Best Movies that didn’t Win Best Picture

Citizen Kane

#1 – Citizen Kane

Often referenced as the best movie ever made, Citizen Kane, was Orson Welles first movie. He has said that he didn’t know exactly what he was doing, so he took every cool trick that he learned in film school and applied it to this movie. This is the movie that you watch to see what can be done with film, but it still did not take home the best movie trophy in 1942. This was a case where the academy awards really got it wrong as they gave it to How Green was my Valley instead. It doesn’t really matter though because Orson Welles’s classic is still study by millions of film students still to this day.

The wizard of oz

#2 – The Wizard of Oz

In 1939, movie goers were introduced to a new technology. No longer would their stories be told in boring black and white, but instead the magic would happen in color. The Wizard of Oz was the first movie to bring this technology to audiences everywhere. It literally brought us from  black and white Kansas to the colorful world somewhere over the rainbow. You would think that it would not hold up very well after almost 80 years since its release, but people still enjoy this masterpiece today. What movie could have beaten it out for best picture that year? That would go to another iconic movie, Gone with Wind, so even though it did not win the coveted award, it is a little easier to swallow this bitterness knowing that another great film took its place in the top spot.


#3 – Boyhood

I know that this movie is not considered a classic yet, but I do believe that it was snubbed in 2015. If there was any movie that I wanted to win over it, it was Birdman, but the idea behind this story was so original that it will never be repeated. It is interesting to watch this movie and understand the cohesion that Linklater created by recording slivers of time. It is not just the story of this boy growing up in America during 9/11 but it is also a story about us, who we are, and the culture that we have created.

It's a Wonderful Life

#4 – It’s a Wonderful Life

Before Ted Turner obtained the rights to this classic, every American associated the Christmas season with this movie. Every channel was able to have rights to this movie, and they used that right to show it at least once during the holiday season. The weird thing was that even though you knew it was going to be on at least twenty times during the month of December, you would somehow catch all twenty showings of it, and never be disappointed that you wasted your time watching it again. It is not only a great story, but it is an iconic piece of the American culture. It just shows that sometimes the academy gets it wrong.

pulp fiction

# 5 – Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino has always been one of my favorite directors. When Pulp Fiction had come out in 1994, Reservoir Dogs and True Romance had already topped my list as two of my favorite movies. I had sat through Natural Born Killers earlier that year and was blown away by its story, and I found out later that he had written the script for it. But it wasn’t until I sat in the movie theater and experienced this new exploration in filmmaking that I realized what power a movie might hold. It was an instant classic and redefined the movie industry for years to come. It will always top my list for greatest snubs of all time.

Shawshank Redemption

#6 – The Shawshank Redemption

I don’t know how many times I have been at home on a Saturday flipping through channels and this movie comes on. For some reason, I always catch it at the very beginning, and I can’t do anything until I finish it. I never get bored with the story, and am thoroughly satisfied with the ending even though I know exactly what is going to happen. The story entranced me so much that I actually sat down once and read the novella by Stephen King, and this is the one time that I can say that the movie is better than the book. Why didn’t this movie win best picture? Well, 1994 was a good year for movies and even though this makes the number six spot on the list, it wasn’t even my second favorite movie that year.

Dead Poets Society

#7 – Dead Poets Society

Anybody who knows me knows that this is one of my favorite movies of all time. The ending gives me chills every time I watch it. It is the story that made me want to be a writer. It is the story that made me want to be a teacher. It is the story that taught me to take chances in life, and make the most of it. I don’t remember which movie won the year that this gem was in the running, but I do remember being mad that it wasn’t this one. It holds up really well too. Every generation discovers and falls in love with this movie.

The Graduate

#8 – The Graduate

Every year, the Academy Awards likes to nominate at least one comedy. In 1968, this was their pick for that honor. There are rare occasions where the comedy takes home the coveted prize, but just like in 1968, it does not happen. That does not mean that the movies are not incredible, and worth watching over and over again. It is also hard to compete against the socially conscious In the Heat of the Night which took the top honor that year. It just shows how good the field was in 1968.

Apocalypse Now

#9 – Apocalypse Now

When talking about the greatest movies ever made, this one usually makes the list and ranks high on it. So what great picture took down this classic look at the madness that is within each of us and the journey we need to take in order to wrestle with that issue? Kramer vs. Kramer took the top nod in the year 1980, and it just shows that sometimes the academy does not always get it right. Apocalypse Now, even with all of its production problems and behind the scene stories, has held up well through the ages and will always be analyzed and discussed for years to come.

