>my own film challenge

>Film lists are inherently (maybe by design intentionally so) controversial. Who can really rank aesthetic objects? Well… I think there is more to doing good criticism than mere opinion, and therefore maybe it is possible to legitimately rank films, up to a point. Regardless, I find lists to be like suggestions for viewing – even so-called film cannons. The better the list the more closely the viewing suggestions are to the ideal list of “the best films.” If I go to a well-round film scholar/historian/critic and ask the question: “If I wanted to teach myself the history of film, what are the best 100 films I should see so that I may begin my quest?” I would then expect that scholar/historian/critic to produce a rather good list that approximates that ideal “best” films of all time list. But of course the list would still be highly debatable and, if honest, constantly being revised. The question could also be for the best films of the decade, or from Hong Kong, or Film Noir, etc.

This post, however, is not about cannons but about making a concerted effort on my part to see more great films. So I took a look at the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?’s top 100 films list to see what I have missed. I don’t think the list adequately answers the question I posed above, but it is a good list. I’ve put their list below and highlighted the ones I have either not seen or have not fully finished and should. My goal is to work my way through these remaining films and write about them in some fashion. I don’t expect to say anything new or profound, but I do hope to grow in my understanding and convey something of that understanding. Fortunately the number of films I haven’t seen from the list are only 14, so I’ll still be able to work on other things (like grad school and my thesis!).

So, here’s the list:

1 Citizen Kane (Welles, Orson; 1941; US)
2 Rules of the Game, The/La Regle du jeu (Renoir, Jean; 1939; France)
3 Vertigo (Hitchcock, Alfred; 1958; US)
4 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, Stanley; 1968; UK)
5 8½ (Fellini, Federico; 1963; Italy)
6 Seven Samurai, The (Kurosawa, Akira; 1954; Japan)
7 Godfather, The (Coppola, Francis; 1972; US)
8 Tokyo Story/Tokyo monogatari (Ozu, Yasujiro; 1953; Japan)
9 Searchers, The (Ford, John; 1956; US)
10 Singin’ in the Rain (Donen, Stanley/Gene Kelly; 1952; US)
11 Sunrise (Murnau, F.W.; 1927; US)
12 Battleship Potemkin/Potemkin (Eisenstein, Sergei; 1925; Russia)
13 Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, David; 1962; UK)
14 Passion of Joan of Arc, The (Dreyer, Carl; 1928; France)
15 Rashomon (Kurosawa, Akira; 1950; Japan)
16 L’Atalante (Vigo, Jean; 1934; France)
17 Bicycle Thieves/The Bicycle Thief (De Sica, Vittorio; 1948; Italy)
18 Godfather Part II, The (Coppola, Francis; 1974; US)
19 Raging Bull (Scorsese, Martin; 1980; US)
20 Third Man, The (Reed, Carol; 1949; UK)
21 City Lights (Chaplin, Charles; 1931; US)
22 Touch of Evil (Welles, Orson; 1958; US)
23 La Dolce Vita (Fellini, Federico; 1960; Italy)
24 Les Enfants du Paradis/Children of Paradise (Carne, Marcel; 1945; France)
25 Casablanca (Curtiz, Michael; 1942; US)
26 La Grande Illusion/Grand Illusion (Renoir, Jean; 1937; France)
27 General, The [1926] (Keaton, Buster/Clyde Bruckman; 1926; US)
28 Sunset Blvd. (Wilder, Billy; 1950; US)
29 Psycho [1960] (Hitchcock, Alfred; 1960; US)
30 Breathless/A Bout de Souffle (Godard, Jean-Luc; 1959; France)
31 L’Avventura (Antonioni, Michelangelo; 1960; Italy-France)
32 Some Like it Hot (Wilder, Billy; 1959; US)
33 Jules et Jim (Truffaut, Francois; 1961; France)
34 Persona (Bergman, Ingmar; 1966; Sweden)
35 Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick, Stanley; 1964; UK)
36 Seventh Seal, The (Bergman, Ingmar; 1957; Sweden)
37 Gold Rush, The (Chaplin, Charles; 1925; US)
38 Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky, Andrei; 1966; Russia)
39 Taxi Driver (Scorsese, Martin; 1976; US)
40 Chinatown (Polanski, Roman; 1974; US)
41 Ordet (Dreyer, Carl; 1955; Denmark)
42 Pather Panchali (Ray, Satyajit; 1955; India)

