Every year, after the fracas of awards season and studio campaigning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out the ultimate prize in cinema, the explicit recommendation that if you’re only going to watch one movie, make it the one we picked. We’re talking the Oscar for Best Picture. Less than 100 of these have been handed out through the centuries. But ever wonder how the movies of this exclusive golden club would fare against each other?
Welcome to our countdown of every Best Picture winner ever, from the Certified Fresh (Casablanca, Schindler’s List, Argo, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King…most of them, fortunately), the kinda Fresh (Out of Africa, Forrest Gump), to the ‘HUH? HOW?’ Rottens (The Broadway Melody, Cimarron). We took ’em all and then ranked by Adjusted Tomatometer, which takes into account factors like year of release and number of reviews.
And now we’ve added Nomadland as the 94th Best Picture Oscar winner. See where all the films place in our guide to Best Picture Winners, Ranked by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Though lensed with stunning cinematography and featuring a pair of winning performances from Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, Out of Africa suffers from excessive length and glacial pacing.
Synopsis: Initially set on being a dairy farmer, the aristocratic Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) travels to Africa to join her husband,... [More]
Critics Consensus: It's undeniably shallow, but its cheerful lack of pretense -- as well as its grand scale and star-stuffed cast -- help make Around the World in 80 Days charmingly light-hearted entertainment.
Synopsis: Victorian-era Englishman Phileas Fogg (David Niven) proclaims before his fellow members of a London gentleman's club that he can circumnavigate... [More]
Critics Consensus: It occasionally fails to live up to its subject matter -- and is perhaps an 'important' film more than a 'great' one -- but the performances from Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire are superb.
Synopsis: When journalist Phil Green (Gregory Peck) moves to New York City, he takes on a high-profile magazine assignment about anti-Semitism.... [More]
Critics Consensus: Decidedly slower and less limber than the Olympic runners at the center of its story, the film nevertheless manages to make effectively stirring use of its spiritual and patriotic themes.
Synopsis: In the class-obsessed and religiously divided United Kingdom of the early 1920s, two determined young runners train for the 1924... [More]
Critics Consensus:Dances with Wolves suffers from a simplistic view of the culture it attempts to honor, but the end result remains a stirring western whose noble intentions are often matched by its epic grandeur.
Synopsis: A Civil War soldier develops a relationship with a band of Lakota Indians. Attracted by the simplicity of their lifestyle,... [More]
Critics Consensus: Informed by director Oliver Stone's personal experiences in Vietnam, Platoon forgoes easy sermonizing in favor of a harrowing, ground-level view of war, bolstered by no-holds-barred performances from Charlie Sheen and Willem Dafoe.
Synopsis: Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) leaves his university studies to enlist in combat duty in Vietnam in 1967. Once he's on... [More]
Critics Consensus: This road-trip movie about an autistic savant and his callow brother is far from seamless, but Barry Levinson's direction is impressive, and strong performances from Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman add to its appeal.
Synopsis: When car dealer Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) learns that his estranged father has died, he returns home to Cincinnati, where... [More]
Critics Consensus: Subsequent war epics may have borrowed heavily from the original Best Picture winner, but they've all lacked Clara Bow's luminous screen presence and William Wellman's deft direction.
Synopsis: With World War I afoot, David Armstrong (Richard Arlen) and Jack Powell (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) join the military with an... [More]
Critics Consensus: John Schlesinger's gritty, unrelentingly bleak look at the seedy underbelly of urban American life is undeniably disturbing, but Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight's performances make it difficult to turn away.
Synopsis: Convinced of his irresistible appeal to women, Texas dishwasher Joe Buck (Jon Voight) quits his job and heads for New... [More]
Critics Consensus: Clint Eastwood's assured direction - combined with knockout performances from Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman - help Million Dollar Baby to transcend its clichés, and the result is deeply heartfelt and moving.
Synopsis: Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran Los Angeles boxing trainer who keeps almost everyone at arm's length, except his... [More]
Critics Consensus: Featuring outstanding work from an excellent cast, The Departed is a thoroughly engrossing gangster drama with the gritty authenticity and soupy morality we come to expect from Martin Scorsese.
Synopsis: South Boston cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes under cover to infiltrate the organization of gangland chief Frank Costello (Jack... [More]
Critics Consensus: Its greatness is blunted by its length and one-sided point of view, but the film's weaknesses are overpowered by Michael Cimino's sympathetic direction and a series of heartbreaking performances from Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken.
Synopsis: In 1968, Michael (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken) and Steven (John Savage), lifelong friends from a working-class Pennsylvania steel... [More]
Critics Consensus: It has perhaps aged poorly, but this languidly paced WWII romance remains an iconic, well-acted film, featuring particularly strong performances from Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift.
