Movies I’ll Always Watch (If They’re On)

This is it! Last day of vacation, girls and boys. To honor doing nothing, here is complete fluff: a list of movies that I will always watch. These are not the only movies I watch, nor the only ones I like: just flicks that if they make an appearance on television (really only TCM) I will tune in to, even if I’ve seen them recently.

As a memory aide, I used the well-organized movie site Films 101. I sorted by year and went from 2010 to 1930, glancing at the entries. My list today would not be the same as the one I might have compiled twenty years ago, which would have been more heavily weighted toward science fiction.

I have been honest: every movie I would always watch is on the list, even the bad ones. But my memory is not particularly good, so if somebody reminds me of a classic, I’ll add it. My journey through the years confirmed what I already believed: that movies are growing less and less watchable. That joy and beauty have been replaced with cynicism and ugliness. And we musn’t forget the horrible intrusion of computers, the use of which is inversely proportional to a movie’s timelessness.

These are only in rough order, crudely sub-grouped by actor, director, or genre.

  • Double Indemnity The origin of the anklet parody in Naked Gun (see below).
  • Top Hat
  • Stalag 17 Ach so.
  • Swing Time
  • The Apartment
  • Shall We Dance Pretty much anything with Fred Astaire, really. Especially Holiday Inn or any movie featuring Edward Everett Horton.
  • Adam’s Rib Or many of the other Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn matchups, esp. Desk Set.
  • Springtime in the Rockies If you haven’t seen these early John Payne vehicles, you’re missing out. Like Tin Pan Alley or The Great American Broadcast. Plus, E.E. Horton!
  • Miracle on 34th Street Perfect. Maybe I should put this first.
  • Witness for the Prosecution Billy Wilder tops any list.
  • Laura The best film noir.
  • The Blue Gardenia Maybe the second best.
  • Grand Hotel Soap opera; Wallace Berry at his best.
  • Road to Morocco Really any Hope-Crosby Road flick.
  • Going My Way Really any Bing Crosby movie, even the poor ones.
  • My Favorite Brunette Really most Bob Hope movies; those before, say, 1950. The ones after that don’t travel so well.
  • The Man Who Came to Dinner Monty Woolley. What? You don’t know this one? What a treat!
  • Mr Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse First seen on channel 50 with Bill Kennedy at the movies. Add in any other early Cary Grant movie, esp. those with Irene Dunne.
  • Casablanca
  • The Thing From Another World The original, baby.
  • The Thing Best remake since The Maltese Falcon
  • Big Trouble in Little China I’m still searching for the alley in SF’s Chinatown.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still I’ve heard they made a remake.
  • War of the Worlds I’ve heard they made a remake.
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • The Big Sleep You get the idea: add Bogart.
  • The Seven Samurai or most early Akira Kurosawa, especially Yojimbo and Ikiru.
  • The Thin Man Any in this series, esp. The Thin Man Goes Home.
  • Libeled Lady Or any other William Powell-Myrna Loy flick. Got a set of these for my birthday once. Love it!
  • Romance on the High Seas Any early Doris Day; especially Teacher’s Pet (Clark Gable) or Love Me or Leave Me (James Cagney).
  • To Be or Not to Be Mel Brooks remake. Jack Benny better on radio.
  • A Night at the Opera You’re supposed to say Duck Soup, but I won’t. I’ll say Horse Feathers instead.
  • Singin’ in the Rain But I always go to the bathroom in the “Gotta Dance” interlude.
  • The Quiet Man Often heard while watching: “Didn’t you just watch that?”
  • Donovan’s Reef The King of the United States of America.
  • Big Jake Your fault, my fault, nobody’s fault. It won’t matter. I’m gonna blow your head off. No matter what else happens, no matter who gets killed I’m gonna blow your head off.
  • The Searchers Add in Rio Bravo, and maybe any other John Wayne movie
  • Buck Privates Yes, or most any Abbot and Costello team-up.
  • The Sound of Music
  • From Here to Eternity
  • Tora, Tora, Tora! Pearl Harbor is an interest
  • Twelve O’Clock High
  • A Shot in the Dark
  • A Christmas Story The Ovaltine secret-decoder gag was first used on the Bing Crosby radio show, St Patrick’s Day 1947, with Margaret O’Brien sending in boxtops.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life And I’m admittin’ it, too.
  • Switching Channels Yes, one of the many remakes of His Girl Friday, which is herewith on the list.
  • Naked Gun! From the Files of Police Squad Cops and women don’t mix. It’s like swallowing a spoonful of Drano. Sure, it’ll clean you out. But it’ll leave you hollow inside.
  • Hot Shots! If you have trouble hitting your objective, your secondary targets are here and here: an accordion factory and a mime school.
  • Jaws
  • Man of the Century I provided a link since most will not have heard of this.

