My Favorite Movies

The best list ever of the best movies ever from

You all know by now how much I love old movies; I’ve been recommending them in my books and calendars forever.  I know you love them too, so I thought I’d give you a list of my very favorite movies — wonderful stories guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, swoon, dream, yearn, or think.

Please forgive me if I’ve left your favorite out.  There’s no rhyme nor reason to this list; I didn’t include lots of really good movies, like Sound of Music for example, or An American in Paris, Mildred Pierce, Casablanca, Funny Face, or even My Fair Lady . . . and I’m sure there are plenty I’ve simply forgotten.  But this is still a really good start.  These are films I never tire of. 

Many of the movies I love best were made before I was born, and I saw almost all of them on the TV.  Wonderful, romantic, beautiful, magical, touching, funny and charming movies which, because they’re in black and white, lots of people have just never seen. They don’t know what they’ve been missing!  That’s why I’m doing this . . . a cozy afternoon on a freezing day, with a cup of hot chocolate and one of these movies is my idea of heaven.  They are soul soothers, inspiration-givers, joy spreaders.

I came by my love for these movies naturally, my mom started me very young.  She’s the same age as Shirley Temple; she fell in love with Shirley when she was a little girl.  By the time I was old enough to be propped in a chair, she made sure the Good Ship Lollypop was tap dancing its way into my heart.  She and I know the words to all of Shirley’s songs; we sang them while we did dishes.  I still love Shirley.  If there was ever anything cuter or more adorable than Shirley Temple in Baby Take a Bow, I don’t know what it is.  All my life, I could be having a bad day, turn on Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, hear Shirley sing “Come and Get Your Happiness,” see the darling curtains at Aunt Sarah’s house and the roses on Tony’s Porch, and cheer right up.

From Shirley Temple, it was natural for me to move up to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies; they were made about the same time.  I think they’re sort of the grownup version of Shirley Temple, sweet, innocent and charming; the fabulous genius-inspired dances they did (like this one in Swing Time); the creative visuals their early movies presented in the height of 1930′s fantasy fashion, elegant clothes, beautiful furniture and architecture, not to mention the music!  It was magic!  A world of inspiration; a feast for the senses!

By the time I was old enough to live out on my own, I was half-formed about what life was going to be like, and all of it, for better or for worse, was based on books like Pollyanna and Little Women and these wonderful old films, most of which I saw on the Million Dollar Movie on television.

I moved from my parents house into an apartment with my best friend Janet.  Her mom loved old movies too.  I’ll never forget us, lying on the floor, watching TV at two in the morning; A Farewell to Arms had just ended with Jennifer Jones dying, we were both sobbing hysterically. I had to get up and go into the other room.  Oh we loved it!  Janet called me Sue-Sue Applegate after the Ginger Rogers character in The Major and the Minor. (We called her Natasha after Boris’ wife.) We would get in her huge old car and go to the drive-in movies, wearing our jammies with big coats over them so we could go to the snack bar; we set our hair in big rollers while watching The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, in French with English subtitles, and sobbed all the way home.  We really loved to cry at movies!  Splendor in the Grass almost killed us. (You can tell by these photos, we were already legends in our own minds!)

Old movies shaped my dreams:  they showed me what I wanted my house to look like, how I wanted to dress, what kind of a person I wanted to be; those shipboard romances in An Affair to Remember, The Lady Eve, Sabrina, and Shall We Dance; the rose-covered cottages in Father of the Bride and Love Letters; houses with darling curtains and wallpaper like in Dear Ruth; the train rides in The Palm Beach Story, Some Like it Hot, North by Northwest, and Brief Encounter.  I dreamed of fields of bluebells as high as my knee, like the ones I saw in Howard’s End, and one day I went to England to see them and they were just as wonderful as I knew they’d be. 

You could go around the world, even from a one-bedroom apartment, with The Quiet Man, Roman Holiday, Mrs. Miniver, Ninotchka (prettiest dress in the movies is in Ninotchka), Out of Africa, Two for the Road, and A Room with a View.

