A scene from Parasite

A scene from Parasite (2019), which won for Best Picture at the February Oscars. (©Neon/courtesy Everett Collection)

Four UChicago scholars share their all-time favorite movies

Here’s what we’re adding to our watch lists.

Elaine Hadley
Professor, Department of English Language and Literature

I never have a favorite anything, not least “of all time”! Now if you asked me about my favorite film of the last few years, I’d say the Korean film Parasite (2019). What I like about that film is the way that it asserts the radical failures of community that emerge in unequal societies. And by “radical,” I mean its willingness to go right to lurid violence among children and families in order to argue the real costs of inequality—profound epistemological as well as economic difference. It starts with what I take to be static tableaus of the rich and poor, established by distinct domestic settings, then shifts to a sort of submerged suspense plot with the poor infiltrating but not actually taking over the lives of the rich in a menacing climatic (as well as climactic) series of events gone awry.

A scene from Duck Soup with Groucho Marx
(Courtesy Everett Collection)

Edward “Rocky” Kolb
Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics

My all-time favorite movie is Duck Soup (1933). I saw it as an undergraduate and laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. Groucho became my hero; I grew a mustache (still have it), but my parents wouldn’t let me change my name to Rufus T. Firefly. A must-see if you want to know the answer to the question “What has four pairs of pants, lives in Philadelphia, and it never rains but it pours?”

A scene from Anatomy of a Murder
(Courtesy Everett Collection)

Richard H. McAdams
Bernard D. Meltzer Professor of Law, UChicago Law School

Based on a novel written by a trial judge and directed by Otto Preminger, Anatomy of a Murder (1959) has the best trial scene in any American film and the courage to deny the audience cheap certainties about the events. In depicting small-town lawyers defending a murder charge with an insanity defense and a rape accusation, the film shows the peculiar ugliness of criminal trials before the advent of rape shield laws. Shot on location in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Anatomy has a magical jazz score and cameo appearance by Duke Ellington, and a great leading cast that includes Joseph Welch, the lawyer who stood up to Joseph McCarthy.

(Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)
(Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

Scott Snyder
Professor, Department of Chemistry

Outside of organic chemistry, I am a big fan of movies and probably watch at least five a week while cooking or trying to unwind. Many references to them end up in my classes in one form or another; I mentioned both Good Will Hunting (1997) and the first Harry Potter film in class this week, in fact. Without question, though, my all-time favorite is The Shawshank Redemption (1994). I have probably seen it more than 25 times, and though I can quote most of it verbatim, the storyline always holds my interest; its cadence, plot lines, and ending create, for me, a perfect and highly engaging story, and I do not think there is anyone with a better narrating voice than Morgan Freeman.