And the Oscar Meyer Weiner Is ...

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It’s that time of year when Hollywood votes on it’s favorite or best movies and the rest of the country waits in anxious anticipation … to see who will be the opening day starters for their favorite baseball team. While we wait for that, I thought I would publish—for no good reason—a list of my 89 favorite movies.

Why 89?

Well, it started several years ago when a nephew and I decided to we would send each other a list of our 50 favorite movies, watch the movies on the other person’s list, then have an email conversation about what was on there. So, we wrote out our lists, emailed them to each other, then said out loud (and probably simultaneously), “I’m not watching this junk!”

Since then, I’ve kept the list, and occasionally added to it. I should note, though, that only the first 20 are REALLY in order. I gave them—and still give them—considerable thought. The other 69 … well, they’re movies I love and, every time I look at the list, I rearrange it considerable. So this is just where they are ranked today.

Also, you will find a couple movies that were made for TV on this list.

Remember: these are my FAVORITE movies. They are on this list because they are movies I could watch over and over again. I don’t really care whether other movies are “better” or whatever. I look for one thing in a movie: did I enjoy it.

Here are the 89 movies I enjoy the most.

89. The Rare Breed. Jimmy Stewart’s my all-time favorite actor, so he’s going to show up a lot in this list. Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara turn in fun performances, too (and were probably glad no one sang “Let’s Get Together”).

88. Unconquered. See Paulette Goddard in the tavern scene and any question of why this movie appears on my list should disappear.

87. The Fugitive. Harrison Ford shows up a lot on this list, though I wouldn’t rank him as my favorite actor. But he does make stuff I enjoy. This one’s just a fun ride, no matter how many times I see it.

86. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. OK, so not as good as the first one, it makes it onto this list for no other reason than the line, “Whoa! Hell sucks!”

85. Napoleon Dynamite. What a great name. What a great throw-away movie.

84. Maverick. Not as good as the old show, but having James Garner in there makes it close. If the language were cleaned up I would rank it higher.

83. Silvarado. Every time I look at my list, this one moves. Sometimes all the way into the 30s. Not sure how it got bumped this low today. Great western.

82. The Adventures of Robin Hood. Errol Flynn was perfect in this movie, in spite of the tights. And the music’s great, too. Suddenly, it’s stuck in my head.

81. Pirates of the Caribbean, the Curse of the Black Pearl. I have never understood how this movie could be so good and the other two so bad.

80. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. Why is this one way down here? One of the great non-ending endings of all time.

79. Return to Snowy River. Wonderful movie. Probably would be ranked higher if they had talked Kirk Douglas into coming back. Excellent soundtrack (which is now replacing Robin Hood, yay!)

78. North by Northwest. Alfred Hitchock does James Bond. Love the crop-duster scene.

77. Dances With Wolves. The only problem with this movie is that it seemed to have gone to Costner’s head.

76. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. “We’ll help you Mister The Kid.”

75. Charlie and the Angel. A Disney movie with Fred MacMurray (and Cloris Leachman as his wife!). A moral somewhat akin to “It’s A Wonderful Life” which may be why no one remembers it.

74. Bend of the River. Jimmy Stewart, a western, beautiful scenery (and a luscious Julie Adams) … who could ask for more.

73. The Far Country. Quick, try to tell this movie and the last one apart! Another great Stewart western. Walter Brennan steals the show.

72. Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. Only musical I can watch, though I have to fast-forward through “Little Kootchie Face”

71. The Passion of the Christ. Best movie I can’t bear to watch.

70. Star Trek VIII: First Contact. Of course it was good, it was an even-numbered movie!

69. Star Trek IX: Insurrection. The best of the odd-numbered Treks.

68. You Only Live Twice. I like Bond, but this is one of the few I like well enough to make it onto this list. Notice: none of the recent Bonds are on here. That’s because there hasn’t been a good one in 15 years (at least)

67. The Man From Snowy River. Admit it: when this is over you talk with an Australian accent for the rest of the day.

66. The Final Countdown. The movie that first got me really interested in time travel. Still love the scene of the deck silhouetted against the storm.

