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Best of Warner Bros.: 100 Film Collection [55 Discs] (DVD)

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    Synopsis

    Includes:
  • The Jazz Singer (1927)
  • The Broadway Melody (1929)
  • Cimarron (1930)
  • The Public Enemy (1931)
  • Grand Hotel (1932)
  • 42nd Street (1933), MPAA Rating: NR
  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), MPAA Rating: NR
  • A Night at the Opera (1935), MPAA Rating: NR
  • The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
  • The Life of Emile Zola (1937), MPAA Rating: NR
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), MPAA Rating: PG
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939), MPAA Rating: G
  • Dark Victory (1939), MPAA Rating: NR
  • Gone With the Wind (1939), MPAA Rating: G
  • The Philadelphia Story (1940), MPAA Rating: NR
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941), MPAA Rating: NR
  • Citizen Kane (1941), MPAA Rating: PG
  • Casablanca (1942), MPAA Rating: NR
  • Mrs. Miniver (1942), MPAA Rating: NR
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), MPAA Rating: NR
  • Gaslight (1944)
  • Mildred Pierce (1945), MPAA Rating: NR
  • Anchors Aweigh (1945)
  • The Big Sleep (1946), MPAA Rating: NR
  • The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), MPAA Rating: NR
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), MPAA Rating: PG
  • An American in Paris (1951), MPAA Rating: G
  • Singin' in the Rain (1952), MPAA Rating: G
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), MPAA Rating: G
  • A Star Is Born (1954), MPAA Rating: PG
  • East of Eden (1955), MPAA Rating: PG
  • Rebel Without a Cause (1955), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Giant (1956), MPAA Rating: G
  • The Searchers (1956)
  • Around the World in 80 Days (1956), MPAA Rating: G
  • A Face in the Crowd (1957)
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
  • Gigi (1958), MPAA Rating: G
  • Ben-Hur (1959), MPAA Rating: G
  • North by Northwest (1959)
  • How the West Was Won (1962), MPAA Rating: G
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
  • Viva Las Vegas (1964)
  • Doctor Zhivago (1965), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
  • Cool Hand Luke (1967), MPAA Rating: PG
  • The Dirty Dozen (1967)
  • Bullitt (1968), MPAA Rating: PG
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), MPAA Rating: G
  • The Wild Bunch (1969), MPAA Rating: R
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971), MPAA Rating: R
  • Dirty Harry (1971), MPAA Rating: R
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), MPAA Rating: G
  • Cabaret (1972), MPAA Rating: PG
  • Enter the Dragon (1973), MPAA Rating: R
  • The Exorcist (1973), MPAA Rating: R
  • Blazing Saddles (1974), MPAA Rating: R
  • Dog Day Afternoon (1975), MPAA Rating: R
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), MPAA Rating: R
  • All the President's Men (1976), MPAA Rating: PG
  • Superman: The Movie (1978), MPAA Rating: PG
  • Caddyshack (1980), MPAA Rating: R
  • The Shining (1980), MPAA Rating: R
  • Clash of the Titans (1981), MPAA Rating: PG
  • Chariots of Fire (1981), MPAA Rating: PG
  • National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), MPAA Rating: R
  • Risky Business (1983), MPAA Rating: R
  • The Outsiders (1983), MPAA Rating: PG
  • The Right Stuff (1983), MPAA Rating: PG
  • Amadeus (1984), MPAA Rating: PG
  • The Color Purple (1985), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • The Goonies (1985), MPAA Rating: PG
  • Lethal Weapon (1987), MPAA Rating: R
  • Full Metal Jacket (1987), MPAA Rating: R
  • Batman (1989), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Driving Miss Daisy (1989), MPAA Rating: PG
  • GoodFellas (1990), MPAA Rating: R
  • Unforgiven (1992), MPAA Rating: R
  • The Bodyguard (1992), MPAA Rating: R
  • The Fugitive (1993), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Interview With the Vampire (1994), MPAA Rating: R
  • Natural Born Killers (1994), MPAA Rating: R
  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994), MPAA Rating: R
  • Seven (1995), MPAA Rating: R
  • L.A. Confidential (1997), MPAA Rating: R
  • The Matrix (1999), MPAA Rating: R
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001), MPAA Rating: PG
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • The Notebook (2004), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Million Dollar Baby (2004), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • The Departed (2006), MPAA Rating: R
  • 300 (2007), MPAA Rating: R
  • The Dark Knight (2008), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • The Blind Side (2009), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • The Hangover (2009), MPAA Rating: R
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009), MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Inception (2010), MPAA Rating: PG-13

    The Jazz Singer
    On the verge of receivership in 1926, Warner Bros. studio decides to risk its future by investing in the Vitaphone sound system. Warners' first Vitaphone release, Don Juan, was a silent film accompanied by music and sound effects. The studio took the Vitaphone process one step farther in its 1927 adaptation of the Samson Raphaelson Broadway hit The Jazz Singer, incorporating vocal musical numbers in what was essentially a non-talking film. Al Jolson stars as Jakie Rabinowitz, the son of Jewish cantor Warner Oland. Turning his back on family tradition, Jakie transforms himself into cabaret-entertainer Jack Robin. When Jack comes home to visit his parents, he is warmly greeted by his mother (Eugenie Besserer), but is cold-shouldered by his father, who feels that Jack is a traitor to his heritage by singing jazz music. Several subsequent opportunities for a reconciliation are muffed by the stubborn Jack and his equally stubborn father. On the eve of his biggest show-business triumph, Jack receives word that his father is dying. Out of respect, Jack foregoes his opening night to attend Atonement services at the temple and sing the Kol Nidre in his father's place. Through a superimposed image, we are assured that the spirit of Jack's father has at long last forgiven his son. Only twenty minutes or so of Jazz Singer is in any way a "talkie;" all of the Vitaphone sequences are built around Jolson's musical numbers. What thrilled the opening night crowds attending Jazz Singer were not so much the songs themselves but Jolson's adlibbed comments, notably in the scene where he sings "Blue Skies" to his mother. Previous short-subject experiments with sound had failed because the on-screen talent had come off stilted and unnatural; but when Jolson began chattering away in a naturalistic, conversational fashion, the delighted audiences suddenly realized that talking pictures did indeed have the capacity to entertain. Despite its many shortcomings (the storyline goes beyond mawkish, while Jolson's acting in the silent scenes is downright amateurish), The Jazz Singer was a box-office success the like of which no one had previously witnessed. The film did turn-away business for months, propelling Warner Bros. from a shoestring operation into Hollywood's leading film factory. Proof that The Jazz Singer is best viewed within its historical context is provided by the 1953 and 1980 remakes, both interminable wallows in sentimental goo. Worse still, neither one of those films had Al Jolson--who, in spite of his inadequacies as an actor, was inarguably the greatest musical entertainer of his era. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Broadway Melody
    This landmark MGM backstage musical of the early sound era about broken dreams on the Great White Way features a bevy of standards by the songwriting team of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. Freed later became unit producer of the legendary Freed Unit at MGM, which is the reason many of the tunes from Broadway Melody --""You Were Meant For Me"", "Broadway Melody", ""The Wedding of the Painted Doll""-- later appeared in Freed's seminal MGM musical Singin' in the Rain. The nominal story concerns midwestern sister act The Mahoney Sisters --Queenie (Anita Page) and Hank (Bessie Love)-- who come to New York to try to make it big on Broadway. Hank's song-and-dance man boyfriend Eddie (Charles King) has promised the gals a part in the new Broadway revue in which he is soon to appear. When Hank and Queenie come to see him, Hank is pleasantly surprised at the way Queenie has filled out. Soon enough, Eddie is making advances to Queenie. Queenie is attracted to Eddie too, but she doesn't want to steal her sister's boyfriend. So she Queenie takes up with a lecherous playboy, leaving it to Hank to put all the confused love relationships in perspective. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

    Cimarron
    Cimarron was the first Western to win the Oscar for Best Picture--and, until Dances with Wolves in 1990, the only one. The film begins on April 22, 1889, the opening day of the great Oklahoma Land Rush on the Cherokee Strip. Boisterous Yancey Cravat (Richard Dix) is cheated out of his land claim by the devious Dixie Lee (Estelle Taylor). Instead of becoming a homesteader, Cravat establishes a muckraking newspaper, and with pistols in hand he becomes a widely respected (and widely feared) peacekeeper. He also displays a compassionate streak by coming to the defense of Dixie Lee, who is about to be arrested for prostitution. Cravat's insistence on sticking his nose into everyone's affairs drives a wedge between him and his young wife Sabra (Irene Dunne), but she stands by him--until he deserts her and her children, ever in pursuit of new adventures. Sabra takes over the newspaper herself, and with the moral support of her best friend, Mrs. Wyatt (Edna May Oliver), she creates a powerful publishing empire. Cimarron makes the mistake of placing most of the action early in the film, so that everything that follows the spectacular opening land-rush sequence may feel anti-climactic. While it's always enjoyable to watch Irene Dunne persevering through the years, it's rather wearing to sit through the overblown performance of Richard Dix, who seems to think that he can't make a point unless it's at the top of his lungs. Cimarron creaks badly when seen today, but it still outclasses the plodding 1960 remake. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Public Enemy
    William Wellman's landmark gangster movie traces the rise and fall of prohibition-era mobster Tom Powers. We are first shown various episodes of Tom's childhood with the corrupting influences of the beer hall, pool parlor, and false friends like minor-league fence Putty Nose. As young adults, Tom (James Cagney) and his pal, Matt Doyle (Edward Woods), are hired by ruthless but innately decent bootlegger Paddy Ryan (Robert Emmett O'Connor). The boys quickly rise to the top of the heap, with all the accoutrements of success: custom-tailored tuxedoes, fancy cars, and gorgeous girls. All the while, Tom's loving (and somewhat addlepated) mother (Beryl Mercer) is kept in the dark, believing Tommy to be a good boy, a façade easily seen through by his older brother Mike (Donald Cook). Tommy's degeneration from brash kid to vicious lowlife is brought home in a famous scene in which he smashes a grapefruit in the face of his latest mistress (Mae Clarke). Some dated elements aside, The Public Enemy is as powerful as when it was first released, and it is far superior to the like-vintage Little Caesar. James Cagney is so dynamic in his first starring role that he practically bursts off the screen; he makes the audience pull for a character with no redeeming qualities. The film is blessed with a superior supporting cast: Joan Blondell is somewhat wasted as Matt's girl, Mamie; Jean Harlow is better served as Tom's main squeeze, Gwen (though some of her line readings are a bit awkward); and Murray Kinnell is slime personified as the deceitful Putty Nose, who "gets his" in unforgettable fashion. Despite a tacked-on opening disclaimer, most of the characters in The Public Enemy are based on actual people, a fact not lost on audiences of the period. Current prints are struck from the 1949 reissue, which was shortened from 92 to 83 minutes (among the deletions was the character of real-life hoodlum Bugs Moran). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Grand Hotel
    Based on Vicki Baum's novel and produced by Irving Thalberg, this film is about the lavish Grand Hotel in Berlin, a place where "nothing ever happens." That statement proves to be false, however, as the story follows an intertwining cast of characters over the course of one tumultuous day. Greta Garbo is Grusinskaya, a ballerina whose jewels are coveted by Baron von Geigern (John Barrymore), a thief who fancies Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford), a stenographer and the mistress of Preysing (Wallace Beery), businessman boss of Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), a terminally ill bookkeeper who is under the care of alcoholic physician Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone). Grand Hotel won Best Picture at the 1932 Academy Awards. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi

    42nd Street
    The quintessential "backstage" musical, 42nd Street traces the history of a Broadway musical comedy, from casting call to opening night. Warner Baxter plays famed director Julian Marsh, who despite failing health is determined to stage one last great production, "Pretty Lady." Others involved include "Pretty Lady" star Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels); Dorothy's "sugar daddy" (Guy Kibbee), who finances the show; her true love Pat (George Brent); leading man Billy Lawlor (Dick Powell); and starry-eyed chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler). It practically goes without saying that Dorothy twists her ankle the night before the premiere, forcing Julian Marsh is to put chorine Peggy into the lead: "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" Delightfully corny, with hilarious wisecracking support from the likes of Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel, and George E. Stone, 42nd Street is perhaps the most famous of Warners' early-1930s Busby Berkeley musicals. Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes (which was a lot steamier than the movie censors would allow), 42nd Street is highlighted by such grandiose musical setpieces as "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Young and Healthy," and of course the title song. Nearly fifty years after its premiere, it was successfully revived as a Broadway musical with Tammy Grimes and Jerry Orbach. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Mutiny on the Bounty
    The 1932 publication of Charles Nordhoff and James Norton Hall's Mutiny on the Bounty sparked a revival of interest in the titular 1789 ship mutiny, and this 1935 MGM movie version won the Oscar for Best Picture. Clark Gable stars as Fletcher Christian, first mate of the infamous HMS Bounty, skippered by Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton), the cruelest taskmaster on the Seven Seas. Bligh's villainy knows no bounds: he is even willing to flog a dead man if it will strengthen his hold over the crew. Christian despises Bligh and is sailing on the Bounty under protest. During the journey back to England, Bligh's cruelties become more than Christian can bear; and after the captain indirectly causes the death of the ship's doctor, the crew stages a mutiny, with Christian in charge. Bligh and a handful of officers loyal to him are set adrift in an open boat. Through sheer force of will, he guides the tiny vessel on a 49-day, 4000-mile journey to the Dutch East Indies without losing a man. Historians differ on whether Captain Bligh was truly such a monster or Christian such a paragon of virtue (some believe that the mutiny was largely inspired by Christian's lust for the Tahitian girls). The movie struck gold at the box office, and, in addition to the Best Picture Oscar, Gable, Laughton, and Franchot Tone as one of the Bounty's crew were all nominated for Best Actor (they all lost to Victor McLaglan in The Informer). The film was remade in 1962 and adapted into the "revisionist" 1984 feature The Bounty with Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian and Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    A Night at the Opera
    Although some purists hold out for Duck Soup (1933), many Marx Brothers fans consider A Night at the Opera the team's best film. Immediately after the credits roll, we are introduced to Groucho Marx as penny-ante promoter Otis B. Driftwood. After a sumptuous dinner with a beautiful blonde at a fancy Milan restaurant, Driftwood tries to cadge another free meal from his wealthy patroness, Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont). The dignified dowager complains that Driftwood had promised to get her into high society, but has done nothing so far. Otis B. counters by introducing Mrs. C to pompous opera entrepreneur Gottleib (Sig Rumann); all Mrs. Claypool has to do is invest several hundred thousand dollars in Gottleib's opera company, and her entree into society is in the bag. Contingent upon this plan is Driftwood's signing of Rodolfo Lassparri (Walter Woolf King), a self-important tenor. Backstage at the opera, Driftwood meets Fiorello (Chico Marx), who poses as a manager and offers to sell Driftwood the "world's greatest tenor"-not Lassparri, as Driftwood assumes, but Fiorello's pal Ricardo Baroni (Allan Jones). Instantly the two sharpsters try to draw up a contract ("The party of the first part shall hereafter be known as the party of the first part..."), which they proceed to tear up piece by piece whenever coming across a clause that displeases them (Driftwood: "That's a sanity clause"; Fiorello: "You no foola me. There ain't no Sanity Claus"). Having lost Lassparri to Gottleib, Driftwood sails back to America with Mrs. Claypool and the opera company. Gottleib arranges for Driftwood to get the tiniest, least accessible stateroom on the ship. Unpacking his trunk, Driftwood discovers that he's got to share his postage-stamp quarters with Ricardo Baroni, who has stowed away because he's in love with the opera troupe's leading lady Rosa (Kitty Carlisle). Also hiding out in Driftwood's trunk is Fiorello, who's come along because he's still Ricardo's manager, and the wacky Tomasso (Harpo Marx), Lassparri's former dresser, who has come along for the hell of it. Anxious to arrange a tete-a-tete with Mrs. Claypool in his stateroom, Otis finds out that his unwelcome guests won't leave until they're fed ("Do you have any stewed prunes? Well, give them some black coffee, that'll sober 'em up"). After ordering a huge dinner, Otis and his new friends are crowded even farther by a steady stream of intruders, including an engineer and his assistant, a cleaning lady, a manicurist, a girl looking for her Aunt Minnie, and a dozen waiters. The celebrated "stateroom scene" comes to a rollicking conclusion when Mrs. Claypool has the misfortune of opening the door. On the last night of the voyage, Fiorello, Tomasso and Ricardo sneak out of their stateroom to enjoy an impromptu ethnic festival in steerage. Ricardo sings, Fiorello "shoots the keys" on the piano, and Tomasso plays the film's theme song Alone on the harp. The stowaways are caught and thrown in the brig, but with Driftwood's help they escape. To avoid recapture, the stowaways don heavy beards and pose as three famed Russian aviators. After making a shambles of a public reception, the three reprobates hide out in Driftwood's New York apartment, where everyone conspires to drive an investigating detective (Robert Emmet O'Connor) crazy. Driftwood is fired from the opera company for associating with the stowaways, while Rosa is dismissed for refusing Lassparri's affections. In order to restore Rosa's job and put the deserving Ricardo in Lassparri's place during the opening performance of La Traviata, Driftwood, Fiorello and Tomasso concoct a scheme that will reduce the opera to comic chaos. The actual night at the opera in A Night at the Opera must be seen to be believed, but the spirit of the scene can be summed up by Gottleib's anguished cry "A battleship in Il Trovatore!" Opera was the Marx Brothers' first film for MGM, and they dearly coveted a hit after the disappointing box-office showing of their final Paramount films. With the blessing of MGM production chief Irving Thalberg, the Marxes went on the road with their brilliant writing staff (including George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and Al Boasberg) to test their comedy material before live audiences. As a result of this careful preplanning, Night at the Opera was a smash-hit gigglefest, grossing over $3 million and putting the Marxes back on top in the hearts and minds of filmgoers everywhere. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Great Ziegfeld
    In MGM's three-hour-plus The Great Ziegfeld, William Powell stars as the titular theatrical impresario, whose show business empire begins when he stage-manages a tour for legendary strongman Sandow (Nat Pendleton). With nary a penny in the bank, he charms European stage star Anna Held (Luise Rainer) to headline his "Follies", and later marries the luscious Ms. Held. From 1907 onward, Ziegfeld stages annual editions of Broadway's most fabulous revue, dedicated to "Glorifying the American Girl" but also giving ample time to develop the comic talents of Fanny Brice (played by herself), Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor and many others. Eventually, Ziegfeld abandons Ms. Held in favor of other beauties, setting the stage for the "telephone scene" which won Luise Rainer the first of her Oscars. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Life of Emile Zola
    The second of Paul Muni's biographical films for Warner Bros., the Oscar-winning The Life of Emile Zola is by far the best, even allowing for the dramatic license taken with the material. When first we meet French novelist and essayist Zola, he is starving in a Parisian garret with his painter friend, Paul Cezanne. Each time Zola attempts to write "the truth," he is stymied by governmental censors. Still, he is able to achieve both fame and fortune with the publication of "Nana," an unardorned and best-selling tale of a prostitute (whom we can safely assume was not quite as likeable or attractive as Erin O'Brien-Moore, who plays the novel's "role model"). The lion's share of the film is devoted to Zola's attempts to clear the reputation of Army captain Alfred Dreyfus (Joseph Schildkraut), who has been framed on a charge of treason by his superiors and condemned to Devil's Island. Publishing his famous manifesto "J'accuse," Zola leaves himself wide open for public condemnation and criminal prosecution. Though he delivers a brilliant self-defense in court, Zola is found guilty. Forced to flee to England, he continues railing against the unjust, corrupt military establishment, eventually forcing a retrial and exoneration of Dreyfus. Alas, Zola is killed in a freak accident at home before he can meet the liberated Dreyfus. At his funeral, Emile Zola is eulogized by Anatole France (Morris Carnovsky), who refers to the fallen crusader as "a moment of the conscience of man." For various reasons -- some dramatic, some legal -- the actual facts of "L'affaire Dreyfus" are altered by the Norman Reilly Raine/Heinz Herald/Geza Herczeg screenplay. The fact that Dreyfus was railroaded because he was Jewish is obscured; in fact, except for a very brief visual reference, the word "Jew" is never mentioned. Only those villains whose names were a matter of public record (Major Dort, Major Esterhazy) are specifically identified. Others are referred to as the Chief of Staff, the Minister of War, etc. to avoid lawsuits from their descendants (remember that the events depicted in the film, most of which take place between 1894 and 1902, were still within living memory in 1937). As for Dreyfus himself, he was not freed and restored to rank in 1902, the year of Zola's death, but in 1906-after being found guilty again in an 1899 retrial (Dreyfus died in 1935, outliving everyone else involved in the case). These historical gaffes can be forgiven in the light of the film's overall message: that a single small, clear voice can fight City Hall. If for nothing else, The Life of Emile Zola deserves classic status due to Paul Muni's towering performance, most notably in the unforgettable summation scene: "By all that I have done for France, by my works -- by all that I have written, I swear to you that Dreyfus is innocent. May all that melt away -- may my name be forgotten, if Dreyfus is not innocent. He is innocent." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Adventures of Robin Hood
    In order to avoid the material copyrighted by Douglas Fairbanks Sr. for his 1922 Robin Hood, the scripters of this Flynn version relied on several legendary episodes that had never before been filmed, notably the battle between Robin and Little John (Alan Hale Sr., who played this part three times in his long career) and the "piggy-back" episode between Robin and Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette). The film ties together the various ancient anecdotes with a storyline bounded by the capture in Austria of Richard the Lionheart (Ian Hunter) on one end and Richard's triumphant return to England on the other. Robin Hood is already an outlaw at the outset of the film, while Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland) is initially part of the enemy camp, as one of Prince John's (Claude Rains) entourage. Marian warms up to Robin's fight against injustice (and to Robin himself), eventually becoming a trusted ally. James Cagney was originally announced for the role of Robin Hood, just before Cagney left Warner Bros. in a salary dispute. William Keighley was the original director, but he worked too slowly to suit the tight production schedule and was replaced by Michael Curtiz (both men receive screen credit). A lengthy opening jousting sequence was shot but removed from the final print; portions of this sequence show up as stock footage in the 1957 Warners film The Story of Mankind. The chestnut-colored Palomino horse ridden by de Havilland in the Sherwood Forest scenes later gained screen stardom as Roy Rogers' Trigger. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Wizard of Oz
    The third and definitive film adaptation of L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's fantasy, this musical adventure is a genuine family classic that made Judy Garland a star for her heartfelt performance as Dorothy Gale, an orphaned young girl unhappy with her drab black-and-white existence on her aunt and uncle's dusty Kansas farm. Dorothy yearns to travel "over the rainbow" to a different world, and she gets her wish when a tornado whisks her and her little dog, Toto, to the Technicolorful land of Oz. Having offended the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), Dorothy is protected from the old crone's wrath by the ruby slippers that she wears. At the suggestion of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), Dorothy heads down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, where dwells the all-powerful Wizard of Oz, who might be able to help the girl return to Kansas. En route, she befriends a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a Tin Man (Jack Haley), and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr). The Scarecrow would like to have some brains, the Tin Man craves a heart, and the Lion wants to attain courage; hoping that the Wizard will help them too, they join Dorothy on her odyssey to the Emerald City. Garland was MGM's second choice for Dorothy after Shirley Temple dropped out of the project; and Bolger was to have played the Tin Man but talked co-star Buddy Ebsen into switching roles. When Ebsen proved allergic to the chemicals used in his silver makeup, he was replaced by Haley. Gale Sondergaard was originally to have played the Wicked Witch of the West in a glamorous fashion, until the decision was made to opt for belligerent ugliness, and the Wizard was written for W.C. Fields, who reportedly turned it down because MGM couldn't meet his price. Although Victor Fleming, who also directed Gone With the Wind, was given sole directorial credit, several directors were involved in the shooting, included King Vidor, who shot the opening and closing black-and-white sequences. Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg's now-classic Oscar-winning song "Over the Rainbow" was nearly chopped from the picture after the first preview because it "slowed down the action." The Wizard of Oz was too expensive to post a large profit upon initial release; however, after a disappointing reissue in 1955, it was sold to network television, where its annual showings made it a classic. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Dark Victory
    Bette Davis earned an Oscar nomination for her role in this classic four-hanky tearjerker. Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) is a very wealthy Long Island heiress whose life is a constant whirl of cocktails, parties, and wild living. Despite her hedonistic lifestyle, Judith derives little pleasure from life except for her horses, cared for by stable master Michael O'Leary (Humphrey Bogart). When Judith begins suffering from headaches and dizzy spells, Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent) gives her the bad news: she has a brain tumor that could threaten her life if not treated immediately. Judith consents to surgery, and Frederick informs her that the operation was a success. A grateful Judith quickly falls in love with Frederick, and they plan to marry. However, the tumor returns, and when Judith discovers that she has only a few months to live, she calls off the wedding, convinced that Frederick is marrying her only as an act of pity for a dying woman. A major success and perennial favorite, Dark Victory was later remade as Stolen Hours with Susan Hayward and as a TV movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    Gone With the Wind
    Gone With the Wind boils down to a story about a spoiled Southern girl's hopeless love for a married man. Producer David O. Selznick managed to expand this concept, and Margaret Mitchell's best-selling novel, into nearly four hours' worth of screen time, on a then-astronomical 3.7-million-dollar budget, creating what would become one of the most beloved movies of all time. Gone With the Wind opens in April of 1861, at the palatial Southern estate of Tara, where Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) hears that her casual beau Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) plans to marry "mealy mouthed" Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland). Despite warnings from her father (Thomas Mitchell) and her faithful servant Mammy (Hattie McDaniel), Scarlett intends to throw herself at Ashley at an upcoming barbecue at Twelve Oaks. Alone with Ashley, she goes into a fit of histrionics, all of which is witnessed by roguish Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), the black sheep of a wealthy Charleston family, who is instantly fascinated by the feisty, thoroughly self-centered Scarlett: "We're bad lots, both of us." The movie's famous action continues from the burning of Atlanta (actually the destruction of a huge wall left over from King Kong) through the now-classic closing line, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Holding its own against stiff competition (many consider 1939 to be the greatest year of the classical Hollywood studios), Gone With the Wind won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), and Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar). The film grossed nearly 192 million dollars, assuring that, just as he predicted, Selznick's epitaph would be "The Man Who Made Gone With the Wind." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Philadelphia Story
    We open on Philadelphia socialite C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) as he's being tossed out of his palatial home by his wife, Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn). Adding insult to injury, Tracy breaks one of C.K.'s precious golf clubs. He gallantly responds by knocking her down on her million-dollar keester. A couple of years after the breakup, Tracy is about to marry George Kittridge (John Howard), a wealthy stuffed shirt whose principal recommendation is that he's not a Philadelphia "mainliner," as C.K. was. Still holding a torch for Tracy, C.K. is galvanized into action when he learns that Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell), the publisher of Spy Magazine, plans to publish an exposé concerning Tracy's philandering father (John Halliday). To keep Kidd from spilling the beans, C.K. agrees to smuggle Spy reporter Macauley Connor (James Stewart) and photographer Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) into the exclusive Lord-Kittridge wedding ceremony. How could C.K. have foreseen that Connor would fall in love with Tracy, thereby nearly lousing up the nuptials? As it turns out, of course, it is C.K. himself who pulls the "louse-up," reclaiming Tracy as his bride. A consistently bright, bubbly, witty delight, The Philadelphia Story could just as well have been titled "The Revenge of Katharine Hepburn." Having been written off as "box-office poison" in 1938, Hepburn returned to Broadway in a vehicle tailor-made for her talents by playwright Philip Barry. That property, of course, was The Philadelphia Story; and when MGM bought the rights to this sure-fire box-office success, it had to take Hepburn along with the package -- and also her veto as to who her producer, director, and co-stars would be. Her strategy paid off: after the film's release, Hepburn was back on top of the Hollywood heap. While she didn't win the Oscar that many thought she richly deserved, the little gold statuette was bestowed upon her co-star Stewart, perhaps as compensation for his non-win for 1939's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Donald Ogden Stewart (no relation to Jimmy) also copped an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. The Philadelphia Story was remade in 1956 with a Cole Porter musical score as High Society. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Maltese Falcon
    After two previous film versions of Dashiell Hammett's detective classic The Maltese Falcon, Warner Bros. finally got it right in 1941--or, rather, John Huston, a long-established screenwriter making his directorial debut, got it right, simply by adhering as closely as possible to the original. Taking over from a recalcitrant George Raft, Humphrey Bogart achieved true stardom as Sam Spade, a hard-boiled San Francisco private eye who can be as unscrupulous as the next guy but also adheres to his own personal code of honor. Into the offices of the Spade & Archer detective agency sweeps a Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor), who offers a large retainer to Sam and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) if they'll protect her from someone named Floyd Thursby. The detectives believe neither Miss Wonderly nor her story, but they believe her money. Since Archer saw her first, he takes the case -- and later that evening he is shot to death, as is the mysterious Thursby. Miss Wonderly's real name turns out to be Brigid O'Shaughnessey, and, as the story continues, Sam is also introduced to the effeminate Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and the fat, erudite Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet, in his film debut). It turns out that Brigid, Cairo and Gutman are all international scoundrels, all involved in the search for a foot-high, jewel-encrusted statuette in the shape of a falcon. Though both Cairo and Gutman offer Spade small fortunes to find the "black bird," they are obviously willing to commit mayhem and murder towards that goal: Gutman, for example, drugs Spade and allows his "gunsel" Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) to kick and beat the unconscious detective. This classic film noir detective yarn gets better with each viewing, which is more than can be said for the first two Maltese Falcons and the ill-advised 1975 "sequel" The Black Bird. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Citizen Kane
    Orson Welles first feature film -- which he directed, produced, and co-wrote, as well as playing the title role -- proved to be his most important and influential work, a ground-breaking drama loosely based on the life of William Randolph Hearst which is frequently cited as the finest American film ever made. Aging newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) dies in his sprawling Florida estate after uttering a single, enigmatic final word -- "Rosebud" -- and newsreel producer Rawlston (Phil Van Zandt) sends reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) out with the assignment of uncovering the meaning behind the great man's dying thought. As Thompson interviews Kane's friends, family, and associates, we learn the facts of Kane's eventful and ultimately tragic life: his abandonment by his parents (Agnes Moorehead and Harry Shannon) after he becomes the heir to a silver mine; his angry conflicts with his guardian, master financier Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris); his impulsive decision that "it would be fun to run a newspaper" with the help of school chum Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten) and loyal assistant Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane); his rise from scandal sheet publisher to the owner of America's largest and most influential newspaper chain; his marriage to socially prominent Emily Norton (Ruth Warrick), whose uncle is the President of the United States; Kane's ambitious bid for public office, which is dashed along with his marriage when his opponent, corrupt political boss Jim Gettys (Ray Collins), reveals that Kane is having an affair with aspiring vocalist Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore); Kane's vain attempts to promote second wife Alexander as an opera star; and his final, self-imposed exile to a massive and never-completed pleasure palace called Xanadu. While Citizen Kane was a film full of distinguished debuts -- along with Welles, it was the first feature for Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloane, Ray Collins, Agnes Moorehead, and Ruth Warrick -- the only Academy Award it received was for Best Original Screenplay, for which Welles shared credit with veteran screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    Casablanca
    One of the most beloved American films, this captivating wartime adventure of romance and intrigue from director Michael Curtiz defies standard categorization. Simply put, it is the story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a world-weary ex-freedom fighter who runs a nightclub in Casablanca during the early part of WWII. Despite pressure from the local authorities, notably the crafty Capt. Renault (Claude Rains), Rick's café has become a haven for refugees looking to purchase illicit letters of transit which will allow them to escape to America. One day, to Rick's great surprise, he is approached by the famed rebel Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and his wife, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Rick's true love who deserted him when the Nazis invaded Paris. She still wants Victor to escape to America, but now that she's renewed her love for Rick, she wants to stay behind in Casablanca. "You must do the thinking for both of us," she says to Rick. He does, and his plan brings the story to its satisfyingly logical, if not entirely happy, conclusion. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

