Veteran Los Angeles Times and NPR film critic Kenneth Turan likens his new book “Not to Be Missed,” to a “spiritual autobiography.” The lifelong cinema devotee has included 54 films in his recently published celluloid canon, ranging from established classics like “Casablanca” and “The Godfather” to overlooked gems like “First Contact” and “Leolo.” We’ll talk to Turan about his book and we want to hear from you: What films would you put on your Not-To-Be-Missed list?

Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times and Morning Edition on NPR, and author of "Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film"

  • Robert Thomas

    There is no way to do this properly.

    These are some that might be overlooked.

    The Scarlet Pimpernel
    All Quiet on the Western Front
    Now, Voyager
    Larceny, Inc.
    Force of Evil
    The Magnificent Ambersons
    Black Narcissus
    The Searchers
    The Thing from Another World
    Anatomy of a Murder
    The 400 Blows
    Seven Days in May
    2001, A Space Odyssey
    Emperor of the North Pole
    Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
    Fat City

    Several of these, obviously, could never be overlooked.

    • Robert Thomas

      The Dybuuk is an excellent choice.

    • Fay Nissenbaum

      I have a secret love for Thunderbolt & Lightfoot! Had so many didn’t-need-to-be-there moments, like the redneck with a trunk full of rabbits…I heard recently that when the film was released, Clint Eastwood was peeved that Jeff Bridges appeared to be a star eclipsing Eastwood’s character. Interesting, no?

      • Robert Thomas

        I’ve seen it ten times at least and I’m always astonished.

        Robert’s “First Rule of American Cinema”: See every movie with Edward G. Robinson or Jeff Bridges. I don’t know why this works.

    • Robert Thomas

      And I left out The Stuntman. Doh! Another excellent choice.

      And The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

    • Robert Thomas

      Had to add Emperor of the North Pole. And Blow-Up.

      Stupidly and weirdly, I left out The 400 Blows which was the first movie that occurred to me for this list. Had to add it.

      I can’t quite add it to the list, but Straw Dogs is an important effort that some may overlook.

  • shankil

    Cinema Paradiso

    • Fay Nissenbaum

      made me cry. I dont know if I can watch it again. Dunno why.

  • Ben Rawner

    Has your guest seen “In the mood for love” by Wong Kar Wai and what does he think about films with little or no dialogue such as ‘The Artist’

  • Guest

    am having a steam of consciousness flash on ‘Ninotchka’. Wry humor and Dietrich – an actor who I had to be an adult to appreciate.

    • Robert Thomas


    • SF Mama

      Garbo was in Ninotchka, not Dietrich

      • Guest

        Oh my God! Sorrry!

    • Robert Thomas

      But! Silk Stockings, too, for Peter Lorre’s dancing.


  • ES Trader

    Is the original Ballad of Narayama” on your list ? If it isn’t, have you seen it ?
    Also, “Young Frankenstein” &”High Anxiety” are two of my favorite comedies.

  • Joan Broughton

    Ikiru! The scene on the swing in the snow caused me not just to well up. I dissolved into sobs. What power some films have!

  • Sue

    L’ascenseur (the elevator) French film, Amadeus, Castle in the Sky

  • Marilen Wood

    It Happened One Night. One of the all-time best. Great acting. Great script. I can watch it again and again.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    So many to name. As a youth, ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ blew me away with its grandeur and Peachy and Danny out to “loot a country nine ways from Sunday”

  • Kurt thialfad

    Here’s five of mine:
    “Jim Thorpe: All American” with Burt Lancaster
    “Alamo” with/by John Wayne
    “Laughing Policeman” with Walter Matthau
    “Groundhog’s Day” with Bill Murray
    “High Noon” with Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart

    How do you rate Brendan Gleeson’s performance in new film “Grand Seduction”

    • Kurt thialfad

      um.. Gary Cooper for High Noon.

      sixth on my list is “Last Exit to Brooklyn” with Steven Lange.

    • Robert Thomas

      This is a good list.

      But I would waffle on The Laughing Policeman and put in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

      • Kurt thialfad

        Would you waffle on “Last Exit to Brooklyn” with Steven Lange?

        • Robert Thomas

          It’s a hard movie to watch.

          It makes me think, though, that I left yet another, somewhat related in tone but more conventional film, Dog Day Afternoon, off my list.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    The Graduate wouldn’t be The Graduate without Simon and Garfunkel. Any comments on the effect of a film score on the popularity of a film?

  • Michael Montaño

    The Tree of Life must be on the list, right?

    • Robert Thomas

      It certainly will be, in another ten years. I failed to include Days of Heaven in my list. That’s another error on me.

