Gooden's Goodies!
A Compendium of Top Films for your Picking Pleasure.

Friends, fellow video venturers. Rather than guessing blindly at the video store, come and browse a list of top recommendations from the world of film. As a service to you, I have listed here my favorite hundred or so films of all time plus extra cross references and "runner-up" recommendations that will help ensure that you never waste your video-watching time.

If, in scanning this list, you're a little worried that Die Hard 2, Beverly Hills Cop 3 and Police Academy 4 aren't present, then you might want to search elsewhere for your video picks reference guide. On the other hand, these movies may open your eyes to the possibilities of film and enrich you as you go.

Before I get into it, let me give you my three top tips for selecting films at the video store:

1. Look for Laurels. Few awards exist for crummy films. Even the Academy Awards, with all their politics, still go to prime samples of cinematic work, mostly. For me, Cannes and Sundance are the biggest recommendations, and anything that says "Viewer's Choice" is usually a good bet because you and I are viewers, too, and these could well be our choices. Often, box office sleepers are award winners. Don't think that just because you've never heard of a film that it's negligible.

2. Work the Network. If you find an actor or a director you enjoy, look for other work they've done. Go on a spree, following his or her entire career. You may discover other actors and directors along the way. If you like a specific genre of movie, you may find many samples that you like and be tipped off to other films. Don't stick with blockbusters: look for the smaller, stranger films, and you may be delighted and surprised.

3. Trust your Friends. I keep saying it, and I'll say it again. Box office numbers make producers cream or cry. For you and I, the viewer, they don't mean much besides successful marketing. So don't listen to the numbers and don't listen to critics. Many are paid shills that will praise even the lamest excuses for cinema. Instead, talk about movies and hear what your friends like. If they steer you right once, ask them for more suggestions. You'll find that your opinions match your friends' more than the newspaper's.

"Black & White" or a Color Classic, basically a film over 35 years old or thereabouts
Entry Point: a film that opens doors to more. (Recommendations are given)
International. Originating outside the U.S., and likely to be subtitled.
Kartoon or animated film
Music/Musical/Dance. A film where music or dance figures prominently.
Other: A film in a class of its own.
Scarce/Hard to find. Not at the better video stores, nor most Internet sources (such as
Weird/Cult Film. A movie with fanatical devotees.
Gooden Worsted's Ultrapick. A favorite among favorites.
Gooden's Best of All Time Pick
( )
Letters in parentheses mean this aspect is decidedly present, but not prominent.