65. Eight Men Out. One of the best male tear-jerkers of all time.

64. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This is one of those movies that bounces around on my list. Could easily be ranked higher. I use it in sermons a lot.

63. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Only Gary Cooper could play this part (as was witnessed when they tried to do a remake with an actor so bad I refuse to type his name).

62. Meet John Doe. Another great Gary Cooper/Frank Capra movie. When you really think about it, and who Doe is, this may be one of the most Christmas-y movies ever.

61. Pride of the Yankees. Three Coops in a row. Another male tear-jerker. Love the scene where he trips over the bats.

60. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Back to Capra. You can tell this movie is both fictional and old because it’s about a Washington that works.

59. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne together. Need I say more? The only unbelievable part is the newspaper reporter who refuses to print the truth because it might damage a reputation.

58. How the West Was Won. The first half of this movie should be ranked a lot higher and the second half could be ranked a lot lower, so it comes out here. It’s never the same after Stewart dies.

57. Aladdin. What FUN! Maybe Robin Williams’ best work ever.

56. Lost Horizon. Maybe a better movie to remember than to watch, though it has many excellent moments. One of the main inspirations for “Burt & the I.L.S.”

55. The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. Excellent Knotts and Conway routines occasionally interrupted by a plot.

54. The Apple Dumpling Gang. Good story that was augmented by Knotts and Conway.

53. Fletch. Chevy Chase at his best. Why hasn’t he been able to catch this lightning again?

52. UHF. All you need to say to explain this movie is, “It’s a Weird Al Movie”.

51. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Another one that could be ranked much higher. Every part of it: story, acting, effects; all are excellent.
[Note: almost all the movies between 21-50 have been in the top 20 at one time or another.]

50. National Treasure. This was a fun movie that kept me guessing and is entertaining to watch over and over. The Second movie was good but doesn’t make it onto the list because it was indistinguishable from this one.

49. Funny Farm. My favorite Chevy Chase movie. Beautiful scenery and I’m a frustrated writer myself.

48. Wall-E. Easily the best movie of 2008 (though only my second favorite from that year). Mot is my hero.

47. The Incredibles. As close to perfect as a super hero movie can come—and it’s so much more than a supers movie.

46. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Doesn’t Rura Pente (sp?) remind you of your job?

45. The Sacketts. Excellent made-for-TV western. Perfect cast. Wish they would make more.

44. Ghostbusters 2. One of the best sequels every made. I like it more now than when it was new.

43. Harvey. Jimmy Stewart makes you believe in Harvey. The swinging gate at the end isn’t as convincing as Jimmy.

42. The Spirit of St. Louis. OK, so Stewart’s WAY older than Lindburgh, it’s still a great movie—mainly because Stewart’s in it.

41. A Boy Named Charlie Brown. One of the seminal moments of my movie-going career. Just watched it again last week and it’s still great!

40. Tron. The best computer movie ever. Ever since, people have been trying (and failing) to be this good.

39. The Living Daylights. My favorite Bond movie and, truthfully, the Bond who is most like Bond I always pictured while reading the books. Timothy Dalton was the last really good Bond if you ask me.

38. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I liked this movie. It was the weakest of the 6, but it also did what it was supposed to do. The people who dislike it are mainly people who have lost their sense of wonder.

37. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I especially liked the idea that Indy was older. Sure, he’s still super-human, but I liked the idea that—as I get older—I can still do great things (not that I’ve done any, yet). So glad Karen Allen was back!

36. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. This one had a great story and did the best job of capturing Star Trek’s humor.

35. Independence Day. Another movie that’s just FUN!

34. Race for You Life, Charlie Brown. While begging the question of who lets unattended 8 year olds enter an over-night raft race … I’d like to ride on the back of Snoopy’s bike.

33. Pot O’ Gold. It’s said that Stewart didn’t think much of this movie, but I love it. Just watching Paulette Goddard is almost worth the price of admission.

