Who puts these lists together?
1 DIRTY HARRY 1972
Clint Eastwood shoots first and asks questions later, creating the most politically incorrect hero in movie history. With his ever ready .44 magnum, Clint brings unreconstructed frontier justice to criminal-coddling San Francisco, becoming a role model for law-and-order conservatives everywhere. Ronald Reagan even took his best line (“Make my day”) from Sudden Impact, a later Dirty Harry film. Best Line “You have to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
2 THE GODFATHER 1972
“What is it with men and The Godfather?” wonders chick-flick princess Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. Tom Hanks responds for us all: “It is the I Ching. It is the sum of all wisdom.” Francis Ford Coppola’s mob opera is the modern guy’s indispensable guide to surviving with honor in a dog-eat-dog world. Key Scene How can anyone choose? The horse head in the bed? Sonny’s murder? Michael shooting the cop in the restaurant? We know every one backward and forward. Best Line “Don’t ever take sides with anybody against the family again.” “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” “Leave the gun; take the cannolis.” There are millions of them.
3 SCARFACE 1983
An unapologetic assault on everything decent and honorable — and that’s why we love it. Al Pacino’s Tony Montana makes his Michael Corleone look and sound like Mr. Rogers. Nothing beats the film’s coke-fueled mobster wisdom. Lines like “First you gotta make the money… then you get the power, then you get the woman” set the tone for a whole generation of gangsta rappers. Key Scene One word: chainsaw. Best Line “Say hello to my leetle friend.”
4 DIE HARD 1988
Forget all the great action scenes this film has — the best moments are when underdog Bruce Willis kicks the snobby Eurotrash villains’ asses without ever losing his all-American sense of humor. The scene where the German villain gets his comeuppance for trying to use the word “cowboy” as an insult resonates more today, though it’d be even better if the guy were French. Key Scene Bruce crashes through the window hanging from the firehose. Best Line “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!”
5 THE TERMINATOR 1984
Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally offered the human lead, but he realized that a killer robot from the future was the role he was really born to play. “There is a little bit of the Terminator in everybody,” director James Cameron observed. “He operates completely outside all the built-in social constraints.” Key Scene Any qualms about rooting for a malevolent robot vanish when he vaporizes a tacky L.A. dance club. Best Line “I’ll be back.”
6 THE ROAD WARRIOR 1981
Along the endless highways of the Australian outback the loner hero of western and samurai fame gets a futuristic face-lift from Mel Gibson’s leather-clad Mad Max. The film has it all: punk-rock marauders, a razor-edged boomerang, postnuclear angst, and high-speed demolition-derby car battles, plus just the right amount of mythic uplift to put it over the top. Key Scene When Wez, the deranged Mohawk man, erupts over the hood of Max’s truck, it’s a “boo” shot for the ages. Best Line “You want to get out of here, you talk to me.”
7 THE DIRTY DOZEN 1967
Forget Catch 22: World War II gets its true sixties makeover when Lee Marvin trains a bunch of prison rats and turns them into a squad of stone-cold killers tough enough to make Americans, whether redneck or hippie, proud as hell. The cast is a macho who’s who: Jim Brown, Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine… Telly Savalas! A true believer is anyone who’s seen it a dozen times. Key Scene Jim Brown’s heroic death sprint, a feat of open-field running — while tossing hand grenades — that beats anything he ever did with the Cleveland Browns. Best Line “You’ve got one religious maniac, one malignant dwarf, two near-idiots, and the rest I don’t even wanna think about!”
8 THE MATRIX 1999
This cyberpunk epic signaled a new kind of male hero, the tough-guy computer geek, and Keanu Reeves makes a most excellent digital superdude. By setting the nonstop action in cyberspace the Wachowski brothers are able to supercharge all the fights with gravity-defying wire fu and some amazing breakthrough CGI. Key Scene Neo’s airborne subway station showdown with the heinous Agent Smith. Best Line “There is no spoon.”
9 CADDYSHACK 1980
Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and an animatronic gopher named Chuck E. Rodent make mincemeat of your old man’s snooty pastime. It took 20 years and the arrival of Tiger Woods to make the game seem cool again. Key Scene Rodney in excelsis at a high-tone country club soiree bellowing “No offense!” to the horrified diners. Best Line “Hey, everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!”
10 ROCKY 1976
A blue-collar anthem for the ages, as lunkhead from the neighborhood makes good because he can absorb a surreal amount of punishment. The sequels fudged the fable with too many sappy clichŽs, but the original lays it on the line. Working guys embraced Sylvester Stallone as a punch-drunk Great White Hope, often bloodied but still unbowed. Key Scene Sly on the steps of Philly’s Museum of Art, doing his bouncy victory dance. Best Line “All I wanna do is go the distance.”
What else do you predict will appear on the Top 50 List? Is there a film that SHOULD have made the Top Ten and didn’t?
For the complete list of movies, you’ll have to pick up the December 2003 issue on newsstands.