Synopsis: At an Army barracks in Hawaii in the days preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor, lone-wolf soldier and boxing champion... [More]
Critics Consensus: Buoyed by Robert Wise's dazzling direction, Leonard Bernstein's score, and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, West Side Story remains perhaps the most iconic of all the Shakespeare adaptations to visit the big screen.
Synopsis: A musical in which a modern day Romeo and Juliet are involved in New York street gangs. On the harsh... [More]
Critics Consensus: A well-executed labor of love from star and director Laurence Olivier, Hamlet not only proved that Shakespeare could be successfully adapted to the big screen, it paved the way for further cinematic interpretations.
Synopsis: Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, Sir Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet" continues to be the most... [More]
Critics Consensus: Tense, funny, and thought-provoking all at once, and lifted by strong performances from Sydney Poitier and Rod Steiger, director Norman Jewison's look at murder and racism in small-town America continues to resonate today.
Synopsis: African-American Philadelphia police detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is arrested on suspicion of murder by Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger), the... [More]
Critics Consensus: Broderick Crawford is spellbinding as politician Willie Stark in director Robert Rossen's adaptation of the Robert Penn Warren novel about the corrosive effects of power on the human soul.
Synopsis: Drama about the rise and fall of a corrupt southern governor who promises his way to power. Broderick Crawford portrays... [More]
Critics Consensus: The historical inaccuracies in this high-seas adventure are more than offset by its timeless themes, larger-than-life performances from Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, and Frank Lloyd's superb direction.
Synopsis: As the cruel captain of the HMS Bounty, a ship bound for Tahiti, William Bligh (Charles Laughton) wins few friends.... [More]
Critics Consensus: It's predictably uplifting fare from Frank Capra, perhaps the most consciously uplifting of all great American directors -- but thanks to immensely appealing performances and a nimble script, You Can't Take It With You is hard not to love.
Synopsis: Sweet-natured Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) falls for banker's son Tony Kirby (James Stewart). But when she invites her snooty prospective... [More]
Critics Consensus: The onscreen battle between Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher serves as a personal microcosm of the culture wars of the 1970s -- and testament to the director's vision that the film retains its power more than three decades later.
Synopsis: When Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) gets transferred for evaluation from a prison farm to a mental institution, he assumes... [More]
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by powerful lead performances from Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men finds the Coen brothers spinning cinematic gold out of Cormac McCarthy's grim, darkly funny novel.
Synopsis: While out hunting, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds the grisly aftermath of a drug deal. Though he knows better, he... [More]
Critics Consensus: Director Jonathan Demme's smart, taut thriller teeters on the edge between psychological study and all-out horror, and benefits greatly from stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.
Synopsis: Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI's training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice... [More]
Critics Consensus: As both director and star, Clint Eastwood strips away decades of Hollywood varnish applied to the Wild West, and emerges with a series of harshly eloquent statements about the nature of violence.
Synopsis: When prostitute Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Thomson) is disfigured by a pair of cowboys in Big Whiskey, Wyoming, her fellow brothel... [More]
Critics Consensus: Director Billy Wilder's unflinchingly honest look at the effects of alcoholism may have had some of its impact blunted by time, but it remains a powerful and remarkably prescient film.
Synopsis: Writer Don Birnam (Ray Milland) is on the wagon. Sober for only a few days, Don is supposed to be... [More]
Critics Consensus:Gone with the Wind's epic grandeur and romantic allure encapsulate an era of Hollywood filmmaking -- but that can't excuse a blinkered perspective that stands on the wrong side of history.
Synopsis: Presented as originally released in 1939. Includes themes and character depictions which may be offensive and problematic to contemporary audiences.... [More]
Critics Consensus: A thrilling leap forward for director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman is an ambitious technical showcase powered by a layered story and outstanding performances from Michael Keaton and Edward Norton.
Synopsis: Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life... [More]
Critics Consensus: The epic of all epics, Lawrence of Arabia cements director David Lean's status in the filmmaking pantheon with nearly four hours of grand scope, brilliant performances, and beautiful cinematography.
Synopsis: Due to his knowledge of the native Bedouin tribes, British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is sent to Arabia to... [More]
Critics Consensus: Realistic, fast-paced and uncommonly smart, The French Connection is bolstered by stellar performances by Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, not to mention William Friedkin's thrilling production.
Synopsis: New York Detective "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner (Roy Scheider) chase a French heroin smuggler.... [More]
Critics Consensus: Drawing on strong performances by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola's continuation of Mario Puzo's Mafia saga set new standards for sequels that have yet to be matched or broken.
Synopsis: The compelling sequel to "The Godfather," contrasting the life of Corleone father and son. Traces the problems of Michael Corleone... [More]
Critics Consensus: An engrossing look at the triumphs and travails of war veterans, The Best Years of Our Lives is concerned specifically with the aftermath of World War II, but its messages speak to the overall American experience.
