Top 20 Movies

25,000 = A Lifetime
If you figure that around 535 movies were produced in 2008 alone…in my lifetime there have probably been roughly 25,000 movies made since 1962. Unbelievable.

And I have no clue how many movies I have watched over my lifetime. Growing up my mother use to always yell at me for sitting in front of the TV…as I grew older I had the luxury of hitting the big screen at the movie theatre…and of course watching some of the finest movies ever produced on tape, broadcast, cable, DVD and now pay per view. Then consider throwing in all of the movies that were produced prior to 1962 and you start to gather the pure insanity of trying to limit ones choices to a ridiculous list of only 20. But I contend I am ridiculous.

And The Oscar Goes To
So I ask you…how do you pick a mere 20 films to represent a lifetime of viewing?

A few days ago I listed about a hundred or so of my favorites…and promised I would try to narrow the list to my top picks of all-time. To truly represent the best you need to look at the whole. The best acting, best scripts, best directors, best cinematograhpy, best music, ect.

While I was compiling my favorites I noticed that the same great actors and directors tended to be in my list of top films. Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Tom Hanks, Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Charlton Heston, Kevin Costner, Dustin Hoffman…comedians Bill Murray, Buster Keaton, Michael Keaton all rose to the top. Wyler, Ford, Spielberg, Scorsese, Coen brothers, Gilliam, Hughes, R. Scott, Lucas, Kubrick, Lean, Capra, Lasseter, Cameron, Coppalla, Eastwood and Hitchcock tallied the great directors of films on my list. And as for best actresses K. Hepburn, A. Hepburn, S. Weaver, Close and Grace Kelly all brought their stardom to the screen.

So here you go…disagree if you must (and I’m sure many of you will…which ROCKS!)…but it’s my list and I love these flicks. Some of them may surprise you…some of them surprised me. The list is not in order of my favorite…rather they all are my number one depending on multiple factors.

I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow…but that is what is so great about movies…they always get to take us to another place and another time. Sadly, many of us didn’t get to see these when they first were featured in theatres…but I suspect if we did…we’d have a difficult time arguing one is better than another…for the power of the big screen has no match when you see something for the first time … the first experience…the memory you keep as your own.

1. North By Northwest (1959) – probably one of the best scripts of all time with incredible performances by Cary Grant and the lovely Eva Marie Saint with the perfect spy James Mason.


2. Rope (1948) – Based on the true life story of a couple of young men who felt they could get away with murder for the sport of it all and out smart the world. They ended up in prison and Jimmy Stewart ended up pulling off one of the greatest performances yet to hit the silver screen…he is masterful, as well as, the supporting cast with the brilliant acting and perfect filming of scenes nearly ten minutes in length without any edits…it truly is a masterpiece shot on a single set.


3. Big Country (1958) – A true classic. An all-star cast led by Gregory Peck takes us out west and opens our eyes at the futility of hatred and fighting. A music score that truly is memorable and forgotten genius in directing and cinematography. Thank you William Wyler.


4. Casino Royale (2006) – James Bond at his best. Daniel Craig’s performance allowed us to see Bond like never before…as a diamond in the rough…cold, calculated and vulnerable. It brought back Hollywood of old…taking us around the world with one glorious scene after another.


5. Rocky (1976) – Not only did Rocky fight the great fight…but it was winner of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing…Rocky captured the hearts of all of America this bi-centennial year. This script was truly outstanding.


6. Roman Holiday (1953) Who didn’t fall in love with Audrey Hepburn? This lovely woman who I believe shared a part of her real self with us in every performance owned the screen. And Mr. Peck once again shared with us all why he truly is one of the greatest. Pure Joy.


7. The Quiet Man This romantic comedy in my opinion is one of John Wayne’s finest films if not his finest. The character, love, wit and dialog are incredible. An Irishman’s dream film. I had the chance to trace the steps of this film when I visited Ireland in 2003…lucky me.


8. King Kong (1933) Countless Thanksgivings watching this film with my family became a tradition I cherished. The special effects for its time where remarkable…loaded with charm, great characters and a story that let beauty kill the beast.

king kong

9. Guns of Navarone A cast of truly some of the finest actors ever to capture the screen this World War II epic is fantastic. “By God I’ll use it” Gregory Peck’s finest moment.


10. Rear Window Grace Kelly is mesmerizing…Jimmy Stewart is spot on…it amazes me how Hitchcock lets every frame capture suspense and we rarely ever left the single set featured.


