The Best Best Movies

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About seven years ago, when I decided I was really serious about pursuing film as a career, I realized that I needed to start filling some major gaps in the movies I had seen. So, I took a couple of "Greatest Films Ever Made" lists and collated them to discover which films appeared most often. It soon became clear that my starting lists were biased in favor of English-language films and more modern films, so I added in a few lists weighted in favor of foreign films and older films.

Then I took every film that appeared on three or more of the eight lists I was using. And, because I am a geek, I arranged them in chronological order and steadily worked my way through all of them, starting with 1903's The Great Train Robbery and ending with 1994's Pulp Fiction. (The list ends in the early 90's because I put it together in 1999, and it seems to take at least five years for any consensus to start to emerge about the greatness of a given film.)

I've occasionally had requests from equally filmgeeky friends to send them the list. So, as a public service, I post it here: my objective, definitive, consensus list of the Greatest Films Ever Made. (OK, not really. What I REALLY have is a list of 138 movies that at least 3 people or organizations with some expertise feel everybody ought to see. I think that's still worthwhile )

In case you're wondering, here are the eight lists I used to generate it:


• AFI's 100 years... 100 movies
Library of Congress's National Film Registry
• The 100 top-rated films at IMDB
Roger Ebert's list of Great Movies
• Every Oscar-winner for "Best Picture
• An intriguing personal list by Andrew Slattery
• Tim Dirks' list of the 200 greatest films
• Every Oscar-winner for "Best Foreign-Language Film
• Tim Dirk's list of The Greatest Silent Films

And now, without further ado, the list. The number in parenthesis after each film represents the number of lists it appeared on.

1903 The Great Train Robbery (3)
1915 The Birth Of A Nation (4)
1916 Intolerance (3)
1919 Broken Blossoms (3)
1924 Greed (3)
1924 Sherlock, Jr. (3)
1925 The Big Parade (3)
1925 The Gold Rush (5)
1927 Seventh Heaven (3)
1927 Sunrise (4)
1927 The General(6)
1927 The Jazz Singer (4)
1927 Wings (3)
1928 The Crowd (3)
1930 All Quiet On The Western Front (4)
1931 City Lights(8)
1931 Frankenstein (3)
1932 Scarface(4)
1932 Trouble in Paradise (3)
1933 Duck Soup(5)
1933 King Kong (3)
1934 It Happened One Night (7)
1934 The Thin Man (3)
1935 Bride of Frankenstein (3)
1935 Mutiny on the Bounty (3)
1935 Top Hat (4)
1936 Modern Times (6)
1937 Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (3)
1938 Bringing Up Baby (4)
1939 Destry Rides Again (4)
1939 Gone With The Wind (6)
1939 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (5)
1939 Ninotchka (3)
1939 Stagecoach(5)
1939 The Wizard of Oz (6)
1940 Pinocchio (3)
1940 Rebecca(3)
1940 The Grapes of Wrath (4)
1940 The Great Dictator (3)
1940 The Philadelphia Story (5)
1941 Citizen Kane (7)
1941 Fantasia (3)
1941 How Green Was My Valley (3)
1941 The Lady Eve (3)
1941 The Maltese Falcon (5)
1942 Casablanca (8)
1942 The Magnificent Ambersons (3)
1942 Yankee Doodle Dandy (3)
1943 Shadow of a Doubt (3)
1944 Double Indemnity (7)
1946 It's A Wonderful Life (7)
1946 My Darling Clementine (3)
1946 Notorious (4)
1946 The Best Years of Our Lives (3)
1946 The Big Sleep (5)
1947 Out of the Past (a "Build My Gallows High". Dir by Jacques Tourneur.) (4)
1948 Ladri di biciclette (3)
1948 Red River (4)
1948 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (4)
1949 Adam's Rib (3)
1949 The Third Man (5)
1950 All About Eve (6)
1950 Sunset Boulevard (6)
1951 A Place in the Sun (3)
1951 A Streetcar Named Desire (3)
1951 An American In Paris (4)
1951 The African Queen (4)
1952 High Noon (3)
1952 Singin' In The Rain (7)
1953 From Here to Eternity (4)
1953 Shane (3)
1954 On The Waterfront (8)
1954 Rear Window (6)
1955 Marty (3)
1955 Rebel Without a Cause (4)
1955 The Night of the Hunter (3)
1956 The Searchers (4)
1957 Paths of Glory (3)
1957 Sweet Smell of Success (4)
1957 The Bridge On The River Kwai (7)
1958 Touch Of Evil (5)
1958 Vertigo (6)
1959 Ben-Hur (4)
1959 North By Northwest (5)
1959 Some Like It Hot (5)
1960 Psycho (6)
1960 The Apartment (5)
1961 The Hustler (3)
1961 West Side Story (5)
1962 Lawrence of Arabia (6)
1962 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance(3)
1962 The Manchurian Candidate (5)
1962 To Kill a Mockingbird (4)
1963 8 1/2 (3)
1964 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying... (7)
1964 My Fair Lady (3)
1965 The Sound of Music (3)
1967 Bonnie And Clyde (5)
1967 The Graduate (5)
1968 2001: A Space Odyssey (6)
1969 Easy Rider (3)
1969 Midnight Cowboy (5)
1969 The Wild Bunch(4)
1970 Patton (3)
1971 A Clockwork Orange (5)
1971 The French Connection (3)
1971 The Last Picture Show (3)
1972 The Godfather (7)
1973 American Graffiti (3)
1973 Day for Night (3)
1973 Mean Streets (3)
1974 Chinatown (6)
1974 The Godfather, Part II (6)
1975 Jaws (3)
1975 Nashville (3)
1975 One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (6)
1976 Network (3)
1976 Taxi Driver (6)
1977 Annie Hall (7)
1977 Star Wars (6)
1978 The Deer Hunter (5)
1979 Apocalypse Now (4)
1979 Manhattan (3)
1980 Raging Bull (6)
1980 The Empire Strikes Back (4)
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark (4)
1982 Blade Runner (4)
1982 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (5)
1982 Tootsie (4)
1984 Amadeus (3)
1986 Blue Velvet (3)
1986 Platoon (3)
1990 Dances With Wolves (3)
1990 Goodfellas (5)
1991 The Silence of the Lambs (5)
1992 Unforgiven (4)
1993 Schindlerís List(6)
1994 Pulp Fiction (4)

