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For what it’s worth: My top 10

February 16, 2013

The 85th Academy Awards will hit the red carpet next Sunday, along with scores of beautiful people with snappy tuxes, sizzling gowns and bottomless bank accounts.

Everyone loves movies, especially this time of year with Nor’easters and arctic blasts confining you to the great indoors. I am among the aficionados.

No, I am not a cinematic authority, but I have watched hundreds of films, including everything that featured Bela Lugosi and ZaSu Pitts, and have an appreciation of the good, bad and ugly of the silver screen.

And because, frankly, I give a damn, I am going to make an offer you can’t refuse: a compilation of my favorite films. Below is a list of the top 10 in descending order, with title, year, personal sentiment and memorable quote. Numbers 11 through 25 follow, title only.

It’s heavy on older films because they were made better, and, well, I’m over 40. Here’s the list:

10. “Titanic” (1997): It’s mostly a schmaltzy love story that stretches credibility to the snapping point. Still, you root for Jack and Rose, and the action, sound track and special effects are phenomenal. Theaters have never been chillier than after the ship goes down. “I’ll never let go, Jack. I’ll never let go.”

9. “Fargoo” (1996): Monessen’s Frances McDormand won Best Actress for portraying pregnant, personable and sandpaper-tough police chief Marge Gunderson, replete with exaggerated accent. Classic scene: Pointing at the badge on her hat when confronting the psychopath at the wood chipper. “You should see the other guy.”

8. “Schindler’s List” (1993): This Holocaust film is excruciating but mesmerizing in its depiction of Oskar Schindler and the eventual triumph of the human spirit. Director Steven Spielberg calls it “the most satisfying experience of my career” – and it should be. “This list …. is an absolute good.”

7. “National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978) – Toga party, horse dies in the dean’s office, food fight, Dean Wormer, Niedermayer, Bluto, Kent Dorfman. Best comedy ever, and it mirrored my one glorious year at a Pitt branch. “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

6. “Argo” (2012): My choice for Best Picture is so gripping, literally and figuratively, you squeeze off the arm rests. Marvelous human interest story, appropriate comic relief, and tour de forces by Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman. There are a lot of great quotes, all unprintable.

5. “The Godfather” (1972): Talk about script. Talk about gamut of emotions. Talk about a cast. As cold-blooded as the Corleones are, you side with them early on. “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” is filmdom’s most memorable line, but “That’s my family, Kay, it’s not me” is fabulous foreshadowing.

4. “Gone With the Wind” (1939): It’s three-plus hours of masterful Civil War storytelling, and I love every minute every time. “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies” is just ahead of “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

3. “North By Northwest” (1959): An incredible spy saga is made plausible – and riveting – by the incomparable Hitchcock. Exceptional camera work, especially with Eva Marie Saint clinging to Mount Rushmore’s edge. “That’s funny, that plane’s dustin’ crops where there ain’t no crops.”

2. “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946): There isn’t a sappier example of Capra-corn, or a better executed one. Every one of us has a little George Bailey in him or her. “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

1. “Casablanca” (1943): This is the greatest love story ever told, and it is executed by an outstanding ensemble cast. The playing of “La Marseillaise” over the Nazis’ preferred ditty melts me. By the thickness of this page, it’s “Round up the usual suspects” over “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

And more . . .

11.) “From Here to Eternity”; 12.) “Jaws”; 13.) “Wizard of Oz”; 14.) “Slumdog Millionaire”; 15.) “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”; 16.) “Raiders of the Lost Ark”; 17.) “Psycho”; 18.) “A Christmas Story”; 19.) “Remember the Titans”; 20.) “Silence of the Lambs”; 21.) “Field of Dreams”; 22.) “Deliverance”; 23.) “The Deer Hunter”; 24.) “Glory”; 25.) “The Artist”

Rick Shrum is a business writer at the Observer-Reporter. He can be reached at



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