Posted by: Trisha Leigh | November 5, 2010

Because I Said So, That’s Why

I had an old movie marathon the other night. I didn’t intend it, just put in one I hadn’t seen in a while for background noise while I studied. It led to another led to another and, well, you get the idea. I spend a lot of time reviewing current television and film for , and it’s a task I love. I’m always surprised, however, at the oldies but still amazing goodies people haven’t seen. Thought I’d share a top ten lists of old movies (yes, some of them are black and white) you should see if you haven’t.

Note: The fact that I am a shameless Jimmy Stewart fangirl is going to be glaringly evident here.

10.) Captains Courageous (1937): A tearjerker with a great story and an even better performance by the wonderful Spencer Tracey. A spoiled brat falls overboard a pretentious ocean liner and is rescued by a small fishing crew. While waiting to get back home he learns what it means to live in the real world.

9.) It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963): This film stars everybody who was anybody in comedic acting during the period, including Spencer Tracey, Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, and so many more. It’s ridiculous, but hilarious. If you’re a fan of Mel Brooks type humor (or current television shows like Scrubs), you’ll enjoy this 2 and a half hours of hijinks.

8.) Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980): Take your pick, really, but you shouldn’t go through life with experiencing the way he took filmmaking and elevated it to an art form. My personal favorites are Psycho (1960), North by Northwest (1959), Rear Window (1954), and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).

7.) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939): If you want to restore your faith in America, try this one on for size. Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart unite to do what they do best – tell a poignant story that will leave you heartbroken and hopeful at the same time. Mr. Smith, a reluctant and inexperienced man who falls into the US Senate, meets with political corruption and cynicism. Determined and optimistic, he refuses to back down from what he knows is right. A beautiful story.

6.) An Affair to Remember (1957): This film has been referenced in many other forms of media over the course of time, most famously in Sleepless in Seattle and most recently in my own beloved Gossip Girl. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr strike up an unlikely but intense love affair on a crossing to New York from Europe. They agree to get their lives together and, if they still want to be married, to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in six months. Gorgeous, tragic, wonderful story – and their performances are off the charts. If you ever wondered whether or not Cary Grant can actually act, watch the final scene in this film.

5.) Young Frankenstein (1974): If I had to guess, I’d say this one is the one people have seen. Mel Brooks meets Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, and Madeline Kahn in this wonderfully stupid recounting of the events that take place when Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson returns to repeat his experiments. In my opinion, Mel Brooks at his best and a must see for anyone professing themselves to be a film buff of any kind.

4.) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962): My favorite western (also my favorite John Wayne film) hands down no contest. It’s also1 of only 3 films in which Wayne dies. (The other 2 are Sands of Iwo Jima and The Shootist. You can thank me on your next trivia night.) Directed by John Ford and also starring Jimmy Stewart, it explores what it really means to have courage, to be a righteous person. Tales with deeply flawed, layered characters always appeal to me, and this is one of the best of all time.

3.) When Harry Met Sally (1989): This is probably Rob Reiner’s greatest achievement. If you’re a writer of any kind, this movie should be required research. The dialogue is some of the best ever written and proves, at least for me, that it can carry a film on its own. Nowadays films are shrugged off as boring if “nothing happens”; if things are blowing up, people aren’t in danger, or no sex is taking place. When Harry Met Sally is a practice in subtlety that is so full of win. Some of the most quotable lines ever.

2.) The Philadelphia Story (1940): Another film featuring wonderfully funny dialogue and starring the best of its era: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart. It’s the only straight comedy Stewart ever did (to my knowledge, and I don’t consider Harvey a straight comedy), and the scenes between him and Cary Grant will have you wiping your eyes they’re so funny. Cary Grant plays Katharine Hepburn’s ex husband, Stewart a jaded reporter sent to cover her high society remarriage. The wedding weekend turns out to be more than she bargained for as she juggles the two of them, along with her fiancée, nosy little sister, busybody mother, drunken uncle, and philandering father. It’s great fun.

