Saturday, December 20, 2008

1000 Greatest Films?

The movie lists that get the most attention these days are sadly fan-pandering lists from major movie publications (EW, Empire, etcetera) that cater to the last 25 years or are overly worried about mainstream relevance and DVD sales (AFI)... forgetting that the most noble purpose of 'all time lists' is not to pat people on the back for what they love but to inspire them to dig deeper. "Great" lists should be filling up our rental queues. Best book lists are not best seller charts after all but encouragements to read. Best music lists are often about new discoveries, too. What haven't you heard? So I'm totally excited to study They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? reworked "Top 1000 Films of All Time" list.

I am powerless against a good list. Here's two samples from their top 1000. First, the top 20 and I've picked two that I really insist that you see right now (since you probably haven't)
  1. Citizen Kane (1941)
  2. Vertigo (1958)
  3. Rules of the Game (1939)
  4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  5. 8 1/2 (1963)
  6. The Godfather (1972)
  7. The Searchers (1956)
  8. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  9. The Seven Samurai (1954)
  10. Tokyo Story (1953)
  11. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
  12. Sunrise (1927)
  13. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  14. The Bicycle Thief (1948)
  15. Casablanca (1942)
  16. L'Atalante (1934) rent it immediately
  17. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) unforgettable -see now and twice
  18. Raging Bull (1980)
  19. Rashomon (1950)
  20. The Godfather Part II (1974)
Aside from Singin' in the Rain it's very solemly serious. Of those I have yet to see The Searchers, Tokyo Story and Rules of the Game and am appropriately filled with shame. Because there are 1000 films and not 100 there's less shunning of "women's pictures" than most Greatest Films list attempt and that's a relief. There's multiple countries represented as there should be. Overall it's good stuff. I quibble with certain things (that's the other great purpose of lists): There's way too little William Wyler (no Dodsworth in 1000 movies? F*** you, list and list-makers!), too little Spike Lee and Mike Leigh (1 film each? STINGY!), the wrong Sydney Pollack (no They Shoot Horses Don't They or The Way We Were? I cry foul) there's only 14 movies from the Aughts and yet they found room for Oldboy? Yeesh, I hate that movie's boastful sadism.

The thing I love most about this list at first glance is the ease by which you can dig in. You can sort by year and watch movies chronologically. You can sort by director. Here's their top twelve auteurs with the number of films they were alloted.
  1. John Ford: 18 (He's also Oscar's favorite director with 4 Best Director wins. Who knew that cinephiles would agree with the Academy so wholeheartedly?)
  2. Fritz Lang: 16
  3. Luis Bunuel: 15
  4. (tie) Jean Luc Godard & Alfred Hitchcock: 14 movies each
  5. Ingmar Bergman: 13
  6. Federico Fellini: 12
  7. (4-way tie) Jean Renoir, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa and Howard Hawks: they all get 11 films in the top 1000. Kubrick only made 16 films so that's quite an accomplishment. They just left out his first 5. I guess he was warming up.
  8. Charles Chaplin: 10
I think it's the first "greatest films" list I've ever seen that honors Steven Spielberg but doesn't go completely overboard (only 7 films... what a relief). Since it's an excel spreadsheet with numerous columns they've even been generous enough to include amazon and imdb links if you want to purchase or study and --my favorite part -- the running times. If you never have enough time to drink up all the movies your eyes thirst for, you can either start with the longest movies and sip away or start short and gulp them down --there's 391 movies that are under 100 minutes. Oh, the delicious nectar of succinct motion pictures!

Once you download you can even add your own columns to mess with it privately. No way can I have a list without Dodsworth, Sleeping Beauty, Heavenly Creatures or any Merchant/Ivory. I think I'll "fix" this list right now...


Anonymous said...

Dodsworth might be one of the five-ten greatest films of the 30's. It's a disappointing omission to say the least.

Cinesnatch said...

Okay, like the griping begin ...

Godfather III? Really? Really? Sorry, I don't think that this film is the greatest anything but a pile of shit. Since they allow this film on here, I'll continue ...

Starship Troopers over Basic Instinct? Please.

No Jerry Maguire? No Secrets & Lies, no Howards End. But, we have room for arguably two too many Coen Bros. films? No best picture nominees from 1987?

