List: The Movies of Germany

MV5BMTg1NzE3NTQ1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTI1Njk3MTI@._V1_Continuing our summer vacation in the movies, we’re going to a different European country each Thursday in August. This week it’s Germany. This list is not of my picks for the best movies that happen to be set in Germany but the best portrayals of the country or part of it that I’ve seen in the movies. So here are the 10 best portrayals of Germany in the movies.


10. Morris from America (2016)

In one of the great coming-of-age films, Morris is an African American 13-year-old living in Germany. His attempts to fit in and to bring his old life in America with him to Germany give us a unique picture of German culture through the eyes of teenagers.



9. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

American politics and American criminal justice are placed in Germany for the famous Nuremberg trials of Nazi war crimes. The intense rarely leaves the court room, but when it does it shows the ruins of a city destroyed mostly by the actions of its own people. What we see of this historical picture of Nuremberg in a few scenes outside the courtroom is the same reality we see among the Germans inside the courtroom in an intimate, personal way.


8. The Blue Angel (1930)

This journey into the cultural and moral world of 1920s Germany, we follow a teacher who has the responsibility not only of teaching a curriculum to his high school students but to be an example of morality to them. He’s done a good job most of his life until a seductress at a local cabaret turns his reputation and everything he believes about himself and about right and wrong upside down.


7. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

The plot to kill Hitler begins and France. As the story progresses, people from every Allied country get involved, but the closer they get to carrying out their plan, the more of them show up in Germany. The time in Germany is spent mostly in bars and other places where the conspirators can trick Nazis enough Nazis to keep their plans alive. The picture of Nazi Germany that Tarantino gives us is a picture of the perpetrators enjoying all the evil they were accomplishing unaware of what is coming against them.


6. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

The movie is set during a punk rocker’s American tour, but we see many flashbacks to his life in Germany overlapping with many of the country’s most important events between the 1960s and 80s. And his act itself, both the songs and the stories he tells about his life back in Germany, take us on a tour of Germany even when the main character is in the U.S.


5. Bridge of Spies (2015)

This may look like a very strange choice for this list since it’s set almost entirely in New York City developing the relationship between a lawyer and the alleged Communist spy he’s defending. But the whole point of the movie is to get the spy to the bridge. That bridge of course is Glienicke Bridge in Berlin. Because the scenes that takes place at the bridge are so spectacular and this is the only movie I know of to recreate the common Cold War use of the bridge, it offers a picture of Germany that no other movie does even if it is a very short one.


4. Cabaret (1972)

Like The Blue Angel, Bob Fosse’s musical takes us on a journey of the moral and psychological world of thought in Germany but this time shortly before WWII. Obviously the cabarets and their prostitutes are the centerpiece of this moral journey but everything that happens in the cabaret is juxtaposed with the rise of the Nazi party showing Sally Bowles’ love of “divine decadence” as having a role in the decline of morality of the nation. Even though the characters in the cabaret are politically opposed to Naziism, the movie shows them as a part of what allowed the movement to happen.


3. A Foreign Affair (1948)

Marlene Dietrich sings a song called “The Ruins of Berlin.” While she sings it, we so those ruins very vividly. The movie is about the attempts at reconstruction after WWII, so we see both a very ugly (physically and morally) Berlin and the attempt to make a new, better city.


2. Wings of Desire (1987)

The original German title of Wim Wenders’ masterpiece translates to “The Heavens over Berlin.” We see the city of Berlin from the point of view of two angels assigned to watch over it. That’s all they do, watch it. It sounds like it must get boring for the angels, but for us to get to watch over Berlin and its people for a couple hours is fascinating and intreguing.


1. Metropolis (1927)

Fritz Lang’s sci-fi masterpiece is set in a Germany of the future, so the sets and costumes might not look much like 1927 Germany, but the story is about the very real crisis the nation found itself in. So even though we get a futuristic facade with the production design, we get the greatest picture of the real Germany the movies have ever given us. Financial crises cause a perceived need for a strict class system, and any breaches of that system are met with strong resistance and violence. The story is looking for a pair of hands (a mediator) to join the heart (the workers) to the head (the elite). Doesn’t sound too far fetched does it?


List: Movies about France

Continuing our summer vacation in the movies, we’re going to a different European country each Thursday in August. This week it’s France. This list is not my picks for the best movies that happen to be set in France but the best portrayals of the country or part of the country that I’ve seen in the movies.



10. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

The seaside community of Rochefort gives us beautiful scenery and a delightful musical comedy from masterful director Jacque Demy (the first of three films he has on this list).


9. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

The only movie I know of that takes place at the Tour de France, Sylvain Chomet’s wildly drawn animated film introduces us to some crazy old women (the triplets), a bizarre kidnapping, and a hero dog all centered around France’s great sporting event.


8. Lili (1953)

Leslie Caron plays Lili, a 17-year old trying to find a way to live after the death of her father. She does so through working at one of the great carnivals so common in provincial France locations in the first half of the 20th century.


7. The Rules of the Game (1939)

A harsh indictment on the urban upper class France of his time, Jean Renoir’s comedy both pokes of the rampant immorality and oppression against servants in his society in what is probably the angriest and most incendiary comedy of all times that still manages to stay hilarious every second.


6. Ratatouille (2007)

What would a trip to France be without the food? Master chef Remy the Rat introduced not just his co-workers and friends, but the entire world to what was once was known as a peasant dish but has become a staple at fine-dining restaurants worldwide only in the last 10 years thanks to Remy and Disney/Pixar.


5. Lola (1961)

The second Jacque Demy film on the list, this tale of the joys and heartbreak of first love and its effect on entire life spans is set in Nantes. The coastal views are beautiful, and the film ends at one of the carnivals I mentioned with Lili a few movies earlier.


4. Hugo (2011)

Martin Scorsese’s family movie about film preservation is one of the strangest phrases I’ve ever said. The strangest thing about Hugo is how wonderfully it works. And it works so well in part because of the extravagantly beautiful sets that are equal parts 1931 France and a fantasy world created by Scorsese for a spectacular 3-D interpretation of Brian Selznick’s novel. French literature, French architecture, French music, and especially French film (and even more especially Georges Méliès’ 1902 A Trip to the Moon) are beautifully presented in Martin Scorsese’s family movie about film preservation.


3. Les Misérables (2012)

This masterful adaptation of the Broadway musical that itself adapted the Victor Hugo novel of the same name takes us to a very ugly France during the French Revolution. But the hope, the faith, and the willingness to fight for what is right in its characters bring the beauties of France to light even within the ugliest of situations.


2. Charade (1963)

Stanley Donen’s comedic espionage thriller finds Audrey Hepburn running for her life with the assistance of many people though she never knows (and neither do we) if they’re actually out to help her or to kill her. All the chasing is done throughout Paris, and we see many sites of the city as we watch her frantically run, hide and fight for her life however she can.


1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

The best portrait of France that I know of in the movies is Jacque Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Set in the town of Cherbourg, the title refers to the umbrella shop that the main character helps run with her mother who owns it. The 1960s pastel colors bring the streets to life even in the rainiest of scenes, and with a title like this, you can expect that it’s raining most of the time but that never dampens the color and the beauty of this magical, romantic trip to France.

List: The Movies of Chicago

Continuing our “summer vacation” in the movies that we’ll do every Thursday in July, this week’s list is the best Chicago movies. That doesn’t mean the best overall movies that happen to be set in Chicago, but the best portrayals of the city in film.


10. Harry and Tonto (1974)

Two unlikely travel partners join together out of desperation and eventually find great joy from each other’s company and friendship. Their travels take them to many parts of the country, but starting in Chicago we see many sites of the great city as they begin their journey together.


9. Chi-Raq (2014)

Dealing with the realities of gang violence in Chicago using the strange but brilliant background of the Greek comedy play Lysistrata, Spike Lee gives a darkly realistic yet shockingly entertaining view in a part of Chicago that is full of hurt and need but ultimately hope.


8. Some Like It Hot (1959)

Though most of the movie is set in Florida, Billy Wilder’s comedy classic begins with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, taking us into the world of 1920s Chicago organized crime and prohibition.


7. Airplane (1980)

Whatever isn’t set in the plane is in the O’Hare airport. Unfortunately, that’s the only part of Chicago many people know but it certainly is an important part of the city. And the insane brilliance of the Zucker Bros. anarchic comedy makes the most of the chaotic nature of the busy airport for some of its most hilarious moments.


6. Only the Lonely (1991)

Like Moonstruck‘s view of Little Italy in New York, Chris Columbus’s remake of the 1955 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Marty, feels almost like it’s set in a small town because the little Irish community we’re taken to in Chicago is so close-knit, closely linked to the culture of the old country. One of the most underrated and too-little-seen romantic comedies gives a very different view of Chicago than we’re used to seeing.


5. Home Alone (1990)

Kevin’s Christmas Eve escape from the armed robbers attacking his house takes us to one of the oldest, most beautiful church buildings in the country and many of the best decorated spots in Chicago at Christmas.



4. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1931)

Another interesting look at Chicago crime, this great classic is set mostly in a chain gang where we don’t see much of Chicago, but we hear the characters talk a lot about the city they either love or hate, what they miss about it, and we get a tour of the city through their conversations.


3. Chicago (2002)

Much more than just the title makes the hilarious musical that satirizes the American criminal justice system worthy of this list. Like Some Like It Hot, it shows the thriving of Chicago’s underworld during the time of prohibition.


2. The Blues Brothers (1980)

We get a thorough, though very fast tour of the whole city during what is probably the longest chase scene in movie history. Running from the police, Jake and Elwood drive past and sometimes even through some of Chicago’s most memorable places of interest.


1. The Sting (1973)

And at the top is yet another movie about Chicago crime. Set in the 1930s, there are enough different chase scenes to probably add up to the same amount of time as the long one in The Blues Brothers. But in The Sting, almost all the chases are on foot. Each chase scene is shot in a way that doesn’t just show the shot but gives a unique view of a part of the city.

List: Best Movies with Predominantly African-American Casts

At this year’s Oscars, Moonlight‘s Best Picture win made history in several ways far beyond the chaos that happened at the ceremony. For the rest of March, my Thursday lists will be related to some of those ways in which Moonlight made Oscar history. First, Moonlight became the first movie with an entirely African-American cast to win the top award. There have been very few widely seen movies with entirely African-American casts, so I will have to make a list of movies with mostly black casts (and there hadn’t even been one of those to win Best Picture before this year). So here are the best I’ve seen.

10. Chi-Raq (2015)


A modernization of Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata set in present-day Chicago in the midst of gang violence, Spike Lee’s audacious style in this film seems to polarizing, but I find it smart, thought-provoking, and emotionally devastating yet often hilarious.


9. What’s Love Got to Do with It? (1993)


Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishburn were both nominated for their Oscars as Tina and Ike Turner. Their tumultuous relationship and Tina’s freedom both in her career and all of her life make for a powerful and ultimately inspiring picture.


8. Get on the Bus (1996)


Spike Lee created one of the greatest road films of all time with this journey of those traveling together for the Million Man March. The men come from very different backgrounds and though they gathered for a unified purpose, we see the conflict and confusion that challenges but never hinders that unity.


7. Boyz n the Hood (1991)


25 years before Moonlight,  John Singleton’s movie should have won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The story of life in the ghettos of L.A. and trying to avoid gang violence is far better than the year’s Oscar winner The Silence of the Lambs and better than any movie I’ve seen from 1991. Unfortunately, it was not even nominated. However, John Singleton did receive nominations for his direction and his screenwriting.


6.  Stormy Weather (1943)


Andrew L. Stone’s musical is a rare one that does have an entirely African American cast. It follows the same plot formats of Fred & Ginger movies and films with Busby Berkley choreography. The songs by Fats Waller are much better for the most part, and there is one number that makes Stormy Weather one of the most important films ever made. It has a reverse type of minstrel show with the black women made to look like the white women of the time. There may not be an attempt for “white face” but the number definitely represented a strong opposition taken against the norms of oppression against African Americans.


5. Eve’s Bayou (1997)


At age 11, Jurnee Smolett gave one of best child performances of all time, caught in the middle of trying to live the life of a normal child after having witnessed a very grown-up problem and being forced to keep it a secret at great risk to her family. She’s both the victim and the perpetrator of destructive deception. Kasi Lemmons’ direction is so perceptive in the creation of two separate worlds (the adult world and the children’s world) and how the collision of those two worlds should be productive for both but is harmful instead because of the lies and the secrets that fill and threaten to kill both. This is another one of the rare films to feature an entirely African American cast.


4. A Raisin in the Sun (1961)


Much like last year’s Fences, this film version of Lorraine Hansberry’s portrays an African American family in the 1950s who is unquestionably oppressed by the white world around them, yet we see none of that world in the movie but only the world of the family itself. Sidney Poitier gave one of his best performances as the man giving everything and making every sacrifice to give the family ever chance possible, but his sacrifices were so great that as beneficial as they may have been for the family, they also led to self-destruction. Hansberry wrote the screenplay for this adaptation of her own play, and it is a profound slice of life in a time period that may be past but is all too relevant to today’s culture.


3. Carmen Jones (1954)


Based on Oscar Hammerstein’s English-language adaptation of Bizet’s opera Carmen with a modern (as of 1943 when the stage adaptation was written) American setting is as great a tale of the downfall caused by greed and lust as Bizet’s original opera. This is yet another film with an entirely African American cast.


