.

The Draughtsman’s Contract

I wanted to see this after seeing the review on Siskel and Ebert, but I didn’t see it for many years after. The first time I saw it was in a theatre. The woman I took to see it did not like it, and she asked me to apologize to her for taking her. I’ve seen it several times since and it grew on me. It is a sort of mystery, but one that isn’t really solved. I think it is that uncertainty that draws me to the movie. The director has crammed this movie full of many little details. I am sure there is still much more to see in this movie than I have so far.

City Lights

I saw this the first time in the mid 1970s when they rereleased several of Charlie Chaplin’s movies. It didn’t stick in my mind too much at the time, but years later I watched a documentary about Chaplin which showed out cuts from the movie. I think nearly an hour was devoted to City Lights. It was after that experience that the movie began to touch me emotionally. The last scene is devastating once you understand how the characters reached that point.

Blade Runner

I didn’t appreciate this movie until I began to talk to other people about it. Blade Runner asks what does it mean to be human. The movie uses hints at the nature of the hero to ask this question. These hints have fueled many a long discussion. It is something of an intellectual and philosophical puzzle to be solved.

Reflecting on these thoughts, I see that most of these movies appeal to my intellect. They ask questions that get me thinking.

1 Comment

  1. Awesome write up James – very cool to know that Roger Ebert has The Third Man on his Twitter page. I’m even more fascinated by your take knowing your a film maker. I spoke with a dear friend last night who writes films and that inspired me to ask the question today because I’m fascinated by this subject as I’m currently working on a novel series that WILL become a movie series.



    -Joie Schmidt.

    p.s. Thank you with all my heart for mentioning my name & blog in your post, I’m truly blessed & honored!!

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