43 It’s a Wonderful Life (Capra, Frank; 1946; US)
44 Apocalypse Now (Coppola, Francis; 1979; US)
45 Rear Window (Hitchcock, Alfred; 1954; US)
46 Intolerance (Griffith, D.W.; 1916; US)
47 Ugetsu Monogatari/Ugetsu (Mizoguchi, Kenji; 1953; Japan)
48 400 Blows, The/Les Quatre Cents Coups (Truffaut, Francois; 1959; France)
49 Contempt/Le Mepris (Godard, Jean-Luc; 1963; France-Italy)
50 Au Hasard, Balthazar/Balthazar (Bresson, Robert; 1966; France)
51 Magnificent Ambersons, The (Welles, Orson; 1942; US)
52 Night of the Hunter, The (Laughton, Charles; 1955; US)
53 M (Lang, Fritz; 1931; Germany)
54 Wild Strawberries/Smultronsället (Bergman, Ingmar; 1957; Sweden)
55 Wild Bunch, The (Peckinpah, Sam; 1969; US)
56 Modern Times (Chaplin, Charles; 1936; US)
57 Wizard of Oz, The (Fleming, Victor; 1939; US)
58 Conformist, The (Bertolucci, Bernardo; 1969; Italy-France-Germany)
59 La Strada (Fellini, Federico; 1954; Italy)
60 Mirror, The/Zerkalo (Tarkovsky, Andrei; 1976; Russia)
61 Nashville (Altman, Robert; 1975; US)
62 Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, Ingmar; 1982; Sweden)

63 North by Northwest (Hitchcock, Alfred; 1959; US)
64 Greed (von Stroheim, Erich; 1924; US)
65 Metropolis (Lang, Fritz; 1926; Germany)
66 Blade Runner (Scott, Ridley; 1982; US)
67 Rio Bravo (Hawks, Howard; 1959; US)
68 Earrings of Madame de…/Madame de… (Ophuls, Max; 1953; France-Italy)
69 Sherlock, Jr. (Keaton, Buster; 1924; US)
70 Pickpocket (Bresson, Robert; 1959; France)
71 Playtime (Tati, Jacques; 1967; France)
72 L’Age d’Or (Bunuel, Luis; 1930; France)
73 Ikiru/To Live/Doomed/Living (Kurosawa, Akira; 1952; Japan)
74 All About Eve (Mankiewicz, Joseph L.; 1950; US)
75 Voyage in Italy/Viaggio in Italia/Journey to Italy (Rossellini, Roberto; 1953; Italy)
76 Apartment, The (Wilder, Billy; 1960; US)
77 Viridiana (Bunuel, Luis; 1961; Spain)
78 Aguirre: The Wrath of God (Herzog, Werner; 1972; Germany)
79 Barry Lyndon (Kubrick, Stanley; 1975; UK)
80 On the Waterfront (Kazan, Elia; 1954; US)
81 Pierrot le fou (Godard, Jean-Luc; 1965; France-Italy)
82 Man with a Movie Camera, The (Vertov, Dziga; 1929; USSR)
83 Blue Velvet (Lynch, David; 1986; US)
84 Nosferatu (Murnau, F.W.; 1922; Germany)
85 Leopard, The (Visconti, Luchino; 1963; Italy)
86 Notorious (Hitchcock, Alfred; 1946; US)
87 Once Upon a Time in the West (Leone, Sergio; 1968; Italy-US)
88 Gone with the Wind (Fleming, Victor; 1939; US)
89 Sansho the Bailiff/Sansho Dayu (Mizoguchi, Kenji; 1954; Japan)
90 His Girl Friday (Hawks, Howard; 1940; US)
91 Last Year at Marienbad (Resnais, Alain; 1961; France-Italy)
92 My Darling Clementine (Ford, John; 1946; US)
93 Clockwork Orange, A (Kubrick, Stanley; 1971; UK)
94 Dekalog/Decalogue (Kieslowski, Krszystof; 1988; Poland)
95 Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, Max; 1948; US)
96 King Kong [1933] (Cooper, Merian C./Ernest B. Schoedsack; 1933; US)
97 Amarcord (Fellini, Federico; 1973; Italy)
98 Duck Soup (McCarey, Leo; 1933; US)
99 Stagecoach (Ford, John; 1939; US)
100 Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (Ford, John; 1962; US)

One last thing: working through a list like this reminds me a book I’ve been wanting to read – Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. In other words, I would love to take this list, or any other similar list, and concertedly work my way through, maybe from the back to the front. Two a week would only take a year. What a year. I know you understand.

15 thoughts on “>my own film challenge

  1. >Dang. I’ve only seen 50 out of that 100. That means I’ve got a ways to go yet. Amazingly enough, though, there is actually a film on that list I have seen that you haven’t (Sherlock Jr.). Wow.I’m also a little surprised that Schindler’s List isn’t on there anywhere.. or any Spielberg film for that matter. Oh well.