Synopsis: Fred, Al and Homer are three World War II veterans facing difficulties as they re-enter civilian life. Fred (Dana Andrews)... [More]
Critics Consensus: With his electrifying performance in Elia Kazan's thought-provoking, expertly constructed melodrama, Marlon Brando redefined the possibilities of acting for film and helped permanently alter the cinematic landscape.
Synopsis: Dockworker Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) had been an up-and-coming boxer until powerful local mob boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb)... [More]
Critics Consensus: The plot may be problematic, but such concerns are rendered superfluous by Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron's star power, the Gershwins' classic songs, and Vincente Minnelli's colorful, sympathetic direction.
Synopsis: Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is an American ex-GI who stays in post-war Paris to become a painter, and falls for... [More]
Critics Consensus:Spotlight gracefully handles the lurid details of its fact-based story while resisting the temptation to lionize its heroes, resulting in a drama that honors the audience as well as its real-life subjects.
Synopsis: In 2001, editor Marty Baron of The Boston Globe assigns a team of journalists to investigate allegations against John Geoghan,... [More]
Critics Consensus: One of Hollywood's greatest critical and commercial successes, The Godfather gets everything right; not only did the movie transcend expectations, it established new benchmarks for American cinema.
Synopsis: Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, this mob drama, based on Mario Puzo's novel of... [More]
Critics Consensus: An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood's quintessential statement on love and romance, Casablanca has only improved with age, boasting career-defining performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
Synopsis: Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns a nightclub in Casablanca, discovers his old flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is in town... [More]
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, and Newmarket Film Group)
“Know Your Critic” is a column in which we interview Tomatometer-approved critics about their screening and reviewing habits, pet peeves, and personal favorites.
Before Leonard Maltin became known as the iconic critic and historian that he is, he was a movie-loving teenager, putting together a fanzine called Film Fan Monthly. He wrote for Variety, TV Guide, and other major publications, eventually becoming Entertainment Tonight’s broadcast movie critic – a position he held for 30 years. Starting in 1969, he compiled lists of every year’s must-see movies – Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide published annually or biannually until 2014. He’s written a dozen books, been the president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and taught at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. And now he’s a game… really.
Maltin’s most devoted fans and fellow cinephiles have put together a game in his honor: “King of Movies.” The objective? To be Leonard Maltin in the most convincing fashion. Players pull a movie title from a deck of cards, along with a genuine Maltin review of the title, then must review the film in Maltin’s signature style, attempting to trick a player into thinking Maltin wrote it himself. It’s basically “pick the real Maltin review,” and will be available to purchase from Mondo.
“The idea is to fool the other players that you’ve written an authentic writeup for a movie they’ve never heard of,” Maltin told Rotten Tomatoes in an interview.
In his storied and celebrated career, Maltin is most proud of “surviving,” he says – “and that’s not a flippant answer.”
What is the hardest review that you’ve ever written?
The Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ. Because I went to a screening, and directly from that screening to our studio, and had to write and deliver a review without having more than a half hour to digest the film and organize my thoughts.
Is there something that’s Rotten on the Tomatometer, but you’d defend it to the ends of the Earth?
I feel very fortunate that I came along when I did – which is to say long before the Internet – when you could still make a name or stake yourself a spot on the landscape through old-fashioned means, self-publishing the fanzine as I did, being generously plugged or promoted by other publications and building a reputation, and then publishing books that were actually distributed widely in stores around the country and not just limited to specialty presses.
My first couple of books – I met a lot of people who say that mine was the first movie book they ever bought when they were in their teens, because they only cost a dollar-and-a-half, and they were on sale at the local drug store or Woolworth’s or card and gift shop in the days before the malling of America and rise of the bookstore chains.
Timing in life is crucial – and luck. The challenge for anyone starting today is cutting through all the clutter.
Can you give us the rundown on your new King of Movies game?
Well, there are people who were devotees and remain devotees of my annual movie guide for years, in some cases for decades. One of them is Tim League, the co-founder of Alamo Drafthouse. He and one of his cohorts, Ant Timpson, used to play this game where they would try to devise phony write-ups of movies, because especially when writing about older, more formulaic Hollywood movies, there was identifiable rhythm and style to the writing. So they started to challenge each other and friends of theirs.
They’ve now institutionalized this as a game. I played it with them a couple of times, and I’ve done a couple of test runs of the final game. Some people really get it. Some people fall into the rhythm of those write-ups, and they can be very persuasive.
What makes a Leonard Maltin review a Leonard Maltin review?
Well, none of the better qualities are part of this game. Rapier wit and incisive storytelling in capsule form are not the hallmarks of these reviews. It’s the formula – the formulaic descriptions of films that really come out on top in the game.
Is there anyone that you think could “beat” you at your own game?
Well, yes, theoretically. But I did it for so long, I have an unfair advantage.
