Some laughs, some scares, some futuristic visions, and... who's that guy swimming in my backyard pool?
(1) The Producers
Mel Brooks’ directorial debut is still hilarious, indicated by the fact that he could add a few songs to it and make it a Broadway hit more than 30 years later. “Springtime for Hitler” is not only ridiculous, it’s a really catchy tune! (NOTE: When I first did this list, the movie’s release date was set as 1968. Apparently, someone on IMDB discovered a brief theatrical run in 1967. I started to move it to that year but realized it would be much further down on the list so I kept it at the top of 1968.)
(2) The Odd Couple
My favorite Neil Simon comedy and my favorite pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. My wife and I quote lines from this movie to each other endlessly: “Here... here, I knew I was winning too much”... “It’s either very new cheese or very old meat”... “Now it’s garbage”... “Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Unger”... and ON AND ON.
(3) Night of the Living Dead
The movie is so raw and unapologetic, it tops my list of the scariest movies of all time. George Romero and his friends created the modern idea of the zombie and changed the horror movie forever with its use of gore.
(4) Rosemary's Baby
Roman Polanski’s twist on gothic horror would also be near the top of my scariest movies list. Thankfully, the studio insisted Polanski direct, rather than B-movie director William Castle, who became the film’s producer. Favorite chilling line: “He has his father’s eyes.”
(5) Planet of the Apes
The movie is iconic, of course, with four sequels, a television series, and two remakes, the last one having spawned its own sequel and another one planned. It has memorable lines (“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”) and ironic images (the orangutan tribunal taking the “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” pose in the courtroom), but I love the spookiness of the first several minutes of the movie before the apes show up as the astronauts explore the Forbidden Zone, punctuated by Jerry Goldsmith’s avant-garde score.
Campy, sexy, ridiculous – the movie is so much fun and represents the late sixties so well.
(7) 2001: A Space Odyssey
I might be criticized for putting Planet of the Apes above this movie, but I grew up watching Apes and love it more. I had to watch this one three times before I made it all the way through, and then I found myself saying, “Wha???” However, it’s one of the most important science fiction films of all time, with dazzling special effects and a sense of humor.
Peter Bogdanovich’s first directorial work symbolizes the transition from traditional gothic horror to modern tales of terror based on real monsters. Boris Karloff plays a retiring horror actor who confronts a character based on the University of Texas sniper Charles Whitman. The final scene is awesome!
(9) Finian's Rainbow
I really like this musical with Fred Astaire in one of his last musical roles, a leprechaun, a magical pot of gold, and a racist played by Keenan Wynn, who gets his comeuppance.
(10) The Swimmer
I enjoyed watching this crazy movie when I was a kid, even though I didn’t understand it until I read John Cheever’s original short story years later. Burt Lancaster swims across one backyard pool to another in his suburban neighborhood, encountering conflict after conflict.