12 juillet 2007

Top 100 Movies of All Time (a work in progress)

I've been trying to make an all-time Top 100 Films list for months, at least. What I've found is that the task is impossible. At some point, weighing the relative virtues of 100 or 150 films becomes an arbitrary task, with numbers assigned for the sake of their assignation. In some regard I prefer the unranked list approach that Ted has taken with his list, but the lack of ranks leaves too much to our imagination; less of Ted comes through for his not having made these arbitrary designations.
Although there's no way to compare the relative virtues of Daisy Kenyon and Sauvage Innocence, or Duck Soup and Days of Heaven, we can hint at our levels of investment in these films. On their own the numbers are meaningless, but taken together they can sketch out our secret selves via the cinema. One can tell a lot about my formal approach to storytelling from my list, but also, perhaps, that I'm a bit too empathetic toward heartbreak (see: #1 film Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and my probable over-ratings of Amelie, and Brokeback Mountain). You might not know that I hold high hopes for future(s) of digital cinematography, but my inclusion of Inland Empire might hint at this. That color is an area of aesthetic interest might bleed through when Vertigo and The Red Shoes appear near one another on the list.
Some of the arbitrariness of the list order is determined by aesthetics of listmaking itself. I couldn't bear to place Triumph of the Will next to Schindler's List, so I bumped up Burn! (aka Quiemada) to take the space between them (though it probably should have been well above both). Band of Outsiders seems excessive just below Breathless, so Alien was demoted to split them apart.
Looking at this list its hard for me to tell even what my rationale was in many cases. I think there's an overrepresentation of Godard and Kubrick in the Top 60. Some of my favorite filmmakers didn't make the list at all... and I put not one but two Spielberg movies in my list? Seriously? I see movies I love listed below movies I barely remember loving, and movies I think are overrated rated above films close to my heart. What's going on here, though, is that the listmaking process is also an exploration of memory. Re-viewing The Searchers recently was a revelation, even though I've seen it projected three times before, because it reminded me of how rich the film is; over time the details of a film's richness fade and only vague recollections remain. So Veronika Voss slides out of Top 10 because I haven't had a recent enough viewing, while An Actor's Revenge remains high precisely because the details of plot have faded from my mind -- but some of the most impressively composed shots in the history of cinema remain.
With those qualifiers, I now present my current Top 100 Movies of All Time as a work-in-progress; I will certainly change my mind on half of these films by the time I hit the publish button.
I should also note that this list doesn't include films I haven't seen. While that sounds obvious, it's an important qualifier for me in particular, as I've found ways to avoid most of the "canonical" films I'm supposed to have seen (including many in my areas of interest). Chalk it up to taking more specialized classes in lieu of intro film classes in college, and an idiosyncratic set of viewing choices since.


Top 100 Movies of All Time (a work in progress)
[as of 7/11/07]


1. Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964)
2. La Jetee (Chris Marker, 1962)
3. Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969)
4. To Be or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
6. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
7. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002)
8. Elephant (Gus van Sant, 2003)
9. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
10. Play Time (Jacques Tati, 1967)
11. Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)
12. Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982)
13. An Actor's Revenge (Kon Ichikawa, 1963)
14. Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
15. Rashômon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
16. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)
17. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
18. The Host (Bong Joon-ho, 2006)
19. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (Werner Herzog, 1979)
20. Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, 1936)
21. Tesis (Alejandro Amenábar, 1996)
22. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
23. Pandora's Box (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929)
24. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
25. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
26. Design For Living (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933)
27. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (F. W. Murnau, 1922)
28. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)
29. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
30. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
31. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
32. L'Âge D'Or (Luis Buñuel, 1930)
33. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
34. The Mother and the Whore (Jean Eustache, 1973)
35. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
36. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
37. The Red Shoes (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
38. Elevator to the Gallows (Louis Malle, 1958)
39. Daisy Kenyon (Otto Preminger, 1947)
40. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
41. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
42. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
43. Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)
44. 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)
45. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
46. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (James Cameron, 1991)
47. The Big Red One (Samuel Fuller, 1980)
48. Mouchette (Robert Bresson, 1967)
49. High Plains Drifter (Clint Eastwood, 1973)
50. Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
51. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
52. A Woman is a Woman (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961)
53. Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón (Pedro Almodóvar, 1980)
54. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F. W. Murnau, 1927)
55. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003)
56. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
57. Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel, 1929)
58. Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)
59. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
60. On the Town (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1949)
61. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
62. Zéro de conduite: Jeunes diables au collège (Jean Vigo, 1933)
63. If... (Lindsay Anderson, 1968)
64. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
65. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
66. O Lucky Man! (Lindsay Anderson, 1973)
67. Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960)
68. Regular Lovers (Philippe Garrel, 2005)
69. Osaka Elegy (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1936)
70. Shindler's List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
71. Dog Star Man (Stan Brakhage, 1964)
72. Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935)
73. Queimada (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1969)
74. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1939)
75. Unsere Afrikareise (Peter Kubelka, 1966)
76. Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa, 2006)
77. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Elio Petri, 1970)
78. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
79. When A Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)
80. The Hunt (Carlos Saura, 1966)
81. C'était un rendez-vous (Claude Lelouch, 1976)
82. Sauvage Innocence (Philippe Garrel, 2001)
83. Au Hazard Balthasar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
84. Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998)
85. The Party (Blake Edwards, 1968)
86. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953)
87. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
88. Even Dwarves Started Small (Werner Herzog, 1970)
89. Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932)
90. Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961)
91. Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2000)
92. All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)
93. Arnulf Rainer (Peter Kubelka, 1960)
94. The Closet (Francis Veber, 2001)
95. Bunny Lake Is Missing (Otto Preminger, 1965)
96. The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002)
97. Days of Glory (Jacques Tourneur, 1944)
98. Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)
99. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000)
100. Idiocracy (Mike Judge, 2006)

