ROMA CITTÁ APERTA (1945)

Perhaps the definitive “neorealist” film, shot in the rubble of Occupied Rome just after the Nazis had left.

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942)

This “jukebox musical” of patriotic Broadway hits showcases James Cagney’s powerhouse performance, but that’s basically the only part of the movie that works for me.

ODD MAN OUT (1947)

I really enjoyed this dream-like film noir about a doomed man’s wanderings through Belfast.

SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941)

One of the best remembered comedies of the great Preston Sturges, about a director who is tired of making comedies.

CASABLANCA (1942)

Maybe the classic Old Hollywood movie, made at the height of World War II and maybe one big metaphor for the war itself.

THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)

A story where three very grizzled dudes find gold in the wilderness and it drives them all nuts. A manly man’s parable about greed.

DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

Perhaps the ultimate Film Noir, about two murderers who are not nearly as smart as they think they are.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)

The ultimate feel-good movie, or harrowing exercise in existential angst? Possibly both.

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947)

A holiday classic about whether a crazy guy who thinks he’s Santa is actually Santa, made a time when studios insisted Christmas movies wouldn’t sell.