Can you guesstimate how many times you’ve seen it?
No, I really can’t. Certainly 20 to 25 times.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about critics?
We’re lucky to get paid for what we do. And that is also a truism.
Yeah, we are lucky. We’re not digging ditches, we’re not doing manual labor, but we get paid to watch bad movies. I found out particularly when I started getting recognized from being on television and people would stop me and say, “You got the best job in the world.” I said, “Well, it’s a great job, but you know, some days it feels like a job.” Then people’s eyes glaze over. When you get paid to watch movies, no one wants to hear complaints, and I get that.
What do you think makes a good movie?
They say a smart person can hold two opposing thoughts in their mind at the same time. On the one hand, I’m tempted to say originality and freshness, and yet there’s some movies I like a lot, very good movies, that follow a ritual for a genre and wind up being really good.
What is your preferred seat in a movie theater?
Aisle seat, midway down the aisle.
What is your favorite screening snack?
Popcorn. No butter.
When reviewing, do you go in cold?
The only way I go. I actually studiously avoid reading or seeing anything about a movie. I don’t even watch the trailers. The less I know about a movie going in, the better experience I have.
Are you pro- or anti- note-taking?
Neither. There are times when note-taking is crucial. I don’t write lengthy reviews, so I find as long as I log-in either that night or the next morning when I get home, that does it for me.
What is your personal record for most movies watched in a day?
Seven. May I add with an asterisk: That was the day I discovered definitively that it’s not the eyes that go first, it’s the tush.
What’s your favorite film from your childhood?
Oh gosh, so many. No one has ever asked me that.
At age seven, my parents took me to see a film called The Golden Age of Comedy, which was a compilation of great moments from silent film comedies with Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin and others. I even remembered the theater where I saw it in Manhattan, and it literally changed my life.
(Photo by Twentieth Century Fox)
Who is an actor or director or a screenwriter whose work you always love?
Alexander Payne. He is an original – he and his frequent writing partner, Jim Taylor. Their films aren’t like anybody else’s. They deal in social satire, which very few people even approach, because it’s such a difficult genre.
Who are some under-the-radar directors or a screenwriters that you think more people should know about?
Is there someone in your life who isn’t a critic, whose opinion you admire?
Well, my wife and daughter, who are critics, only they don’t get paid for it. I respect their opinions, both of them.
Can you think of a recent movie where you may have disagreed with either of them?
Oh gosh. My daughter and her husband weren’t engaged by Spike Lee‘s Da 5 Bloods. My wife and I just thought it was terrific.
Who are some up-and-coming critics that you want people to check out?
I deal so much with classic and vintage films. I’ve been very impressed with two young-ish writers and essayists on the scene. One is Imogen Sara Smith, the other is Farran Smith Nehme.
They’re both freelancers, and they’re employed quite a bit by the Criterion Collection. I’ve seen them both on camera and doing commentary tracks and writing wonderfully eloquent essays for Criterion booklets as well. They’re whip smart, and I’m very impressed with both of them.
Do you have advice for critics who are still finding their voice?
Keep at it. Experience is the best teacher, and getting feedback is hugely important too.
If, like us, you’ve spent any time around film nerds and cult movie buffs in the past decade and a half, you’ve likely heard about a little gem known as The Room. A true independent film in almost every sense, the romantic drama was the passion project of a single man, Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, directed, financed, and starred in the film.
Aside from a number of, let’s say, unusual directorial choices, The Room also features a collection of largely inexperienced actors, perplexing green screen usage, dangling plot points, and a curious obsession with American football. It’s also a supremely earnest creation, which is part of the reason why it’s earned such a feverish following and spawned regular midnight screenings across the country.
As it happens, both James Franco and Seth Rogen count themselves among The Room‘s fans, and they recently joined forces to adapt The Disaster Artist, a memoir about the making of the film written by one of its co-stars, Greg Sestero. With the Certified Fresh The Disaster Artist expanding into wide release this week, we spoke to Wiseau about his Five Favorite Films, what it was like to see Franco’s portrayal of him on the big screen, and what the legacy of The Room means to him.
You’d be surprised but, again, I put in parentheses, I’m not here to praise James [Franco]. Okay? But the reason I support his role, because we didn’t have a choice at the time. We picked him because originally… I don’t know if you knew the story here that The Disaster Artist is based on the great storybook Disaster Artist, right? And he basically optioned the book, optioned to produce the movie. But people ask me who are supposed to… Who would I like? Who’s supposed to play me? I don’t know if you heard about it, but long story short, I say Johnny Depp.
But we had a conversation with James, and with Greg [Sestero]. And Greg, long story short, he said, “What about James?” I said, “Yeah, he’s good, because I like his movie Sonny.” Sonny is the movie directed by Nicolas Cage. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it or not. It’s about gigolo in New Orleans, Louisiana, etc.