A Clockwork Orange

#10 – A Clockwork Orange

I am actually quite proud of the fact that the Academy nominated this movie for best picture. Of course, it could never win. It was a seriously disturbing piece of cinema back then, and even by today’s standards, it still makes people cringe just to watch it. But the genius of this story lies in the fact that it is not just about the horror and gore, but there is a deep message imbedded within the story even though Stanley Kubrick didn’t know about the final chapter of the book when he created this masterpiece. If you have not seen this movie yet, sit down and watch it. Just make sure there are no small children present when you do because you will scar them for life.

Good Fellas

#11 – Good Fellas

Sometimes an iconic movie doesn’t win the Best Picture category because it is up against a juggernaut that year. This was the case with Good Fellas. It was up against the heart wrenching and socially conscious Dances with Wolves. There was still hope held in the hearts of many that this would Martin Scorsese would finally win that coveted prize and this could easily be considered his best movie he has ever made, but it just was not to be. The funny thing though is this movie is still discussed as one of the best pictures of all time whereas Dances with Wolves is hardly ever referenced. This movie still garnered some awards with the best speech given by the winner of the Best Supporting Actor, Joe Pesci, when all he said was, “Thank you.”

Saving Private Ryan

#12 – Saving Private Ryan

In the year 1999, many people believed that this gritty war epic was a shoo in for the Best Picture win giving Steven Spielberg his second real academy award. But as all the years before as he sat in the crowd and watch somebody else take home the prize, he had to do the same this year as Shakespeare in Love won. Many people still cry out bloody murder for the way this movie got passed over. Never has D-Day been portrayed in such a way that we understand what it felt like to actually be there. Because of this alone, it should have won best picture.


It has been awhile since I have done a list, but now is the perfect time to get started again. The Academy Awards were just held, and after each year, there are complaints about who won and who didn’t. Granted all the movies represented are great works and should be applauded, but there is always that one who got robbed. That is the list I would like to create this time around. What were the best movies that were nominated for best picture but did not win. Spend some time thinking about it and send me your lists to The final list will be compiled by March 31st, and will appear in April.

Best Horror Movie

The Ring

#1 – The Ring

The concept of this movie is simple, and I have never received a phone call after I have finished watching it, but it still creeps me out. The first time I saw it, it was the night of a full moon. I went to bed with my wife, and woke up in the middle of the night. I rolled over to see my wife in the moonlight with her long black hair covering her face. I instantly thought of the last scene of the movie and nearly jumped out of bed. This movie is filled with creepy imagery that will last with you for the rest of your life. Just thinking about it will give me nightmares tonight. It still doesn’t mean that I don’t want to watch this masterpiece again. In fact, I might do that right now.


The Cabin in the Woods

#2 – The Cabin in the Woods

This might not only be one of the best horror movies ever made, but it might be one of the most original movies ever created. I went to this movie not knowing much about it except for the fact that the critics really enjoyed it. If you have not seen this movie yet, I would recommend that you do the same thing. Don’t let anybody tell you the plot of it, and don’t let anybody ruin it for you. You will finish watching it and wonder what it was that you just saw. Can this movie even be classified as a horror movie, or is it a comedy, or is it science fiction, or did it just create a new genre that has never been seen before? It is because this movie can’t be defined that it deserves the position it gets on this countdown. I won’t give anything away about it, but you need to go see it.


#3 – Halloween

Now I know I have put a couple of the original versions of some great horror movies on this list, and have talked about how the original is better. But there are a couple of exceptions to the rule, and Rob Zombie’s exploration of Michael Myers would be one such case. The original movie told the story of a psycho killer who had escaped from a mental institution and went on a killing rampage before he was able to be stopped by his own psychiatrist. It has been considered a slasher classic for years, and how could some heavy metal shock rocker come out and dare to remake this movie. But Rob Zombie deserves props because he explores the creation of a psycho killer from an early age until the day he escapes from the mental institution. It adds so much to the story to know about Michael Myers’ past, making this the better version of the story and such a worthy position on the list.

Evil Dead

#4 – The Evil Dead

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s vision of a demonic world that inhabits ours, and created by a couple of film students who had never made a full-length feature before, the story behind Sam Rami’s The Evil Dead is almost as intriguing as the movie itself. It follows the story of five college students spending the weekend together in a spooky cabin out in the woods, but when they discover a book in the basement of the building, things turn dark. Even though it was filmed on a very small budget, it still has some of the most enduring images out of any horror movie that has ever been filmed. In fact, it spawned the idea of helpless kids being tormented in a place where they won’t be able to find any help. Even though they have tried to remake it recently, the original still remains a classic.

The Serpent and the Rainbow

#5 – The Serpent and the Rainbow

It has been a long time since I have seen this movie, and it might not be as scary as I once thought it to be, but it has always been one of those movies that have stuck with me throughout the years. Especially now, with all of these stories being told about zombies, I always think about the truth behind these stories and where they originated from. The scene where Bill Pullman gets a needle poked into his pupil to see if he will flinch but he can’t because he has been incapacitated by the voodoo drug still haunts me to this day. It is truly a psychological thriller that will screw with your psyche for a very long time. You won’t want to think about it but the more you try to forget it the more you think about it. And the more you think about it, the more it frightens you.

28 Days Later

#6 – 28 Days Later

Before this post-apocalyptic epic came out, zombies were slobbering, dullards that spent a long time shuffling down the road before they ever got close to their victim. Director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland decided to change that image forever. If zombies were scary when they were slow, imagine what they would be like if they were fast. The terror jumped up twelve notches with this zombie epic. Afterwards, the imagery was redone by many other modern zombie classics, but this was the first one that disturbed us in this fashion. And like any other zombie movie, it turns out not to be the zombies that are the most dangerous thing out there.


#7 – Poltergeist

Like all remakes that Hollywood churns out, I was really angry that they would take a classic, and try to improve on it. I have refused to see any of these remakes unless something really convinces me that they have done a better job with the story, and that does not happen very often. Because of this, I present the original Poltergeist on this list. Never has the white fuzz on a television been so creepy, and the scariest part of this movie to this day is the clown doll. It didn’t help that my sister has one in her bedroom that looked exactly like the one in the movie. I had nightmares growing up that it would crawl down the hallway and choke me in my sleep. This is a great movie, and I hope someday Hollywood will realize that originality is better than trying to redo something that has already been done.



#8 – Psycho

I remember when I was young, my dad sat me down one night and had me watch this movie because he considered it the most terrifying thing he had ever seen. I had just spent a lot of time watching a bunch of slasher flicks such as Halloween and Friday the 13th, and I remember thinking that this movie was tame by comparison. Nothing jumped out at you, and even though the classic shower scene was interesting, I did not think much about the movie. But as I grew older, the psychotic personality of Norman Bates stayed with me, whereas I forgot about Michael and Jason. Alfred Hitchcock had created a masterpiece that would endure all time, and it is more about the ideas behind Norman’s façade rather than the violent actions that he participates in. People are still and always will be fascinated by this story because it is truly one of unique horror that might be in any one of us.



#9 – Scream

Not only does this movie have all of the classic slasher movie moments, it deconstructs these movies at the same time. It analyzes the archetypes from this genre in such a way that you can plug those moments into any horror movie and see how well they fit. From a literary standpoint, this is brilliant. It adds a certain amount of intelligence to a usually disrespected genre. Add to this, one of the most iconic beginnings of any horror movie and you have yourself a classic that will be enjoyed for many generations to come.


The Blair Witch Project

#10 – The Blair Witch Project

Many people would look at this movie today as just a bunch of stupid kids getting lost in the woods and doing everything you are not supposed to do when you are lost in the woods. For example, you shouldn’t throw away the map and you should always follow the river because it will more than likely lead you back to civilization. But what these people who critique this movie don’t understand is the brilliance of its marketing. It started out in small theaters, as an independent student film. It slowly allowed its popularity to grow, and because of the way it is filmed, many people started to believe that it was real. At the height of its popularity even after the actors appeared on various late night talk shows, people still wondered if they should wander into the New England forests because they might be the next victim of the Blair Witch. The fact that it got so many people to question its authenticity makes it a masterpiece. And the final image it leaves you with might be one of the creepiest ever seen in a movie.


As the sun start to dip further to the south, and the leaves start to fall off the trees, our thoughts start to turn to that scary time of year where monsters lurk behind every bush. A full moon hanging in the sky adds to the mood, and it just builds up our appetite for that holiday we celebrate at the end of the month. One of my favorite ways to enjoy Halloween is to sit alone in a dark room and turn on a good horror movie. I have a few that I have enjoyed over the years, but I am always on the lookout for the next best one, so this month, I am asking you to come up with your list of the best horror movies ever made. You can email me your list to or just put in your favorite ones under the comment section of this website. I will compile all of the votes and put together a list early next month. If you are having a hard time deciding what your favorite horror movie is, start watching them again, and you might find a new favorite in the mix. Otherwise I look forward to hearing from you.