In addition to these, any old B mystery movie or vehicle featuring a big band or musical with Betty Grable or Alice Faye. Also, movies with James Cagney, Jimmy Durante, Uncle Felix or dancing before “choreography” hit, as parodied by Danny Kaye in White Christmas—a movie which should be added to the list.

Your list?

(Your author, incidentally, says, “I’m seventeen! Plus thirty.”)


  1. Rob Schneider

    As above, plus “North by Northwest”, “Laurence of Arabia”.

  2. SM

    1. Coming to America
    2. Beetle Juice
    3. The Goonies
    4. Mean Girls
    5. Shaw Shank Redemption

  3. VftS

    Many of yours. Plus
    The Third Man
    Josey Wales

  4. Bob

    1. The Blues Brothers
    2. Animal House
    3. Smokey And The Bandit (any of them)
    4. Alien (Aliens, etc. – pretty much any Sigorney Weaver)
    5. The Magnificent Seven
    6. The Pink Panther (plus sequels)
    8. Die Hard (and sequels)
    9. Cars – The animated movie (This is a really cool movie)
    10. Cool Hand Luke
    11. Bullitt (plus most other Steve McQueen movies)

  5. Ben

    I do very little watching on cable, but these are ones I keep coming back to:

    1. The Philadelphia Story (“The newspapers were full of innundo!”)
    2. Ben-Hur (“Row well, and live.”)
    3. The Man Who Would Be King (“Detriments you call us? Detriments?”)
    4. The Wind and the Lion (“Pedecaris alive, or Raisuli dead!”)
    5. Dark City (“No one ever listens to me.”)

    Plus Shawshank, almost anything by Hitchcock, and several others that others have mentioned.

  6. Dr K.A. Rodgers

    ‘The Island of Lost Souls’ – just to be fascinated by a young(ish) Charles Laughton and, of course, The Panther Woman was very useful for raging hormones. But these days I am a phillistine: don’t do movies.

  7. 1. Pulp Fiction
    6. Dr. Strangelove (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)
    7. Mary Poppins
    8. The Wizard of Oz
    9. Tender Mercies
    10. Midnight Run

  8. Ye Olde Statistician

    Zulu. Best OJT movie.
    The Princess Bride. Best fairy tale movie.
    Connagher. Best Western. Anything with Sam Elliot.
    Charly. Best SF movie. Most people don’t even know it’s SF.
    Frequency. Runner up.
    The Grand Tour. Tied for runner up. Released under several titles.
    Quatermass and the Pit (movie version)
    The Red Tent. Best North Polar movie.
    Topsy Turvy. Best Gilbert and Sullivan “Making of…” movie. (Admittedly a small niche.)
    True Grit (the remake, oddly enough)
    Spitfire Grill.

  9. Bill Lucke

    Field of Dreams

  10. Big Mike

    Because of a broken hand, I have to spend several hours a day with a sling, complete with fishing line and guitar tuning pegs, on my hand. That means I can’t really use the computer or do much else useful.

    So I broke down last night and paid my $3.99 to watch “Goon” on Amazon. No, it’s not “Gone With the Wind” (at least I don’t think so, never having seen GWtW), but I thought it was worth $3.99 or whatever — some good laughs and a cute, if fairly simple-minded, story.

  11. DAV

    In general, I’ll pick something I’ve never seen over something I have though most movies nowadays aren’t worth the effort (probably always has been that way and it’s just beginning to bother me).

    In no particular order:

    Casablanca for sure.
    Most anything by Hitchcock, Kubrick or the Coens.
    Blue Velvet — and quite a few other David Lynch movies
    Apocalypse Now
    The Bourne Identity movies.
    When Harry Met Sally
    The Thin Man — the first one in the series
    The Godfather series.

    Airplane! — the visual puns are worth it but you have to be familiar with a lot of flying cliches — like wrestling with the controls and sweating a landing. Some are obvious, like the drinking problem. The smoking ticket will likely be lost on future generations.

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail

    YOS mentioned the movie version of “Flowers for Algernon”. I had forgotten about that.

