"It might be interesting if people at Anyport decided to give us a list of movies that they have found important or rewarding in any way and explain why. It would be better than saying "I don't like xyz but in any case I have never seen any xyz movie.""
I enjoy films that show the world a certain culture existing at that time. Usually a culture that might be well known by many who then can't understand how it has passed others by. I'm not necessarily commenting on the 'quality' of the film nor if it was the first, but the one that I feel encapsulated that era/culture/activity.
An example is Saturday Night Fever. Disco at it's height. It was actually the years I spend a long time being associated with nightclubs as both a customer and as an employee. Another is Quadrophenia. The Mod culture shown in all its gory and glory. Zulu. Outdated, over acted, inaccurate to a degree, but shows how the British Empire looked through rose tinted specs. Stiff upper lips, death to the upstart natives, bravery in the face of overwhelming odds (mostly true as evidenced by the amount of VC's issued), a marvellous and tragic final scene and all the better for the spine chilling Zulu chants prior to the attack.
I think that we will all find films to add as we go. My first thought was to list the top 3 films, no the top 5 films and then no, no limit because different films affect us as we go all through our lives, just as books do, places we go and people we meet. I remember Zulu very well, just as I consider it amazing that it reached my Mississippi backwater town when I was still a child. For some reason, movies from the rest of the world were arriving there in that period of the early 1960's. There were no ratings back then so I saw things that were often cut out of the film the very next day -- Blow Up, Alfie, Divorce Italian Style... I told my brother that I had seen Jane Birkin rolling around naked on photo paper, and when my brother went to see the movie the very next day, it was already gone. Projectionists had a lot of work to do back then.
My own movies that marked me in my early days were The Trouble With Angels, Dr. Zhivago and La Salamandre. Like a lot of American born children, I spent my early days seeing almost exclusively various Disney movies, which of course I loved but when you think about them, there was not much to them. I had discovered Hayley Mills in the Disney flicks, but The Trouble With Angels killed me when I saw it. If you have not seen it, it is about rowdy girls in a religious boarding school (funny to think now that "rowdy" in those days amounted maybe to smoking a cigarette). So anyway, they get up to various antics over the years and are punished accordingly and finally they are about to be released to the free world. But one of the girls announces that she has decided to become a nun. The fact that anybody would do such a thing absolutely devastated me, and I have never recovered from her decision.
Dr. Zhivago was one of the first "adult" movies that I saw (although I saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof when I was about 6. My mother clearly wanted to see it so much and had no child care solution that she took me with her. I understood absolutely nothing about what was going on but never forgot Elizabeth Taylor yelling a lot while wearing only a slip -- that's what marked me.). Anyway, Dr. Zhivago fascinated me because it took place in an exotic world with communists (!) and a lot of passion.
Finally, there is the Swiss film La Salamandre. It is perhaps the first movie that I made an "effort" to see, knowing that it was subtitled in black and white (even Divorce Italian Style, back when I saw it, had been dubbed in English). I had seen a few Fellini movies already, but they were supposed to be extravagant and easy to absorb. I don't remember what information made me want to see it, but I went to the lonely cinema in Los Angeles where it was showing, and I was absolutely stunned by what I saw. It's about a sausage factory worker who might have tried to shoot her uncle, maybe not, and the investigation by two bumbling reporters trying to make sense of the event. She is totally elusive ("like a salamander") and nothing ever becomes clear. I had never imagined that a movie could be like this, with no resolution and with so many possibilities. It changed the way I look at cinema forever and is quite possibly responsible for my far ranging cinematic tastes today.
In any case, I don't go to the movies to relax. I am looking for something.
Obviously I will have other movies about which to talk soon.
I have seen Zulu at least 20 times. I love this movie. I am much into war movies and I also love the longest day and a bridge too far both from Cornelius Ryan books. I tend now to like movies of the 50's where the soldiers talk a lot and where you don't have much action as opposed to saving private Ryan.
One movie that came to mind when reading the long intro was Birdy. Because it is about friendship and damages that a war can insidiously do.
I loved watching all the Hammer Films' vampire movies, and any adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe - all of them seemed to feature Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Basil Rathbone and lots of blood. Good for teenage revenge fantasies...
But the one that I identified with most was "To Kill A Mockingbird". It was real life as I knew it in New Orleans, and I was always Scout.
My older sister used to sneak me in to the Gentilly Arts theatre, which showed foreign films in French. The exception was the Italian "Satyricon", which had me wondering about hermaphrodites for a long time.
Janus films were shown on TV - mostly British and French. "Two for the Road", "The Pumpkin Eater" and "Jules et Jim" and "La Belle et la Bete" were those I liked best, because they seemed more like real life than the movies.
Even though I went to the movies a lot even as a kid, I don't remember any of them especially, so they were certainly not noteworthy. The first movies I remember as being films I have not forgotten were in the late 60s and then the 70s, when there were so many good American movies: The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, Bonnie & Clyde, Bullitt, and the early Woody Allen films, Manhattan and Annie Hall, MASH, Five Easy Pieces.
Coming back, I realize I didn't mention anything recent. The best film I have seen in the past years has been The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza).