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TCM 2024 Film Festival: Your Guide to 20 of the Best Movies Featured This Year — And How to Watch Them at Home!

They range from the Golden Age of Hollywood to 30 years ago, all of them classics


“Most Wanted: Crime and Justice in Film” is the umbrella title given to this year’s installment of the TCM Film Festival 2024, which kicks off in Hollywood on April 18 and continues to the 21st, offering up dozens of movies for lovers of classic cinema — not all of it crime-related — in the grand tradition of TCM itself.

Describing the “Most Wanted” theme, TCM offers, “Since the beginning of cinema, filmmakers around the world have long been captivated by the inherent conflict between criminal endeavors and the pursuit of justice. A century’s worth of struggles between killers, crooks, convicts and the police, G-Men, amateur sleuths and other supposed keepers of the peace have entertained and thrilled audiences and storytellers alike. But movies also remind us that it’s not just simply about cops and robbers or good versus evil.

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“Justice,” they continue, “can be defined very differently when it comes to those wrongfully accused and pursued, to men and women of color, or when it’s corrupt authorities themselves who have violated the very law they are sworn to uphold. In those stories, what is most wanted is justice that has been denied.”

Looking at the lineup of films as a whole (which include comedies, sci-fi, giant bugs and gorillas, among others), the hope is that they not only “bring the heat, but reflect and inspire new ways of thinking about what defines true justice, straight down the line.”

What follows is a look at 20 of the films that will be featured, ranging from Hollywood’s Golden Age to as recently as 30 years ago.

1. Murder, She Said (1961)

Margaret Rutherford is Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple in the character’s first film adventure. In it, Miss Marple witnesses a murder inside a train through her own train window, but can’t convince anyone of what she saw. Seeing no alternative, she decides to investigate things for herself.


2. Rear Window (1954)

James Stewart teams up with director Alfred Hitchcock in this thriller. Stewart portrays photographer Jeff Jefferies, who’s restricted to a wheelchair in his apartment due to a broken leg. To occupy himself, he takes photos of things outside his window — including his neighbor (Raymond Burr), who may be a murderer.


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3. Dirty Harry (1971)

Clint Eastwood portrays “Dirty” Harry Callahan for the first time in this film in which San Francisco is being terrorized by a sniper who goes by the name of Scorpio (Andrew Robinson). Detective Callahan will stop at nothing to take Scorpio down, even if it means breaking — of shattering — the law.


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4. Jailhouse Rock (1957)

Finding himself in a bar fight while defending a woman, Vince Everett (Elvis Presley) is convicted of manslaughter. Strangely enough, he finds his future path while in prison when his cellmate — a country singer — hears him sing and predicts he has a singing career ahead of him. Vince takes this to heart and, when he’s released, begins pursuing this new dream.


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5. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Set in the 1940s, The Shawshank Redemption, as directed by Frank Darabont, follows the experiences of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker unjustly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in Shawshank State Penitentiary. Over the course of two decades, Andy befriends inmate Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) and attempts to navigate the realities of incarceration. As he has to cope with the brutality of prison life, Andy finds purpose — and no small amount of solace — through acts of kindness and perseverance — that fill him with hopes of freedom.


6. White Heat (1949)

As TCM describes it, by 1949 James Cagney had tired of the gangster roles he had grown famous playing, but they attracted his attention with White Heat after the powers that be agreed to his suggestion of taking “a more psychological approach to his character. As a result, Cody Jarrett was a trail-blazing performance by Cagney … Jarret is a psychopath who trusts nobody except his criminal mother.”


7. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Describes TCM, “In this narrative inspired by a true story, he found one of his most dynamic and sympathetic heroes: Al Pacino’s Sonny Wortzik (based on criminal John Wojtowicz) tries to rob a Brooklyn bank to pay for a gender reassignment surgery for his partner, a transgender woman. But when he gets there, most of the money is already gone, and he inadvertently triggers a media circus.” Directed by Sidney Lumet.

WHERE TO WATCH/STREAM: Fandango at home

8. In Cold Blood (1967)

Based on Truman Capote’s true crime novel of the same name, the film adaptation is by Richard Brooks who wrote, directed and produced, and is credited for so successfully looking at “the real-life murder of Kansas’ Clutter family through the eyes of the killers (Robert Blake and Scott Wilson), and accomplished the near impossible, generating sympathy for their wasted lives.”


