July 16, 2021 (Updated: January 15, 2022)

Watching the Top 100 Highest-Rated Movies: #41-50

This post is part of an ongoing series where my wife and I watch the top 100 highest-rated movies of all time. You can learn more about the challenge itself, and you can see all of the movies we've watched under the tag #top-100-highest-rated-movies. You can also check out the previous post in the series where we watched movies #51-60.

#50. North by Northwest (1959)

North by Northwest, Β© 1959 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Ernest Lehman
Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Jessie Royce Landis

Did we like it? Evan: πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈπŸ‘, Sarah: πŸ‘Ž
Would we watch it again? πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈπŸ‘Ž

It was a bit hokey and predictable at times, but overall a fun and engaging watch. I've seen this movie referenced and parodied all over the place, which really speaks to its place in movie history. It also confirmed that I definitely enjoy Hitchcock movies. And the ending was ridiculously abrupt.

(Oh and hey, we're at the halfway mark for The Challenge! We started this in May 2020, so it took us a little less than a year to watch 50 movies. I think that's a bit faster than we thought it would take.)

#49. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Cinemagraph of Raiders of the Lost Ark (Β© 1981 Paramount Pictures) by Floris Kloet / Tech Noir

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan
Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott

Did we like it? Evan πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈπŸ‘, Sarah: πŸ‘Ž
Would we watch it again? Evan: πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈπŸ‘Ž, Sarah: πŸ‘Ž

I think this is the first time I've actually seen this movie, although I was familiar with most of it thanks to its immense pop culture presence. My all-time favorite is the third movie in the series (The Last Crusade) which I've seen many times, and I think I've only seen Temple of Doom once which I made the mistake of watching as a kid and then was terrified for life (I could imagine having a similar experience with Raiders; some of the opening scenes were remarkably gory!)

Overall, it was pretty good. I'm sure it was crazy exciting to see a movie like this when it first came out, but because of how much crazier action movies have gotten over the past several decades, it's hard to fully appreciate that due to desensitization. The ending also was pretty abrupt and underwhelming.

But if I had to watch only one Indiana Jones movie, it'd still be The Last Crusade.

#48. Double Indemnity (1944)

Double Indemnity, Β© 1944 Paramount Pictures

Directed by Billy Wilder
Screenplay by Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler
Based on Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather, Byron Barr, Richard Gaines, John Philliber

Did we like it? πŸ‘
Would we watch it again? πŸ‘

Very suspenseful. We enjoyed it, baby.

#47. Umberto D. (1952)

Umberto D., Β© 1952 Dear Film

Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Written by Cesare Zavattini (story and screenplay)
Starring Carlo Battisti, Maria-Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari, Ileana Simova, Elena Rea, Memmo Carotenuto

Did we like it? πŸ‘Ž
Would we watch it again? πŸ‘Ž

This was an Italian film that we watched with subtitles. Like #91: City of God (2002), this movie starred mainly non-professional actors, including the main character, which is interesting. But my goodness, this was a depressing movie. We had to watch some Hot Ones as a palate cleanser afterwards!

#46. Yojimbo (Japanese: 用心棒) (1961)

Yojimbo, Β© 1961 Tohu

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Screenplay by Ryūzō Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni
Starring, Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yoko Tsukasa, Isuzu Yamada, Daisuke Katō, Takashi Shimura, Kamatari Fujiwara, Atsushi Watanabe

Did we like it? Evan: πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈπŸ‘Ž, Sarah: πŸ‘Ž
Would we watch it again? πŸ‘Ž

This was my first time seeing a Kurosawa film, but I recognize its style and themes from all the movies that have paid homage (or parodied it). I didn't really love it, but the main character was cool and I liked the imagery of him especially at the end.

#45. Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

Per our Ground Rules, since this part of a film series, we're delaying it until we get to the highest rated movie in the list (which is #33: Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)).

#44. The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight, Β© 2008 Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Based on characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics
Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman

Did we like it? πŸ‘πŸ‘
Would we watch it again? πŸ‘

This is a really great film, and respect to the older movies on this list - which most of them are - but it is so nice getting a big budget modern movie in here as well.

Two things:

First: The IMAX shots in this film are just spectacular. We started streaming this on HBO Max (which, by the way, seems to have almost every movie available on The List, which has been awesome), but all of the IMAX scenes were shown in letterbox. So I tried streaming it on Hulu (which was a nice surprise), and again, no IMAX shots!

I did some digging, and apparently none of the digital versions of this movie include the IMAX shots in their original aspect ratio. Luckily, this movie came out back when buying physical media was still a thing (at least for me), so I switched over to the Blu-ray version and: wow. It may sound superficial, but those IMAX scenes are so gorgeous and I really think they make the film meaningfully better to watch.

Second (and some spoilers, so if you somehow haven't seen this movie since it came out 13 years ago, don't click into the section below):

Spoilers for The Dark Knight inside - click to reveal

When Joker reveals the location of Harvey Dent and Rachel, and tells Batman that he has to pick one to save, Batman tells the cops he's going after Rachel and they go after Dent. 

When Batman shows up and saves Dent instead, which was a great twist in theaters, I always thought that was because he lied and decided to save Dent because he knew he was more important to the Greater Good than Rachel (which is even more noble, since he loved Rachel). 

