Classic films for dads and sons to watch together.


For those of you just tuning in, these are films which I've watched with my boys and with other dads and sons at our regular Guy Movie Night.
My criteria for
these are silmple:

1) The films have to be quality movies

2)The flims must be pre-1970, to avoid the profanity, graphic violence and other inappropriate content that's unfortunately come to define Guy Movies in recent years.

3) The films must keep romance to a minimum. Tough guys and tough gals are allowed, just as long as they don't go all mushy on us. Want sensitivity and relationships? That's why there's Oprah.


The Films

These are the movies we've watched so far.


The Dirty Dozen

A rousing WWII flick filled with humor and action. A classic guy film (with a great reference to it in that decidedly unmanly film, Sleepless in Seattle). Downside: like prison movies and heist movies, it's a little morally questionable to be rooting for bad guys dressed up as protagonists.


Cool Hand Luke

Paul Newman has never been more appealing than in this prison film. There's a surprising amount of Christian symbolism in the movie, and one great quotable line. Downside: One scene where the road-gang watch a young woman wash her car. Nothing explicit, but fast-forward if you have sons around.


The Maltese Falcon

Hard-boiled detective stories cry out for tough guy actors, and nobody was tougher on screen than Humphrey Bogart. Great fun. Downside: the plot is hard to follow at times. Might take a lot of explaining for youngsters.


The Big Sleep

Another great film noir with Bogart in the lead. The story is even more complicated -- reportedly, even the writer couldn't explain one murder.


Red River

Call it Mutiny on the Prairie, with Cap'n Bligh played by John Wayne. It may be my favorite western, with all the right elements: tough guys, a sweeping vista, and Walter Brennan for comic relief.


On the Waterfront

Hard-hitting drama, still packs a punch today. It's a great movie about how hard it can be to make a moral choice, and the price that sometimes comes with doing the right thing.


Bridge On the River Kwai

Another wonderful film about moral choices. It can open up great dialogue with your son, if you can get him over the shock of seeing ObiWan Kenobi in shorts.


The Good, the Bad,
and the Ugly

This "spaghetti western" (named for being filmed by an Italian director) is loads of fun, with inventive camera shots, touches of humor, and Clint Eastwood's trademark squint. And that music! Downside: the three main characters are completely amoral. It's hard to root for any of them. And it's a long, long film.


Psycho

We watched this classic Hitchcock because my 13-year-old wanted to be able to say he saw a scary movie. It's not what I'd call a classic guy movie, but it can be creepy fun. Even the grown-ups watching it were affected. It's tame by today's standards, but nobody could create tension better than Hitch.


The Asphalt Jungle

There is a whole genre of movies called "heist" movies. This is a superb one from 1950 directed by John Huston. This is a gritty downer of a movie, with the usual "crime doesn't pay" moral. It would be interesting to compare this to modern-day heist films like the recent Ocean's Eleven.


Yojimbo

One evening, we followed up this classic samurai film with a trip out to see Pirates of the Caribbean 2, which opened a discussion about who would win in a fight: a pirate or a samurai. Our vote goes to the samurai. This movie, by the great Akira Kurosawa, has action and squinting, two musts for guy films. Downside: characters are hard to keep straight, and there is a lot of talking (with subtitles), but we found that subtitles made it easier to make comments on the film. The sword-fighting (with the exception of a severed arm) is so tame, it's almost laughable. But I prefer it over the visceral thrills of recent action movies.


The Guns of Navarone

Another WWII action adventure. Solid storytelling, with big things blowing up in the end (always a guy film plus). It's also a good study of the tough choices that come with leadership.


Bullitt

Steve McQueen and that amazing car chase in downtown San Francisco -- what more could one want in a guy film? Downside: this story has a deliberate pace. It's much more psychological than most action films. Some teens might find this film too slow.


The Treasure of the
Sierra Madre

Want a gutsy performance? Try Bogie in this unflattering role. So many things about this movie are impressive -- it won oscars for writing, directing, and for crusty Walter Huston's acting. I especially liked that the Mexican locals spoke in often untranslated Spanish. Much more real that way. And don't miss the memorable line: badges?


The Thing (From Another World)

Don't confuse this with the gory remake with Kurt Russell. This is the 1951 classic sci-fi movie where a group of scientists discover an alien in the ice in the Arctic. We watched this chiller on one of the hottest nights of the summer, eating ice cream as a tie in to the frigid landscape. The film was a bit of a let-down: talky and not particularly suspenseful. Maybe that's because so many other films since then have used the "monster-in-a-confined-space" idea. It's still a fun film if you have a wise-cracking audience like we do. (I enjoyed our mechanical engineer's comment: "You keep the oil tank outside? In that cold, no wonder it's not working!")


