Irish Mike’s Top 5 Movies – Oscar Edition
One of the great conversation starters and friendly debates one can have with a friend, family member or even a brand new acquaintance has always been…”What are your top 5/10 favorite movies?”
I have always struggled with answering this question as I believe there are so many great choices. I was fortunate to have a mother who loved (and still does) old black and white movies, musicals, and children’s movies, so I have a wide-range of movies to consider and have come to appreciate. Certainly my list will contain mostly movies from my generation, but you will notice some of the very best came out either before I was born or at least before I was able to watch them, or even understand them.
One of my absolute favorite blogs to read is from The Pioneer Woman. This ginger haired lady is the poster woman for social media, blogging, etc. She writes about food, life on the farm, her kids, her dog, home schooling, and…movies.
Her recent post about the Godfather, coupled with a recent Twitter exchange with inspired me to come up with my Top 5. Without spending a lot of time on it, I quickly answered. Now that I have spent more time, I have decided that it is time to take a light stand on my favorite movies. So, following is a list of my top 5 movies. I have done my best to explain why (simply) and have tried my best to actually rank them (from 5-1). See you at the movies!
Hoosiers – A perennial favorite for best “sports movies” this movie, in my opinion, is one of the greats period. A hot tempered coach, a quiet jump shooter, a small town, a revival bus, and a little romance is a script not just made in Hollywood. This story, supposedly outside of the name of the town and high school, is pretty accurate to the real 1954 Milan High basketball team of rural Indiana who beat the defending state champs of the bigger, badder, even better high school. Back then it didn’t matter what size school you came from, big or small, if you were the best, you kept going, all the way to the state finals. The score, by Jerry Goldsmith, is pretty typical of the great scores of the 80s where the synthesizer does most of the work (think Vangelis and Chariots of Fire), but the subtle, consistent beat in the background as jumper after jumper is hit, sucks you in to Hoosier basketball and now inspires my own sons to grab a basketball and work on their jumper against an imaginary barn.
Chariots of Fire – Speaking of great sports movies, Chariots doesn’t usually end on that list because, frankly, we sometimes forget that track and field is a sport. Plus, there isn’t a ton of ‘action’ on the track. This movie shows the makings of the 1924 British Track and Field team. A Jew, some Cambridge boys, and a guy from Scotland team up to deliver Olympic pride for the UK, on the way showing us the bigotry of pre-WW2 Europe and the reluctance of a missionary-turned-sprinter in Eric Liddell who runs because “he feels the Lord’s pleasure.” The commitment to faith, the craft of track and field, and the Olympic spirit will think you too should be running on the beach. Don’t forget that chilling soundtrack…haunting yet as inspiring as anything the Rocky movies put out.
Braveheart – Sure to show up on most every boy’s list of favorites, this loosely based historical fiction portrayal of a man who went from vengeance (because the love of his life was taken in every way you can imagine by a sick yet much-used law) to hero in the manner of a few years jammed into an epic film. William Wallace, played masterfully by Mel Gibson, is a Scot who ultimately inspires his fellow Scots, both nobles and peasants, to resist the scourge of the English crown. Passionate love, tons of brutal gore (remember the scene where Wallace comes in on his horse and bashes one of the traitor noblemen with a mace?), and even some humor (the Irish are always good for it). Inspiring, brilliantly acted and directed, this really is one of the all time greats…even if you aren’t male.
Glory – I was so close to being a History major and have since wondered if I should have at least added it and become a double major. As a kid, and throughout my life, I have been fascinated by history, military history to be precise, and the Civil War was my first hook. I don’t know exactly what it was about the North vs South or the issue of slavery, rebellion, secession, and Abraham Lincoln, but the idea that our young country was at war with themselves, somehow gripped me. Glory was probably one of the first rated R movies I was allowed to watch. This Civil War era movie was based on a true story, about a reluctant white Captain (played by a boyish Matthew Broderick) who was assigned to the first all-black regiment to officially fight for the North. Even in the North, there was a tremendous reluctance to let black men fight, even though most of the North “believed” (loosely in some cases) that abolishing slavery was important. Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington steal the movie. Looking back it appears obvious that they would, considering all of their great performances over the years, but then, it was as if they were breaking out in Hollywood. Freeman plays the trustworthy and honorable, albeit uneducated soldier, and Denzel as the rebellious, backwoods former slave who had tried to escape so many times from his previous master that his back was scarred beyond recognition. Who can forget the scene where Denzel’s character, full of vitriol and rebellion, was whipped so hard that a single, big, and long tear streamed down his cheek? Story line is very powerful, phenomenally acted and a sweeping score that leaves you breathless and equal parts depressed and hopeful. A must see for all Americans.
The Godfather, Parts 1 and 2 – Far and away my favorite movies of all time. There really is no GF 2 without 1 and vice versa. There is really no “second favorite” movie either as the rest of Hollywood just hasn’t put together a story quite like the Godfather. The film has been borrowed, quoted, and parodied and has even inspired many people, movies, TV shows, and has even found its way into every day life and culture. The story of the fictional (which is shocking) Corleone family whose patriarch, Don Vito Corleone, immigrates to the US as a young boy not knowing anyone or any English. His name is even changed to the small mountainous village he comes from (Corleone) in Sicily. The movies follow the rise of Vito into organized crime, wealth, murder, corruption, and of course, the importance of family. I am not going to give you all the scenes or the various plot sequences but at the heart of the story is the third son, Michael, the one that was destined to be pure (“not Michael…”) only to become even more cold-hearted, ruthless, and murderous. The goal is to become legitimate, to move the family away from crime and into normal business, but the envy and hatred for the other “families,” treachery and lies, suck Michael and the rest of his family back into a war of words, wealth, and power. There is SO MUCH MORE to say…love your family? Watch the Godfather…