We’ll start off the same way, which is listing all 10 films from this batch in the order in which I prefer them, best to worst.
- Singin’ in the Rain
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Cool Hand Luke
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
- North by Northwest
- How the West was Won
- Doctor Zhivago
I almost wimped out of making this a numbered list in favor of grouping them into tiers, but that is the way of the coward and list-making is fun. However, this batch does divide crazy evenly into tiers. Tier One, which are all amazingly good movies and you should totally see them, runs from Singin’ in the Rain to Willy Wonka. Tier Two, which are “Huh, that was pretty good” is the middle three (Ben-Hur to Bullitt), and the last tier is “Ugh, I had to sit through that nonsense,” which is everything else. Like last time, the easiest part of the whole list was assigning #10 of 10, because Gigi is terrible and no one should ever watch it.
To address a couple complaints I can imagine people making about these rankings, if people actually read this blog: first, sorry, I get that I have North by Northwest crazy low. It’s reasonably beloved and ZOMG, HITCHCOCK, SAM, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING. It just didn’t grab me. I thought it was fine. I couldn’t tell you much about it now. Secondly, I have a completely irrational fondness for and attachment to Cool Hand Luke. I wouldn’t be surprised if other people ranking the same 10 movies had it in the middle tier, or lower.
That said, ranking the top four movies here was impressively difficult. It really comes down to splitting hairs, and Singin’ in the Rain has great songs, great singing and dancing, and outrageous enthusiasm without a standout negative feature I can think of. While 2001: A Space Odyssey is certainly more Important with-a-capital-I, and I love it more, it’s also much longer, has
slow deliberate parts, and you have to sit through the Beyond the Infinite sequence to get to the really strange, juicy part at the very end. It’s not always the case, but here, fun wins out over Very Important.
In the writeup of the first 10, I made sure to note that credit sequences hadn’t progressed beyond static words at the beginning of the movie. North by Northwest, film #13 chronologically, from 1959 smashed that barrier with a brick. It has a lovely, remarkably modern credits sequence where the words move around and everything. Willy Wonka has the next most notable credit sequence, if you’re me, because while it’s static words again, it’s over shots of candies being made. It has long been one of my very favorite parts of the movie.
This ten was notable because it contained the three-movie run of Great Sweeping Epics. Between Ben-Hur, Doctor Zhivago, and How the West Was Won, it is no fewer than 571 total minutes of movie, or exactly one minute more than nine and a half hours. The average is three hours, 10 minutes. They’re not messing around, these epics. However, it’s interesting that for all those hours and hours of programming, the longest film in the box so far is still Gone With the Wind.
Longest film: Ben-Hur, 212 minutes
Shortest film: Willy Wonka, 100 minutes, with honorable mention to Singin’ in the Rain at 103
Average length of the first ten films: 142 minutes
Average length of the first ten films if you exclude the three epics: 122 minutes
Earliest film: Singin’ in the Rain, 1952
Latest film: Willy Wonka, 1971
Most pleasant surprise: Ben-Hur
Least pleasant surprise: Gigi
Least surprising: Doctor Zhivago
Most rewatchable: Singin’ in the Rain
Best song: tie: “Plastic Jesus” as sung by Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke himself, and “Moses Supposes” from Singin’ in the Rain