Murder, My Sweet

This film noir, another one with Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, has some of the sharpest, tough-guy dialogue in any movie. It's also got a good sense of humor -- but pay attention: the lines go by quickly. Hard as it is for me to say, I think Dick Powell has Bogie beat in this role. The plot may be far too complicated for kids to follow. Likewise the snappy patter.


The Third Man

I love this film. Very few films have such a sense of place like this one: post-war Vienna, with it's shadowy streets and burned-out buildings. The use of shadows and light are spectacular. The guys complained a bit about the zither music, but I think it's unique. Orson Welles is dapper and morally bereft, the dialogue is snappy, and the final chase scene in the sewers unforgettable. Too complicated for younger viewers, but a real treat for adults.


To Be or Not To Be

snack: grilled kielbasa sandwiches to go with the Polish setting. This was one of the first snacks we tried to tie into the theme of the movie.

This isn't really a guy film, but it's hard to get comedy into the line-up, so I added this WWII espionage comedy featuring Jack Benny and a luminous Carole Lombarde in her last role. (She died tragically in a plane crash soon after.) It's a fun movie and was well-received by the guys. Not a huge hit, but a pleasant watch. Trivia: the actor who plays the guard Schultz in this film played a guard with the same name in Stalag 17, which then spawned the TV character of Schultz in Hogan's Heroes.


Hail the
Conquering
Hero

Another WWII comedy. This is a very talky, funny film about a Marine, released from duty because of hay fever and coming home to a town that thinks he's a hero. We had a big group of fathers and sons for this one (partially because we fed them wings) and though the sharp satire of politics might go over the heads of kids, the wonderful building panic and chagrin of the main character is a treat to watch.


Odd Man Out

The leader of an Irish rebellion group is injured and left behind after a heist. The movie follows his attempts to reach safety. Not recommended for kids: way too slow. I've watched many films with heroes with questionable incentives. It's hard to understand why we should root for these people, especially in the age of terrorism.


Starting in the end of May 2007, we began a run of weekly Guy Movie Nights. Once we were up and running, we tried to tie the snack into the film whenever possible. As the movie-picker, I was after an assortment of genres. Some were big hits, others flops. It's ongoing right now. We're having a blast!

Stalag 17

Unlike the other Billy Wilder film we watched (Double Indemnity, below), this one worked well as a guy movie. When watching this, it's good to remember that this was one of the very first movies to deal with life in POW camps in WWII. William Holden does a wonderful job as the main character, a self-centered entrepeneur within the camp. Downside: the whole dance party scene gets a little weird and goes on way too long.


The Defiant Ones

Snack: a make-your-own topping grits buffet. Choices: butter, cheese, crumbled bacon, and my son's contribution: chipotle pepper!

Two prisoners escape in the deep South chained to each other: one white and one black. This is a solid film with believable characters even if the conclusion is somewhat dictated by the morality of films in the 50's. Teens should be able to wade through the talky scenes while waiting for the film to get up and running again.


Cape Fear

Snack: for this black and white flick with a crazy bad guy: vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and nuts!

Whoa -- talk about evil! I've rarely seen in an old film such a creepy villain as the one Robert Mitchum plays. This film is definitely not for kids or pre-teens. Mitchum is out to get revenge on lawyer Gregory Peck, and has a particular bent toward teenage girls. If you can get past that, it's a well-made, suspenseful movie.


The Naked Spur

Snack: tortillas with home-made ranch dressing. Whoa, fella, hold that garlic, won'tcha?

Despite its reputation as one of the greatest westerns of all time, this didn't go over well with the gang. I've written below a little about the trouble with westerns. What this has going for it is a gritty performance by Jimmy Stewart contrasted against a young, smirkingly cool Robert Ryan. Might be a little slow for teens.


The 49th Parallel

Snack: home-made maple popcorn and Moose Tracks ice cream to go with our Canadian setting.

An interesting early WWII movie in which German u-boat sailors desperately try to get through Canada to the U.S. for safety. There is good suspense and acting, but some seriously flawed plot decisions. Seriously, the Nazis work their way south to Ontario, then start walking their way across Canada to get a boat in Vancouver? Did the film-makers have any idea how big the country is?

Why not just go to the U.S. anywhere along that trip? Also, and this was an amazing catch by Ray, one of our regulars: watch closely as the Canadian bombers come in to destroy the German U-boat. The planes change between the shots. Watch the tail fins.


