Some of the very first-class films of all time have flaws that aren’t terminal, however which might be despite the fact that prominent: a questionable performance, a complicated element, an finishing that doesn’t pretty land. That’s fine: a movie that takes dangers is usually most effective to 1 that’s technically gifted however dull, and a film may be extraordinary with out being perfect.
There are films, though, with not anything really well worth complaining about; films whose flaws (in the event that they may be stated to have any) fold so properly into the entire package deal as to be indistinguishable from touches of genius. Nothing in lifestyles is perfect…however those 10 films are quite a great deal there.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Just while he concept he changed into out, Dr. Frankenstein receives pulled lower back in. Director James Whale observed up what could were the best of the monster films with one of the maximum mind-blowing feats in American cinema history: some thing altogether funnier, weirder, and deeply extra queer, with homosexual icon Ernest Thesiger prancing thru the gothic units, supplying bitchy rejoinders and seducing his antique protege into reanimating the lifeless simply one extra time. That’s all earlier than Elsa Lanchester trades her Mary Shelley outfit for the Bride’s wire-cage wig, giving beginning to an icon with only a few brief moments of movie and no dialogue. Whale and corporation are truely having quite a few fun, however the stage of element in plot, makeup, and units guarantees that not anything ever feels sloppy. —Ross Johnson
Where to stream: The Criterion Channel
His Girl Friday (1940)
When we consider the snappy, clever fashion of the higher screwball comedies, we’re considering His Girl Friday. Or we need to be. There are few higher examples of the form, and director Howard Hawks merits an awful lot of the credit score for insisting on relentlessly fast moving patter—the film became primarily based totally on a popular, dialogue-heavy play that had already been filmed as soon as as The Front Page.
This model makes more than one improvements over the original, the maximum substantial of that’s in co-lead man or woman Hildy Johnson: a person in in advance versions, here “Hildy” is brief for Hildegard and she’s performed via way of means of Rosalind Russell, now the ex-spouse of Cary Grant’s man or woman, however nevertheless each bit the hard-charging reporter and equal (after which some) of each guy withinside the newsroom. There’s now no longer a unmarried second that sags. —Ross Johnson
Where to stream: Prime Video, Paramount+, The Criterion Channel, The Roku Channel, Hoopla, Vudu, Tubi, Kanopy, and numerous others
Citizen Kane (1941)
Everyone is aware of approximately Citizen Kane, however I suspect that it’s recognition for cinematic greatness is off-setting to an lousy lot of humans who’d experience it. Which is simply too bad, due to the fact it’s extra than great. It’s good. Stunningly stunning to appearance at, with stylistic and technological improvements which can be nonetheless dazzling today, it’s additionally quirky, funny, and stays impressively well timed in its portrait of an American whose younger idealism curdles withinside the presence of his personal growing strength and wealth (and a media mogul whose hobby withinside the fact fades with time). —Ross Johnson
Where to stream: HBO Max
Casablanca is a fabricated from golden-age Hollywood—a slick film, no doubt, which makes it clean to underrate. From its establishing chase thru the streets of the identify city, to the poignant and all-time memorable ending, there’s not anything right here that doesn’t paintings brilliantly, with off-the-charts chemistry amongst all the primary characters, now no longer simply Bogart and Bergman.
What makes it even higher is its ambiguities: it’s set in an underworld wherein human beings can be performing some of the proper things, however nobody’s precise all of the time. Bogart’s man or woman Rick Blaine, one of the maximum cherished characters in movie history, steadfastly refuses to paste his neck out withinside the face of Axis aggression till it’s surely unavoidable. That anti-heroism saves the film from its very own manufacturing values. —Ross Johnson
Where to stream: HBO Max
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)
Movies are all merchandise in their time, however comedies are specifically tricky. Laughter is regularly primarily based totally on conduct this is in competition to societal norms, so what’s humorous to 1 era might also additionally appear stale or toothless some many years later. Which is why it’s terrific that this almost 78-year-vintage screwball farce from writer/director Preston Sturges continues to be so dang hilarious.
The plot is lots more, uh, grownup than you would possibly anticipate for the ‘40s: Small metropolis gal Trudy Kockenlocker is out at a bar celebrating with the men earlier than they head off to war. She has an excessive amount of to drink and wakes up the subsequent morning with a hoop on her finger, however she can’t don’t forget who she married (“…it had a z in it. Like Ratzkywatzky. Or became it Zitzkywitzky?”). Even worse, she quickly realizes she’s pregnant and minus one marriage license.
The innuendo-weighted down script, which simplest receives kookier from there, bumped into troubles with the censors of the era, naturally, and despite the fact that it’s particularly tame through today’s standards, it’s nevertheless sharp and humorous throughout. (If you’re a conventional cinema buff who thinks this listing ought to function Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels or The Lady Eve instead, I can’t argue an excessive amount of.) —Joel Cunningham
Where to stream: Kanopy, virtual rental
The Set-Up (1949)
Director Robert Wise stays underrated exactly due to the fact he didn’t appear to have a signature style, operating in loads of genres (he’s nice acknowledged for slick Hollywood musicals like The Sound of Music and West Side Story). The Set-Up could be very different: a sweaty, claustrophobic, and brutal boxing noir approximately a boxer who’s been installation to take a dive. Nobody instructed him, he’s simply one of these has-been that it’s assumed that he’ll lose. Except that he doesn’t. It’s as darkish as noir gets, and doesn’t permit up for any of its brisk 70 minutes. —Ross Johnson
Where to stream: Digital rental
All About Eve (1950)
Commonly noted as a movie with one of the first-rate screenplays ever written, All About Eve is a behind-the-scenes Hollywood satire this is each of its technology and timeless. It worries a sour feud among a beloved, growing old actress, Margo Channing (performed to sour perfection through Bette Davis), and formidable younger up-and-comer Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), who’s inclined to do whatever to turn out to be a star. Laced with barbed wit and deep cynicism and impeccably performed (the solid earned a mixed 5 nominations on the 1951 Academy Awards; Marilyn Monroe additionally kills it in a four-line bit part), All About Eve will pride present day visitors who love the soapy, salacious paintings of Ryan Murphy. —Joel Cunningham
Where to stream: Fubo, DirecTV, Watch TCM, virtual rental
If imitation is the sincerest shape of flattery, then Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s Rashômon is one of the most-renowned movies ever conceived. The ubiquity of its once-novel relevant narrative conceit—reviewing the equal collection of activities via the eyes of 3 specific characters, every presenting a specific angle at the truth, if it even exists—has earned shorthand status of Bill Arriaga. (The AV Club lately defined 2021’s The Last Duel as Ridley Scott’s personal tackle this “influential ode to subjectivity.”)
The mythical Toshiro Mifune performs a woodcutter who claims to have located the frame of a murdered samurai warrior withinside the forest. He is known as into courtroom docket along different witnesses, every of whom has a specific reason behind how the frame got here to be there and why. Even after being imitated and parodied anywhere from The Last Jedi to The Simpsons, the authentic nonetheless enthralls. —Joel Cunningham
Where to stream: HBO Max, The Criterion Channel, Kanopy, Plex
Rear Window (1954)
A film approximately looking movies, Hitchcock’s traditional is as meticulous as some thing he ever produced, however takes a pleasure in tweaking its target target market for our personal voyeuristic tendencies. It’s now no longer as though it’s gotten tougher to hold tabs on our buddies and neighbors, and the film’s line: “What human beings need to do is get outdoor their personal residence and appearance in for a change,” is at the least as genuine now because it became in 1954. —Ross Johnson
Where to stream: The Criterion Channel