Ebert’s ten greatest films of all time (and my top 13)

Well, movie critic Roger Ebert has spoken: in an essay on his Journal at The Chicago Sun-Times, he’s just compiled a list of his ten greatest films of all time, regardless of era, language, or anything else.  As he says when justifying his choices (do read the piece), “Once any film has ever appeared on my S&S list, I consider it canonized.”

Below are Ebert’s selections; this year he bumped “Dekalog” to keep the list at ten, and made the hideous mistake of replacing it with a film I consider dreadful: “The Tree of Life,” which I reviewed last November and found a pretentious, ponderous, and pointless waste of time.  I cannot reconcile how bad I consider this film with how highly it’s been rated by many critics, including Ebert.  This goes to show (take that, Nick Matzke) that there are no objectively great films. Anyway, here’s Ebert’s list:

Aguirre, Wrath of God (Herzog)
Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
Citizen Kane (Welles)
La Dolce Vita (Fellini)
The General (Keaton)
Raging Bull (Scorsese)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
Tokyo Story (Ozu)
The Tree of Life (Malick)
Vertigo (Hitchcock)

I haven’t seen “2001: A Space Odyssey” (I believe I’m the only living America who can say this), but in general his choices are good ones, although I’m not with him on “Apocalypse Now” (I’d replace it with the Coppola films I give below) or, of course, “The Tree of Life,”

Now I’ve previously published my own list of best movies in June of 2010, deliberately omitting “Citizen Kane”, which is such an obvious choice that I wanted to give other films a chance:

The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich)

The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)

Chinatown (Polanski)

Wings of Desire (Wenders)

Ikiru (Kurosawa)

Tokyo Story (plus Late Spring, Early Spring, and Late Autumn, all directed by Ozu and counted as one)

Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)

Make Way for Tomorrow (McCarey)

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Herzog)

On the Waterfront (Kazan)

The Wizard of Oz (Fleming)

The Godfather Parts 1 and 2 (Coppola, counted as one)

Y Tu Mama Tambien (Cuarón)

And of course I invite readers to submit their own list, or simply one or two choices of “best films,” or to praise or criticize any of the films listed above. But I still think “The Tree of Life” is dfreadful.  n.b.: after endless discussion of this movie with my film-buff nephew, who agrees with Ebert, I’m unlikely to change my mind.


  1. Dodo
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    I’ll consider it a temporary lapse of reason that both y’all have omitted The Great Lebowski from your list.

    • Anaxyrus terrestris
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:44 am | Permalink

      Omitting The Great Lebowski is ok with me, but The Big Lebowski, now that’s a major omission.

      • Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

        Not as big an omission as Fargo…

      • ManOutOfTime
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

        Yes, adding that movie would really tie the list together.

        • elsburymk14
          Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink


  2. Ray Moscow
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    I didn’t much like the 2001 film. The book was much better.

    OK, I didn’t like Citizen Kane, either.

    • ivo
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Agree. The book has made a very lasting impression on my then-young mind. The movie, seen a few years later, not so much.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      When I rented it, I fell asleep at the beginning and when I woke up at the end it was exactly the same thing, so I figured I hadn’t missed much and never bothered to rewind it.

  3. rikkigumbs
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick) is up there for me.

  4. Chris
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:22 am | Permalink

    What is it with Citizen Kane. OK, it’s got moving pictures (just), but we’ve progressed since then. Emporer, clothes etc. And you can’t really appreciate how stupifyingly boring Wings of Desire is unless you’ve seen it in its original German. There, I got to sound pretentious into the bargain!
    I agree about Lebowski. A few more Coens could make it on to the list too ;-).

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:29 am | Permalink

      I think I’d have to bar the Coens from my list as there’d be little room for others.

      • Filippo
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        How about their remake of “True Grit”?

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Let me put it this way… Today you’ll have a lab full of graduate students. They’ll know all about DNA, PCR reactions, cloning, how to induce mutations, etc., etc., etc. and will be able to slice and dice DNA in ways that Darwin couldn’t have imagined even though he knew, somehow, parents had something inside them that passed on some kind of instructions to make offspring.