The Manchurian Candidate

Snack: home-made apple pie with a big dark star in the middle of the crust. A patriotic star or a communist star? Exactly. Oh, a la mode.

A tense, disturbing film. Again, not one for the kids. One drawback to watching this movie with guys who hunt: in the climactic scene, they started squawking at the impossibilities of accurately hand-mounting scopes and of seeing two different views through that scope without moving the rifle! Sucked the tension right out.

One other thing: never have I seen a movie with so much upper-lip sweat!


Out of the Past

Snack: since the movie takes place in the west, with a significant flashback to Mexico, we had some fresh salsa with an assortment of tortilla chips.

I reviewed this below, since it falls into the "didn't like" category.


Abbott & Costello
Meet Frankenstein

Snack: fell back to the tried but true standby: popcorn. Kept the masses happy.

We chose this classic scary-funny movie so that guys could bring their kids. There was a nice turnout. The movie was fun, but as I expected, not as scary to the kids as it was to generations past. The special effects, in particular, are too cheesy in the eyes of kids used to CGI effects.

I raised the biggest howl from the crowd when I had us watch in one scene if we would see Dracula's reflection when he stepped in front of a mirror. We did, and loudly protested.


The Man Who
Would Be King

Snack: Indian Rice Pudding. A very interesting taste, with pistachios, raisins and a touch of cardamom.

Another nice change of pace. A buddy film with two great actors and gorgeous on-location scenery. No fake studio lot for this flick. Very enjoyable adventure film. Downside: brief, descreet female disrobing; a complicated beginning; and Michael Caine's cockney accent might make it tough for young teens.

This was the last film in our first Summer of Guy Movies.


Other recently watched Guy Films

Sahara

This is not the recent mediocre movie of the same name but the classic WWII Humphrey Bogart flick from 1943. It's tough, gritty and filmed in a desert locale, which adds a great flavor. This is a solid film for dads and their sons. Gripping. Full of examples of courage. Downside: Some of the dialogue is hard to understand with the various accents, but it doesn't detract from understanding the plot.


The In-Laws

Again, not the recent remake but the Alan Arkin/Peter Falk version. This is a manic and funny film. A good example of the reluctant buddy movie. Downside: I had originally seen this in a cleaned up version on TV. I was embarrassed to find that it has a fair amount of swearing in it, and some paintings that bared more than I wanted my friends boys to see. Not recommended for under 15.


Gunga Din

Fantastic adventure with humor and exotic locales. Classic Hollywood action movie. Downside: a bit slow for kids who are used to modern action movies. Also, there is a pall of colonialism that hangs over the movie.


Once Upon a Time in the West

Long, slow western with an ice-cold villain played by Henry Fonda. Downside: Not really suitable for pre-teens.


For the second summer of weekly movies, I tried to get a wide range of genres: film noir, action, westerns, sci-fi. A wild ride through the world of tough-guy flicks.

Panic in the Streets

Talk about timely. This film chronicles the hunt for a murderer who also happens to be infected with the pneumonic plague. Richard Widmark throws off his typical villain hat and becomes a stand-up, no-nonsense hero. And Jack Palance is perfect in one of his early creep roles. (What an odd, angular face he had!). It's a tense, powerful film. A real hit with the guys.


The French Connection

For a movie that won Best Picture, this flick has not dated well. Yes, there is that gripping car chase. But the rest of it is just an average police procedural. Still, it does show why Gene Hackman is one of our best living actors. Downside: not for kids under 13 or 14.


The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Films don't get much better than this. What more could you ask for a guy film: John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, a menacing Lee Marvin. Love that sneer. It's a wonderful take on the meaning of heroism. Downside: it is a bit corny at times and a bit slow for kids. Way more talk than action.


Seventh Voyage of Sinbad

This was the biggest surprise of the summer. I was worried about how well this would go over. But with a handful of sons mixed in with my usual guys, we really enjoyed the Ray Harryhausen special effects, even choosing sides in the climactic battle between the two monsters. Fun!


In the Shadow of the Moon

A documentary for Guy Movie Night? Sure -- when it's all about the courage and vision it took to send a rocket to the moon. This recent documentary builds real power as it goes. Downside: way too slow and talky for young kids.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Some films remain creepy even after umpteen imitators. This is one. The original and still the best. Aliens are slowly taking over the citizens of a small town. Downside: we noticed a major plot problem: what actually happens to the human bodies once the replicas take over???