10 commentaires:

the art of memory a dit…

i love these kinds of lists,
rosenbaum's and anthology film archives' essential cinema books (2 books you can spend your life studying) are great for this type of thing.
very ecclectic mix,
how come you put terminator 2 instead of 1? just out of curiousity.

dave a dit…

I think T2 might be the best Hollywood action blockbuster of all time. It's appropriately dystopic, visually and narratively slick, and uses the same paradoxical causation loop as La Jetee. The film's survivalist instincts and paranoia are top-notch -- politically as well as narratively. Perhaps after another viewing I can better explain why T2 is miles better than Terminator, but that's a start.

the art of memory a dit…

i will take another look, i do remember the great bar fight and the motorcycle chase being pretty amazing.
1 has some great stuff as well, esp. dystopia related.

Daniel a dit…

Mostly both proper and interesting, but some awards are necessary:

Uh, what? Award: UNITED 93 (runner-up: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN)

Damn right Award: TERMINATOR 2

Sad to say I haven't seen it Award: ZERO DE CONDUITE (runner-up: DAYS OF GLORY)

Never heard of it Award: QUEIMADA

I thought you hadn't cared for that one Award: ARNUF RAINER

dave a dit…

UNITED 93 - The best movie ever about the nature of heroism, as far as I can tell. As for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, I'm a total sucker for impossible-love melodramas (but you knew that).

TERMINATOR 2 - Damn right Damn right.

ZERO DE CONDUITE - get on it!
DAYS OF GLORY is very good (Gregory Peck's 1st screen role!) but I suspect its a movie that I love for reasons beyond its very-good-ness. It is, among other things, a movie about resistance in a way I can't resist.

QUEIMADA is also known as BURN!, Pontecorvo's Brando-starring dialectically-Marxist paean to the revolt of slaves against their opressors. Which I think pretty much says it all.

ARNULF RAINER grew on me because it uses the medium to such a physical effect. In that respect it works on a totally different playing field than even other non-narrative (non-flicker) cinema.

You should also have listed IF... along with ZERO DE CONDUITE -- especially since (as I neglected to mention yesterday) the former is an adaptation of the latter.

igilbert a dit…

Dave, your list is excellent, and you clearly know your stuff. Please do not feel the need to defend your choices! Brokeback Mountain is a masterpiece, a film that I didn't quite get the first time, but it stayed with me, I saw it again, and it now ranks among the top 10 out of the 5,000 or so films I have seen. I do not think it is a melodrama, I think it is an intensely felt, artful piece of cinema. United 93 does not make my list because I felt Greengrass overemphasized the air traffic controllers to the slight detriment of the passengers, but again, as a piece of cinema, it is superb, with amazing editing.

Of course we don't agree on everything, and I haven't even seen about ten of the films on your list (I will rectify that!). For example, I think Schindler's List is overlong and kind of dull, with a memorable canvas without memorable characters but for Ralph Fiennes' cartoonish Nazi (which, if you compare to far superior masterpiece The Pianist (also in my top 10), doesn't fall into that trap, people do terrible things in the latter too, but they are still people, with shading...the problem with Spielberg, none of whose films approach my top 250, does not understand that, he's just a superb technician without a sense of people, especially adults...I digress).

It was also very refreshing to see some of the highly overrated usual suspects NOT on your list, like the good but not as great as everyone says, especially the Godfathers, Pulp Fiction (influence is not the same as quality). I am curious if you have seen some of the films like Grand Illusion, Children of Paradise, Andrei Rublev, The Crowd, The Battleship Potemkin, M, The Grapes of Wrath, Wuthering Heights, and Make Way for Tomorrow, all of which are in my top 30 but not on your list. Grand Illusion is my #1, I find it far more piercing and heartfelt than brilliant but colder Rules of the Game.