      That they’re light-years ahead of Darwin doesn’t negate The Origin of Species as a masterful work.

      And so it is with Citizen Kane. It is not celebrated for its CGI or box office success. It is celebrated because it broke the movie mold and gave us the modern film industry and still remains a very good movie, if a bit dated.

      • David Leech
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        Agreed, it’s like not rating Casablanca because it’s ‘full of cliches.’

    • Jeff Sherry
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, the Coen Bro’s don’t make it on the list. Does entertaining equal great film?

  5. Chris Slaby
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    A few months ago we had an Ozu week, where we watched, I think, four of his films (the four that you mentioned). While we generally enjoyed them all (some more than others), our least favorite was Tokyo Story. It’s not that it’s too slow; it just didn’t do it for me. I plan to watch it again at some point, and to read what film critics and historians have to say about the film, but for me, at least right now, it’s just not that great a movie.

  6. SLC
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    Rear Window was a better flic then Vertigo, mainly because Kelly and Ritter were better actors then Novak and Bel Geddes and got a better performance out of Stewart. I have always failed to see the fascination that some critics have for Vertigo.

    • Dermot C
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      I had an epiphanic episode on my first viewing of Vertigo. It was Xmas eve; I was 22 and all alone in the big house I shared with 10 or so other students. Late at night, with a few drinks, I turned on Vertigo and thought, never having heard of it before, that it was one of Hitchcock’s duds.

      Then, as the beer took hold, after an hour or so, I realised how necessary the apparently eventless and extended stalking scenes, shot on alienating and over-heated film, were to the crooked emotional intensity of the second half. What a film, and I saw it alone, at Xmas, blub, blub…

      • SLC
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

        The nice thing about many of Hitchcock’s movies is that they are now available in high definition/BluRay. I recently watched a high definition version of Rear Window in 16/9 aspect ratio and it was positively scintillating. Vertigo, The Birds, Dial M for Murder, North by Northwest, Saboteur and Psycho, among others are now available in HD.

        • Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:38 am | Permalink

          Crap! How did I not even have North by Northwest on my longer list.


  7. Jacob
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Amadeus, though not the stunning achievement of a Citizen Kane, always ranks as one of my favorites. Everything about that film I adore. The rest of my list is pretty conventional: The Godfather, Raging Bull, Lawrence of Arabia, etc.

    I’ll also echo the thoughts of SLC, who posted above, by saying that Rear Window is a better film than Vertigo. Unfortunately, though, there is always something about Hitchcock’s films that prevent them from broaching my list of favorites. In the case of Rear Window, it’s the utterly conventional ending, which I think is a let down in comparison to the claustrophobic, paranoid build up throughout the rest of the movie.

    • Jacob
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:58 am | Permalink

      Oh, another film that occasionally shows up on these lists that I would include for myself is The Third Man. Welles’s performance, despite his lean screen time, almost rivals the one from Citizen Kane.

    • JBlilie
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:09 am | Permalink

      Amadeus, yes.

      • Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        Amadeus is one of those movies that I never tire of watching. Like The Right Stuff and Shawshank Redemption, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Goodfellas. Not saying that that makes them “greatest” list material, but it’s something. Then again I can also watch Stripes, Sixteen Candles, and even Empire Records, ad nauseum.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      I fourth Amadeus, and not just because I’m a musician. Both Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham were excellent as their respective characters.

      PLUS!…that soundtrack includes some of the best performances of those pieces I’ve ever heard. Imogen Cooper, Lucia Popp, Neville Mariner…I’m going have a Mozart-gasm…

      I’ve never heard a better Queen of the Night. Such an accurate (note-wise and rhythm-wise) and dramatic performance.

  8. JBlilie
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Y Tu Mama did nothing for me.
    Agirre was good but not a favorite.

    No objective bests, as you noted.

    Favorites is the way to term it.

    • JBlilie
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      I liked Amores Perros much better. I think Bernal is much better in it.

    • elsburymk14
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      Much agreed. Not sure what people see in that movie. Maybe I wasn’t watching it properly or something? 🙂

  9. Greg G
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    My favorite director is Zhang Yimou, but I only know how to say “thank you” in Chinese so I can only judge the dialogue through the subtitles. Raise the Red Lantern amazed me each time I saw it until I began to understand the allegory. Gong Li is the star of the movie. I’ve never seen an actress who can make you feel an emotion by facial expression, body language, or tone of voice even without the clue of dialogue.

