News Column

The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va., Rob Hedelt column

August 18, 2013


Aug. 18--SEVERAL weeks ago, I promised to share a list of my 20 favorite movies.

I do that today, and next Sunday, I'll share responses from readers who've sent lists of favorites.

In struggling to choose from the thousands of movies seen over the years, I reached two conclusions: There's no way to pick just 20, and there would be a difference between my lists of favorite films and best films. But by sticking to the movies I like the best, and by cheating a little tossing in titles nearly equal to my picks it was possible to produce a list of 20.

In many cases, I now realize, movies are on this list because I love the star or stars in them, the majority of them from decades past.

Gregory Peck, who stars in the only film I rate in order "To Kill A Mockingbird" is easily my all-time favorite.

To me, Peck was transcendent as Atticus Finch in "Mockingbird," though he also shined in "Twelve O'Clock High," "Roman Holiday" and many others.

Jimmy Stewart is one of my other favorite actors, which is why "Rear Window" and "It's a Wonderful Life" both make my list, though I wouldn't have lost much sleep substituting "Vertigo," "Harvey" or "The Philadelphia Story."

Cary Grant Hmm, a '40s and '50s trend continues leads me to gladly place "North by Northwest" among my favorites. I also love "Indiscreet," "To Catch a Thief" and even "Father Goose."

Being a big fan of Westerns and John Wayne leads me to select "The Searchers." "Rio Lobo," "Red River" or even "The Quiet Man" would also be good choices.

"Mister Roberts" makes it for the genius of Jack Lemmon, which also brought us films like "The Apartment," "Some Like it Hot" and "The Days of Wine and Roses."

Sometimes the mood and emotion a film captures strikes a chord. That's why I so loved "The Last Picture Show," which portrayed the heartache of a slowly dying town.

For me, the Jimmy Stewart of today is Tom Hanks, whose "Forrest Gump" makes the list. "Philadelphia" and "Saving Private Ryan" showed he had more than just comic chops.

Is comic genius Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" that much funnier than his "Blazing Saddles"? Not by much, though the former makes the list. "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" would also be good picks of the type.

Also on the silly side of comedy, I watch "Best in Show" whenever it's on, as I love the tongue-in-cheek approach of the ensemble troupe that also made the hilarious rockumentary "Spinal Tap."

When I first saw "The Deer Hunter," and its electric Russian roulette sequence, it emblazoned itself in my memory and became a favorite.

Ditto for the 1974 version of "The Great Gatsby," which is the more respectable Robert Redford flick to put on my list, though I must confess to also loving the lesser-known "Jeremiah Johnson," largely because of its beautiful mountainside vistas.

"Blade Runner" and "Alien" captured the look and feel of strange and terrifying landscapes with superb casts, while Kevin Costner's "Dances with Wolves" was a magical look at the westward expansion on this planet.

"Silence of the Lambs" and "The Shawshank Redemption" are amazing examples of movies made well, while "Stand by Me" connects because it's done well.

Loving sports the way I do, I put "Bull Durham" on the list, just barely edging out the superb basketball tale "Hoosiers" and the emotional "Rudy."

And I prefer the funny Bill Murray to the esoteric version, so "Caddyshack" makes the list, finishing a smidgen above "Stripes," which wasn't a great movie but always makes me laugh.

There are countless others that might find a spot on the list on a different day, from "A Beautiful Mind" to "The King's Speech," from "Goodbye Mr. Chips" to "Psycho" and even "Tootsie." But for today, these are my 20, with more than a few honorary mentions sneaked in.


"To Kill a Mockingbird"

"Rear Window"

"It's a Wonderful Life"

"North by Northwest"

"The Searchers"

"Mister Roberts"

"The Last Picture Show"

"Forrest Gump"

"Young Frankenstein"

"Best in Show"

"The Deer Hunter"

"The Great Gatsby"

"Blade Runner"


"Dances with Wolves"

"Silence of the Lambs"

"The Shawshank Redemption"

"Stand by Me"

"Bull Durham"



With Rob sharing readers' picks next Sunday, now's the time to share your list

of favorite films, via email to, fax to 373-8455

or mail to 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415


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