32. The Christmas Gift. A TV movie that makes it onto my list because a] I’ve always wanted to live in Georgetown, CO; 2] I’m a big fan of John Denver; and c] the story’s surprisingly good. But where did they find that kid that plays Scruff? No actors available?

31. The Philadelphia Story. This movie used to be a perennial top-20—and I still love it—but it’s been bumped by other things. Makes me wish I could have just sat and watched Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant work through their scenes.

30. Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves. This movie has lately been panned because of Costner’s work since, but it was a great movie, enormously popular at the time, and (I believe) very influential toward movies that followed it like Lord of the Rings. Another fine soundtrack.

29. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Another movie that easily could be ranked much higher. It’s so good, it’s amazing they were able to successfully follow it. The “Raiders March” is one of the best themes of all time and the first thing I put on my MP3 player’s best of playlist.

28. Ghostbusters. One of those movies that defined my college years. While part of me wishes they would make a #3, I doubt that it could compare to this one. Bill Murray steals it, but everyone else is good, too.

27. The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian. I think this was a much better movie than it was given credit for being. And it was a moronic decision to release it between Iron Man and Indy IV. And it strays from the book. Considering the strikes against it, it’s a phenomenal movie! “The Call” is one of the all-time great movie songs, in my opinion.

26. The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Wonderful adaptation of a wonderful book. Cracks me up when I read people complaining about these movies being too preachy when anyone who has read the books knows the movies are far less religious than the books.

25. Support Your Local Sheriff. Next to “The Rockford Files” this is James Garner at his best. One of those movies that only work because of the star. Anyone else and it’s a throw-away, but he makes it a classic.

24. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You either love it or you don’t. This movie defines England for most of us who have never been there.

23. Strange Brew. Another lightning in a (beer) bottle movie. It’s funny to me how many people I have met who loved this movie and never realized (until I told them) that it was based on Hamlet.

22. Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi. Another movie aficionados love to pan. I can (and do) watch it over and over again. My favorite scene: when they blow up the shield generator. Always loved that.

21. The Private Eyes. Don Knotts and Tim Conway at their best. So many great lines. Conway’s poetry is far better than anyone writing today. :-)

[Drum roll. The 20 best movies every made. Or, at least, my 20 favorite movies.]

20. Swiss Family Robinson. When I was a child, I wanted to live in the Robinson’s house. While I still wonder where the facilities are, the wish hasn’t gone away. Beautiful photography, too.

19. Return to Mayberry. Most people wouldn’t consider this a “great” movie, but they would be wrong. It’s a TV movie that wonderfully brings back the cast of the greatest show ever broadcast. And it’s a pretty good story.

18. Groundhog Day. Another movie that is saved by it’s star, this movie is made great by Bill Murray. So many funny moments, I could list them by just saying, “Go watch it.”

17. Galaxy Quest. Granted, this movie is funniest to those of us who grew up on the original Star Trek and always secretly hoped it’s stories were true. Everyone in this movie is wonderfully cast, especially Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver (who knew Ripley could be so funny?).

16. Cars. Every frame of this movie is animated perfection and it may contain more quotable lines than any movie since Holy Grail. Funny thing is, I went in not expecting much.

15. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. This is a wonderful movie for Star Wars fans—even those who want nothing more than something to complain about. Ewen MacGregor is easily the brightest spot in this stellar flick—rivaled only by Padme’s abdomen.

14. The Great Waldo Pepper. For years, this movie was in my top 10, but it has gradually gotten bumped downward. Robert Redford is excellent and the footage is spectacular. Two questions: did Waldo die at the end of this movie and where can I find it on DVD?

13. Casablanca. Strangely, I had never seen this movie until about 2000. I quickly fell in love with it. When I broke my leg and had surgery and was on meds, I set out to watch it. I fell asleep from the pain meds and found that the movie was over. So I went back to what I last remembered seeing and … made it another 10-15 minutes. The DVD played through 5 times before I finally saw it all, but it got me through a painful night.