Sullivan's Travels

This isn't what I would call a classic guy film. But we needed something that had a lighter touch. A Hollywood producer goes on the road to get the feel for those who are down-and-out. And he gets more than he bargained for. It's actually a serious look at class in our country. Excellent.


Plan Nine From Outer Space

By many standards, this is one of the very worst films ever made. We decided to watch it in the back yard, after we had a corn roast. Howlingly bad. And terrific fun to watch with a vocal group of guys.


Twilight Samurai

We watched this on recommendation of my son, Nate, who warned us it was a bit slow, but had a couple really gripping fight sequences. He was right, on both accounts. It's a film not unlike Liberty Valance, that ruminates on the meaning of courage.


Objective Burma!

After watching Errol Flynn fight in foppery in Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk, it was quite different to watch him as a tough-as-nails soldier in WWII. Not a great film, but gripping. A good study on courage.


The Scarlet Claw

We ended the Son of Guy Movie Summer on a little bit of a down-note with this somewhat silly Sherlock Holmes film. Great atmosphere, but offset by an incredibly goofy Watson. Why Hollywood made him such a buffoon I'll never know. Interesting setting for Sherlock: Quebec!


Overkill? Yeah, probably. I guess my summer theme doesn't really need it's own poster. But I loved the concept I came up with so much, it fairly demanded some kind of window-dressing.

So, I came up with films to show this summer, each with a number in the title, starting with one and going through to thirteen. To my annoyance, Netflix somehow lost or had destroyed my seven and my eleven, but I'm still happy with the ones I have. Plus, there are so many sevens, I've easily substituted for my first choice.

Here's the line-up for REVENGE OF GUY MOVIE SUMMER!


ONE

The One That Got Away

Here's a rare find: a WWII escape film with a German pilot trying to get out of a POW camp in England! The guys liked this movie, which has great suspense at times. The main character has the same pluck and determination as Steve McQueen had in the Great Escape. Without the motorcycle and the cool theme music.


TWO

One, Two, Three

James Cagney hasn't lost a step in this sharply-written, fast-paced farce set in West Berlin during the Cold War. Directed by the unequaled Billy Wilder (one of my favorite directors), this tweaks the noses of both east and west, communist and capitalist. A bit talky and broadly sketched at times (the young communist idealist gets tiresome), this is still a lot of fun. The old guy is still light on his feet!


THREE

Three Days of the Condor

Redford looks great in this film and the story moves at a decent clip, but it's hard not to get a sense of deja vu as Bob realizes everybody is out to get him. Guy films have worked that plot to death since the 70's. But if you overlook that -- and the tiresome Faye Dunaway as a love interest -- it's not a bad guy flick.


FOUR

The Four Feathers

Here's a film that has been shot at least six times in movie history. This 1939 version is the best. It follows the daring escapades of a British ex-soldier who disguises himself in order to rescue his former comrades and prove his courage to his fiancee and future father-in-law. It had a bit too much romance for our tastes, but the sweeping battle scenes made up for it.


FIVE

The Fifth Element

This was a mistake. I have two lessons I've learned through these years of guy films: 1) keep them pre-1970 if possible; and 2) avoid French movies. I broke both rules on this flick and regretted it. Not that it's a terrible movie, it was just not particularly good: silly, poorly plotted, and without enough Bruce Willis macho charm. At least Ray brought some Five Spice Kettle Corn he cooked up.


SIX

(Got nothing, sorry.)

One tough number to come up a tough-guy film. Who knew? So to make up for it, I'm doing a pair of sevens. (Should I bluff with a pair of sevens?)


SEVEN

Call Northside 777

This story of an investigative reporter unfolds slowly and carefully. In our current culture of high-tech crime-solving shows, this film seems quaint and out-of-date. Wait until you see what the critical clue is!

But Jimmy Stewart is fun to watch in any film. He just brings decency to his characters.


SEVEN

The Magnificent Seven

What a fun film! We had quite the crowd, so half way through the film, I stopped the movie and made everyone pick one of the seven to root for, to see if he'd make it through the final shootout. Then afterwards I gave out one of these two stickers to everyone in the room.


EIGHT

Eight Men Out

Part sports flick, part courtroom drama, part morality play, Eight Men Out tells the story of the Chicago Black Sox scandal, when the White Sox threw the World Series. A fun film, though two complicated for kids. And extra plus: one of our guys was the college roommate of D.B. Sweeney, who played Shoeless Joe Jackson!


NINE

Nine Queens

Another film not suitable for kids is this twisting and turning film about two con men in Argentina out to sell fake stamps. Didn't go over particularly well with the guys. Most modern films don't. I should learn.