    Mrs. Miniver
    As Academy Award-winning films go, Mrs. Miniver has not weathered the years all that well. This prettified, idealized view of the upper-class British home front during World War II sometimes seems over-calculated and contrived when seen today. In particular, Greer Garson's Oscar-winning performance in the title role often comes off as artificial, especially when she nobly tends her rose garden while her stalwart husband (Walter Pidgeon) participates in the evacuation at Dunkirk. However, even if the film has lost a good portion of its ability to move and inspire audiences, it is easy to see why it was so popular in 1942-and why Winston Churchill was moved to comment that its propaganda value was worth a dozen battleships. Everyone in the audience-even English audiences, closer to the events depicted in the film than American filmgoers-liked to believe that he or she was capable of behaving with as much grace under pressure as the Miniver family. The film's setpieces-the Minivers huddling in their bomb shelter during a Luftwaffe attack, Mrs. Miniver confronting a downed Nazi paratrooper in her kitchen, an annual flower show being staged despite the exigencies of bombing raids, cleric Henry Wilcoxon's climactic call to arms from the pulpit of his ruined church-are masterfully staged and acted, allowing one to ever so briefly forget that this is, after all, slick propagandizing. In addition to Best Picture and Best Actress, Mrs. Miniver garnered Oscars for best supporting actress (Teresa Wright), best director (William Wyler), best script (Arthur Wimperis, George Froschel, James Hilton, Claudine West), best cinematography (Joseph Ruttenberg) and best producer (Sidney Franklin). Sidebar: Richard Ney, who plays Greer Garson's son, later married the actress-and still later became a successful Wall Street financier. Mrs. Miniver was followed by a 1951 sequel, The Miniver Story, but without the wartime setting the bloom was off the rose. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Yankee Doodle Dandy
    Yankee Doodle Dandy is no more the true-life story of George M. Cohan than The Jolson Story was the unvarnished truth about Al Jolson -- but who the heck cares? Dandy has song, dance, pathos, pageantry, uproarious comedy, and, best of all, James Cagney at his Oscar-winning best. After several failed attempts to bring the life of legendary, flag-waving song-and-dance man Cohan to the screen, Warners scenarist Robert Buckner opted for the anecdotal approach, unifying the film's largely unrelated episodes with a flashback framework. Summoned to the White House by President Roosevelt, the aging Cohan is encouraged to relate the events leading up to this momentous occasion. He recalls his birth on the Fourth of July, 1878; his early years as a cocky child performer in his family's vaudeville act; his decision to go out as a "single"; his sealed-with-a-handshake partnership with writer/producer Sam Harris (Richard Whorf); his first Broadway success, 1903's Little Johnny Jones; his blissful marriage to winsome wife Mary (a fictional amalgam of Cohan's two wives, played by Joan Leslie -- who, incredibly, was only 17 at the time); his patriotic civilian activities during World War I, culminating with his writing of that conflict's unofficial anthem "Over There" (performed by Nora Bayes, as played by Frances Langford); the deaths of his sister, Josie (played by Cagney's real-life sister Jeanne), his mother, Nellie (Rosemary DeCamp), and his father, Jerry (Walter Huston); his abortive attempt to retire; and his triumphant return to Broadway in Rodgers & Hart's I'd Rather Be Right. His story told, Cohan is surprised -- and profoundly moved -- when FDR presents him with the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first such honor bestowed upon an entertainer. His eyes welling up with tears, Cohan expresses his gratitude by invoking his old vaudeville curtain speech: "My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I thank you." Glossing over such unsavory moments in Cohan's life as his bitter opposition of the formation of Actor's Equity -- not to mention George M.'s intense hatred of FDR! -- Yankee Doodle Dandy offers the George M. Cohan that people in 1942 wanted to see (proof of the pudding was the film's five-million-dollar gross). And besides, the plot and its fabrications were secondary to those marvelous Cohan melodies -- "Give My Regards to Broadway," "Harrigan," "Mary," "You're a Grand Old Flag," "45 Minutes from Broadway," and the title tune -- performed with brio by Cagney (who modifies his own loose-limbed dancing style in order to imitate Cohan's inimitable stiff-legged technique) and the rest of the spirited cast. Beyond its leading players, movie buffs will have a ball spotting the myriad of familiar character actors parading before the screen: S.Z. Sakall, George Tobias, Walter Catlett, George Barbier, Eddie Foy Jr. (playing his own father), Frank Faylen, Minor Watson, Tom Dugan, John Hamilton, and on and on and on. In addition to Cagney, music directors Ray Heindorf and Heinz Roemheld also won Oscars for their efforts. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Gaslight
    Ingrid Bergman won her first of three Oscars for this suspense thriller, crafted with surprising tautness by normally genteel "women's picture" director George Cukor. Bergman stars as Paula Alquist, a late 19th century English singer studying music in Italy. However, Paula abandons her studies because she's fallen in love with dapper, handsome Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). The couple marries and returns to the U.K. and a home inherited by Paula from her aunt, herself a famous singer, who was mysteriously murdered in the house ten years before. Once they have moved in, Gregory, who is in reality a jewel thief and the murderer of Paula's aunt, launches a campaign of terror designed to drive his new bride insane. Though Paula is certain that she sees the house's gaslights dim every evening and that there are strange noises coming from the attic, Gregory convinces Paula that she's imagining things. Gregory's efforts to make Paula unstable are aided by an impertinent maid, Nancy (teenager Angela Lansbury in her feature film debut). Meanwhile, a Scotland Yard inspector, Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten), becomes suspicious of Gregory and sympathetic to Paula's plight. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

    Mildred Pierce
    Joan Crawford won an Academy Award for her bravura portrayal of the titular heroine in Mildred Pierce. The original James M. Cain novel concerns a wife and mother who works her way to financial security to provide a rosy future for her beloved daughter, but encounters difficulties and tragedies along the way. Ranald McDougall's screenplay tones down the sexual content, enhancing its film noir value by adding a sordid murder. The film opens with oily lounge lizard Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott) being pumped full of bullets. Croaking out the name "Mildred", he collapses and dies. Both the police and the audience are led to believe that the murderer is chain-restaurant entrepreneur Mildred Pierce (Crawford), who takes the time to relate some of her sordid history. As the flashback begins, we see Mildred unhappily married to philandering Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett). She divorces him, keeping custody of her two beloved daughters, Veda (Ann Blyth) and Kay (Jo Anne Marlowe). To keep oldest daughter Veda in comparative luxury, Mildred ends up taking a waitressing position at a local restaurant. With the help of slimy real estate agent Wally Fay (Jack Carson), she eventually buys her own establishment, which grows into a chain of restaurants throughout Southern California. Meanwhile, Mildred smothers Veda in affection and creature comforts. She goes so far as to enter into a loveless marriage with the wealthy Monty Beragon in order to improve her social standing; Beragon repays the favor by living the life of a layabout playboy, much to Mildred's dismay -- and possible financial ruin. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Anchors Aweigh
    This mammoth musical is at base the story of two sailors on leave in Hollywood. Brash Joseph Brady (Gene Kelly) has promised his shy pal Clarence Doolittle (Frank Sinatra) that he will introduce Clarence to all the glamorous movie starlets whom he allegedly knows so well. Actually, the only actress whom Joseph meets is bit player Susan Abbott (Kathryn Grayson). He arranges for the golden-throated Susan to be auditioned by musician José Iturbi, but when she seems to want to return the favor romantically, Brady tries to foist the girl off on Clarence. But Clarence only has eyes for a fellow Brooklynite (Pamela Britton). Also involved in the plot machinations is runaway orphan Donald Martin (Dean Stockwell). Featuring Kelly dancing with such partners as a cartoon mouse (courtesy of MGM's house animators Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera), Anchors Aweigh was a huge hit in 1945, assuring audiences future Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra teamings. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Big Sleep
    The definitive Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall vehicle, The Big Sleep casts Bogart as Raymond Chandler's cynical private eye Philip Marlowe. Summoned to the home of the fabulously wealthy General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), Marlowe is hired to deal with a blackmailer shaking down the General's sensuous, thumb-sucking daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers). This earns Marlowe the displeasure of Carmen's sloe-eyed, seemingly straight-laced older sister Vivian (Bacall), who is fiercely protective of her somewhat addled sibling. As he pursues the case at hand, Marlowe gets mixed up in the murder of Arthur Geiger (Theodore von Eltz), a dealer in pornography. He also runs afoul of gambling-house proprietor Eddie Mars (John Ridgely), who seems to have some sort of hold over the enigmatic Vivian. Any further attempts to outline the plot would be futile: the storyline becomes so complicated and convoluted that even screenwriters William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthmann were forced to consult Raymond Chandler for advice (he was as confused by the plot as the screenwriters). When originally prepared for release in 1945, The Big Sleep featured a long exposition scene featuring police detective Bernie Ohls (Regis Toomey) explaining the more obscure plot details. This expository scene was ultimately sacrificed, along with several others, in favor of building up Bacall's part; for instance, a climactic sequence was reshot to emphasize sexual electricity between Bogart and Bacall, obliging Warners to replace a supporting player who'd gone on to another project. The end result was one of the most famously baffling film noirs but also one of the most successful in sheer star power. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Best Years of Our Lives
    The postwar classic The Best Years of Our Lives, based on a novel in verse by MacKinlay Kantor about the difficult readjustments of returning World War II veterans, tells the intertwined homecoming stories of ex-sergeant Al Stephenson (Fredric March), former bombadier Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), and sailor Homer Parrish (Harold Russell). Having rubbed shoulders with blue-collar Joes for the first time in his life, Al finds it difficult to return to a banker's high-finance mindset, and he shocks his co-workers with a plan to provide no-collateral loans to veterans. Meanwhile, Al's children (Teresa Wright and Michael Hall) have virtually grown up in his absence. Fred discovers that his wartime heroics don't count for much in the postwar marketplace, and he finds himself unwillingly returning to his prewar job as a soda jerk. His wife (Virginia Mayo), expecting a thrilling marriage to a glamorous flyboy, is bored and embittered by her husband's inability to advance himself, and she begins living irresponsibly, like a showgirl. Homer has lost both of his hands in combat and has been fitted with hooks; although his family and his fiancée (Cathy O'Donnell) adjust to his wartime handicap, he finds it more difficult. Profoundly relevant in 1946, the film still offers a surprisingly intricate and ambivalent exploration of American daily life; and it features landmark deep-focus cinematography from Gregg Toland, who also shot Citizen Kane. The film won Oscars for, among others, Best Picture, Best Director for the legendary William Wyler, Best Actor for March, and Best Supporting Actor for Harold Russell, a real-life double amputee whose hands had been blown off in a training accident. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
    John Huston's 1948 treasure-hunt classic begins as drifter Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), down and out in Tampico, Mexico, impulsively spends his last bit of dough on a lottery ticket. Later on, Dobbs and fellow indigent Curtin (Tim Holt) seek shelter in a cheap flophouse and meet Howard (Walter Huston), a toothless, garrulous old coot who regales them with stories about prospecting for gold. Forcibly collecting their pay from their shifty boss, Dobbs and Curtin combine this money with Dobbs's unexpected windfall from a lottery ticket and, together with Howard, buy the tools for a prospecting expedition. Dobbs has pledged that anything they dig up will be split three ways, but Howard, who's heard that song before, doesn't quite swallow this. As the gold is mined and measured, Dobbs grows increasingly paranoid and distrustful, and the men gradually turn against each other on the way toward a bitterly ironic conclusion. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a superior morality play and one of the best movie treatments of the corrosiveness of greed. Huston keeps a typically light and entertaining touch despite the strong theme, for which he won Oscars for both Director and Screenplay, as well as a supporting award for his father Walter, making Walter, John, and Anjelica Huston the only three generations of one family all to win Oscars. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    A Streetcar Named Desire
    In the classic play by Tennessee Williams, brought to the screen by Elia Kazan, faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) comes to visit her pregnant sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), in a seedy section of New Orleans. Stella's boorish husband, Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), not only regards Blanche's aristocratic affectations as a royal pain but also thinks she's holding out on inheritance money that rightfully belongs to Stella. On the fringes of sanity, Blanche is trying to forget her checkered past and start life anew. Attracted to Stanley's friend Mitch (Karl Malden), she glosses over the less savory incidents in her past, but she soon discovers that she cannot outrun that past, and the stage is set for her final, brutal confrontation with her brother-in-law. Brando, Hunter, and Malden had all starred in the original Broadway version of Streetcar, although the original Blanche had been Jessica Tandy. Brando lost out to Humphrey Bogart for the 1951 Best Actor Oscar, but Leigh, Hunter, and Malden all won Oscars. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    An American in Paris
    Gene Kelly does his patented Pal Joey bit as Jerry Mulligan, an opportunistic American painter living in Paris' "starving artists" colony. He is discovered by wealthy Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), who becomes Jerry's patroness in more ways than one. Meanwhile, Jerry plays hookey on this setup by romancing waif-like Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron) -- who, unbeknownst to him, is the object of the affections of his close friend Henri (Georges Guetary), a popular nightclub performer. (The film was supposed to make Guetary into "the New Chevalier." It didn't.) The thinnish plot is held together by the superlative production numbers and by the recycling of several vintage George Gershwin tunes, including "I Got Rhythm," "'S Wonderful," and "Our Love Is Here to Stay." Highlights include Guetary's rendition of "Stairway to Paradise"; Oscar Levant's fantasy of conducting and performing Gershwin's "Concerto in F" (Levant also appears as every member of the orchestra); and the closing 17-minute "American in Paris" ballet, in which Kelly and Caron dance before lavish backgrounds based on the works of famed French artists. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Singin' in the Rain
    Hollywood, 1927: the silent-film romantic team of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) is the toast of Tinseltown. While Lockwood and Lamont personify smoldering passions onscreen, in real life the down-to-earth Lockwood can't stand the egotistical, brainless Lina. He prefers the company of aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), whom he met while escaping his screaming fans. Watching these intrigues from the sidelines is Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor), Don's best pal and on-set pianist. Cosmo is promoted to musical director of Monumental Pictures by studio head R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) when the talking-picture revolution commences. That's all right for Cosmo, but how will talkies affect the upcoming Lockwood-Lamont vehicle "The Dueling Cavalier"? Don, an accomplished song-and-dance man, should have no trouble adapting to the microphone. Lina, however, is another matter; put as charitably as possible, she has a voice that sounds like fingernails on a blackboard. The disastrous preview of the team's first talkie has the audience howling with derisive laughter. On the strength of the plot alone, concocted by the matchless writing team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Singin' in the Rain is a delight. But with the addition of MGM's catalog of Arthur Freed-Nacio Herb Brown songs -- "You Were Meant for Me," "You Are My Lucky Star," "The Broadway Melody," and of course the title song -- the film becomes one of the greatest Hollywood musicals ever made. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
    Based extremely loosely on the Stephen Vincent Benet story Sobbin' Women," Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of the best MGM musicals of the 1950s. Most of the story takes place on an Oregon ranch, maintained by Adam Pontabee (Howard Keel) and his six brothers, played by Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall, Mark Platt, Matt Mattox, and Jacques d'Amboise (it is no coincidence that five of those six boys are played by professional dancers). When Adam brings home his new bride Milly (Jane Powell), she is appalled at the brothers' slovenliness and sets about turning these unwashed louts into immaculate gentlemen. During the boisterous barn-raising scene, the brothers get into a scuffle with a group of townsmen over the affection of six comely lasses: Virginia Gibson, Julie Newmeyer (later Newmar), Ruth Kilmonis (later Ruth Lee), Nancy Kilgas, Betty Carr, and Norma Doggett (yep, most of the girls are dancers, too). Yearning to become husbands like their big brother, they ask Adam for advice. Alas, he has been reading a book about the abduction of the Sabine Women (or, as he puts it, the Sobbin' Women); and, in order to claim their gals, Adam explains, the boys must kidnap them--which they do, after blocking off all avenues of escape. Vowing to remain on their best behavior, the boys make no untoward advances towards their reluctant female guests--not even during one of the coldest winters on record. Comes the spring thaw, the angry townsfolk come charging up the mountain, demanding the return of the stolen girls (who, by this time, have "tamed" their men). A happy ending is ultimately had by all in this delightful if politically incorrect concoction. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    A Star Is Born
    The 1954 musical remake of A Star is Born could have been titled A Star is Reborn, in that it represented the triumphal return to the screen of Judy Garland after a four-year absence. The remake adheres closely to the plotline of the 1937 original: An alcoholic film star, on his last professional legs, gives a career boost to a unknown aspiring actress. The two marry, whereupon her fame and fortune rises while his spirals sharply downward. Unable to accept this, the male star crawls deeper into the bottle. The wife tearfully decides to give up her own career to care for her husband. To spare her this fate, the husband chivalrously commits suicide. His wife is inconsolable at first, but is urged to go "on with the show" in memory of her late husband. In the original, Janet Gaynor played Esther Blodgett, who with no training or contacts came to Hollywood hoping for stardom. The remake, scripted by Moss Hart, is a shade more realistic: Garland's Esther, though far removed from fame, is a working professional singer/dancer when first we meet her. Both Gaynor and Garland are transformed from "Esther Blodgett" to "Vicki Lester" after being screen-tested, though Gaynor goes on to star in fluffy costume dramas while Garland more logically headlines big-budget musicals. The 1937 Star is Born costarred Fredric March as Norman Maine, Esther/Vicki's sponsor-cum-spouse. March patterned his performance after the tragic John Barrymore, reining in his emotions in favor of pure technique; James Mason's interpretation is more original, more emotional, and far more effective (who can forget the scene where Norman sobbingly overhears Vicki planning to give up her career for his sake?) As the studio's long-suffering publicist, the 1937 version's Lionel Stander is more abrasive and unpleasant than the 1954 version's introspective, intellectual Jack Carson; on the other hand, Adolphe Menjou and Charles Bickford are fairly evenly matched in the role of the studio head. Several important omissions are made in the remake. The 1937 Star is Born included Esther's indomitable old grandma (May Robson), a helpful assistant director (Andy Devine) and a soft-hearted landlord (Edgar Kennedy); all three characters are missing from the 1954 version, though elements of each can be found in the "best friend/severest critic" character played by Tommy Noonan. Wisely, both versions end with the grieving Vicki Lester coming out of her shell at a public gathering, greeting the audience with a proud, defiant "Good evening, everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine". Though directors William Wellman (1937 version) and George Cukor (1954 version) handle this finale in their own distinctive manners, the end result is equally effective emotionally. What truly sets the 1954 A Star is Born apart from other films of its ilk is its magnificent musical score by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin. The songs include The Man Who Got Away (brilliantly performed by Garland in one long take, sans dubbing), It's a New World, Somewhere There's a Someone, I Was Born in a Trunk, Lose That Long Face and Gotta Have Me Go With You. When originally previewed in 1954, the film ran well over three hours, thanks to the lengthy-and thoroughly disposable-Born in a Trunk number, added to the film as an afterthought without the approval or participation of director George Cukor. The Warner Bros. executives trimmed the film to 154 minutes, eliminating three top-rank musical numbers and several crucial expository sequences (including Norman's proposal to Vicki). At the instigation of the late film historian Ronald Haver, the full version was painstakingly restored in 1983, with outtakes and still photos bridging the "lost" footage. Though nominated in several categories, A Star is Born was left empty-handed at Academy Award time, an oversight that caused outrage then and still rankles Judy Garland fans to this day (Footnote: Judy Garland had previously played Vicki Lester in a 1942 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the original A Star is Born). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    East of Eden
    This truncated screen version of John Steinbeck's best-seller was the first starring vehicle for explosive 1950s screen personality James Dean, who plays Cal Trask, the "bad" son of taciturn Salinas valley lettuce farmer Adam Trask (Raymond Massey). Although he means well, Cal can't stay out of trouble, nor is he able to match the esteem in which his father holds his "good" brother Aron (Richard Davalos). Only Aron's girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris) and kindly old sheriff Sam Burl Ives) can see the essential goodness in the troublesome Cal. When Adam invests in a chancy and wholly unsuccessful method of shipping his crops east, his wealth plummets. In an effort to save the business, Cal obtains money from his estranged mother (the proprietor of a whorehouse) and invests it in a risky new bean crop. The gamble pays off (thanks in no small part to the war), but Adam refuses to take the money from Cal, and the resultant quarrel causes Adam to have a stroke. Released the same year as Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden provided Dean with his first Oscar nomination, for Best Actor. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Rebel Without a Cause
    This landmark juvenile-delinquent drama scrupulously follows the classic theatrical disciplines, telling all within a 24-hour period. Teenager Jimmy Stark (James Dean) can't help but get into trouble, a problem that has forced his appearance-conscious parents (Jim Backus and Ann Doran) to move from one town to another. The film's tormented central characters are all introduced during a single night-court session, presided over by well-meaning social worker Ray (Edward Platt). Jimmy, arrested on a drunk-and-disorderly charge, screams "You're tearing me apart!" as his blind-sided parents bicker with one another over how best to handle the situation. Judy (Natalie Wood) is basically a good kid but behaves wildly out of frustration over her inability to communicate with her deliberately distant father (William Hopper). (The incestuous subtext of this relationship is discreetly handled, but the audience knows what's going on in the minds of Judy and her dad at all times.) And Plato (Sal Mineo), who is so sensitive that he threatens to break apart like porcelain, has taken to killing puppies as a desperate bid for attention from his wealthy, always absent parents. The next morning, Jimmy tries to start clean at a new high school, only to run afoul of local gang leader Buzz (Corey Allen), who happens to be Judy's boyfriend. Anxious to fit in, Jimmy agrees to settle his differences with a nocturnal "Chickie Run": he and Buzz are to hop into separate stolen cars, then race toward the edge of a cliff; whoever jumps out of the car first is the "chickie." When asked if he's done this sort of thing before, Jimmy lies, "That's all I ever do." This wins him the undying devotion of fellow misfit Plato. At the appointed hour, the Chickie Run takes place, inaugurated by a wave of the arms from Judy. The cars roar toward the cliff; Jimmy is able to jump clear, but Buzz, trapped in the driver's set when his coat gets caught on the door handle, plummets to his death. In the convoluted logic of Buzz' gang, Jimmy is held responsible for the boy's death. For the rest of the evening, he is mercilessly tormented by Buzz' pals, even at his own doorstep. After unsuccessfully trying to sort things out with his weak-willed father, Jimmy runs off into the night. He links up with fellow "lost souls" Judy and Plato, hiding out in an abandoned palatial home and enacting the roles of father, mother, and son. For the first time, these three have found kindred spirits -- but the adults and kids who have made their lives miserable haven't given up yet, leading to tragedy. Out of the bleakness of the finale comes a ray of hope that, at last, Jimmy will be truly understood. Rebel Without a Cause began as a case history, written in 1944 by Dr. Robert Lindner. Originally intended as a vehicle for Marlon Brando, the property was shelved until Brando's The Wild One (1953) opened floodgates for films about crazy mixed-up teens. Director Nicholas Ray, then working on a similar project, was brought in to helm the film version. His star was James Dean, fresh from Warners' East of Eden. Ray's low budget dictated that the new film be lensed in black-and-white, but when East of Eden really took off at the box office, the existing footage was scrapped and reshot in color. This was great, so far as Ray was concerned, inasmuch as he had a predilection for symbolic color schemes. James Dean's hot red jacket, for example, indicated rebellion, while his very blue blue jeans created a near luminescent effect (Ray had previously used the same vivid color combination on Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar). As part of an overall bid for authenticity, real-life gang member Frank Mazzola was hired as technical advisor for the fight scenes. To extract as natural a performance as possible from Dean, Ray redesigned the Stark family's living room set to resemble Ray's own home, where Dean did most of his rehearsing. Speaking of interior sets, the mansion where the three troubled teens hide out had previously been seen as the home of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Of the reams of on-set trivia concerning Rebel, one of the more amusing tidbits involves Dean's quickie in-joke impression of cartoon character Mr. Magoo -- whose voice was, of course, supplied by Jim Backus, who played Jimmy's father. Viewing the rushes of this improvisation, a clueless Warner Bros. executive took Dean to task, saying in effect that if he must imitate an animated character, why not Warners' own Bugs Bunny? Released right after James Dean's untimely death, Rebel Without a Cause netted an enormous profit. The film almost seems like a eulogy when seen today, since so many of its cast members -- James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Nick Adams -- died young. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Giant
    George Stevens' sprawling adaptation of Edna Ferber's best-selling novel successfully walks a fine line between potboiler and serious drama for its 210-minute running time, making it one of the few epics of its era that continues to hold up as engrossing entertainment across the decades. Giant opens circa 1922 in Maryland, where Texas rancher Jordan "Bick" Benedict (Rock Hudson) has arrived to buy a stallion called War Winds from its owner, Dr. Horace Lynnton (Paul Fix). But much as Bick loves and knows horses, he finds himself even more transfixed by the doctor's daughter, Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor), and after some awkward moments, she has to admit that she's equally drawn to the shy, laconic Texan. They get married and Leslie spends her honeymoon traveling with Jordan to his ranch, Reata, which covers nearly a million acres of Texas. Once there, however, she finds that she has to push her way into her rightful role as mistress of the house, past Bick's sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge), who can't accept her brother's marriage or the changes it means in the home they share. Also working around Reata is the laconic ranch hand Jett Rink (James Dean) -- from a family as rooted in Texas as the Benedicts but not nearly as lucky (or "foxy"), Jett is dirt-poor and barely educated at all, and he fairly oozes resentment at Bick for his arrogance, although Luz likes him and for that reason alone Bick is obliged to keep him on. One thing Jett does have in common with his employer is that he is in awe of Leslie's beauty; another is his nearly total contempt for the Mexican-Americans who work for them -- Jett and Bick may have contempt for each other, but either one is just as likely to dismiss the Mexican-Americans around them as a bunch of shiftless "wetbacks." Luz feels so threatened with a loss of power and control that she decides to assert herself with War Winds, yet another "prize" that Bick brought back from Maryland that resists her authority -- then decides to ride the stallion despite being warned that no one but Leslie is wholly safe on him, and spurs him brutally in an effort to break him, which ends up destroying them both in the battle of wills she starts. After Luz's death, Jett learns that she left him a tiny piece of land for his own, on Reata, which he refuses to sell back to Bick, preferring to keep it for his own and maybe prospect for oil on it. Meanwhile, Leslie and Bick have their own problems -- Leslie can't abide the wretched conditions in which the Mexican families who work on Reata are allowed to live, taking a special interest in Mr. and Mrs. Obregon and their baby, Angel; but Bick doesn't want his wife, or any member of his family, concerning themselves with "those people." Leslie's humanity and her independence push their marriage to the limit, but Bick comes to accept this in his wife, and in four years of marriage they have three handsome children, a boy and two girls, and a loving if occasionally awkward home life. Meanwhile, Jett strikes oil on his land -- which he's named Little Reata -- and in a couple of years he's on his way to becoming the richest man in Texas, getting drilling contracts on all of the land in the area (except Reata) and making more money than the Benedicts ever saw from raising cattle. Bick is almost oblivious to the way Jett grows in power and influence across the years and the state, mostly because he's got his own family to worry about, including a son, Jordan III (Dennis Hopper), who doesn't want to take over the ranch from him, but wants instead to be a doctor; an older daughter, Judy (Fran Bennett), who wants to study animal husbandry and marry a local rancher (Earl Holliman) and start a tiny spread of her own; and a younger daughter, Luz (Carroll Baker), who's just a bit man-crazy and star-struck by the movies. The American entry into the Second World War and the resulting need for oil forces Bick to go into business with Jett and allow him to drill on Reata, and suddenly the Benedicts are wealthy enough to be part of Jett Rink's circle, which includes the governor of the state and at least one United States senator at his beck and call -- and Luz develops a serious crush on Jett, who likes his women young and is especially attracted to her, as Bick's and Leslie's daughter. Young Jordan marries Juana, a Mexican-American nursing student (Elsa Cardenas), and his father accepts it begrudgingly, with help from Leslie. The war kills Angel Obregon (Sal Mineo), a death that even affects Bick, but the Benedict family gets through it wealthier than ever and grows some more with the birth of Jordan IV to Jordie and Juana. When the family attends a gala opening of Jett Rink Airport, which concludes with a dinner honoring Jett's success, however, young Jordan's wife is humiliated by Jett's racist edicts, and he is beaten up by Jett's men after punching the oil baron. Seeing this, Bick challenges his old rival to the fight that's been brewing for a quarter of a century and wins by default, Jett being too drunk to defend himself or to hit; he's also too drunk to make the grand speech that was to climax the celebration, and he ends up alone in the ballroom. The Benedicts have it out with each other, young Jordan accusing his father of being as much a racist as Jett, and Leslie caught in the middle between her husband and her son. It looks like the Benedicts may lose each other, until an encounter with a racist diner owner forces Bick to stand up and get knocked down (more than once) defending his daughter-in-law and his grandson. Seen today, Giant seems the least dated of any of James Dean's three starring films, in part because it addresses issues that remain relevant more than 50 years later, and also because it has the best all-around acting and the best script of any of the three. Taken in broader terms, it's even better, with two of the best performances that Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson ever gave, and perhaps the second best of Hudson's whole career (after Seconds) -- the only unfortunate element at modern theatrical screenings is the tendency of younger viewers, who only know him in terms of the revelations late in his life of his being gay, to laugh and snicker at elements of Hudson's characterization; but his work is so good that the titters usually fade after the first 30 minutes or so. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

