Ty Burr
April 29, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

51 DIRTY DANCING (1987) Sixties nostalgia and coming-of-age stories are often reliable commercial ploys, but this one added old-fashioned sex appeal to the mix. As the star-crossed lovers, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey suggested a juiced-up Fred and Ginger, and audiences were only too happy to play voyeur. Real life couldn’t (and still can’t) compete. (159,615,416)

52 THE TERMINATOR (1984) A fizzle in theaters, James Cameron’s sci-fi sleeper was one of the first films to become a success via video and cable-which in turn it helped to popularize. Oh, yeah, it made Arnold a big-name star, too. (158,248,810)

53 CITY SLICKERS (1991) Centered on male-bonding rituals from the Iron John school of back-to-nature mysticism, it could have been insufferable. But deft performances by Billy Crystal and Jack Palance deflated its pretensions. (158,043,182)

54 DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) Humming the lushly romantic ”Lara’s Theme,” David Lean’s three-hour epic of love in the Russian Revolution was a Gone With the Wind for the Cold War generation. A dashing Omar Sharif and Julie Christie at her ripest makes Moscow sizzle. (157,500,000)

55 COCOON (1985) Most of the popularity of this charming old-folks-meet-ETs fantasy comes from tape rentals, and that makes sense: Older audiences tend to favor the peace, quiet, and economy of home viewing over the teen madness down at the movie mall. (153,380,611)

56 THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) Seen in theaters at the time of its original release, this looked like spectacle on an impossibly grand scale. Seen on video today, it looks like something else altogether-a camp hoot on an impossibly grand scale. (153,000,000)

57 UNFORGIVEN (1992) It has the best cast of any Clint Eastwood film, but this revenge epic with no good guys isn’t just impeccably made. It’s also a rejection of the easy violence of Eastwood’s original screen persona. In a bloody and complex world, audiences empathize with Unforgiven‘s moral ambiguity; it mirrors their own. (151,425,288)

58 RAIN MAN (1988) Tom Cruise began to get serious critical respect after his work here, but the film’s real juice comes from Dustin Hoffman as Cruise’s autistic brother. This is a high-class disease-of-the-week movie at heart, but its dramatization of a Dysfunctional Family Circus understandably strikes a nerve. (150,778,158)

59 CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) This man-meets-alien drama codified the great Spielberg theme: ordinary people in contact with the extraordinary. Both aspects of the story are rendered so convincingly that even viewers who could care less about sci-fi are drawn in. Who can resist the lure of Richard Dreyfuss’ everyman with an unquenchable thirst for the transcendent? (148,279,304)

60 HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS (1989) As a commercial proposition, this throwback to earlier Disney wacky-scientist flicks probably couldn’t have missed. But thanks to Rick Moranis’ performance, it’s actually better-a lot better-than it needed to be. (146,612,950)

61 THELMA & LOUISE (1991) The bad girls of 1991 were prime beneficiaries of video. While the movie was in theaters, it was a controversy. When it came out on tape-and everyone could see what the fuss was about-it was a hit. (145,584,043)

62 A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988) Another great video sleeper. Who wanted to see a British heist farce with a hero (John Cleese) named Archie Leach? Everybody, after hilarious word of mouth-and news of Kevin Kline’s Oscar-got out. (144,946,580)

63 48HRS. (1982) The raucous comedy that announced Eddie Murphy’s big-screen career, this actually had a solid but unspectacular theatrical run. Maybe because we were still used to seeing Eddie on television, its video rentals turned the trick. (144,628,662)

64 LETHAL WEAPON 2 (1989) Okay, it’s as preposterous as its predecessor, but the Gibson-Glover charisma remains intact. This time you can really hate the bad guy (a slimy white supremacist), and Joe Pesci makes a droll foil as a hyperactive small-time crook. (144,155,761)

65 ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991) Kevin Costner’s status as Thinking Person’s Sex Symbol/Nice Guy/Biggest Star in the Universe was so potent after Dances With Wolves that audiences even flocked to see him in this awkward version of the Sherwood Forest saga. The ubiquity of Bryan Adams’ love theme (the biggest record of the year) helped the boost. (141,609,717)

66 THE BODYGUARD (1992) The biggest movie star (Kevin Costner) meets the biggest pop star (Whitney Houston), so how could it not be on this list? A see-it-more-than-once fave, it was a date-night hit in both theaters and on video. (139,932,200)

67 PARENTHOOD (1989) Ron Howard’s multigenerational human comedy was canny in its choice of target audience: everybody. From Jason Robards to Steve Martin to Dianne Wiest to Keanu Reeves, there’s someone for each of us to relate to. (138,768,434)