TEN

3:10 to Yuma

If you seen the violent re-make of this movie, you might be surprised at how good this is without all the current necessary guy elements like blood-letting and quick action cuts. This still remains a great film -- a study of courage against the odds. Glenn Ford is quite the charming cold-blooded killer!


ELEVEN

11 Harrowhouse

Netflix says now, "Availability Unknown." Drat them.


TWELVE

Twelve Angry Men

I had never seen this film before and was incredibly impressed. It essentially takes place in one room -- a sequestered jury deliberates the fate of a young man accused of murdering his father. Henry Fonda alone thinks he's innocent. This works on so many levels -- the writing, acting, and camera work keeps it moving at a quick pace. Powerful.


THIRTEEN

Thirteen Days

We opted out of our Film #13 so that we could do...


...GMN's Cheesy Movie Night!

Last year, we watched Plan Nine From Outer Space while eating roasted corn outside. I projected it on the wall and we roasted the movie. What a blast! This year, we opned up the evening to whole families of the regulars. (Aren't we inclusive?) We watched the classic stinker: ROBOT MONSTER! And everyone brought a snack with cheese in it. Because of the threat of rain, we trasformed our garage into a movie theater (also more than a tad cheesy) and showed the film in there.

How was the movie? Bad. Not quite fun bad. Mostly just bad. The worst thing that cheesy movies can be is boring. Not poorly acted, directed, or shot. All those can create howls. But a boring film just creates yawns. There's only so many times one can crack a joke about a gorilla in a diving helmet talking to a TV screen.

But that's not to say we didn't have fun. For a couple weeks after the showing, people would find a way to use the phrase to the right in regular conversation.

I think that's a little picture of the fun of Guy Movie Night -- the communal experience of movies. The collective memory. I absolutely love that we have enough of a history now that guys will say, "Hey, remember that movie where the guy..." And we'll all start talking and remembering and laughing.

Great movies can do that. And occasionally truly bad ones can, too.

"I MUST...

but I CANNOT!"

Movies we tried and didn't like:

Topkapi: another heist film, with a great performance by Peter Ustinov (he won an oscar for it), but the leading actress was so unappealing, and the ending so silly, we had to give it a thumbs down.

• Rififi: the grandaddy of all heist films, this French black-and-white movie is as grim as they come. Not a redeemable character in the bunch. What a total downer. I was the only one of our crowd to stick with it to the end.

The Sea Hawk: Errol Flynn, though dashing, is a bit frilly for our taste in guy films. Also, so many of the actors were also in the far superior The Adventures of Robin Hood, we had deja-vu throughout the whole flick.

Out of the Past: this is a perfect example of a great movie that doesn't make a good guy film. Yeah, it's film noir with tough guy Robert Mitchum in all his macho smoothness. But the guys counted over ten kisses in the flick, which is way more romance than we can suffer in one of our movies. I had a near revolt on my hands. I should have tried to pacify them with a debate over who had the deeper chin cleft: Mitchum or Kirk Douglas.

Ride the High Country and The Naked Spur. What is it about westerns that make them so hokey and dated? Ride the High Country has two classic actors at the edge of retirement: Joel McCrea and that king of the B-western, Randolph Scott. The Naked Spur features Jimmy Stewart in one of the string of tough-guy westerns he made in the 50's. Both films had the same basic plot: bring back an outlaw to justice. Both have a girl thrown into the mix. And both fell short of satisfying my small entourage of faithful guy filmers. I can't quite put my finger on why. Could be predictability, could be those stupid romantic elements thrown in. (With Spur, once we realized whenever the girl was on screen the film score played Beautiful Dreamer, we were done.) I don't know if I should give up on westerns or just try to find one that has more action and less talk.

Double Indemnity. This is yet another film noir, and though it's a great film, it's not really a "guy" movie since the whole plot evolves around an illicit love affair. And frankly -- maybe it's just me -- Barbara Stanwyck is not very appealing, which makes Fred MacMurray's falling for her in, oh, about five minutes, somewhat unbelievable. Definitely NOT for kids. And dude! Stop calling her "baby"! Edward G. Robinson, however, is excellent.

Wages of Fear. This is a nail-biting French film about a quartet of down-on-their-luck drivers in South America who take on the task of driving trucks of nitro-glycerine over a rough mountain road. Great suspense and character development, but ultimately -- like so many of the French films we've watched -- depressing. It's hard to escape the feeling that the movie is pointless.

Text © 2006-08 Bruce Van Patter
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