Recently I redeveloped my list of favorite films, coming up with the 101 movies I love the most (at least for the moment). I shared this via Youtube video here and via series of blogposts starting here. Take your pick, the choice is yours.
Now that’s all out there and official, I thought I’d take a quick look to see what we can see. No conclusions, but a bunch of observations.
First off, in terms of decade of release, there is a fairly expected spread. Most of the films are pretty recent, because that’s what I’ve seen more of, but other eras are represented as well:
1920’s – 2 movies (the oldest movie on the list is Seven Chances from 1925)
1930’s – 1 movies
1940’s – 5 movies
1950’s – 5 movies
1960’s – 5 movies
1970’s – 7 movies
1980’s – 15 movies
1990’s – 20 movies
2000’s – 21 movies
2010’s – 20 movies (the most recent film on the list is Little Women, which was released Christmas Day 2019)
The most frequently represented year was a tie–with four movies each–between 1987 (Die Hard, Princess Bride, Planes Trains and Automobiles, and The Untouchables) and 2000 (O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Dish, Unbreakable and Frequency). The longest gap without a favorite movie since the earliest one in 1925 is definitely 12 years, from 1926 – 1938 (The General to The Lady Vanishes), followed by six years between 1946-1952 (The Big Sleep to Singin’ in the Rain). The most recent year not to be represented on the list at all (aside from 2020) was 2010.
99 of the films are sound movies (the oldest two are silent classics by Buster Keaton). 97 are English language films (three are Japanese, one is Italian). Seven movies are fully animated (seven and a half if you count Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and seven could be considered musicals (and not just movies with one or two musical numbers, like O Brother, Where Art Thou? or Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Fourteen of the movies feature aliens or clearly science fictiony spaceships (or both), while four of them feature real-life or semi-realistic spaceships with no aliens (The Martian, Apollo 13, The Dish, and Fish Story).
Strangely, two of them have the word “rabbit” in the title, whilst another one (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) features a rabbit significantly in the plot, at least for one scene.
Nine of the movies are adaptations of known superhero properties (not counting things like Unbreakable or Fish Story in there), six of them deal with time travel, eight are co-directed by more than one director, and there are only four female directors represented. A lot of this speaks to the limitations of my viewing, the limitations of the industry, or both.
The director who shows up the most on the list is Steven Spielberg, with 5 movies, all in the top 50. Taika Waititi and Christopher Nolan both have 3 movies, and the following directors (or directing teams) all have 2: Buster Keaton, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, Rob Reiner, the Russo Brothers, the Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, Normal Jewison, Rob Sitch, and Damien Chazelle.
As far as lead actors, Harrison Ford and Scarlett Johannson each appear five times, although each are playing only three characters (Han Solo and Black Widow are both represented three times). Samuel L. Jackson also shows up five times, but that counts four appearances as Nick Fury, two of which are brief cameos. Tom Hanks is there four times, playing four different lead characters (Toy Story 2, Bridge of Spies, Catch Me If You Can and Apollo 13).
Behind the scenes, I had a look at the writers, cinematographers, editors, and music composers for each film (I didn’t look at producers–there are just so many on each film that it’s hard to dig in there), and found that there were three different editors who were involved in editing four different films (sometimes in a team): Jeffrey Ford (Shattered Glass, Avengers, Captain America The Winter Soldier, and Avengers Endgame), Lee Smith (Fearless, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Dunkirk), and Michael Kahn (all Steven Spielberg movies–War of the Worlds, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Catch Me If you Can and Bridge of Spies).
I also found there were three composers who had done the music for four different films: Hans Zimmer (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Prince of Egypt, and Dunkirk), James Newton Howard (also the two Batman films, plus Unbreakable and The Fugitive), and Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future, Avengers, Avengers Endgame and Who Framed Roger Rabbit).
I also made some random discoveries: for example, William Nicholson wrote the screenplays for both Les Miserables and Shadowlands. Brian Helgeland directed A Knight’s Tale and co-wrote LA Confidential. Joel and Ethan Coen co-wrote Bridge of Spies. Paul Hirsch was an editor on three films–Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and…Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Ray Lovejoy edited both 2001: A Space Odyssey and Aliens.
Dov Hoenig was an editor on both The Fugitive and Dark City. Andrew Lesnie was cinematographer on both Lord of the Rings and Babe. Adrian Biddle was cinematographer on both Aliens and The Princess Bride (talk about range!) Douglas Slocombe was cinematographer on both Jesus Christ Superstar and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
But the person who showed up the most on the major credits of my 101 films was definitely John Williams, who was the composer on seven of the films: the original Star Wars trilogy, War of the Worlds, Catch Me If You Can, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws. That’s a lot of good music.
Til next time!