My ten favourite movies of all time – named at last!

Yesterday, I asked people if they could name my ten favourite movies of all time, and Michael Gerrity did it very quickly, and wins a meal cooked by my wife Dede. Anyone who has eaten chez Wilson will tell you what a fabulous prize this is. Here are stills from all the films. Scroll down to find out the names.

And my all-time all-TIME number one…

1     Some Like It Hot (1959) Billy Wilder

Two musicians are on the run after witnessing a Mafia slaying. They take refuge in a women-only orchestra playing at a hotel resort in Florida. Wonderful ensemble piece, with George Raft playing a Mafia boss in exactly the same way he played it in ‘serious’ movies about the mob. Marilyn Monroe and her problems got all the headlines, but the real story of this film was that it showed that Tony Curtis (a) could act and (b) could do comedy.

2     Bad Day At Black Rock (1955) John Sturges

Tense drama about a one-armed man, played by Spencer Tracy, searching for a lost Japanese friend in a small remote community. Remarkably liberal film made during the Cold War era which questioned American attitudes towards outsiders.

3     Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder

Who would have thought you could make such a taut thriller about an insurance claim?? Terrific performances from Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck (pictured) and the brilliant Edward G Robinson. Directed by the same man who made Some Like It Hot fifteen years later. Two more different films it would be difficult to imagine.

4     The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed

I’m always amazed that so many people make Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane their number one movie of all time. It’s good, but not as good as this post-WW2 film noir starring Welles and Joseph Cotten which, at least for a while, made Vienna the spookiest place on the planet.

5     This Is Spinal Tap (1984) Rob Reiner

The story of a rock band’s embarrassing slide from heroes to zeroes whilst on tour in the US, Spinal Tap is usually referred to as a ‘spoof rockumentary’. It’s generally regarded as a classic comedy, which it most definitely is. However, after seeing it about 15 times on video, I then saw it at the cinema. On the big screen, it comes across as a very sad, poignant film about friendship.

6     Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives Of Others) (2006) Florian Henckel

ALMOST the only film in the list that was made this century. Pre-unification East Germany and the nightmare life of those who were spied upon by the Stasi, the Secret Police. Brilliant central performance from Ulrich Mühe, who in real life was under surveillance as an actor in East Germany, being spied on by his wife Jenny Gröllmann (although she denies this). An assured directorial debut by Henckel, who also wrote the screenplay. Mühe died aged 54 a year after the film was made.

7     Mujeres Al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown) (1988) Pedro Almodóvar

 In fact, I love all of Almodóvar’s films more or less equally, but this one was the first I saw, so it’s here to represent the whole œuvre. If you’ve never seen an Almodóvar film, get someone to buy you one for Christmas.

8     Y Tu Mama También (2001) (And your mother, too) Alfonso Cuarón

This Mexican film is a road movie, a rites of passage movie and a movie about love, death and destruction of the environment. And it has a fabulously sweet sad scene of a beach soccer game. With a wonderful central performance from Maribel Verdú, this is also the film that introduced most of us to Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal.

Many thanks to Nicholas for putting me right about who plays Luisa.

9     Black Cat, White Cat (1998) Emir Kusturica

An exuberant tornado of a film about drug dealing (sort of) and set around a gypsy wedding on the banks of the River Danube. The cast are mainly amateurs and the film contains some of the most unforgettable scenes of high farce ever. Anyone who has seen it will know what I mean if I remind them of the scene where a man cleans himself with a duck. A friend said it felt like people were throwing cans of paint at you right from the start.

10   Steamboat Bill Junior (1928) Charles Reisner

The last and best of Buster Keaton’s feature length films, made classic by the hurricane sequence which culminates in the scene where the front of a house falls onto Keaton (illustrated here). Keaton’s film crew tried to dissuade him from doing this scene because it was so dangerous, and none of them were able to look as it took place. You can see the whole film here or if you just want to see the house falling sequence:


30 thoughts on “My ten favourite movies of all time – named at last!

  1. OK, Ken, here goes with my attempt at the milion:

    1 – Some Like It Hot
    2 – BDABR
    3 – DI
    4 – TT
    5 – This Is Spinal Tap
    6 – LOO
    7 – Annoyingly, I think I know this one, but can’t remember it!
    8 – Dunno.
    9 – City of God? – dunno really…looks like a music-based movie
    10 – I know it’s Buster Keaton (I hope) but buggered if I know the title of the film.

    So how did I do, Ken? Am I a contender for the meal? Either way, this was a fun thing to do, so thanks for cheering up a rainy, German, Saturday.

    1. Really good, Carl!!!! I’ve doctored your answer to keep people guessing, but you’ve done incredibly well, and you are front-runner for the three-course meal!

  2. Wow… I know only the first one. It’s a great comedy. I won’t mention the title so other people could sweat more guessing. My favourite part of it is when “the millionaire” tries to propose to “the girl” and she tries to make him quit the idea. Her last argument is: “But you don’t understand! I’m a man!” to which he replied: “Nobody’s perfect!”.

    I’m a bit curious, how would you solve the problem of cooking for somebody who’s not there:-P

    1. Anything is possible, Agata. If Mohammed can’t come to the mountain, then the mountain will have to try to come to Mohammed. Difficult, but not impossible.

  3. 1. Some Like it Hot
    2. BDABR
    3. DI
    4. TTM
    5. This is Spinal Tap
    6. TLOO
    8. YTMT
    9. BCWC – (Well done, I didn’t think anyone was going to get that! KW)
    10. SBJ

    I’m still trying to get number 7…i’ll post back if i figure it out.

