On the Waterfront vs. Schindler’s List – Best vs. the Best

We are taking a spin on my Top 100 Films of All Time list. To make it more interesting and exciting we are going to start pitting each film against each other until a winner is chosen. Without further ado, let’s start.

Category I – Art Direction

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image via DVDizzy

On The Waterfront is about an ex-boxer, Terry Malloy who witnesses a death of his good friend and in return decides to revolt against the mob boss responsible. Quite the simple story and overall never adds too much of anything else other than a typical love interest. The camera work makes the movie seem newer than the ’50s. That is a true testament to how well it has aged. There were hiccups along the way. It’s a movie which goes on for longer than needed. I surely didn’t think it was pushed to its potential.

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image via Signature Reads

Schindler’s List is a Steve Spielberg picture about the horrors of the Holocaust. Yet there is one German who for some reason decides to do what’s morally right. This is a big one. I would argue everything about this movie works as an artistic masterpiece. There are so many filmmakers who believe the tragedy alone is enough to tug someone’s heartstrings. That’s not true, though and Spielberg knows this. He purposefully made the film black and white. The visual symbolism is beautiful, the inhumane nature captured wasn’t a gimmick done by the books, only a tool meant to enrich one’s understanding of the concept.

The little girl in red was too much. There is not enough to put into one paragraph without it sounding chaotic. The cinematography. Editing. Directing. I mean why doesn’t Spielberg make them like this anymore?

Category II – Characters

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image via TCM

The list of characters such as Terry Malloy, Edie Doyle, and Father Barry is the real highlight of this movie. The interactions between them solidify each relationship. You get to feel the closeness between the priest and his community. I really enjoyed their performances for what they were. If it weren’t for the actors I wouldn’t probably care.

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image via I Can’t Unsee That Movie

The Schindler’s List is a funny case. The story clearly focuses on Oskar Schindler. Liam Neeson portrays the figure in an amazing fashion. We learn about him so much without actually finding out what the main motivator was for his choice to help Jews. In a way, it was his nature to do good just as the nature of others was to spread evil. Then there is Ben Kingsley’s character whose name I can’t remember (too complicated) even though he was my favorite. Then for some reason, I remember the name of a side character like Helen Hirsch (not the spelling though). Then I recall the kids running for their lives, jumping into a pit toilet, I remember the girl in the red coat. All of them are important and serve a greater purpose to the overall theme.

Category III – The Whole

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image via Basement Rejects

The film as a whole contains interesting threads throughout the story. There are many key scenes which really capture the viewer’s attention. The staging and dynamic in the church scene brought out a lot from it. Many of the dialogues truly meld together after the build up and established relationships. However, there is also an abundant case to be made against the good portion of the tedious ones. The director Elia Kazan sometimes would focus too long on a certain story beat. He would stretch out the execution. The movie would dwell on for too long. Even the climax manages to lose my interest.

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image via Moving Image

On the other, we have Schindler’s List. A movie with a clear understanding of pace. The only scene which I thought went on for longer than needed was towards the very end when people would visit Schindler’s grave. The film as a whole comes together as both a story that needed to be told and a piece of art.


Winner of all 3 categories is Schindler’s List!

Forget the doctor. Call the priest. Schindler’s List destroyed its competition. We are going to keep up with the battles. The movie I already covered from the Top 10 Movies of All Time won’t be pit against each other until the very end. My goal is to have movies face off against each other from the same list made by the AFI until an ultimate winner is chosen. By me. Yes, keep in mind all of it will be heavily subjective.

Next up: Singin’ in the Rain vs. It’s a Wonderful Life


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