MMM at the Movies


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I am a movie buff, but as it was recently pointed out, I have never attempted a list of my favorite movies. Perhaps the reason is because it is HARD! Some were obvious, some were on the edge, but I did go through the process and come up with a list.

What I did learn, and hope you all appreciate, is that this is a very SUBJECTIVE process. Meaning “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.” The beauty of such a process is that subjective lists can’t be judged as wrong or right – they just “are.”  Of course you can always argue that my choices are stupid, and I am OK with that. Chances are, my blog post about my favorite movies is better than yours.  😉

One thing resonated during the selection process: A movie which might be a favorite to me might not even be good to someone else – partly because of things that are not even on the screen. One movie might have really reached me because of what was going on in my life at the time, my age, or even how it impacted what I thought or believed.

Without further ado, (Ooh – I liked “Much Ado About Nothing,” but it didn’t make the list) here are my lists: A Top 20 list, an Honorable Mention List of 5, and a list of some “extras.” The lists are not ranked – they are listed by date. I tried to rank them, but failed.

Top 20

Gunga Din Gunga Din (1939) I knew from a young age that Cary Grant was cool, and I liked Rudyard Kipling (Simply for The Jungle Book.). I loved this old adventure set in India, an the heroism displayed. Imagine my surprise when parts of the movie showed up in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Philadelphia Story Philadelphia Story (1940) If you have an ear for banter, this movie is perfection. Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant pack three-movies-worth of dialogue into this great movie. The drunk Jimmy Stewart scene is like the rest of the movie – yar.

Wonderful Life It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) One of the greats. Also one of the few movies I actually wrote about already (link here). Wonderful message, wonderful acting, wonderful phone scene, etc. Lots of “wonderful.”

Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) I saw this when I was a teenager and immediately felt of its importance. Gregory Peck is impeccable. As an adult, this movie rings even more important to me. The world needs more Atticus Finches.

Fiddler Roof Fiddler on the Roof (1971) I saw this with my family at the Century 21 theater in Salt Lake when I was 10. It was long – there was even an intermission. As it was sailing over my head, it must have imbedded in there because I still think it is the finest film adaptation of a musical. You can’t help but love Tevye’s constant chatting with God, and the weightier family and religious messages.

Whats up doc What’s Up Doc (1972) Another film I saw with my family when I was young. I thought it was hysterical because of the slapstick comedy and stunts. I still do, but now I appreciate how great Ryan O’Neal was in his deadpan role. A highly quotable movie. Made me want to visit San Francisco.

Jaws Jaws (1975) I was looking through scary movies to make sure I included one. I chose this one for how it actually impacted society, and launched Spielberg into orbit. Some people actually stopped swimming in the ocean after seeing this movie. The drinking scene in the boat where Quint describes the sinking of the USS Indianapolis is perfect film-making.

RockyRocky (1976) Audiences really did stand up and cheer. I promise. It was amazing. The timing couldn’t have been better than during America’s bi-centennial. What people sometimes forget is that there was very little boxing in the movie. More importantly, it was a sensitive character study about a gentle soul trying to be something more.

Airplane Airplane (1980) One of the most ridiculous movies ever made. I had to include it because it altered my perception of what “funny” is. So many quotable lines. Just the other day I heard someone make the ‘And stop calling me Shirley” joke. Not bad for 37 years.

Raiders Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) This movie came out when I was on my mission – luckily it was re-released soon after I got home. Even though one of my junior companions had been obsessed with it and told me everything that was going to happen, I still loved it. Still do.

Amadeus Amadeus (1984) If you didn’t love Mozart’s music before seeing this movie, you probably did after. It came out when I was in college, and it played at a theater where I worked, so I saw/heard parts of it hundreds of times. It won a bunch of Oscars including Best Picture, and Best Actor. F. Murray Abraham’s “Salieri” is brilliant.

Hamlet Hamlet (1986) Shakespeare is Shakespeare. Kenneth Branagh can interpret him for the screen better than anyone. His Hamlet is intense, beautiful and actually understandable.  And tragic. Yes, it clocks in at over 4 hours, but it is worth the investment. For a stretch of years, my daughter and I would watch it every Christmas break. We are due.