A Day at the Races: Marx Brothers at their hilarious best! A Night at the Opera and Monkey Business are also great. (BCE)
Amadeus: A great semi-biography of Mozart that fully realizes all aspects of sight, sound and story. (D*)
Amelie: A totally charming French love story involving one of the most sympathetic characters in cinema. (IR*)
American Astronaut: The Billy Nayer Show's weird rock space western: great music with mind-blowing strangeness. (FMOSW)
American Movie: The unsettling, helplessly sympathetic tale of a small-time American filmmaker. (N)
Animal House: One of the funniest farces with many memorable moments and characters. (C)
Apocalypse Now!: Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness transplanted into the Vietnam War. Required viewing along with "The Making of..." (ADTW)
Artemisia : Steamy and tragic historical romance between a talented, libidinous painter and her older mentor. Visual delight. French with subtitles. (DIR)
Best in Show: Very funny dog-show movie by the brilliant Christopher Guest. Also see Waiting for Guffman: The formula works. (C)
Beyond the Mat: A deep and personal look at professional wrestling in an extremely well made documentary. (N)
The Big Night: A "food movie" about two brothers trying to run an Italian restaurant. Sensual with memorable characterizations. Also taste Babette's Feast. (C)
Big Time: Tom Waits' concert/concept video features some of his best delivered from the gut. Waits is among the greatest living songwriters, so go buy a record. (EM)
Big Trouble in Little China: A kung-fu goof. Perhaps not an extraordinary film, but really a helluva lotta fun. (ACW)
Blazing Saddles: Mel Brooks' funniest, this Western send-up is among the best laugh-out-loud comedies. Kids love the bean scene. (CY)
Blue Velvet: A dark look at the underside of "normalcy" by David Lynch. Suspense, bad sex and mystery. Try later Lynch works (but skip Eraserhead). (DETW)
Blues Brothers, The: Great music, adventurous tale, vivid characters. John Belushi shines. The DVD version includes much that was dropped from the film. (CM*)
Bottle Rocket: An amazing character study dressed in a heist. Hip but human, seriocomic, very original. See also Rushmore (C. Owen Wilson, writer) and Safe Men. (EOSW*)
Brazil: Terry Gilliam's dark vision of the future, more gut wrenching than comic, fantastically conceived and a must for the cyberpunk. Next try Time Bandits, Baron Munchausen. From the U.K. (EFIOW*)
Broadway Danny Rose: Woody Allen's best combination of moving human drama with inimitable comedy. Also see Annie Hall, Manhattan, Love and Death. (CDE)
Bugsy Malone: An inspiring gangster story acted entirely by young kids, this launching pad for Jodie Foster and Scott Baio still plucks the heartstrings. (ACMY)
Camille Claudel: Passionate story of woman sculptor nurtured and stifled by the great Rodin. Great acting. From France. (DIR)
Casablanca: Just for the Bogie style, it's worth seeing. A classic noir sample, black and white film at its best. Also see the Maltese Falcon, and the adventurous African Queen. (BDER)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: One of the great youth films of all time in tasty color. A huge influence on the last few generations. (BCMWY)
Children of Heaven: A moving, heart-soaring story of striving. Because the leads are kids, the earnestness overwhelms. A true pleasure! From Iran. (I*)
City of Lost Children: Strange, dark tale of a mythological future. Engrossing surrealist cinema from France. (FIW)
The Color Purple: This adaptation of Alice Walker's superior book is still satisfying in its complete and tender portrayal of life in the post-war south. (D)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Among the best martial arts films. The choreography is beautiful, enhanced by great effects. High action (with female leads) from Hong Kong. (AI)
Daniel and Lauren Ari's Wedding Video: The best wedding video ever made, brilliantly shot by Gerald Fleischmman, father of the groom. Come over and I'll show you. (ACDMNORST*)
Dark Days: Get into the literal subculture of New York: the homeless that lived in abandoned subway tunnels below the city. Fascinating and ultimately positive. (N)
Dinner Game, The: My favorite French comedy, good for a night of out-loud guffaws. A farce that bears repeated viewing. (CI*)
Do The Right Thing: Spike Lee's landmark film of a too-hot summer day. Let this be a gateway film for Bamboozled and many other Lee films. (DEO*)
Dog Day Afternoon: Unexpected turns in this classic heist tale. Great scripting and acting. (AC)
Down by Law: Deeply human, tragic, hilarious, suspenseful, desolate B&W masterpiece by Jim Jarmusch, starring Tom Waits, Roberto Benigni, John Lurie. Look for other work by all of these guys! (DEOW*)