This just seems elitist to me.


arkaan i've come to believe that the only reason dodsworth continually gets the shaft in all retros and lists is that people just haven't seen it. I understand it was really hard to get in home viewing format for awhile, correct?

i mean there's no excuse for leaving it out. none.

vinci i noticed the Godfather III thing too but chose to say nothing. Mostly cuz I haven't seen it (the poor reviews scared me away) but I guess it's a thing like a sacred cow. The other two are so beloved that people just have to make excuses for the third so they can have the whole trilogy.

Cinesnatch said...

that's what I figured .... oh well

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, I wholeheartedly agree about the sadness of best film lists catering to the last 25 years. but the only thing that pisses me off more than that is the elderly/cinesnob (big difference between cinefile and cinesnob) neglect of the era. the "they dont make em like they used to" justification sickens me. i really believe that you must not be paying attention to modern cinema if you can honestly say that.
this list is good but i think it too is a little shallow on modern cinema only 7 films from the last 38 years mad it into the top 50. i think that's bullshit. very excited to see Taxi Driver so high tho

ajnrules said...

Spirited Away at 659? West Side Story at 250? There goes my two favorite movies. :(

adam k. said...

Um, did you just imply that Tootsie is the WRONG Sydney Pollack for this or any list? In the same post where you complained that the entries were too serious?


Eric Kimberly said...

I saw Rules of the Game by accident over the summer. It was playing at the local art house theatre and I had never heard of it. I decided to go for really no reason. I am very glad I went, it is truly one of the top 10 movies I've ever scene.

Glenn said...

Great list. Too much to mention, so I won't mention anything.

Notas Sobre Creación Cultural e Imaginarios Sociales said...

I've seen the two you point out and they are two of my favorite films of all time.
"The Passion of Joan of Arc" is beautiful, but it's too heavy, I only dared watch it once, perhaps it was too much for my 14 yr old mind.
"L'Atalante" just blew me away, it is so simple and so damn romantic. I also remember I saw somewhere that it's Dame Helen Mirren's favorite film and that has got to mean something right?
The list is overall superb but talking about non AFI lists did you ever see that one Cahiers du Cinema put out a couple of weeks ago?

Sally Belle said...

If I live to be 100, I will never understand the appeal of "The Searchers".

In the top 10 no less.

Unknown said...

Hey Nathaniel,

We are working on having a screening of THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC performed with a live pipe organ score as part of Nashville Film Festival! So if you're here, you'll get to see it!

It's fast become one of my 10 favorite films of all time. I've seen it like five times in the last year or two.

Emma said...

I agree, it is a pretty elitist, pseudo-cinephile list. *annoyed*

Mikadzuki said...

What I like about the TSPDT list is that they seem to prefer original/messy/strange/personal films (Heaven's Gate at #600, not to mention Gummo on last year's list!) over perhaps better but more streamlined movies.

Like Casey Fiore, I think they may be a bit too discriminating against the last few decades (The Thin Red Line and Eyes Wide Shut only in the 700-800s?), but I guess they just want to make sure they stand the tests of time.


adam k i love Tootsie. It's more that I don't feel lik Out of Africa is superior to They Shoot Horses Don't They or The Way We Were.

Even though this film has more films that are typically disregarded because they're romantic or feminine it still is down on them (as most lists are) The Way We Were is a great movie! and people just don't seem to take it seriously which is sad.

mikadzuki and casey... re: the last 25 years, I do think it's important to give films time to settle in before we declare them

and i understand the thinking both ways but I just get so annoyed with EW and other list-making corporations that keep tossing off these lame excuses as to why they can't be bothered with film history (we're not interested in old canons we want to think about new canons)

translation: we think none of you have seen these old movies and we just want to talk about movies you know about rather than try to cultivate your interest in new (old) things ... we need to sell magazines.
I'd be much more okay with it if they didn't make all time lists. If they just said "best of the last 25 years or whatever"... than they wouldn't have to trot out these excuses as to why they left off... t,u,v,w,x,y,z

emma i'm not sure that it's elitist so much as auteurist. I mean i think it's silly to imply that every Kubrick movie is one of the greatest movies of all time (that's silly to imply for every filmmaker) but there is so much interesting stuff on here, don't you think. Or at least great rental ideas. I know I haven't seen so many of these.

and i also am realizing that as much as I'm not into westerns i need to know more about John Ford since both Oscar and cinephiles love him

Dave said...

Was there a cut-off date for this list? Because if there wasn't, I can't understand how Oldboy made it and Eternal Sunshine... didn't. I realise you have to let these things 'settle' but if ESOTSM isn't regarded as a great in fifty years I'd be very surprised. (I have to study Oldboy next term amongst a class of people who all seem to love it. AHHHH. It will be horrible.)

I'll switch out Jean d'Arc (which I've seen) for Seven Samurai (which I haven't) alongside L'Atalante, because then I'll have completed the top twenty. Kurosawa is one director I'm seriously lacking in.

Anonymous said...

Not only cinephiles and the Academy, but other filmmakers love John Ford. Orson Welles studied Stagecoach before making Citizen Kane. Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa have also mentioned Ford as an influence.

Ed Howard said...

This is always my favorite list. I keep it in an Excel spreadsheet and use it as a checklist of things I need to see. I've seen just over half of the top 500, and a bit under halfway for the whole list. There are enough great films here for a lifetime of viewing.

Their methodology purposefully makes it more difficult for recent films to make the list, on the assumption that films should stand the test of time before being declared the "best ever." They use a ton of lists from all kind of sources and all eras, compiled together through the use of some presumably very complex weighting formulas that take account of when the list was made, who made it, and how important it is. The result is basically as close as it's possible to come to a critics' consensus of film history.


i think we need more critics who are willing to look at william wyler and not dismiss him due to his lack of authorial signature.

there's more to filmmaking than auteur-stamp. there's also acting, storytelling, and all sorts of other things that can elevate a film.

but again. i also love the list.

Anonymous said...

Is there some reason why the most recent movie was released in 1980? I'm so sick of seeing all these top movie lists acting like anything remotely recent has been complete crap. Yes, they used to make good movies. Yes, they STILL make good movies, they are just different. This list sounds like it was written by someone pining for the days of olde or something.

Anonymous said...

I don't see it as an elitist list, just one that seems director-focused, perhaps overly so. No cinesnob would ever include Forrest Gump or Dead Poets Society, two of the most hated Oscar pictures among the cinesnobs I know. The list also includes a lot of popular favorites like Lord of the Rings, The Princess Bride, and Starship Troopers.

I was thrilled to see that they also added in a lot of older films that don't usually get mentioned on these "best of" lists, even in those lists not complied by ET or Empire. I was happy to see Plein soleil and Quadrophenia on here in particular.

There are some things I hate on the list. I'm with you on Godfather III, vinci, and agree with everyone who thinks the exclusion of Dodsworth is a sin. There are also some things I can quibble with (I think The Unknown is a better Browning film than Freaks), but this is a better list than any of the others I've seen this season.


andrew the list actually goes up to 2003 and there's a lot of 90s movies... so i'm not sure where you're looking.

Katey said...

Yeah, the omission of Eternal Sunshine is bothersome, and honestly, I wouldn't have minded seeing some of 2007 on there either. If No Country for Old Men doesn't hold up 50 years from now, I'll be totally shocked-- ditto for Diving Bell and the Butterfly and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

Does this mean I really, really have to see Donnie Darko now? For real?

So glad to see The General in the top 30. Good gravy that movie is good.

Sally Belle said...

Katey...What! You've never seen Donnie Darko?

Yes...this means you have to see it.

I don't think it's a "Great"'s just a great film! You know?

Anonymous said...

1. The list definitely and defiantly privileges older films. They believe the test of time is an important factor in determining greatness. How is that elitism?

2. More importantly, the number of classic films that were dismissed at the time of release by critics/audiences/AMPAS etc is mindboggling. For example, if this list was made thirty or forty years ago, Picnic would likely rank higher than Night of the Hunter.

3. Oldboy?!? OLDBOY?!? Whatthefuck? I think Donnie Darko's overrated as it is (I can think of thirty films from 2001 that are much stronger), but OLDBOY?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?

4. Starship Troopers over Basic Instinct? Hells to the yeah that's the right move. No Jerry Maguire? Yep. No Secrets and Lies? Probably not (Leigh's definitely under represented). Nothing from Merchant-Ivory? Definitely William Wyler syndrome. But lists do, by their vary nature, provoke dissent. And while I'd rate all those in my top 1000, they might not make my top fifty/hundred, and that's where the problem comes from, I suspect.


arkaan -- you're right about dismissal. Even when critics like something it often gets dismissed when it comes time to label the greats of any given year. This is why i harp on subject matter not equalling greatness so often. It fools awards bodies every damn year. Every damn year!