The Best Television Shows


Breaking Bad

#1 – Breaking Bad

Sometimes while watching this show you want to cringe. Sometimes while you watch this show you want to laugh. The one thing that you don’t want to do is to turn away. Even though you don’t want to admit it, there is a little bit of Walter White in each of us, and because of this fact, you have to watch this story all the way to its tragic ending. Some people will get mad at me for giving away the ending of this story, but there wasn’t any other way that it could end. Just the premise alone lets the viewer know that this will not have a happy ending. But it is great that television gave us a true tragedy. This is something that the world has been begging for. We watch it for that tragic flaw so we can see something about our true nature. Or we watch it because a train speeding away to inevitable destruction is something that is engaging and we just can’t turn away from it.



#2 – Fringe

Even though the science behind some of its episodes is a little hard to swallow, and the fourth season is a bit of a struggle to get through, this is the one show that got right with everything that Lost tried to do. It told an amazing story complete with some of the best actors ever, taking on some of the most complicated roles. It was pure fun. There was the Where Waldo experience of trying to find the walker in every episode. There was the character of Walter Bishop who might have been one of the best characters ever created in all of literature. The story also kept you guessing all the way through as you wondered what was really going on. It also gave us one of the few satisfying endings of a story on television. In the end, we weren’t left wondering about some of the unanswered questions, and it even added a little bit of tragedy with a feel-good vibe. If you have not taken the journey through this story yet, I really suggest that this is placed on your viewing list as the next show you need to binge watch, but make sure you pay extra close attention because even the smallest detail becomes extremely important later on in this show.


#3 – M.A.S.H.

This was one of the first comedies on television to take on the issues of the day while making us laugh. For eleven years we were entertained by Hawkeye, B.J. Hunnicutt, Radar, “Hot Lips” Houlihan, and Frank Burns. It followed the exploits of a M.A.S.H. unit during the Korean War and even though it made us laugh many times, it also showed us the true horrors of war. It probably could have continued on longer if it wasn’t for the fact that somebody figured out that the amount of time that the show took was actually longer than the U.S.’s involvement in Korea. It is still playing today though and will probably always be able to be viewed on some channel somewhere in the world.

The Daily Show

#4 – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Yes, there have been three different official hosts of The Daily Show now that Trevor Noah has started his run. The verdict is still out if he will be able to fill the spot left behind by the most iconic host the show has seen, Jon Stewart, but so far things are looking up. It will still be a hard act to follow. Jon Stewart not only took over an original show, but developed it into the intelligent piece of programing it is today. He took on the major issues over the last sixteen years, and instead of bringing on big movie stars as guests, he promoted books and people who have taken an integral part in changing the world. At one time, it was the one show that most people got their news in the United States. He did have a left slant with his commentary, but that did not mean that he shied away from the other side of the issues. If someone disagreed with his position, he would invite him or her onto his show so both sides of the issue could get their fair share. Add to this mix some of the best satirists alive today who acted as the show’s reporters, and you have one of the most intelligent, entertaining shows that anybody has ever seen.

South Park

#5 – South Park

Of course, the guy from Colorado will pick this show as one he believes as one of the best ever created. It tells the story of a group of four boys from a small po-dunk town in the Rocky Mountains. But in reality, it really tells us about us. Just as a tragedy is a reflection of our true nature, a great comedy points out our flaws and makes us laugh at how ridiculous we really are. Trey Parker and Matt Stone don’t hold back any punches in their biting satire. Also, nobody is safe from their commentary. It is because of this that South Park could be considered one of the most intelligent shows on television right now. It is also because of this that South Park earns a prominent spot on this list.

Game of Thrones

#6 – Game of Thrones

Back around the turn of the century, I was talking to a co-worker about the importance of J.R.R. Tolkien and how every fantasy series after his was just a retelling of his story. He told me that there was another series that was worth my time, and I picked up the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire series. I was instantly blown away by the story telling and the fact that what I though was going to happen always turned out to be the complete opposite of what did. It became the perfect example of medieval politics and I couldn’t wait for the next book to come out. I was also amazed about how well it would translate into a television show, and I wondered if it would ever make that leap on to the small screen. Well, six years ago, I saw signs about its development and how it would air on the one station, HBO, that wouldn’t hold back on the gruesome and sexual content that needed to be there to tell the story properly. I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw, and I have continued to watch this show on a regular basis. It is the perfect companion piece to the books, and because it tells the story of an age long gone, it will always maintain its importance as one of the greatest television shows ever created.