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1 Comments

Gordon K said:

Hi Jacob

Thought I'd throw in my 2 cents on the issue of great movies.

First off, while I've seen literally thousands of films (as my local video rental store can verify), there are a lot on your master list I've not seen. Still, I can't resist making some general comments, and then addressing a few specific movies.

It's hard to say what makes a great film. Usually it means a film that doesn't go stale over time and over repeated viewings, though there are films that pack a wallop the first time, but don't hold up on subsequent viewings. I think films in the latter category tend to be very plot-driven.

Sam & I have seen Galaxy Quest, maybe 15 times. Seems ridiculous. But the jokes are delivered so skillfully we find ourselves laughing in the same spots, every time we see it. That may mean it's a great film, but it's not likely to be on anyone's "best" list. By contrast, "Bringing Up Baby" is cute and well worth watching, but the last time or two I've seen it I found it a precious and quite tedious.

Now a few more particulars:

The Wizard of Oz: Absolutely amazing! Maltin says it's as good the 50th time as the 1st, and he's absolutely right. Every time I hear Dorothy sing Over the Rainbow, I tell myself I won't cry. And every time, I do.

Citizen Kane: Maybe not the greatest film in history, but it deserves its reputation for brilliance.

Maltese Falcon: Stagey & over-rated
Casablanca: The most romantic movie in history. Unmatched for dialogue. A treasure.
African Queen: Not quite as snappy as Casablanca, but the chemistry between the leads is fantastic, and the movie is more fun than Casablanca. Another treasure.

It's a Wonderful Life: Good movie, but it sags dreadfully in the early middle.

Sunset Boulevard: They showed this to us in the 8th grade. Creepy & unforgetable.

The Graduate: I saw it when it was first released. I thought it was a landmark, groundbreaking movie. Saw it again recently. Realized it's just a re-hash of Sleeping Beauty. Still funny in places, but Parsley Sage...goes on interminably, and the movie is ageist in the extreme.

2001: Still astonishes. The time warp scenes after Dave exits the star gate are unique, brilliant, tragic and beautiful.

Star Wars: Fun if you don't think too much, and very picturesque, but morally bankrupt. Princess Laia (sp?) sheds not a tear after her home planet is blown to atoms. None of the principals pay any respects to the fallen pilots that gave their lives to destroy the Death Star, and Wedge, who did far more than johnny-come-lately Han Solo to win the victory, is ignored in the award ceremony at the end. Such venality! Empire's a bit better.

And speaking of Lucas, Raiders suffers from a lot of the same callousness.

Blade Runner is a great film, but too sad for me to see again.

Schindler's List is impossibly sad (as is Saving Private Ryan), but brilliantly done. I thought the survivor's guilt scene near the end was over the top, though a lot of people thought it was fitting. My only other complaint is that in the epilogue there is no mention of the Nazis' non-Jewish victims--in particular, the Gypsies.

Finally, a movie I think is very under-appreciated is Defending Your Life. Albert Brooks has made an Americanized version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and managed to make it funny, ironic, and touching!

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This page contains a single entry by Jacob published on July 22, 2006 1:29 PM.

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