    The Searchers
    If John Ford is the greatest Western director, The Searchers is arguably his greatest film, at once a grand outdoor spectacle like such Ford classics as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950) and a film about one man's troubling moral codes, a big-screen adventure of the 1950s that anticipated the complex themes and characters that would dominate the 1970s. John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a former Confederate soldier who returns to his brother Aaron's frontier cabin three years after the end of the Civil War. Ethan still has his rebel uniform and weapons, a large stash of Yankee gold, and no explanations as to where he's been since Lee's surrender. A loner not comfortable in the bosom of his family, Ethan also harbors a bitter hatred of Indians (though he knows their lore and language well) and trusts no one but himself. Ethan and Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), Aaron's adopted son, join a makeshift band of Texas Rangers fending off an assault by renegade Comanches. Before they can run off the Indians, several homes are attacked, and Ethan returns to discover his brother and sister-in-law dead and their two daughters kidnapped. While they soon learn that one of the girls is dead, the other, Debbie, is still alive, and with obsessive determination, Ethan and Martin spend the next five years in a relentless search for Debbie -- and for Scar (Henry Brandon), the fearsome Comanche chief who abducted her. But while Martin wants to save his sister and bring her home, Ethan seems primarily motivated by his hatred of the Comanches; it's hard to say if he wants to rescue Debbie or murder the girl who has lived with Indians too long to be considered "white." John Wayne gives perhaps his finest performance in a role that predated screen antiheroes of the 1970s; by the film's conclusion, his single-minded obsession seems less like heroism and more like madness. Wayne bravely refuses to soft-pedal Ethan's ugly side, and the result is a remarkable portrait of a man incapable of answering to anyone but himself, who ultimately has more in common with his despised Indians than with his more "civilized" brethren. Natalie Wood is striking in her brief role as the 16-year-old Debbie, lost between two worlds, and Winton C. Hoch's Technicolor photography captures Monument Valley's savage beauty with subtle grace. The Searchers paved the way for such revisionist Westerns as The Wild Bunch (1969) and McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), and its influence on movies from Taxi Driver (1976) to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Star Wars (1977) testifies to its lasting importance. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    Around the World in 80 Days
    Razzle-dazzle showman Michael Todd hocked everything he had to make this spectacular presentation of Jules Verne's 1872 novel Around the World in 80 Days, the second film to be lensed in the wide-screen Todd-AO production. Nearly as fascinating as the finished product are the many in-production anecdotes concerning Todd's efforts to pull the wool over the eyes of local authorities in order to cadge the film's round-the-world location shots--not to mention the wheeling and dealing to convince over forty top celebrities to appear in cameo roles. David Niven heads the huge cast as ultra-precise, supremely punctual Phileas Fogg, who places a 20,000-pound wager with several fellow members of London Reform Club, insisting that he can go around the world in eighty days (this, remember, is 1872). Together with his resourceful valet Passepartout (Cantinflas), Fogg sets out on his world-girdling journey from Paris via balloon. Meanwhile, suspicion grows that Fogg has stolen his 20,000 pounds from Bank of England. Diligent Inspector Fix (Robert Newton) is sent out by the bank's president (Robert Morley) to bring Fogg to justice. Hopscotching around the globe, Fogg pauses in Spain, where Passepartout engages in a comic bullfight (a specialty of Cantinflas). In India, Fogg and Passepartout rescue young widow Princess Aouda (Shirley MacLaine, in her third film) from being forced into committing suicide so that she may join her late husband. The threesome visit Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, and the Wild West. Only hours short of winning his wager, Fogg is arrested by the diligent Inspector Fixx. Though exonerated of the bank robbery charges, he has lost everything--except the love of the winsome Aouda. But salvation is at hand when Passepartout discovers that, by crossing the International Date Line, there's still time to reach the Reform Club. Will they make it? See for yourself. Among the film's 46 guest stars, the most memorable include Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, Jose Greco, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lorre, Red Skelton, Buster Keaton, John Mills, and Beatrice Lillie. All were paid in barter--Ronald Colman did his brief bit for a new car. Newscaster Edward R. Murrow provides opening narration, and there's a tantalizing clip from Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon (1902). Offering a little something for everyone, Around the World in 80 Days is nothing less than an extravaganza, and it won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Cinematography. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    A Face in the Crowd
    Andy Griffith makes a spectacular film debut in this searing drama as Lonesome Rhodes, a philosophical country-western singer discovered in a tanktown jail by radio talent scout Patricia Neal and her assistant Walter Matthau. They decide that Rhodes is worthy of a radio spot, but the unforeseen result is that the gangly, aw-shucks entertainer becomes an overnight sensation not simply on radio but, thereafter, on television. As he ascends to stardom, Rhodes attracts fans, sponsors and endorsements by the carload, and soon he is the most powerful and influential entertainer on the airwaves. Beloved by his audience, Rhodes reveals himself to his intimates as a scheming, power-hungry manipulator, with Machiavellian political aspirations. He uses everyone around him, coldly discarding anyone who might impede his climb to the top (one such victim is sexy baton-twirler Lee Remick, likewise making her film debut). Just when it seems that there's no stopping Rhodes' megalomania, his mentor and ex-lover Neal exposes this Idol of Millions as the rat that he is. She arranges to switch on the audio during the closing credits of Rhodes' TV program, allowing the whole nation to hear the grinning, waving Rhodes characterize them as "suckers" and "stupid idiots." Instantly, Rhodes' popularity rating plummets to zero. As he drunkenly wanders around his penthouse apartment, still not fully comprehending what has happened to him, Rhodes is deserted by the very associates who, hours earlier, were willing to ask "how high?" when he yelled "jump". Written by Budd Schulberg, Face in the Crowd was not a success, possibly because it hit so close to home with idol-worshipping TV fans. Its reputation has grown in the intervening years, not only because of its value as a film but because of the novelty of seeing the traditionally easygoing Andy Griffith as so vicious and manipulative a character as Lonesome Rhodes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
    This dynamic and commanding adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning play focuses on a troubled Southern family and the discord over their dying father's millions. Wealthy plantation owner Big Daddy Pollitt (Burl Ives), celebrating his 65th birthday, is visited by his sons, Brick (Paul Newman) and Gooper (Jack Carson). He has cancer, but a doctor has deliberately and falsely declared it in remission. Seemingly perfect son Gooper and his wife, Mae (Madeleine Sherwood), have several children and are anxiously expecting to inherit Daddy's millions. By contrast, Big Daddy's "favorite," Brick, is a has-been football star who's taken to drinking his days away since the suicide of his "best friend" a year earlier. He resents his wife, Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor), because he believes that she had an affair with his deceased friend. As a result, he refuses to sleep with her, although she remains devoted to him. Since Brick and Maggie have failed to produce any grandchildren, Big Daddy is inclined to leave his estate to Gooper, but Maggie attempts to prevent that by telling him that she is pregnant. Big Daddy knows better, yet he recognizes that Maggie loves Brick so much that she would be willing to do anything for him. Although Brick is self-destructive and resentful, unable to come to terms with his losses, it takes Big Daddy's recognition of his own mortality to make Brick change his perspective. Brick's struggle with his sexual identity, and the nature of his relationship with his "friend," had to be toned down for mass consumption, although this intelligently written and acted film covers such topics as infertility, adultery, and alcoholism that were still considered taboo in the 1950s. Newman brings depth and feeling to the role as Brick, while Taylor succeeds brilliantly in portraying Maggie as a passionate and understanding woman despite her own real-life emotional turmoil over the death of her husband at the time, producer Mike Todd. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi

    Gigi
    Leslie Caron plays Gigi, a young girl raised by two veteran Parisian courtesans (Hermione Gingold and Isabel Jeans) to be the mistress of wealthy young Gaston (Louis Jourdan). When Gaston falls in love with Gigi and asks her to be his wife, Jeans is appalled: never has anyone in their family ever stooped to anything so bourgeois as marriage! Weaving in and out of the story is Maurice Chevalier as an aging boulevardier who, years earlier, had been in love with Gingold's character. Chevalier gets most of the best Lerner & Loewe tunes, including Thank Heaven for Little Girls, I'm Glad I'm Not Young Any More, and his matchless duet with Gingold, I Remember it Well. Caron's best number (dubbed by Betty Wand) is The Night They Invented Champagne while Jourdan gets the honor of introducing the title song. Filmed on location in Paris, Gigi won several Oscars, including Best Picture; it also represented the successful American movie comeback of Chevalier, who thanks to this film was "forgiven" for his reputed collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Ben-Hur
    This 1959 version of Lew Wallace's best-selling novel, which had already seen screen versions in 1907 and 1926, went on to win 11 Academy Awards. Adapted by Karl Tunberg and a raft of uncredited writers including Gore Vidal and Maxwell Anderson, the film once more recounts the tale of Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), who lives in Judea with his family during the time that Jesus Christ was becoming known for his "radical" teachings. Ben-Hur's childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) is now an ambitious Roman tribune; when Ben-Hur refuses to help Messala round up local dissidents on behalf of the emperor, Messala pounces on the first opportunity to exact revenge on his onetime friend. Tried on a trumped-up charge of attempting to kill the provincial governor (whose head was accidentally hit by a falling tile), Ben-Hur is condemned to the Roman galleys, while his mother (Martha Scott) and sister (Cathy O'Donnell) are imprisoned. But during a sea battle, Ben-Hur saves the life of commander Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins), who, in gratitude, adopts Ben-Hur as his son and gives him full control over his stable of racing horses. Ben-Hur never gives up trying to find his family or exact revenge on Messala. At crucial junctures in his life, he also crosses the path of Jesus, and each time he benefits from it. The highlight of the film's 212 minutes is its now-legendary chariot race, staged largely by stunt expert Yakima Canutt. Ben-Hur's Oscar haul included Best Picture, Best Director for the legendary William Wyler, Best Actor for Heston, and Best Supporting Actor for Welsh actor Hugh Griffith as an Arab sheik. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    North by Northwest
    While having lunch at the Plaza Hotel in New York, advertising executive Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) has the bad luck to call for a messenger just as a page goes out for a "George Kaplan." From that moment, Thornhill finds that he has stepped into a nightmare -- he is quietly abducted by a pair of armed men out of the hotel's famous Oak Room and transported to a Long Island estate; there, he is interrogated by a mysterious man (James Mason) who, believing that Roger is George Kaplan, demands to know what he knows about his business and how he has come to acquire this knowledge. Roger, who knows nothing about who any of these people are, can do nothing but deny that he is Kaplan or that he knows what they're talking about. Finally, his captors force a bottle of bourbon into Roger and put him behind the wheel of a car on a dangerous downhill stretch. Through sheer luck and the intervention of a police patrol car and its driver (John Beradino), Roger survives the ride and evades his captors, and is booked for drunk driving. He's unable to persuade the court, the county detectives, or even his own mother (Jesse Royce Landis) of the truth of his story, however -- Thornhill returns with them to the mansion where he was held, only to find any incriminating evidence cleaned up and to learn that the owner of the house is a diplomat, Lester Townsend (Philip Ober), assigned to the United Nations. He backtracks to the hotel to find the room of the real George Kaplan, only to discover that no one at the hotel has ever actually seen the man. With his kidnappers once again pursuing him, Thornhill decides to confront Townsend at the United Nations, only to discover that he knows nothing of the events on Long Island, or his house being occupied -- but before he can learn more, Townsend gets a knife in his back in full view of 50 witnesses who believe that Roger did it. Now on the run from a murder charge, complete with a photograph of him holding the weapon plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the country, Thornhill tries to escape via train -- there he meets the cooly beautiful Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), who twice hides him from the police, once spontaneously and a second time in a more calculated rendezvous in her compartment that gets the two of them together romantically, at least for the night. By the next day, he's off following a clue to a remote rural highway, where he is attacked by an armed crop-dusting plane, one of the most famous scenes in Hitchcock's entire film output. Thornhill barely survives, but he does manage to learn that his mysterious tormentor/interrogator is named Phillip Vandamm, and that he goes under the cover of being an art dealer and importer/exporter, and that Eve is in bed with him in every sense of the phrase -- or is she? ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

    How the West Was Won
    Filmed in panoramic Cinerama, this star-studded, epic Western adventure is a true cinematic classic. Three legendary directors (Henry Hathaway, John Ford, and George Marshall) combine their skills to tell the story of three families and their travels from the Erie Canal to California between 1839 and 1889. Spencer Tracy narrates the film, which cost an estimated 15 million dollars to complete. In the first segment, "The Rivers," pioneer Zebulon Prescott (Karl Malden) sets out to settle in the West with his wife (Agnes Moorehead) and their four children. Along with other settlers and river pirates, they run into mountain man Linus Rawlings (James Stewart), who sells animal hides. The Prescotts try to raft down the Ohio River in a raft, but only daughters Lilith (Debbie Reynolds) and Eve (Carroll Baker) survive. Eve and Linus get married, while Lilith continues on. In the second segment, "The Plains," Lilith ends up singing in a saloon in St. Louis, but she really wants to head west in a wagon train led by Roger Morgan (Robert Preston). Along the way, she's accompanied by the roguish gambler Cleve Van Valen (Gregory Peck), who claims he can protect her. After he saves her life during an Indian attack, they get married and move to San Francisco. In the third segment, "The Civil War," Eve and Linus' son, Zeb (George Peppard), fights for the Union. After he's forced to kill his Confederate friend, he returns home and gives the family farm to his brother. In the fourth segment, "The Railroads," Zeb fights with his railroad boss (Richard Widmark), who wants to cut straight through Indian territory. Zeb's co-worker Jethro (Henry Fonda) refuses to cut through the land, so he quits and moves to the mountains. After the railway camp is destroyed, Zeb heads for the mountains to visit him. In the fifth segment, "The Outlaws," Lilith is an old widow traveling from California to Arizona to stay with her nephew Zeb on his ranch. However, he has to fight a gang of desperadoes first. How the West Was Won garnered three Oscars, for screenplay, film editing, and sound production. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, Rovi

    What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
    As a child, "Baby Jane" Hudson was the toast of vaudeville. As an adult, however, Baby Jane was overshadowed by her more talented sister, Blanche, who became a top movie star. Then, one night in the early '30s, came the accident, which crippled Blanche for life and which was blamed on a drunken, jealous Jane. Flash-forward to 1962: Jane (Bette Davis), decked out in garish chalk-white makeup, still lives with the invalid Blanche (Joan Crawford) in their decaying L.A. mansion. When Jane isn't tormenting the helpless Blanche by serving her dead rats for breakfast, she is plotting and planning her showbiz comeback. Convinced that her days are numbered if she remains in the house with her addlepated sister, Blanche desperately tries to get away, but all avenues of escape are cut off by the deranged Jane. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? sparked a trend toward casting venerable Hollywood female stars in such grotesque Grand Guignol melodramas as Lady in a Cage (1964) and Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte (1965). In addition to revitalizing the careers of Davis and Crawford, whose real-life mutual animosity came through loud and clear, the film made a star of sorts of 24-year-old character actor Victor Buono, cast as a porcine mama's-boy musical composer. Lukas Heller's screenplay was based on the novel by Henry Farrell. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Viva Las Vegas
    Viva Las Vegas, one of Elvis Presley's most popular vehicles, adheres as rigidly to formula as a Kabuki dance. Elvis plays a race-car driver competing in the Las Vegas Grand Prix opposite his principal rival, Cesare Danova. To finance his entry, Elvis takes a job as a casino waiter. Naturally, he is occasionally prevailed upon to sing, making one wonder why he didn't choose this talent as a means of making some quick cash. As always, Elvis chases all the wrong girls, only to ignore the "right" one, portrayed by Ann-Margret in her considerable youthful prime (We're supposed to believe that A-M is the daughter of irascible William Demarest. So much for the reliability of gene pools). With a pre-fat Presley, an indescribably gorgeous Ann-Margret, and no fewer than 12 songs on the soundtrack, how could Viva Las Vegas help but reap a fortune at the box office? ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Doctor Zhivago
    Based on the Nobel Prize-winning novel by Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago covers the years prior to, during, and after the Russian Revolution, as seen through the eyes of poet/physician Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif). In the tradition of Russian novels, a multitude of characters and subplots intertwine within the film's 197 minutes (plus intermission). Zhivago is married to Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin), but carries on an affair with Lara (Julie Christie), who has been raped by ruthless politician Komarovsky (Rod Steiger). Meanwhile, Zhivago's half-brother Yevgraf (Alec Guinness) and the mysterious, revenge-seeking Strelnikoff (Tom Courteney) represent the "good" and "bad" elements of the Bolshevik revolution. Composer Maurice Jarre received one of Doctor Zhivago's five Oscars, with the others going to screenwriter Robert Bolt, cinematographer Freddie Young, art directors John Box and Terry Marsh, set decorator Dario Simoni, and costumer Phyllis Dalton. The best picture Oscar, however, went to The Sound of Music. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
    "You are cordially invited to George and Martha's for an evening of fun and games." Thus read the ad copy for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which in 1966 went farther than any previous big-studio film in its use of profanity and sexual implication. George (Richard Burton) is an alcoholic college professor; Martha (Oscar-winner Elizabeth Taylor) is his virago of a wife. George and Martha know just how to push each other's buttons, with George having a special advantage: he need only mention the couple's son to send Martha into orbit. This evening, the couple's guests are Nick (George Segal), a junior professor, and Honey (Sandy Dennis), Nick's child-like wife. After an evening of sadistic (and sometimes perversely hilarious) "fun and games," the truth about George and Martha's son comes to light. First staged on Broadway in 1962 with Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill, Edward Albee's play was adapted for the screen by Ernest Lehman, who managed to retain virtually all of Albee's scatological epithets (this was the first American film to feature the expletive "goddamn"). Lehman opened up the play by staging one of George's speeches in the backyard, and by relocating the film's second act to a roadside inn (he also added four lines--"all bad," according to Albee). Thanks to the box-office clout of stars Taylor and Burton, not to mention the titilation factor of hearing all those naughty words on the big screen, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf was a hit, and it won 5 Oscars, including awards for Taylor and Dennis, though it lost Best Picture to A Man for All Seasons. First-time director Mike Nichols lost the Oscar, but this movie gave him a perfect transition from his stage work and established him as a hot young Hollywood director, leading to his acclaimed (and Oscar-winning) work on his next movie, The Graduate. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cool Hand Luke
    Paul Newman was nominated for an Oscar and George Kennedy received one for his work in this allegorical prison drama. Luke Jackson (Paul Newman) is sentenced to a stretch on a southern chain gang after he's arrested for drunkenly decapitating parking meters. While the avowed ambition of the captain (Strother Martin) is for each prisoner to "get their mind right," it soon becomes obvious that Luke is not about to kowtow to anybody. When challenged to a fistfight by fellow inmate Dragline (George Kennedy), Luke simply refuses to give up, even though he's brutally beaten. Luke knows how to win at poker, even with bad cards, by using his smarts and playing it cool. Luke also figures out a way for the men to get their work done in half the usual time, giving them the afternoon off. Finally, when Luke finds out his mother has died, he plots his escape; when he's caught, he simply escapes again. Soon, Luke becomes a symbol of hope and resilience to the other men in the prison camp -- and a symbol of rebelliousness that must be stamped out to the guards and the captain. Along with stellar performances by Newman, Kennedy, and Martin, Cool Hand Luke features a superb supporting cast, including Ralph Waite, Harry Dean Stanton, Dennis Hopper, Wayne Rogers, and Joe Don Baker as members of the chain gang. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    The Dirty Dozen
    Director Robert Aldrich took what he considered a hopelessly old-fashioned script by Lukas Heller and Nunnally Johnson and fashioned The Dirty Dozen into one of MGM's biggest moneymakers of the 1960s--and the sixth highest-grossing film in the studio's history. Lee Marvin plays Major Reisman, assigned to coordinate a suicide mission on a French chateau held by top Nazi officers. Since no "normal" GI can be expected to volunteer for this mission, Reisman is compelled to draw his personnel from a group of military prisoners serving life sentences. This "dirty dozen" includes a sex pervert (Telly Savalas), a psycho (John Cassavetes), a retarded killer (Donald Sutherland), and the equally malevolent Charles Bronson, Trini Lopez, Jim Brown, and Clint Walker. On the dim promise of receiving pardons if they survive, the criminals undergo a brutal training program, then are marched behind enemy lines dressed as Nazi soldiers, the better to overtake the chateau and kill everyone in it--including the innocent wives and mistresses of the German officers. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Bullitt
    Robert L. Pike's crime novel Mute Witness makes the transition to the big screen in this film from director Peter Yates. In one of his most famous roles, Steve McQueen stars as tough-guy police detective Frank Bullitt. The story begins with Bullitt assigned to a seemingly routine detail, protecting mafia informant Johnny Ross (Pat Renella), who is scheduled to testify against his Mob cronies before a Senate subcommittee in San Francisco. But when a pair of hitmen ambush their secret location, fatally wounding Ross, things don't add up for Bullitt, so he decides to investigate the case on his own. Unfortunately for him, ambitious senator Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn), the head of the aforementioned subcommittee, wants to shut his investigation down, hindering Bullitt's plan to not only bring the killers to justice but discover who leaked the location of the hideout. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi

    2001: A Space Odyssey
    A mind-bending sci-fi symphony, Stanley Kubrick's landmark 1968 epic pushed the limits of narrative and special effects toward a meditation on technology and humanity. Based on Arthur C. Clarke's story The Sentinel, Kubrick and Clarke's screenplay is structured in four movements. At the "Dawn of Man," a group of hominids encounters a mysterious black monolith alien to their surroundings. To the strains of Strauss's 1896 Also sprach Zarathustra, a hominid invents the first weapon, using a bone to kill prey. As the hominid tosses the bone in the air, Kubrick cuts to a 21st century spacecraft hovering over the Earth, skipping ahead millions of years in technological development. U.S. scientist Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) travels to the moon to check out the discovery of a strange object on the moon's surface: a black monolith. As the sun's rays strike the stone, however, it emits a piercing, deafening sound that fills the investigators' headphones and stops them in their path. Cutting ahead 18 months, impassive astronauts David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) head toward Jupiter on the spaceship Discovery, their only company three hibernating astronauts and the vocal, man-made HAL 9000 computer running the entire ship. When the all-too-human HAL malfunctions, however, he tries to murder the astronauts to cover his error, forcing Bowman to defend himself the only way he can. Free of HAL, and finally informed of the voyage's purpose by a recording from Floyd, Bowman journeys to "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite," through the psychedelic slit-scan star-gate to an 18th century room, and the completion of the monolith's evolutionary mission. With assistance from special-effects expert Douglas Trumbull, Kubrick spent over two years meticulously creating the most "realistic" depictions of outer space ever seen, greatly advancing cinematic technology for a story expressing grave doubts about technology itself. Despite some initial critical reservations that it was too long and too dull, 2001 became one of the most popular films of 1968, underlining the generation gap between young moviegoers who wanted to see something new and challenging and oldsters who "didn't get it." Provocatively billed as "the ultimate trip," 2001 quickly caught on with a counterculture youth audience open to a contemplative (i.e. chemically enhanced) viewing experience of a film suggesting that the way to enlightenment was to free one's mind of the U.S. military-industrial-technological complex. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

    The Wild Bunch
    "If they move, kill 'em!" Beginning and ending with two of the bloodiest battles in screen history, Sam Peckinpah's classic revisionist Western ruthlessly takes apart the myths of the West. Released in the late '60s discord over Vietnam, in the wake of the controversial Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and the brutal "spaghetti westerns" of Sergio Leone, The Wild Bunch polarized critics and audiences over its ferocious bloodshed. One side hailed it as a classic appropriately pitched to the violence and nihilism of the times, while the other reviled it as depraved. After a failed payroll robbery, the outlaw Bunch, led by aging Pike Bishop (William Holden) and including Dutch (Ernest Borgnine), Angel (Jaime Sanchez), and Lyle and Tector Gorch (Warren Oates and Ben Johnson), heads for Mexico pursued by the gang of Pike's friend-turned-nemesis Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan). Ultimately caught between the corruption of railroad fat cat Harrigan (Albert Dekker) and federale general Mapache (Emilio Fernandez), and without a frontier for escape, the Bunch opts for a final Pyrrhic victory, striding purposefully to confront Mapache and avenge their friend Angel. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