68 THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) Adults view this as a charming fairy tale with a memorable score. But for children seeing it for the first time at the right age, it’s an incomparably satisfying fantasy adventure with endearing wisecracking heroes, a scary villainess, and breathtaking special effects. The songs and the no-place-like-home sentiment are just icing on a very cool cake. (138,645,891)

69 INDECENT PROPOSAL (1993) Adrian Lyne’s movies are some people’s idea of soft-core porn, so like Zalman King’s Two Moon Junction, they do big business on home video. The difference here: An old-fashioned movie star (Robert Redford) pulled old-fashioned movie lovers into theaters. (137,952,188)

70 ROCKY (1976) In the wake of Watergate and gas lines, Americans needed a new hero. Sylvester Stallone, punching through out of nowhere, was rewarded with a Best Picture Oscar for triumphing as a working-class palooka who beat the odds-both off-screen and on. (137,539,975)

71 FRIED GREEN TOMATOES (1991) After striking a chord with older, female moviegoers, this melodrama about friendship and self-respect found a broader audience on tape. With Thelma & Louise, it suggests that the place for female buddy movies is in home video. (136,435,715)

72 LOOK WHO’S TALKING (1989) Talking babies: How cutesy can you get? But since the voice belonged to randy Bruce Willis, this clicked. The ultimate inoffensive date movie, it was nicely empowering for kids on tape. (134,109,978)

73 TOTAL RECALL (1990) This futuristic action fest-a typically dazzling Arnold Schwarzenegger extravaganza-is the kind of FX-laden trip that seems made for movie theaters. On tape, though, you can pause to pick your way through the convoluted plot. (133,825,730)

74 9 1/2 WEEKS (1986) Four minutes cut to earn an R-rating guaranteed this overheated S&M love story a titillating reputation. Making out with ice cubes and strawberries, a lubricious Kim Basinger and a greased-back Mickey Rourke attracted few moviegoers, but the steamier uncut video is just right for late- night home viewing. (133,590,296)

75 MARY POPPINS (1964) This mix of live action and Disney animation wouldn’t be bettered until the arrival of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but it took even longer (until 1989’s The Little Mermaid) for Disney to revive its innocent spirit. And the still-relevant story of two kids who need their busy parents’ love and attention makes Poppins a video staple. (133,000,000)

76 INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989) A fitting climax to Spielberg’s faux-serial series, Crusade jettisons the calculated cruelty of Temple of Doom for a kinder, gentler brand of calculation. Smartest casting of the decade: Sean Connery as Indiana’s dad. (131,882,228)

77 THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990) A little too stolid to crack the top 100 in movie-theater attendance. But since millions read Tom Clancy’s cold war thriller at home, they have no problem watching the movie there, too. (130,829,949)

78 GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM (1987) The movie that finally let Robin Williams exhibit the inspired madness he’d only tapped in Mork and Mindy and on stage. No coincidence, he plays a performer of a different kind: a deejay during wartime. (130,693,701)

79 WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… (1989) Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan fall in and out of romance in Rob Reiner’s ode to yuppie love. Not only is it a great first- date movie-you can rent it to watch again on the couch you’ve just bought together. (130,514,047)

80 KINDERGARTEN COP (1990) A comparative stiff in theaters, this violent kiddie comedy is proof that people will rent a Schwarzenegger movie even if it’s piffle. Well, it’s almost proof-all the numbers on Last Action Hero aren’t in yet. (128,826,427)

81 ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951) Disney’s animated take on the classic children’s tale was a hit partly because it didn’t stint on the darker aspects of the story. And by the ’60s, after TV showings and reissues, it acquired a whole new cachet, as stoned hippies realized that Alice was maybe more psychedelic than Uncle Walt might have planned. (128,732,955)

82 SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977) It’s no accident that this became a smash at the same time psychologists were dissecting the details of male midlife crisis. Burt Reynolds’ freewheeling persona crystallized the fantasies of every white guy who missed the sexual revolution. (127,832,927)

83 BEETHOVEN (1992) Happiness is isn’t a warm puppy-it’s a big, slobbery Saint Bernard. Charles Grodin slow-burning like a modern-day W.C. Fields doesn’t hurt, either. Leading a resurgent pack of family films, the movie’s cute doggy jokes made it hard for any parent to resist. (127,611,293)

84 GREMLINS (1984) Joe Dante’s funny/scary tale of beasties in suburbia came out at a time when executive producer Steven Spielberg could do no wrong. The 1990 sequel is actually funnier-but the moment had passed, and it flopped. (126,597,756)

