In 2016 author (and friend of the site) Jeremy Arnold would publish The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies And Why They Matter, a fantastic crash course in the most important classic film movies you should see and why they’ve retained their significance. Now, Arnold is back with another 52 movies to see and you can’t say this movie isn’t timely! What better way to spend quarantine than by seeing some essentials and reading about why they’re important?
As far as structure goes, Arnold’s book is similar to other TCM published tomes. It’s large and glossy, with a nice balance of pictures to text. It’s hard to say this is a picture you’re likely to read cover-to-cover, but more one you’ll leaf through, reading about the movies that grab your attention. Each entry includes Arnold’s thoughts on the movie, as well as snippets from the individual movie’s appearance on The Essentials, TCM’s weekly series where hosts, the late Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz, are joined by celebrity guests. So you don’t read Arnold’s perspective, you also get to relive Robert Osborne talking about Vertigo (1958), or Carrie Fisher waxing rhapsodic about Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter (1955).
What Arnold’s writing brings is a clear and concise breakdown of why these movies are worth your time, and what’s even better is Arnold doesn’t just include the usual suspects. Sure, movies like The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Sunrise (1927), and the works of Alfred Hitchcock make an appearance. But Arnold also makes a point of including movies that a cursory classic film viewer might not know about; movies like Freaks (1932), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), or The Producers (1967).
Reading books like this one just make me happy, connecting me ever deeper to the world of TCM and classic cinema. Even if you’ve seen every movie discussed, it’s worth reading a different perspective and, I can’t stress this enough, getting those moments with Robert Osborne highlighted. If anything, this is the perfect gift for someone that wants to get into classic movies but has no idea where to start.
Interested in purchasing today’s book? If you use the handy link below a small portion is donated to this site! Thanks!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.