I planted flowering trees because of the tree-lined road Anne Shirley (of Green Gable fame) drove through, the petals flying, in the buckboard with Matthew just after she arrived on the train.  Remember?

Miracle on 34th Street made me decide to never grow all the way up.  I could see the fairy-tale life was the life for me.  I knew we lived in a beautiful world full of magic and charm, I saw it in movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bishop’s Wife, Margie, and The Secret Garden.

When 9/11 happened I was glued to the TV like everyone else, but after a while, the intensity was too much, the grief, sorrow, anger, pain was unbearable; the real world was just too real.  I couldn’t sleep, thinking about man’s inhumanity to man; the TV news was unrelenting.  I felt like it wasn’t healthy to hear it anymore. I finally turned it off, and began feeding my soul with childhood favorites . . . at first it was all Shirley Temple movies. Then, watching Cary Grant, cutie-pie Walter Pigeon, gorgeous Gregory Peck, Jeanne Crain, Barbara Stanwyck, or Myrna Loy — the laughter, beauty, whimsy, and charm made my troubles float away.  It took a few weeks for me to find my equilibrium and remember that the overwhelming majority of people in this world are good; those movies really helped.  One big bad apple had upset the balance.

If you’re starting from scratch, trying to learn more about old movies, it’s hard to know where to start. So here is my list of favorites, many times tried and forever true.  I added links to some of the trailers for these movies — I didn’t put trailers on all of them, just want you to know that the ones without the links are just as good as the ones that have them!  You can get these movies sent to your house from Netflix or buy them at Amazon. You can find them at your public library!  You can look them up on Google to learn more about them; some of them are even free and run in full length on Youtube.  If you decide to go the Netflix route you can put this whole list in your Netflix Queue and they will send them to you one at a time, you’ll never even have to think about it!  So here we go!  Enjoy!  Here’s the list:

This is a list of newer movies that I love as much as the old . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

213 Responses to My Favorite Movies

  1. Ginger says:

    Just saw one you might like. It’s an old Cary Grant called Room for One More. It was delightful.

  2. Ginger Meador says:

    I thought my husband and I were the only ones who loved “Hobson’s Choice.”
    We watch it over and over, whenever we need a ‘feel good movie.’

  3. Kywa says:

    The other night we rented Harvey on my husband’s birthday gift (Amazon Fire). It’s the original black and white, and my 10 year old who was not feeling good was all doze-y at the beginning. Once they announced Harvey is a Pookah, she was all eyes and ears glued to the t.v. (She knows about Pookah’s, have read the Guardian’s series of books by William Joyce. E. Aster Bunnymund is a Pookah). It thrilled me to see her so enthralled with this oldie. It’s such a great feel good movie.

    • sbranch says:

      Such a great thing to introduce a child to — there’s so much history in old movies, in such a wonderfully enjoyable way to learn about a way of life that is pretty much gone for them. It is possible to make lives like that inside your own house, but you have to know about them first.

  4. Jade Michele says:

    Have you seen From Time to Time ? It’s on Netflix right now. It’s a lovely movie,based on a novel by Lucy M Boston, I think you will like it! :)
    Love your book A Fine Romance,it’s one of my all time favorites!

  5. Bridget says:

    Susan, Thank you so much for your great movie recommendations A lot of them are my favorites and can’t wait to make favorites out of the others. Have you ever seen SHINING THROUGH with Melanie Griffith and Michael Douglas? Great WWII romance. My very favorite: Jane Austen’s PERSUASION with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root…terrific performances!! I’m on my second reading of your FINE ROMANCE. Love it and bought a bunch for gifts!!

  6. Alice Lucas says:

    Dear Susan, Could you please tell me who stars in the movie Greenfingers. I have tried to find this movie, without any luck so far.
    If you ever update your movie list, you might want to add Life Of Pi and Silverlinings Playbook to that list.
    Your Friend, Alice

  7. Helen Nelson-Hougland says:

    Your list of favorite movies is perfect! May I also suggest In Name Only with Cary Grant and the beautiful Carole Lombard. Oh, the charming house in this one! And I love the house, the furnishings, the curtains in The Bachelor and The Bobby Soxer with Cary and Shirley Temple, as well as the wonderful Myrna Loy. Many thanks for being right on target with your movies list!

  8. PJ says:

    At the risk of sounding like everyone else here, your favorites are my favorite movies, too! Kindred spirits, indeed. In honor of your potential trip to Scotland, however, I’d like to offer a couple of favorite Scottish movies of mine to add to your “homework”. The first is Local Hero, with Peter Riegert, Peter Capaldi (the new Dr. Who), Denis Lawson (Ewan McGregor’s uncle) and, surprisingly, Burt Lancaster. It’s a quirky comedy along the lines of Waking Ned Devine. The second is Dear Frankie, a little-known but heart warming movie that made me fall for Gerard Butler. Emily Mortimer also stars. I would suggest using closed-captioning to watch these, especially the second one. The Glaswegian accent is the hardest Scottish accent to understand in my estimation. Hope you enjoy them!

  9. Linda Treap says:

    I have always liked your scrapbook items and I just ran across you while looking up Gladys Taber (who I have always loved) and you are fabulous.
    I also, love Beatrix Potter, most all of the same movies that you like, and I’m so glad that you have so many fans. Please count me in as a new and forever fan. Thank you so much!

  10. Not sure if I saw it on your list, but have you seen “I Know Where I’m Going” with Wendy Hiller? And how about “Local Hero”? Two excellent films.

  11. Christabelle says:

    Susan, hope you had a WONDERFUL train trip. I’ve been a fan of train travel for some 30 years now and have taken The City of New Orleans countless times. I loved your train travel guide. I’m always sharing “tips” with others who are contemplating riding the rails. Like make sure you bring a pair of easy off-on slipper type shoes (but with crepe sole bottoms) for when you need to use the restroom (the single sleepers don’t have their own toilet) but don’t want to put on shoes and socks in the middle of the night. Or tipping your porter at the beginning of the trip to ensure that he/she takes super good care of you — like taking your breakfast order the night before, and bringing it to you all “gift wrapped” early the next morning.

    Anyway, the reason I’m commenting about train travel after your movie-related post is that I didn’t see anything about the other Sullivan (Anne of Green Gables) Company DVDs. You can get these from the library and have a film fest while on board. Anyone who loves AOGG will love the entire Tales of Avonlea series, which includes many of the same characters. the Emily of New Moon series, and “Wind at My Back,” the completely unrelated but totally wonderful series about the Great Depression. The only down side is that you want these stories to go on forever.

    Oh, and there are two lighthearted movies I remember watching with my mom when she visited me post breast cancer surgery almost 20 years ago, and so they remain favorites, as well. “Only You” with Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey, Jr. (along with a perfectly wonderful Bonnie Hunt), and “IQ” with Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins.

    • sbranch says:

      So much good information here Christabelle ~ thank you!

      • Christabelle says:

        I’ve always loved that you have the regard that I do for rail travel. And that’s something coming from someone who was actually on a train that had a collision and derailment! Yes, I got “back on the horse” and took another train trip that same year. Perhaps with proper funding, such accidents (although uncommon) would be even less likely to occur, as we would have proper lights and other warning devices at ALL crossings throughout the U.S. Susan, one of the things I also loved reading (I can’t remember where you have it) is when you arrived back home in Martha’s Vineyard and had a get together with all of your gal pals. I also, of course, loved the post, years ago, about your cross country train travels with a friend of yours. Do you think — pretty please — you could somehow create a new sub-category under the “About Me” category, and put all of the train-related stuff there? Thank you!!!

  12. Christabelle says:

    Will do, Susan. Thanks!!!

  13. suzanne says:

    My favorite to watch at Christmastime is “Since you went Away”, with Claudette Colbert, Shirley Temple and Jennifer Jones. Women on the homefront during WWII ending on a tearfully beautiful Christmas.