Groundhog Day Groundhog Day (1993) Sure it is funny, but sometimes its comedy status gets in the way of appreciating the depth of this film. There is so much to ponder about personal growth, charity etc. that it should be a Church movie.

O Brother O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) The funniest and most decent Cohen brothers movie. It cracks me up. Terrific comedic timing and sharp dialogue. It is also really beautifully shot. Helps make the Odyssey more understandable, and gives you lots of funny new quotes. I have this movie on my phone.

Emperor Emperor’s New Groove (2000) Yeah, maybe this doesn’t belong on here, but it is just so funny that I needed to include it. David Spade’s snarky wit kills me. This movie was a disaster in the making, but I love how it turned out. I have it on my phone for boring waiting rooms.

Lord of the Rings Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003) My EC and I watched Fellowship of the Ring last Saturday. It is still spectacular. The thing that impressed me most is that I have never seen a movie based on a book that so accurately captured what was already in my head. It was uncanny.  Gandalf and Aragorn are flawless. All three films are fabulous. If you watch the three director’s cuts straight through, it would take about 13 hours.

Big Fish Big Fish (2003) I fell in love with this movie shortly after my Dad died. I cried ugly in the theater – not knowing I would need tissues. Holds a special place in my heart. As an aging “storyteller” myself, watching it now brings a whole additional set of emotions.

Incredibles The Incredibles (2004) One of the best superhero movies ever made. Cartoon or not. Love the family focus, and the portrayal of a floundering middle-aged man. Worried about the upcoming sequel.

Dark Knight Trilogy The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012) Dark is right. These Christopher Nolan superhero movies set a high bar which none of the recent attempts have even touched. My EC hates the second one because Heath Ledger is so dang creepy.  (In a related note: Go see the Lego Batman movie.)

Impossible The Impossible (2011)  Powerful, and at times hard to watch. A family facing an impossible disaster and an impossible situation. (Asian tsunami in 2004) The effects were amazing – and not as much CGI as you would expect, given the story. Performances were terrific. I adore Naomi Watts anyway, but the kids and Ewan MacGregor were so good, too. Most staggering part is that it was based on real events.


Honorable Mention

Mr Smith Washington Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Would be on the list, but I already included two Jimmy Stewart movies. Oh for a congress full of men with this kind of character!

Evil Roy Slade Evil Roy Slade (1972) An incredibly dumb TV movie cobbled together from an abandoned TV series. Really lame jokes. Poor quality production. Over-the-top acting. I love it. Extremely quotable. (Yes, I did include it in a Bonafide Box.)

PeeWee PeeWee’s Big Adventure (1985) Speaking of extremely quotable… PeeWee was already funny on TV, but the movie was funny, dumb and importantly, unleashed the craziness of Tim Burton on the world.

6h Sense The Sixth Sense (1999) What a cool movie. One of the best things is that nobody spilled the beans about it! Haley Joel Osment gave one of the all-time great performances by a child actor. Bruce Willis was his cool self. Creepy and utterly surprising. Still the best thing M. Knight Shymalan has done.

Up Up (2009) Yeah, I was bawling in the opening sequence. That first 10 minutes should be studied in film schools.  I loved everything about this, with the exception of the stupid airplane flying dogs. Pixar at its best – beautiful animation, lots of laughs, and lots of heart.


Movies That I Either Discovered on TV or Saw Before I Stopped Watching R-rated Movies.

(I recommend you look for the edited versions, because some of these would have definitely made my Top 20 list. I don’t recommend seeing them the R-rated format.)

Cuckoos Nes One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest (1975) First movie that really put me back on my heels and say “Whoa!.” Nicholson was amazing. Oscars aplenty.

Annie Hall Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen’s best. Funny and insightful, especially to a single college kid.

Ran Ran (Japanese) (1985) One of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. We loved it so much we went back and saw it a second time the next day. Ran is the telling of King Lear set in fuedal Japan. Directed by the great Akira Kirosawa. This is the only foreign film on the list, which is odd because I love foreign films.

Shawshank The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Based on a Stephen King novella, Shawshank has climbed into a top spot as a widely loved movie. It is on TV all the time, so you can find it edited. It is so good – I just don’t know what else to say. This is one of the great “stop and watch” movies when you are surfing through channels.

