1- Bad Day at Black Rock – (John Sturges, US,1955)
A gentle stranger gets off a train to set foot in a seemingly quiet town where no one ever stops. When he starts asking questions about a Japanese farmer (World War II just ended) who used to live there, he brings instant suspicion and rapidly growing hostility from the town’s inhabitant.
Shot in economical style with a western-feel, especially the camera angles, Sturges’ anti racist tale is strongly supported by its main character whose charismatic but unwelcome presence just brings unprovoked (at least by him) and escalating violence to a seemingly quiet town. Spencer Tracy, playing his stranger character in a very peaceful way (at least from the start) offers a great balance opposite an amazing bunch consisting of Walter Brennan, Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine.
2- Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah, US, 1974)
Bennie (wonderfully played by Warren Oates) is trying to make it big as a drug baron, and puts a high price on the head of his daughter’s lover, Alfredo Garcia. While every mean bastard around is looking to get (by any means necessary) his hand on the worthy Garcia, Bennie gets more than what he bargained for, as they really mean business…
Sam Peckinpah may have been a misogynistic violent drunkard, but he sure knew how to shoot and edit a flick. All his magic and editing tricks are spanned in this overlooked film. You get the feeling the Coen Brothers looked into this one before making No Country for Old Men.
3- Lawrence of Arabia – David Lean, UK, 1962)
Much has been written about this one, but it has to be on this list. They don’t make these anymore. How come they let him shoot this his own (stubborn) way… and finish it without being fired? Epic.
4- North by Northwest – (Alfred Hitchcock, US, 1959)
Alfred giving us as much action as suspense… Delightful! As always everyone’s chasing the (poor) wrong man. And what a run. A classic!
5- Raiders of the lost Ark – (Steven Spielberg, US, 1981)
It is more than a Blockbuster… Great camerawork, editing, music… and writing. The most interesting entry of the series as it focuses on one thing: the Ark and not on sub-plots. By the end, we all want to know what’s inside the damn Ark everyone’s fighting for. In the sequels who cares about the Diamonds, E.T’s, Chalice, etc… Do you?
6- The train – (John Frankenheimer US, 1964)
A race against time to save Art from the Nazis by train… The babelian cast and obvious questions regarding Frankenheimer taking over direction from Arthur Penn (who would probably have made a highly different but interesting picture) doesn’t keep this one from being an efficient and clever actioneer. Despite the low opinion star Burt Lancaster seemed to have about him, Frankenheimer knew his tools.
7- The taking of Pelham 1-2-3 – original 1973 (Joseph Sargent, US)
From the first note of funky music and the first look at the bad guys hijacking a subway car (they really look like cold blooded murderers) by way of Metro-Cop Walter Mathau (he looks like an angry dog who’s bone was stolen) this one has it all and its under Highly efficient direction from Sargent. Add the despicable city officials calculating if its worth saving off the lives of nice people from an Hijacked NY subway line and you’re in for a treat.
8 – The tall target – (Anthony Mann, US, 1951)
Apparently, a lesser effort by Mann. Really? Could be the best film of most directors…Efficient and well shot… And who’s that mysterious man our heros trying to protect on the train anyway? Wait and see…Suspenseful!
9 – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – (John Huston, US 1948)
Human beings against themselves… Huston made a dozen great films after this one, but could not top it…
10 – White Heat – (Raoul Walsh, US, 1949)
From the great fast-paced opening it just doesn’t stop for two hours. Full devilish bloody vengeance. Walsh’s Masterpiece.