85 INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) This time, Spielberg’s winning Raiders formula felt formulaic. The upshot: While Temple of Doom made more money in movie theaters than the the third Indiana Jones installment, Last Crusade (No. 78) was favored far more by video viewers. (126,132,819)

86 THE KARATE KID (1984) Rocky director John Avildsen reworks the underdog- who-triumphs formula to a Tiger Beat. While Pat Morita tutors young Ralph Macchio in fortune-cookie wisdom, it actually speaks to anyone who’s ever feared the schoolyard bully. (126,028,440)

87 LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955) Anyone who’s witnessed a 5-year-old act out all the parts in this movie while it plays through the VCR knows precisely what its appeal is. (125,734,884)

88 SCENT OF A WOMAN (1992) Hoo-hah! Al Pacino’s hambone turn as a blind vet who embarks on one last weekend of wine, woman, and song finally snared him an Oscar. A sexy tango with Gabrielle Anwar and Chris O’Donnell’s wide-eyed preppy innocence helps it round all the demographic bases. (125,664,372)

89 SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978) More of a popular event than a popular movie. Looking at it now, it’s almost as dull as the first Star Trek film. Still, it was the first big-budget spectacular to tackle the Man of Steel, and the one to finally get the look of a superhero movie right. (125,358,12700)

90 RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985) Reagan-era fantasy? Populist breakthrough? Great action movie? Love it or hate it, the Stallone-goes-to- Vietnam epic was the movie you had to see in 1985 -if only to decide which side you were on. (124,870,544)

91 AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) George Lucas’ coming-of-age saga caught the exact moment in ’60s history when baby boomers began to lose their innocence. But the teen rites of passage dramatized here appealed to a much wider demographic, thanks to a brilliant ensemble cast and sharp writing. (124,714,286)

92 PETER PAN (1953) This adaptation of the J.M. Barrie classic misses the original’s disturbing subtexts, but more than compensates with a fine score and flying sequences that still can take your breath away. (124,623,526)

93 THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (1992) Just as nesting baby boomers began giving birth to a baby boomlet, Rebecca DeMornay’s treacherous nanny-from-hell came along to prey on parental fears. Talk about a child-care crisis: Fatal Attraction for the Pampers crowd. (121,737,424)

94 BATMAN RETURNS (1992) It’s as dank as a sewer, but with Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, and Michelle Pfeiffer in the leads, this sequel to the Caped Crusader’s first film ruled the box office. The surprisingly strong video sales prove that some like it cold. (121,736,554)

95 STAND BY ME (1986) Mixing verbal grit with Norman Rockwell visuals, this nostalgic coming-of-age tale, asks the memorable question, “Is Goofy a dog?” The sight of the young River Phoenix, in one of his first major roles now only adds to its elegiac appeal. (121,243,048)

96 MOONSTRUCK (1987) Cher, in love! Cher, in the middle of a big, warm- hearted ethnic lovefest! Cher, undergoing a lovely makeover as a drab secretary who dresses up for a romantic night at the Metropolitan Opera with Nicolas Cage! Cher, loving it, as she embraces an Oscar! (117,750,317)

97 BEN-HUR (1969) Its human drama actually seems leaden now, and the homoerotic subtext that director William Wyler had hoped that leading man Charlton Heston wouldn’t notice appears almost comically obvious. But Ben-Hur still looks as spectacular as it did in 1960, and its famous chariot race retains as much kinetic excitement as all three Indiana Jones flicks combined. (115,000,000)

98 CASABLANCA (1942) Its initial appeal was a ripped-from-the-headlines topicality, but 50 years later we play Casablanca again (and again) for more substantial reasons-a slew of memorable characters and an air of deliciously world-weary cynicism that barely masks the filmmakers’ sentimental faith in love and redemption. (113,511,200)

99 MY COUSIN VINNY (1992) Audiences don’t generally run to Joe Pesci’s movies, so this comedy about New Yawk grit-meets-Southern grits wasn’t a box-office hit. But Marisa Tomei’s surprise Oscar for her performance as a car-smart Brooklyn babe with a tick-tick-ticking biological clock brought Vinny back from comedy limbo and helped make it a rental champ. (112,963,629)

100 BLAZING SADDLES (1974) In the same way that video cultists put on the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup and mouth every line, so does much of video-conscious America delight in rewatching this buoyant Western parody. Its fans are the people who are ticked off that Home Alone replaced it as the highest-grossing comedy ever-as well as the people who know that Airplane! couldn’t have existed without it. (111,227,513)

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