2. Do the Right Thing (1989)


27 years before Moonlight, Spike Lee’s masterpiece should have won the Oscar for Best Picture, but like Boyz n the Hood 2 years later, it wasn’t nominated. Only Spike Lee’s original screenplay and white supporting actor Danny Aiello got nominated. Simply showing the intersection of lives in one day in a New York City neighborhood, a complex and important story about how prejudices develop and stay alive forms. It asks huge questions of morality but has the decency not to give any simplistic answers but leave us very unsure about things we may have thought we were sure of before watching it.


1. The Color Purple (1985)

31 years before Moonlight became the first film with an entirely African American cast to win Best Picture, Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple should have become the first movie with at least a predominantly African American cast to win the award. Whoopie Goldberg gives one of the ten greatest acting performances as all time as Celie, a young woman whose existence is formed by the abuse and misogyny she was subject to as a child. We follow her in her journey from victim to survivor to victor. It’s the most inspiring film I’ve ever seen.

List: The Best Original Movie Musicals


Last weekend, La La Land made history being the most winning movie ever at the Golden Globe Awards with seven wins, sweeping every category it was nominated for. I haven’t seen La La Land yet, but I love musicals and have already made a list of the best film adaptations of Broadway musicalsLa La Land looks to be more inspired by the classic original musicals, both from Hollywood and France. In saying original musicals, I mean that they did not originate on stage, yet the songs do not have to be original to the movie. So, here’s my list of the best original movie musicals.


10. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

Best songs: “Chansons des Delphine” & “Daphne a Lancien


9.  Stormy Weather (1943)

Best songs: “Ain’t Misbehavin'” & “Stormy Weather”


8. Once (2007)

Best songs: “Falling Slowly” & “If You Want Me”


7. Moulin Rouge (2001)

Best songs: “Like a Virgin” & “Roxanne”


6. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Best songs: “The Boy Next Door” & “The Trolley Song”


5. The Lion King (1994)

Best songs: “Hakuna Matata” & “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”


4. Mary Poppins (1964)

Best songs: “A Spoonful of Sugar” & “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”


3. A Star Is Born (1954)

Best songs: “I Was Born in a Trunk” & “The Man that Got Away”


2. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Best songs: “Je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi” & “Recit de Cassard


1. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Best songs: “Make ’em Laugh,” “Moses Supposes,” & “Singin’ in the Rain”


Greatest Film Quotes #100-76


Picture: Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1962), 2 quotes in top 100


Here are the next 25 quotes on my list of the best movie lines of all time. For corresponding Youtube videos, where available for quotes #200-76, click here. Also click on the following links to see my earlier entries: #200-176; #175-151; #150-126; #125-101.


100. “For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Dont’cha know that?” Fargo (1996)

99. “To die for love? What could be more glorious?” Sense and Sensibility (1995) *No video available*

98. “Charging a man with murder here was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.” Apocalypse Now (1979) *Warning: The video containing this quote includes other favorite lines from the film that contain strong profanity.*

97. “If you lose a son, you can always get another but there is only one Maltese Falcon.” The Maltese Falcon (1941) *No video available*

96. “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small!” Sunset Blvd. (1950)

95. “Now I want you to know that no poor dumb bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard win it for his country.” Patton (1970)

94. “Rake it easy, cluck cluck.” Cinderella (1950)

93. “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” Forrest Gump (1994)

92. “Wanna dance, or would you rather just suck face?” On Golden Pond (1981) *No video available*

91. “You’re right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in 60 years.” Citizen Kane (1941)

90. “Never apologize, it’s a sign of weakness.” She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

89. “Au revoir, Shoshanna!” Inglourious Basterds (2009)

88. “K-Mart sucks.” Rain Man (1988)

87. “Gentlemen, the lunchbox has landed.” The Full Monty (1997)

86. “These go to 11.” This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

85. “I can’t make love to a bush!” Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

84. “Blessed are the cheesemakers.” Life of Brian (1979)

83. “Do you like fried chicken?” Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) *Warning: this scene includes nudity but after the first five seconds, before any nudity is visible, listening is sufficient to get how great this quote is.*

82. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Casablanca (1942)

81. “Toto, I’ve got the feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” The Wizard of Oz (1939)

80. “No, I don’t think I will kiss you although you need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how.” Gone with the Wind (1939)

79. “Mein fuehrer! I can walk!” Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1962)

78. “Shut up and deal.” The Apartment (1960)

77. “Baa-ram-ewe. Baa-ram-ewe. To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true, sheep be true. Baa-ram-ewe. Babe (1995)

76. “I triple dog dare you.” A Christmas Story (1983)


Picture: A Christmas Story (1983), 3 quotes in top 200