Dr. Strangelove: Stanley Kubrick's dark satire about nuclear holocaust and the insane people of the military-industrial complex. Important and salient today. More Kubrick and more Peter Sellers are recommended. (B(C)EO)
Elling: Funny, delightful, quirky and triumphant tale of two Norwegian misfits somehow making good. (CDI)
Erin Brokovich: A particularly strong story and strong acting; one of the best mainstream blockbusters in recent years. (D)
Everybody's Famous: Greatly amusing Czech movie about a dad that wants his daughter's pop-star dreams to come true. Fresh and refreshing. (CI)
Evil Dead 2: This low-budget cult flick is a veiled satire of the horror genre, perhaps. Sam Raimi, now famous for Spider-man, directs. (A(C)HW)
Faces: Among John Cassavettes' best work, this black and white character study still holds timeless insights into humans and their relationships. Look into others by JC. (BDE)
Fanny And Alexander Swedish: From Swedish master Ingmar Bergman comes this epic opus about two children and a country. Magical. Also try Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal if you like this. (DEI)
Fast, Cheap and Out of Control: Fascinating documentary from Errol Morris that's more about a personality type than about any one subject. Pioneering work. A Brief History of Time is also a must see. (EN)
Fist of Legend: Jet Li's finest fighting film, made before he relied so much on camera tricks and cables, shows a martial arts master at his best. From Hong Kong. (AI)
Fitzcarraldo: Intense tale of incredible risk and superhuman effort with Klaus Kinsky as the symbolic Werner Herzog (director). Similar to Apocalypse now. The Making of Fitzcarraldo is also well worth seeing. (DIO*)
Foul Play: I've loved this cop comedy with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn since I was eleven. It's a hoot. Kojak! Bang! Bang! (AC)
Foxy Brown: A dated Blaxploitation film starring Pam Grier and her chest, delivers a good 70's fix, along with Coffy. Watch in bed with ice cream. (AE)
Ghandi: An aptly loving homage to the great peacemaker. Ben Kingsley is fantastic in this true story. (D)
Ghost World: An unusual tale of misfits, based on Daniel Clowes' graphic novel. The soundtrack is spectacular. (D(M)O)
Go: A heart-racing movie about hardcore youth in high-speed action. Drugs, cars, sex, lies--it's intense and well made. (ADT)
Go Fish: Down-to-earth love story about lesbians. Tells it like it is, and from many sides. Complicated issues are raised, then overcome by the overarching love story. (R)
Graduate, The: The great seduction film with young Dustin Hoffman and older Anne Bancroft. Features the music of Simon and Garfunkel. (BD(M))
Harold and Maude: The definition of "cult movie." Strange and winning tale of youth and age, life and death and love. Features the music of Cat Stevens. ((M)ORW*)
Harvey: The Jimmy Stewart classic in which a loveable drunk makes everything right. Dated but still charming. (BC)
Heavy Metal: This sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll cartoon is great for teenage boys, animation fans, and geeks all over the world. (CFKWY*)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Gender, politics, class and fame twist this love tale into something wildly new. Destined for Rocky Horror status, includes good music and animated bits. (CD(K)MRW*)
How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying: One of my favorite musicals, this precursor to Dilbert with its pastels and production numbers still hits it corporate target. (BCM)
Ikiru (To Live): Kurosawa captures essential life lessons in this tale of a man's transformation by impending death. Ran, Rashomon, Dreams, and others are also well worth seeing. From Japan. (BDEI*)
Jesus Christ, Superstar: Catchy and original music combine with high-hippie sensibilities in this telling of the Jesus story. It's visually and aurally enjoyable. (BM)
Johnny Dangerously: A 20's period piece that now also reads as an 80's period piece, this gangster-film send-up is a delightful bit of folderol. (C)
Kikujiro: I really like this Japanese picaresque of an unlikely pair of traveling companions: a young boy and a bungling ne'er-do-well grownup. Funny and touching. (IO*)
King of Masks: Visually spectacular story about a mask actor and his growing love for his adopted granddaughter. From China. (DI)
La Dolce Vita: A deep exploration of Italy's (and Fellini's) mythology through the medium of film. Next try 8 1/2, And the Ship Sails On, and Roma.  (BDEI)
Latcho Drom: This French film covers Africa, Europe and Asia, capturing the vital music of the wide-scattered Rom (Gypsy) people. Sequel Gadjo Dilo also excellent. (EIMO)
Lawrence of Arabia: Historical fiction on the scale of Ghandi with a masterpiece performance by Peter O'Toole. An epic, great for wide-screen playback. (ABD)