    Raise the Red Lantern also shows Zhang Yimou’s developing the art of color on the screen, which can be seen in Hero and House of the Flying Daggers. I went to see Hero because it was a Jet Li movie but I went back to the theater a couple of more times to watch the use of color in the sets, nature, and the interplay between costumes and nature.

    I tuned into the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics a few minutes late and saw the same use of color in real time, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that Zhang Yimou was the director of the ceremony.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:17 am | Permalink

      Ah. Shi mian mai fu (House of Flying Daggers) was on my longer list.

      Stunning and profoundly sad.


  10. Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    A possible top ten … um 13. (I have a longer list, but even whittling it down to 13 was hard.)

    • 2001: A Space Odyssey
    • The Dark Knight
    • The Italian Job (1969)
    • El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)
    • Léon (The Professional)
    • The Lord of the Rings (considered as one)
    • The Maltese Falcon
    • Metropolis
    • The Name of the Rose
    • The Princess Bride
    • Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai)
    • Tremors
    • Twelve Monkeys

    Not necessarily the “greatest of all time”, but ones I consistently enjoy watching! Not terribly high-brow, I’m afraid…


    • JBlilie
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:34 am | Permalink

      Lord of the Rings, yes.

      Princess Bride? Ooh, we have different tastes in comedy … ;^)

      • Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

        It’s a comedy?


        • Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          I don’t think that word means what you think it means. 😉

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      Oh, no musical!

      • Singin’ In the Rain


      • Dermot C
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        Guys ‘n’ Dolls, surely? I yam thinking Runyon’s the cyat’s pyjamas!

        • Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

          Just not as funny.

          “I gave an exclusive to all the newspapers.” Timeless.


    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      “The Maltese Falcon,” also available in HD.

    • MoarSciencePlz
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Ant, I’ve seen 8 from your list and of those I’m pretty much in whole-hearted agreement. (Except that 2001 could stand to lose about 10 mins. from the stargate sequence.)

      I’ve seen very few from Ebert’s or Jerry’s list, but I gotta say I would place Chaplin’s “City Lights” head and shoulders over “The General” although I do love Buster Keaton.

  11. Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    I cannot reconcile how bad I consider this film with how highly it’s been rated by many critics, including Ebert. This goes to show (take that, Nick Matzke) that there are no objectively great films.

    How so? You could just be incompetent :p

    (I have not seen Tree of Life and so do not have an opinion)

  12. BillyJoe
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    Although I can’t explain exactly why, I was mesmerised watching “The Tree of Life”. I took neither a coffee break nor a piss break. And that says something.

    I think Jerry must have been in a funny mood when he saw it. Either that or he was not prepared to let the movie speak for itself. And he got pissed off when it defiantly refused to fit into his mould.

    • Jean K
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      “The Tree of Life” is a terrible, boring, pretentious, mess. I think people like it not because they’re in the proper mood, but because they think it reflects well on them to like it. There’s no other way I can account for this aberration.

      Anyhow, a best movie list has to include something by Woody Allen and of course Singing in the Rain.

      • Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        Agreed. It was visually stunning. But nowhere near as good as The New World, or Days of Heaven (or Thin Red Line for that matter.)

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

          I still think that “Days of Heaven” is the most beautiful movie ever photographed.

      • David T.
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        I think with Tree of Life it really depends on what you like. I’ve spent a lot of time watching plotless experimental films which focus on visuals. I like the experience of it and the mood it puts me in, I’m kind of high strung and I find it relaxing. For someone like me, Tree of life was pretty good, not perfect or top 10 of all time, but still good.

        After the superior Days of Heaven (easily Malick’s best film IMO), I like Tree of Life slightly more than The New World and far more than A Thin Red Line and Badlands. Everyone has different taste.

