Chris Hicks: What makes these movies my favorites

Published: Thursday, Jan. 27 2011 4:00 p.m. MST

Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews in "The Best Years of Our Lives," the story of three GIs returning from World War II.

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For some reason a lot of people have asked me lately to name my favorite movies of all time. Good grief! It's like trying to pick my favorite child. And I have a lot of kids.

Mostly I've begged off and answered in genres. I love the great film noirs, I'll say, from "The Maltese Falcon" to "Double Indemnity," trying to pick titles that might be familiar.

Musicals: "Singin' in the Rain," "On the Town," "Carousel," "The Music Man."

Comedies: A lot of Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness titles, the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Abbott & Costello. "Bringing Up Baby," "Some Like it Hot," "His Girl Friday," "The Sting," "Tootsie," "Raising Arizona."

Westerns: "The Searchers," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "Rio Bravo," "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," "The Big Country," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Ox-Bow Incident," "Ride the High Country."

Science fiction and horror films: "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Thing From Another World," "Forbidden Planet," the Vincent Price-Edgar Allan Poe pictures, Hitchcock's "The Birds" and "Psycho."

Dramas: "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Lawrence of Arabia," "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Casablanca," "In the Heat of the Night," "The Fugitive," "Tender Mercies."

You know. The standard-issue usual suspects.

But then I stumbled across an old story I wrote for the Deseret News — and I mean old. Would you believe it ran in 1982? Yes, they had movies then. With both sound and color.

It was fun for me to revisit this old story, not just because it included a list of my then-top 15 favorite films, but because it also had titles listed by several other film critics/buffs around town. And comparing notes again gave me a real lift, not just nostalgically, but also with the realization that I now have most of them in DVD form right here on the shelf or available through Netflix, something that wasn't possible back then.

Yes, children, when I was growing up in the 1950s and '60s, we had to wait for movies to show up on TV (in truncated form with commercial interruptions), if they showed up at all. And even in 1982, the VHS home-video market was still in its genesis. But now. …

Ain't technology grand?

Anyway, I thought about the list I made in '82, and what I would list today, and, interestingly, it's not all that different.

The biggest differences? Back then I included Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941), considered by many the greatest movie of all time; "City Lights" (1931), the Charlie Chaplin silent classic; "Two For the Road" (1967), a tale of marital strife starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney; "A Thousand Clowns" (1965), an offbeat comedy with Jason Robards; "To Be or Not to Be" (1942), the original Ernest Lubitsch Nazi satire starring Jack Benny; "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944), the frantic farce with Cary Grant; and "You Can't Take it With You" (1938), the best-picture winner from Frank Capra, starring James Stewart and Jean Arthur.

None of which would be on the list today.

But that's not because they've fallen into disfavor (in fact, I own all of them, save "A Thousand Clowns," which has never been released on DVD). The reason they would not make the top 15 this time is simply because others have risen above them, different films I tend to return to again and again, a little more often than those. (And in another 28 years, that could change again.)

The rest of the movies on that old list, however, would still be included today — "La Strada" (1954), "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964), "North By Northwest" (1959), "The Court Jester" (1956), "Duck Soup" (1933), "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) and "The Graduate" (1967).

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