“Greatest” ≠ “Favorite” Movies

I’ll never forget flipping through Entertainment Weekly’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time magazine at the Gonzaga University Bing Crosby Student Center. It was October 1999, and the trend of releasing as many “Top,” “Best,” and “Greatest” lists was exploding before the world itself was predicted to explode.

Y2K anticipation was all about the fear of the unknown, and nostalgia seemed to be the only antidote. For pre-internet film critics, it was a time for comparing canons and proclaiming all the movies we should see before we died on January 1, 2000.   

Understandably, Citizen Kane took most first place spots, followed closely by The Godfather, and then anything grainy, Chaplin, or Italian. Yes, the film industry groundbreakers deserved the credit, but ranking them seemed superfluous and inconsistent (and horror movies were horrifyingly disregarded). At least the lists made for good debate and resuscitated the “greats” for younger audiences.

One thing is for sure, though: a “great” movie doesn’t necessarily mean it is a “favorite” movie. While I struggle staying alive watching Gone with the Wind, I take a break with my favorite (bad) movie, Weekend at Bernie’s and laugh with the dead.

A “favorite” movie is a best friend, a landmark in time, and a place you first lost yourself while watching it. Your favorite movie is a part of you, almost like a prayer, meditation, or frozen time sanctuary.

In several cases, a favorite movie is for turning off the brain. Like soul medicine, it aids the laughing, crying, and being we need after work, between kids, or before bed. There’s no expectation or judgment. The favorite movie, in return, offers us an unconditional reprieve.  

Now that I have a two-year-old daughter and a seven-month-old daughter, my time to see new movies in the theatre is sparse. Therefore, I’m going to take some moments this summer to look back on my favorite movies that didn’t necessarily shape who I am but accompanied me along the way to today, just like a friend would.

Horror movies that I shouldn’t have seen so young will be in there. Some titles will have a cancel culture disclaimer attached. As a high school music teacher, I can’t wait to mention the soundtracks and film scores that connect with me. Some of my favorite movies will be stupid with no shame attached.

Starting tomorrow, I’m excited to reveal my Top 50 Reely Bernie Faves selection, one movie at a time. And, as always, I look forward to talking anything movies with you!

Stay tuned…

Reely Bernie

29 thoughts on ““Greatest” ≠ “Favorite” Movies

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  1. I think the greatest movies are the ones that have a lasting impact on the history and culture of cinema. They are the ones that are widely acclaimed, influential, and innovative. They are the ones that set the standards and inspire others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s a wonderful way of putting it. I think of the greatest movies as groundbreakers in craft and appeal. They are the ones filmmakers can’t help but copy over and over. Such is why most of them are much older and considered “classics.” What would be a modern, 21st century “classic” to be, in your opinion? Thank you for your thoughts.


        1. I’m with you on Mulholland Drive, which will come up on my Faves list later. I enjoy Scorsese’s older stuff and feel like he comes close but misses when it comes to topping Goodfellas. Looking forward to “Flower Moon.”

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Fully agree, Bernie! I guess everyone has their faves, and they might or might not be great movies – although I’d argue sometimes the lists can overlap 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They can definitely overlap. I mean, The Godfather, Citizen Kane, and Singin’ in the Rain tend to be in all the “greatest” lists, and they are actually favorites of mine as well. Interestingly enough, they are favorite of mine because of the people who shared them with me 🙂 Great to hear from you again. I’ve been busy with two little ones, and time for movies and writing has vanished. My new thing is reserving early morning hours to get back in the swing of things. (It’s also when I’m guaranteed at least one hour of both daughters sleeping.) I hope all is well! I look forward to check out your latest thoughts…