So we had a conversation with James, and Greg says, “Sure, whatever. James playing you.” I said, “That’s good idea, because he did the movie Sonny, and which, I like it.” And for some reason, the critics think differently, or public, whatever. But this is relate to my life as well, The Room, basically. Because you have all the flavors. So that’s basically your little quirky backstory.
Casablanca. You see, Casablanca remind me what we have within The Room, some of the phrases. For example, I say, “Oh, you make my day,” or, “You are tearing me apart,” or whatever. I’m talking about the other movie as well, just paraphrasing some of those phrases. You see, The Room, people never give us credit, okay? And now everything turn around because people now, and especially the critic, which can be very tough as you probably… Including your company.
But, again, let me explain something here. Hopefully you guys print this. Please don’t misquote me, but it’s nothing wrong to criticize anyone, included film, play, whatever. But it is wrong when people started doing not just a critique but get into sort of hatred mode. You know what I’m saying? So I think it’s very important to understand the structure what I present, related to The Room now, I presented 14 years ago, based on my vision, which people did not expect it, this kind of vision, because it was, basically, it was different cookie cutter from Hollywood. I said this many times, but as you know, I’ve been ignored but fans embrace that.
A Streetcar Named Desire with Marlon Brando. I just want to put there. All these movies that I’ve listed, including Casablanca, you have flavors, which I like it. Drama. Comedy. And again, we may argue back and forth about what is drama, what is a comedy, right? What is melodrama? The Room never did melodrama.
The thing what I listed all the movies, they’re not melodrama, they are relate to real life. Streetcar Named Desire, for example, you have, my understanding was, the time the movie was made, the main characters, Brando and… He actually raped the girl. And they cut this on the movie. That’s my understanding, that it was part of the script. So this is again saying that Streetcar Named Desire give us some evidence that people were still cautious what we present in the big screen that certain ideas or situation between two people, you cannot do it.
Today’s society, as you know, we go extra miles. The Room is perfect example. We show the nudity, we show the certain stuff, because I myself, I was struggling as a filmmaker, as a director, how I present the scene. Same, you see, if you look at Casablanca, a relationship between two main characters, how they, you see… I love it, black and white movies. Sometimes you can educate yourself that you don’t have to physically show it, sexuality, but it’s there because you can feel it.
Now, just because of our culture, I decided to say, “Hey, we go extra miles.” And I was struggling with this. You see, I had talked to Greg. I don’t know if he remembered but I said, “Hey, okay, is it Johnny naked or not?” I said — and I was so frustrated — and I say, “Hell with everything because I don’t know how… I want to be real as much I can.”
Even though people say… Remember, The Room, and is again, The Room is supposed to be play. People forget that; they are short-handed. [laughs] I don’t want to be too negative, but that’s the history of The Room. So I will say, originally I was supposed to… I wanted to put into play, but it didn’t come out right. Actually it come out better because more people can see it. That’s basically what happen.
Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: My understanding is that the South by Southwest premiere of The Disaster Artist was the first time you saw the movie.
Tommy Wiseau: That’s correct.
RT: As you sat there and watched it, what was your initial gut response to it? What was the first thought you had?
Wiseau: I just breathe very heavily. As you know, they talked to me after the show, “Did you like it?” They don’t understand that — again, you may write this — that it’s a setback in my relationship with myself in the sense what I saw. And it shocked me because, actually, I approve 99 percent. Not just as a person named Tommy Wiseau — I approve because he did good job. I’ll be honest with you.
It was very emotional for me. You see, even now it’s very emotional, as you see in my voice. You can feel it — I don’t know if you can feel it or not. But it was emotional. It still is, because he tackled something what, as I mentioned, relate to Casablanca and others. It just too bad he didn’t go forward with some of the emotional feelings, which we tackle, especially at the end of the movie, the time when Greg says, the character, he say, I’m paraphrasing, “Everything is fine. They’re laughing because they love your movie.”
RT: Speaking of the end of the movie, I read that in the original ending, you and Greg parted ways on bad terms, but then James Franco saw that you guys were still close, so he changed the film to end on a more positive note. Is that true?
Wiseau: We never did. They did good job because we never… We always been friends, even though, as you know, he wrote the book and I support not as I supposed to support. I don’t even put the numbers now because everybody quoting me later. But it is what it is. I think Greg and me and others, we even sometimes trapped in Hollywood dilemma and situation what we feel that is right to say something stop and it’s too late to turn around.
But you can always correct, you know? I mean, as you know, I did the movie with Greg, Best F(r)iends. And also I’m working on the sitcom The Neighbors, the season two. So we’ve been very successful in past 14 years. Some of the stuff, it’s coming to my way in a sense as a director and actor. So I like it.
