Sunday, March 27, 2011

Greatest Movies Ever. Or Not

Lana and I watched a show on TV the other night about the greatest movies of all time, as voted by—well—people like me and you. There were a number of different lists, greatest overall, greatest musical, greatest action/suspense, etc. Apparently a group of “experts” narrowed the choices down initially and then people were allowed to vote for the top five in each category. Gone with the Wind was first in the greatest overall category, which told me one thing right away: More women than men voted in the poll. I’ve never actually even seen the movie and have no plans to do so. The vote did nothing to change my mind that I probably wouldn’t consider it the greatest movie of all time.

I was much more interested in the picks for greatest Science Fiction flicks of all time. Here’s the TV voters list:

5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
4. The Matrix
3. Avatar
2. E.T.
1. Star Wars

This list is, of course, incorrect! Although, the only real travesty here is Avatar, which does not deserve to be in the top ten even.

The “correct” list(s). That is, “my” lists are as follows:

General SF:
5. Jurassic Park
4. Blade Runner
3. Star Wars
2. The Matrix
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

The first three of these are separated by a bare fraction from each other. And honorable mentions in this category include War of the Worlds (Original version), E.T., Soylent Green, Planet of the Apes, and Logan’s Run.

5. Predator
4. The Terminator
3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (first version)
2. The Thing (Carpenter version)
1. Alien

The first four of these are very close, and honorable mentions that come very close to unseating number 5 are The Road Warrior, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Aliens.

I also struggled a bit with some assignments. Does Jurassic Park go with general SF or SF/Horror/Thriller? The Matrix is certainly a thriller with strong elements of horror. In the end, though, I didn’t think the horror elements of either were the primary strength of these movies. So there you have it, the TV lists and the “true” lists. I’m sure everyone will agree! Feel free to tell me how much you agree. :)


KeVin K. said...

I can see we'd debate movies long into the night. The original Star Wars was a delightful celebration of all the tropes of Golden Age sci-fi, so I agree with it's placement. But the rest of the franchise is so heavy with self-importance and ham-handed symbolism (Darth Vader was immaculately conceived? Really?)that it quickly becomes painful to watch. Much like Matrix from, say, the third frame on.

The difference between what the general public voted for and what we as SF fans would vote for illustrates the genre/mainstream dichotomy of book marketing. Genre identification carries with it a built-in audience and a built-in limit on market share. Romance, selling more books than all other genres combined, would seem to be exempt from this, but within romance are subgenre that have the same potential. Should we as writers focus on these truths? Should we place what we know to be market preferences above our own aesthetic when we write? No. But we should use some marketing savvy -- and awareness of the tastes of the world at large - when it comes to selling what we've written.

Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't mind The Empire Strikes Back" but after that I agree with you on the heavy handedness of the Star Wars Franchise. I thought the Star Trek Franchise got it perfect with Wrath of Khan but then after that the movies were not that great. The beauty of such lists is really the chance to debate and argue and discuss. That's often more fun than the movies themselves

David Cranmer said...

I couldn't disagree with your list, Charles. Spot on.

And I would place AVATAR near the bottom for sure.

Evan Lewis said...

I like your choices, but I'm too lazy to make my own. I do know there are no science fiction or horror films in five favorites (and I'm too lazy to even try to put those in order). Alphabetically, they are:

The Adventures of Robin Hood
Blazing Saddles
Lady in the Lake
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Charles Gramlich said...

David, we grok.

Evan, "yojimbo?" I htink I"ve heard of that one. I see that comedy's are you're taste in general. Not so much for me, although I'm sure my wife would lean towward your choices.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I can not imagine them omitting BLADE RUNNER.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And what about 2001, A Space Odyssey.

Jodi MacArthur said...

I change my mind a lot, and I enjoy so many movies, it'd be impossible to put together my own list! But I like your movie list for sure. Blade Runner, I haven't watched that in a long time.

Liane Spicer said...

All that I've seen of those you've listed deserve to be in the top bunch. It would take a true SF fan, which I'm not, to quibble over individual placement.

Interesting mention of Blazing Saddles: it was one of my favourites for years then I looked at it again recently - and was underwhelmed. Apparently I've outgrown it.

The movies I think are great probably won't end up on any of the official lists but I've loved them: Finding Forrester, Dead Poets Society, Platoon, Sideways, The Graduate, The Lion King, To Kill a Mockingbird, To Sir With Love, Oliver Twist, Dangerous Liaisons, Fiddler on the Roof...

BernardL said...

I like your picks a lot better. 'Close Encounters' was about as entertaining as watching grass grow. If they ever capture an alien they need to torture like the ones in 'Independence Day' they could strap him down with 'Close Encounters' playing on an endless loop. He'd give up the 'Mother Ship' before the hour and a half mark. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

patti, definitely. And 2001 was certainly a seminal movie. Maybe if they’d listed the top 10 but we only saw five on their list on the show.

