What we consider our favorite things says so much about us. While some books, songs, or films may remain lifelong favorites, our tastes may change, and what we once loved might not touch us in the same way.
I wanted to track what I consider my top favorite films for this reason. Some choices were immediate and easy, and others took more consideration. There are movies I love and consider important to how I’ve grown, but if I could only watch ten films for the rest of my life, which ones would pass that test of watchability? Going by this test, some surprises snuck into this exclusive group, but life can’t be all comedy or drama or camp or fantasy. We need silly, inexplicable stories just as much as we need the serious ones.
So these movies are the ones that never fail to delight me, the stories that inspire me and comfort me at this time in life.
For me, it started with Shirley Temple movies.
In childhood, my local library was tucked away in a school district building, limited to a long stretch of a hallway and two cramped children’s rooms. The library has since become a sprawling, gorgeous building a block away from this old location, but my formative memories as a reader rest within visions of that confined space, its dirt-brown carpet, the holiday season’s glass case display of a wintry village, and the chapter book alcove’s solar system mural.
At the end of the long hallway were the shelves of VHS tapes, when DVDs were still a novelty, when your main hope for a movie selection was that the person who checked it out before you had rewound the tape. In a time when our movies now start within a short series of clicks, I marvel over how foreign rewinding seems to me now. God forbid you check out a dramatic epic that was split between two VHS tapes.
1) Lady and the Tramp being serenaded over a spaghetti dinner, but especially when accompanying the 102 Dalmatians twist of two human actors, an eventual real-life couple that’s still together today, connecting over that sweetly shared meatball.
2) A couple’s everyday jaunt through a London tube station in About Time, capturing the stresses and the wonders of the mundane yet magical.
3) Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed huddled around a telephone together, just barely balancing between being calm childhood contemporaries and passionate, loving partners.
4) Jimmy Stewart’s slow, twinkling grin in any movie.
5) Captain von Trapp straightening his gloves before stepping in to teach Maria how a man dances.
I’m a crier. I can usually hold it together in real life, but put me in front of certain movies or TV shows and I’m a mess. I’ve even written about the shows you should stream when you need a good cry.
There are specific cinematic moments that never fail to make me misty-eyed and sniffling. Perhaps I’ll soon talk about TV moments that made me ugly cry to the extreme, but for now, I want to focus on the more low-key, tender moments in film that either made me upset even as a child or have only struck a chord in recent years.
There will definitely be mentions of spoilers for these movies, so proceed with caution!