Hot 100 Films From the Past
Part 1

by San Francisco Chronicle Film Critics

Hot 100 Films From the Past: San Francisco Chronicle film critics and reviewers Mick LaSalle and Edward Guthmann compiled a list of their Vintage Video selections - a Hot 100 from out of the past, in the October 5-11, 1997 Datebook issue of the newspaper.

Facts and Commentary About the List:

  • The authors admitted that the list was a personal and idiosyncratic list: "It's not a list of the best 100 films ever made, or the most important. It doesn't represent a condensed history of the feature film, with all periods and movements represented. We figured that any film history book can tell you to see Griffith's Intolerance (1916) or Keaton's The General (1927), and chances are you've already seen Casablanca (1942), The Godfather (1972) and Raging Bull (1980). We've prepared something more personal and idiosyncratic: a list of movies that we like and that we think you'd like too."

Hot 100 Films From the Past
by San Francisco Chronicle Film Critics

(part 1, alphabetical)
1. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1975)
An old German charwoman falls in love with a young Moroccan guest worker in this heartbreaking tale of racism and class divisions from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

2. Angel at My Table (1990)
Before The Piano, Jane Campion directed this moving, three-hour biographical film about Janet Frame, a brave New Zealand writer who was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic.

3. Annie Hall (1977)
This Woody Allen effort, from a time that seems irretrievable, is still funny and moving. With Diane Keaton.

4. Bad Lieutenant (1992)
The ultimate Harvey Keitel role in the ultimate Abel Ferrara film. A drug addict cop hits bottom and claws his way to redemption.

5. The Bear (1988)
An unforgettable animal film about two bears trying to escape hunters. A must-see.

6. Ben-Hur (1959)
Charlton Heston is the ultimate cult-of-the-body star in an epic about flesh and spirit, agony and ecstasy, that goes way beyond any alleged gay subtext.

7. The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
Barbara Stanwyck is taken prisoner by a Chinese warlord in this sophisticated, beautifully photographed Frank Capra film.

8. Black Is . . . Black Ain't (1995)
Marlon Riggs was working on this film about black identity when he died, and his co-producers interwove that narrative with Riggs' thoughts on death and AIDS, racism and homophobia.

9. Blonde Venus (1932)
All of Marlene Dietrich's films for director Josef Von Sternberg are worth seeing, but only in this does she sing Hot Voodoo in a gorilla costume.

10. Blow Out (1981)
John Travolta was on a roll when he made this tight, explosive thriller about a sound technician who records a car accident and gets caught in a political conspiracy. Brian De Palma directed.

11. Blue Velvet (1986)
David Lynch's expose of small-town rot and sexual depravity was an exhilarating surprise when it came out.

12. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Blake Edwards' adaptation of Truman Capote's book is corny at times, but has great heart.

13. Broadcast News (1988)
Writer-director James L. Brooks got some of the details wrong, but his portrait of the dedicated TV news producer provided Holly Hunter with one of the best female roles of the decade.

14. Cabaret (1972)
The last great musical. Liza Minnelli plays Sally Bowles, an American adrift in pre-Nazi Berlin, in Bob Fosse's stylish, near-perfect film.

15. The Cameraman (1928)
Buster Keaton at his zenith, in a succession of terrific bits.

16. Camille (1937)
Greta Garbo gives an amazing performance that combines big choices and subtle, emotional truth.

17. City Lights (1931)
The greatest film by the screen's greatest artist. Don't leave this planet without seeing Chaplin's masterpiece.

18. Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)
My favorite musical biopic stars Oscar-winner Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn, Tommy Lee Jones as her boozing husband, Dolittle, and Beverly D'Angelo as a struttin', cussin' Patsy Cline.

19. The Crowd (1928)
Director King Vidor's classic about an average man of little talent who nonetheless dreams big.

20. Crumb (1994)
San Francisco's Terry Zwigoff looks at underground artist Robert Crumb and his broken family, and what emerges is a full-scale American tragedy.

21. Day for Night (1973)
Director Francois Truffaut brings his trademark air of romantic longing to this splendid ensemble piece about filming on location.

22. Days of Heaven (1978)
Terence Malick's breathtaking visual poem is set on the Texas Panhandle, where lovers Richard Gere and Brooke Adams pose as siblings to fool Adams' wealthy husband Sam Shepard.

23. The Dead (1987)
John Huston's exquisite swan song, adapted from a story in James Joyce's The Dubliners, captures a moment when friendship, fellowship and inexpressible loss are all vividly at hand.

24. The Divorcee (1930)
A great pre-Production Code film and the most important early Hollywood movie about the breakup of a marriage. Its presentation of a woman's despair, anger and disgust is timeless.

