Service of Favorite Films

January 7th, 2016

Categories: Films, Movies

Auntie Mame

Over the holidays we saw “Auntie Mame,” [1958], with Rosalind Russell, on Turner Classic Movies. I’ve seen it many times and enjoy it each time. I can too easily ignore my list of “to do’s” on a Saturday when one of my favorites appears. All it takes is for me to see a moment or two and unless I have hard deadlines or apply enormous restraint, a few hours melt away.

Some other films I enjoy seeing again and again include:

  • “Roman Holiday,” [1953] and “Sabrina,” [1954] with Audrey Hepburn
  • “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” [1957] with Alec Guinness
  • “An Affair to Remember,” [1957] with Deborah Kerr
  • “The Apartment,” [1960] with Jack Lemmon

    The Apartment

    The Apartment

  • “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” [1967] with Katherine Hepburn
  • “Kramer vs. Kramer, “ [1979] and “Out of Africa,” [1985] with Meryl Streep
  • “When Harry Met Sally,” [1989] and “Sleepless in Seattle,” [1993], with Meg Ryan and
  • “The King’s Speech,” [2010] with Colin FirthThe Thomas Crown Affair

My reaction to other “great films” that are repeatedly played such as “Lawrence of Arabia,” [1962] with Peter O’Toole or “The Thomas Crown Affair,” [1968] with Steve McQueen is a brisk “I’ve seen that, I’m not tempted.”  I may even have enjoyed the first viewing but don’t need another.

Recognizing that everyone’s lists will differ, what gives some films legs/why do they stand the test of repetition and others not so much? Is it: The story? The acting? The setting? The directing? How the film resonates with the personality of the viewer? What are some of your favorite films?

When Harry met Sally

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18 Responses to “Service of Favorite Films”

  1. hb Said:

    For me, movies have always been escapist, and, at their best, good, clean entertainment which touches some cord in me, the “wishful thinking” one more than anything else.

    Roman Holiday is right up there in part because I was living in Rome when it was made, but the top is Casablanca, 1942, perhaps because it was familiar to my experience when I first saw it, but more because of the script which is perfect. Others on my tops list are Brief Encounter, 1945, It Happened One Night, 1934, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, 1939, The Philadelphia Story, 1940, Witness for the Prosecution, 1957, On the Waterfront, 1954, and many more.

    I agree about The King’s Speech. It was first rate, but as an almost infallible rule I dislike American made films because they all seem to insist on including sex, violence and profanity, whatever the story line. (As an aside, I was briefly involved with film financing in the 1980’s, when I learned that no film can become commercially financeable without those three elements.)

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I am beginning to tire of Casablanca, though love it as well. I could add from your list to mine Brief Encounter, It Happened One Night and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and the original Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn. The one with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly falls flat.

    I haven’t made a study of where the most violent films laced with irrelevant sex and excessive profanity are made, but I share the results of a survey commissioned by the ratings board that reports “the vast majority of parents think even one use of the F-word should warrant an R-rating, not PG-13,” by Pamela McClintock in the Hollywood Reporter on Dec. 3, 2015:

    “When it comes to the movies their kids see, parents are most concerned with graphic sex scenes (80 percent), followed by full male nudity (72 percent), use of hard drugs (70 percent), full female nudity (70 percent), graphic violence (64 percent), use of the F-word (62 percent), marijuana use (59 percent), horror violence (59 percent), non-graphic sex scenes (57 percent), suggestive sexual innuendo (57 percent), partial nudity (57 percent) and brief nudity (57 percent), according to the study.

    “Over half of parents (53 percent) think the F-word appears in PG-13 rated movies too much, followed by graphic sex scenes (51 percent), suggestive sexual innuendo (49 percent), full female nudity (47 percent) and partial nudity (47 percent). Only 44 percent think there is too much graphic violence in movies going out with a PG-13 rating.”

  3. Kathleen Said:

    I love all the ones you and HB mention. But a new favorite is Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. I’ve seen it three times and would gladly see it again. The opening scenes of Paris makes one want to book a flight to Paris immediately. And the clever insertion of famous folks from years ago make it fun to recognize Gertrude Stein and Toulouse Lautrec and a host of other writers and artists.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Like you, I love movies made in favorite cities. When I lived away from NYC I was hungry for any movies made here. Movies shot in Paris, London and Rome also are favorites. Gigi and My Fair Lady may have been made in studios but part of why I love them: Their implied Paris/London locations. I enjoyed Midnight in Paris and would gladly see it again.

  5. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    Revisiting a lot of my favorite films, I find I’m often disappointed. I also find that I don’t yearn to revisit them often, if at all. Dated themes, shallow acting, unconvincing visuals—each often dims my memory of what I once considered strong moviegoing experiences.

    I think “Gandhi” would top the list of films I’d never want to see again, along with “An Affair to Remember,” which seems inherently manipulative. On the other hand, I always enjoy revisiting “Some Like It Hot,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “I Remember Mama” (the latter’s ending always brings me to tears). And my wife and I will continue to view “Gone With the Wind” whenever it’s screened (preferably in a theater, not on the tube).

    On the other hand, films made from Tennessee Williams plays seem incredibly dated and over-wrought, though I remember being deeply respectful when they were released. And “Singin’ in the Rain,” which I once loved, now seems a phony excuse for a film musical. . . as opposed to Gene Kelly’s “An American in Paris,” which still has dazzling impact.

    It must be an emotional element that gives favorite films “legs,” as opposed to screen entries that now seem flat or unwatchable. And where emotions are concerned, individual preferences always come into play. What affects one viewer might well leave others totally unsatisfied. Just like books, right?