  3. Hi Bernie. It was fabulous to read your post! I congratulate you on your adorable little ones and your commitment to them. I have two young kids as well and due to their sporting commitments; and really since COVID struck there has been a distinct lack of decent movies we want to enjoy together at the cine (unless Marvel and Mario Bros is your thing).
    We watched ‘My Girl’ the other night on Netflix which they love. These coming-of-age movies we grew up on seem to be the ones that really hit home for them (inc. Stand By Me) – not the clap trap coming out now.
    I have my 100 favourite movies list still published on IMDB (https://www.imdb.com/list/ls009932337/?page=1) although I haven’t updated it with some new additions and adjustments in some time:
    I can’t separate between my three favourites: Amadeus (which my parents and now my kids adore!), Citizen Kane (which my father was besotted by and eventually I became a huge fan of) and Remains of the Day (which contains my favourite acting from the major leads and is about the most romantic movie I have ever seen).
    I can’t to read more of your 50 favourites. Cheers man!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Matthew! First off: So nice to get to know you more via this Comment. Many responses below:
      -Thank you: The 3 lovely ladies make me a better person, even when the youngest one still refuses to sleep from 12am to 2am.
      -The MCU is the same movie with 27 (28?) different titles
      -Love “My Girl,” and your comparison to the coming of age “Stand By Me” relates to me.
      -What?!?! How did you make it on IMDB??? I never knew this about you. What do you have to do to accomplish this feat?
      -Gosh, you’ve unintentionally spoiled some of my own “faves.” How can I not include Amadeus and Citizen Kane (also, great, groundbreaking movies that happen to be favorites as well, hehe).
      -Cheers back to you. So, we’re close to summer. What do I tell you down under? Happy Winter?

      I look forward to reading more of your thoughts this summer too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bernie, I didn’t catch this message when you sent it, so excuse my tardy response.
        Those are lovely sentiments about your family. I remember those sleepless nights when my kids were younger. Not nice! Excuse my ignorance… What’s the MCU?

        Do you remember when the IMDB message boards were still active? I created an account and you could create movie lists there. You might be able to still do it.

        I’m glad you’re also an Amadeus and Citizen Kane fan. There are many movies on my list wouldn’t be considered by many as ‘greatest’ movies (as you remarked) but are chosen because of their nostalgic significance or are simply those I like watching over and over again for reasons unspecified.

        As you have gathered, I am an Australian living in Bogota. We don’t have the 4 seasons here, only wet and dry seasons. The temperature is moderate throughout due to the altitude and location close to the equator (the tropics). You too – enjoy the Summer!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha! No worries: I only have time for 24-hour later responses now anyway 🙂

          -MCU = Marvel Comics Universe = Same movie with 28 different titles, haha
          -Ha! I do remember that! Did IMDB put a moratorium on those active message boards?
          -Yes, and some of the “greatest” movies are my “favorite” because of the people who shared them with me 🙂
          -Bogota. Yes, I remember now. Those are similar temps to Denver right now. However, we are going through an exceptional amount of wildfire pollution from Canada. Our skies are literally grey, and it is difficult to breathe. I thought it would pass, but that was five days ago…

          Happy Tuesday!


        1. You’re a better person for it, haha! Drat that Blockbuster Video job – it turned me into a movie watching couch potato, haha! I think my tally it at 4,500 (but that’s because all the movies were free when I worked there, hee hee)

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m looking forward to seeing your top 50 favorites! I know you commented on my top 10 favorites one time. Although my choices are well regarded films, I do have plenty of favorites that you’re not likely to see in a top 100. Small Soldiers and Wild Wild West were a big part of my childhood that I love revisiting every once in a while. Just today I rewatched Shallow Hal and I still enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember working at Blockbuster Video when Wild Wild West and Small Soldiers were released on rent. Very popular and very “favorite.” Shallow Hal is a guilty pleasure watch for sure — pretty much anything Farrelly Bros! Thanks for reading. First fave gets released today!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Believe me when I say that many of the films I consider my “favorite” will probably just awful to you as well, haha! We’ll see… That’s why they make the movies: escape, empathy, and good discussion 🙂

      Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I completely agree that “a ‘great’ movie doesn’t necessarily mean it is a ‘favorite’ movie.” My very first post was a list of the top ten best films I’ve seen so far in my lifetime, which I wrote simply because over years of movie-watching, I’d occasionally thought, “If I had a Top 10 list, this would be on it!” And around the time I decided to start a blog, I also realized I’d had this thought enough times to actually make the list. 🙂 I shared it a few places, and I was quite surprised how many people seemed to assume “best” and “favorite” were interchangeable – and how quickly a word like “best” or “greatest” can ruffle the feathers of those who haven’t considered all movie lists / rankings are completely subjective. You’ve articulated my thoughts perfectly, and I wish I had your words to share at that time.