RT: You succeeded in making a film and continuing to work on projects completely outside the Hollywood system, and you did it all your way. With your experiences, what piece of advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers who are trying to get their own movies made?
Wiseau: I would say the same thing what one of the biggest directors said to me, and I don’t want to name the name, but it’s the biggest of the biggest. He’s still alive. Just keep going. They say keep going. And I will add something else. All negative, let them go. So don’t get involved negativeness, because film industry is very complex field, in the sense that you need a passion. If you don’t have a passion, try not to steal other projects. As you probably noticed, perfect example is The Room. You can see on YouTube and other platform, people just steal stuff from The Room, including actors.
I’m going to mention one of the scene from The Disaster Artist. One of the scene, you may watch, the time when you see it, is my character — I mean James playing me — he confront the crew, the actors, and say, “Hey, I know what you say about me.” And then, guess what? This is what exactly happened, 100 percent. And I was very frustrated, but in the beginning I was making fun of them because I say, “Haha.” You know, it’s like little kids. I say, “I got you. I know what you talk about me,” you know? And I never said this for 14 years. Can you imagine that one?
And since they released this movie, I say it now very openly, because, still today, some of my actors — I’m not mention the name — they still that negative. For example, they say, “Oh, script did not exist. This is happened by accident.” They have no clue about industry whatsoever. And so we can go on and write a book about it, all this stuff, but watch the scene. It’s very good scene.
And one other thing with another advice I can give to filmmakers that, the main thing, think positive, and also have respect for others. And that’s the thing what we all lack of in the industry. As you know, current affairs, etc. And so if you have respect for your… Because of some of the area, when you do your art, is collective work. So I myself, people don’t understand, I have assistants, four or five assistant. People say, “Well, how many assistant do you have?” I say to myself, “Hey, I can use two more.” And all this people are extremely important. In this case, Greg, because he was keep going and he didn’t badmouth me — that’s the good news — except in the book. [laughs]
But on the end, everything turned out the way I think it’s supposed to be. I don’t know what the formula is, but to be a good filmmaker [you have to] have respect for others. And have a vision, you know? Like I always say, if you don’t have a vision, you cannot be a director, as well actors.
So, basically, all this advice what I mentioned — passion, respect for others, and have vision — it make you good filmmaker. That’s my take. That’s my advice. Pretty long advice. [laughs]
RT: Thanks for your time, Tommy. Really appreciate it.
Wiseau: We’ll see you at the screening of The Room. And I want to say to all the fans of The Room, have fun with The Room. And I always say, you can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself. Please don’t hurt each other. Thank you.
RT: Thank you, Tommy.
Wiseau: Don’t misquote me.
RT: Oh, don’t worry. We never do.
Wiseau: [laughs] I know you guys. I’m just teasing.
The Disaster Artist is Certified Fresh and expands into wide release this Friday, December 8. Read reviews for it here.
100 Best War Movies of All Time
From peacetime to frontlines, from coming home to left behind: Rotten Tomatoes presents the 100 best-reviewed war movies of all time, ranked by Adjusted Tomatometer with at least 20 reviews each.
Mel Gibson is getting the best reviews of his directorial career for Hacksaw Ridge, the World War II true story of conscientious objector Desmond Doss, who received the Medal of Honor for saving 75 men without ever carrying a gun or weapon. The legend of Doss inspires this week’s gallery: 24 Certified Fresh WWII movies!
(And before you ask, Grave of the Fireflies is Fresh but not Certified Fresh.)
Kevin Murphy, one of the minds behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax, knows his movies. He immediately pointed out how this exercise is “an unfair thing to ask someone who likes movies.” He indulged us, regardless, and went on to explain: “It ultimately comes down to what movies, when they come on at two in the morning when I should be in bed, do I watch until the end.”
To celebrate the triumphant return of RiffTrax and #BringBackMST3K’s live show coming up on June 28th with a repeat on July 12th in a movie theater near you, Murphy gave us both his list of Five Favorite Films — which follows below — and his list of Five Favorite Films to “comment” on, which will be revealed in a follow-up article next week.
Bill Forsythe film, Scottish and unassuming. He came to the states and he worked with Peter Riegert and you’ll recognize Peter Capaldi as a very young man named Donnie. It’s so sweet, and yet savvy, and I think that’s the same thing with Local Hero — it’s a comic film that captures a tremendous amount of sadness and that’s really hard to pull off, to have a character who’s fundamentally sad, and then finds something wonderful and risks it being taken away from him. That’s the complication of the film. He’s the oil man that comes over from this huge air conglomerate in Houston and his mission is to come over to this small town and buy the town and turn it into an oil refinery. It was a precursor to things like Northern Exposure. Instead of having aggressively quirky characters, all of these characters are people I’ve met when I’ve been to the British Isles and Scotland, and yes they are that eccentric. Peter Riegert is wonderful in it. It’s slow and it’s soft, but it’s hilarious, and the music is by Mark Knopfler [of Dire Straits]. I’ve never shown this to anyone who regretted seeing it.
