Search This Blog

Thursday, October 12, 2017

'Best Film' lists Crowd-Sourced

Few topics will excite more heated conversations among movie enthusiasts than lists of the best movies by genre, by decade, of all time, etc, etc.  They fascinate us, provide endless debating opportunities, and repel us when we find much to disagree with in any given list. Some film lovers are repelled philosophically by the idea that someone, or some group, can define the 'best' films for everyone to blindly follow.

Prompted by my enjoyment of the podcast Flixwise, which uses the Sight and Sound Critics' Poll of the Greatest 250 films of all time as its inspiration, I posed a question to the New Yorker Movie Club on Facebook.  This club is a great source of movie banter and analysis from cinephiles all over the world, hosted by film critic Richard Brody.  Anyway, here is exactly what I posted:
Lists, lists, lists! I wonder whether people have a favorite or 'go to' list of best films. There are SO MANY out there, and I know it's very subjective, but...I think there can be some value in lists like this...if they are compiled well. I listen to a good podcast related to films on the latest Sight and Sound poll.
Anyway, please share what lists you particularly value. If none, that's fine too.
I summarize here the answers I received, with quotes from those offering them, and then my own comments when inspired.  This post does not endorse any of these lists or suggest anything by the order of which they are presented, which is roughly in order of their posting.

Credit:  New Yorker Movie Club Facebook page
Sight and Sound -- In this British Film Institute publication, ~1000 critics are asked, once per decade, to cite their top films from any decade and any country. The rankings are made by counting the number of times a film was cited.  The most recent list is from 2012.

Top Film:  Vertigo (A. Hitchcock, 1958)
Howard M. wrote:  "I mostly don't like lists, but Sight and Sound is amazingly on target." Peter H. wrote: "For erudite snobbishry, Sight and Sound 250."
Russell C. wrote: "I agree that the S&S list of top 250 films is an excellent resource, and I say that having used it in the last three or four years to watch all but two of the films on it."
Richard Brody's List (New Yorker) -- Top 10 films of all time.  This was Mr. Brody's submission in 2012 to the Sight and Sound Poll (above).  Note:  Vertigo was NOT on Mr. Brody's list, but Hitchcock's Marnie (1964) was.  King Lear (1987) by Jean-Luc Godard was the first in his list.

Peter H. wrote: "For eclectic taste with accompanying thoughtful analysis and overall enthusiasm for many artists, Richard Brody's. He's the literal antithesis of a curmudgeon. His hopeful attitude is infectious."

American Film Institute top 100 American Films of all time. This list was derived from "over 1500 film people" and most recently updated in 2007.  They also have many other categories (genres, for example) for film rankings.

Top Film:  Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941).  Vertigo was #9.

Arts & Faith Top 100 Films.  This was a new list to me, and is reflects the tastes of those seeing 'faith' as an important lens through which to evaluate film.  The latest one is from 2011.  It comes from the publication Image, whose mission is to "demonstrate the continued vitality and diversity of contemporary art and literature that engage with the religious traditions of Western culture."  Their number one is Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc from 1928.  I wrote about my experience watching this on the big screen with live orchestra here.

Slant Magazine's Ed Gonzalez's list of top ten films by year.  This is, by definition, a living list, but one I found to be incredibly fascinating to look over.  Mr. Gonzalez includes also a list of 'honorable mentions' per decade, as well as a list of films he hasn't yet seen, which might deserve a spot on his list.  Too many good ones to list here.  A shout-out for one of my faves, Renoir's The Rules of the Game, coming in at #1 in a year that is known for being among Hollywood's best, 1939.

Sachin D. wrote:  "You won’t find anything more comprehensive than Ed Gonzalez’s year-by-year top 10s."

Film Comment magazine best films by year and decade polls.  This is an ongoing year-by-year and decade-by-decade compilation of internationally sourced film critics and those working in the industry.  The sponsor is the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York.  This poll has only happened so far for the 1990s and 2000s, but Film Comment has published ALL individual nominations with attributions. The film coming at the top for the 2000s was:  Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001).  I can't find their final ranking of the films from the 1990s.
Naomi Watts (left) and Laura Herring in MULHOLLAND DRIVE
Herman C. wrote: "Every year, I check in with the Film Comment 20 Best Films of the Year List. Then I make every effort to see as many of the films as I can -- however long that might take me."

BBC Top 100 Films of the 21st Century.  This one is obviously limited in scope, but for those who prefer recent film, check it out.  The BBC polled 62 critics from around the world, and the top film in this list was, as above, Mulholland Drive.  Editorial comment:  I loved Mulholland Drive, but it is not an easy watch, typical of auteur David Lynch.  Also of note:  Richard Linklater's 2014 film Boyhood was #4, while the Oscar winner that year, Iñárritu's Birdman, didn't even crack the list. (I liked both of those two films, for what it's worth).

Kate B wrote:  "The recent (BBC) critics list of top films of the 21st century was pretty cool and interesting in terms of what films people feel have cultural staying power."

Empire Online 100 Best Films of World Cinema:  This is useful for those looking for films NOT in English! No details provided as to how this list was determined, though, or who specifically contributed. Their top film:  Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954).  I am ashamed to admit I haven't yet seen this one.  Having heard great things about it, and enjoying Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) recently, I will watch soon!
Akira Kurosawa, from
Total Film Magazine's list of Top 100 Films of All Time.  I'm not familiar at all with this apparently British publication, but one of the Club members mentioned it.  It's interesting that a film from 1990, Scorcese's Goodfellas, is at the top here, with Vertigo second.

Some chose to dismiss lists:
Nicolas J wrote, "I can't stand lists. I embrace life's flux." 
Judy G. wrote,  "None, because (as you pointed out) lists are subjective."

Some film enthusiasts took the opportunity to share other useful compilations that aren't ranked lists, per se.  They are:
One could get lost in any of these lists.  Thoughts?  Feel free to share them as well as any of your 'go to' lists in the Comments!