      • Jean K
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        I can get into plotless movies. I think what bothered me about this movie is that it tried to pass off shiny, pretty surfaces and slow motion as ultra- ultra- meaningful. There was an appearance of depth, but no reality. That’s irritating to me, as someone who actually cares about the underlying “meaning of life” type issues (I teach a philosophy class on such things).

        • Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          Totally. I like to say that Mallick’s films are like paintings come to life. His ability for capturing the beauty of nature is astounding. Tree of Life was more like a beautiful painting that never really moved.

          Have you seen Waking Life? For eye-candy as a starting point for philosophy discussions, it was much better than Tree Of Life. Though in a much different approach.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        Oh dear, I forgot Annie Hall–Allen’s best by far. A fantastic movie.

        • litchik
          Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

          Adding Persepolis, In the Heat of the Night, and Monster’s Ball

  13. Marella
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    I only watch movies with happy endings, fine so I’m shallow. My favourite movie is “Evolution”. Not very high brow, but appropriate for the blog. 😉

    • S A GOULD
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      “Not very high brow, but appropriate for the blog.” OK, then! I add Constantine, where Keanu Reeves has to battle against God AND Satan, AND there is a CAT (so he can crossover into Hell briefly)in a small but classic scene.

  14. JBlilie
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    Young Einstein
    Sweet Land
    The Sound of Music
    Doctor Zhivago
    Out of Africa
    Tess (Polanski)
    The Deer Hunter
    Godfather trilogy
    Saving Private Ryan (the knife scene — kept me awake all night)
    The Witness
    Seven Samurai
    Cinema Paradiso
    Girl With a Pearl Earring
    Slumdog Millionaire
    All Quiet on the Western Front

    • Woody Tanaka
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      Young Einstein? Oh, I do hope that this is a joke. What an awful, awful, awful piece of crap that was.

      • JBlilie
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

        Your comment summarizes my opinion of Young Frankenstein.

        I cannot abide Mel Brooks.

        Comedy (IMO) requires surprise.

        And, obviously: No accounting for taste. Or: That’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      Young FrankEinstein



    • salon_1928
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      I’m a sucker for Doctor Zhivago…

  15. Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    I am not really anywhere near enough of a film buff to make a list like this, but I do have to comment that 2001 is not the first, second, or even third Kubrick film I would choose. (Full Metal Jacket and The Shining would tie for first, Clockwork Orange would be third, and then I’d probably consider 2001) The problem with it is that what makes for great cinema sometimes trumps what makes for timelessly entertaining cinema, whereas in e.g. The Shining, the two concerns are never in tension: There is never a moment in The Shining where you are like, “Well that was cool, but somebody who is not into film is not really going to appreciate it,” whereas moments like that abound in 2001.

    I somewhat agree with Chris about Citizen Kane, though I would not be nearly so harsh. It’s a truly excellent movie, but I don’t really understand why it’s consistently near the top of the best-ever lists.

    Maybe some of that is the difficulty of judging a movie outside of the time it was made. I found The General dreadfully boring, for example, and couldn’t make it through very much of it. Maybe it was great at the time, but…

    Too many of the other movies on these lists I must confess to not having seen, so that’s all I will say for now.

    • JBlilie
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:31 am | Permalink

      “Maybe it was great at the time, but…”

      This is one of the keys I think.

      And it depends what you want from a film. Is it entertainment or is it a literary/visual art statement.

      • Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:23 am | Permalink

        And it depends what you want from a film. Is it entertainment or is it a literary/visual art statement.

        Agreed, although for my own part, I tend to selfishly seek out stuff that works on both levels, whether it be film or any other genre of art. This is why I like films like The Shining, bands like Radiohead, you get the picture…

  16. Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    I’d put Doctor Strangelove at number 1.

  17. Hempenstein
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    And just where is Casablanca in all of this?

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      How about the African Queen?

  18. drbobdrbob
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    I’m so happy to see that no one has listed The English Patient. Best film winner, my daughter’s favorite … I found it boring and I disliked the characters.

    • Cliff Melick
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink


    • JBlilie
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:30 am | Permalink

      Love it. First movie I ever purchased.