    Always had a thing for Blade Runner. Not sure which ending I like better: the original or director’s cut

    Which brings to mind another Diddly Squat movie: Gladiator.

    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — the original but the redo has its moments

    Star Wars — the first release. After that it became boring.

    I was never much of a movie-goer so there are many movies I’ve never seen. As such, there aren’t many on my list. There have been quite a few that I’ve recorded then found no ambition to actually watch and end up deleting.

  12. TMI

    Just about everything done by William Powell, Myrna Loy, Ginger Rogers, Toshiro Mifune, all the Zatoichi movies. “My Fair Lady” and all the Jane Marple movies with Margaret Rutherford.

  13. dearieme

    There’s none I’d always watch, but there are some I like enough that I expect I’ll watch them again some day.

    The Thirty-Nine Steps (Hitchcock)
    The Boy Friend (Ken Russell)
    The Life of Brian

  14. dearieme

    P.S. No one has nominated High Noon. Or Gun Fight at the OK Corral. Or Bridge over the River Kwai. Or Dr Zhivago. Or What’s Up Doc?
    Or The Sting. Or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

    Come to think of it, there are two Redford film I’d like to see again: The Candidate, and Day of the Condor (or was it three days?).

  15. ron in austin

    A Touch of Evil–Charlton Heston as a Mexican? How can it miss?

  16. Good recommendations all. But don’t forget

    Some Like it Hot.

    My Fair Lady.

    The Big Lebowski, dude.

    The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, in livid color.

    Amelie…well, anything with Audrey Tautou (except that dreadful Da Vinci Code mess).

  17. JAE

    Zorba the Greek is also always great.

  18. Speed

    Lists are so exclusionary. I’m better off cruising cable in the wee hours and being surprised. Examples include …

    Brief Encounter
    Anything by the Cohen Brothers (Roger Ebert is said to have given them four stars for style and zero for content — I like their style)
    There Will Be Blood
    3:10 to Yuma
    Yellow Submarine
    Blade Runner
    2001 a Space Odyssey
    Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
    Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson
    (OK, most anything by Robert Altman)
    And on and on and on.

  19. John R T

    Burnt by the Sun / The Return
    Strictly Ballroom
    the ultimate film noire:
    It’s a Wonderful Life
    I have no tv: theaters, only. Is there still a Cinerama, somewhere?
    Science: Bronowski’s ‘The Ascent of Man’

  20. Sera

    Any movie with Lauren Bacall.

  21. Rich

    The Party – Peter Sellers
    Bedazzled – Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.
    Galaxy Quest (or did that come under ‘anything with Sigourney Weaver’?)

    and most of the above.

  22. Carmen D'oxide

    The Blob ( – Steve McQueen’s first leading role.
    The Lord of the Rings – even if only for the scenery.
    Any of the early Woody Allen comedies plus Annie Hall (la-di-da, la-di-da).

  23. max

    Most of yours (I’m more selective on John Wayne movies, any of the Powell/Loy movies not just the Nick & Nora Charles ones, Hot Shots I’ll watch but not on the always watch list, Abott & Costello movies aren’t on my list anymore, and Crosby/Hope/Astaire I mostly won’t go out of my way for).

    To which I add:

    The President’s Analyst
    Steve McQueen, especially Bullitt, The Great Escape and The Getaway (remake isn’t bad but not a must see).
    on the subject of actors – Edgar G, Robinson, period. even when he is bad the movie is worth watching.

  24. John M

    Re: Bogart and Bacall…got to specifically mention Key Largo and the To Have and Have Not.

    For some reason, I always watch Good Heavens Mr. Allison (Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr) the rare times when it’s on. I eventually bought it. Great wartime adventure with a touch of forbidden fruit.

    And nobody’s mentioned David Niven, perhaps the best comedic “serious actor” I’ve ever seen. (Anyone else remember the scene with the celery in “The Bishop’s Wife”?) Seperate Tables, Enchantment, The Guns of Navarone, all great David Niven films. Enchantment has the bonus of having Eveyln Keyes, one of the great, but largely forgotten, beauties of the 40s.

  25. John M

    whoops. Make that “Heaven Knows Mr. Allison”.

  26. Not even one mention of “October Sky” ? Also the very touching (and funny) “Up” with the line “I’ve had my adventure … now you have yours.”

  27. SteveBrooklineMA

    It makes me smile when someone mentions a movie I really like but few others seem to know. “Quatermass and the Pit,” for example. Awesome!

