A while back, I made a list of 10 favorite movies made before I was. Here are my top picks of films that came out since my date of birth.
Several of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies made my list of favorites released before my birthdate. Hitchcock, I’m sad to say, doesn’t appear in this list of 10. I could name plenty of movies made since 1969 that I enjoyed. But I found it to be a challenge to narrow it down to just 10. How many of these would you call a favorite?
One of the most popular films that always make lists of the best 20th-century films is 1972’s The Godfather. You won’t find it here. I’ve never been into Mafia movies, but if I had to pick a favorite in that genre, I suppose I’d pick 1990’s GoodFellas, which also isn’t in my top 10.
I like some science fiction, but I had to decide between the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises for a slot here.
Most of what qualifies as “comedy” these days doesn’t strike me as all that funny, but I found a few comedies — or dramadies — to include.
So here goes with my picks for my favorite movies that debuted after I was born. I list them here in no particular order.
1. ‘Foul Play’ (1978)
I mentioned that Alfred Hitchcock made the list of older movies a few times. His work also appeared in my Patrick’s 100 lists of favorite films. But this drama-comedy spoofed Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. It had a lot of suspense moments around the laughs that mimicked the master of suspense.
Goldie Hawn played a naive blonde who inadvertently ends up in the middle of an assassination plot about which she knows nothing. Chevy Chase played the San Francisco detective who investigates the plot and why she’s a target. Of course, they fall in love and thus begins a screwball comedy and a race to prevent a high-profile murder.
You’ll find unforgettable performances from Burgess Meredith as Hawn’s landlord and Dudley Moore as an oversexed orchestra conductor.
I find it strange that this movie doesn’t seem to be available on any streaming channels. You can’t even buy it on Amazon Prime. I do have the DVD, but I would expect it to be more available by now.
2. ‘On Golden Pond’ (1981)
Its trailer calls On Golden Pond a “very special motion picture,” and I couldn’t agree more. Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn play Norman and Ethyl Thayer, an aging couple who return to their summer home in New England. Norman is about to turn 80 and is struggling with accepting his own mortality.
Jane Fonda plays their estranged daughter who wants to build a relationship with her father before it’s too late. The actress said it was, to a degree, a case of art imitating life. She bought the rights to Ernest Thompson’s stage play to be able to produce the film specifically for her father. Henry Fonda won a well-deserved Oscar for his performance. Hepburn also won an Oscar for her performance.
I’ve seen it staged since that film, but to me, Henry Fonda captured that role so well, I just can’t fully get into anyone else playing Thayer.
3. ‘Murder By Death’ (1976)
This film, written by Neil Simon, edged out 1985’s Clue to make my list. Murder By Death takes on a bevy of “famous” detectives spoofing the likes of Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Charlie Chan and Nick and Nora Charles. The sleuths gather at a creepy mansion for a dinner party. It is there they find they’ve been called upon to solve the murder of their host, Mr. Lionel Train. Train is very much alive when he explains the challenge they face.
Simon’s writing and the all-star cast mesh perfectly for a witty comedy. Truman Capote plays their sinister host. And watch for Alec Guinness who plays blind butler Bensonmum.
4. ‘The In-Laws’ (1979)
Peter Falk and Alan Arkin team up as a perfect odd couple in this suspense comedy. Arkin plays Sheldon Kornpett, an uptight, straight-lace dentist. Falk, meanwhile, plays Vincent Ricardo, a mysterious “travel agent” who actually works for the CIA. Kornpett’s daughter is set to marry Ricardo’s son. But before the wedding can happen, Vince unintentionally involves Sheldon in an international counterfeit money conspiracy. It’s up to Vince to crack the case. Unfortunately, it’s up to Sheldon to help Vince stay alive long enough to do so.
The laughs keep coming as the bullets fly.
One of my favorite scenes involves the pair arriving in a foreign country to meet a corrupt senator who’s involved in the operation. When snipers attempt to take them out, Vince has one word for Sheldon to avoid being shot: “Serpentine.”
Have a look:
5. ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ (1982)
It came down to a choice between the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises for this list of favorite movies since 1969. Star Trek won, and this film, the second in a long series of movies, takes the top prize in my book. For one thing, it’s a major improvement over Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was all about special effects almost to the exclusion of the characters. This second film brings back villain Khan from the original series episode “Space Seed.” Ricardo Montalban plays a superhuman filled with rage over the death of his wife, which he blames on William Shatner’s Captain Kirk.