Orphan Back

#7 – Orphan Black

If you have not experienced Orphan Black yet, you have not yet experienced the greatest actress on television. Tatiana Maslany might not just be the best actress on television, but the best actress ever. She doesn’t just embody a role; she embodies every role that is asked of her in a way that makes each character that she portrays a unique individual even though they may look the same. Add into this mix one of the most profound science fiction stories ever told and you get a show that everybody should be talking about the next morning at the water cooler. I know you asking yourself, then why am I not talking about this show at the water cooler on Monday morning. It is all because it airs on a little known network on Saturday night when its main audience is out having fun, but I guarantee that this will be the next binge-watched extravaganza that people will be talking about for the next ten years. It is that good of an idea, and it is that well done that it transcends generations and will make an impact on what happens next on televisions across the world.


#8 – Lost

The iconic image of J.J. Abrams’s short opening sequence changed the face of television forever. The concept was brilliant. It was more about the story and less about the star power and the money making potential. It even survived a terrible season during a writer’s strike. Even with this terrible fate befalling it, the ones who were addicted to the concept had to turn in every week to see what would happen next. With the creation of DVDs and the ability to watch a show at our leisure, it changed what television could do. It was the first show that people binge watched. No longer did characters have to be static. They could develop as the story was being told. Also, a fan favorite wasn’t guaranteed to survive the harshness of the island. At any moment, what we thought what was happening could change into something completely different. It kept us guessing and asking what was really going on, and in doing so it created a literary masterpiece that allowed other television shows that followed to be able to do the same thing. For this reason, besides the fact that it told one of the best stories ever witnessed, it deserves a prominent place on this list.


Walking Dead

#9 – The Walking Dead

This is not one of those television shows for your children. It is dark, and it is gruesome. There are many times during the show where I want to turn my head away in disgust but I can’t because I am at the same time so enthralled. Many people would think that a story about the zombie apocalypse would get old and repetitive after a while, but at the heart of this story is a human drama that makes it worth the time to sit down and watch every week. It shows us the darker side of our nature, and makes us wonder if we would still be able to maintain our civilized society when the moral compass that guides us keeps getting taken away from us. This show just keeps on getting better with every season and you wonder how long it can go on before we decide that it is no longer relevant, but with the introduction of some of the best villains ever created, I don’t think it ever will.


#10 – Sherlock

Set in modern-day London, but with the same puzzling cases that have haunted Sherlock Holmes in the pages of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the BBC has created the best version of the Sherlock Holme’s mysteries ever produced. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is the pompous deranged sociopath that you have always hoped to see, and Martin Freeman’s Dr. Watson is the perfect sidekick. Even though each season is short, airing only three episodes, the hour and a half long adventures will have you guessing, laughing, and on the edge of your seat. The longer story arch also creates a lot of fun for the viewer, and even though they have only put out three seasons so far, the anticipation for the next season is high among the fans of the show, including me, who can’t wait to see what happens next.

The Simpsons

#11 – The Simpsons

Being one of the lucky individuals that had a newspaper, Westword, willing to publish the little known comic, Life in Hell, I had always been a fan of Matt Groening. I was really excited when a show based upon characters he created was developed by the man I admired, I became avid viewer soon afterwards. There was a time when I would have thought that this show was the best show ever on television. On many occasions, I made the claim that it was the most intelligent show on television, and with its satirical wit and incredible cast of diverse characters, I would have had a pretty strong argument behind me. But like any show that has been on the air for a long time, The Simpsons have run its course. It was along the tenth season when it started to make satirical remarks about itself that I started to wonder if this show would be better off being cancelled and just letting the episodes that had already been developed just stand on its own as a completed work. Even though I quit watching the show many years ago, it is the strength of those first seasons that make this one of the best television shows ever.


The Best Short Stories

harrison bergeron

#1 – “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

In a nation where we fight for equality, knowing that we are not all equal is a bitter pill to swallow. It is the differences in us that make us great. In typical Vonnegut style, the king of post-modern literature explores these differences in a world where society tries to push for equality. It is a quick read that will make you laugh at the absurd notion of what would happen if we tried for this goal, but look at the world around you and wonder if perhaps we have not already moved ourselves into this dystopian nightmare. You will never forget the tragic fate of Harrison Bergeron or the lesson his story has to tell to us. It is for this reason that it achieves the number one spot.

