The Best of the Best of the Best on Netflix

Why not watch the best of the best? Netflix has ten of the American Film Institute’s top 50 films. I don’t recommend The Birth of a Nation except as a racist historical oddity but the others are all solid choices.

Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia (#5)

Follows a brilliant, flamboyant and controversial British military figure and his conflicted loyalties during wartime service.”

Sunset Boulevard (#12)

A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity.”

All About Eve (#16)

An ingenue insinuates herself in to the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends.

Chinatown

Chinatown (#19)

A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and murder.”

Apocalypse Now (#28)

During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.

Annie Hall (#31)

Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditsy Annie Hall.”

High Noon

High Noon (#33)

A marshal, personally compelled to face a returning deadly enemy, finds that his own town refuses to help him.

To Kill a Mockingbird (#34)

Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice.”

The Birth of a Nation (#44)

Two brothers, Phil and Ted Stoneman, visit their friends in Piedmont, South Carolina: the family Cameron. This friendship is affected by the Civil War, as the Stonemans and the Camerons must join up opposite armies. The consequences of the War in their lives are shown in connection to major historical events, like the development of the Civil War itself, Lincoln’s assassination, and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (#50)

Two Western bank/train robbers flee to Bolivia when the law gets too close.”

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Trains = Money week

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – Rated PG

Legendary outlaws Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) display their gifts for perfect comedic timing and charisma as they pull off heist after heist in this Academy Award-winning film from director George Roy Hill. To evade a relentless posse, the boys flee to Bolivia, thinking they’ll find easier pickings there. But trouble finds the charming desperadoes wherever they go, prompting yet another run.

“Think you used enough dynamite there Butch?”

George Roy Hill directed his masterpiece here from a script by the prolific William Goldman (The Princess Bride, Misery). Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is only peripherally a western. It begins with a wonderful credits sequence alongside “footage” of the Wild Bunch/Hole in the Wall gang and then segues into a nice sepia-toned scene followed by segueing into full color. Although Godfather II used sepia better, Butch predates Coppola’s film by several years. The film then touches on a few random events for the Wild Bunch before our three leads hightail it for Bolivia.

Butch Cassidy won four Oscars: Best Writing (William Goldman), Best Cinematography (Conrad Hall), Best Music (Burt Bacharach) and Best Song (Burt Bacharach, Raindrops Keep Fallin on my Head). It was also nominated for Best Sound, Best Director and Best Picture but lost to Hello,Dolly for Sound and Midnight Cowboy for director and picture. Please keep in mind that while Raindrops is now elevator fodder, it was very popular 40 years ago.

Paul Newman was already an ‘A’ lister when this came out but Butch Cassidy is probably the role he is best remembered for. Robert Redford had a few lead roles before this but this is the movie that made him a star. Their camaraderie is infectious and would lead to them being paired again in The Sting (also by George Roy Hill). Katherine Ross fills out the requisite romantic triangle as Etta Place.

There are plenty of other people in the film but this is primarily a vehicle for Newman and Redford – even Katharine Ross seems pushed to the side at time. George Furth as Woodcock provides several laughs and Ted Cassidy makes a good foil as Harvey Logan. Cloris Leachman and Kenneth Mars would seem to point to this being a comedy and while Butch is quite funny in spots, it is more of a light drama than a comedy.

George Roy Hill keeps the atmosphere very light in spite of the story being that of the downfall of the Hole in the Wall gang. We never see what happens to any of the members after Butch and Sundance head for Bolivia but trust me, historically it does not go well for any of them.

Sidenote: For a marvelous postscript to this story, see the independent film Blackthorn starring Sam Shepard or put it in your Netflix DVD queue.

People Watch: Perennial westerner Sam Elliott makes his film debut as Card Player #2. He would eventually marry co-star Katherine Ross although they didn’t meet until they filmed The Legacy (1978).