Legend of Drunken Master: Either this or the original Drunken Master (1972) is the best kung-fu film I know. Starring the great Jackie Chan. From Hong Kong. If you like this, you'll like most all of Jackie Chan's work. (AEI*)
Lilies: An incredibly powerful drama that also manages to encompass a statement on the art of filmmaking. Very beautiful movie. (D*)
Man with Two Brains: Steve Martin's strangest and best. Way out there mad-doctor zaniness. The Jerk and All of Me are also great comedy films. (CE*)
Matrix: For special effects, action, and not-so-subtle sociological comment, this action/adventure is tops in my book for sheer entertainment. (AF)
Midnight Cowboy: The classic disillusionment film about a greenhorn gigolo and his loser friend. A great performance by Dustin Hoffman. For more 70's disillusion, try Network. (DE)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Perhaps the most often-quoted comedy, and with good reason. If you, too, become a fanatic, try MP's Life of Brian and MP's Meaning of Life. United Kingdom. (CEIW)
Mulholland Drive: David Lynch turns his lucid and dark vision on Los Angeles, a place brimming with underbelly. Strange narrative patterns foil straight lines. (DT)
My Favorite Year: The most charming comedy I know, based on television's golden age and Sid Caesar's "Show of Shows." (C*)
Mystery Science 3000: Catalina Caper: MST3K is both homage and mockery (mostly the latter) of B-movies. A man and two robots crack wise while watching old films for unbelievably funny results. (CEFOW)
Nurse Betty: Very original spin on small-town-girl-goes-to-Hollywood story. Add gangsters, mental imbalance and unexpected twists. (CD)
Orlando: Based on the Virginia Woolf novel, this time-traveling highly romantic flick addicted me to Tilda Swinton. Excellent music, too. (DOR*)
Party, The: Peter Sellers turns his bumbling, hilarious shlub of a character into a romantic anti-hero in this fun farce. Also try Being There, Dr. Strangelove. (BCE)
Pecker: Funny story about art freaks. Work slowly back through Waters' oeuvre: Cecil B. Demented, Serial Mom and later the classic gross-out, Pink Flamingos. (CE)
Popeye: Underappreciated musical adaptation of the cartoon strip, the gritty hand-drawn one, not the TV shorts. Personally, I think it's great fun as a live-action cartoon. (C(K)MY)
Princess Bride: Delightful swashbuckling adventure romance-fantasy. Highly memorable performances all around. With Andre the Giant, too. (ACFY*)
Raiders of the Los Ark: One of the all-time great adventure films, unmatched by its own sequels. (A)
Rear Window: Hitchcock! This is my favorite for suspense and realism. It wears the decades well. Try Vertigo and North by Northwest, too. (BDET)
Repo Man: This punk rock anthem is a gem of a script: zany, unprecedented. Cops, repo men, aliens, scientists, criminals--it's all here. (FOW)
Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip: Richard Pryor's most sincere and funny stand-up film. The comedy is heart-felt and good, certainly worth a second viewing. (C)
Roger & Me: Don't get me started on the brilliance of Michael Moore, one of the few media makers today saying what needs to be said. Read Stupid White Men and watch for new work. (ENW*)
Run Lola Run: Three-in-one film about a German woman's attempt to save the life of her boyfriend. Hot tension and good characters. (AIK)
Sex, Lies and Videotape: Stephen Soderbergh proves that a penetrating, life-changing film can be made for a quarter of a million dollars. Should be required viewing for everyone in Hollywood. (D)
Shall We Dance?: Such a darling love story about Japanese men learning to cut loose on the dance floor. Romance, music, passion, redemption. (IMR)
Shower: Movie about a father, his two sons, and their traditional Chinese bath house stays true to life's joys and tragedies. One of my all-time favorite films. (CDI*)
Slacker: Austin Texas' residents populate this engaging filmic landscape. Overeducated, underemployed, dedicated but slightly maladjusted, talking 'bout my g-g-generation. Before Sunrise is also good. (EOW*)
Smoke: Touching tapestry of New York denizens meeting at the local smoke shop. Excellent cast and natural dialogue. (CR)
Sopranos, The: A fantastic HBO series now on VHS/DVD. Addictive as contraband from Columbia. Gangsters face sociological challenges in new-millennium suburbia. Once you start, just try to stop. (DEOW*)
South Park Episode 6: Mr. Hanky, the Christmas Poo: Hi-de-ho! Still the best episode though the entire series--and the feature-length movie--are really funny and irreverent. Kyle is institutionalized for befriending dung. (CEKOW*)
Spinal Tap: Assuming you've seen this, you'll agree it's one of the funniest films of all time, spawning countless imitators. If you haven't seen it, it's time. (CMN*)
Spirited Away: A best-in-class animated feature, like Wizard of Oz, but stranger, wilder, and more enchanted. (FIKW)
