Review by C.J. Bunce

Over the past decade I have reviewed most of the books from publisher Running Press chronicling Turner Classic Movies’ in-depth research into the best of classic and genre films.  Yesterday I looked at the 2016 book TCM’s The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter, by film historian Jeremy Arnold.  Today I’m reviewing and previewing a new volume in what has become a film library for the film historian.  It’s the second volume pulled from the 2001-2020 TCM series The Essentials, TCM’s The Essentials: 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter, a very different look at film than the first volume, with some interesting features–and great movies.  We have a peek inside the book for borg readers below.

Choices, choices!  As with the first volume in the series, Mr. Arnold pulls this group of 52 classic films from the weekly show The Essentials, which has grown since the 2016 volume to now 318 films.  True to the title, this selection is as key to the history of American cinema as the first selection.  Films that may have seemed to have been neglected from the first volume are now receiving their due attention: Vertigo, Stagecoach (1939), Ball of Fire, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Adam’s Rib, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, High Noon, The Sting, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, among others.

Each film is discussed in the context of the era it premiered, how the film influenced cinema and/or society, the impact on audiences and the contribution toward the development of film production.   Hosts past and present share insight and highlight their own opinions on the films.  Contributors include Ben Mankiewicz, Robert Osborne, Rob Reiner, Sydney Pollack, Molly Haskell, Carrie Fisher, Rose McGowan, Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore, Sally Field, William Friedkin, Ava DuVernay, and Brad Bird.

One of the surprises on the list is a documentary: Harlan County USA from 1976, possibly the greatest U.S. documentary ever created, recognized previously by critics and the American Film Institute.  The most recent film on the list?  A modern classic and fan-favorite: 1989’s Field of Dreams.

A new feature in the series is an appendix with the complete registry of film classics from The Essentials, all 318 films from The General in 1927 to Daughters of the Dust in 1991, each identified with whether it was included in Volume 1 or Volume 2 of this book series.

Here is a preview:

TCM’s The Essentials: 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter includes a foreword by current and long-time TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, plus quotes from hosts of the The Essentials series.  This essential film reference continues the TCM film library and should be an indispensable addition to the film history shelf of any film buff.

TCM’s The Essentials: 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter is available in paperback with 312 pages and hundreds of photographs in black and white and color, from publisher Running Press.  Get your copy now here at Amazon.  Keep an eye out at the TCM website for future airings of films from the book.  And don’t forget to check out the other books in the TCM series I’ve reviewed here at borg, 52 Must-See Movies That Matter, Must-See Sci-Fi, Dynamic Dames, Forbidden Hollywood, and Christmas in the Movies (also by Jeremy Arnold), and Fright Favorites.  The first two volumes of The Essentials books are now available wherever books are sold.