  2. >Damian, 50 is not bad. In fact it is quite good. Of course there are many truely great films not on this list and I know you’ve seen a lot of those too.As for Spielberg, well I’ve heard he’s not any good. (wink, wink)Actually, he is on the coresponding greatest director’s list here. As for Schindler’s List, it does come in at # 202 in the top 1,000 films list. When I look at the list I see a number of films in the top 200 that are debatable in terms of their position and I think Schindler’s List could easily move up quite a few notches. Why Spielberg is rated at #34 on the greatest director’s list and he has no films listed in the top 100 is a bit strange to me. I think Spielberg will gradually rise in the rankings as time goes by – as he has already.Then again, we are talking about film lists, and you just can’t get away from controversy with film lists. Actually, I’m not really talking about film lists, other than to finish off viewing what I haven’t seen from this top 100 films list.

  3. >I’ve noticed that when it comes to counting the number of films I’ve seen on these “100 greatest movie” lists, I usually tend to hover around the halfway mark… except, of course, for the AFI lists where I tend to do much better (I think I’ve seen like 78 of their 100 greatest films) because my knowledge of American cinema outweighs my knowledge of international cinema. I’ve also noticed that the longer the lists gets the fewer movies I’ve seen. I just checked out a book from the library called 1,001 Movies You Must See Before you Die and I’ve seen almost exactly a third (336). Like you, I’m working my way through these various lists, but it does take time and there are actually other things to be doing in life (reading, writing, theatre, etc). So, I like to pace myself and not just “gorge” on movies. You and I had a conversation once about part of our modern identity being that we are “consumers” and I don’t want tp get to a point where I am watching so many movies that I am just “consuming” them (whether they be great films or not) without taking time to really enjoy them, let them digest, reflect on them, etc. At any rate, I do take some comfort in the fact that at age 30, I am probably a 1/3 of the way through my life, so I’m about on track with catching all the films that I need to see before I die.As far as Spielberg goes, you already know my opinion so I’m gonna try not to “beat a dead horse.” Except to say that since time is the best indicator of a great film (and since the newest film on that list is 1986’s Blue Velvet) a lot of his films may just be too “new” to be considered truly great (including Schindler’s List which came out in ’93). I’m sure you’re right in that as time goes on, the standing of him and his films will improve.This is not something I like to think about very often but you do realize that when Spielberg eventually dies, he is going to be hailed as one of the great American filmmakers of all time, a true cinematic genius. It will be all over the news and there will be countless tributes to him. I think it’s very unfair sometimes that an artist is not fully appreciated in his lifetime, that something has to be taken away before people realize what they had. Better that we value it while it was still around I think.

  4. >I’ve been on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? “Great” Movies diet for about a month myself now. In that time I’ve seen about 25-30 films from this list for the first time.Judging a list like this is tricky: take Damian’s comments about Schindler’s List, for instance. His comments must necessarily be based on the idea that Schindler’s List surely must belong in the Top 100, not that it does belong there. That criticism, like most criticism or praise one could throw at a list that primarily consists of films one hasn’t seen, is rather soft.One thing I can say, though, is that I haven’t yet seen a film that cleary (to me) doesn’t seem to belong on this list or that I regret taking the time to see. I’ve seen quite a few films that have, or nearly have, “blown my mind.” Just last night, in fact, I watched King Vidor’s The Crowd and it has pretty much entirely reshaped my ideas about Vidor, Hollywood film in the 20s, Neo-Realism, representation of the working class in American cinema, and a handful of other topics.And based on that I will recommend the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They? diet to one and all and I will say, huzzah! sir, for trying it yourself.Two more thoughts: 1) Two on your list of unseens are my next two up: I’m watching L’Age d’Or tonight and Voyage in Italy tomorrow!2a) Well, this is actually just a link: “What every film critic must know” by Ronald Bergan2b) So, okay, here’s a real second thought: I have every intention of seeing all 1,000 films on this list before I turn 30.

  5. >Judging a list like this is tricky: take Damian’s comments about Schindler’s List, for instance. His comments must necessarily be based on the idea that Schindler’s List surely must belong in the Top 100, not that it does belong there.Could you maybe elaborate on the distinction between those two sentiments further, Andy? I’m not sure I understand the difference.I have every intention of seeing all 1,000 films on this list before I turn 30.Wow. Good luck with that. 🙂

  6. >Well, I mean simply that you can’t say Schindler’s List should be in that top 100 unless you’ve seen all of the films between 101 and 100. Provided that there are 99 movies in that 899 that you haven’t seen, it’s entirely plausible that there are 100 movies there that you’ll prefer to Schindler’s List. You are necessarily in a position where you simply imagine that Schindler’s List “must surely” belong in the top 100. There’s something to be said for that, of course, but I don’t think I’m amiss if I call that a “soft” argument.Re: 1000 films–I’ve got less than 400 to go, and five years to see ’em!

  7. >Andy, I am part way through Viridania, but got sidetracked into Children of Men. So far Viridania is brilliant. Unfortunately I have a bad tendency to break up my film viewings into chunks. And as for seeing all 1,000 films by 30yrs, I think that is a good idea, especially if you see a number of them several times as well. That is a great film education. One thing, however, is that the list might be weighted to certain genres and time periods more so than would a good general and open minded film history. So I would persoanlly always seek to supplement the list as much as possible.