    1. Wow! Almost perfect, Michael! I’ve hidden your answers to let other people have some fun with it, but 9 out of 10! Dinner prize looking good! 🙂

  4. 1. S.L.I.T
    2. B.D.A.BR
    3. D.I
    4. T.3.M
    5. T.I.S.T
    6. T. L. O. O
    7. (thinking about this one)
    8. Y. T. M. T
    9. B. C. W. C
    10. S.B. Jr

    If you need the uncoded titles. shoot me an e-mail

    1. Adam, I owe you a big apology. Your comments fell into some black hole, neither on my waiting to be approved list, nor in my spam, and I only found them tonight.

      Looks like we owe you a meal too!

    1. ¡Exactamente! Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios, una pelicula de Pedro Almodóvar

      Well done, Michael. You are the winner.

    1. Keep playing the age card, Darren! There will come a time when people ask you ‘So what was it like when YOU were young, grandad?’ And you won’t necessarily be a grandad when they ask you. 😛

  5. Ken,

    I didn’t know you are also a Pedro Almodovar fan 🙂
    My two favourites of his are ‘Talk to her’ and ‘All about my mother’.

    Feel ashamed but didn’t know most of the filmes listed 😦
    Guess I’m too young 😉


    1. Anita – you’re never too young to find out about classic movies! 🙂

      Titles and information coming up soon…

  6. I was only able to guess five out of ten, though I’d actually seen six of them (didn’t recognize “The Lives of Others”)

    Two things I wanted to comment on:
    If you think This is Spinal Tap is sad and poignant (and I totally see where you’re coming from, in my mind the story of the relationship between David and Nigel is quite touching and really gives the film depth), then you must see “A Mighty Wind” if you haven’t already–it’s the actors from “Spinal Tap” doing their take on folk music, with great performances by Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Parker Posey and other usual suspects. Sadder and even more poignant, in fact I think it has more “oh-how-touching” moments than “laugh-out-loud” moments. Highly recommended.

    Also, regarding Y tu mamá también, surely you mean to refer to the great Maribel Verdú–easily one of the very greatest actresses Spain has to offer?

    I find it incredible that someone like Pe Cruz has an Oscar and Ms. Verdú no. Donde esté una Maribel Verdú, que se quite una Penelope Cruz, hombre…! Stupid Hollywood…

    Also, “Black Cat White Cat”…every time I think about that dance move the one guy does I smile a little bit: “Pitbull! Terrier! Pitbull! Terrier!”

    From your top ten lists of films and concerts I can see your a man of taste–anyone who’s a fan of Steely Dan and Spinal Tap is O.K. in my book!

    1. Nicholas, thank you for correcting my mistaken identity re lead woman actor in Mama. I’ve corrected it in the text, but left your note here, so your note and this one should explain that.

      I STILL haven’t seen Mighty Wind. I’ve missed it about three times at my local arts cinema, The Riverside, and I’m determined to see it on the big screen, where I think all movies should be seen for the first time.

      Again, thank you for the editorial note 😛

      1. i agree all films should be seen on the big screen for the first time, which is why i’ve set up a projector and 90inch screen in my basement and made it look like a movie theatre. not quite the same experience as watching an original 35mm print, but it’s a helluva lot better than crowding around a TV.

  7. Well… Michael, I’ve never had a winner for one of my prizes in Wisconsin before. Previous winners were in Barcelona and Braga, Portugal, and we’ve managed to make arrangements to feed the winners when they are in the UK in 2010. My wife Dede and I spend part of the summer on Prince Edward Island, Canada and occasionally with family in New Jersey, Boston and Maine, which is a BIT closer to you. If you can get to one of those places in summer 2010, that’ll be great. Otherwise we’ll post the meal to you. 😛

  8. Hi Ken!
    Fantastic list, once more a very interesting post!
    I absolutely love Almodovar’s films (but I am also a huge Woody Allen fan!). There are some films I have never seen, but will definitely do so! Thank you very much again.
    Kind regards,

    1. Well, I can watch early Woody Allen, but it isn’t an addiction, whereas I can’t imagine a world without Almodóvar. 🙂

  9. The only problem about this post is that I’ll spend hours thinking aout it. My list of favourite films changes every few days.
    Your list? What, no ‘Amores Perros’ or ‘todo sobre mi madre’ (my fave Almodovar by miles).What about the sweetest ‘A world Apart’ or, the most sensual film I’ve seen (without a hint, ever, of flesh) un couer en hiver’, only slightly ruined by Emmanuel Beart’s imability to mime violin playing convincingly, or, or….

    See, now I’ve stopped working and I blame you for that!!


    1. You can’t get every film into your top ten, and confession – I haven’t seen Amores Perros. But at the end of the day, Brian, it’s a game of two halves. 0ops.

      What I mean is, it’s like Desert Island Discs, innit? You and I couldn’t possibly live without more than 8 musical choices, but the DID format requires only 8.

      Similarly, here – if i had to watch 10 movies and no others for the rest of my life, then these would be the 10. In fact, I hope I’ll be able to watch others, too!

  10. Beautiful list, will run off and see how many of them I can get at Amazon or my local shop. Some Like it Hot, Lives of Others, Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, Black Cat, White Cat are 4 of my favorites, too. Do you know Juzo Itami’s Tampopo? Might be a bit noir, but it’s my all-time favorite. The definitive scene:

    Thanks, Ken 🙂

    1. Anne, thank you for that!

      What a FABULOUS scene!!! I wonder how many takes it took to get it right!! 🙂

      Will certainly look out for Tampopo if it comes to the Riverside Studios – so good to have an repertory art cinema within walking distance.

      Now I feel bad that I didn’t include any Asian films in my list – at least ‘Infernal Affairs’ should have made it, even if ‘Crouch End Tiger, Hendon Dragon’ wouldn’t have! 😛

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