100 Greatest Jewish Moments in the Movies (59-40)

(click here for 79-60)

59. Do the Right Thing (1989)

In Spike Lee’s 1:14 minute montage of ethnic sparring, a Korean grocer’s racist rant against “Jew asshole” includes references to Mayor Koch, chocolate egg creams, bagel and lox and the Bnai Brith. Considering that this was written by Spike Lee, pretty tame stuff, actually. No Jewish characters in film!

58. A Serious Man (2009)

The stoned bar mitzvah scene in this Coen Brothers Jewish vanity project funnels a delirious snapshot of a Jewish Minneapolis, MN in 1967. Baked out of his mind, 13-year-old Danny Gopnik (Aaron Wolff) ventures to the bimah and sees the haunting, alien world surrounding him in full detail for the first time.

57. The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

It isn’t Tevye, but the second best representation of Eastern European Jewish life is when the beautiful shiksa servant girl (played by Sharon Tate) tries to ward off “Shagal,” the Jewish innkeeper-turned-vampire with a cross, and he tells her, “Boy, have you got the wrong vampire.”

56. Pineapple Express (2008)

Saul Silver will be to James Franco, what Jeff Spicoli was to Sean Penn. But few people realize that his performance as a secretly sensitive drug dealer who is selling so he can support his “Bubbe” was originally intended for co-star Seth Rogan.

55. The Ten Commandments (1956)

The second highest grossing religious epic of all time (yeah, you know who has the highest) opens with Mt. Sinai replacing the iconic Paramount studio mountain.

54. The Godfather, Part II (1974)

After Michael visits Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) at his Florida condo, the alter kocker patterned on real-life Jewish gangster Meir Lansky, tells him how he’s loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the World Series in 1919. It’s an absurd moment that Strasberg plays earnestly, and the result is a feeling of a fraternity of Jewish gangsters. Shortly after the premiere of the film, Lansky phoned Strasberg to tell him how much he enjoyed his performance even though he wished he had been portrayed more sympathetically.

53. Bad Boys (1983)

Relegated to kitchen duty in the juvenile detention center, Horowitz (played by Eric Gurry) goes ape shit on the much bigger Viking Lofgren who calls him “a good little kike.” The diminutive Horowitz pours a heaping tray of spinach on Lofgren’s head, kicks Lofgren in the balls, tosses a can of garbage over his head and then hams it up as the roomful of bad boys applaud, starting a food fight that makes the one in Animal House look like high tea at Martha Stewart’s house.

52. Se7en (1995)

Jewish lawyer successful defense attorney named Eli Gould, found with “GREED” written in his own blood on the office floor. The killer had held him, presumably at gunpoint, and forced him to cut off a pound of his own flesh as a price to pay for his sins. Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) never suggests that the incident be treated as a hate crime, but as we later learn, Detective Mills isn’t always able to put two and two together.

51. Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Scholars may debate when and where exactly the Jewish people began, but if Watto, the hook nosed, hatted, greedy slave owner in Star Wars: Episode I is any indication, they were around a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

50. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972)

Woody Allen in the prime of his career cleverly navigates the intersection of religion and food in this short segment featuring a black and white era television game show called “What’s My Perversion?” In it, Rabbi Chaim Baumel of Muncie, Indiana wins the opportunity to act out his intricate fantasy of being tied up and spanked by a blonde model qua “governess” while Mrs. Baumel eats pork at his feet. Allen would return to these themes later in his career in Annie Hall with lobster replacing pork and platonic love replacing sexual fulfillment and Hannah and Her Sisters with Wonder Bread and mayo and the search for God.

49. Knocked Up (2007)

Lots of movies have a single, solitary token Jewish character, and not uncommonly, that character’s Jewishness is a source of either existential angst or blunt caricature. What we like about the scene in the club where TK are discussing Munich is that not only does it give us a cornucopia of Jews, but their Jewishness is a source of pride, and something which makes their single, solitary token goy character feeling the odd man out.

48. You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (2008)

The scene in which Israelis all over New York pull out their grenades and uzis and protect Zohan’s (Sandler) back during his battle with the Phantom (John Turturro) is as well coordinated as the raid on Entebbe.

47. Cinderella Man (2005)

Craig Bierko as an oversexed Max Baer prepares to spend the night before his fight with James Braddock (Russell Crow) with two chicks. Unsatisfied, he ends up hitting on James Braddock’s wife, played by a mousy Renee Zellweger.

46. Soylent Green (1973)

Edward G. Robinson plays Sol Roth in his final role in this dystopic thriller about an over-populated and undernourished future on earth. Watching Roth toasting “L’Chaim” with Thorn (Charlton Heston) is a poignant ending for a character and an actor soon to be meeting their makers.

45. Animal Crackers (1930)

Chico and Harpo recognize millionaire Roscoe Chandler as being “Abie the Fishman” from Czechoslovakia, and Chico asks “How did you get to be Roscoe W. Chandler,” to which Chandler replies “Say, how did you get to be an Italian?” in two sentences, managing to encapsulate the entire American-Jewish experience.

44. Tropic Thunder (2008)

Tom Cruise plays Les Grossman, a studio exec whose over-the-top in every respect except his Jewishess. It’s a magical moment when he berates Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) about the waning popularity of his Scorcher character, “The kids aren’t dressing as Scorcher for Purim anymore!”

43. Rocky III (1982)

And you thought Mickey was Irish. Jump Cut to Rocky Balboa saying Kaddish for Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith) after his crotchedy, but beloved manager dies of heart failure. When, in Rocky V, we learn that Mickey bequeathed his gym to Balboa following his death, his Jewish story gains even greater pathos. No children.

42. The Goonies (1985)

In case you hadn’t guessed that the klutzy and always hungry Laurence “Chunk” Cohen was Jewish, his impromptu prayer upon running into the Fratellis in their lair—”Baruch Attah Adonai…”—leaves little doubt.

41. Fletch (1985)

In an effort to find the records room, investigative reporter Irwin M. Fletcher (Chevy Chase in his watershed role) dons a cap and gown, glances at a hospital directory and reflexively introduces himself as “Dr. Rosen-Rosen” to an inquisitive nurse.

40. The Day the Clown Cried (1972)

Just because it is a Jewish movie moment that ultimately never was, doesn’t mean it isn’t great. This unfinished and unreleased film starring Jerry Lewis as a washed up German circus clown (Helmut Dorque) who is forced to lead Jewish children—Pied Piper-like—to the gas chambers was never publically viewed, but still remains the stuff of legends. The climax of the film in which the remorseful Dorque dramatically entered the gas chambers himself might have earned this film a spot in our top ten had we been able to see it.

(click here for 39-20)

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