Wow. Nothing about this movie's appeal or supposed greatness makes sense to me, and I've tried to figure it out. First I thought, well, maybe in 1939, The Civil War was still fresh on everyone's minds but it was 74 years between the war's end and this movie's debut, but it's also been 74 years between this movie's release and today, so clearly that's not it. Second, this movie is just a few minutes shy of 4 hours long. In other words, twice (or more) the length of almost every other movie. I could probably spend two paragraphs talking about all the awards, theatrical re-releases, and accolades this movie got, and still not get around the oft-quoted fact “adjusted for inflation Gone With the Wind is the highest grossing film of all time.” Suffice it to say, this movie is a giant monstrous success, and having seen it, I have no idea why. Ok, well, I do know why, and it's because Hollywood hoodwinked everyone hard for like two years during it's production. The general public, to whom movies had only been available for give or take 30 years, were more or less told that this was the greatest film ever made, and the most expensive film ever made, and the most controversial film ever made, and they were told that from day one of pre-production. How could it not be true? Well for one, it's 4 hours long, and believe me, almost every minute of that time seems like pointless filler to get to a greater plot that...just isn't there. The movie (based on a novel I've never read, and never will read) uses The Civil War as a backdrop, but that's honestly not what it's about. It's about Scarlett O'Hara. I must say that if Vivien Leigh intended to portray Scarlett as a vapid, gold-digging, conceited ice queen, then she succeeded, but making a 4 hour epic around this sort of completely unlikable character is a failure of the utmost proportions. Scarlett is supposed to be the tragic heroine, you're supposed to sympathize with her, but instead she's the person you hate the most. She's so manipulative and self-serving you simply want her to die for virtually every minute of screen time she has. In fact, when Clark Gable famously “doesn't give a damn” and walks out on Scarlett that is literally the only time the movie connects with it's audience, too bad it took 3 hours and 45 to get there. Speaking of death, Scarlett is one of the few characters in this film who doesn't die, but a staggering number of the cast actually do, and I'm tempted to make a joke about it being from old-age as this movie is so long you might literally think someone could live an entire life cycle during it's run time. I've harped on about the length, but let's be clear, I don't hate long movies The Ten Commandments is brilliant, as an example. I hate long movies that are wholly boring and not about anything, which fits this movie to a tee. (Bonus question; what's a tee and why does it fit so well?) Maybe you think that this is a chick-flick and as a guy, I just don't get it. That's not the case, there's no romance in this film, love between any two characters is virtually non-existent, especially if Scarlett is one of those two. Scarlett spends the entire movie getting married to any and everyone whom it behooves her to do so and for no other reason than her own advancement. Yes, the fact that this happens more than once is frightening proof that what I've said about this movie being too long is true. And her trademark coldness leaves "romance" but a distant thought; if anything is truly "gone with the wind" in this movie it's the very notion of love and affection. Perhaps by now you can tell that I do think that in addition to being overrated, this is also not a very good movie. If I were in possession of a genie, I'd be sorely tempted to make this film's name come true, only instead of "wind" I believe it should be called "hot air" because that's literally all I can make out of the constant praise this movie gets.
3. Scarface (1983)
Initially when I learned that Cory had this film on his list as well, I thought, in the spirit of collaborative effort that I would exclude it from my list, but I can't do that. Scarface just doesn't deserve it's position in our world. It's essentially the life story of a common thug turned drug kingpin presented in all of it's hideous real life glory (or lack thereof.) Maybe this type of movie is important, maybe America needs to see exactly how crime pays, and this movie is faithful to that. Sure Tony Montana is rolling in money, but he's also drowning in blood, not the least of which is his own. The problem is that I don't think that's why this movie is highly acclaimed. Have you ever met a fan of this film? If you have, you may notice that they tend to focus on Tony's successes, they idolize his character, they respect him for taking what he wanted and not letting the rules, or anyone else, get in the way. Kill or be killed, live fast and die hard, the world is yours; these are Tony's mottos. The last of which appeared on a statue in Tony's mansion, and, fittingly became his epitaph, but the people who love this movie, that part they conveniently forget. They idolize the man for ripping the life he wanted out of the jaws of “the law” or “the man” or “anyone else;” for “rising above” his humble beginnings as an illegal Cuban immigrant, they applaud success, and ignore the wages of all the evil Tony's life brings with it. I can't figure how anyone who watched this movie to it's conclusion could possibly take that stance though. The movie goes full circle, karma catches up to Tony, but the people who love this movie seem to miss the moral completely, or intentionally, and doing either is profoundly dangerous. Maybe I seem heavy handed here and keep emphasizing the same point, but the reason is this, if Scarface were taken for what it is, the life and times of a drug lord, then it wouldn't be an outstanding film. There's hundreds of films like it, with the exact same message, but something about this one makes it different, and it's something that not everyone sees. Only those who find Scarface admirable are the ones that set it on another echelon, the ones that buy the merchandise Al Pacino's visage is inexplicably plastered all over, and the ones that base their lives and careers on a fictional drug lord named Tony Montana. I'm sorry but I don't believe that any movie should be that powerful, certainly not this one.