  • trite

    I saw “Kiss Me Deadly” recently, and loved it. It is very weird and quirky–and riveting.

  • Heather Steingruebl

    The Lives of Others

  • Sheree Wright

    Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple which is now considered to be an African American classic, an American classic.
    Shawshank Redemption. Everytime this movie comes on TV I have to watch it. The depiction of the lives of those men and what they went through over the course of the many years they were together is simply…something special.
    The Kite Runner. The movie is so closely like the book. It really brought tonlife the images in my imagination as I read the book to the big screen. I cried at the end of this movie every time.
    Last but not least, The Five heartbeats by Robert Townsend. The music soundtrack of this movie is great and the depiction of the lives of the entertainers is really something to see.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    My collaged movie memory puts these two greats in the same category: Destry Rides Again and Ninotchka. Both Dietrich and Garbo are two actresses I needed to grow to appreciate. No girlish immaturity then!

    • Robert Thomas

      Watched eighty-one-year-old Gene Wilder talking to Robert Osborne on TCM the other evening, introducing one of his Guest Programer choices, Witness for the Prosecution. Wilder singled out Dietrich’s introductory scene where she tells Charles Laughton that what happened was in fact, truthfully, whatever Laughton wanted to have happened. It is indeed a chilling scene.

      How close (and how worshipful) is Madeline Khan’s performance of “I’m Tired” in Blazing Saddles to Dietrich’s “I May Never Go Home Anymore” in WftP?

  • Lorin Hager

    Magical films; Dersu Uzala, The Road Warrior, The King of Hearts

    • Robert Thomas

      Dersu Uzala is mesmerizing.
      Mad Max, rather than The Road Warrior – but not the American English dubbed version.
      Alan Bates, yes.

  • Duane Deterville

    Haile Gerima’s “Sankofa” is arguably still the best film on chattel slavery and enslaved Africans in the trans-Atlantic diaspora.

  • Nilu Rafsanjani

    Pan’s Labyrinth!!!

  • trite

    The Night of the Hunter, with Robert Mitchum

    • Robert Thomas

      Yow! Scary.

      • trite


  • Lori Michelon

    Hi! Great program, thanks. I am wondering if we, audiences, are less adventurous now that ratings and coding are in place. I remember as a kid going with my family to whatever was playing in our local theatre: Z, Is Paris Burning?, What’s New Pussycat, Barbarella, James Bond, Night of the Living Dead (one brother and I are still not over the trauma of that).

  • Trace Wendell

    The French film Amelie is a movie I can watch over and over again. Enchanting and charming, and it introduces Audrey Tatou to the world.

  • ES Trader

    the original “Ballad of Nara-yama” made an impression on me at age 5,saw it again in San Francisco, in the 8o’s, in my early 30’s and it still had the same impact,

    I recommend the 1958 version.

  • SFArchitect

    Pan’s Labyrinth. Dark yet beautiful. Gritty yet fanciful. Tragic yet hopeful…

  • Michelle

    I love a movie with an unexpected twist. For this reason “The Usual Suspects” & “Shawshank Redemption” will always remain on my list of favorites.

  • disqus_63X8zNMKNl

    From childhood: High Noon. Music in my head till this day. Autumn Leaves (1956), Johnny Got His Gun. The Graduate. Melancholia (Lars von Trier). 12 Monkeys, from a black and white French short. All the Little Animals (1998 movie starring Christian Bale). Just to name a few.

  • disqus_63X8zNMKNl

    Also A Place In the Sun, with Montgomery Clift. More recently, The Way We Live, with David Suchet…

  • Barb F

    On Golden Pond?

  • Trace Wendell

    The French film Amelie is one I can watch over and over again. Enchanting and absolutely charming. And, it introduced Audrey Tatou to American audiences.

  • Leslie Messmer

    The movie that made a huge impact on my life was Wim Wender’s “Wings of Desire”. Would love to know Mr. Turan’s opinion on that film.
    I also really like the french movie, “Betty Blue”
    Leslie – Orinda, CA

    • Robert Thomas

      Wings of Desire is the only movie I ever went back to see two more times during its first run. Maybe also, Star Wars, I can’t remember.

      I had visited Berlin in ’83, and viewing the blasted heath of Potsdamer Platz from the observation gantry overlooking no-man’s land had a great effect on me. It welled up again, watching WoD.

    • Robert Thomas

      This also made me think of Wenders’s fine The American Friend, his adaptation of another of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels, Ripley’s Game.

      Dennis Hopper as Ripley and Bruno Ganz as his victim keep your eyes GLUED to the screen.

  • nullunit

    Stray Dog by Akira Kurosawa. Great film and a window into post war Japan from the Japanese point of view that we do not get usually.

  • JimmyOo

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