But after watching it again, it's clear that my interpretation was incorrect. Joker lied to Batman about who was at each address; Batman truly intended to save Rachel but was tricked into saving Harvey. Two birds, one stone: Joker hurt both Batman and Harvey simultaneously. 

The part that made it confusing for me was that Batman didn't seem to act surprised at all when he shows up and finds Harvey, which was the main reason I always thought Batman did the switcheroo on purpose.

And finally: that eerie, atonal, tense violin theme they play whenever Joker is doing something diabolical? πŸ’―πŸ’―πŸ’―

#43. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Apocalypse Now, Β© 1979 United Artists

Directed by Francis Coppola
Written by John Milius, Francis Coppola
Starring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Larry Fishburne, Dennis Hopper

Did we like it? πŸ‘
Would we watch it again? πŸ‘

Disclaimer: We watched the 'Final Cut' version that was released in 2019. Normally, per the Ground Rules, we watch the theatrical releases for movies on this list (I'm looking at you, theatrical-edition LotRs), but the Final Cut of this movie was remastered in 4K by rescanning the source material, and was "enhanced with Dolby Atmos" (Atmos!) so I just couldn't pass it up. And look at the art for the cover of this edition above. Look at it! Whoever created it deserves some kind of medal.

This was my time seeing Apocalypse Now. A "psychological black comedy set during the Vietnam war" is an apt description. I was very certain it was intended to be an anti-war film because of the blatant absurdism it contained (surfing during a napalm raid, for example), but from what I read afterwards, that wasn't Coppola's intention. Β―_(ツ)_/Β―

The cinematography is what really makes this film stand out. It was incredible. You could put this film on a OLED TV with no sound at a modern art museum and I wouldn't ask any questions. The lighting, shadows, the smoke and fog... it was just gorgeous. And it won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, no less.

Anyway, reading the Wikipedia article about the film afterwards was particularly delightful. All kinds of mayhem ensued while trying to make it (Sheen had a breakdown and secret heart attack while filming, sets were destroyed by hurricanes, Brando showed up completely unprepared and a mess, Coppola basically took a second mortgage on his winery to make it...). It was wild. I'm told there's a documentary and I'm pretty eager to check that out.

Bonus: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)

Hearts of Darkness: A filmmaker's Apocalypse, Β© 1991 Triton Pictures

Not on The List, but this is the documentary about the tumultuous creation of Apocalypse Now (1979) that came out 12 years after the movie was released. It was fascinating seeing all of the turmoil, and honestly, it made me respect Coppola quite a bit more as a leader who persevered through some very challenging circumstances.

#42. Three Colors: Red (French: Trois Couleurs: Rouge) (1994)

Three Colors: Red, Β© 1994 MK2 Diffusion

Directed by Krzysztof KieΕ›lowski
Written by, Krzysztof KieΕ›lowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Starring Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Frederique Feder

Did we like it? Evan: πŸ‘, Sarah: πŸ‘
Would we watch it again? πŸ‘Ž

We watched this movie in French with English subtitles.

This is the third film in a loosely-coupled trilogy that explores the three themes of the French Revolutionary ideals: liberty, equality, and fraternity (with Red being focused on the latter). Despite many recommendations, we decided to only watch Red since it was the only one on The List (and hey, we've got Citizen Kane up next folks, we gotta keep this train rolling). I figured we can come back in the future and watch Blue and White if we wanted to do the full series justice.

I'm not really sure what to make of this one. There were clearly several artistic motifs in play throughout the movie: red everything, telephones, broken glass, consistent relative positioning of characters in scenes, and I'm told there were also some biblical references. But I gotta say, it didn't really connect with me. It almost seemed like there was going to be a little science fiction / supernatural stuff towards the end, which started to grab my attention, but nothing much came of it. I did appreciate the character development and bonds that emerged towards the end of the story, but it just felt... a bit shallow.

#41. Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane, Β© 1941 RKO Radio Pictures

Directed by Orson Welles
Screenplay by Herman Mankiewicz, Orson Welles
Starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, Ray Collins, George Coulouris, Agnes Moorehead, Paul Stewart, Ruth Warrick, Erskine Sanford, William Alland

Did we like it? Evan: πŸ‘, Sarah: πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈπŸ‘Ž
Would we watch it again? Evan: πŸ‘, Sarah: πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈπŸ‘Ž

Overall I liked this a lot, and it was way ahead of its time from a storytelling and cinematic perspective. I was most impressed by Orson Welles only being 26 years old when he wrote, directed, and starred in this movie, and the work they did with old age practical effects was really great considering how old this movie is (except for perhaps the Elderly Kane stuff). The movie got a bit slow through the middle, but aside from that, consider me impressed.

The only downside: Because this is a super famous movie, I knew the ending and major themes already, and I've probably seen it parodied a dozen times. But hey, now I know all the stuff in between.

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If you liked this, you should check out the next post in the series where we watch movies #31-40.

Want to see more posts about our challenge to watch the top 100 highest-rated movies of all time? Check out the tag #top-100-highest-rated-movies, and you should also sign up for my newsletter (it's free!) to get automatically notified when I make new posts in the series.