the tops…

I do not like top ten lists at all, not one bit, but I do love them because they’re candy. I have avoided jumping into the ever present top-ten-film-list milieu because, I say, I just don’t see the point. Fact is, I really want to, but can’t make up my mind.

I also cannot rank films – I mean, it’s like choosing between steak and lobster, how can I pick a favorite? So what I have is a top 25 “pool” of films that seem to constantly swirl around my consciousness, that I find myself returning to over and over, and that send me into the closest thing to a religiously ecstatic experience I can find. This pool is also fed by underground springs and winding tributaries, and it empties into larger and larger pools until it connects with a vast ocean where all the films swim. Huh?

my top 25 favorite films (in alphabetical order):
Andrei Rublev (1966)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Au hasard Balthazar (1966)
BDR Trilogy (The Marriage of Maria Braun, 1979; Lola, 1981; Veronika Voss, 1982)
Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932)
Breathless (1960)
Hiroshima mon amour (1959)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
L’avventura (1960)
Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Rashomon (1950)
Rules of the Game (1939)

Singing in the Rain (1952)
Stalker (1979)
Street of Crocodiles (1986)

The American Friend (1977)
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
The Blue Angel (1930)
The Godfather II (1974)
The Last Laugh (1924)
The Searchers (1956)
The World of Apu (1959)
Vertigo (1958)
Wings of Desire (1987)

25 films is really not a lot. If I had the inclination I could come up with a lot more, but to what end? At some point all cinephiles end up mentioning most of the same films over an over, and then throw in a few odd ones as if to say “I’m also a unique cine-hipster.” The truth is, great films are objectively great on some level. To recognize those films is to be human and, in some instances, thoughtful and observant too. So the above list isn’t really all that insightful. Consider it a kind of common ground.

But I can’t just stop there, for movies are like potato chips, and I gots the cravings…

My 25 favorite “makes-me-want-to-be-a-filmmaker” films that are not in my top 25 (in alphabetical order):
A Man Escaped (1956)

Alice in the Cities (1974)

Ashes and Diamonds (1958)
Catch-22 (1970)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Diamonds in the Night (1964)

Dog Star Man (1960s)
Goodfellas (1990)
Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)

Jaws (1975)
La Strada (1954)
La Terra trema (1948)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Life of Oharu (1962)
Mirror (1975)

Orpheus (1950)
sex, lies, and videotape (1989)
Sunrise (1927)
The 400 Blows (1959)
The Civil War (1990)
The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936)

The Godfather (1972)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Vagabond (1985)

Week End (1967)

“Why stop there,” said the voice in my head, “you know you don’t want to.”

my 25 favorite films “no one” ever lists on their all-time favorite films lists (in alphabetical order):
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
A Room with a View (1986)
Airplane! (1980)

Barcelona (1994)
From Russia with Love (1963)

Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Halloween (1978)
La Belle Noiseuse (1991)

Jean de Florette (1986) & Manon of the Spring (1986)
Meshes in the Afternoon (1943)
Mindwalk (1991)
Monsoon Wedding (2001)
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
My Life as a Dog (1985)

Rear Window (1954)
Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
Stealing Beauty (1996)

Strozyek (1977)
The Boxer and Death (1963)
The Decameron (1971)
The Golden Coach (1953)
The Road Warrior (1981)

Vampyr (1932)
Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)
Window Water Baby Moving (1958)

I have come to the conclusion that top whatever film lists are like tee-shirts and bumper stickers – they have everything to do with telling others about oneself, of staking out some psychic and moral turf and saying “this is who I am… for now.” It’s also like a banker wearing a suit or a professor wearing a sweater with elbow patches; it’s a way for other like minds to say, “ah, you’re one of us!” You can take it or leave it, but when I look at the lists above I see an awful lot of myself up there.

…wait a minute, where are Dr. Strangelove? Umberto D.? The Earrings of Madam d…? Star Wars? Last Tango in Paris? Manhattan? Mulholland Drive? How could I have left them out? And where are Man with the Movie Camera? The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp? The Man Who Skied Down Everest? El Capitan? I just realized I haven’t listed a single film by the Coen brothers! Oh Lord, what have I done?!

I just don’t know where to stop. Or maybe I really don’t know where to begin. I vow in the future I will craft a true top ten list and stand by it… for a while.

7 thoughts on “the tops…

  1. >I’ve seen 9 of your first 25, 11 of your second 25, 10 of your third 25 and 3 of the 11 that you mentioned in your last paragraph. I have GOT to get off my ass.

  2. >ah yes Damian… There are many more movies for you to watch! But don’t forget, my list is in no way definitive. You have your list as well, which is just a valid. For every film I list someone else will point out ten more that I haven’t yet seen. And there are some films on my list not yet on DVD and long out of print on VHS. Plus, you have probably kept up on more recent films much better than I. In other words, my list comes from the very limited number of films that I have seen, and I’ve still so much more to watch.

  3. >For me, it’s 1, 5, 9 & 3. I really haven’t seen a lot of film pre-1990’s, though I’m slowly rectifying that. It is interesting to see other’s lists and compare, as much as it’s interesting to look at someone’s books, CDs or DVDs on their shelves. It does say so much about a person.

  4. >well Paul there’s a lot of great older films, some that are truly remarkable, but there are great films still coming out. It’s good to go back and see the older films, but don’t overwhelm yourself. I think it’s better to get to know a few great films than feel the need to see everything. I tend to be mired more in the past than the present. I guess that’s one thing this list says about me.

  5. >you are brave to tackle/resist making film lists.i have written a canon, which for me means films that create a sort of magic for me rather than films i think are “important.” i have vampyr, halloween, and rear windown listed- somehow a room with a view (which is incredible! i agree) slipped off which i plan to rectify quickly. in all this time i’ve only removed one film in favor but i find so many more to add.

  6. >Shahn, I know I cannot decide which film are the important ones. The ones I would pick would be on the list because I was told they are important. I can only pick the films I like. My hope is that I can at least recognize some of the great films for what they are. There are also so many more films that I could have listed. This list was more or less off the cuff, so it reflects as much a gut reaction as anything else. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. >Tucker, in general I prefer contemporary cinema, though I think it’s good to have a sense of history and how the medium has evolved. This is particularly evident when reading articles and reviews that reference earlier films. I watch little DVD, but I get my regular fix of older films with weekly screenings at Melbourne Cinémathèque. So it’s a gradual thing, programmed outside of my control (which is a good intro, in my opinion).As an aside, some truly amazing films that Melbourne Cinémathèque has screened this year include:- Come and See (Klimov, 1985)- Au hasard, Balthazar (Bresson, 1966)- Eyes Without a Face (Franju, 1959)- Three Colours trilogy (Kieslowski, 1993-4)- Blind Chance (Kieslowski, 1981)- Camera Buff (Kieslowski, 1979)- A Short Film About Love (Kieslowski, 1988)- Beau travail (Denis, 1999)- La belle noiseuse (Rivette, 1991)- The Bellboy (Lewis, 1960)- various Czech New Wave films such as The Ear (Kachyna, 1970), The Cremator (Herz, 1968) and others- Scenes from a Marriage (Bergman, 1973)I’d always liked Kieslowski, but after seeing several of his films over three weeks earlier in the year, decided he was one of my favourite directors. Second favourite, in fact, after David Lynch. One is a stylised social realist, the other a highly stylised surrealist with a bent for horror and mystery.

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