Honestly, I’m no great lover of pre-70s cinema, say what you will. I’d rather watch Ben Whishaw use the internet in 3D than see Bogie muse multidimensionally through yet another wisp of smoke. Many of the old codes of filmdom—the star system, the auteur theory, the motion picture production code—serve virtually no purpose for me.
Nevertheless, the great empathy machine has no foreseeable expiry date, and its core value (the preservation of culture and existence) will live on as long as their are eyes to view and butts to fill seats. For me, the cinema that spans from the Lost Generation to Generation X is, at its peak, a time warp: an entry point to timeless empathy (our differences, decade to decade, aren’t sooooo great), a translation of cultural patterns (never so useful as when comparing evolutions in genre filmmaking), and even something of a human zoo—a far more intellectual than visceral fascination.
Not to denigrate any one master (my favourite director, Kubrick, did all but two of his films in this period), but however profound my love of the past, I have to acknowledge the glass wall of perception between me and most of these titles. I maintain a sense of personal intellectual control over the films of my era, so watching them is a bit like strolling in my own garden, my own Shire. The risk of earlier film is a quest into utter boredom. The reward is a journey unlike the comforts of home.
Here are some celebrated titles that don’t make the cut:
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Gone with the Wind; It’s a Wonderful Life; The Bridge on the River Kwai; The Birth of a Nation; Bringing Up Baby; Stagecoach; Don’t Look Now; Dr. No; Blow Up; Far from the Madding Crowd; Fist of Fury; Enter the Dragon; Grand Illusion; The Duellists; Black Orpheus
And here’s some celebrated titles (taken from the IMDb top 250, the AFI and BFI top 100, the Wikipedia entry on best rated films, and my own private collection) that I’ve yet to see:
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin; Aina; Alfie; An American in Paris; Animal House; Anna Karenina; Apur Sansar; Atlantic City; Bad Timing; Baji; The Belles of St Trinian’s; Blackboard Jungle; Black God, White Devil; Blood and Black Lace; Bloody Mama; The Blue Angel; Body Heat; The Body Snatcher; Boxcar Bertha; The Boys from Brazil; Breaking Away; Breathless; Brighton Rock; Bumping Into Broadway; Cabaret; Cabiria; Carry On…Up the Khyber; Charulata; Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke; Children of Paradise; Cleopatra; Coal Miner’s Daughter; The Confession; Cover Up; Crazed Fruit; Crimes of the Future; Daisies; The Dam Busters; Dark Victory; Darling; Daughters of Darkness; David and Lisa; The Day of the Jackal; Day of Wrath; The Day Shall Dawn; Dodsworth; Dressed to Kill; Earth; El verdugo; The Enemy Below; Erotikon; Fat City; Fedora; The Firemen’s Ball; Fires Were Started; Five Deadly Venoms Genevieve; Five Fingers of Death; Flesh for Frankenstein; The French Lieutenant’s Woman; Friday the 13th; Gallipoli; Giv’at Halfon Eina Ona; Get Carter; Giant; The Go-Between; Goldfinger; Grease; Gregory’s Girl; Hamlet (1948); Harakiri; The Harder They Come; Haxan; Head; The Heiress; Henry V (1944); Herz aus Glas; Hester Street; The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923); The Hustler; I’m All Right Jack; Inside Daisy Clover; Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion; Isadora; In Which We Serve; The Ipcress File; I Remember Mama; The Italian Job; It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World; It! The Terror from Outer Space; Jeanne Dielman…; Journey to Italy; Julio Comienza en Julio; Kapurush The Coward; Kevade; Kill, Baby Kill!; Kind Hearts and Coronets; King; Klute; Kuroneko; La Cage Aux Folles; The Ladykillers; La Notte; The Last Picture Show; The Last Tycoon; The Last Waltz; The Lavender Hill Mob; Leave Her to Heaven; Le Doulos; The Leopard; Le Samourai; Letter from an Unknown Woman; The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp; A Limousine the Colour of Midsummer’s Eve; Little Fugitive; The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner; The Longest Day; The Long Good Friday; Long Weekend; The Lost Letter; Love; Love Story; Magnificent Butcher; Mahanagar; A Man for All Seasons; Manila by Night; Manila in the Claws of Light; The Man in the White Suit; Man of Iron; Man with a Movie Camera; Marketa Lazarova; M*A*S*H; A Matter of Life and Death; Mayabazar; Mean Streets; The Message; Ministry of Fear; Mon Oncle Antoine; Mother India; The Mountain; The Mummy (1969); The Music Room; My Bloody Valentine; My Fair Lady; My Geisha; My Man Godfrey; Nashville; The Night of the Generals; The Night Porter; Nights of Cabiria; Ni Liv; Ninotchka; Obaltan; Odd Man Out; An Officer and a Gentleman; Oliver!; Oliver Twist; One Who Sings Means No Harm; Onibaba; Opening Night; Overlord; A Page of Madness; The Palm Beach Story; Pandora’s Box; Paper Moon; Papillon; The Parent Trap; Passport to Pimlico; Peeping Tom; Performance; Picnic at Hanging Rock; Pinchcliffe Grand Prix; A Place in the Sun; Placido; Point Blank; The Policeman; The Poseidon Adventure; Pretty Poison; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; The Promised Land; Pyaasa; Queen Christina; The Quiet Man; The Railway Children; A Raisin in the Sun; Raven’s End; The Reenactment; Ride in the Whirlwind; Room at the Top; The Round-Up; The Rules of the Game; Salo; Samurai II; Samurai III; Saturday Night and Sunday Morning; Save the Tiger; See You in the Next War; The Servant; Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors; Sholay; The Shop on Main Street; Sinbad (1971); The Sound of Music; Speedy; Splendor in the Grass; Spring in a Small Town (1948); Stalag 17; Stalker; Stromboli; Stroszek; Summer With Monika; Sunday, Bloody Sunday; Sweet Bird of Youth; Sweet Smell of Success; Swing Time; Tale of Tales; The Tale of Zatoichi; Tales of Terror; A Taste of Honey; Teddy Bear; That Hamilton Woman; Thief; The Thin Man; This Sporting Life; Three Ages; Three Outlaw Samurai; Titash Ekti Nadir Naam; Tom Jones; To Sir, with Love; Tout va Bien; The Travelling Players; Triumph of the Will; Two Women; The Unknown Soldier; The Vampire Lovers; Viridiana; Wavelength; West Side Story; Where the Sidewalk Ends; Whirlpool; Whisky Galore!; Who’s that Singing Over There; Wild Strawberries; Women in Love; Wuthering Heights; X-15; Yankee Doodle Dandy; Zatoichi films; Zombie; Zulu
I know there are thousands more that I should see (and, as always, feel free to suggest), but compiling this list further feels like an invitation to exhaustion.Read less