Tell Tale Heart

#2 – “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

This has been one of my favorite stories over the years to teach. It holds a lot of suspense with it, and you can see how that suspense grows with each beat of the heart. But the fun thing about this story is that the eye can also be synonymous with “I” which puts a completely different twist on the intention of the story, and what Edgar Allan Poe actually thinks about himself.

A good man is hard to find

#3 – “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner

Flannery O’Conner has a brilliant way of bringing out the darkness in humanity while writing about the southern parts of the United States. Each of her stories have complex characters and intricate plots. This story is probably the best example of what she is able to accomplish with her prose.

This Year's Class Picture

#4 – “This Year’s Class Picture” by Dan Simmons

After looking at the other stories on this list, some of you might wonder what this story is, and why it is not as big as the others that made the cut. You would expect to have at least heard of the story that made it this high on the list. I would tend to agree with you, but you should take the time to seek this story out and read it. Dan Simmons’s “This Year’s Class Picture” is destined to become a classic. Yes, many of you might disregard it as a piece of zombie literature that deserves a place on the pile of pulp fiction rubbish, but if you have ever taught a class, you will understand what is at the heart of this story. I have given this story to many teachers, ranging from high school to elementary, from math to English, from traditional to alternative, and they have all come back and said that this is their favorite story. It was written for them; therefore, they can make the connection to its profound message. Even if you are not a teacher, you should still read this story because you will start to see what motivates America’s educators to do what they do.

The Lottery

#5 – “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

With all of the dystopian literature that is plaguing the bookshelves of American bookstores, it is hard to remember a time when these profound stories were only limited to a few great examples. This short story was one of the best in the short story drama. It told the story of a horror that is a little too close to the world that we live in.

The Pit and the Pendulum

#6 – “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe

The master of story telling shows up again on this list with a tale of pure terror. To even imagine yourself in the same position as the protagonist in this story will give you nightmares for the rest of your life. It is a perfect example of how gothic literature can mix with pure terror to give one of the most heart-pounding experiences ever printed on the page.

A rose for emily

#7 – “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

On the surface, this story looks like an innocent portrait of an eccentric woman who has spent her life hiding in the shadows of a small town in Mississippi. But there is a reason that the term applied to William Faulkner’s body of work is Southern Gothic. Look below the surface of this story and discover the truth of what is hidden there. It hides in the shadows just as Emily does, and when you find it, you will see that there is no innocence to this tale.

The masque of the red death

#8 – “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe

One of the more political stories by Edgar Allan Poe shows up here. At the heart of this story is a class system that believed that even they could cheat death, but in the end, death will come for all. It is a humbling story that reminds us that in the eyes of some the supernatural beings out there that we are all equal.

to build a fire

#9 – “To Build a Fire” by Jack London

If the heat of summer is starting to bug you, pick up a copy of this story and start to read. Soon after the opening paragraph you will feel a chill in the room, and by the time you finish its tragic ending, you will be curled up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate warming your hands. The chilly mood that Jack London creates in this classic is not the only genius held within its words. There is a battle of man against nature, and the real lesson to be learned is that nature will always win.

The Open Boat

#10 – “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane

Often credited as the best example of Realism ever written, Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” will leave you just as tired as the group of sailors that attempt to find their way to shore in a tiny boat as the battle the wrath that only nature can throw at man.

the yellow wallpaper

#11 – “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

When this story first appeared in The New England Magazine in January of 1892, the treatment for mental illness was still in its infancy. The diagnosis alone could have been part of the problem. Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses this issue to frame her haunting story, but her true intention about a woman confined to a room with maddening wallpaper comes to light at the end of the tale. It leaves the reader will an impression of the world at that time, and shows how the fight for women’s rights has progressed over the ages. This story is still relevant today, and can be analyzed at many different levels, thereby giving it the number five spot.

The Monkey's Paw

#12 – “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs

Beware of what you wish for because it might actually come true. This sentiment is at the heart of W.W. Jacobs’s macabre tale about a family that is given three wishes. The real question behind the story though is whether these wishes were actually delivered by the monkey’s paw or if it was a matter of chance, and the unfortunate family is just recipient of the coincidences.

a very old man with emromous wings

#13 – “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A poor couple barely making ends meet finds a very old man with enormous wings sleeping in their chicken coop one morning. Was the man sent to help them out or is he more of burden? Is he really an angel, or is he some other misshapen mythical figure? Does our salvation come from within or do we need divine intervention? It is these questions that Gabriel Garcia Marquez explores in this bizarre and often humorous story.