    If I want to be artistically inspired, I’ll likely turn to one of the films that made my list, but if I want comfort, I’ll go for a favorite movie. I’m sure I could make an actual (and probably sizable) list of those if I put a little thought to it, but a few favorites that come to mind immediately are The Wizard of Oz (my earliest favorite). If we’re thinking of movies as friends, this is the one I’ve had the longest, most history-filled relationship with. (In fact, the only reason it didn’t make my “top ten best” list is I know it well, I can spot its flaws.) More recent, but just as beloved, discoveries include Heaven Can Wait (the ‘70s Warren Beatty version), the Mamma Mia movies, and most of George Burns’ later films (some of which helped me through a rough time a few years ago). I’ve got such a fondness for each of these. I could watch them at any time – probably on repeat – and almost-instantly feel better about life. Now that I think about it, I have others I consider favorites in certain situations or moods (Mister Roberts is great for work stress, Some Came Running works when over-emotional or as therapy for relationship-disappointment). I very well may have listed ten right there. 🙂 I noticed you liked my post about Dean Martin. Pretty much all of his films are favorites of sorts, because I enjoy him and find him comforting. Same goes for Bing Crosby, whose mere presence makes any movie better. (Side note: “Gonzaga University Bing Crosby Student Center” – how cool is that?? 😀)

    Also, you gave me a nostalgic chuckle over the ridiculous Y2K dread, which you also captured and articulated perfectly. 🙂 “The trend of releasing as many ‘Top,’ ‘Best,’ and ‘Greatest’ lists was exploding before the world itself was predicted to explode” – ha ha! 😀 I’d never thought about it before, but I bet that’s true. I was 14 at the time, and as someone who has always tended toward anxiety and catastrophe, I’m surprised I wasn’t terrified the world was going to end. If I was, I’ve blocked it 😉 – but I do remember being practically convinced that all computers (and everything run by them) would instantly stop functioning as one at midnight, since they wouldn’t be able to process the date “2000” – because that’s what my TEACHERS told me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank YOU! I look forward to catching up more on your take on the classics! Sometimes, I wish I could travel back in time and live in the world when Casablanca premiered or It’s a Wonderful Life. No internet. No cellphones, haha!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for these thoughtful words and connection on what exactly delineates the “great” or “favorite” movie, and, yes, you are right — some are both! The Wizard of Oz is mine too. My dad’s fave is Heaven Can Wait! Haha!

      Yes, Bing music and films are beloved due to my Gonzaga days 🙂

      I admire your research and evaluation of the Dean Martin canon. I haven’t seen all of them, but I agree with you that he brought a seriousness to the role of the down and out alcoholic in Rio Bravo who really had nothing else than his buddy John Wayne and an escape out of an “escape.” Gone were the carefree parties of impunity in his other “Hollywood” movies. He made it real. I love that movie!

      Thanks again for reading and responding. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Happy weekend! -RB

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Cool! I’m looking forward to it Bernie. I just read where some old mobsters talking about Weekend at Bernie’s…how it was mob financed…it worked! I saw it when it was released.

    Speaking of great movies…I saw the Searchers the other day…what a movie…what a shot of that silhouette in the door frame.

    Liked by 2 people

          1. Mike Franzese I’ve been watching for a while. He was pulling in around 8 million a week in a gas scam in the 70s and 80s… interesting dude. He didn’t steal from customers…he just took the goverments tax on gas….So I didn’t mind lol.

            Liked by 1 person

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