Kenneth Turan recommends films not to be missed

Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan also reviews films for NPR and in general I have found his recommendations to agree with my own tastes. So I was interested to hear a clip that he had published a new book where he recommends 54 films, starting from the 1920s until today, that he thinks that everyone should see. He feels that especially with older films, there are some gems that people today are not aware of.

The list of films and brief descriptions of them can be seen here. I had not seen (or even heard of) most of them. I have seen 14 of ones on his list: Casablanca (1942), Great Expectations (1946), Bicycle Thieves (1948), The Third Man (1949), All About Eve (1950), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Seven Samurai (1954), Touch of Evil (1958), Vertigo (1958), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), The Godfather (1972), Chinatown (1974), and Unforgiven (1992).

All these were good, making me think that I might like the others he recommends too and I plan to watch many of them in the coming months. I’d be curious to hear from people who have seen any of the other films on the list since prior recommendations from readers have been very helpful to me in finding good films to watch.

A notable omission was Citizen Kane, usually on everyone’s list of best films, although he picks several other Orson Welles films.


  1. colnago80 says

    Puts Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains’ on the list and leaves off Flight of the Phoenix? Not a bit of it.

  2. noastronomer says

    ‘Kes’ was a suprise, I’ve never seen it mentioned outside my (English) high school. Definitely worth watching for it’s no-holds-barred protrayal of life in Northern England. Be warned though, the ending is … tough on the emotions.

    Almost any Buster Keaton movie is great. My personal favorite is ‘The General’.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    Resounding ‘yes’ to The Third Man and Seven Samurai. Two of my favourites. I’d have included Executive Suite, Twelve Angry Men, The Naked City, On The Town, The Thin Man, The Thing From Another World, Testament (1983) and Fort Apache.

  4. Mano Singham says

    The General is a great film. Also impressive is that he supposedly did his own stunts in his films. I reviewed it and Birth of a Nation back in 2007.

  5. says

    I can strongly recommend “The Shop Around the Corner”.
    “The Importance of Being Ernest” is a very good version of a very good play.
    “Spirited Away” is very good, as are all of Miyazaki’s films.

    Those are the three that I’ve seen that you haven’t, and they are very good. I shall have to look into the others on the list that I haven’t seen.

  6. colnago80 says

    Re Rob Grigjanis @ #5

    Second the nomination of Twelve Angry Men. This movie gathered some of the best character actors to ever trod the stage in Tinsel Town (e.g. Lee J. Cobb, Jack Warden, Jack Klugman, Ed Begley, E. G. Marshall, Robert Webber etc.). Together with A list actor Henry Fonda who produced the film and the great Sidney Lumet who directed.

  7. moarscienceplz says

    I saw The Lady Eve just a couple of months ago at a proper theater. However, I was not too thrilled by it. It was part of a Preston Sturges festival and it was by far my least favorite. Maybe Barbara Stanwyck just isn’t my cup of tea. I have never cared for Double Indemnity either, even though it often gets rave reviews.

    I own the DVD of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence and it is wonderful. Highly recommend.

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    colnago80 @8: That was the best ensemble cast I’ve ever seen, and no (obvious) egos involved. Lee J. Cobb makes Brando, Dean, and other supposedly great actors look like amateurs.

  9. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    One more list that omits comedies, even if they had a social undercurrent. Monty Python, Mel Brooks, Charlie Chaplin, Marx Brothers…

  10. nichrome says

    I just watched one of the comedies on the list -- “To Be or Not To Be”. Don’t go out of your way to watch this one. It might have been kind of brave to make it at the time, but it’s standard Hollywood schtick.

  11. vernonstwhiz says

    I’d be happy to give you the other movie titles but it looks like we have to buy the book first.

  12. Daniel M. says

    As a confirmed cineast, and as a person who has worked over 30 years in film, I find this list intriguing. Though, I cannot say it’s anywhere near my own 54 films ‘not to be missed”. There are a number of films on this list that I would include on my own. I have seen all but five of these films. I’m not a fan of Turan’s film criticism, but he is an expert viewer of film. And his tastes, which are quite refined and decidedly not the mass taste, is close to my own. Each film I have seen on this list is worthy of screening. I will watch the films I have not seen as I find them.