I can’t help myself. I think Mel Brooks pulled off a magic trick, which was to pull off a parody of a certain style of film, but also make it something absolutely new at the same time. I love The Producers because it has such great characters, but Young Frankenstein is a little broader and it has some of the most brilliant comic moments. It’s hammy without being overtly crass like Blazing Saddles was. Madeleine Kahn — God bless her — it’s one of the best comic performances that I know of. I go back to it and see something new that she’s added to it. Mel Brooks and she must have fed off each other’s madness to get that sort of performance. And Marty Feldman attacking her fox stole and chewing on it; I lose it every time when I see that.
I saw it again recently and had to watch it all the way through to the end. It is so emblematic of an era of film that was unique to its time. There will be no more Bogart and there will be no more Bogart films, and it was for me like the quintessential Bogart film. He’s a good guy with a shadowy past, –he’s a little gruff but you absolutely cheer for him no matter what. It’s just good old fashioned filmmaking that I don’t think has aged, except for the fact that it’s so stylized and sort of melodramatic that you could never pull it off again. It’s frozen in time. It can’t be altered, so it can’t be hurt. Nobody will ever successfully make that film again.
It has to be a tie. Laurel and Hardy simply because they are two of the funniest people who have ever been on film. I’m leaping over the entire Marx brothers collection to say this, which I also love, but I recently went back and saw both of these films, and just the combination of really brilliant physical humor and absolute charm when these guys are just standing there, and they’re so good together. Nothing beats weirdness for the sake of weirdness, like the Marx brothers were prone to lapse into. But just to see the scene where they’re in a bar where they’re way out west, and a cowboy starts singing “Trail of a Lonesome Pine” and Stan and Ollie just join in and do a dance and harmonize and Stan gets hit in the head with a hammer, it’s sublime. Sons of the Desert for the same reason. I don’t think there’s ever been a comedy team as good at what they do as these guys.
Lainie Kazan is a queen of stage and screen, with a bigger-than-life personality in her work and life alike. Her roles in Beaches, Cemetery Club, My Favorite Year, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding are sometimes more memorable than the films themselves. Kazan started out onstage at a very young age and began receiving public and critical acclaim for understudying and filling in for an ill Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl on Broadway in the 1960s. Now she’s at it again, with this week’s opening of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, reprising her hysterical role of Maria Portokalos. On the phone, Kazan was bubbly, charming, and warm with us when we asked her what five films she might consider her favorites. Here is what she said:
I saw it years ago and I was in the movie — as far as I was concerned, I was the star of the movie [laughs]. I so identified with her — with Olivia de Havilland. And Vivien Leigh. Oh, I was in the movie! It was a time that I wish I had been born but I didn’t want to be so uncomfortable, know what I mean? But I just love that time in history. I love the costumes. I thought the cinematography was extraordinary. For that time it was such a magnificent piece. And Clark Gable – I didn’t learn until much later that he had rotten teeth [laughs]. But I adored him. I was with the woman who played the baby. She passed away this past year. She was at a party that Esther Williams gave about two years ago, maybe three years ago. And she called me over to her and told me she loved my work and she told me she was the baby in Gone with the Wind. She was the little baby when they were running away from the fire. She was in the horse and buggy with the nanny.
The whole [Godfather] series was brilliant. I loved all three of them. But my favorite was number two. I thought it was extraordinarily shot. I think the way Francis Coppola puts these incredible stories together where he has the juxtaposition of having people be killed while this incredible symphonic music is playing and some opera is taking place — it’s all an opera. I think the whole Godfather series is like one magnificent opera. I just think it’s one of the great movies of the century — since film making. I think he is a genius. I think he just captured the passion and the anger and the ignorance of the whole world of the Mafia, and what that meant — the Black Hand. He glamorized them in a way that made us want to know them, be there, experience it — even though it speaks of great danger. But there was something so enticing about their world, that whole world. And the people were such rich studies of character. Robert De Niro was the greatest he’d ever been, and of course, Pacino. Those performances – every single performance was genius. I loved the films. I even like the third one.
Don’t think I’m in love with the mob [laughs]. I think it has great humor even though it’s about killing and murder and the design of all that. There were wonderful humorous moments in that film and it came from such a real earthy place. The humor was so steeped in the truth — it was the truth. I tell you, I happen to know that world because I ran night clubs. I know that world very well. So I think it was such an incredible depiction of the mob and their lives and the horrible things — I mean Joe Pesci — he was so mean and so ignorant and so arrogant and yet you loved him. It’s very hard to do and it was really great. I was torn between that and Raging Bull. I think Goodfellas was more textured — a more interesting study of character. But Raging Bull has a high place in my best films. Goodfellas is very funny. It’s not in any way billed as a comic film, but it’s quite a phenomenal character study as well, with great humor. Godfather doesn’t have any humor in it, but that’s OK.
