6. The Palm Beach Story
Another story from the crafty hand of Preston Sturges and the peculiar acting skills of Joel McCera collide in this screwball romantic comedy that stands well throughout the years. The tale is simple, yet it devours the very essence of the very used form by Sturges – the comedy of manners. Dealing with the mannerisms of high society, as well as their obvious faults, it satirizes a bourgeois society that has corrupted all of its previous moral values.
“The Palm Beach Story” offers the hilarious plot of comedic circumstances as well as serves as a more obscure social commentary in a society that has lost touch with itself. In essence, Sturges captures themes that are far away from Hollywood glamour, but it has a scent of caring for the problems and turbulences a certain society experiences. The hilarity of the situation brings the decadence of the players involved to its logical conclusion.
7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Sometimes we are hooked by characters that we are used to seeing in a similar role, or who we get a similar vibe from their roles. Such is the case with Frances McDormand, who is never short of an Academy Award-winning performance.
Set in a classical small town environment, which is one of the natural habitats of McDormand’s acting abilities, we are faced with the ever-so-present contemporary struggle of a person against the authorities, on a quest for justice. Brought together with a strong and bold script, the multi-award winning film is a testament to the fight against the machine in a more localized setting.
The character plot works best when things are stacked against the leading hard-nosed mother that is captured by both a sense of getting justice into her own hands, as well as being energized by the all-too-known motherly instinct. A simple story dealing with a simple problem that can be very shaky to a community that has all of its sights into a trust of local government.
8. Wag the Dog
The oft-quoted and referenced movie that drips with political satire as well as gives a pessimistic look into the doings and workings of government makes the list simply for the blackness it offers to the topics of politics, war, and power, along with a plot that is very similar to the devious stories of the Coens.
An absurd tale of everyone being an antagonist against a group of innocent and unsuspecting citizens, which in a broader sense can be named “the country,” reveals the behind-the-scenes mechanisms in which political power operates; without going deeply into conspiracies or paranoia, it delivers a cold-hearted execution on the topics of manipulation with public opinion and misuse of power.
The magnificent acting duo of De Niro and Hoffman are acting on two fronts, convincing the viewers of the truthful in-character performances that they deliver on one hand, and also acting within the acting for the American public, which goes together with an orchestrated attack of propaganda to protect power from the people.
9. The Third Man
We fill the list yet with another noir, the everlasting classic played out on the streets of Vienna – “The Third Man.” Combining a plot shrouded in mystery with a brilliant performance by the leads tells the tale of the disappearance of Harry Lime, whose presence from beyond the grave is set up with the tone of Anton Karas’ zither and the post-World War II Vienna scenery that lets us explore from the top of the Ferris wheel to the depths of the Vienna sewage.
We are compelled by the stunning cinematography, which is the true carrier of the atmosphere that captures the underbelly of the criminal world we see unveiling in front of us. No new shot is similar to the previous one in building the tension of the mysterious persona of Lime executed to acting perfectionism by Orson Welles, who gets devoured and spat out easily from the Viennese architecture in and out of existence as his ethereal persona also appears and disappears from the soul of the film.
Underneath the “murder-mystery” that is presented at first, we get a love story that engrains itself into a beautiful setup for the films payoff. It’s a film that is filled with titles like “the best” and “the greatest,” but the interesting thing about “The Third Man” that it’s hailed and acclaimed not only for one, but for multiple film achievements in various aspects of filmmaking.
10. Kind Hearts and Coronets
Another film that stars Alec Guinness as a leading comedian in probably the most absurd film on the list. Guinness really steals the show with the transformative character of his acting style, which is deadpan serious with a masterful craft to capture the very essence of what the film is trying to convey to us.
A very early example of comedy that makes extreme scenarios and situations and which takes into the realm of the surreal. The Coens were undoubtedly inspired by this and all the other movies on this list.
The Coen brothers’ career is a statement of its own in filmmaking, but the great inspirations that they are to other filmmakers and to newer generations is a testimony that they are already renowned as masters who explore for everyone else. As well as seeing the influences that they had from previous great names, we see a link into how well-crafted stories can not be escaped from, since there is always a hunger for them.