Keep up the great work! Thanks.

dave a dit…

igilbert,
I'm curious which from my list you haven't seen...

I agree that Pulp Fiction is severely overrated... it would probably not make my top 250. I'm not sure how M slid off my list, actually... having not seen it for 8 years probably helps. The same goes for Grand Illusion, which didn't move me on first viewing as much as I had expected. I don't consider Rules of the Game cold at all - to me it is warm, humanist, romantic, and above all full of the recognition of the loss of a way of life.

I haven't seen so many films, including the Godfather movies, Singin' in the Rain, Children of Paradise, Andrei Rublev, The Crowd, The Battleship Potemkin, Wuthering Heights, and Make Way for Tomorrow.
The Grapes of Wrath is a good film but so much less powerful than the book.

I have a post coming (soon?) on the top 100 films I haven't seen... stay tuned, as I think you'll be interested in that list as well.

dave a dit…

one further note on Spielberg: the 20 minute Normady Beach sequence of Saving Private Ryan is the best, most honest and brutal war film ever made. I don't love the rest of the film, but it does have some stunning cinematography, but those first 20 minutes - WOW.

jayiijay a dit…

Hi Dave, this is Ira Gilbert. I was just trying to respond to your recent message to me (thanks for that) but am having trouble getting back on your website, perhaps because I am writing from work, perhaps because I am bad with the internet! My message is below, I will try to re-post later so it appears on your site. By the way, I live and work in Manhattan, grew up in Brooklyn, am 41 yrs old, so maybe we can see something together sometime. My firm represents MoMA so I get in for free, as I'm sure you know they show a lot of great movies. Best, Ira


Hi Dave, thanks for the reply. Films on your list I have not seen are: Satantango (though I have been itching to see it, it is #2 on my must see list behind only City of Sadness); The Host; Tesis; Elevator to the Gallows; Regular Lovers; Osaka Elegy; Quiemada; Usere Afrikarese*; Colossal Youth; When a Woman Ascends the Stairs*; C'était un rendez-vous; Sauvage Innocence*; Arnulf Rainer*; The Closet; and Idiocracy. * means I hadn't even heard of the films before I saw your list. It gives me pleasure that an expert like yourself also finds Pulp Fiction overrated. Influential does not mean great. It is also the protypical imdb film that young guys like, lots of testosterone flying around that list, lol. My fingers are crossed that you too will find The Godfathers artful but wildly overrated movies. I agree with you that Grapes is not as powerful as the book, they probably couldn't have an ending like the book's back in 1940, but I saw the film before I read the book so my vision is a bit skewed. I also think it is Ford at his peak, including The Searchers (in my top 50). You really have to see Potemkin asap, it's a must for any movie buff, the virtual invention of montage, not to mention powerful story telling aside from the virtual luster. As for Rules of the Game, I didn't mean to say it is cold, but just not as warm as Grand Illusion, to which I hope you give a second chance. As for Saving Private Ryan, I found the first 20 minutes technically impressive, but I wasn't all that moved, perhaps because I didn't know any of the characters yet, the dying soldiers became interchangable, so to me it came up slightly short in terms of power. Still, I thought the film was one of his better efforts, I am not a Spielberg fan, and feel that The Pianist blows away Schindler's List. I've seen the former once and the latter twice (the 2nd time about 4 or 5 years ago), yet I remember so many scenes and beautiful touches in The Pianist, whereas Schindler felt more like a Holocaust overview. Anyway, I look forward to reading more from you. Thanks.

Dave McDougall a dit…

Ira, thanks for your further comments.
All the films on my list that you haven't seen are must-sees, though I can't guarantee that you'll love them. I could comment on all of these, but for now I'll just mention the ones that you hadn't heard of.

Usere Afrikarese and Arnulf Rainer are Peter Kubelka films. He is a singular filmmaker, as polymathic inside cinema as outside of it. Arnulf Rainer is a flicker film, and uses the medium to an incredible physical effect. I think it is better than Conrad's The Flicker - high praise.
Usere Afrikarese is a film about a group of German tourists that go to Africa on a hunting expedition, and is as critical a use of form as I've seen in any film. Kubelka brings out the racism and exoticism essential to such an exhibition.

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is now available on a Criterion DVD, and C'était un rendez-vous is available on YouTube, so you can see these for yourself without my comments. Both are highly recommended.

Sauvage Innocence is a Garrel film that starts out as a film about making an antidrug film, but becomes a meditation on working with Nico (Garrel's lover) in the midst of her heroin addiction, and Garrel's inability to stop the downward spiral. Which is to say, it works in the same autobiographical mode that I think makes Garrel such an essential filmmaker.