Braveheart Braveheart (1995) Epic, exciting, beautiful. I loved everything about it. It deserved all the accolades and Oscars.  (Even though it did play fast and loose with history.) It also changed how battle sequences are filmed. It made me proud of my Scottish Heritage, and glad I live when, and where I do.

Green Mile The Green Mile (1999) Another Stephen King novel. Tom Hanks makes everything better, but in this movie he is surrounded by amazing performances – good guys and bad guys. (I read that it is Stephen King’s favorite book-to-film.)

Tin Cup Tin Cup (1996) Sure, this movie probably doesn’t belong on the list. I don’t play golf. I hate watching golf. I don’t care about golf. But I love this movie. It cracks me up, but more importantly, the last 10 minutes of the movie are exquisite torture. It is on TV all the time, so watch for an edited version. It is one of those movies that I must stop and watch – drives my wife nuts.


There you go. Your mileage may vary, but now you have a peek into my movie brain. Please be aware that if I were to make this list next week, or next year, it could be quite different.

What do you agree with?

What do you disagree with?



  1. Rarely do we go to the movie theatre, but we did this week and saw Hidden Figures. It was a great movie!

  2. Oh my gosh!! I love What’s Up Doc!! Streisand is gorgeous and funny as heck and Ryan is quite possibly the Ryan Gosling of yesteryear. When the rich old lady is trying to go to her room and that guy is trying to stop her?! Hilarious! Funny, funny laugh out loud movie! Emperors New Groove is my fave Disney movie. I liken Cuzco to a guy who is a jerk, finds the Gospel and is awesome!! Yizma (not sure of spelling) is brilliant. Should have gotten an Oscar because her voice is perfect!! She slays me!! I’ve seen them both a dozen times!

  3. There are several of your top movies, though pretty classic, I haven’t seen. I’m on board with many of the ones I have seen though. My only absolute no on your list is Up. Crazy, I know. I just thought it was SO boring. Groundhog day is questionable, just not my thing. Airplane is funny, but I watched it with my dad in the room once and there were a couple of parts that were a bit uncomfortable to watch with him right there. I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I get sucked into watching any of the movies whenever they are on TV. I’m also a fan of the recent Batman movies, but I agree with your wife that the second one is very dark and I don’t re-watch that one, nor have I let any of my kids watch it. As for your R-rated section, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile are 2 of my all time favorite movies. They would be in my top 20 for sure. I love when they are on TV since I really try to not watch R-rated movies anymore. Like the Lord of the Rings movies, if I come across them on TV I almost always watch. I’d say you have a pretty good list. I would challenge anyone to create a top 10 or 20 movie list. Not easy!

  4. I love that you included The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption,The Sixth Sense, and Airplane (the Tupperware party scene in the jungle is an all-time favorite). Another good movie, if you see it edited, is No Way Out (it’s a totally different movie after you’ve seen the end), and Field of Dreams (“you Nazi cow!). Also grateful you didn’t list Princess Bride. *GAG*

  5. Here is a list of comedies that are not cinematic masterpieces by any means, but fit the following three criteria:
    1) Can be watched over and over
    2) Are super-quotable
    3) Are reasonably clean (all are PG or PG-13, but some I prefer to watch edited)

    Airplane and Groundhogs Day would be on this list, as would The Princess Bride. Here are the rest of the ones that come to mind (in no particular order):
    – Fletch
    – Joe vs. the Volcano
    – My Blue Heaven
    – Three Amigos
    – Shanghai Noon
    – Uncle Buck
    – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
    – Elf
    – Knight and Day
    – Stranger than Fiction
    – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
    – Ghostbusters

    What else would you add (or delete) from this list?

  6. I love your list, and was amazed that our tastes are so close to identical. Are you my missing twin brother? I would have added “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring” as favorite foreign films and several silent films.

    • Great additions! Love those two and found Gerard Depardieu a very compelling lead. A pity he hasn’t done something noteworthy of late. Did you see him with Andie Macdowell in Green Card?

