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Eclectic Homeschool Online Book Lists - Film Classics

This section of our website is devoted to book lists that you can take to your library. The lists are sorted by Category, Subcategory and then Topic.

Booklists Main Page > Videos

Film Classics List

  • Captain Blood (1935)

    ISBN: 6302120527
    Amazon.com essential video
    The swashbuckler had been around long before Errol Flynn drew a cutlass, but the Tasmanian-born bit player reinvigorated the genre with his mix of dashing good looks, haughty insolence, and alluring confidence. Adapted from the novel by Rafael Sabatini (who also penned The Sea Hawk), this rousing adventure chronicles the travails of Peter Blood (Flynn), a righteous doctor unjustly sold into slavery for treating the wounds of rebels, a kind of British Dr. Mudd. Sent to a Jamaican plantation where he toils under the brutal whip of Lionel Atwill and seethes with passion for his fair niece (the astonishingly beautiful Olivia de Havilland), he escapes from bondage with his fellow prisoners and becomes the gentleman rogue pirate of the Caribbean. Director Michael Curtiz builds from one set piece to another, including a nimble beachside sword fight with pirate nemesis Basil Rathbone and climaxing with a grand sea battle that belies the film's modest budget. Flynn's bravado and charisma are apparent from his entrance, but once he leaps into action he takes command of the picture, overcoming his still-green dramatic skills with sheer personality. Captain Blood made stars of Flynn and de Havilland and catapulted Curtiz to the top ranks of Warner directors. The three reunited for some of the studio's best-loved adventures: The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Dodge City. --Sean Axmaker
  • Casablanca

    ISBN: 0790743132
    Amazon.com essential video
    A truly perfect movie, the 1942 Casablanca still wows viewers today, and for good reason. Its unique story of a love triangle set against terribly high stakes in the war against a monster is sophisticated instead of outlandish, intriguing instead of garish. Humphrey Bogart plays the allegedly apolitical club owner in unoccupied French territory that is nevertheless crawling with Nazis; Ingrid Bergman is the lover who mysteriously deserted him in Paris; and Paul Heinreid is her heroic, slightly bewildered husband. Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Conrad Veidt are among what may be the best supporting cast in the history of Hollywood films. This is certainly among the most spirited and ennobling movies ever made. The DVD release has theatrical trailers, a related documentary, optional French soundtrack, and optional English and French subtitles. --Tom Keogh
  • Chariots of Fire (1981) DVD

    ISBN: 0790731010
    Amazon.com essential video
    The come-from-behind winner of the 1981 Oscar for best picture, Chariots of Fire either strikes you as either a cold exercise in mechanical manipulation or as a tale of true determination and inspiration. The heroes are an unlikely pair of young athletes who ran for Great Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics: devout Protestant Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a divinity student whose running makes him feel closer to God, and Jewish Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a highly competitive Cambridge student who has to surmount the institutional hurdles of class prejudice and anti-Semitism. There's delicious support from Ian Holm (as Abrahams's coach) and John Gielgud and Lindsay Anderson as a couple of Cambridge fogies. Vangelis's soaring synthesized score, which seemed to be everywhere in the early 1980s, also won an Oscar. Chariots of Fire was the debut film of British television commercial director Hugh Hudson (Greystoke) and was produced by David Puttnam. --Jim Emerson
  • Citizen Kane

    ISBN: 6304119046
    Amazon.com essential video
    Arguably the greatest of American films, Orson Welles's 1941 masterpiece, made when he was only 26, still unfurls like a dream and carries the viewer along the mysterious currents of time and memory to reach a mature (if ambiguous) conclusion: people are the sum of their contradictions, and can't be known easily. Welles plays newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, taken from his mother as a boy and made the ward of a rich industrialist. The result is that every well-meaning or tyrannical or self-destructive move he makes for the rest of his life appears in some way to be a reaction to that deeply wounding event. Written by Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz, and photographed by Gregg Toland, the film is the sum of Welles's awesome ambitions as an artist in Hollywood. He pushes the limits of then-available technology to create a true magic show, a visual and aural feast that almost seems to be rising up from a viewer's subconsciousness. As Kane, Welles even ushers in the influence of Bertolt Brecht on film acting. This is truly a one-of-a-kind work, and in many ways is still the most modern of modern films from the 20th century. --Tom Keogh
  • Das Boot - The Director's Cut (1982) DVD

    ISBN: 0767802470
    Amazon.com essential video
    This is the restored, 209-minute director's cut of Wolfgang Petersen's harrowing and claustrophobic U-boat thriller, which was theatrically rereleased in 1997. Originally made as a five-hour miniseries, this version devotes more time to getting to know the crew before they and their stoic captain (Jürgen Prochnow) get aboard their U-boat and find themselves stranded at the bottom of the sea. Das Boot puts you inside that submerged vessel and explores the physical and emotional tensions of the situation with a vivid, terrifying realism that few movies can match. As Petersen tightens the screws and the submerged ship blows bolts, the pressure builds to such unbearable levels that you may be tempted to escape for a nice walk on solid land in the great outdoors--only you wouldn't dream of looking away from the screen. --Jim Emerson
  • High Noon (Collector's Edition) (1952) DVD

