My Favorite Movies (2022), 50-41

My brother and I started talking after finishing a movie the other day and I asked him what his top ten favorite movies are. Some of his answers mirrored my own, while others caught me completely by surprise.

When I was alone, I thought back to my favorite movies list from 2015 or so. I realized I’ve changed quite a bit since then. Part of me freaked out and felt I betrayed my younger self, but. . . that’s what’s great about writing these things down. Just because I have different tastes now doesn’t mean what I used to think doesn’t have value.

That said, I made a new list of my favorite movies. I started to see a pattern as I looked through them. Most of the films I’ll talk about are connected to a very distinct emotion or memory.

So, as I talk about these movies I’ll keep this quite from Mary Angelou in the back of my mind.

 “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Mary Angelou

The same can be said about movies for me. I tend to latch on to stories that mirror important truths I value and touch me on a deeper level. What I’ll focus on is how these movies made/make me feel and why that matters to me.

If you’re interested in any of these films, I left links to them from IMBD.

50. Murder By Decree (1979)

I thought of leaving this movie off the list in place of Charlie Chaplin’s The Dictator, but I couldn’t bring myself to. When I saw this movie for the first time, it floored me with its darker subject material. It made me wonder if Jack the Ripper represents the penultimate example of intelligent, methodical, evil and if his intentions were as simple as history says.

Sherlock Holmes always seemed impregnable and aloof to suffering in the cases he’s involved in other versions I’ve found throughout my life. Holmes in this movie, played by Christopher Plummer, has more emotional depth. I like people who are more empathetic in the stories I involve myself in.

This movie reminded me how important it is to remember PEOPLE and how their sorrows matter. The more you’re surrounded by death, the easier it is to be desensitized to evil. That’s why we need to see stories like this and see beyond yet another murder case.

49. Nosferatu (1922)

I keep coming back to this short, yet profound silent German Expressionist film. F.W. Murnau is a great film directer who strove to express fundamental issues and truths in his movies.

I never tire of looking over this film’s staging, acting, and symbolism. It’s important to know that true goodness can defeat evil. I see this movie and I wonder how to face grief and suffering in a way that is non-corrosive.

I also admire this film because it is a witness to Germany’s peoples mindset after World War I. I’m a big history buff, and I love understanding their motivations and backgrounds.

48. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

This film is a roller coaster of powerful messages on subliminal messaging and elusive logic. Watching it over a decade ago, I still remember the German defending attorney drawing me along, making me believe his arguments, though in my heart I knew he was wrong.

What caught me off guard was the powerful testimony of one of the defendants against himself. His speech has stuck with me after all these years and reminds how vital it is to not let evil sneak into my life. For the sake of context, I’ll include it here so you can understand what I mean.

Ernst Janning: There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves. Only when you understand that – can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us: ‘Lift your heads! Be proud to be German! There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed.’

It was the old, old story of the sacrificial lamb. What about those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country! What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through. It will be discarded sooner or later. Hitler himself will be discarded… sooner or later. The country is in danger. We will march out of the shadows. We will go forward. Forward is the great password. And history tells how well we succeeded, your honor. We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

The very elements of hate and power about Hitler that mesmerized Germany, mesmerized the world! We found ourselves with sudden powerful allies. Things that had been denied to us as a democracy were open to us now. The world said ‘go ahead, take it, take it! Take Sudetenland, take the Rhineland – remilitarize it – take all of Austria, take it! And then one day we looked around and found that we were in an even more terrible danger.

The ritual began in this courtroom swept over the land like a raging, roaring disease. What was going to be a passing phase had become the way of life. Your honor, I was content to sit silent during this trial. I was content to tend my roses. I was even content to let counsel try to save my name, until I realized that in order to save it, he would have to raise the specter again.

You have seen him do it – he has done it here in this courtroom. He has suggested that the Third Reich worked for the benefit of people. He has suggested that we sterilized men for the welfare of the country. He has suggested that perhaps the old Jew did sleep with the sixteen year old girl, after all. Once more it is being done for love of country. It is not easy to tell the truth; but if there is to be any salvation for Germany, we who know our guilt must admit it… whatever the pain and humiliation.

I look back to this movie to remind myself to carefully consider what I allow into my life and to never let people coerce me into believing what I know is wrong.

47. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Fun fact, it never occurred to me this movie takes places in Russia. It dawned on me this was the case while I was serving there on a church mission. I always loved this movie but never considered its messages on faith and family until recently.