25. Dogfight (1991)
Lili Taylor shines as a homely folkie, circa '63, who falls for an immature Vietnam-bound Marine played by River Phoenix. A lovely character piece.

26. Don't Look Now (1973)
Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland escape to a wintry Venice to forget the drowning of their younger daughter and find themselves overwhelmed by haunting reminders.

27. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
You won't find a better acting duet than Jessica Tandy as a crochety Southern widow and Morgan Freeman -- America's greatest film actor -- as her stalwart chauffeur and best friend in this adaptation of Alfred Uhry's hit play.

28. Ecstasy (1933)
This Czech film is famous for its scenes of a prestardom Hedy Lamarr swimming nude. In fact, it's a deeply emotional study of passion and sensuality.

29. The Earrings of Madame de . . . (1948)
Max Ophuls' French classic is alternately mocking and compassionate -- a wise look at the folly and lure of romantic love.

30. Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1966)
Three karate-chopping, fast-driving dolls discover an old man and his retarded son in the desert, and plan to steal their hidden loot. The breast-level camera angles are shocking, the dialogue deliberately lurid, the pace relentless and infectious.

31. Female Trouble (1974)
John Waters' outrageous piece de resistance stars Divine as Dawn Davenport, a teenage delinquent turned fashion model turned murderess.

32. Fingers (1978)
A wonderful, wacky James Toback film, with Harvey Keitel as an aspiring concert pianist who moonlights as a leg-breaker for his loan-shark father.

33. Flashdance (1983)
No film better captured the ethos and dreams of the pre-AIDS '80s than this Adrian Lyne work -- the 42nd Street of its era.

34. Footlight Parade (1933)
All of the Busby Berkeley early-'30s extravaganzas are worth seeing, but this one has James Cagney.

35. The Girl Can't Help It (1956)
Jayne Mansfield is a glorious, plush, ultra-pop siren in this boisterous satire from Frank Tashlin. Dig the tunes by Fats Domino, Little Richard and the Platters.

36. Gloria (1980)
Gena Rowlands tears it up as a retired Mob moll who protects a young boy from her former cronies. Watching Rowlands snarl and lord it over a bunch of wise guys is a juicy thrill.

37. Going Places (1974)
Gerard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere are a couple of louts on the road in an episodic, rambling picture whose vitality sneaks up on you.

38. The Great Dictator (1940)
Charlie Chaplin plays both a Jewish barber and a Hitler-like dictator. A film of power and humanity.

39. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Woody Allen's best post- Annie Hall film offers Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest as Chekhovian siblings -- one of whom find that her husband is having an affair with her sister.

40. A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Richard Lester's buoyant comedy captured that moment when the Beatles were exploding as global pop-culture phenoms and gives the strongest evidence of what the four lads had that made us love them.

41. Harold and Maude (1971)
Rich, lonely and morbid, 20-year-old Harold haunts funerals and burials, where he meets 79-year-old Maude, an effervescent free spirit played by Ruth Gordon in a career-defining performance. It's soft and sentimental, but the film's heart is enormous.

42. High Tide (1988)
Judy Davis was never better than as a flaky, rootless woman reconnecting with her daughter in this Australian film by director Gillian Armstrong.

43. Honeymoon Killers (1970)
Leonard Kastle's film about serial murderers Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez is eerily, horribly effective in its depiction of the lonely ladies that Ray married and then murdered with Martha's help.

44. Hud (1963)
Paul Newman is bitter, rotten and compelling in this Martin Ritt drama about a Texas heel, the father he hates (Melvyn Douglas), the housekeeper he abuses (Patricia Neal) and the nephew he wants to corrupt (Brandon deWilde).

45. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Charles Laughton is heartbreaking as Quasimodo, a grotesque, one-eyed bell ringer who falls in love with the beautiful Gypsy girl Esmeralda.

46. Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
Bette Davis gives a furiously unhinged performance as a Southern belle turned nasty recluse. Charlotte's mansion is full of ghosts, including her indulgent Daddy's (Victor Buono) and her young beheaded lover's (Bruce Dern).

47. The Hustler (1961)
Paul Newman had his best role as a small-time pool hustler who takes a crack at the big time.

48. I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932)
The cruelties of small-town provincialism, as well as that of the chain-gang system, are cataloged in this social-conscience film.

49. I'm No Angel (1933)
Mae West's best movie is a pre-Production Code delight, starring the playfully raunchy actress as a lion tamer named Lu. West wrote the screenplay.

50. In a Lonely Place (1950)
Humphrey Bogart plays a bitter screenwriter with an out- of-control temper in this, the Bogart film to see when Casablanca isn't available.

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