    A Clockwork Orange
    Stanley Kubrick dissects the nature of violence in this darkly ironic, near-future satire, adapted from Anthony Burgess's novel, complete with "Nadsat" slang. Classical music-loving proto-punk Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his "Droogs" spend their nights getting high at the Korova Milkbar before embarking on "a little of the old ultraviolence," such as terrorizing a writer, Mr. Alexander (Patrick Magee), and gang raping his wife (who later dies as a result). After Alex is jailed for bludgeoning the Cat Lady (Miriam Karlin) to death with one of her phallic sculptures, Alex submits to the Ludovico behavior modification technique to earn his freedom; he's conditioned to abhor violence through watching gory movies, and even his adored Beethoven is turned against him. Returned to the world defenseless, Alex becomes the victim of his prior victims, with Mr. Alexander using Beethoven's Ninth to inflict the greatest pain of all. When society sees what the state has done to Alex, however, the politically expedient move is made. Casting a coldly pessimistic view on the then-future of the late '70s-early '80s, Kubrick and production designer John Barry created a world of high-tech cultural decay, mixing old details like bowler hats with bizarrely alienating "new" environments like the Milkbar. Alex's violence is horrific, yet it is an aesthetically calculated fact of his existence; his charisma makes the icily clinical Ludovico treatment seem more negatively abusive than positively therapeutic. Alex may be a sadist, but the state's autocratic control is another violent act, rather than a solution. Released in late 1971 (within weeks of Sam Peckinpah's brutally violent Straw Dogs), the film sparked considerable controversy in the U.S. with its X-rated violence; after copycat crimes in England, Kubrick withdrew the film from British distribution until after his death. Opinion was divided on the meaning of Kubrick's detached view of this shocking future, but, whether the discord drew the curious or Kubrick's scathing diagnosis spoke to the chaotic cultural moment, A Clockwork Orange became a hit. On the heels of New York Film Critics Circle awards as Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, Kubrick received Oscar nominations in all three categories. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

    Dirty Harry
    "You've got to ask yourself a question: 'do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" Dirty Harry provoked a critical uproar in 1971 for its "fascist" message about the power of one, as it also elevated Clint Eastwood to superstar status through his most enduring screen persona. Harry Callahan (Eastwood, in a role meant for Frank Sinatra) is a sardonic, hard-working San Francisco cop who can't finish his lunch without having to foil a bank robbery with his 44 Magnum, "the most powerful handgun in the world." When hippie-esque psycho Scorpio (Andy Robinson) goes on a killing spree, Harry and new partner Chico (Reni Santoni) are assigned to hunt him down, but not before the Mayor (John Vernon) and Lt. Bressler (Harry Guardino) admonish Callahan about his heavy-handed tactics. Racing against a deadline to save a kidnap victim from suffocating to death and unbothered by the niceties of Miranda rights and search warrants, Callahan brings in Scorpio, only to see him released on technicalities. "The law's crazy," opines Harry in disgust, before taking it upon himself to ensure that Scorpio doesn't kill again. Directed in violent and efficient fashion by Don Siegel, with a propulsive score by Lalo Schifrin, Dirty Harry was the fourth Siegel-Eastwood collaboration after Coogan's Bluff (1968), Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), and The Beguiled (1970). Critics at the time strongly objected to the heroic image of a cop's violations of a suspect's Miranda rights, forcing Siegel and Eastwood to deny that they were right-wing reactionaries. All the same, Dirty Harry proved to be highly popular and spawned four sequels: Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), and The Dead Pool (1988). ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
    Promoted as a family musical by Paramount Pictures, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is more of a black comedy, perversely faithful to the spirit of Roald Dahl's original book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Enigmatic candy manufacturer Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) stages a contest by hiding five golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whoever comes up with these tickets will win a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats: the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather (Jack Albertson). In the course of the tour, Willy Wonka punishes the four nastier children in various diabolical methods -- one kid is inflated and covered with blueberry dye, another ends up as a principal ingredient of the chocolate, and so on -- because these kids have violated the ethics of Wonka's factory. In the end, only Charlie and his grandfather are left. Ostensibly set in England, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was lensed in Germany (as revealed by the film's final overhead shot). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cabaret
    Originally a 1966 Broadway musical, this groundbreaking Bob Fosse musical was in turn based on Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin, previously dramatized for stage and screen as I Am a Camera with Julie Harris as Sally Bowles. Fosse uses the decadent and vulgar cabaret as a mirror image of German society sliding toward the Nazis, and this intertwining of entertainment with social history marked a new step forward for the movie musical. Michael York plays a British writer who comes to Berlin in the early 1930s in hopes of becoming a teacher. He makes the acquaintance of flamboyant American entertainer Sally Bowles, played by Liza Minnelli. Sally works at the Kit Kat Klub, a George Grosz-like Berlin cabaret where each night the smirking, androgynous Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey) introduces a jazz-driven "girlie show" to his debauched audience. Virtually all the film's musical numbers are staged within the confines of the Kit Kat Klub, and each song comments on the plot and on Germany's "progression" from hedonism to Hitlerism. Most of the Broadway score by John Kander and Fred Ebb was retained, with the welcome addition of "The Money Song." Although it lost Best Picture to The Godfather, Cabaret won eight Oscars, including awards to Minnelli, Grey, and Fosse. A heavily expurgated 88-minute version of Cabaret has been prepared for commercial TV presentations, regarded by many as dramatically inferior to the full cut. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Enter the Dragon
    One of the most popular kung fu films ever, and perhaps the peak of the famed Bruce Lee's career, Enter the Dragon achieved success by presenting a series of superbly staged fighting sequences with a minimum of distractions. The story finds Lee as a martial-arts expert determined to help capture the narcotics dealer whose gang was responsible for his sister's death. This evil villain operates from a fortified island manned by a team of crack martial artists, who also host a kung fu competition. Lee uses his skills to enter the contest and then tries to chop, kick, and otherwise fight his way into the dealer's headquarter. The story is, of course, merely an excuse for showdown after showdown, featuring masterly fighting by Lee in a wide variety of martial arts styles. Essential viewing for martial arts fans, the film was also embraced by a larger audience, thanks to a fast pace and higher-than-usual production values. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

    The Exorcist
    Novelist William Peter Blatty based his best-seller on the last known Catholic-sanctioned exorcism in the United States. Blatty transformed the little boy in the 1949 incident into a little girl named Regan, played by 14-year-old Linda Blair. Suddenly prone to fits and bizarre behavior, Regan proves quite a handful for her actress-mother, Chris MacNeil (played by Ellen Burstyn, although Blatty reportedly based the character on his next-door neighbor Shirley MacLaine). When Regan gets completely out of hand, Chris calls in young priest Father Karras (Jason Miller), who becomes convinced that the girl is possessed by the Devil and that they must call in an exorcist: namely, Father Merrin (Max von Sydow). His foe proves to be no run-of-the-mill demon, and both the priest and the girl suffer numerous horrors during their struggles. The Exorcist received a theatrical rerelease in 2000, in a special edition that added 11 minutes of footage trimmed from the film's original release and digitally enhanced Chris Newman's Oscar-winning sound work. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Blazing Saddles
    Vulgar, crude, and occasionally scandalous in its racial humor, this hilarious bad-taste spoof of Westerns, co-written by Richard Pryor, features Cleavon Little as the first black sheriff of a stunned town scheduled for demolition by an encroaching railroad. Little and co-star Gene Wilder have great chemistry, and the delightful supporting cast includes Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, and Madeline Kahn as a chanteuse modelled on Marlene Dietrich. As in Young Frankenstein (1974), Silent Movie (1976), and High Anxiety (1977), director/writer Mel Brooks gives a burlesque spin to a classic Hollywood movie genre; in his own manic, Borscht Belt way, Brooks was a central player in revising classic genres in light of Seventies values and attitudes, an effort most often associated with such directors as Robert Altman and Peter Bogdanovich . Some of this film's sequences, notably a gaseous bean dinner around a campfire, have become comedy classics. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

    Dog Day Afternoon
    Based on a true 1972 story, Sidney Lumet's 1975 drama chronicles a unique bank robbery on a hot summer afternoon in New York City. Shortly before closing time, scheming loser Sonny (Al Pacino) and his slow-witted buddy, Sal (John Cazale), burst into a Brooklyn bank for what should be a run-of-the-mill robbery, but everything goes wrong, beginning with the fact that there is almost no money in the bank. The situation swiftly escalates, as Sonny and Sal take hostages; enough cops to police the tristate area surround the bank; a large Sonny-sympathetic crowd gathers to watch; the media arrive to complete the circus; and police captain Moretti (Charles Durning) tries to negotiate with Sonny while keeping the volatile spectacle under control. When Sonny's lover, Leon (Chris Sarandon), tries to talk Sonny out of the bank, we learn the robbery's motive: to finance Leon's sex-change operation. Sonny demands a plane to escape, but the end is near once menacingly cool FBI agent Sheldon (James Broderick) arrives to take over the negotiations. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
    With an insane asylum standing in for everyday society, Milos Forman's 1975 film adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel is a comically sharp indictment of the Establishment urge to conform. Playing crazy to avoid prison work detail, manic free spirit Randle P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is sent to the state mental hospital for evaluation. There he encounters a motley crew of mostly voluntary inmates, including cowed mama's boy Billy (Brad Dourif) and silent Native American Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), presided over by the icy Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Ratched and McMurphy recognize that each is the other's worst enemy: an authority figure who equates sanity with correct behavior, and a misfit who is charismatic enough to dismantle the system simply by living as he pleases. McMurphy proceeds to instigate group insurrections large and small, ranging from a restorative basketball game to an unfettered afternoon boat trip and a tragic after-hours party with hookers and booze. Nurse Ratched, however, has the machinery of power on her side to ensure that McMurphy will not defeat her. Still, McMurphy's message to live free or die is ultimately not lost on one inmate, revealing that escape is still possible even from the most oppressive conditions. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

    All the President's Men
    Conspiracy film specialist Alan J. Pakula turned journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's best-selling account of their Watergate investigation into one of the hit films of Bicentennial year 1976. While researching a story about a botched 1972 burglary of Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex, green Washington Post reporters/rivals Woodward (Robert Redford, who also exec produced) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) stumble on a possible connection between the burglars and a White House staffer. With the circumspect approval of executive editor Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards), the pair digs deeper. Aided by a guilt-ridden turncoat bookkeeper (Jane Alexander) and the vital if cryptic guidance of Woodward's mystery source, Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook), Woodward and Bernstein "follow the money" all the way to the top of the Nixon administration. Despite Deep Throat's warnings that their lives are in danger, and the reluctance of older Post editors, Woodward and Bernstein are determined to get out the story of the crime and its presidential cover-up. Once Bradlee is convinced, the final teletype impassively taps out the historically explosive results. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

    Superman: The Movie
    Richard Donner's big-budget blockbuster Superman: The Movie is an immensely entertaining recounting of the origin of the famous comic book character. Opening on Krypton (where Marlon Brando plays Superman's father), the film follows the Man of Steel (Christopher Reeve) as he's sent to Earth where he develops his alter-ego Clark Kent and is raised by a Midwestern family. In no time, the movie has run through his teenage years, and Clark gets a job at the Daily Planet, where he is a news reporter. It's there that he falls in love with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), who is already in love with Superman. But the love story is quickly sidetracked once the villainous Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) launches a diabolical plan to conquer the world and kill Superman. Superman: The Movie is filled with action, special effects and a surprising amount of humor. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

    Caddyshack
    The smash success Caddyshack became a prototype for countless other wacky T&A-tinged teen comedies of the early 1980s. At an exclusive country club for WASPish snobs, an ambitious young caddy (Michael O'Keefe) from an overpopulated home eagerly pursues a caddy scholarship in hopes of attending college and, in turn, avoiding a job at the lumber yard. In order to succeed, he must first win the favor of the elitist Judge Smails (Ted Knight), then the caddy golf tournament which the good judge sponsors. Of course, there are love interests as well -- one good, one naughty -- not to mention several foes he must vanquish along the way. The story itself serves to string along a series of slapstick scenes involving an obnoxious nouveau riche land developer (Rodney Dangerfield) who wants to turn the site into a condominium community; an oddball, Zen-quoting, millionaire slacker/golf ace (Chevy Chase); and a psychotic groundskeeper (Bill Murray) with a gopher-fixation. Caddyshack was a bona fide hit; throughout the '80s and '90s, director Harold Ramis would continue to create such hits as Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Analyze This. ~ Jeremy Beday, Rovi

    The Shining
    "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" -- or, rather, a homicidal boy in Stanley Kubrick's eerie 1980 adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel. With wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and psychic son Danny (Danny Lloyd) in tow, frustrated writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a job as the winter caretaker at the opulently ominous, mountain-locked Overlook Hotel so that he can write in peace. Before the Overlook is vacated for the Torrances, the manager (Barry Nelson) informs Jack that a previous caretaker went crazy and slaughtered his family; Jack thinks it's no problem, but Danny's "shining" hints otherwise. Settling into their routine, Danny cruises through the empty corridors on his Big Wheel and plays in the topiary maze with Wendy, while Jack sets up shop in a cavernous lounge with strict orders not to be disturbed. Danny's alter ego, "Tony," however, starts warning of "redrum" as Danny is plagued by more blood-soaked visions of the past, and a blocked Jack starts visiting the hotel bar for a few visions of his own. Frightened by her husband's behavior and Danny's visit to the forbidding Room 237, Wendy soon discovers what Jack has really been doing in his study all day, and what the hotel has done to Jack. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

    Clash of the Titans
    The eschewing of modern optical effects techniques in favor of the classic stop-motion animation work of special effects legend Ray Harryhausen was a delightful highlight of this action adventure that attempted to give Greek mythology the Star Wars (1977) treatment. Harry Hamlin stars as Perseus, a mortal who, due to the interference of the mighty god Zeus (Laurence Olivier), finds himself in the city of Joppa, far away from his island home. There, he falls in love with Andromeda (Judi Bowker), an imprisoned princess. To free her, win her hand, and thus half of the kingdom, Perseus solves a riddle, but Joppa's enraged ruler orders Andromeda fed to the Kraken, a towering sea monster that's the last of the powerful Titans. In his quest to save Andromeda, Perseus must endure a series of trials with the help of the winged horse Pegasus and a friendly playwright, Ammon (Burgess Meredith). His ultimate goal is to secure the head of the grotesque Gorgon named Medusa and use it to turn the Kraken into stone, but dangers await, including the hideously deformed Calibos (Neil McCarthy). ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

    Chariots of Fire
    Based on a true story, Chariots of Fire is the internationally acclaimed Oscar-winning drama of two very different men who compete as runners in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a serious Christian Scotsman, believes that he has to succeed as a testament to his undying religious faith. Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), is a Jewish Englishman who wants desperately to be accepted and prove to the world that Jews are not inferior. The film crosscuts between each man's life as he trains for the competition, fueled by these very different desires. As compelling as the racing scenes are, it's really the depth of the two main characters that touches the viewer, as they forcefully drive home the theme that victory attained through devotion, commitment, integrity, and sacrifice is the most admirable feat that one can achieve. (Ian Holm was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in his role as Abrahams' coach), and this powerful film ended up with four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi

    National Lampoon's Vacation
    The first film in the Vacation comedy franchise stars Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, an ad exec who becomes consumed with taking his family cross-country to Wally World, a California amusement park. Less a vacation than a descent into a peculiarly American kind of hell, the Griswolds suffer through an endless series of catastrophes, culminating in a run-in with the law. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

    Risky Business
    Risky Business is the film in which 19-year-old Tom Cruise dances around his living room in his underwear. He does this to celebrate the fact that his parents have left him alone while they go on vacation. Somewhere along the line, hooker Rebecca De Mornay, fleeing her vicious pimp, hides out in the Cruise manse. Things go from bad to worse to as Cruise inadvertently drives his father's Porsche into Lake Michigan and nearly scuttles his college recruitment interview. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Outsiders
    Teen rivalry in a small Southern town sets the stage for this dramatic interpretation of the novel by S.E. Hinton. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Outsiders tells the story of the ongoing conflict between the Greasers and the Socs in rural Oklahoma. C. Thomas Howell stars as Ponyboy, the youngest of three orphaned boys who pal around with the local hoods known as the Greasers. When Ponyboy and his friend (Ralph Macchio) get into a deadly confrontation one night, the two go on the run from the cops, and they grow up quickly and soon realize the insignificance of their petty posturing. Matt Dillon stars as the tough-as-nails leader of their group and Patrick Swayze appears as Ponyboy's oldest brother. A host of other 1980s Brat Pack celebs fill out the cast. Dillon later appeared in another Coppola adaption of a Hinton book, Rumble Fish. ~ Bernadette McCallion, Rovi