  14. Catherine Wheeler says:

    Love, love all of your choices – especially I Married a Witch – great movie. One not on your list is a favorite of mine: Violets Are Blue with Kevin Kline, Sissy Spacek and Bonnie Bedelia. The song at the end “One Day” is sung by Laura Branigan and sadly, she never recorded it on a CD. Hope you find it and enjoy.

  15. Bobbette Cockrell says:

    I have loved old movies my whole life! My mother taught me to love them and I taught my son to love them! Last year, my wonderful husband started a tradition of sending us to the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood for our birthdays <3. It's amazing to see the films on the big screen as they were meant to be seen…and to hear the stars introduce the film…SIGH <3. Margret O'Brien introduced Meet Me In St Louis, 92 year old Maureen O'Hara introduced How Green Was My Valley, Kim Novac introduced Bell, Book and Candle, Mel Brooks introduced Blazing Saddles. We sat poolside at the historic Roosevelt Hotel with our feet dangling in the pool watching American Graffiti. Bobby will be 21 this year, so Hubby bought tickets to the cocktail party =). It's like a Star Wars convention for Trekkie's, only for Movie Nerds!

    • sbranch says:

      How absolutely wonderful Bobbette! Margaret O’Brien was so wonderful in Meet Me in St. Louis! And the Canterville Ghost . . . and the Secret Garden . . . what a treat to see her in person. All of them! In 2015 the TCM Festival is March 26-29 and it looks like passes are still available. I’m going to have to go one of these days! Thank you for telling us about it!

  16. Kate Wyllie says:

    You have listed a lot of my favorites……..especially Teahouse of the August Moon…..but, the movie (a musical ) “1776″……. I think is worth mentioning……I feel so good after that movie, if you haven’t seen it……try watching it. Just FYI…..
    Warmest regards,
    Katie

  17. Laura says:

    Thank you for this list, Susan! I have seen and enjoyed so many of these, but not all . . . which makes me happy because now I have a list!! I would also like to recommend About Time. It came out last year and Bill Nighy is in it, always a good thing, in my opinion. Anyway, I watched this movie with my son, now 20, and we both loved, loved, loved it!!! He went and bought a copy because he wants to watch it once a year he said, to remind him of what is important in life. Me too!

    • sbranch says:

      I keep hearing great things about this one . . . where did you see it . . . I can’t find it on Netflix. But it’s by the same director who did Love Actually which just may be my favorite movie EVER!

  18. anne engelhardt says:

    Just read your list of favorite movies…still smiling!
    Let’s not forget “I Remember Mama”, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, and just for fun…”The Trouble with Angels”

  19. Julie says:

    Can’t wait to see the movies you’ve recommended. I am making my list now. Anything that Nora Ephron has touched in any way, I love. I am curious if you’ve seen Her with Joaquin Phoenix? His performance is nothing short of amazing. It certainly isn’t your average love story but it is touching, and the music she plays to capture their relationship is haunting. I think you may like it.

    • sbranch says:

      I haven’t seen it . . . was steering clear because I heard he was in love with his computer? Is that right? But you can make a movie about anything if you put enough heart in it.

  20. I love “Halfway House” ~ a little known British film, and “I Know Where I’m Going” ~~~

    Susan, you have provided a wonderful list to explore! Did you know {I saw Finding Nemo on your list} that they are making “Finding Dory”? One to watch out for, she was such a cracker!

    ~~~waving~~~ from Across the Pond ~~~ Debs in Wales ~~~

  21. M. says:

    Thank you for the list! I’ve seen quite a few of these, but now I have shedloads more to watch. Perfect holidays are made of old-movie marathons.

    PS – 1776 is definitely a fave at our house too, Kate. We have the soundtrack and sing along loudly on road trips.

  22. Elaine Koenig says:

    thank you for the great list. Just wanted to mention A Childs Christmas in Wales. Perfect holiday movie.

  23. Margret says:

    Hello!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful list.
    If you haven’t seen this endearing series I highly recommend these three films to you:
    Four Daughters, Four Wives, Four Mothers. (There is another related film called Daughters Courageous that includes the same cast but is not really part of the series). The films follow four sisters, their father, their aunt, and their love interests over the course of many years.

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