50 Films that are Older Than Me for my 52nd Year

Last year, when I turned 50, I set myself a goal to watch 50 movies I’d never seen before, each from a different year of my life. Recently, with Alan Parker’s The Commitments under my belt, I’ve finished that goal. No time to lose, either, as my birthday is coming up (or just past, depending on when I get this written). So for this next year, my 52nd breathing this earth’s air directly into my nostrils, I am setting a new goal: to watch 50 movies that came out before I was born, one from each calendar year.

In some cases, I’d never even heard of the film until I was researching for this, while other films I’ve wanted to see for a long time.  But each movie came out in a different year before I was born–or in other words, from 1920 – 1969.

Now, I’m reserving the right to change my selections depending on availability (possibly a real concern with some of the older films here) and shifting tastes, but at the moment, this is what I’m going for.  I’ll update this Masterlist as needed throughout the year. 

1920 – The Mark of Zorro directed by Fred Niblo. Early Zorro, with Douglas Fairbanks in his prime! (Click the title of this and any of the films to read my thoughts about it).

1921 – The Kid directed by Charlie Chaplin. I’ve seen very little Chaplin in my life, it seems, so this is an opportunity to address that.

1922 – Lorna Doone directed by Maurice Tourneur. I am familiar with this title as a book and from many other adaptations, but I don’t know anything about it except that the 1922 movie poster advertises this as the greatest love story ever written.

1923 – Safety Last directed by Fred C. Newmayer and Sam Taylor. This is that movie with the famous image of Harold Lloyd hanging from a clock. I’ve never seen it, and I thought I should.

1924 – The Sea Hawk directed by Frank Lloyd–an adventure film touted as “the best sea story that’s yet been done up to that point.”

1925 – Little Annie Rooney directed by William Beaudine – a silent comedy-drama starring Mary Pickford, which I’m curious about but not actually very hopeful that I can find.

1926 – Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ directed by Fred Niblo–I’ve seen the famous Charlton Heston version of this story, but never the earlier silent film (actually the second silent film, but the first feature length one).

1927 – Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang, a well known science fiction film that I have never watched.

1928 – Steamboat Bill, Jr. directed by Charles Reisner and an uncredited Buster Keaton. Keaton is one of my favorite filmmakers, and I’ve never seen this one, although I’m familiar with one of its more famous stunts.

1929 – Man with a Movie Camera directed by Dziga Vertov. I’ve seen a different experimental documentary film by this same filmmaker (Enthusiasm) but never this earlier effort.

1930 – All Quiet on the Western Front directed by Lewis Milestone. I read the book upon which this was based when I was in school, but have never seen the film except for the clip of what I think is the main character dying at the end.

1931 – Skippy directed by Normal Taurag. This is an adaptation of a comic strip that I have never heard of, featuring a young Jackie Cooper. I don’t hold out much hope of finding it to watch, but I’d like to see it. I couldn’t find Skippy anywhere, so I watched another film that featured young Jackie Cooper which came out the same year: The Champ.

1932 – Grand Hotel directed by Edmund Goulding. I’ve long heard of this film but I don’t know anything about it. It features Greta Garbo, who is an actress I’ve long heard but also don’t know anything about.

1933 – Turn Back the Clock directed by Edgar Selwyn. This is an early time-loop film! A guy gets a chance to re-write his own history, but will it actually help anything? I’m guessing not! Well, since I couldn’t find the film, I can’t say. Instead I watched the first on-screen pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers–Flying Down to Rio.

1934 – The Case of the Howling Dog directed by Alan Crosland–an early Perry Mason mystery I couldn’t find the Perry Mason mystery anywhere, so I ended up watching Shirley Temple’s first starring movie instead–Bright Eyes.

1935 – The 39 Steps directed by Alfred Hitchcock–one of many of Hitchcock’s films that I have never seen. I read the book not too long ago, so I’m quite curious about this.

1936 – Flash Gordon directed by Frederick Stephani. This was originally a 13 chapter serial, but seems to only be available now as a 90 movie called Flash Gordon: Spaceship to the Unknown that was edited and released much later. I also eventually found the full serial, and watched all of that and wrote about it too–you can read about it starting here.

1937 – Lost Horizon directed by Frank Capra. I wanted to have a Frank Capra film on my list, so this adventure-drama-fantasy fit the bill!

1938 – Love Finds Andy Hardy directed by George B. Seitz. My wife has been talking for years about these Andy Hardy films starring Mickey Rooney, so I thought I should include one.

1939 – Stagecoach directed by John Ford. I’m fairly unfamiliar with Westerns, John Wayne or John Ford, so this is my chance to address all three!

1940 – The Great McGinty directed by Preston Sturges. I love Preston Sturges, and here is one I’ve never seen. I couldn’t this movie, which was a great disappointment (one I hope to rectify with my next lot of birthday presents). So instead I watched the remake of The Mark of Zorro, by director Rouben Mamoulian.