    ISBN: B00006JMRE
  • High Noon VHS

    ISBN: 0782008348
    Amazon.com essential video
    Written by Carl Foreman (who was later blacklisted during the anticommunist hearings of the '50s) and superbly directed by Fred Zinnemann, this 1952 classic stars Gary Cooper as just-married lawman Will Kane, who is about to retire as a small-town sheriff and begin a new life with his bride (Grace Kelly) when he learns that gunslinger Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) is due to arrive at high noon to settle an old score. Kane seeks assistance from deputies and townsfolk, but soon realizes he'll have to stand alone in his showdown with Miller and his henchmen. Innovative for its time, the suspenseful story unfolds in approximate real time (from 10:40 a.m. to high noon in an 84-minute film), and many interpreted Foreman's drama as an allegorical reflection of apathy and passive acceptance of Senator Joseph McCarthy's anticommunist campaign. Political underpinnings aside, this remains a milestone of its genre (often referred to as the first "adult" Western), and Cooper is flawless in his Oscar-winning role. --Jeff Shannon
  • Quo Vadis (1951) VHS

    ISBN: B00003OSTV
    Amazon.com
    "Welcome to Nero's House of Women" greets a concubine to a slave girl, Lygia (Deborah Kerr). Later this self-same greeter reveals that she, too, like Lygia, is really a fellow Christian neophyte. And it's that mixture of tawdry Hollywood sex and a strong Christian message that makes this film an enjoyable "gentiles and gladiators" flick. Marcus Vinicius returns home after conquering the Britons to find that Rome is infected with a crazy new sect called Christians and that his beloved emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov, roly-poly and wicked) has become increasingly wacky. Marcus tries his centurion wiles on Lygia, and she's smitten, but she's also a Christian convert and begs Marcus not to force her to choose between him and her god. The Christians have a tough go of it, with martyrdom in the Coliseum as punishment for belonging to the new religion in town. Though three hours long, director Mervyn LeRoy's film always has something going on. It could help you enjoyably kill any rainy Sunday afternoon. --Keith Simanton
  • Red River (1948) DVD

    ISBN: 6304696612
  • Red River VHS

    ISBN: 6304429754
    Amazon.com essential video
    Talk about epic grandeur! This magnificently photographed account of the first cattle drive on the Chisholm Trail has everything you could ever want in a western: gunfights, stampedes, Indian attacks, hangings, betrayal, revenge, romance, glorious scenery, and a towering performance by John Wayne that prefigured his definitive portrayal of the bitter Ethan Edwards in John Ford's The Searchers eight years later. Tom Dunson (Wayne) adopts a young boy, Matt (brilliantly played as an adult by Montgomery Clift), whose family has been massacred by Indians. Years later, after Dunson has become a successful rancher, mentor and protege have an acrimonious falling out during a grueling cattle drive and go their separate ways, with Dunson vowing to kill Matt. Red River is a true classic and unquestionably one of the greatest westerns of all time. --Jim Emerson
  • Rio Bravo (1959) DVD

    ISBN: B000059HB7
    Amazon.com essential video
    When it comes down to naming the best Western of all time, the list usually narrows to three completely different pictures: John Ford's The Searchers, Howard Hawks's Red River, and Hawks's Rio Bravo. About the only thing they all have in common is that they all star John Wayne. But while The Searchers is an epic quest for revenge and Red River is a sweeping cattle-drive drama ("Take 'em to Missouri! Yeeee-hah!"), Rio Bravo is on a much more modest scale. Basically, it comes down to Sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne), his sobering-up alcoholic friend Dude (Dean Martin), the hotshot new kid Colorado (Ricky Nelson), and deputy-sidekick Stumpy (Walter Brennan), sittin' around in the town jail, drinkin' black cofee, shootin' the breeze, and occasionally, singin' a song. Hawks--who, like his pal Ernest Hemingway, lived by the code of "grace under pressure"--said he made Rio Bravo as a rebuke to High Noon, in which sheriff Gary Cooper begged for townspeople to help him. So, Hawks made Wayne's Sheriff Chance a consummate professional--he may be getting old and fat, but he knows how to do his job, and he doesn't want amateurs getting mixed up in his business; they could get hurt. This most entertaining of movies also achieved some notoriety in the '90s when Quentin Tarantino (director of Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Jackie Brown) revealed that he uses it as a litmus test for prospective girlfriends. Oh, and if the configuration of characters sounds familiar, it should: Hawks remade Rio Bravo two more times--as El Dorado in 1967, with Wayne, Robert Mitchum, and James Caan; and as Rio Lobo in 1970, with Wayne, Jack Elam, and Christopher Mitchum. --Jim Emerson
  • Robe, The (1953) DVD Widescreen

