Every Serious Movie Fan (also known as a SMF, not to be confused with that other SMF) has a GMSL, or Great Movie Shame List. This list consists of movies that you, as a SMF, are ashamed to have not yet seen. (If you really want to take it to another level, you re-rank the movies, at least the top ten, every six months based on new information or how you feel. Would that be slightly OCD? Well, uh, I don’t do that, but you could.)
In theory, the SMF is supposed to steadily check movies off the GMSL, and of course new movies are constantly added as your love and knowledge of film grows. You’re not required to only watch these classics, but any serious SMF (which, if you’re counting, makes that serious Serious Movie Fan) should have a ratio of no less then 1 out of every 3 of every movie watched come from the List.
I’m moderately proud of my own list. When the American Film Institute came out with their 100 Greatest American Movies back in ’98 I put every one of them I hadn’t seen on my List. I’ve since whittled my way down, and still intend to see the last few, although I’ve since learned that some of those films only made the list for posterity’s sake, and aren’t on my Shame List.
My List has morphed, changed over the years, to the point where it now includes mostly films that the average film watcher hasn’t even heard of, let alone seen.
(And can I just pause for a moment to address the inevitable backlash of no-good whiners who claim they don’t have the time? Bullshit. Over the last 6 months I’ve put in an average of 70+ hours/week working, and that includes vacation. And, I have no disposable income. And yet I managed to read over 100 books and cross 15 movies off my Shame List. If it’s important to you, you do it. Maybe it’s not important to you. Maybe you’re content to wait for the latest Hollywood dreck to spill into the multiplexes, happy to trudge to the theatre and see what they tell you, or better yet, wander aimlessly around Blockbuster for 20 minutes before selecting a movie that has a “#X Most Rented!” next to it. That’s your life and you’re welcome to it, but you know how you complain to your spouse when you get home how they didn’t have anything? Stop that. You’re just too lazy to do research. Any local video store has hundreds of movies you haven’t seen, many of which you should see before watching FAILURE TO LAUNCH or ZOOLANDER. You particularly have no excuses: you have access to me! You could always write me and say, “Hyperion, can you give me a list of Essential Movies I Should Watch?” From any year, from any genre, from any decent actor, director or producer I would have happy to spend an hour thinking about it and get back to you. But what do you do? Sigh. I digress)
If you’re looking to start your Great Movie Shame List, a good place to start is the AFI’s Top 100 Films of all time. I’m not saying I agree with all of their choices (and they are just American films, but best to start slow if you’re a newbie). However: these films are all great, and if you haven’t seen them, there is something wrong with you. Let’s take a look at the Top 10:
1. CITIZEN KANE (1941)
3. THE GODFATHER (1972)
4. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
OF LAWRENCE ARABIA(1962)
6. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
7. THE GRADUATE (1967)
8. ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)
9. SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993)
10. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952)
I assume most of you have seen these, but just in case you haven’t, you should make it your mission in life to catch up.
Assuming you’ve seen these basics, and you want to be a Second Level Serious Movie Fan, I’m going to make a list of 20 more films that need to be on your list. I’m not spending 6 hours with this, so I’m not claiming this is the definitive list. I’m not even claiming all these movies are great. (I don’t like some of them.) I’m simply saying that a SMF should have seen them.
I’ll do four per decade, just for now. Once Kapgar and I get our Movie Initiative off the Ground, we’re actually going to sit around and come up with the definitive list
Films and Serious Movie Fan damn-well better have seen
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
12 ANGRY MEN
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (Special note: This movie does not hold up well, and wasn’t super awesome to begin with—clearly not understanding teens—but has been so copied, referenced and used by future generations, it’s essential)
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
SOUND OF MUSIC
WEST SIDE STORY
GODFATHER I and II
RAIDERS OF THE LOST
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
HAMLET (1996 Kenneth Branaugh version)
GOOD WILL HUNTING
Again, these movies ARE NOT ARE NOT ARE NOT necessarily the best of the decade, although some are. These movies are just 4 from each decade I came up with off the top of my head that you absolutely without a doubt should have seen if you aspire to be a Serious Movie Fan. As you can see, it’s not all scary old black and white films.
Now, get cracking, and let me know if I can help.