I actually think it's the single most misleading factor in a movie's initial reception versus it's longevity.

I mean even take a populist example: THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Now it's considered a classic. Nobody cared other than the fact that they enjoyed themselves while watching it back in 1987. Films that are pure enjoyment often get the shaft during those time capsule awardage things because they don't feel "important"... think SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) which easily makes every greatest films ever made list. It wasn't anywhere close to getting a Best Picture nomination in its year.

i mean i think it's HILARIOUS that people are naming Frost/Nixon (which is entertaining, sure) a better film than Rachel Getting Married or The Wrestler when they're filling out ballots. I mean that's just the example that popped into mind because even though I like F/N perfectly well (definitely one of Ron Howard's best films) it's totally lightweight -- people won't talk about it at all in 50 years (though obviously they'll still talk about Frost & Nixon. So therefore topic = greatness if the film is any good at all.

Rachel Getting Married, The Wrestler, WALL-E, The Dark Knight, Burn After Reading, Happy-Go-Lucky etcetera... none of these have that IMPORTANT TOPIC pull or if they do they have some other factor (usually genre or female driven narrative) working against them. But it doesn't mean they lack for greatness.

Anonymous said...

"Carrie" up 32 spots! Rightfully so!


now that i've had more time to study the list i have more disagreements ;)

but there's a lot here i haven't seen so there's that too. is there a limit on how long your netflix rental queue can be?


in regards to that disagreement mentioned: it's clear that some directors can fart and make the list... which is disappointing because all great directors have minor films...and if you're minor should you really be in the top 1000 of all time?

basically i'm horrified that BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is on there when they skimped on some truly great romances

there's another list they have of the 7000+ films used to draw up this list but i'm a bit terrified about trying to parse that one.

Anonymous said...

Actually, a lot of Clint fans would rank Bridges as his finest film, so you'll have a lot of arguments there.

But your point about "important subject = great film" for critics is something worth reiterating. That's why I have to admit the approbation for Slumdog Millionaire (which I just came back from) is really quite satisfying. It's not an important biopic about one man's crusade for civil rights, or "the trial Nixon never got" or even a big budget analysis of the permutations of law and justice. It's just a little entertaining film that happens to be extremely well made and perfectly executed. The fact that it's doing so well is quite awesome, imo.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

That's an awesome list and one of very few credible ones. I wholeheartedly support your L'Atalante and Passion of Joan of Arc plugs - they are both among my 5 favourite films ever (along with Third Man, Magnificent Ambersons and 8 1/2, each of which is also worth a look, hint hint). Also Dodsworth belongs in the Top 1000, perhaps even in the Top 100. In fact, if I were to make a complaint it would be that the 30s (and 40s!) are morbidly underrepresented.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the interesting things about this list is it is trying to reconcile at least three definitions of greatest film. The first def. is the most important and revolutionary in terms of influencing later movies (Man With a Movie Camera; La Jetee); the second is films with a distinct auteur signature (Michael Powell, Stanley Kubrick); and the third is films that manage to unite different demographics, over several generations and become classics that way (Wizard of Oz, Jaws, The Princess Bride). Although I have issues with a lot of the individual choices, I think they do a nice job. overall of reconciling those three ideas of "great."

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic list! Of course, there are a few movies I'm surprised didn't make it (unless I somehow missed them).

Ed Wood
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Insider
Coming Home

Anonymous said...

Okay, I know someone already mentioned the omission of Jerry Maguire, but I just realized there is no Cameron Crowe on this list at all. I realize he may be a bit mainstream for this list, but, you would think there would be room for at least one of his films - if not Jerry Maguire, what about Say Anything or Almost Famous (or even Fast Times, for that matter)?

Anonymous said...

I read through all of the comments and I hope i am not making mistake but did no one else notice that Saving Private Ryan did not make this list!!! You are going to tell me Starship Troopers is better then Saving Private Ryan?! The top twenty is great...but as the list goes on there are just sooo many problems. And I agree with others who have posted that it is very elitist. Why can't anything that has been made recently be considered great? One film that comes to mind is City of God but there are many others that deserve to be higher on the list instead of just tacked on at the end. Also, how does the LOTR trilogy not get represented on a list of 1000 films?

Anonymous said...