  7. I love the old classics. So anything with Cary Grant (my very, very favorite), Jimmy Stewart or Gregory Peck would be on my list. Loved North by Northwest. Alfred Hitchcock loved casting Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart in his films. Thanks for your list. I thought you did pretty darn good on your picks.
    2 great movies I would recommend if you haven’t already seen them are.
    1) Dan in Real Life
    2) Flipped

  8. The Emperor’s New Groove is one of my all time favorites. It’s hilarious.

    I love the family dynamic in The Incredibles. So well done.

    PeeWee’s Big Adventure was the first movie that I remember giving me nightmares. All I remember now is it was something with a truck driver? Maybe?

  9. Drives the FOML’s crazy that I still randomly sing to Fiddler on the Roof when doing the dishes. Raiders, Amadeus & Ground hog day (I’ve discussed that in YM’s) Emperor’s New Groove…there are some castle ruins between Munich & Hoenfehls Germany that my kids referred to as Cuzco’s castle. Seening them meant that we were only 20 more minutes away from my HC speaking assignment. the 6th sense…still makes the hair on my legs stand up and prickle. the only one I would add would be “the Notebook” the look on James Garner’s face when his wife remembers him, then forgets him again brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it, and the story ends as close to perfectly as I can imagine.

  10. Nice list – never an easy task to create something like this. I now have a few new “movies I should see sometime” if I ever have a free block of time (ha!). My list would have to include Charade (1963). Great banter (as most Grant movies have) plus the suspense of is-he-a-good-guy-or-not all the way up to the end. Life is Beautiful (1997) is my favorite lessons-for-life movie that will also require tissue. Makes me want to learn Italian every time I watch it just so I can get more out of Benigni’s lines. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (also 1963) is also a classic that I have enjoyed all throughout my life. A hilarious movie with an amazingly long A-list cast but which doesn’t water down their performances. Like Airplane, it redefines zany but in a more realistic fashion.

  11. Yes- Fiddler on the Roof! One of my favorites. Extremely proud of the fact that my twins have been singing and dancing to “If I Were A Rich Man” since they were 3. Great list!

  12. Excellent list! I especially love that you included a couple Cary Grant movies, though I would have probably added Operation Petticoat to the list. Cary Grant and Tony Curtis together were amazing.

  13. Groundhog Day is also one of my favorites. We watch it every Groundhog Day. I actually did use the movie plot at church one year to teach our YW about being selfless. This year as we watched it, we noticed how Phil was going right through the seven deadly sins, so that was something new. Another favorite is Galaxy Quest. If you have ever been to a Star Trek convention (and we have been to three) this movie is dead on, both plot and characters, and is totally hysterical. And it has the wonderful Alan Rickman. I don’t know if you watch Japanese films, but Spirited Away is a beautiful Oscar-winning animated film. Hayao Miyazaki makes movies that – to quote my daughter – get you right in the feels. The animation is stunning, the music is heart wrenching, and the story is unforgettable. I’m starting to sound like the back of the DVD case, so I’ll end now.

      • Have you tried Miyazaki’s early works? IMHO “Nausicca” and “Laputa” (aka “Castle In The Sky”) are two of the best movies ever — way better than his later, more acclaimed works like “Spirited Away” and “Mononoke-hime.” “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Totoro” are great, too.

        And yes, “Galaxy Quest” is awesome.

  14. I love your lists – and agree with the choices. I would like to add one you may or may not have seen – Shadowlands with Sir Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis and Debra Winger as his wife, Joy. I dare you not to bawl when watching that movie, and the atmosphere of the two Oxbridge universities, Oxford and Cambridge (they use Oxford for the film) is glorious. And the music! Right up there with Amadeus in my book, and I am a sucker for an excellent score. As for your Shakespeare choice, yes, Branagh does a sterling job with these films, but my favorite is Henry V – the love scene/courtship with a young Emma Thompson was delightful. The battle sequences with Derek Jacobi as the Chorus are quite wonderful, as is the St. Crispin’s Day speech. Last, but not least, you pointed out that you have at least 2 Stephen King tales in your list and recommend them edited, which I agree with. That said, doesn’t it drive you nuts that someone who can tell such great stories often sullies them with unnecessary foul language or immoral events (that have nothing to do with the plot)? That has always been my biggest beef with Mr. King. He is a great storyteller – why muddy the waters?

