In recent years I have run across countless articles posted online listing movies the writer believes everyone should see at least once in their lifetimes. Which is alright, but those lists always seem to include the same titles: “Gone With The Wind,” “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca,” “The Godfather,” “The Wizard of Oz,” et cetera and so on.

At some point it occurred to me that perhaps all these so-called “movie experts” need to broaden their horizons a little bit and tell folks that they should see a few films that for whatever reason aren’t viewed as classics, but nonetheless are well worth the viewer’s time should they decide they are interested in something a little bit removed from “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Rosebud.” And so that’s what I am attempting to do here: share a few of my own personal favorites in the hopes that someone out there who hasn’t seen any of them up this point might be willing to give them a shot. And then if you decide you don’t like them, that’s perfectly okay. At least you gave them a shot…

1. THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER (1982) - This Australian western is based on the 1890 poem of the same title, written by A.B. “Banjo” Patterson (the fellow who also wrote “Waltzing Matilda,” and who appears as a character in this film). Featuring not one but two of Kirk Douglas’ best performances - as the transplanted American cattleman whose daughter loves the title character, and his brother Spur, a peg-legged prospector whose actions years earlier inadvertently set the story’s events into motion - this tale of a young man trying to make his way in the world after the loss of his father is wonderfully told and features some incredible scenery.

2. RED TAILS (2012) - This George Lucas-produced historical film focusing on the famed Tuskegee Airmen – the fighter squadron made up entirely of African-American pilots who played an important role in America’s involvement in World War II - was a project Lucas had fought to bring to the screen for over two decades. The critics lambasted it, which is a shame because it is a wonderful film. Here’s how I know: When the end titles began to roll, the audience my family and I saw it with gave it a standing ovation. In a lifetime of moviegoing that remains the ONLY time I have ever seen that happen. Red Tails is a sterling example of a movie that people should see and make their own minds up about, regardless of what the critics say.  

3. HEAD (1968) - The only theatrical film starring the Monkees (and co-written by Michael Keaton’s Joker, Jack Nicholson), this is as about as close as you can get to a quintessential cinematic document of the psychedelic era as one is likely to find. Essentially plotless, the film at first glance appears to be little more than an extension of the television series that preceded it - and yet it is so much more, thanks to its biting satirical statements about war, fame and Hollywood. (It also features songs written by by Carole King and Harry Nilsson, which makes the soundtrack another “must find.”)

4. THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI: ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION (1984) - Anytime an actor states that he based his character on Elia Kazan, Jacques Cousteau, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Adam Ant, you know that’s going to be an interesting performance. When the story featuring that character takes its cues from everything from Doc Savage and James Bond to Dr. Strangelove and Star Wars, it can’t help but be a load of fun. “Buckaroon Banzai” is one of those movies that didn’t fare well upon its initial release but has gone on to become a bona fide pulp classic - and for my money, Jeff Goldblum has never been better. 

5. THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES (1946) - After “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankestein,” this is my favorite A&C film. It is a departure from the usual Bud and Lou fare in that they do not work as a team and the comics’ trademark vaudeville routines are absent, and in fact they speak directly to each other only during one scene at the beginning of the film. Costello is the hero as a Revolutionary War-era tinker who (along with the heroine, whose husband-to-be is working with Benedict Arnold) is wrongly shot and killed as a suspected traitor. Nearly two centuries later, their ghosts work to locate a letter of commendation to Costello’s character from none other than George Washington in order to life the curse that binds them to earth. Costello shines in this film like in no other, making us laugh as always yet at the same time demonstrating that he could have been a pretty decent dramatic actor if given the chance.

6. ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD (1974) - Based on a novel by Ian Cameron (originally published under the title “The Lost Ones”), this adventure film from the Walt Disney Studios is very much in the same vein as the studio’s earlier adaptations of Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea,” Wyss’ “Swiis Family Robinson” or Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” The plot is simple: a British industrialist hires an American archeologist and the captain of an early, French-built version of a zeppelin to help find his son, who vanished while on an expedition to find the fabled graveyard of the whales. What they end up finding is a lost colony of Vikings, whose religious leader seeks to have killed because he believes they are the vanguard of an invading army. Anyone who enjoys Disney’s other

7. THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY (1980) - The most commercially successful release in the history of South Africa’s film industry, this delightful little comedy tells the story of Xi - a member of the San tribe of Ju’/Hoansi bushmen living in the Kalahari Desert - and his quest to dispose of a glass Coca-Cola bottle that was carelessly tossed out of an airplane. Because they’ve never seen such a thing before, the tribe initially believes that it must be some sort of gift from the gods… but eventually come to view it as a curse (sort of like Bilbo’s Ring, I suppose) that must be driven out of their village. A truly enjoyable film.

8. 1776 (1972) - This cinematic adaptation of the awarding-winning Broadway musical may not be historically accurate (despite the fact that portions of the dialogue and some of the song lyrics were taken directly from the letters and memoirs of the actual participants of the Second Continental Congress,) but the film is so much fun that it really doesn’t matter. It contains several of my all-time favorite musical numbers (in particular “He Plays The Violin,” “The Egg” and “Momma. Look Sharp,” the latter of which was later covered by Cher), and Howard Da Silva’s performance as Benjamin Franklin is a joy to behold. (Oh, yeah, and the fountain that is seen is the musical number “The Lees of Old Virginia” is the same one that later appeared in the opening credits of the TV series “Friends.” I just now found that out…)

9. ROBIN HOOD (1973) - Disney’s animated version of the hero of Sherwood Forest had been on the drawing board as far back as the making of “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs,” when Walt Disney became interested in doing an adaptation of the tale of Reynard the Fox. The project languished until 1970s, when the studio’s animators decided Robin Hood would be a preferable hero. As far as I’m concerned it’s Disney’s best animated film of the era, and even stands head-and-shoulders above certain of the studio’s more recent “classics.” As a 10-year-old seeing it with my parents in 1973, I was hooked from the opening lines of Roger Miller’s “Oo-De-Lally.”

10. THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975) - Based upon the first portion of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Caspak” trilogy (which was the first so-called “adult” book I ever read, back in the third grade), this film came out during the midst of the ERB boom of the 1970s and stands up pretty well alongside such similar films as “Mysterious Island” (1961) or “The Lost World” (1960). Doug McClure makes a pretty decent action hero, all things considered, and Susan Penhaligon became one of my first “Hollywood crushes” when I saw the film at the age of 12.  This film also bears the distinction of being probably the single most faithful motion picture adaptation of ANY Burroughs novel so far - something which can definitely NOT be said of the 1977 sequel, “The People That Time Forgot,” or a 2009 made-for-TV “remake” that was so bad that it almost made me physically ill.