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Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

  1. About Last Night... 1986 The shocks of recognition are largely absorbed by the standard narrative structure that replaces Mamet's blackouts; the characters, instead of functioning as archetypes, look underwritten, half alive. full review
  2. Black Moon Rising 1986 Cokliss's direction strains for a stylishness it doesn't achieve, yet his fundamentally straightforward style brings out the abstract design of the plot. full review
  3. Down and Out in Beverly Hills 1986 Paul Mazursky hasn't only remade Jean Renoir's sublime 1931 Boudu Saved From Drowning: he's yuppified it, inverting virtually every meaning until the film becomes a celebration of the crassest kind of materialism. full review
  4. Ferris Bueller's Day Off 1986 The overriding impression is one of utter nihilism, of a world divided into bored, crassly materialistic teenagers and doltish, unfeeling adults. full review
  5. The Manhattan Project 1986 full review
  6. Pretty in Pink 1986 This is like every other Hughes film, just a little shoddier. full review
  7. The Breakfast Club 1985 John Hughes's 1985 film seems meant to explain 80s youngsters to yesterday's youth, and comes to the comforting conclusion that they're just as alienated, idealistic, and vulnerable as the baby boomers of the 1960s. full review
  8. Clue 1985 Only Lesley Ann Warren, as a tough-talking madam, finds an effective level of stylization, using her leggy physique and wildly expressive features to create a cartoonish figure that's funny within its own boundaries. full review
  9. Explorers 1985 full review
  10. Girls Just Want to Have Fun 1985 full review
  11. The Man with One Red Shoe 1985 full review
  12. One Magic Christmas 1985 full review
  13. Re-Animator 1985 It's this kind of flat-footed stuff that gives garbage a bad name. full review
  14. Rocky IV 1985 The crazed flag-waving would be a lot easier to take if it weren't so clearly a commercial calculation meant to salvage what is otherwise a crass, careless, shamelessly padded film. full review
  15. Silverado 1985 Kasdan resorts to a TV-like shorthand, substituting shtick for personality. full review
  16. 28 Up 1984 No matter how it's interpreted, the film remains a deft and compelling piece. full review
  17. Beverly Hills Cop 1984 It's one of the few star comedies of the early 80s to allot some humor and personality to the minor characters. full review
  18. Footloose 1984 Herbert Ross directed this odd but reasonably effective blend of rock music and didactic melodrama. full review
  19. Ghostbusters 1984 Essentially a $30 million version of Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy but not at all a bad time, thanks mainly to Bill Murray's incredibly dry line readings and director Ivan Reitman's maintenance of a moderately coherent tone and plotline. full review
  20. The Terminator 1984 As a souvenir of a kind of B-grade action cinema that has all but vanished, The Terminator should find a small place in the heart of every movie addict. full review
  21. Streamers 1983 Sure it's searing and intense, but so is a microwave oven. full review
  22. Terms of Endearment 1983 [Writer-director James L. Brooks] has television in his soul: his people are incredibly tiny (most are defined by a single stroke of obsessive behavior), and he chokes out his narrative in ten-minute chunks, separated by aching lacunae. full review
  23. To Be or Not to Be 1983 full review
  24. Trading Places 1983 This 1983 film re-creates a screwball comedy format and then eliminates everything but the crudest audience-gratification elements; any incursions into the more morally complicated side of the genre are quickly curtailed. full review
  25. Without a Trace (1983) 1983 full review
  26. 48 HRS 1982 All in all, a superior genre piece, if not the height of Hill's artistry. full review
  27. Dragonslayer 1981 The film excels as a visual exercise, as a study in adolescent psychology, and even as astute political analysis. full review
  28. The Fox and the Hound 1981 Against all odds, a tear or two is effectively jerked, and there was enough skill on display to encourage some hope for the new generation of Disney animators, who made their debut here. full review
  29. Airplane! 1980 The gags aren't exactly clever, but there are a lot of them, and the cutting finds a fast, effective tempo. full review
  30. Bad Timing 1980 the film's real problem is Roeg's willingness to sacrifice the logic of situation and character to facile shock effects. full review
  31. Gregory's Girl 1980 It's hard to warm to a film as intentionally slight and safe as this. full review
  32. Hopscotch 1980 full review
  33. My Bodyguard 1980 A film of ingredients, rather than ideas realized and integrated: it panders on different, disjunctive levels. full review
  34. Raging Bull 1980 I can't pan it, but this 1980 fantasy biography of fighter Jake LaMotta seems unquestionably Martin Scorsese's weakest work, at least to that point in his career. full review
