Lists are great. They inspire discussion, create arguments, and tend to spiral off into fun new lists. When you do a list about the “BEST” of anything it goes from being fun to becoming a hotbed for arguments. There’s no such thing as a definitive list but I’ve decided to pull from my rather extensive life of film watching and put it to good use.
This is not the “film critic’s top 100” list. There’s no guarantee Citizen Kane or The Bicycle Thief will be in the top echelon or even on the list. This is the 100 movies I would put my name on as my top 100. If I died tomorrow this would represent the 100 films I find most vital, special, or ones that bonded to whatever it is that makes me me. I’m not including documentaries, though that might make for a nice supplemental list.
The first 80 will be in no particular order. The last 20 will be in very particular order. One a day, you have my word.
#46 – The Hustler
Why is it here:
You want the definition of “seminal”, here it is. Paul Newman is unstoppable in possibly his most iconic role, one he repeated to an apology Oscar for Martin Scorsese’s great but far inferior The Color of Money. A pool hustler is really the role that utilizes Newman’s considerable charm, cockiness, and amazing ability to be sort of a loser even though the guy is anything but. Add in the Kingly duo of Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott and the recipe is for perfection.
It’s a bit dated in some ways but the appeal of the film hasn’t aged a second and it’s largely due in part to the combination of ageless cool and how utterly cinematic Robert Rossen is able to turn the game of pool. It’s intense, fun, and Jackie Gleason is a great heavy. Pun intended.
You just have to watch it. This and its sequel is a great way to spend a lazy Sunday.
Moments to savor:
“A 25% slice of something big is better than a 100% slice of nothing.” Minnesota Fats’ entrance. Billiards montage! Paul Newman at his Paul Newmanest. Piper Laurie bringing the sexy. A young George C. Scott, a man of rock and steel.
Somewhat high. It’ll definitely get your ass to the pool hall.
It makes you wonder why the hell Jackie Gleason didn’t have a 50/50 split between drama and comedy. He could do it all. Part of why he is a legend is the fact he was such a good actor, he could really carry the moments between the laughs in everything he did.