TV Guide Magazine offers their picks for the perfect flicks to catch on television or pop into your Blu Ray player. From hundreds of the magazine’s four-star titles, they chose the movies that play particularly well on the small screen and hold up to repeated viewings. Their one golden standard: how much fun they are to watch. These are the films — from Chaplin to Hanks, Kane to Vader — that represent the Hollywood dream machine at its most inspired. They have plenty of monsters and heroes, saints, sinners and, of course, more than a gangster or two. A movie is noted when black and white (BW) and when a video is available in letterbox format.
Here is part 1. (41-50)
50. Bride of Frankenstein (1935), 75 minutes, Not Rated (NR), BW
A spark of real wit surges through this classic, easily the best of the Universal monster movies. Director James Whale, one of Hollywood’s founding eccentrics, used his sophisticated humor to expand the boundaries of the chiller genre, and a fright-wigged Elsa Lanchester turned a few minutes of screen time into one of the most enduring images in horror. But it’s the exquisitely weird actor Ernest Thesiger’s performance as the effete Dr. Pretorius that secures a place for “Bride” among that rare group of Hollywood films: sequels better than the originals.
49. Dirty Harry (1971), 102 minutes, Rated R, Letterbox
Originally rebuked by critics as a fascist fantasy, “Dirty Harry” nonetheless gave Clint Eastwood his best role as Harry Callahan, a renegade cop whose .44 Magnum could blow a hole in the ozone. This superbly made thriller stands as one of the most influential films in the crime genre, inspiring four sequels and countless rip-offs. Directed with cold-blooded expertise by Eastwood’s mentor, Don Siegel, “Dirty Harry” eschews traditional cops-and-robbers histrionics for a morally complex and disturbing study of evil and contains several brilliant action scenes and a complicated title character who could play good cop/bad cop all by himself.
48. The Quiet Man (1952), 129 minutes, NR
Perhaps the most enjoyable of the numerous collaborations between director John Ford and star John Wayne, “The Quiet Man” is full of characters as colorful as its Irish vistas. Wayne plays an Irish-American boxer seeking refuge in Erin after accidentally killing an opponent in the ring. But instead of peace, he finds culture shock, love with a fiery colleen (Maureen O’Hara) and fisticuffs with her “big, bellowing bully” of a brother (Victor McLaglen). All in all, a grand bit of the blarney.
47. Cabaret (1972), 128 minutes, Rated PG
In the year of “The Godfather,” “Cabaret” managed to win eight Oscars, including Best Director, Actress and Supporting Actor. Under Bob Fosse’s ultra-stylized direction, “Cabaret” also dragged the Hollywood musical into the modern era. Liza Minnelli, in her first filmed singing role, is a thrill as the starry-eyed Sally Bowles, an American in 1931 Berlin performing at the tawdry Kit Kat Klub, where the divinely decadent entertainment parallels the rise of Nazism outside. Integrating social satire with smashing production numbers (including “The Money Song” and the showstopping title number), Fosse created a landmark film from a genre most thought dead.
46. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), 112 minutes, Rated PG
One of the screen’s great buddy teams was born when Paul Newman and Robert Redford saddled up for this rollicking comic western about two legendary outlaws. With a gleam in his baby blues, Newman dazzles as Butch, while Redford became a superstar with his self-deprecating portrayal of the dashing, trigger-happy Sundance. Burt Bacharach’s bouncy score includes “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
45. Top Hat (1935), 99 minutes, NR, BW
Ginger Rogers. Fred Astaire. Irving Berlin. You want more? OK, a supporting cast topped by Edward Everett Horton and some of the fanciest footwork ever committed to film. The fourth of the 10 Astaire-Rogers matchups, this is the one with Fred’s tour de force choreography for the title song and the two stars dancing “Cheek to Cheek” — as blatant and beautiful an example of dance-as-sex as ever graced a musical. And look for Lucille Ball in the bit role of a flower-shop girl. Released by RKO a few years later, she got the last laugh by buying the entire studio in 1958.
44. Babe (1995), 92 minutes, Rated G
This charming fable about a plucky pig with “an unprejudiced heart” is a delightful children’s movie that’s just as beguiling for adults. The Oscar-winning visual effects (combining real animals, animatronic wizardry and computer graphics) and dazzling fairy-tale sets bring to life the touching and tender tale of an orphaned Yorkshire piglet who goes to live on a farm and trains to be an expert sheepdog.
43. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), 115 minutes, Rated PG, Letterbox
This thrill ride kicks off with a booby-trap sequence that any other movie would have considered a climax: For “Raiders,” the beginning is just the beginning. When two of the screen’s modern masters, producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg, teamed up with star Harrison Ford, the result was the ultimate action movie with the ultimate action hero — Indiana Jones, the asp-kicking adventurer with quip and whip at the ready. Far better than either of its two sequels, “Raiders” is the definitive homage to Saturday-matinee serials, and includes the best snake scene since Genesis.
42. Modern Times (1936), 87 minutes, NR, BW
A mostly silent film, Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” is a comic nightmare of mass production, runaway capitalism, the police state — all of which helped get the film (and its star) labeled Red. At times sentimental, the movie nonetheless includes some utterly stunning sequences: Chaplin under assault by the automatic feeding machine, and his trip through the cogs of a factory. “Modern Times” perfectly captures Chaplin: naive, but ever so heartfelt.
41. Saturday Night Fever (1977), 119 minutes, Rated R (108-minute version Rated PG)
When John Travolta staged his comeback in 1994’s “Pulp Fiction,” this is what he was coming back to. As Tony Manero, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn’s answer to Fred Astaire, Travolta strutted and swiveled through a defining picture of the 1970s. His big-man-in-a-little-disco bravado remains as poignant and pathetic as ever. His costars might be klutzy, but Travolta never misses a step.
Check out part 2 of our countdown right here!!