It has all of the elements that made the television series famous and launched a long line of films from there.
Most curious was that Leonard Nimoy reportedly wouldn’t agree to return unless he was promised it would be the end of the line for Spock. The rumor mill went to work, spoiling news that Spock would die. So his “death” in an early scene, which turns out to be a pretend demise in a battle simulator, left fans off-guard for what would come toward the end.
Fortunately for Star Trek fans, Nimoy agreed to return for the third film — and many more after that.
6. ‘Poltergeist’ (1982)
There were a few great horror and suspense movies that came out in the 1970s and 1980s. But I placed Poltergeist ahead of Jaws and Halloween for this supernatural thriller. It focuses on a family whose home turns out to be the focal point of a supernatural phenomenon. Five-year-old Carol Ann is abducted into a different realm and the family must find a way to find her.
The father in the midst of the fight to find a way to get his daughter back learns his subdivision was built on a former cemetery. Ghosts, apparently, have no sense of humor about such things.
Steven Spielberg, who also directed Jaws, helmed this thriller. Just when you think it’s safe, the danger is back and the terror continues to a climax complete with unearthed coffins and skeletons in a swimming pool from hell.
7. ‘WarGames’ (1983)
One of my favorite movies on the older list is Fail-Safe which tells the story of computers getting out of control and unintentionally threatening the start of World War III. This film takes a similar tack with computer nerd David Lightman (played by Matthew Broderick) logging on to what he thinks is a software company’s game site. Instead, it’s a secret access point to NORAD.
Lightman thinks he’s getting a sneak peek at a soon-to-be-released computer game called “Global Thermonuclear War.” But his game play puts NORAD on high alert. Can he stop World War III before it starts?
“What’s the ultimate goal?” Lightman asks the computer, nicknamed Joshua.
“To win the game,” it answers.
It’s a race against time and the ultimate man vs. computer simulation.
8. ‘The Hunt for Red October’ (1990)
Tom Clancy’s novel made a great action movie with Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery. Connery plays Russian submarine Captain Marko Ramius who decides, along with his senior officers to defect. (It was still the Cold War, keep in mind.) Baldwin is CIA analyst Jack Ryan who seems to be the only one able to figure out the legendary soviet captain’s real motives.
But the Soviet ambassador warns his American counterpart that Ramius, whom the Soviets haven’t been able to find, is a loose cannon determined to attack the U.S. coast.
That begins an undersea game of cat and mouse as both the American and Soviet naval fleets race to find the nuclear submarine Red October before either side finds him.
9. ‘Manhattan Murder Mystery’ (1993)
I have to admit that I’ve never been a Woody Allen fan. This particular movie is not the one most people think of when they hear his name. But somehow, I stumbled on this one and happened to see it from the beginning. The quick one-liners just flowed so well.
Allen and Diane Keaton play a married couple whose elderly neighbor may have murdered his wife. At least, that’s what Allen’s wife begins to believe. Allen likewise begins to think his wife is losing her mind, telling her to “save a little craziness for menopause.”
But slowly, she begins to convince him that her crazy idea might just be the truth. At one point, having seen a clue, she tells him he’s white as a sheet.
“All the blood rushed to my brother,” he answers.
Angelica Huston and Alan Alda certainly helped keep the action and the comedy going. The ending pays tribute to an Orson Welles film in an old movie theater.
Have a sample here:
10. ‘The Green Mile’ (1999)
The youngest movie on this list is a prison picture that, for me, takes an edge over The Shawshank Redemption. Tom Hanks plays Paul Edgecomb, the head guard of death row at a Louisiana Prison.
But the story begins in a home for the aged with an elderly Edgecomb telling the story about his time on death row and the long green corridor (dubbed “the Green Mile) that led to “Old Sparky,” the state’s electric chair. He talks about one inmate in particular, John Coffey, a large Black inmate of menacing size but gentle demeanor.
We learn Coffey faces the death penalty for the murder of two young white sisters. But as the movie progresses, we learn that he is innocent. More than that, he has a supernatural power of knowing things and miraculous healing.
If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil it for you, but Hanks and John Clark Duncan as Coffee hand in superior performances. The movie will definitely move you.
Well, that’s my list of favorite movies made since I was born.