The Gift of the Magi

#14 – “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

The classic Christmas story about how love will overcome poverty so a gift from the heart can be given. The ironic twist, written in classic O. Henry style, just adds to the overall theme of the true meaning of giving.

Battle Royal

#15 – “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison

Before Ralph Ellison published his quintessential novel, Invisible Man, he had published the short story, “Battle Royal” in the magazine, Horizon. This turned into the first chapter of his book, but it can still stand on its own as a short story today. It is hard to read this story, and not think about the brutality that is portrayed of a young black man growing up in the South during the 1930 who wishes nothing more to have his voice heard. Ralph Ellison’s use of imagery not only brings to light one of the pressing issues facing America throughout its history, but also points to the conflict that is in each of us.

The Necklace

#16 – “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant

Why is it the fate of so many to spend their lives trying to keep up with their neighbors? The appearances that we put up in order to look like we live above our means will sometimes lead us to make poor decisions. Instead, we should try to find happiness in what we have. This is the overall idea presented in Guy de Maupassant’s story. The twist at the end will make you laugh at the protagonist with her inability to accept her lot in life.

Desiree's Baby

#17 – “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin

With racial tensions still running high today, the story of Desiree’s baby still carries a lot of significance to it. Are we so blind in our hatred of other people that we can’t even see the love that is right in front of us? The sad thing is that thing that we really hate the most is actually a part of us.

The Thing on the Doorstep

#18 – “The Thing on the Doorstep” by H.P. Lovecraft

Many people would say that the king of horror would be none other than Stephen King, but Stephen King would say that it is H.P. Lovecraft. If you want to know the true meaning of fear, read the man who wrote about it better than anybody else. His stories delve deep into the mythology of Cthulhu and this one is the best out of all he has written. While this master of terror tells a story that will haunt you for many nights, he explores the ideas of control, and how it plays out in our own lives. It is a little bit of a journey to read this story, but you will never forget it.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

#19 – “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce

A man stands on the edge of a bridge with a noose around his neck while Union soldiers stand by to watch him hang. What follows is the fantastical story about his escape, and eventually the reality of the situation he must come to terms with. Bierce’s writing style, his attention to key details, and his surprising climax makes this an unforgettable story. Even though it would take a reader only a half an hour to read, it has been adapted into film three times. Most notably, this story was the inspiration for the cult classic, Donnie Darko, and many people puzzled by that movie have come to the words written by Ambrose Bierce to help find meaning with that piece of celluloid.

The Minister's Black Veil

#20 – “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

What secrets is the minister hiding behind that veil that only reveals his mouth and chin? What is the purpose of the veil, and why did the minister decide to start wearing it? Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story reveals so much about us and other people by hiding it behind the one place that everybody wants to look.

The Destructors

#21 – “The Destructors” by Graham Greene

If you were wondering, yes, this story is included because it is the other half of deciphering the movie Donnie Darko, but that doesn’t mean that this story is not worthy of being on this list. A group of boys in post World War II London set out to destroy the house of old man who lives in the neighborhood that they go to play in. They don’t so this out of spite, but rather out of love. It is a beautifully written piece of literature that makes us question our motivations in life, and what beauty can really represent. This masterpiece is excluded for a lot of anthologies, but I hope someday it finds it place there again because it really does belong.

The Last Rung on the Ladder

#22 – “The Last Rung on the Ladder” by Stephen King

Can we always trust that the ones that love us will always be there when we need them? Will there come a time when we must take responsibility for our own selves? Is the death of a sister who decided to commit suicide directly related to her bother because he wasn’t there to save her like he had done when they were children growing up on a farm and the last rung on the ladder broke?

Crushed Gardenias

#23 – “Crushed Gardenias” by Heather Anne Osborne

A great contemporary short from an up and coming voice that follows the investigation of the disappearance of several small girls in a small Colorado town.

The Songs of Summer

Under the Bridge

#1 – Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers

It was the summer of 1991, and I was getting ready to go away to college. It was going to be the first time I was going to be living by myself. There was excitement surrounding it, and the same time a little bit of trepidation. I spent a lot of time by myself that summer wondering what this new life would be like, and it was accompanied by this song. When I hear this song, it takes me back to that moment in my life where I ventured off to my adult life and the questions about the direction I would take as I ran off towards it.