1941 – Ball of Fire directed by Howard Hawks. I haven’t seen too much Hawks, but what I’ve seen I’ve really liked, so I’ve included this screwball comedy with Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper.

1942 – The Magnificent Ambersons directed by Orson Wells. Other than Citizen Kane, I don’t really know Orson Welles’ filmography, so here’s a chance to address that a little.

1943 – Stormy Weather directed by Andrew L. Stone. I only know this film from the number of times I’ve watched the Youtube clip of the unbelievably impressive dance scene with the Nicholas Brothers. I’m looking forward to the whole film.

1944 – The Three Cabelleros directed by Normal Ferguson and others. This is one of the Disney animated films that I have never seen, and is apparently the first feature-length film to combine traditional animation with live action actors. I saw this one in December.

1945 – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn directed by Elia Kazan. I’ve read this novel years ago, and the film comes pretty highly recommended.

1946 – Somewhere in the Night directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. This is a noir mystery about a veteran soldier with amnesia.

1947 – The Thin Man Goes Home directed by Richard Thorpe. This is the fifth of six Thin Man movies, a series of light-hearted mysteries. Actually, I watched Song of the Thin Man, which is the sixth of the six Thin Man movies, and the one that actually did come out in 1947 (The Thin Man Goes Home was in 1945). I ended up watching them both in September.

1948 – Treasure of the Sierra Madre directed by John Huston. I’ve been wanting to see this adventure drama with Humphrey Bogart for a long time.

1949 – Obsession directed by Edward Dmytryk. This is a British crime film by a director that I’m mildly familiar with.

1950 – Treasure Island directed by Byron Haskin. This is a live-action Disney film based on the famous novel, which feature Doctor Who actor Patrick Troughton in a bit part.

1951 – The Man in the White Suit directed by Alexander Mackendrick, an early British science fiction film that I’m unfamiliar with, but apparently featuring Alec Guinness, long before Star Wars.

1952 – Pat and Mike directed by George Cukor. I’ve seen and enjoy other Spencer Tracy / Katharine Hepburn films, but never this one.

1953 – Abbot and Costello Go to Mars directed by Charles Lamont. It’s been a loooong time since I’ve seen an Abbot & Costello film, but hopefully by the end of the year that will have changed. I couldn’t find the Abbot and Costello picture listed here, so instead I watched From Here to Eternity directed by Fred Zinnemann, which I think we all know is basically the same movie.

1954 – The High and the Mighty directed by William A. Wellman. This is an early disaster film with John Wayne as an airplane pliot.

1955 – Blackboard Jungle directed by Richard Brooks. This is a social drama featuring Sidney Poitier and Glenn Ford.

1956 – The Court Jester directed by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama. This is a Danny Kaye-starring musical comedy, and is one of those films that I’m familiar with one sequence of, and am curious to see the rest of it.

1957 – Witness for the Prosecution directed by Billy Wilder. Billy Wilder is another director that I wanted to make sure to include on the list, hence we get this courtroom noir film.

1958 – Hidden Fortress directed by Akira Kurosawa. I missed watching a Kurosawa film during last year’s exercise, so here is another chance.

1959 – The 400 Blows directed by François Truffaut. A French New Wave classic, and an opportunity to expand my film appreciation vocabulary.

1960 – Spartacus directed by Stanley Kubrick. Not the quintessential Kubrick film, but one I’ve never seen and want to check out.

1961 – The Misfits directed by John Huston. For the most part, I’m trying to limit myself to one film per director, but in this case I’ve made an exception, as both The Misfits and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) are amongst the movies I’m most interested in. This one is the last film for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe.

1962 – The Share Out directed by Gerard Glaister. This is a low budget British crime film with a cast of familiar faces, including Bernard Lee (M in a lot of James Bond films), William Russell (Doctor Who) and Richard Vernon (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). I’m not very hopeful about finding it, however. It turns out that I couldn’t find it, so instead I watched a little something called Lawrence of Arabia, directed by David Lean.

1963 – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World directed by Stanley Kramer–an all-star comedy epic.

1964 – Viva Las Vegas directed by George Sidney. An Elvis Presley movie! It’ll be my first one.

1965 – The Cincinnati Kid directed by Norman Jewison. This is a “poker” film by the director of two of my favorite movies, In the Heat of the Night and Jesus Christ Superstar.

1966 – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly directed by Sergio Leone. A Clint Eastwood spaghetti-Western that I have never seen.

1967 – Cool Hand Luke directed by Stuart Rosenberg. This is one of many Paul Newman classics that I have never seen.

1968 – Planet of the Apes directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. I know, it’s ridiculous, but I’ve never seen this, except various highlights like the big twist scene at the end. I’m probably more familiar with the various parodies than the movie itself.

1969 – The Assassination Bureau directed by Basil Dearden–a British black comedy adventure co-starring Diana Rigg from The Avengers.

One thought on “50 Films that are Older Than Me for my 52nd Year

  1. I saw Diana Rigg in The Assassination Bureau before seeing her in The Avengers. R.I.P., Diana.

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