  8. >Well, I mean simply that you can’t say Schindler’s List should be in that top 100 unless you’ve seen all of the films between 101 and 100.Just to clear up any confusion, do you mean between “101 and 1,000?”Provided that there are 99 movies in that 899 that you haven’t seen, it’s entirely plausible that there are 100 movies there that you’ll prefer to Schindler’s List. You are necessarily in a position where you simply imagine that Schindler’s List “must surely” belong in the top 100. There’s something to be said for that, of course, but I don’t think I’m amiss if I call that a “soft” argument.Okay. I think I understand now. So, unless a person has seen every single one of the 1,000 movies on the list than one is not really in a position to say what does or doesn’t belong in the top 100, correct? If so, then I see your point and it’s precisely why I always try to refrain from ever referring to a movie as “one of the greatest films ever made,” because I feel that unless I actually have seen every film ever made (which, of course, nobody has) I’m not “qualified” to make such a statment.But just to play devil’s advocate here, I’m wondering why we would constrain such a criteria only to what is or isn’t on the list? Even if I were to see all of the 1,000 movies on the list, there are an awful lot more movies in existence that I haven’t seen which may deserve to be on the list more than any number of the ones already on it? How do I know the person(s) making the list has seen all of those films as well and is taking them into account? In this case, isn’t anyone who makes an argument as to what belongs in a top 100 by necessity making a “soft” argument? Is there any such thing as a “hard” argument with regard to this task and if not, doesn’t the very concept of soft/hard lose its meaning?I guess by the mere act of making a list a person is automatically opening themselves and their cirteria open to criticism. While there are films on the top 100 (and certainly in the 1,000) that I haven’t seen, there are also films in the top 100 that I have seen and which I feel are inferior to Schindler’s List and, in my mind, that alone calls the list into question… but then, of course, no list is ever going to completely satisfy me oustide of my own list (which I may make someday… when I’ve seen more films naturally).I’ve got less than 400 to go, and five years to see ’em!Well, you’re already ahead of yours truly… and you’re 5 years my junior too. Shame on me! 😉

  9. >I did mean 1,000 and I agree with pretty much every point you’ve made as “devil’s advocate”: I could have made any one of them myself. “Soft” and “hard” aren’t very good words for the task I’ve appointed them here, but just for the sake of wrapping up I’d say that there’s a spectrum of soft-hard, and that the bulk of all arguments about “the greatest” film(s) will trend towards the soft end.Supplementing the list: Yeah, I’m allowing five years for this project so that these films add up to only 1/4-1/3 of total films I see during this period…

  10. >huh.there are 43 films on this list i am certain i haven’t seen, 2 unsure…but many are in my queuei keep pushing back the dekalog for mysterious reasons; amarcord, too. sometimes i think that i just won’t like them…films like Night of the Hunter intrigue me in such a way that i tend to put those off, too. it’s a very strange thing, can’t really describe it. it’s like i’m afraid to watch them.but i think i should get around to Sansho Dayu since i liked Ugetsu so very much. i think a lot of mizoguchi.(one more hurrah for les enfants du paradis)

  11. >one more thing (having attempted this once myself, and still clinging to the half-hearted hope that i will finish the master list) about tackling a list like this:(this is assuming you plan to write about each one)you will find yourself uninspired from time to time. the film just didn’t move you enough to write about it. maybe you’re not even sure why it’s on the list, except for the potential of raising it from obscurity.and two a week is easy with modern film. but try on a bresson and a tarkovsky one week and a truffaut and a serious kurosawa the next. taxing. mind-boggling. oh, it’s wonderful, but at some point you feel drained.but perhaps you just meant to watch.

  12. >Johanna,I completely understand what you mean about continually “pushing back” on certain films – films that you know you will watch someday, but for some reason don’t get around to for a long time. I do that all the time.And yes, my goal is to write about each film, but truth is, I may just put out a little blurb rather than a full review. And, in fact, I don’t really write full reviews anyway. So far my writings have been mostly just personal responses/reactions, sometimes finding little connections to other things, etc.I also want to watch the entire master list as well, but I didn’t have the time to go through it and write down all the films I haven’t seen for this posting. But I will do it, I’m sure I will, someday.

  13. >go for it.here’s a guy who started about the same time I did, with the same basic concept in mind. i didn’t stumble across his site until last week, go figuremeanwhile, this was the master list we were using. we got a little fartherjust a couple points of reference.

  14. >Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, i like the way you present things, keep up the good work, will be back. Expect more from you…Warm RegardsBiby Cletus :-You might enjoy reading this blog :- Ikiru Movie Review

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