    ISBN: B00005NKT7
  • Robe, The VHS Widescreen

    ISBN: 6304813961
    Amazon.com
    When Roman tribune Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton) is sent to Jerusalem, one of his assignments is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Marcellus, a cynical and hardened man, wins the robe Jesus wore to the crucifixion while gambling with other Roman soldiers underneath the dying savior. He later becomes convinced that his hallucinations and violent outbursts are the result of a curse received from the robe, which is now in the possession of his escaped slave, Demetrius (Victor Mature), somewhere in the Middle East. He sets out to find Demetrius in order to destroy the robe and the curse and finds faith instead, converting to Christianity. This was the first movie to be filmed in CinemaScope, and won Oscars in 1953 for costume design, art direction, and set decoration. The visual aspects of the film are stunning, and it may be worth viewing for that alone; however, the script and acting leave much to be desired, and you won't find inspiration in these areas if that's what interests you. If, however, you are more interested in this film for its religious matter, the story of the conversion of the hardened Marcellus is inspiring. --James McGrath
  • Sea Hawk, The (1940)

    ISBN: 6301977157
    Amazon.com
    Five years after Captain Blood made him a swashbuckling star, Errol Flynn returned to the high seas as privateer Captain Thorpe in The Sea Hawk. Flynn plays the dashing gentleman pirate as dedicated patriot, looting Spanish ships for English coffers with the private blessing of Queen Elizabeth (Flora Robson, reprising the role from Fire over England). The film opens with a rousing sea battle: broadside cannon fire sends masts falling and splinters a-flying before Flynn's men take their Spanish quarry in a furious shipboard cutlass battle. The fearless fighter becomes a stumbling schoolboy when he falls for the Spanish ambassador's niece, but he's back in his element when he sails to the New World for treasure and lands in the middle of a deadly conspiracy. Big-eyed beauty Brenda Marshall stands in for Flynn's usual love interest Olivia de Havilland, and the film misses the latter's sass and spirit, but it's a minor shortcoming. Claude Rains plays his usual smoothly conniving villain, and hearty Alan Hale returns as Flynn's loyal sidekick. Michael Curtiz proves once again why he was Warner Brothers' top director with a handsome, action-packed film that mixes intrigue and suspense with grand set pieces, concluding with a rousing series of escapes, chases, and a runaway sword fight. Classic Hollywood swashbuckling at its best. --Sean Axmaker
  • Searchers, The DVD Widescreen

    ISBN: 6304696566
    Amazon.com essential video
    A favorite film of some of the world's greatest filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, John Ford's The Searchers has earned its place in the legacy of great American films for a variety of reasons. Perhaps most notably, it's the definitive role for John Wayne as an icon of the classic Western--the hero (or antihero) who must stand alone according to the unwritten code of the West. The story takes place in Texas in 1868; Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a Confederate veteran who visits his brother and sister-in-law at their ranch and is horrified when they are killed by marauding Comanches. Ethan's search for a surviving niece (played by young Natalie Wood) becomes an all-consuming obsession. With the help of a family friend (Jeffrey Hunter) who is himself part Cherokee, Ethan hits the trail on a five-year quest for revenge. At the peak of his masterful talent, director Ford crafts this classic tale as an embittered examination of racism and blind hatred, provoking Wayne to give one of the best performances of his career. As with many of Ford's classic Westerns, The Searchers must contend with revisionism in its stereotypical treatment of "savage" Native Americans, and the film's visual beauty (the final shot is one of the great images in all of Western culture) is compromised by some uneven performances and stilted dialogue. Still, this is undeniably one of the greatest Westerns ever made. --Jeff Shannon
  • Shane (1953) DVD

    ISBN: 0792163710
  • Shane VHS

    ISBN: 0792107683
    Amazon.com essential video
    Consciously crafted by director George Stevens as a piece of American mythmaking, Shane is on nearly everyone's shortlist of great movie Westerns. A buckskin knight, Shane (Alan Ladd) rides into the middle of a range war between farmers and cattlemen, quickly siding with the "sod-busters." While helping a kindly farmer (Van Heflin), Shane falls platonically in love with the man's wife (Jean Arthur, in the last screen performance of a marvelous career). Though the showdowns are exciting, and the story simple but involving, what most people will remember about this movie is the friendship between the stoical Shane and the young son of the farmers. The kid is played by Brandon De Wilde, who gives one of the most amazing child performances in the movies; his parting scene with Shane is guaranteed to draw tears from even the most stonyhearted moviegoer. And speaking of stony hearts, Jack Palance made a sensational impression as the evil gunslinger sent to clean house--he has fewer lines of dialogue than he has lines in his magnificently craggy face, but he makes them count. The photography, highlighting the landscape near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, won an Oscar. --Robert Horton
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