    The Right Stuff
    Covering some 15 years, The Right Stuff recounts the formation of America's space program, concentrating on the original Mercury astronauts. Scott Glenn plays Alan Shepard, the first American in space; Fred Ward is Gus Grissom, the benighted astronaut for whom nothing works out as planned; and Ed Harris is John Glenn, the straight-arrow "boy scout" of the bunch who was the first American to orbit the earth. The remaining four Mercury boys are Deke Slayton (Scott Paulin), Scott Carpenter (Charles Frank), Wally Schirra (Lance Henriksen) and Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid). Wolfe's original book related in straightforward fashion the dangers and frustrations facing the astronauts (including Glenn's oft-repeated complaint that it's hard to be confident when you know that the missile you're sitting on has been built by the lowest bidder), the various personal crises involving their families (Glenn's wife Annie, a stutterer, dreads being interviewed on television, while Grissom's wife Betty, angered that her husband is not regarded as a hero because his mission was a failure, bitterly declares "I want my parade!"), and the schism between the squeaky-clean public image of the Mercury pilots and their sometimes raunchy earthbound shenanigans. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Amadeus
    For this film adaptation of Peter Shaffer's Broadway hit, director Milos Forman returned to the city of Prague that he'd left behind during the Czech political crises of 1968, bringing along his usual cinematographer and fellow Czech expatriate, Miroslav Ondrícek. Amadeus is an expansion of a Viennese "urban legend" concerning the death of 18th century musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. From the vantage point of an insane asylum, aging royal composer Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) recalls the events of three decades earlier, when the young Mozart (Tom Hulce) first gained favor in the court of Austrian emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones). Salieri was incensed that God would bless so vulgar and obnoxious a young snipe as Mozart with divine genius. Why was Salieri -- so disciplined, so devoted to his art, and so willing to toady to his superiors -- not touched by God? Unable to match Mozart's talent, Salieri uses his influence in court to sabotage the young upstart's career. Disguising himself as a mysterious benefactor, Salieri commissions the backbreaking Requiem, which eventually costs Mozart his health, wealth, and life. Among the film's many pearls of dialogue, the best line goes to the emperor, who rejects a Mozart composition on the grounds that it has "too many notes." Amadeus won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for F. Murray Abraham. In 2002, the film received a theatrical re-release as "Amadeus: The Director's Cut," a version that includes 20 minutes of additional footage. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Color Purple
    Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple spans the years 1909 to 1949, relating the life of Celie (Whoopi Goldberg), a Southern black woman virtually sold into a life of servitude to her brutal husband, sharecropper Albert (Danny Glover). Celie pours out her innermost thoughts in letter form to her sister Nettie (Akousa Busia), but Albert has been hiding the letters Nettie writes back, allowing Celie to assume that Nettie is dead. Finally, Celie finds a champion in the don't-take-no-guff Sofia (Oprah Winfrey), the wife of Glover's son from a previous marriage. Alas, Sofia is "humbled" when she is beaten into submission by angry whites. Later, Celie is able to forge a strong friendship with Albert's mistress Shug (Margaret Avery). Emboldened by this, Celie begins rifling through her husband's belongings and finds Nettie's letters. Able at last to stand up to her husband, Celie leaves him to search for a new life on her own. A major box-office hit, The Color Purple was nominated for eleven Oscars. The film was co-produced by Quincy Jones, who also wrote the score. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Goonies
    Leonard Maltin wasn't alone when he noticed similarities between Goonies and the 1934 Our Gang comedy Mama's Little Pirate. Adapted by Chris Columbus from a story by Steven Spielberg, the film follows a group of misfit kids (including such second-generation Hollywoodites as Josh Brolin and Sean Astin) as they search for buried treasure in a subterranean cavern. Here they cross the path of lady criminal Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) and her outlaw brood. Fortunately, the kids manage to befriend Fratelli's hideously deformed (but soft-hearted) son (John Matuszak), who comes to their rescue. The Spielberg influence is most pronounced in the film's prologue and epilogue, when the viewer is advised that the film's real villains are a group of "Evil Land Developers." The musical score makes excellent use of Max Steiner's main theme from The Adventures of Don Juan, not to mention contributions by the likes of Richard Marx and Cyndi Lauper. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Lethal Weapon
    L.A. cop Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), whose wife has recently died, is a loose cannon with a seeming death wish. This makes him indispensable in collaring dangerous criminals, but a liability to any potential partners. Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), a conservative family man who wants to stay alive for his upcoming 50th birthday, is partnered with Riggs. As Riggs gets to know Murtaugh and his family, he begins to mellow, though his insistence on using guerilla tactics to catch criminals is still (put mildly) above and beyond the call of duty. The main villain is The General (Mitchell Ryan), a drug dealer responsible for the death of the daughter of one of Murtaugh's oldest friends. The General is also in charge of a deadly, militia-like gang of smugglers. Adding fuel to the fire is The General's chief henchman, played with all stops out by Gary Busey. Moviegoers familiar only with the relatively tongue-in-cheek Lethal Weapon sequels may be amazed to find out how dangerous and unpredictable Riggs is in the first Lethal Weapon -- and how likely it seems that Murtaugh might not survive until fade-out time. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Full Metal Jacket
    Stanley Kubrick's return to filmmaking after a seven-year hiatus, this film crystallizes the experience of the Vietnam War by concentrating on a group of raw Marine volunteers. Based on Gustav Hasford's novel The Short Timers, the film's first half details the volunteers' harrowing boot-camp training under the profane, power-saw guidance of drill instructor Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey, a real-life drill instructor whose performance is one of the most terrifyingly realistic on record). Part two takes place in Nam, as seen through the eyes of the now thoroughly indoctrinated marines. Ironically, Full Metal Jacket was filmed almost entirely in England. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Batman
    Behind the black cowl, Gotham City superhero Batman is really millionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), who turned to crimefighting after his parents were brutally murdered before his eyes. The only person to share Wayne's secret is faithful butler Alfred (Michael Gough). The principal villain in Batman is The Joker (Jack Nicholson) who'd been mob torpedo Jack Napier before he was horribly disfigured in a vat of acid. The Joker's plan to destroy Batman and gain control of Gotham City is manifold. First he distributes a line of booby-trapped cosmetics, then he goes on a destruction spree in the Gotham Art Museum while the music of Prince blasts away in the background, and finally he orchestrates an all-out campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Gothamites, hoping to turn them against the Cowled One. Meanwhile, reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) becomes the love of Batman's life-which of course plays right into the Joker's hands. Photographed by Roger Pratt, designed by Anton Furst, and scored by Tim Burton's favorite composer Danny Elfman, Batman was a monstrous box-office hit, making $100 million in the first ten days of release--$82,800,000 in North America alone. Incidentally, Billy Dee Williams' comparatively small role as DA Harvey Dent was originally designed to set up the sequel, wherein Dent was to convert into master criminal Two-Face; but by the time the producers got around to that character in 1995's Batman Forever, Two-Face was played by Tommy Lee Jones. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Driving Miss Daisy
    Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Alfred Uhry, Driving Miss Daisy affectionately covers the 25-year relationship between a wealthy, strong-willed Southern matron (Jessica Tandy) and her equally indomitable Black chauffeur, Hoke (Morgan Freeman). Both employer and employee are outsiders, Hoke because of the color of his skin, Miss Daisy because she is Jewish in a WASP-dominated society. At the same time, Hoke cannot fathom Miss Daisy's cloistered inability to grasp the social changes that are sweeping the South in the 1960s. Nor can Miss Daisy understand why Hoke's "people" are so indignant. It is only when Hoke is retired and Miss Daisy is confined to a home for the elderly that the two fully realize that they've been friends and kindred spirits all along. The supporting cast includes Esther Rolle as Miss Daisy's housekeeper and Dan Aykroyd as Miss Daisy's son, Boolie (reportedly, playwright Uhry based the character upon himself). Driving Miss Daisy won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress (Jessica Tandy), Best Screenplay (Uhry), and Best Makeup (Manlio Rochetti). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    GoodFellas
    Martin Scorsese explores the life of organized crime with his gritty, kinetic adaptation of Nicolas Pileggi's best-selling Wiseguy, the true-life account of mobster and FBI informant Henry Hill. Set to a true-to-period rock soundtrack, the story details the rise and fall of Hill, a half-Irish, half-Sicilian New York kid who grows up idolizing the "wise guys" in his impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood. He begins hanging around the mobsters, running errands and doing odd jobs until he gains the notice of local chieftain Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino), who takes him in as a surrogate son. As he reaches his teens, Hill (Ray Liotta) is inducted into the world of petty crime, where he distinguishes himself as a "stand-up guy" by choosing jail time over ratting on his accomplices. From that moment on, he is a part of the family. Along with his psychotic partner Tommy (Joe Pesci), he rises through the ranks to become Paulie's lieutenant; however, he quickly learns that, like his mentor Jimmy (Robert DeNiro), his ethnicity prevents him from ever becoming a "made guy," an actual member of the crime family. Soon he finds himself the target of both the feds and the mobsters, who feel that he has become a threat to their security with his reckless dealings. Goodfellas was rewarded with six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture; Pesci would walk away with Best Supporting Actor for his work. ~ Jeremy Beday, Rovi

    Unforgiven
    Dedicated to his mentors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, Clint Eastwood's 1992 Oscar-winner examines the mythic violence of the Western, taking on the ghosts of his own star past. Disgusted by Sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett's decree that several ponies make up for a cowhand's slashing a whore's face, Big Whiskey prostitutes, led by fierce Strawberry Alice (Frances Fisher), take justice into their own hands and put a $1000 bounty on the lives of the perpetrators. Notorious outlaw-turned-hog farmer William Munny (Eastwood) is sought out by neophyte gunslinger the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) to go with him to Big Whiskey and collect the bounty. While Munny insists, "I ain't like that no more," he needs the bounty money for his children, and the two men convince Munny's clean-living comrade Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to join them in righting a wrong done to a woman. Little Bill (Oscar-winner Gene Hackman), however, has no intention of letting any bounty hunters impinge on his iron-clad authority. When pompous gunman English Bob (Richard Harris) arrives in Big Whiskey with pulp biographer W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) in tow, Little Bill beats Bob senseless and promises to tell Beauchamp the real story about violent frontier life and justice. But when Munny, the true unwritten legend, comes to town, everyone soon learns a harsh lesson about the price of vindictive bloodshed and the malleability of ideas like "justice." "I don't deserve this," pleads Little Bill. "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it," growls Munny, simultaneously summing up the insanity of western violence and the legacy of Eastwood's Man With No Name. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

    The Bodyguard
    Lawrence Kasdan originally wrote his script for The Bodyguard in the late 1960s as a vehicle for Steve McQueen; by the time it reached the screen, Kasdan's star was another movie hearthrob, Kevin Costner. When imperious musical superstar Whitney Houston begins receiving death threats, she is compelled to hire a bodyguard. Enter Costner, who immediately incurs the wrath of Houston and her entourage by imposing prison-like security measures. An ex-Secret Service agent, Costner still hasn't purged himself of his guilt feelings over his inability to protect President Reagan from would-be assassin John Hinckley (in the original concept, the agent had been guarding JFK in Dallas, but Costner was too young to make this credible; besides, he and Oliver Stone had been there before). Gradually, and inevitably, Costner and Houston fall in love. Ralph Waite is cast as Costner's father, while Robert Wuhl and Debbie Reynolds please the crowd in their cameo roles. The Bodyguard was a huge box-office success, helped along in no small part by Whitney Houston's bestselling rendition of the old Dolly Parton hit "I Will Always Love You." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Fugitive
    This 1993 box-office smash partly adheres to the 1960s TV series on which it is based and partly goes off on several tangents of its own. Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Richard Kimble, convicted of murdering his wife. While being transferred to prison by bus, Kimble is involved in a spectacular bus-train collision (one of the best of its kind ever filmed). Surviving the disaster, Kimble escapes, vowing to track down the elusive professional criminal whom he holds responsible for the murder. Dogging the fugitive every foot of the way is U.S. marshal Sam Gerard (an Oscar-winning turn by Tommy Lee Jones), who announces his intention to search "every whorehouse, doghouse, and outhouse" to bring Kimble to justice. Unlike his dour TV-series counterpart Barry Morse, Jones plays the role with a sardonic sense of humor: when a cornered Kimble screams, "I didn't kill my wife," Gerard shrugs and famously replies, "I don't care." Once the premise has been established, scripters Jeb Stuart and David Twohy and director Andrew Davis pull off several audacious plot twists, ranging from Kimble's rendezvous with a sympathetic lab technician to a jaw-dropping dive into a huge waterfall. The second half of the film offers one surprise after another (including the true identity of the murderer), brilliantly avoiding the letdown that plagues many movie adaptations of old TV series. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Interview With the Vampire
    Anne Rice's best-selling romantic horror tale about the origins of a centuries-old vampire inspired this popular, atmospheric chiller. One of director Neil Jordan's major Hollywood productions, the film stays close to its source material, retaining the frame of a young reporter (Christian Slater) interviewing a man who claims to be a 200-year-old vampire. The man, Louis (Brad Pitt), shares his story, beginning in 18th-century New Orleans with his first encounters with the charismatic and decadent vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise). Lestat converts Louis to blood-sucking and immortality, but Louis fails to adopt Lestat's cavalier attitude, instead tormenting himself with guilt over his new nature. The two vampires remain deeply, if reluctantly, connected over the years, while becoming intimately involved with others of their kind, including Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), a mature immortal in a young child's body. Fans of the novel raised numerous objections, particularly after Rice initially spoke out against the casting of Cruise as Lestat; further casting difficulties followed the death of River Phoenix, whose role as the interviewer was assumed by Christian Slater. Rice later recanted her objections, and the combination of thrills and gothic romance proved popular with audiences. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

    Natural Born Killers
    A frenetic, bloody look at mass murder and the mass media, director Oliver Stone's extremely controversial film divided critics and audiences with its mixture of over-the-top violence and bitter cultural satire. At the center of the film, written by Stone and Quentin Tarantino, among others, are Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis), a young couple united by their desire for each other and their common love of violence. Together, they embark on a record-breaking, exceptionally gory killing spree that captivates the sensation-hungry tabloid media. Their fame is ensured by one newsman, Wayne Gale (Robert Downey, Jr.), who reports on Mickey and Mallory for his show, American Maniacs. Even the duo's eventual capture by the police only increases their notoriety, as Gale develops a plan for a Super Bowl Sunday interview that Mickey and Mallory twist to their own advantage. Visually overwhelming, Robert Richardson's hyperkinetic cinematography switches between documentary-style black-and-white, surveillance video, garishly colored psychedelia, and even animation in a rapid-fire fashion that mirrors the psychosis of the killers and the media-saturated culture that makes them popular heroes. The film's extreme violence -- numerous edits were required to win an R rating -- became a subject of debate, as some critics asserted that the film irresponsibly glorified its murderers and blamed the filmmakers for potentially inciting copy-cat killings. Defenders argued that the film attacks media obsession with violence and satirizes a sensationalistic, celebrity-obsessed society. Certain to provoke discussion, Natural Born Killers will thoroughly alienate many viewers with its shock tactics, chaotic approach, and disturbing subject matter, while others will value the combination of technical virtuosity and dark commentary on the modern American landscape. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

    The Shawshank Redemption
    In 1946, a banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of a double murder, even though he stubbornly proclaims his innocence. He's sentenced to a life term at the Shawshank State Prison in Maine, where another lifer, Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), picks him as the new recruit most likely to crack under the pressure. The ugly realities of prison life are quickly introduced to Andy: a corrupt warden (Bob Gunton), sadistic guards led by Capt. Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown), and inmates who are little better than animals, willing to use rape or beatings to insure their dominance. But Andy does not crack: he has the hope of the truly innocent, which (together with his smarts) allow him to prevail behind bars. He uses his banking skills to win favor with the warden and the guards, doing the books for Norton's illegal business schemes and keeping an eye on the investments of most of the prison staff. In exchange, he is able to improve the prison library and bring some dignity and respect back to many of the inmates, including Red. Based on a story by Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption was the directorial debut of screenwriter Frank Darabont. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    Seven
    Director David Fincher's dark, stylish thriller ranks as one of the decade's most influential box-office successes. Set in a hellish vision of a New York-like city, where it is always raining and the air crackles with impending death, the film concerns Det. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), a homicide specialist just one week from a well-deserved retirement. Every minute of his 32 years on the job is evident in Somerset's worn, exhausted face, and his soul aches with the pain that can only come from having seen and felt far too much. But Somerset's retirement must wait for one last case, for which he is teamed with young hotshot David Mills (Brad Pitt), the fiery detective set to replace him at the end of the week. Mills has talked his reluctant wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), into moving to the big city so that he can tackle important cases, but his first and Somerset's last are more than either man has bargained for. A diabolical serial killer is staging grisly murders, choosing victims representing the seven deadly sins. First, an obese man is forced to eat until his stomach ruptures to represent gluttony, then a wealthy defense lawyer is made to cut off a pound of his own flesh as penance for greed. Somerset initially refuses to take the case, realizing that there will be five more murders, ghastly sermons about lust, sloth, pride, wrath, and envy presented by a madman to a sinful world. Somerset is correct, and something within him cannot let the case go, forcing the weary detective to team with Mills and see the case to its almost unspeakably horrible conclusion. The moody photography is by Darius Khondji; the nauseatingly vivid special effects are by makeup artist Rob Bottin, best known for more fantasy-oriented work in films like The Howling (1981). ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