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I feel precisely as you do about “Singing in the Rain.” I loved it when I first saw it and can’t sit through it today.

    And what you say in the intro of your comment–that I also agree with–makes it all the more amazing that some films make it past all the hurdles of “Dated themes, shallow acting, and unconvincing visuals.”

    I think that the viewer’s mood when watching a film accounts for part of a person’s reaction. When I first saw “La Dolce Vita” I hated it. I saw it a second time and liked it.

    How many times am I primed to see a film that “everyone ADORES” and I leave the movie house feeling out of it because it’s flown over my head and my reaction is “HUH?” An example: “Dances with Wolves.” As you wrote, the emotional element is crucial. The film rang no bells here.

  7. EAM Said:

    Sense and Sensibility, Rear Window, When Harry Met Sally, The Man without a Face (1993 with Mel Gibson), Most Exotic Marigold Hotel, Annie Hall, A Fish Called Wanda, Best in Show, The Princess Bride and Some Like it Hot, Whiplash, Avatar, The Visitor are among my favorites. I’m sure that there’s a Meryl Streep movie, yes: The Bridges of Madison County. I am drawn to Movies where people overcome obstacles and become better people as a result. I have a hard time watching movies where people are malevolent or self-destruct.

  8. EAM Said:

    To add to Kathleen’s comment, I too loved Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” which was one of Allen’s best films in a long time and made me want to escape to the next flight to Paris.

  9. Martha Takayama Said:

    First and foremost, as a native of greater Boston, I think immediately of “Casablanca”, shown for years at exam times in Cambridge, MA’s Brattle Theater. It cannot be shown too often!

    One Way Passage William Powell and Kay Francis as star-crossed lovers, also in a remake called Till We Meet Again
    La Dolce Vita
    Pepe Le Moko
    Black Orpheus.
    Never on Sunday

    All these movies made me laugh, cry, sit on the edge of my seat, and opened visions of worlds and cultures unknown. They serve as portals to dreams, style guides, social briefings and also in different ways address the greater questions of life.

    Perhaps the list is too long, and hopelessly romantic. I simply adore the movies, as they were and sometime still are, without multi-level incredibly violent plots going nowhere, consisting of about 5 major crises between lesser disasters, all dependent on assorted electronic controls, minus dialogue or thoughts!

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    From your list I love “Rear Window,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Bridges of Madison County” and “Annie Hall.” Some on your list I have yet to see. I tend to agree with your overall comment–I would not care to see “The Wolf on Wall Street” again. I didn’t have that negative impression of “Wall Street,” though I only saw it once and in the day.

    As good as some films are, such as Sophia Lauren in “Two Women,” the subject is so devastating that it’s not a film I would look forward to seeing again.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I loved Woody Allen’s comedies. One of my favorite all-time scenes was, I think, in “Annie Hall.” Woody and Diane Keaton are standing in line for a movie in Manhattan. Behind them is an arrogant buffoon blabbing on and on about “film.” After each increasingly phony-sophisticated comment, Woody wriggled in his place bursting with irritation. We’ve all known people like the jerk behind Woody…he captured the scene perfectly.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Wow, Martha!

    To think that “Casablanca” has a role in helping Harvard brains pass their exams! Humphrey and Ingrid would be proud. I loved “Never on Sunday,” but don’t think I saw “L’Aventura” or “Pepe Le Moko.” Embarrassed to admit I don’t remember “Black Orpheus.”

    A bunch of empty action and murders, extraordinary special effects and a blaring sound system doesn’t do anything much for me, either. I liked the movie about Julia Childs–“Julie and Julia.” It was a bit of fluff and that’s just what I’m in the mood for at times.

  13. Hank Goldman Said:

    Great question. I’ve wondered myself. Some oldies are boring, but others like the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, you could watch over and over. Also Cast Away, with Tom Hanks, and of course, the king of them all, the Godfather series… It’s just magic! What other explanation?

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Yikes, Hank! We all forgot the Godfather series! I never saw Cast Away, though I love T. Hanks as an actor. What fun reading the titles of films that have had an impact on this post’s readers.

  15. Lucrezia Said:

    Auntie Mame, 12 Angry Men and a French Film having to do with a prison break (damned if I ever bothered to remember the title!)

  16. jmbyington Said:

    We all forgot 12 Angry Men!!! I wonder what the French movie is. I loved the first Jean Paul Belmondo film (with Jean Seberg) film. She worked for The Herald Tribune. Lots of Paris. No murder though.

  17. dhg Said:

    This grim morning, after reading the starkly distressing news that there is a very real danger of one or the other of two fascists, one an ignorant, self-serving, corrupt bigot with charm, the other an equally self-serving, but a smart, conniving, power-hungry megalomaniac, may be become our next President, I stumbled across the finishing scenes of “The Shop Around the Corner.”

    That 1940 seeming trifle, which I’ve watched many times, epitomizes the essence of how great films can do great good. Made in the bleakest of times, a few minutes of Mr. Matuschek, his store and its staff, even on this sorry day in 2016, brought a smile back to my lips.

    It deserves to be high on your list.

  18. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree with you about “The Shop Around the Corner.” Thinking of the final scenes you mention, I think of goose and dumplings with special sauce for a grand Christmas meal with Mr. Matuschek.

    Fingers crossed that there will be a happy ending for us after our election, as there was for Klara Novak and Alfred Kralik. Things didn’t look rosy for the characters until the end.

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