2. The Lion King (1994)
Perhaps you're surprised to see this movie on this list, but that's because I'm always surprised to find that virtually everyone I know thinks this is the best Disney movie ever made, and quite possibly the best animated film of all time as well. If for some reason you're thinking “but it was a good movie, can it really be considered overrated?” Remember the following: this movie spawned a Broadway play that won 6 Tony's and a Grammy, and has been running for 16 years in a row making it the 5th longest running Broadway play in history. If you know someone who's 16 or younger, the play that only exists because of this movie is older than them. I'd say that's a little bit overrated pretty much no matter what you're talking about. Clearly this movie is one of Disney's biggest successes, and is responsible for that company literally accruing billions of dollars over this IP alone over the years. If you remember when it came out, you'll remember all the hullabaloo about it also being an “original story” as well instead of the fairy tale and folklore adaptations Disney had pretty much stuck to up to this point. Here's the problem and why it doesn't deserve it's success or acclaim. Disney stole it, it wasn't an original idea at all. Once upon a time in Japan in the 50's there was a manga (comic book for those of you who pretend you still don't know what manga is) called “Jungle Emperor Leo” who was a white lion cub. This lion cub's name was “Kimba” and in the 60's this became an animated cartoon in Japan, and it was even broadcast in parts of the United States. There also exists an early production still for The Lion King which shows Simba as a white lion. Those aren't the only similarities and coincidences, there are many many more, but you didn't come here to read about this pretty well-known controversy, I just believe that Disney doesn't deserve the credit for all the work that other people did. It's even more disturbing that The Lion King is easily one of Disney's most successful franchises, and yet they continue to act like they deserve all the credit and all the money.
1. The Godfather (1972)
Yeah, I'm that guy. Let me explain this though. With the possible exception of Citizen Kane, The Godfather gets called the best movie of all time more often than any other film. The fact that The Godfather is called the best movie by so many people makes it the most overrated movie by default. I think it goes without saying that for anything to be most often considered the best of anything, it truly has to be exceptional. There's tons of people who genuinely believe that The Godfather is an exceptional movie, but I watched it once, and to be honest I don't remember it very well at all. If something is truly that good, shouldn't I remember it, shouldn't I not think that it was boring? I'm not kidding when I say this, I did not find that movie compelling, or entertaining, and I have a hard time remembering it or it's plot. It's basically a movie about the inner workings of the mafia in America, and I fail to see how that is such a groundbreaking thing that it's instantly catapulted to the position of “best movie ever.” Then again, I evidently don't think Scarface is that great either, and I never watched The Sopranos so maybe I'm just one of those weird Americans who doesn't idolize crime lords. I'm obviously in the minority, and that worries me. I could stop there but I still don't know what makes The Godfather so amazing. Is it a horse's head in a bed? That type of shock technique is used in literally every horror film ever made, it's not special, it wasn't invented by Francis Ford Coppola. Is it merely the presence of Marlon Brando? Probably, I never understood that man's appeal, and Hollywood instantly swooning all over him. I think Brando was some sort of critical darling that never really had the panache he was purported to, how hard is it to sit still in a chair barely pronouncing your lines? That's basically what he did in this film. Is is that the mafia or “The Family” is shown in this movie to be sort of backwards and dysfunctional, and subject to it's own unique rules that make no sense sort of like every family really is? Is that why everyone identifies with it? On some deep psychological level that they don't even understand? I honestly still don't know, and I probably never will.
Jonathan Updike is a dude, a former editor, occasional writer, and a lover of the 80's. He has seen far too many movies to not write about them. At the moment, he is all out of bubble gum.