Over the next few weeks I'm going to be posting, in groups of 10, the 100 films that I consider to be "essential classics". By that, I mean the films that I think every fan of classic films should see at least once in their life. Many of these I wouldn't include in a list of my 100 Favourite Films, rather they are films that I think are the best examples of classic film that I've seen. I've tried to rank them without letting my personal enjoyment of the film get in the way too much but I warn you, this list is a far cry from anything impartial!
#100 Marked Woman, 1937
Dir.: Lloyd Bacon
Starring: Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart
IMDb says: A crusading DA persuades a clip joint "party girl" to testify against her mobster boss after her innocent sister is accidentally murdered during one of his unsavory "parties."
Why I picked it: Marked Woman is a great example of the film noir/crime melodrama. In fact, in my books it's one of the best. The entire cast gives excellent performances, especially Bette Davis. It afforded her with the chance to play one of her best roles yet, and to this day, it still stands as one of her greatest performances.
#99 The Heiress, 1949
Dir.: William Wyler
Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Miriam Hopkins, Ralph Richardson
IMDb says: A young naive woman falls for a handsome young man who her emotionally abusive father suspects is a fortune hunter.
Why I picked it: The Heiress is excellent film with a strong storyline, fantastic performances from the leads, and some of the most beautiful cinematography in film history.
#98 Funny Face, 1957
Dir. by Stanley Donen
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson
TCM says: A fashion photographer turns a Greenwich Village unknown into an international supermodel.
Why I picked it: A vibrant, lavish, romantic, albeit a bit clichéd, story set in two of the most loved cities in the world, New York and Paris, Funny Face is a charming film that draws the viewer in and can be watched over and over again.
#97 Pyscho, 1960
Dir. by Alfred Hithchcock
Starring: Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin
IMDb says: A young woman steals $40,000 from her employer's client, and subsequently encounters a young motel proprietor too long under the domination of his mother.
Why I picked it: As one of Hitchcock's most well known films, I really couldn't not include it in this list. It's an incredible film, one which I think every film fanatic should see.
#96 Ninotchka, 1939
Dir. by Ernst Lubitsch
Starring: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas
IMDb says: A stern Russian woman sent to Paris on official business finds herself attracted to a man who represents everything she is supposed to detest.
Why I picked it: Ninotchka is one of the oddest romantic comedies I've ever seen, and that's what makes it great. Unlike a lot of romantic comedies, it has a quality which will keep it fresh for many years to come. It's rather sad that one of the most wonderful comedies of the 20th century is so overlooked by people outside of the classic film community.
#95 Camille, 1936
Dir. by George Cukor
Starring: Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore
IMDb says: A Parisian courtesan must choose between the young man who loves her and the callous baron who wants her, even as her own health begins to fail.
Why I picked it: If ever-so-slightly over the top romantic dramas are your cup of tea, then you will love this film. And even if they're not, you should still see it for the magnificent cinematography, script, and Greta Garbo.
#94 Grand Hotel, 1932
Dir. by Edmund Goulding
Starring: Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery
IMDb says: A group of very different individuals staying at a luxurious hotel in Berlin deal with each of their respective dramas.
Why I picked it: If Grand Hotel's star studded cast isn't enough to draw you in initially, just wait until the terrific performances by each and every one of those stars start to work their magic. It's a perfectly balanced melodrama which won't leave you with the same feeling that you get after eating too many sweet things. To anyone starting out with the classics, I highly recommend this!
#93 Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, 1954
Dir. by Stanley Donen
Starring: Howard Keel, Jane Powell
IMDb says: In 1850 Oregon, when a backwoodsman brings a wife home to his farm, his six brothers decide that they want to get married too.
Why I picked it: An iconic musical with some amazing dance routines and very catchy music that you'll be humming for days afterwards. In terms of the storyline, let's just say that if a similar film came out today there would be uproar - and rightly so - but it's still well worth a watch.
#92 The Awful Truth, 1937
Dir. by Leo McCarey
Starring: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant
IMDb says: Unfounded suspicions lead a married couple to begin divorce proceedings, whereupon they start undermining each other's attempts to find new romance.
Why I picked it: Cary and Irene are arguably one of the most iconic on-screen couples in the history of cinema and in this, their first of three films together, they helped to create one of the finest screwball comedies of the '30s.
#91 Oliver!, 1968
Dir. by Carol Reed
Starring: Mark Lester, Ron Moody, Shani Wallis, Jack Wild, Oliver Reed
IMDb says: Musical version of the Dickens classic about an orphan taken in by a band of boy thieves.
Why I picked it: Oliver! won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 1969 and I have to say, in my eyes at least, it really did deserve the win. Although the musical nature of the film may not be to everyone's taste it's an accessible and absorbing, and fairly true (for a musical!) adaptation of Dickens' original story.
Hope you enjoyed reading, please share your thoughts! Stay tuned for the next installment of this series!