    • Shadowlands was good, but I didn’t love it like you did. I really liked Henry V for all the same reasons, but I love Hamlet.

  15. Husband loves “Airplane”. He served his mission in Chicago and loves the “jive scene”. He quotes from it frequently and so wanted to share it with a bunch of YM so they could understand his quotes. Apparently we had only watched it on TV even though we owned the VHS. We played it from the VCR for the 14-15 year old boys to watch the movie with us. The boob shot that filled the entire TV screen was the most remembered and talked about scene from the movie for a very long time. Oh boy!

    • We did the same thing with our kids. Oops! That was before there was a PG-13 rating, so they had to choose between R and PG.

  16. I like your list, Brother Man. Small note, almost not worth mentioning, but I will because, as Christopher Walken explains to Brendan Fraser, “Because I must”: The tsunami was 2004. I believe I saw “The Impossible” based on your temple recommend, so thanks for that.

    A few on your list are on my list. When asked, I always say that “Rocky” is my favorite movie. When asked which Rocky, I get a little irritated (there was no “Rocky 1”). It takes its place at the top because of my age at the time and the impact it had on me. Favorite scene: Rocky says, “I can’t do it.” Adrian says, “What?” Rocky says, “Beat Apollo”. Adrian doesn’t say, “Yes you can,” she says, “What are we going to do?” Rocky says, “… No one’s ever gone the distance with Creed. And, if I can go that distance, I’ll know for the first time in my life that I wasn’t just another bum from the neighborhood.” Also of note, Adrian is living in Rocky’s apartment, but Rocky is sleeping on the couch.

    Noticeably absent from your list is “Marty” (circa 1955). I watch it every Nov 8th.


  17. A couple of glaring omissions: Once Upon a Time in the West (I hate westerns, but this movie is at the very tippy top of my favorite list), and the gut-busting It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. No list is complete without these two masterpieces.

  18. LOVED the movies on your list. I’m not sure I’d be successful in narrowing my films down to a top 20. If I could name some now, I would include The War (Kevin Costner and Elijah Woods A+), Little Women, You’ve Got Mail, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Walk Don’t Run

    Last thing – I believe The Impossible is about the Asian tsunami in 2003. Much more recent than 1984. Wonderful movie – incredibly harrowing story.

    Thank you for writing your blog – I have enjoyed reading the last couple years (since finding it), can trust its content and …. have even searched it for topic subject when preparing sacrament talks. HA!! You have wonderful insight and fresh perspectives. Keep it up.

  19. Great list – I have 3 that I have watched many times that are not on your list.
    The Great Race – (1965) A movie we watched as a family in the car almost every summer as we drove for vacations. I could drive and listen, laugh and enjoy every scene and saying in my mind,
    The Sting – (2001) Wonderful plot twists and acting. Poker scene makes me smile.
    Silverado – (1985) Best western without John Wayne in it.
    Thanks for your thoughts that brought back memories 😉

  20. Shawshank and Green Mile were awesome. I told my son how good Green Mile was so he watched it with me when it was on TV…and got mad at me because it was sad. Ha. Also love emperor’s New Groove. It’s so nice when you sit down to watch a children’s movie with your kids and it’s so entertaining for you! First one I remember like that was Aladdin. Ha, Robin Williams was a riot.

  21. I’m up for anything with Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Gregory Peck.
    Trivia: The GPS map at the beginning of The Incredibles shows real streets. I was born just miles from there. And the ice cream parlor at the end of UP is/was in Berkeley. Going there was a special treat when I was small. Farrell’s? I’d have to ask my dad.

  22. Thanks! I am NOT a TV/Movie buff and rarely turn on the tube. II have some incredibly boring, time consuming projects and have tried to find some things to watch to keep my mind busy while my hands are working. I’ll have to start at the top of your list and work my way through.


  23. I love groundhog day, hamlet and o brother where art thou. I’d add Return to me and the saint. Might check out some of those I haven’t seen.

  24. I don’t agree with everything on your list, but that is to be expected. From that list, though, I think you might like Moliere (2007) and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Love them both.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)