The story, the acting was sublime. [Director] Mike Nichols did an incredible job. He just did such an amazing job. The story of the old woman and the young student was so new — we had never seen that onscreen, a depiction of that. Once again, I thought this was just a brilliant character study of these people. The story was extraordinary. I loved the relationship with Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman. I just thought that was staggering. And Dustin Hoffman’s performance was so sweet, and he was so insecure and a mumbling fool in so many ways. And she was so seductive. You know, she was a counselor at my camp? She was a drama counselor. When I was nine, she was 17 or 18, and she came to the camp and I was the only one who really took to her of all my camp friends. She would have me lie on the ground and we’d be in this bunk — like in a rehearsal hall or something — she would have us lie on the floor and picture the sky and picture all the different things that could come from the sky [laughing]. She just inspired me. Then I watched her on The Goldbergs — not the new Goldbergs — but The Goldbergs with Molly Goldberg, the brilliant, brilliant television show in the 1950s. Then I saw her in The Graduate — I was a young woman — and I was just — oh my God, she was so beautiful. And I couldn’t believe I had known her. She inspired me to act, she really did. As did Francis Coppola. I went to college with him — Hofstra University. He was the person who wrote all the plays. He wrote the shows — all the original shows that I was the star of. I’d be hired to do all the shows that he had written and his uncle would write the music, so it was kind of great.
I think it’s just such a romantic adventure and Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart — oh my God! And that dialogue is so iconic. Paul Henreid — I just loved all the people that were in it. And the lighting was so dramatic — the way it was shot. It was an iconic film, I just loved it.
Given Turturro’s body of work as a writer and director, it may not surprise you that his favorites lean toward classic and foreign cinema — or that he had a hard time paring down the list to only five.
I guess definitely I would say The Godfather is one of my favorite films. It’s beautifully written and beautifully shot and performed… it’s very entertaining, but it also has a lot of layers to it. It has a lot of fantastic actors in the film and in the script. It’s one of those films that works on many levels, and I think that the movies that stay with you, [they] work on many levels. I have so many movies that I’ve loved, it’s very hard to make it down to five — it would be hard to even make 20 — but I’m going to go for five, so I’m going to put The Godfather on that.
Then I would also put Nights of Cabiria — Le Notti di Cabiria — by Fellini, which I love. It’s a movie about a woman who’s a prostitute, but it’s a fantastic movie with Giulietta Masina and I think it won, like, Best Foreign Film or something in 1957. It’s a film I look at again and again. I’m a big Fellini fan.
And is that one you watched while you were preparing for Fading Gigolo?
Well, there’s so many movies about that world, and so many [actors] have played roles — from Jane Fonda to Barbra Streisand to Barbara Stanwyck to Joan Crawford, Anna Magnani — it goes on and on and on all the way up to Midnight Cowboy. I’m not gonna put Midnight Cowboy as one of my five. But it’s close… That movie really influenced me wanting to be an actor actually because I saw Dustin Hoffman and I was like, ‘Wow, we could be related.’ I couldn’t see it when it came out because it was rated X… but if you see it again, it holds up really, really well. Maybe I’ll put that on my five. I don’t know.
I would definitely have to put Casablanca on there because I think it’s such a great, entertaining film. It’s so witty and funny and it influenced so many people, including Woody Allen… I remember watching it when I was a kid and thinking like, ‘Wow, this is just perfect,’ so I would put that in there.
And then I would put On the Waterfront in there too… I remember I broke my leg when I was in eighth grade and I actually taped it on my audio cassette. I taped the entire movie, so I know a lot of the movie by heart. So, these are movies that just have had big influences on you at different times of your life.
Number five is a toss-up between The Seven Samurai and Grande Illusion. I still don’t know what to say. I’ll just say… Grande Illusion, which I think is a perfect film. And it doesn’t follow any rules because it’s very episodic. I’m a huge Jean Renoir fan, and I’m a huge Kurosawa fan too, and those guys made movies that — that’s as good as it gets. Jean Renoir’s films have such a tremendous intelligence and humanity, and there’s all this great depth and there’s this great joie de vivre — there’s this great joy in the film. It’s almost like commedia dell’arte, but then it exposes something really deep down. And so those are just great pieces of work, and there are so many other films that I love too, so it’s hard.
In Fading Gigolo, the fifth film written and directed by Turturro, he plays a New York City florist who takes up the world’s oldest profession in order to earn some extra cash for himself and his friend, Murray (Woody Allen). Sofia Vergara, Sharon Stone, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber and Bob Balaban co-star.