Sting The: The confidence game is well acted and scripted all around. Scott Joplin music adds flair. (D)
Straight Story, The: David Lynch's most heart-felt, perhaps. A story about an old man driving an interstate tractor to see his brother. Based on a true story. (D)
Strictly Ballroom: High-spirited dance comedy. Great energy, totally charming. From Australia. (IM)
Swimming to Cambodia: Spalding Gray's monologue: fascinating delivery, interesting subject matter. His books and audio recordings are also good. The excellent film, My Dinner with Andre, also comes to mind. (ENOW*)
Talk to Her: One of the greatest love stories ever told well. Gooden's Best Picture for 2002, much better than that shallow flash called "Chicago." Almodovar just keeps getting better, but also see "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down," and others of his. (EIR)
The Steven Banks Home Entertainment Center: A one-man show from cable's Showtime, Steven Banks proves to be quite talented--enough to hold the viewer's rapt attention for an hour. (COS)
Titus: Incredible adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus with deeply disturbing visuals conceived by Julie Taymor. (DO*)
Toy Story 1-2: Pixar has pushed computer animation past self-wonderment to create fully realized cartoon characters in thoroughly enjoyable tales. (ACKY)
True Stories: The Talking Heads' weird opera is about as subtle as magical realism gets. Great music. Next watch their concert video, Stop Making Sense. (EMOW)
Trust: Stripped of cinematic constructs, this depicts the genesis of a deeply abiding relationship between a man and a woman. Surviving Desire is another great one by Hal Hartley. (DERW*)
Twin Dragons: A Jackie Chan great highlighting both his martial arts (climax fight scene in an auto-testing plant) and his great gift with slapstick comedy. Hong Kong. (ACI*)
Two-thousand Year Old Man, The: Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner dialogue set to cartoons. A good short before a feature-length film. Funny! (BCKY)
Umbrellas of Cherbourg: A French modern opera of the ordinary; the classic story of a first love cracking under the pressures of life, and life going on anyway. (BDIMR)
Velasquez' Little Museum: The best dance film I know of. By the Canadian troupe LaLaLa HumanSteps. Almost impossible to find, though. If you find it, please share! (IMOS*)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: The best animation/live action mix to date with a really funny story and historical meetings between Donald and Daffy, Mickey and Bugs. (CKOY)
Wings of Desire: Wim Wenders wins Gooden's best picture award. This one has it all: humor, romance, music, fantasy, all surrounding the most honest, real story I've seen in film. Great, great, great. From Germany. Next: Lisbon Story, Buena Vista Social Club. (DIR**)
Young Frankenstein: A Mel Brooks horror spoof, this film's timelessness is evidenced by how often it's quoted. Musical number, "Putting on the Ritz," is primo stuff. (BC(H))
Zelig: Woody Allen's faux-documentary: funny and touching, too. Also see Radio Days, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Purple Rose of Cairo. (CO)
Pi: Black and white brain-thriller about God, math and insanity. Very well conceived, heady but totally riveting. (DOT)
Y Tu Mama Tambien: Very sexy coming/coming-of-age picaresque told with an earthy, unadorned humanity. From Mexico. (IR)

When you've exhausted the list above, try the following movies. They are films that I vaguely remembered having loved, films that were pretty great but with some flaws, or films that friends recommended that I haven't seen. (Those friends are the ones whose opinions I have learned I can trust.)

A Fistful of Dollars
Babe, Pig in the City
Back to the Future (original)
Bullets Over Broadway
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Cider House Rules, The
Cinema Paradiso
E. T.
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Ed Wood
Ghost Dog
Godfather, The
Groundhog Day
In the Heat of the Night
King Kong (original)
LA Confidential
Last Tango in Paris
Life Is Beautiful
Like Water for Chocolate
Limey, The
My Left Foot
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou
Paint Your Wagon
Presto, P.I.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Psycho (original)
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
Santa Sangre
Star Wars
Strangers on a Train
Sunset Boulevard
Ten Commandments
Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down
The Full Monty
Thomas Crowne Affair, The
Topsy Turvy
Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Trois Couleurs: Rouge, Blanc, Bleu (the trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski)
Un Chien Andalou
What's Up Tiger Lily?
Year of Living Dangerously

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