More than a Feeling

#2 – More than a Feeling – Boston

Often considered one of the greatest rock anthems ever written, this song is the perfect addition to any summer day.

Windows are Rolled Down

#3 – The Windows are Rolled Down – Amos Lee

The perfect song to accompany that cup of coffee in the morning before you set out the enjoy the day. Amos Lee is that singer/songwriter that brings summer to life.

Midnight Radio

#4 – Midnight Radio – Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Many people will claim that I included this song on the list just because I needed to represent my home state, and even though this song comes from one of the most successful bands from Colorado, it is not the reason that I included it here. It makes this list because of the way summer reminds me of road trips. This is the ultimate late night road trip song. You need to hear this song late in the evening while you are the only one up in the car guiding your sleeping guests off towards their destination. This song captures that moment perfectly, and therefore deserves such a prominent spot on this countdown.

All Summer Long

#5 – All Summer Long – Kid Rock

A Lynard Skynard sample to go along with the perfect summertime lyrics, nothing else needs to be said about this anthem to summer.


#6 – Centerfield – John Fogerty

When summer rolls around, I think about a box of Cracker Jack’s, a hot dog, and the seventh inning stretch on a hot day. I can’t go a summer without hearing the crack of the bat, and seeing the boys of summer run around the bases. Baseball screams day of summer, and John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” screams baseball. No other song, except for “Take me out to the Ballgame”, captures the mood of baseball than this summertime anthem. That is why it deserves this place on the list.


#7 – Volcano – Jimmy Buffett

How could I have a list of the best songs of summer with out the king of the summertime party, Jimmy Buffett. Many people would argue that “Margaretville” would be the song to include on this list, but I find that the song is overplayed and I tune it out every time I hear it. I much prefer the Jamaican vibe that you can find on “Volcano”. Every time I hear it I think of heading off to tropical locations to enjoy the beach. What better way to spend the summer than participating in this activity?

me and julio

#8 – Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard – Paul Simon

If song number six makes me think of California in the summertime, song number five makes me think of New York. It might be the video to this song that does it, but every time I hear it, I think of a steamy blacktop surrounded by a chain-linked fence. There are a group of kids there playing basketball as their friends cheer them on. I believe that this is an image you would see a lot of in New York during the summertime and this song puts me right there in the action.


#9 – Skateaway – Dire Straits

There are certain songs that need to be played at a certain place because of the vibe that they create. Dire Straits’ “Skateaway” is one of these songs. The next time you hear this song playing on the radio, close your eyes (unless you are driving), and imagine yourself on Venice Beach in California. The first image that you get from that would have to be a girl roller staking while the sun is beating down on her. This is the picture I get in my head every time I hear this song, and this image makes it one of the most perfect summer songs ever written.

Tiny Dancer

#10 – Tiny Dancer – Elton John

Even without the memorable use of this song in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, this song would still remind me of summer. I always picture a ballet dancer on the beach when I hear this song. It also gives you that good vibe you want to have during the summer. When you hear this song, you want to take the time to disengage from everyone around you and just enjoy the song in its entirety. It is this same disconnected feeling that you long for in the summer.

The Sweet Escape

#11 – The Sweet Escape – Gwen Stefani

During the summer of 2007, I was traveling around Europe with a backpack strapped to me. I spent a lot of time in hostels, trains, buses, and restaurants. Everywhere I went, this song was playing. I couldn’t escape it. At the time, it really annoyed me, but now when I hear this song it takes me back to Europe and all the fun I had that summer.


#12 – Today – The Smashing Pumpkins

During the summer of 1993 I was living up in Fort Collins and taking a break from my college career. It was a summer of fun with friends and a time in my life I will never forget. There were a lot of parties that summer, and at every one, someone would play Siamese Dream from beginning to end. This whole album reminds me of summer, but it was the single, “Today” that dominated the radio that summer as well. Every time I hear it, I think back to those days in Fort Collins with fondness.

Summertime Blues

#13 – Summertime Blues – The Who

I didn’t really appreciate this song until later in life even though it was one of the first songs I had heard from the Who. It wasn’t until I turned sixteen and had my first summer job at a fast food restaurant that the lyrics to this song really hit home. Here I was stuck at work while all my friends were out enjoying the sunshine. Now that I am a teacher and get to enjoy my summers again, I have found a new appreciation for this song. I look at those kids working those summer jobs and feel sorry for them, but at the same time, I feel a sense of nostalgia for a time in my life where I was in a similar situation.