    I have to agree with the comments made by ‘colnago80′. Not that Turan is a putz, but I have always felt “Vertigo” was overrated, and that “Rear Window” was much more enjoyable, with much truer performances than did “Vertigo”. But lesser known films such as “Fantomas”, “Falstaff/Chimes At Midnight”, “Make Way For Tomorrow”, “The Day After Trinity”, “Children of Paradise”, “A Touch of Evil”, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, “Bicycle Thieves”, and “Point Blank” are all brilliant films. Many of which are on my personal top 50 list.

    Perhaps, it might be useful and certainly interesting to see others’ top 50 lists. Peace…thanks for sharing this post.

  13. Daniel M. says

    Here’s a list of my top 54. Subjective, of course. We all have our own tastes. My list is based, in the main, on films I love (for various reasons), or because I believe they are among the most important movies in the film canon. I welcome all comments. After the Top 10, there is no particular order of priority.

    1.) The Godfather (Part I & II) -- Directed by Francis Ford Coppolla
    2.) Casablanca -- Directed by Michael Curtiz
    3.) Lawrence of Arabia -- Directed by David Lean
    4.) Citizen Kane -- Directed by Orson Welles
    5.) The Third Man -- Directed by Sir Carol Reed
    6.) An American In Paris -- Directed by Vincente Minnelli
    7.) Rear Window -- Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
    8.) The Seventh Seal -- Directed by Ingmar Bergman
    9.) 2001 Space Odyssey -- Directed by Stanley Kubrick
    10.) Akira Kurasawa -- Yojimbo

    11.) Sunset Boulevard -- Directed by Billy Wilder
    12.) The Maltese Falcon -- Directed by John Huston
    13.) The Bridge Over the River Kwai -- Directed by David Lean
    14.) Pulp Fiction -- Directed by Quentin Tarantino
    15.) Gone With the Wind -- Directed by George Cukor/Victor Fleming
    16.) On the Waterfront -- Directed by Elia Kazan
    17.) Clockwork Orange -- Directed by Stanley Kubrick
    18.) Touch of Evil -- Directed by Orson Welles
    19.) The 400 Blows -- Directed by Francois Truffaut
    20.) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance -- Directed by John Ford

    21.) The Searchers -- Directed by John Ford
    22.) Raging Bull -- Directed by Martin Scorcese
    23.) Suspicion -- Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
    24.) Taxi Driver -- Directed by Martin Scorcese
    25.) La Strada -- Directed by Federico Fellini
    26.) Chinatown -- Directed by Roman Polanski
    27.) Rebel Without A Cause -- Nicholas Ray
    28.) Point Blank -- John Boorman
    29.) Singing In the Rain -- Stanley Donen/ Gene Kelly
    30.) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest -- Milos Forman

    31.) Stalag 17 -- Directed by Billy Wilder
    32.) Some Like It Hot -- Directed by Billy Wilder
    33.) Schindler’s List -- Directed by Steven Spielberg
    34.) The African Queen -- Directed by John Huston
    35.) Death In Venice -- Directed by Luchino Visconti
    36.) The Night Porter -- Directed by Liliana Cavani
    37.) The Graduate -- Directed by Mike Nichols
    38,) All About Eve -- Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz
    39.) Apocalypse Now -- Directed by Francis Ford Coppolla
    40.) Double Indemnity -- Directed by BIlly Wilder

    41.) Modern Times -- Directed by Charles Chaplin
    42.) Breathless -- Directed by Jean Luc Godard
    43.) North By Northwest -- Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
    44.) Ben Hur -- Directed by Ben Kowalchuk
    45.) Duck Soup -- Directed by Leo McCarey
    46.) The Best Years of Our Lives -- Directed by William Wyler
    47.) The Bicycle Thief -- Directed by Vittorio De Sica
    48.) Diabolique -- Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
    49.) A Streetcar Named Desire -- Directed by Elia Kazan
    50.) The Children of Paradise -- Directed by Marcel Carne
    51.) The Conformist -- Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
    52.) It Happened One Night -- Directed by Frank Capra
    53.) Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner -- Directed by Stanley Kramer
    54.) West Side Story -- Directed by Jerome Robbins/ Robert Wise

    Well, there you have it. My imperfect, if heartfelt 54 films you can’t afford to miss. Enjoy…look forward to comments, and others’ top 54. Peace…

  14. Mano Singham says

    @Daniel M.,

    Nice list. Here are my responses to it:

    Those I have not seen yet: 6,10,15,19,27,28,31,33,35,36,42,46,48,50,51,52.
    Those that I have seen but did not like: 14,25,53
    The rest I agree with you.

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