11. Jaws (1975) I saw this film on the big screen the year my family was planning to travel to Florida to see the Gulf of Mexico for the first time. All I remember is walking down to the beach petrified about what ly below the waterline.


12. The General (1926) I could have picked any Buster Keaton film…here is an actor and director who was the original stuntman and understood special effects better then anyone in the history of film. Like Chaplin we always felt for him and rooted for him to rise above what ever he tried to overcome. The true hero.


13. The Great Escape (1963) Steve McQueen’s best performance and like Keaton he performed nearly all his stunts and road a bike better then most motor cross experts. The film based on a true story captured the endearing spirit of freedom. I had the pleasure of meeting and working for one of the men that escaped from that German prison…heroes come in many forms in our world and when you cross their paths you know it and remember it.


14. Lord of the Rings (2001) Glorious fantasy from fabulous literature. New Zealand and the fantasy of another time another place filled with colorful characters filled with honor and purpose.


15. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Childhood memories for adults and kids alike. Some children’s stories just get better on film.


16. Midnight Run (1988) DeNiro and Grodin make an incredible team. A stupid story with fun one liners and terrific acting. Throw in the FBI, the mafia, a few bounty hunters and there you have it.


17. Schindler’s List (1993) The horror of life and death brought into focus as close as any of us will ever come to hell on the screen. If you didn’t cry in this movie you aren’t human.


18. Saving Private Ryan (1998) The first twenty minutes that depict all the stories of War old people in our lives told us and we just smiled with coutesy having no idea what they went through and said wow it must have been rough. We had no idea…and probably still don’t …but they did and they did it for you and I. Hell and it’s fury.


19. The Graduate (1967) Life’s transition from a boy to a man with the wit and realism only Dustin could give to us all. A script that is truly excellent.


20. Papillon (1973) This is my dark horse. And I’m surprised I put it here. The truth is this movie just was…well…damn good.



About Cloonan

Great Work Inspires Great People I’m always excited to see great peoples work. To hear and learn about others and share in their experiences in life, design and business. Who knows maybe someday I might learn something from you and you may read something of interest from me. Cloonan. Thinking Out Loud The opinions and views written in my blog are my personal views and insights…they do not in any way reflect or represent the views of my employer. The goal and spirit of social media is to increase communities, build relationships, share and put your personal perspective on life’s content. That is the purpose of my blog. I welcome all comments positive or negative to my own. Life is about sharing…it is about respect…it is about consideration…sometimes good and sometimes bad. Slainte’
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6 Responses to Top 20 Movies

  1. Alex Cloonan says:

    fun read even though you had some crappy ones in there that i’ve never even heard of, midnight run was a good one though, i wouldnt of that about that one but its an awesome, hilarious movie.

  2. Cloonan says:

    Even though you are smart (and this is mainly due to the fact that you are my son) and add to that the fact that you are now a new Miami University student…you are still wrong about the “crappy ones” comment 🙂

  3. tmac says:

    Cloonan, no wonder you are as warped as you are! First of all, I haven’t watched nearly as many movies. I learned how to read instead. And your list? Ha! I haven’t heard of a few and I’ve only actually seen four of the 20. Boy, you must have a lot of time on your hands!
    Thanks for putting it out there, though — we all need someone to feel superior to!

  4. Cloonan says:

    Tommy me boy…it’s hard to believe you haven’t watched as many movies as I considering you are twice my age. HA!

    BTW…I didn’t realize they taught literature at Iowa? Very cool.

    I do agree with you on the amount of time I have on my hands…I find that I have ample time to watch movies while attending my meetings.

    Cheers…thanks for the read.

  5. Jason says:

    I’m a tad late to the party, but found this after looking at some of your more recent posts, specifically the importance of user experience slideshow.

    But no Godfather I or II on your list? For shame. For shame. But an interesting list, nonetheless. I guess I like gangster films, as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and City of God would have to be on my list of top 20 or so. I’ve seen 17 of your 20… sadly, I’ve never seen Guns of the Navarone or Big Country. That will change.

    • Cloonan says:

      Godfather could have snuck in there for sure…I think I’m just burned out on it. Pulp an reservoir are great but not top 20…maybe top 30 🙂 I appreciate the read…where’s your list? You’ll love Guns of Navarone…Gregory Peck kicks arse!

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