12. High Noon. The greatest Gary Cooper movie ever made and another movie that just barely got bumped from the top ten. Incredible soundtrack, stark visuals, and an Oscar winning performance in which the actor says only 7 words in the last 14 minutes of the movie (including, “Hold it!” “Miller!”). One of the few movies ever made without a wasted second.

11. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. The cardinal rule of action movies is that you have to have a “good” villain. This has one of the best in Kahn. And when you consider that he and the protagonist never even get to be on the same ship (at the same time, anyway), the chemistry between Kirk and Kahn is even more amazing. Easily the best of the Trek movies … even if we all KNEW Spock would be back.

[And now, for my 10 favorite movies of all time]

10. Snowball Express. My favorite Disney movie of all time. Dean Jones plays a New Yorker who inherits a hotel in the Colorado Rockies. His attempt to turn it into a ski lodge is a success, right up until he accidentally drives a donkey engine through the hotel, destroying most everything inside. Sure, they probably filmed it in two weeks, but it’s a great movie I watch a couple times a year.

9. The Great Escape. So many iconic moments. Steven McQueen with the baseball. James Garner pick-pocketing the German guard. The motorcycle jump over the barbed-wire fence. It’s a war movie with almost no fight scenes and a guy’s movie with no women. And one of the all-time great soundtracks, thanks to Elmer Bernstein.

8. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. The best sequel ever made. I thought about lumping all the Star Wars movies together as one movie, but they’re not. For all the play Leia’s metal bikini has gotten over the years, my favorite outfit of hers is still the Hoth suit. And this was where the Millenium Falcon became my dreamship.

7. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. This and number 8 are as close to a tie as I have in the top 20. This was the perfect ending to the saga, tying everything together. The opening space battle is one of the most spectacular scenes ever put to screen and was the first thing I watched on my big screen TV. John Williams’s score comes to a wonderful conclusion in the end credits.

6. Jeremiah Johnson. Redford and Pollack defined the mountain man for every western that followed. Beautiful scenery, incredible dialogue (especially for how little of it there is) and a nice soundtrack. My oldest son got his middle name from this movie.

5. The Natural. Redford was perfect as the aging ballplayer determined to have one more chance at the big show. I remember sitting in a packed theater and everyone rising to their feet to cheer the homerun at the end. People who complain that the resulting fireworks are overdone are more of those people who have forgotten about that sense of wonder movies can provide. I still love Randy Newman’s soundtrack and play it often, visualizing every accompanying scene, but especially, “Knock the cover off the ball.”

4. The Lord of the Rings. I consider this one big movie and watch it accordingly. (If I start Fellowship, I usually finish King within a couple days.) Sure, they took a lot of liberties with the books but, as a friend of mine put it, in broad strokes they captured the books very well. I’ll never think of Elijah Wood as Frodo, but he—and everyone else—did an incredible job. Excellent visuals and unbelievable music. Another soundtrack I play frequently.

3. Star Wars: A New Hope. While it’s true that none of the five that followed ever quite rose to the level of this one, they were all excellent. This one was and is the greatest. I still get a thrill seeing that star destroyer fill the screen at the beginning. Heck, I thrill all the way through this movie. Another movie without a wasted shot. One of the all-time great soundtracks.

2. Field of Dreams. The ultimate male chick flick. I had read this book a few years before the movie came out and loved it. When I heard Hollywood was going to make a movie, I was interested but pretty sure they would screw it up. This is the only movie I’ve ever seen where they actually improved on a book I already liked. From the colors that invoke summer evenings on the baseball diamond, to the enchanted James Horner score, to the best performance Kevin Costner’s ever given, this is a remarkable movie. There’s only one movie in the history of the world that I like more …

1. It’s a Wonderful Life. There was a period in my life—late high school and early college—where I was watching this movie at least once a month. In Bible college, I argued for its canonization. James Stewart turned in the performance of a career—an incredible career, at that—as George Bailey, the man who’s had to watch the world go by without him, only to find out it couldn’t have gone at all without him. Too many iconic moments to mention, too many great performances. Frank Capra at his best.