How do we balance ‘tradition” and a growth mindset in a way that doesn’t destroy our heritage and faith? That is this film’s anchor. I often consider this question as I’ve witness many social and religious changes happen around me.

I also wonder how well I’m living my life while I’m on earth. I know I might be a little young to truly consider this question, yet there it is. Tevye’s journey with his family never ceases to open my mind to possible challenges I’ll face when holding on to my faith.

46. Hugo (2011)

I feel Hugo is a homage to traditional silent movies. It is also a testament to the great things men and women do that go unappreciated. Much like Van Gogh, George Melies was a man who lived briefly in the sun, until people forgot him. He lost everything, much like young Hugo in the movie.

Which brings to question for me, what do I do if I lost everything I love and have to live with circumstances I never asked for?

I appreciate how this movie addresses depression and finding and creating magic in our lives. I also am a HUGE fan of silent movies, so I never get tired of reliving films by Melies, Harold Lloyd, and others in this movie.

45. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

I am pretty sure I have a German soul, because I find dark, artistic films like this fascinating. The entire world in this movie reflects a broken individual’s view of the world, which makes for some interesting studies for me.

Beyond its artistic value, I also really enjoy how the characters fit into this film’s world. I really want to understand their back stories, motivations, and aspirations. Especially, Cesare, who embodies a trapped man cursed to exercise Dr. Caligari’s malicious intentions.

If ever there was a film I enjoy picking apart its this one.

44. Little Women (2019)

For two-thirds of this movie, I cried while I saw it in the movie theater. It was a rather unexpected and embarrassing experience for me. But I needed it. I think I was 29 when I watched it and for the first time I emphasized with Jo as the main character.

Once upon a time, I reviewed this movie and said,

I saw this movie, and for the first time, I felt I was like Jo. I have never had Jo’s ambition and fire. Through this movie, however, I saw for the first time a displaced and lonely girl. I understood her disappointments and felt her grief when she lost her sister Beth and best friend, Laurie. I understood her frustration and pain when faced with an unclear future.

I feel like Jo March because she acknowledged her loneliness. She was even willing to go against her heart to be loved. She tried so hard to keep her world together, to earn money selling stories she didn’t like. At her heart, she didn’t understand how much she wanted the world to hear her true voice. She didn’t understand how much she longed to know people of like minds and have someone listen to her as an equal.

Life isn’t as simple as checking off boxes of a regular everyday human being. I go back to this movie every once in a while so I remember to face the future with an open mind.

43. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Here is a movie I didn’t understand for the longest time. I thought it was clunky and non-cohesive when I saw it the first time and wrote it off as a cult classic my friends liked.

But then life happened, I was a mess, and didn’t understand where my future was going. I popped this movie back in and took a good non-biased look at it’s message:

To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.

Dreaming of places we want to go to is all well and good, unless we refuse to take a leap of faith and find new experiences. Real life should not be usurped by fantasies. It’s as Aunt Mama said in Mame “Life is a banquet. But most poor fools are starving to death.”

I like to look back at this movie from time to time and see if I’m striving to find beauty in my life and create enriching experiences.

42. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Another fun fact, I have never actually seen Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I wasn’t born in the right time period for it I guess. I didn’t know much about this man or what his show was about. But my friend Carly is a huge fan of his, so I went out of my way to see this movie when it came to theaters.

I now LOVE Fred Rogers and wish I could have had him part of my childhood. I often go back to this movie because of what it teaches me about kindness and seeing people as they are. Not as their mistakes, or their problems, but as people with souls and beautiful stories.

One line that particularly stood out to me was “Take one minute to remember all the people who loved you into being.” Needless to say, I cried as I realized anew how blessed I am to have the family and friends I do.

I also just love how this story isn’t about a man needing to be fixed, but a man who needed to remember it’s okay to let yourself be healed.

41. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Over the years, this remains one of the few musicals I still enjoy. The songs for Willy Wonka aren’t particularly the best, but I don’t care. What I love in this movie is what it teaches about kindness and honesty.

I hate it when characters lie or steal in movies. Since I was a child, I’ve loved the scene where Charlie decides to give back the everlasting gobstopper to Willy Wonka, even though he had lost everything because of his disobedience. I always thought to myself, I hope I can have that kind of integrity if I’m faced with a similar situation.

All in all, I also find this movie altogether charming. I would love to go to a magical-esque chocolate factory. Wonder, I’ve found, is a needed commodity in my life. It’s not exclusive to childhood. In fact, I feel it needs to be a regular part of my life. kind of like a vitamin, but for my soul. That’s what this movie is for me. It’s a WONDER pill for my soul.

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