1.) It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): If you’re thinking, “Come on, Trisha. Everyone’s seen this movie,” let me tell you – you’re wrong. I grew up assuming the same thing, but am continually shocked by the people just in my own social circle who’ve never viewed this film. SHOCKED. This is my all time favorite movie, and though I’ve seen it hundreds of times it never fails to send tears dripping down my cheeks in its final scene. It follows the life of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), a man who wraps around your heart like a beautiful vine, and let’s us witness his reluctant quest to answer a difficult question – what makes life worth living. You are denying yourself a piece of beauty and truth by not watching this film. Seriously.

Bonus: Tommy Boy (1995): Chris Farley, David Spade – more smartass quotes and laughs than you can handle, bro. This is what comedy used to be before Will Farrell and Zach Galifinakis hijacked it. By that I mean it utilizes witty dialogue and some semblance of heart and plot to garner laughs as opposed to nudity, vomit, falling down, and running into things.

So there they are. What do you think? Have you seen them and think I’m nuts? Did I leave off something amazing – let me know, I love watching new movies!



  1. I have watched a few of these movies, I should watch more of them. Harry Met Sally is a classic. I can watch that over and over again and still fall in love with it everytime. A current movie I love is Slummdog Millionaire. That movie takes my breath away. When I watched it I couldn’t move, and I thought it was possilbly one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.

    • Slumdog Millionaire is an amazing film in its own right. I adored it as well. You should see more of these!

  2. Remarkable judgment for such a young’un.

    Dr. B

    • Thanks for the compliment and for thinking I’m young 🙂

  3. I’m with you on being ever amazed at the people who have never seen It’s a Wonderful Life (my all time fave Christmas movie). Imagine my shock when it came to my first Christmas during married life and I found out my husband had NEVER seen it. (I remedied that problem on the spot). Of course, his Christmas movie education was severely lacking… he’d never seen A Christmas Story either.

    • A Christmas Story I can take or leave. I mean, everyone should see it but…it’s not a great message that sticks with you or anything. Maybe I’m just feeling over stimulated since TBS plays the dern thing 24 hours straight every Christmas.

  4. Your assessment of When Harry Met Sally is spot on. Writing like that doesn’t get made in Hollywood very often. We actually watched this film in my Interpersonal Communication class at TCU.

    And, oh how I miss Chris Farley.

    • I think I watched in at least one film class as well. For a more recent example, see Juno if you haven’t. Brilliant script.

  5. The only one I haven’t seen is Tommy Boy. Guess I’ll have to add it to my To Be Watched list now. 🙂

    Love all the others, especially The Philadelphia Story. I’m a sucker for Jimmy Stewart AND Cary Grant. Kate ain’t bad, either.

    • I know, The Philadelphia Story is so amazing. The scenes between Stewart and Grant are PRICELESS. Let me know what you think of Tommy Boy. I suspect you’ll enjoy it 🙂

  6. How are we friends, or more appropriate, how are you friends with ME? LOL

    I’ve seen When Harry Met Sally but SOOOO long ago it needs a refresher. Same with Psycho. Rear Window 😉 was more recent. That’s it. All I’ve seen.

    Obviously, this must be rectified.

    • We’ll get there, D. In fact, I think I’ll bring Tommy Boy with me tonight 🙂

  7. I’ve seen most of them! Huge 30s-40s movie fan here. Though somehow I missed Captains Courageous…I must rectify that. 🙂

    • They don’t make ’em like they used to, lol.

      You’ll love Captains Courageous, but I warn you – arm yourself with Kleenex!

  8. Some of those are some of my favs as well. I kind of worship Cary Grant.

    • What’s not to worship? I rewatched An Affair to Remember the other night and fell in love all over again.

  9. Great list. I would have to add Sunset Boulevard (1950) to the list – it’s one of my all-time faves.

  10. I adore An Affair to Remember. Great list, Trisha.

  11. Thanks for the sane opinion. Me and my brother were preparing to do some research about that. We got a good book on that matter from our local library and most books were not as informative as your blog. I am exited to retrieve such information that I have been searching for a long time. 🙂

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