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9. The Big House (1930)

The 1930 production of The Big House is actually credited with creating the prison genre. Made in the aftermath of real jailhouse riots, it’s a grounded and gritty story of a trio of prisoners — incarcerated for very different reasons — who have to work together to survive.


10. Double Indemnity (1944): TCM Film Festival 2024

Fred MacMurray (Steve Douglas from My Three Sons) is insurance salesman Walter Neff, who seems to have made a routine sale to a man named Dietrichson (Tom Powers), which, oddly enough, pays double for railroad accidents. That should have been the end of it, but then the man’s wife, Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson, manipulates Neff into making sure that a very specific accident takes place. 


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11. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Steven Spielberg followed up Jaws with this tale of electrician Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), who becomes obsessed with UFOs — foregoing everything in his life, including his wife and children — following an encounter with one. A true classic of the genre. Spielberg will be appearing at the TCM Film Festival 2024.


12. Grand Hotel (1932): TCM Film Festival 2024

In a nutshell, this one is about the lives of five people who come together at a posh Berlin hotel. The cast of characters include a suicidal former ballerina (Greta Garbo), a jewel thief (John Barrymore), and a secretary (Joan Crawford) torn between sleeping with her boss (Wallace Beery), while at the same time finding herself attracted to a dying man (Lionel Barrymore).


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13. It Happened One Night (1934)

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert star in this Frank Capra romantic comedy about an heiress who seeks to run off with the man she believes she’s in love with, and a reporter (Clark Gable) who decides to follow her in the belief he’s onto a scoop. The focus becomes their banter, connection and misadventures on the road.

It should be noted there will be a number of tributes to Capra at the TCM Film Festival 2024.


14. The Long, Long Trailer (1954): TCM Film Festival

It’s not I Love Lucy, but it is Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz playing a newly-married couple who decide to hit the road for their honeymoon in a trailer home. Needless to say, nothing goes smoothly and it’s very funny in the way that Lucille does best.


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15. National Velvet (1944)

In this entry of the TCM Film Festival, Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney star in the story of a woman who works to transform a spirited gelding into a national steeplechase champion. TCM notes that Taylor’s performance “caught everyone by surprise and marked the rise of one of MGM’s last great stars.”


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16. On the Waterfront (1954): TCM Film Festival

There are classics and then there are classics, with an unbelievable cast that includes Marlon Brando (long before his Godfather days), Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden and Lee J. Cobb. Describes the Festival, it’s about “a longshoreman (Brando) standing up to the powerful gangster (Cobb) who controls the waterfront unions,” adding, “It’s a gritty, hyper-realistic picture of working-class life infused with growing tension as Brando’s Terry Malloy stands almost alone against the crime and corruption.”


17. Pulp Fiction (1994)

One of the films where writer/director Quentin Tarantino really left his mark. Says TCM, “His time-jumbled tale of lowlifes (including John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman) revolving around a crime boss (Ving Rhames) contains a dizzying array of film references speaking to a generation that delighted in the increasing proliferation of media.”


18. Sabrina (1954): TCM Film Festival

Audrey Hepburn is Sabrina Fairchild, daughter of the chauffeur for a member of a wealthy Long Island family, who develops feelings for their son (William Holden). He doesn’t really notice her until after she returns from attending cooking school in Paris, transformed into a sophisticated woman.


19. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Probably one of the most chilling movies ever made and featured at the TCM Film Festival, giving the world Anthony Hopkins as serial killer (and cannibal) Hannibal Lecter. Jodie Foster is FBI trainee Clarice Starling, who needs to interact with the incarcerated and psychologically pervasive Lecter to find clues to the whereabouts of a kidnap victim. Look up the word tension, and you’ll get this film. Winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.


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20. That’s Entertainment (1974): TCM Film Festival

WE conclude our look at TCM Film Festival with this documentary on, and celebration of, the era of classic MGM musicals, filled with interviews and amazing clips from a bygone era. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly host. A true delight.


MUST-READ: Gene Kelly Movies — The Musicals That Made the Talented Charmer Hollywood Royalty

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