    L.A. Confidential
    Based on the best-selling novel by James Ellroy and directed by Curtis Hanson, this award-winning crime drama explores both the dark side of the Los Angeles police force and Southern California's criminal underbelly in the early '50s, when Hollywood was still seen as America's capital of sophistication, glitter, and glamour. Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) is the head of the LAPD and is loyal to his officers and eager to turn a blind eye to violence or corruption within his department, as long as it's the "bad guys" who are getting hurt. Bud White (Russell Crowe) is a police detective whose violent and cynical nature is often at war with his basic sense of decency and justice. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is a beat cop-turned-detective whose strict by-the-book philosophy and willingness to blow the whistle on other officers is balanced by a shrewd and opportunistic understanding of the internal politics of the department. And Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is a flashy "Hollywood" detective who serves as technical advisor for the TV series Badge of Honor. He is also in cahoots with Sid Hudgeons (Danny DeVito), publisher of the scandal sheet Hush Hush, who throws kickbacks to Vincennes in exchange for being brought along when showbiz figures get busted. White, Exley, and Vincennes find themselves drawn into a tangled and sticky web of violence and betrayal following a multiple murder at a coffee shop that is believed to be part of an effort by Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle) to consolidate his hold on organized crime in L.A. This lead appears to be connected to the discovery of a bizarre pornography and call-girl ring operated by Pierce Patchett (David Strathairn), whose women are given plastic surgery so that they more closely resemble well-known movie stars. White's role in the investigation is complicated when he falls for Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger), one of Patchett's prostitutes, who is the spitting image of Veronica Lake. L.A. Confidential was nominated for nine Academy Awards and netted two, with Brian Helgeland honored for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Kim Basinger taking home a statuette as Best Supporting Actress. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    The Matrix
    What if virtual reality wasn't just for fun, but was being used to imprison you? That's the dilemma that faces mild-mannered computer jockey Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) in The Matrix. It's the year 1999, and Anderson (hacker alias: Neo) works in a cubicle, manning a computer and doing a little hacking on the side. It's through this latter activity that Thomas makes the acquaintance of Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who has some interesting news for Mr. Anderson -- none of what's going on around him is real. The year is actually closer to 2199, and it seems Thomas, like most people, is a victim of The Matrix, a massive artificial intelligence system that has tapped into people's minds and created the illusion of a real world, while using their brains and bodies for energy, tossing them away like spent batteries when they're through. Morpheus, however, is convinced Neo is "The One" who can crack open The Matrix and bring his people to both physical and psychological freedom. The Matrix is the second feature film from the sibling writer/director team of Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski, who made an impressive debut with the stylish erotic crime thriller Bound. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    The best-selling novel by J.K. Rowling (titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in England, as was this film adaptation) becomes this hotly anticipated fantasy adventure from Chris Columbus, the winner of a high-stakes search for a director to bring the first in a hoped-for franchise of Potter films to the screen by Warner Bros. Upon his 11th birthday, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), who lives in misery with an aunt and uncle that don't want him, learns from a giant named Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) that he is the orphaned son of powerful wizards. Harry is offered a place at prestigious Hogwarts, a boarding school for wizards that exists in a realm of magic and fantasy outside the dreary existence of normal humans or "Muggles." At Hogwarts, Harry quickly makes new friends and begins piecing together the mystery of his parents' deaths, which appear not to have been accidental after all. The film features alternate-version scenes for every mention of the titular rock. Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, John Cleese, and Fiona Shaw co-star. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

    The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
    New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson fulfills his lifelong dream of transforming author J.R.R. Tolkien's best-selling fantasy epic into a three-part motion picture that begins with this holiday 2001 release. Elijah Wood stars as Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit resident of the medieval "Middle-earth" who discovers that a ring bequeathed to him by beloved relative and benefactor Bilbo (Ian Holm) is in fact the "One Ring," a device that will allow its master to manipulate dark powers and enslave the world. Frodo is charged by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to return the ring to Mount Doom, the evil site where it was forged millennia ago and the only place where it can be destroyed. Accompanying Frodo is a fellowship of eight others: his Hobbit friends Sam (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan), and Pippin (Billy Boyd); plus Gandalf; the human warriors Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean); Elf archer Legolas (Orlando Bloom); and Dwarf soldier Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). The band's odyssey to the dreaded land of Mordor, where Mount Doom lies, takes them through the Elfish domain of Rivendell and the forest of Lothlorien, where they receive aid and comfort from the Elf princess Arwen (Liv Tyler), her father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Queen Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). In pursuit of the travelers and their ring are Saruman (Christopher Lee) -- a traitorous wizard and kin, of sorts, to Gandalf -- and the Dark Riders, under the control of the evil, mysterious Sauron (Sala Baker). The Fellowship must also do battle with a troll, flying spies, Orcs, and other deadly obstacles both natural and otherwise as they draw closer to Mordor. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) was filmed in Jackson's native New Zealand, closely followed by its pair of sequels, The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

    The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
    The second film in Peter Jackson's series of screen adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's internationally popular Lord of The Rings trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers literally begins where The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ended, with the Fellowship splitting into three groups as they seek to return the Ring to Mordor, the forbidding land where the powerful talisman must be taken to be destroyed. Frodo (Elijah Wood), who carries the Ring, and his fellow Hobbit Sam (Sean Astin) are lost in the hills of Emyn Muil when they encounter Gollum (Andy Serkis), a strange creature who once carried the Ring and was twisted by its power. Gollum volunteers to guide the pair to Mordor; Frodo agrees, but Sam does not trust their new acquaintance. Elsewhere, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) are attempting to navigate Fangorn Forrest where they discover a most unusual nemesis -- Treebeard (voice of John Rhys-Davies), a walking and talking tree-shepherd who doesn't much care for Hobbits. Finally, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) arrive in Rohan to discover that the evil powers of Saruman (Christopher Lee) have robbed King Theoden (Bernard Hill) of his rule. The King's niece Éowyn (Miranda Otto) believes Aragorn and his men have the strength to defeat Saruman, his henchman Wormtongue (Brad Dourif), and their minions. Éowyn soon becomes infatuated with Aragorn, while he struggles to stay faithful to the pledge of love he made to Arwen (Liv Tyler). Gandalf (Ian McKellen) offers his help and encouragement as the Rohans, under Aragorn's leadership, attempt to face down Saruman's armies, but they soon discover how great the task before them truly is when they learn that his troops consist of 10,000 bloodthirsty creatures specially bred to fight to the death. Most of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was shot in tandem with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King during a marathon 18-month shooting schedule, overseen by Peter Jackson. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King brings Peter Jackson's mammoth adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic to a close in suitably epic fashion. Instead of starting just where the previous film left off, however, it goes far back in time to the moment the tormented creature Gollum first came to possess the One Ring. In this flashback, actor Andy Serkis (who voiced Gollum and performed his movements onset prior to the final CGI effects) finally gets to appear onscreen, portraying Gollum's former self, Sméagol. This disturbing scene serves as a potent reminder that the Ring seeks to corrupt even the well-intentioned Frodo (Elijah Wood), who is increasingly struggling with the dark power of the Ring himself. Thus, the film returns to the present, following Frodo, Sam (Sean Astin), and Gollum as they journey ever closer to the foreboding land of Mordor. They pass by the terrifying dark city of Minas Morgul, watching as the dreadful army of the Witch King sets out for the human strongholds in Gondor, and move on to the rocky stairs to Cirith Ungol, where an even darker enemy lies in wait. Meanwhile, the rest of the Fellowship reunites in Rohan, having defeated the wizard Saruman on two different fronts, at Helm's Deep and Isengard. They are not together for long, though, since the hobbit Pippin (Billy Boyd) gets into trouble, making it necessary for him and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to hastily depart for Minas Tirith, capital of Gondor. Once there, they find the steward of Gondor, Denethor (John Noble), in an unstable mental state and the city preparing for battle against the amassing forces of Sauron. Denethor unwisely sends his only remaining son, Faramir (David Wenham), back into bloody battle to prove himself. He returns nearly dead, sending Denethor over the edge of sanity. In another realm, elf Arwen (Liv Tyler) begins her journey to immortal life in the Grey Havens, on her way to leave Middle-earth -- and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) -- forever, but has a vision that causes her to once again reconsider her decision. Back in Rohan, the men are preparing to ride to Gondor's aide. Éowyn (Miranda Otto) desperately wants to join the men in battle, but her uncle, King Théoden (Bernard Hill), orders her to stay and defend Rohan if necessary. The hobbit Merry (Dominic Monaghan) also desires to ride with the men, but is denied due to his small size and inexperience. Aragorn is met there by the elf Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who brings him the re-forged Sword that was Broken (in the ancient battle with Sauron) and urges him to take a different route to Gondor. Heeding Elrond's advice, Aragorn, along with elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), takes a cavernous path through the mountains, where they meet ghoulish ghosts who betrayed Aragorn's ancestors and are doomed to eternal unrest unless they fulfill their broken oaths by aiding him. All but Frodo, Sam, and Gollum will meet on the massive battlefield of the Pelennor before the gates of Minas Tirith. The former three instead engage in a battle of wills between each other and the One Ring as they head toward the fires of Mount Doom to destroy it. Released in December 2003, The Return of the King topped even its massively successful trilogy predecessors at the box office, and went on to garner a whopping 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture -- winning in all the categories in which it was nominated and tying the record of total awards won with Ben-Hur and Titanic. ~ Dana Rowader, Rovi

    The Notebook
    Directed by Nick Cassavetes, this adaptation of author Nicholas Sparks's bestselling novel revolves around Noah Calhoun's (James Garner) regular visits to a female patron (Gena Rowlands) of an area nursing home. Rather than bore her with the inanities of everyday life, Calhoun reads from an old, faded notebook containing the sweeping account of a young couple (Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) whose love affair was tragically put to a halt after their separation in the midst of World War II. Seven years later, the couple was reunited, and, despite having taken radically different paths, they found themselves unable to resist the call of a second chance. The Notebook also features Joan Allen, Sam Shepard, and Kevin Connolly. ~ Tracie Cooper, Rovi

    Million Dollar Baby
    Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran boxing trainer who has devoted his life to the ring and has precious little to show for it; his daughter never answers his letters, and a fighter he's groomed into contender status has paid him back by signing with another manager, leaving Frankie high and dry. His best friend and faithful employee Eddie Dupris is a former fighter who Frankie trained. In his last fight, Eddie suffered a severe injury, a fact that brings Frankie great guilt. One day, Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) enters Frankie's life, as well as his gym, and announces she needs a trainer. Frankie regards her as a dubious prospect, and isn't afraid to tell her why: he doesn't think much of women boxing, she's too old at 31, she lacks experience, and has no technique. However, Maggie sees boxing as the one part of her life that gives her meaning and won't give up easily. Finally won over by her determination, Frankie takes on Maggie, and as she slowly grows into a viable fighter, an emotional bond develops between them. When a tragedy befalls one of the three characters, each comes to a decision that shows how the relationships in the film have changed them. Adapted from a short story by F.X. Toole, a former corner man with years of experience in the fight game, Million Dollar Baby also stars Morgan Freeman, Anthony Mackie, and Mike Colter. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    The Departed
    Legendary director Martin Scorsese takes the helm for this tale of questionable loyalties and blurring identities set in the South Boston organized crime scene and inspired by the wildly popular 2002 Hong Kong crime film Infernal Affairs. As the police force attempts to reign in the increasingly powerful Irish mafia, authorities are faced with the prospect of sending in an undercover agent or seeing their already frail grip on the criminal underworld slip even further. Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young cop looking to make a name for himself in the world of law enforcement. Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is a street-smart criminal who has successfully infiltrated the police department with the sole intention of reporting their every move to ruthless syndicate head Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). When Costigan is assigned the task of working his way into Costello's tightly guarded inner circle, Sullivan is faced with the responsibility of rooting out the informer before things get out of hand. With the stakes constantly rising and time quickly running out for the undercover cop and his criminal counterpart, each man must work feverishly to reveal his counterpart before his identity is exposed by the other. Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Ray Winstone co-star, and writer William Monahan adapts a screenplay originally penned by Alan Mak and Felix Chong. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

    300
    Sin City author Frank Miller's sweeping take on the historic Battle of Thermopylae comes to the screen courtesy of Dawn of the Dead director Zack Snyder. Gerard Butler stars as Spartan King Leonidas and Lena Headey plays Queen Gorgo. The massive army of the Persian Empire is sweeping across the globe, crushing every force that dares stand in its path. When a Persian envoy arrives in Sparta offering King Leonidas power over all of Greece if he will only bow to the will of the all powerful Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), the strong-willed leader assembles a small army comprised of his empire's best fighters and marches off to battle. Though they have virtually no hope of defeating Xerxes' intimidating battalion, Leonidas' men soldier on, intent on letting it be known they will bow to no man but their king. Meanwhile, back in Sparta, the loyal Queen Gorgo attempts to convince both the skeptical council and the devious Theron (Dominic West) to send more troops despite the fact that many view Leonidas' unsanctioned war march as a serious transgression. As Xerxes' fearsome "immortals" draw near, a few noble Greeks vow to assist the Spartans on the battlefield. When King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan warriors fell to the overwhelming Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae, the fearless actions of the noble fighters inspired all of Greece to stand up against their Persian enemy and wage the battle that would ultimately give birth to the modern concept of democracy. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

    The Dark Knight
    Christopher Nolan steps back into the director's chair for this sequel to Batman Begins, which finds the titular superhero coming face to face with his greatest nemesis -- the dreaded Joker. Christian Bale returns to the role of Batman, Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role of Rachel Dawes (played by Katie Holmes in Batman Begins), and Brokeback Mountain star Heath Ledger dons the ghoulishly gleeful Joker makeup previously worn by Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero. Just as it begins to appear as if Batman, Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) are making headway in their tireless battle against the criminal element, a maniacal, wisecracking fiend plunges the streets of Gotham City into complete chaos. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

    The Blind Side
    Taken in by a well-to-do family and offered a second chance at life, a homeless teen grows to become the star athlete projected to be the first pick at the NFL draft in this sports-themed comedy drama inspired by author Michael Lewis' best-seller The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. Michael Oher was living on the streets when he was welcomed into the home of a conservative suburban family, but over time he matured into a talented athlete. As the NFL draft approaches, fans and sports radio personalities alike speculate that Oher will be the hottest pick of the year. Sandra Bullock stars in a film written and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Alamo). ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

    The Hangover
    A blowout Las Vegas bachelor party turns into a race against time when three hung-over groomsmen awaken after a night of drunken debauchery to find that the groom has gone missing, and attempt to get him to the alter in time for his wedding. In 48 hours, Doug is scheduled to walk down the aisle, effectively ending his reign as a rowdy bachelor. Realizing that this is their last blowout with their best friend, Doug's groomsmen organize a Sin City bachelor bash he'll never forget. The next morning, the groomsmen come to in their Caesar's Palace suite to find a tiger in the bathroom and a six-month-old baby tucked away in the closet. Unfortunately, Doug is nowhere to be found. With no memory of the previous night's transgressions and precious little time to spare, the trio sets out in a hazy attempt to retrace their steps and discover exactly where things went wrong. Will they find Doug in time to get him to the wedding back in Los Angeles, or will his bride experience the sharp sting of disappointment when she walks down the aisle to discover that her future husband is nowhere to be found? Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Heather Graham star in a rambunctious comedy from Old School director Todd Phillips. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

    Sherlock Holmes
    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous super-sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, gets an update with this adaptation of Lionel Wigram's comic book series by writer/director Guy Ritchie (RocknRolla) starring Robert Downey Jr. as the titular detective, with Jude Law stepping into the shoes of his sidekick, Dr. Watson. Heading up the rest of the cast are RocknRolla's Mark Strong as the film's villain, Blackwood, and Rachel McAdams portraying the love interest, Irene Adler. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

    Inception
    Visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight) writes and directs this psychological sci-fi action film about a thief who possesses the power to enter into the dreams of others. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) doesn't steal things, he steals ideas. By projecting himself deep into the subconscious of his targets, he can glean information that even the best computer hackers can't get to. In the world of corporate espionage, Cobb is the ultimate weapon. But even weapons have their weakness, and when Cobb loses everything, he's forced to embark on one final mission in a desperate quest for redemption. This time, Cobb won't be harvesting an idea, but sowing one. Should he and his team of specialists succeed, they will have discovered a new frontier in the art of psychic espionage. They've planned everything to perfection, and they have all the tools to get the job done. Their mission is complicated, however, by the sudden appearance of a malevolent foe that seems to know exactly what they're up to, and precisely how to stop them. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

  • Cast & Crew

    • Ellen Burstyn
      Ellen Burstyn - Chris MacNeil
    • Linda Blair
      Linda Blair - Regan MacNeil
    • Max von Sydow
      Max von Sydow - Father Merrin
    • Jason Miller
      Jason Miller - Father Damien Karras
    • Kitty Winn
      Kitty Winn - Sharon
    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.