20th Century Fox: Greatest Films
Earlier this year one of the powerhouse studios in Hollywood, a former member of what was dubbed the “Big 6” (along with Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, Columbia, and their current owner Disney) came to an end. 20th Century Fox gave cinema a number of the greatest films of all time and created a legacy which will stand the test of time. Unfortunately it has now fallen victim to Disney’s quest to homogenize as much of filmdom as possible. Now as Fox is folded into a new system let us take a moment to look back at the greatest films from this once storied studio.
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927): In Germany FW Murnau was one of Europe’s top directors with films like Nosferatu and the Last Laugh. Eventually Murnau took his talents to Hollywood where he made one of the most powerful films of the silent era. A simple farmer finds himself seduced by a Woman from the City, though in order to give into his lust, the Man must find some way to get rid of his failing farm as well as his wife. The Woman from the City tries to convince him to murder his loyal wife. He can not bring himself to do forward with it, and instead the couple rekindle their romance through a whirlwind night in the city. Sunrise is an absolute masterpiece both on a technical level thanks to Murnau’s talent as well as an emotional level.
Bright Eyes (1934): The movie which introduced audiences to arguably the most iconic child star in filmdom, Shirley Temple. Shirley is an adorable little child who has just been orphaned when her father is killed in a plane crash and her mother commits suicide shortly thereafter. Luckily her godfather, the dashing pilot “Loop” Merritt is up to the task of taking care of the young girl. However, Uncle Ned, the patriarch of the family who employed Shirley’s mother has taken a liking to the girl and uses his money and influence to ensure she stays with him, forcing his cruel daughter and son-in-law to take of the orphan. Luckily we are all treated to a nice happy ending. Bright Eyes successfully turned Temple into a box office mega star, and the musical number “Good Ship Lollipop” has become one of cinema’s most iconic songs.
The Ox-Bow Incident (1942): The community of Bridger’s Wells, Nevada has been troubled, and two strangers who wander in, Art and Gil are quickly assigned the blame for these troubles. Hoping to ease the suspicions on themselves the two drifters join a posse to find a suspected murderer. In Ox-Bow Canyon, three men with cattle believed to be stolen are assigned the blame for murder by the mob. But are these men the killers? When the idea of hanging them without a trial is floated, the group falls into conflict. If you are looking for a western which will leave you happy this movie is not it, however an all-star cast of; Henry Fonda, Harry Morgan, Dana Andrews, and Anthony Quinn will keep you riveted.
Laura (1944): The directorial debut of the revered Otto Preminger, Laura proved to be one of the seminal movies of the film noir style. Laura was a trendy woman who was adored by everyone lucky enough to come into her life, and this goes especially for men. So it serves as a shock to all when she is found murdered in her apartment, courtesy shotgun to face. The world weary Detective McPherson is put on the case with no shortage of suspects. Even he proves susceptible to her charms even from beyond the grave……until he discovers she is not actually dead. With this new complication in the case, McPherson has to work even faster lest the killer comeback to finish the job.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947): One of the most memorable Christmas classics, still watched by countless people during the holidays. Maureen O’Hara plays single mother Doris Walker who is coordinating the Macy’s Christmas festivities. After the Santa Claus she initially hired turns out to be a drunk, Doris strikes gold with the kindly Kris Kringle. In fact Kringle is so good at this job, that her daughter Susan believes him to be the real Santa. Because adults seem to ruin anything joyful and magical, Kris Kringle is in danger of being declared insane and it is up to Doris and Susan’s next door neighbor to come to his aid in the courtroom. Thanks to some help from the US Post Office, everyone is able to have a merry Christmas.
All About Eve (1950): In perhaps her defining role, Bette Davis plays the undoubted star of Broadway Margo Channing. Upon meeting a fervent fan in Eve Harrington, she hires the young woman as her new assistant. Eve quickly establishes herself as a model employee…too model of an employee for the aging star’s comfort who passes her off to a friend. Without her knowledge Eve is made an understudy for Margo’s latest project preying on her growing insecurities. Despite the actresses attempts to remain relevant her peers see to it she is pushed out of the way for the new starlet of Broadway in Eve. As fame often does, Eve finds her ego growing as her star shines brighter. This tale of the corruptive power of fame stands as one of the all-time great American films and even achieved the rare 100% among Rotten Tomatoes critics.
The Sound of Music (1965): One of the great cinematic musicals courtesy of legendary director Robert Wise. The spirited Maria is sent to the home of the military hero Captain von Trapp to serve as the governess to his seven children. Having lived under the thumb of strict discipline, Maria allows the von Trapp children a chance to break out and have fun. Though the Captain is initially upset about this change, he experiences a change of heart and grows closer to his family and Maria whom he weds. The married bliss is shortlived as the Nazis soon takeover Austria, and in a particularly memorable scene the von Trapp family utilize a music festival as a means to escape the tyranny. The Sounds Music is a particularly beloved film which features no shortage of instantly memorable songs which will have you singing along with it.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969): One of the greatest duos in film history. As leaders of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, Butch Cassidy is the brains and Sundance is the man of action. After a train job, the charming duo find themselves on the run from a group of six mysterious men. Turning to a schoolteacher they both have feelings for for assistance, the two men set out to find out who these men after them are. As with their other movies together, Paul Newman and Robert Redford display a sparking chemistry with each other as you would expect from two of the greatest actors ever.