Jodi MacArthur, my list would change over time too, although probably not dramatically.

Liane Spicer, Platoon and Dead Poets society were definitely good. Some of those might make a list of more literary movies perhaps.

BernardL, lol. Especially the “communication” scene with all the blaring horns.

Ron Scheer said...

I'm hopeless on this subject. I'm only posting to say that one of my best memories with my son was sitting with him through the first STAR WARS when he was six.

David J. West said...

Yep, Avatar has no business being anywhere close.

I like Jurassic Park but I suppose I never really thought of it as SF along with those others.

And I taught my kids to shout "KHAAAAAAAAAAN!!!" when they get angry.

Carole said...

The Wrath of Khan is excellent and I like most of your choices. Although, and I must say with some shame, I have never seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Either version.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ron Scheer, it has taken me a long time to build up some experience with movies. For a long time I pretty much ignored them, but I have been watching SF movies at least for a long time.

David J. West, lol. Lana and I shout KHannnn ourselves at times. I think of Jurassic park as SF, though it's what is called near future SF

Carole, It's well worth it in my opinion. very creepy and full of paranoia.

Gaston Studio said...

I watched the Best in Film tv show too and liked pretty much what the publis selected. Well, that's just me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Gaston Studio, Most people probably did, which I guess is why they call it the public.

Sarah Hina said...

Who can argue with Alien?

As for Gone With The Wind, I think too many people like overacting and have an overly nostalgic idea of what the Old South was like. I say, fiddle dee dee.

Lana Gramlich said...


I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nibia and 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round Perdition's flames before I'll see Avatar in the top 10!

Lana Gramlich said...

Let me also state that...
I'm laughing at the "superior intellect" that put together the lists featured on that TV show. If they can't see the facts for themselves, then, with all due respect, they're as blind as a Tiberian bat! They are intelligent, but not experienced. Their pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking. Let them eat static.

Charles, when it comes to the lists you've provided here, you stayed at your post...when the trainees ran. Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, yours was the most...human.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sara, I am in agreement with you.

Lana, you are channeling your inner Trekkie today. That's kinda sexy you know. ;)

Jewel Amethyst said...

This must say something about me, but I've seen only a small fraction of the movies you listed, and most often they were reruns years after release. Even then, I hardly saw the full movie.

I don't have a best movie of all time, but I do have favorite movies and they are all children's movies -- recent ones. In that category, I'd say Lion King takes the cake, although my favorite until Lion King came along had been The Little Mermaid. Coming near the top would be Shark Tales, Shrek, and Kung Fu Panda. So here's my list:

5. The Little Mermaid
4. Kung Fu Panda
3. Shark Tales
2. Shrek
1. The Lion King

Erik Donald France said...

Chuckles . . . good stuff. These kinds of lists are interesting to me b/c I don't often think in those terms.

Tom said...

As always, I feel like I should be ashamed to admit to liking Avatar a lot. 0.0

Perhaps I need to do one of my own Sci-Fi movie lists...

Randy Johnson said...

You got it right with Wrath, Star Wars, Blade Runner, and Jurassic Park. I wouldn't put The Matrix on my list. It was probably ruined by my trying to look at II(giving up early and never getting to III), but that's my problem.

Your second list would agree with mine. I did like the second version of Invasion, though not quite as much as the first. The third and fourth, pyew(not sure about the spelling, but you get the drift).

Charles Gramlich said...

Jewel Amethyst, I actually like all those on your list, though Shark Tales probably the least and Little Mermaid the best. I still watch 'kids' movies today and often find them better than those made for adults. SF is definitely a special taste.

Erik Donald France, I seem to have a listing sort of mind, although I recognize the subjective element of such things, and perhaps in some ways the 'absurd' element in them.

Tom, you will be forgiven for liking Avatar. It's not that I didn't dislike it, I just didn't think it had enough new elements that hadn't been seen in earlier movies. It was certainly fun to watch. you should do your own list. I would read it. And reply! :)

Randy Johnson, I sort of pretend that the matrix 2 and 3 are in a different universe or something. I thought the first one really had an interseting take on things, though not a completely original one for sure. The other 2 I liked ok but they were really just action flicks without much in the way of ideas. said...

Does anybody--anybody?--remember that Forties Disney hit, Willie the Singing Whale?--No, not Willie the Singing Nelson.
...Kinda a wonderful tearjerker for a kid into singing whales way back in 1948.

laughingwolf said...

rutger hauer is in a new one: hobo with a shotgun... not seen it, but posted a review... yesterday, i think

for the most part, i like your choices, and have no use for so-called 'expert' opinion on movies!

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, no, I don't think anyone does. Although I do believe you perhaps count as an "anyone." :)

Laughingwolf, I saw your post on HObo with a shotgun. Looks like a kind of death wish show but I'll probably watch it.

laughingwolf said...

i hesr it's gruesome... so i'll be looking for it ;) lol

Charles Gramlich said...

laughingwolf, looks that way.