  35. Breaking Away 1979 Peter Yates, previously typed as an action director, lends the film a fine, unexpected limpidity, and the principals are mostly excellent. full review
  36. Manhattan 1979 Woody Allen's great leap forward into character development and dramatic integrity. full review
  37. Rock 'n' Roll High School 1979 It's more cleverly cut than shot -- which means that it moves quickly and energetically even as the concepts and characters disintegrate. full review
  38. Rocky II 1979 Sylvester Stallone's follow-up to his runaway success of 1976 is a little more threadbare in spots than the original, but it still has some conviction and spunk. full review
  39. Star Trek: The Motion Picture 1979 This 1979 movie adaptation of the cult TV series is blandness raised to an epic scale. full review
  40. The Boys from Brazil 1978 The plot is less suspenseful than the overacting contest between the two leads, Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck, who spend most of their screen time one-upping each other in affectations. full review
  41. Grease 1978 Limp, cheaply made. full review
  42. 3 Women 1977 Robert Altman's would-be American art film (1977) is murky, snide, and sloppy. full review
  43. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh 1977 Their charm is undeniable, though it mainly resides in the source material: the late 60s, when these were made, were Disney's darkest days for craft and commitment. full review
  44. The Rescuers 1977 The Walt Disney animators returned to top form with this beautifully crafted and wonderfully expressive cartoon feature, the first major work to come out of the Disney studios in a decade. full review
  45. Assault on Precinct 13 1976 Hopelessly violent but exceedingly well made. full review
  46. The Bad News Bears 1976 Michael Ritchie keeps his dead-end cynicism in check and produces a genuinely funny comedy about a Little League team managed by a lovably drunken Walter Matthau. full review
  47. Rocky 1976 I wanted to like it more than I did, but it'll do. full review
  48. Death Race 2000 1975 The story, about a road race in the not-too-distant future for which the drivers are given points for running down pedestrians, becomes an elaborate and telling fantasy about our peculiar popular entertainments. Fine work carved from minimal materials. full review
  49. Robin Hood 1973 What sinks this one is the utter lack of the childhood insight and sympathy that really give the Disney films their staying power. full review
  50. Harold and Maude 1971 Simpleminded, but it's fairly inoffensive, at least until Ashby lingers over the concentration-camp serial number tattooed on Gordon's arm. Some things are beyond the reach of whimsy. full review
  51. Silent Running 1971 The film is enjoyable for its intimacy, seriousness, and intelligent character work, virtues not perpetuated by the subsequent new wave. full review
  52. The Aristocats 1970 This 1970 animated feature is dull, careless, and all too typical of the Disney studio's slapdash output before the unexpected renaissance of The Rescuers. full review
  53. The Student Nurses 1970 full review
  54. Tristana 1970 Bunuel conjures with Freudian imagery, outrageous humor, and a quiet, lyrical camera style to create one of his most complex and complete works, a film that continues to disturb and transfix. full review
  55. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969 You have to admire the craft and assurance of the thing even as its artificiality hits you in the face. full review
  56. Easy Rider 1969 The film may be a relic now, but it is a fascinating souvenir -- particularly in its narcissism and fatalism -- of how the hippie movement thought of itself. full review
  57. True Grit 1969 Somehow it comes off like a TV celebrity roast. full review
  58. Barbarella 1968 The film is ugly on so many levels -- from art direction to human values -- that it's hard to know where to begin. full review
  59. Night of the Living Dead 1968 Over its short, furious course, the picture violates so many strong taboos -- cannibalism, incest, necrophilia -- that it leaves audiences giddy and hysterical. full review
  60. The Odd Couple 1968 For all its overfamiliarity, this is a good play, easily Simon's best, and Matthau and Lemmon inhabit it with grace and style. full review
  61. Rosemary's Baby 1968 A very sophisticated, very effective piece of work spun from primal images, with an excellent cast. full review
  62. David Holzman's Diary 1967 Where most independent productions are founded on self-righteous claims of truth and honesty, McBride's film wittily observes that Hollywood has no corner on illusionism. full review
  63. Doctor Dolittle 1967 It's so clumsy and pounding that taking a child to it might be grounds for a visit from family services. full review
  64. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner 1967 A disaster on all counts -- its time, if it ever had one, has definitely passed. full review
  65. Valley of the Dolls 1967 Too dull even to function as camp. full review
