What's an Indispensable Movie?

By David Sturm, Copyright © 1996

This guide is for contemporary movie fans, not film scholars or Hollywood insiders. I've divided the movies into categories according to theme.

You'll notice that some "classics" are excluded because they've become dated. And some Oscar winners aren't on the list because "the Academy" doesn't always reward quality.

You will find contemporary "B" movies. These small gems prove that a big budget, an all-star cast, a shelf of Oscars, a literary pedigree, and snob appeal aren't requirements for greatness.

No kids' stuff

Though I haven't included films with X-rated pornography, many of these "indispensables" are for mature audiences. Readers can make informed decisions for themselves about whether to watch films with sex and violence. Although I've written about many family films, none of them were made primarily for a children's audience. After some thought, I decided not to cover silent films.

Only the reel thing

Only the uncut version of a film counts as "indispensable," and in some cases, a "director's cut" is indicated. Keep in mind that if you watch one of these movies on network TV, the censoring of scenes and dialogue plus commercial interruptions can turn a potentially great movie-watching experience into a frustrating waste of time. You can find just about all of these films in a good video store.

You gotta feel it

Aesthetically, the films are indispensable because they have proven audience impact. They leave viewers feeling touched, tickled, frightened, angry, or exalted. They are terrific stories expertly told. They are the peak of the filmmaker's art and vision. They're worth a drive to the video store and two hours on the couch.

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