MASH (1970): Without a doubt the most respected and popular film from game-changing director Robert Altman. In the midst of the Korean War, fun-loving surgeons Hawkeye Pierce and Duke Forrest are dispatched to the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. In this MASH unit the two meet a host of quirky characters including; “Trapper John” McIntyre, “Hot Lips” Houlihan, “Spearchucker” Jones, Father Mulcahy, “Radar” O’Reilly, and Frank Burns. Over the course of the movie this cast of likable misfits endure laughs and hardships all courtesy Altman’s unique style of filmmaking. MASH was a massive success both critically and commercially and even spawned an incredibly successful television series, which utilized the film’s song “Suicide is Painless” and featured Gary Burghoff reprising his fan favorite role as Radar.
The French Connection (1971): Perhaps the great cop movie of all-time, which featured the greatest car chase of all-time. Surly NYPD detective “Popeye” Doyle and his partner “Cloudy” Russo discover a network of heroin smugglers operating in their city courtesy of some powerful and well connected people. Through an aggressive investigation, Doyle discovers the man pulling the strings on the operation is wealthy Frenchma,n Alain Charnier. The detectives know a deal is imminent and they realize Charnier’s car may be the key to blowing everything wide open they just have to find out why. The French Connection made movie history for being the first R rated film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It also proved to be the starmaking vehicle for Hollywood heavyweights Gene Hackman and director William Friedkin.
Young Frankenstein (1974): From the comedy masterminds Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder comes one of the most clever and hilarious satires in movie history. Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (sorry Fronkensteen) is all too happy to distance himself from his monster creating grandfather. However when he is summoned to his ancestral homeland of Transylvania, Frankenstein finds himself brought into the family business. With the help of; Igor (EYE-gor), Inga, and Frau Blucher (*horse noise*) he seeks to give life to his creation. Brooks decided to fight the studio and actually shoot this film in black and white as an homage to the Universal Monster films he was parodying. The end result was a masterpiece of comedy.
Star Wars (1977): Young filmmaker George Lucas had a crazy idea for a science fiction film inspired by his love of the old genre serials. The cautious studio allowed the young Lucas to make a film about a kid named Luke who is caught up in a quest to save Princess Leia from the villainous Darth Vader. Along the way he is assisted by; the aged warrior Obi Wan Kenobi, charming smuggler Han Solo, his Wookie Chewbacca, and two droids. The result was a film which changed cinema forever becoming one of the first blockbusters. To this day Star Wars continues as one of the most popular franchises in entertainment.
Alien (1979): In space no one can hear you scream, but they can in Ridley Scott’s revolutionary sci-fi/horror masterpiece Alien. On their voyage home, the crew of the Nostromo are rerouted on a side mission where one of their crewmembers picks up a strange alien parasite. Before long the alien grows into the terrifying creature we all recognize today and begins to prey on the various people onboard. Only the ship’s second in command, Ellen Ripley can stop this creature as long as she uses her toughness and intellect. Alien left a legacy in genre cinema so strong that just last year a high school performed it as a school play. Many have tried to duplicate this terrifying masterpiece but few have succeeded.
Home Alone (1990): Another classic holiday film courtesy of Fox which demands repeat viewing during the Christmas season. Kevin McCallister seemingly gets his wish, when his overbearing family goes on a holiday trip and leave him behind. What starts out as fun turns dangerous when Harry and Marv, the Sticky Bandits, have the McCallister house set in their sights. Though they are not prepared for a clever child, and Kevin sets up a series of traps around his house to ensure they have the worst time possible breaking in.
Titanic (1997): Thanks to director James Cameron, one of the greatest tragedies in history became a blockbuster juggernaut which still reigns as one of the highest grossing films of all-time. On the ill-fated cruise liner Titanic, the charming rogue Jack Dawson falls for the high society Rose kicking off a whirlwind romance. However their love is cut short when the ship crashes into an iceberg dooming their budding love. Not only did Titanic sweep through the Oscars that year, but it became the highest grossing movie of all time, until Cameron broke the record with his next movie Avatar.
X-Men (2000): You may have noticed that movie theaters currently have no shortage of superheroes. In a world where mutants are becoming more prevalent, Professor Xavier has founded a school for those with extraordinary abilities. While he may be trying to promote peace, his greatest enemy Magneto is launching an all-out assault on humanity. Recruiting a new member of his X-Men in the form of Wolverine (portrayed by Hugh Jackman in a breakthrough performance) they must stop Magneto. With the success of X-Men a trend became set of every studio trying to get into the superhero game, leading it to becoming one of the most popular genres in film.
Shape of Water (2017): One of the most beloved aspects of Fox, was their subsidiary Fox Searchlight. In a movie industry filled with bloated blockbusters, Fox Searchlight allowed many filmmakers to have a platform for films which may have gone unnoticed otherwise. So many films like; 28 Days Later, Super Troopers, Slumdog Millionaire, Napoleon Dynamite, 12 Years a Slave, and so many other beloved movies found an audience. Fox Searchlight also allowed acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro to pursue his passion project, Shape of Water. Working at a secretive government facility, Elisa discovers an amphibious creature being held there. Over time she and the creature form a heartfelt bond as she and her friends agree to release it. Unfortunately the violent agent who captured it is not about to let that happen. As it stands Shape of Water earned Fox it’s final Best Picture statue and it stands as one of the best movies in the already impressive filmography of a great director.