  66. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo.) 1966 Though ordained from the beginning, the three-way showdown that climaxes the film is tense and thoroughly astonishing. full review
  67. The Agony and the Ecstasy 1965 full review
  68. Robinson Crusoe on Mars 1964 full review
  69. Charade 1963 A terrifically entertaining comedy-thriller. full review
  70. The Sword in the Stone 1963 There is still some life in the characterizations, though the animation is turning stiff and flat. full review
  71. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962 A great film, rich in thought and feeling, composed in rhythms that vary from the elegiac to the spontaneous. full review
  72. West Side Story 1961 Decent 1961 adaptation of the Bernstein-Robbins musical, if you can handle Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in the leads. full review
  73. Never on Sunday 1960 full review
  74. Some Like It Hot 1959 In many ways, the ultimate Billy Wilder film -- replete with breathless pacing, transvestite humor, and unflinching cynicism. full review
  75. Imitation of Life 1958 Douglas Sirk's 1959 film was the biggest grosser in Universal's history until the release of Airport, yet it's also one of the most intellectually demanding films ever made in Hollywood. full review
  76. The Long, Hot Summer 1958 [An] uneasy blend of three Faulkner short stories. full review
  77. Crime of Passion 1957 full review
  78. Witness for the Prosecution 1957 His theatrical mise-en-scene -- his proscenium framing -- serves the material well, as does Charles Laughton's bombastic portrayal of the defense attorney. full review
  79. Gojira 1954 Godzilla remains one of the most potent mythic structures of the 50s, and you get him here in full foot-stomping glory. full review
  80. Carmen Jones 1954 Impeccably liberal in its time, the film has not aged gracefully, although Dorothy Dandridge's performance in the lead remains a testimony to a black cinema that might have been. full review
  81. River of No Return 1954 One of the first films to discover the potential of CinemaScope and a fine example of Preminger's rational approach to the mysteries of personal morality. full review
  82. White Christmas 1954 The whole thing is rather forced and antiseptically cheerful. full review
  83. 99 River Street 1953 full review
  84. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 1953 A landmark encounter in the battle of the sexes. full review
  85. Roman Holiday 1953 Wyler lays out all the elements with care and precision, but the romantic comedy never comes together -- it's charm by computer. full review
  86. Monkey Business 1952 Monkey Business ranks with the best works of the American cinema. full review
  87. The Day the Earth Stood Still 1951 Like most of Robert Wise's work, this slickly constructed 1951 science fiction film settles squarely in the middle of its genre, better than some and worse than others. full review
  88. All About Eve 1950 The hoped-for tone of Restoration comedy never quite materializes, perhaps because Mankiewicz's cynicism is only skin-deep, but the film's tinny brilliance still pleases. full review
  89. Gentleman's Agreement 1947 It looks pretty timorous now. full review
  90. The Bells of St. Mary's 1945 Seldom has a sequel so completely transcended its predecessor. full review
  91. Double Indemnity 1944 Wilder trades Cain's sun-rot imagery for conventional film noir stylings, but the atmosphere of sexual entrapment survives. full review
  92. Dumbo 1941 It's one of Disney's most charming and perfectly proportioned films, uninflated by the cultural pretensions Uncle Walt was fond of slipping in. full review
  93. The Lady Eve 1941 Preston Sturges extended his range beyond the crazy farces that had made his reputation with this romantic 1941 comedy, and his hand proved just as sure. full review
  94. The Grapes of Wrath 1940 Ford's admirers have rightly tended to play this down in favor of his later and more personal westerns, but there's much to admire here in Gregg Toland's sun-beaten photography and Henry Fonda's meticulous performance. full review
  95. His Girl Friday 1940 Cary Grant's performance is truly virtuoso -- stunning technique applied to the most challenging material. full review
  96. You Only Live Once 1937 full review
  97. Les Miserables 1935 It isn't a bad example of the Hollywood prestige picture -- there is, at least, some liveliness in the performances. full review
  98. Duck Soup 1933 The Marx Brothers' best movie... full review
  99. She Done Him Wrong 1933 A superior vehicle for Mae West. full review
  100. The Mummy 1932 The drama may be clumsy, but Freund's lighting is a wonder. full review
  101. The Thief of Bagdad 1924 Walsh's dynamism is evident in every frame of this deftly Americanized fantasy, beautifully designed by William Cameron Menzies. full review
  102. Intolerance 1916 One of the great breakthroughs -- the Ulysses of the cinema -- and a powerful, moving experience in its own right. full review

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