    I would add “King Kong” (the original!) to the many good suggestions already posted.

  28. Christmas in Connecticut A 1945 career woman and any Pride and Prejudice but without sound; I get lost in their expressions and era 

  29. j ferguson

    Ah, President’s Analyst. The ring tone is available. Few people recognize it but the ones that do are always interesting. It does raise the question of capacity to remember a tune heard only a few times, and if remembered ability to connect it with its origin.

    Cousin Vinny – we’ve re-watched this many times. Quality of the dialogue, acting, and editing are astonishing. I sometimes wonder if this level of care is given to other movies which die an early death.

  30. Briggs, my tastes in movies (but neither music nor hats) seem to intersect substantially with yours. May I suggest that if you haven’t yet managed it, try the Australian ‘claymation’ feature Mary and Max. I think you will enjoy its heart.

    Otherwise, a few of my favourite (moving) things:

    Dial M for Murder (coming out, at last!, in 3D this year)
    The Green Mile (Michael Clarke Duncan died the other day)
    Adaptation (the ultimate self-referential movie)
    Donnie Darko (subsequent works by Richard Kelley show he needs someone grown up to guide his talent)
    A Fish Called Wanda (beautifully constructed comedy)
    The Fighter (Christian Bale proves he’s still a truly great character actor)
    The Prestige (Christopher Nolan not doing Batman)
    Memento (Ditto)
    The Night of the Hunter (I don’t like Mitchum usually, but in this one he’s incredible)
    Punch Drunk Love (Adam Sandler not being Billy Madison)
    Terminator 2 (a sequel that surpasses its roots)
    The Bourne Ultimatum (a third entry that is far better than than the previous two)
    This Land is Mind (hard to find, a 1943 movie in which Charles Laughton in occupied Europe becomes a man)
    The Fall (
    TT3D: Closer to the Edge (a documentary about the Isle of Man motorcycle races, or, rather, about those who compete in a fortnight of races in which, on average, four or five people die every year.

  31. j ferguson

    Being There

  32. Wits' End

    Most of my favorites have been mentioned by others.

    One film I’ve enjoyed immensely is “The Gallant Hours” a 1960’s black and white film (perhaps half documentary) about Bull Halsey as the American Admiral in charge of naval operations during the battle for Guadalcanal. James Cagney is a treat as ‘Bull’ Halsey. Also a great study in leadership.

  33. Doug M

    Ferris Bhueler’s Day Off… but since it is always on some chanel, it means that I don’t watch anything else.

  34. dearieme

    The Lion in Winter.
    A Man for All Seasons.

  35. Geckko

    The Quiet Man? OMFG. The worst faux “Oirish” trash

  36. Terry

    Blues Brothers
    Blazing Saddles
    The Man who Sued God (Billy Connolly – Hilarious)
    All Naked Gun movies
    Green Mile
    The Great Escape

  37. Jewell B.

    Coming in late, so my answer will ditto some others, but still. I’m so glad someone else loves Big Trouble in Little China. I consider it the pinnacle of B moviedom.

    Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – plot irony at its finest
    Blues Brothers – ditto
    Gary Cooper films, esp Ball of Fire and Sargent York
    Claude Rains films – esp Casablanca
    Bogart films – esp Casablanca, Maltese Falcon
    Pink Panther films – esp Return of the Pink Panther
    The Matrix – One of those plots you can’t explain away as fiction, it *could* be happening right now (shiver)
    Thin Man/Charlie Chan and any other classic detective stories and film noir
    Kurosawa films and Japanese Jidaigeki films – don’t look for Hollywood happy endings here!
    Miyazaki films – esp My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away
    Time Bandits – so many tasty parts and lines
    True Grit (Wayne) and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Spaghetti Westerns in general
    Arthur (the original)
    Road Warrior
    Arthouse martial Arts films such as House of Flying Daggers; Hero; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    Harold LLoyd – laugh so hard I can’t breathe at many of these – less of a tragic figure than Keaton.

    Films that are guilty pleasures
    Desparado – Antonio Banderas
    The Soldier by Glickenhaus – the one with Ken Wahl – High Schlock
    Classic Godzilla films
    Kung Fu Hustle
    Jackie Chan films

    Enough for now, Jewell

  38. j ferguson

    Taxing Woman (something gained in the translation)

  39. j ferguson

    Titfield Thunderbolt – an especially wonderful variation on the English Genre of “Let’s all pitch in and overcome this problem”

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