I agree that William Wyler tends to get overlooked in lists like this, but I don't think it's because he lacks a signature style. He shot Little Foxes in deep focus and used expressionist camera angles and lighting effects before Citizen Kane came out. When I watch Little Foxes or The Heiress, I notice that everything in the production is impeccable--the acting, the score, the lighting, the script. Maybe people find his elegance boring.

Anonymous said...

Here are eleven films that I think were overlooked:

The Seventh Victim
Even Dwarfs Started Small
The Draughtsman's Contract
Thieves Like Us
Love Me or Leave Me
The Testament of Doctor Mabuse
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Odds Against Tomorrow
The Ladykillers (1955)

Anonymous said...

Hi Charles,

LOTR is on the top 1000. Also, if you check the Excel spreadsheet, aprox. 230 films listed from the top 1000 are from 1980 are higher, making later films represent the top 25%.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think Billy Wilder is underrepresented on this list, but I'll always think that about any list probably. I am glad to see The Apartment just outside the top 50. But Ace in the Hole is one of Wilder's finest achievements, and it's more than 500 places back from his other greatest works. And where's The Lost Weekend? Where's Stalag 17? Where's Sabrina? Where's Witness for the Prosecution?

I can't really pretend to have seen enough movies to fully judge this list, but I would've thought at least some of those movies would be among the 1000 greatest.

But, this list is definitely helpful for recommendations. I've already added about 10 movies to my blockbuster queue just from this post and the comments on it.

Anonymous said...

christine, i know fellowship is there I meant the whole trilogy. Also, I know the films after the 1980's are there what I was complaining about was their placement. The majority of them are thrown towards the bottom of the list as if they cant be compared to the other films.

John T said...

TGIII seems to be the biggest shock for me, but I'm going to need days to sort through this list.

The thing about EW is that, once upon a time, they did make a great list of the 100 Greatest Movies-nowadays, they wouldn't be caught dead shoving Wings of Desire or Celine and Julie Go Boating on a list of the 100 Greatest (not when you can put Tropic Thunder on instead).

Oh, and Nat-the limit of movies on the Netflix queue is 500.

Anonymous said...

If anyone's stil reading this post - here are a few more that I'm surprised didn't make the list:

Quiz Show
Broadcast News
Boyz N The Hood
Cool Hand Luke
Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Anonymous said...

Yes, if anyone is still reading this thread, Boyz in the Hood def. should be on here.
Charles, as someone mentioned upthread, the way the voting goes tends to privilege older films, but if you look at the PDF file about ways they tally voting, and you're in favor of post 1980 films, there is a lot to be hopeful for. For example, 0% of established critics ranked Die-Hard (or Eraserhead for that mater) on their top lists, but something like 50% of emerging or new critics did. Looking at the ranking in general across generations of critics, you notice a greater appreciation of newer movies.

Eric Arvin said...

The Passion of Joan of Arc was one of the most jaw-dropping film experiences I've ever had. I have the Criterion Collection edition.


I'm all for new generations of film critics but I do worry. About. The modern tendency to assume old means disposable. There's dangers in limited thinking in both directions of course

Scene-Stealers said...

Have seen all the movies on the top portion of that list except the two you said I should rent're in my Netlflix queue! I totally agree about the last quarter century bias in these lists. This one has a lot more for me to add. (But "Fargo" should be way higher.)

DTownz Finest said...

I have yet to look through the list because I have to do one thing first. I must heap praise and thanks upon you for presenting the list to me. I will have many hours of fun with this. This is a nice site you have here, by the way. I'm curious to see which Spike Lee film they have in their list, and which ones you think they should have added. I'm not a big fan of his. As a film major myself, I too have to admit, shamefully, that there are a couple films in their top 20 that I have not seen. I know, I know. Shame on me. Thanks for the list though, and your blog is definitely a good read.

Proman said...

Absolutely worthless? Where's Spielberg?

And 14? FOURTEEN MOVIES by Goddard. Pretentious load of crap.

Pete said...

What a moronic intro. Spielberg deserves to be the most repsented director and there is a reason why he ussually and rightfully is. I could fill the first 100 with his films alone.

There's nothing wrong with acknowledging a genius when he deserves it. Goddard and the rest on the other hand, with over a dozen entries is a joke.

Ford may have the most directing Oscars for now, but none of his winning works ever been nominated for a DGA award. The director's guild records for most wins and nominations rightfully belong to Spielberg.