  19. Anthony Paul
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    I think picking “favorite” movies might be a better approach to all this, partly because I’m not sure how you measure “great.” I’ve only seen about half the movies on the two lists, and of those, I like several, dislike a few, and can understand why some, if not most, might be considered “great” by some standard. But there are several movies not on either list that I would rather watch. I’d be willing to watch “Chinatown” this weekend, but I think I could survive without ever seeing “Apocalypse Now” or “2001” again. On the other hand, I’ve never understood the charm of “The Last Picture Show” and I tried to watch it again due to the enthusiasm for it displayed here. It sounded so good I couldn’t recall why I didn’t like it. All the reasons came flooding back after just a few minutes of watching. Maybe I’m not enough of a movie fan.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      The only way that I can assess if a movie is “great” or at least “good” is if I frequently refer to it or quote from it or would feel better for watching it again. Besides Strangelove I have a couple of other movies in this vague category but I’m quite sure that they don’t belong on a public list because they are either too obscure to be of general interest or too riddled with imperfections.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      Whenever I see “greatest,” I just read “favorite,” and things seem to work out.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      I think the attraction of “The Last Picture Show” is in part because it serves as a needed correction for the saccharine nostalgia for the 1950s that is so prevalent. At least my father (who was a teenager then) sees the movie as much better depiction of the times than things like “Happy Days”.

  20. litchik
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    I find it odd that Children of Paradise (Michel Carné) does not come up more often on best films ever lists as it certainly is one of these.
    Also on my top five list is Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang Yimou). It is based on the novella by Su Tong – definitely worth reading any of his work. Lyrical, powerful, shocking – and the movie lives up to this.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      Children of Paradise is indeed one of world cinema’s great treasures and widely available via Criterion, but sadly a 3+ hour epic love triangle set in the 19th-century world of French theater (promoted as the “French Gone with the Wind,” although it’s much, much better than that) is not everyone’s idea of a good time.

  21. Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    The Sight & Sound poll results is one of the great resources for cinephiles, and I recommend checking out lists from your favorite critics and directors.

    As for Rog, he seems to go overboard on his recent favorites; it was once Crash and according to his blog post it’s now Synecdoche, NY and Tree of Life.

    For those not on the Citizen Kane bandwagon yet, I’d actually recommend Ebert’s dense and informative audio commentary. In the never-ending battle of Rear Window versus Vertigo, both are perfect, but V has the added virtue of being bonkers.

    Jerry, your list is more idiosyncratic and thus more interesting to me. To the Ozu love-fest, I would recommend his silent I Was Born, But… and his last film of melancholy grace, An Autumn Afternoon. His entire filmography is like a collection of tributaries flowing into a single, sublime river.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      As for my own actual list, it changes day to day but usually includes some of the following 20:

      Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
      Duck Soup (1933)
      L’Atalante (1934)
      The Rules of the Game (1939)
      His Girl Friday (1941)
      Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
      Tokyo Story (1953)
      Sansho the Bailiff (1954)
      Il Posto (1961)
      A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
      Playtime (1967)
      High School (1968)
      Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
      Life of Brian (1979)
      Tampopo (1985)
      The Fly (1986)
      A Moment of Innocence (1996)
      Rushmore (1998)
      Millennium Actress (2001)
      Primer (2004)

      • MAUCH
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        If one of your movie choices was The Fly you should check out Altered States. It’s weird but fun.

      • Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

        Oh, sweet Brian! How could I have left that out…


  22. Jonathan Smith
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    “ZULU” it was directed by blacklisted American screenwriter Cy Endfield.
    What a great and inspiring film.

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Yet another personnel note. I when to junior high school with the son of blacklisted Hollywood screen writer Paul Jarrico.

      • Dermot C
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        Hasn’t some under-worked nerd reduced the 6 degrees of separation to 4, due to the interweb?

        I knew a man who met Trotsky; that makes WEIT subscribers a 3 (or is it a 4?).

  23. litchik
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    OK, I admit it, I posted before reading other comments. So thrilled to see Raise the Red Lantern mentioned already!

    As for why Citizen Kane consistently makes “greatest films” lists – it has to do with what cinema was before and what it became after because of the film. The story telling, the use of fade outs, deep focus, the use of visual allegory. I do believe it stands alone as a great film, but if you watch what came before and contemporaneously you appreciate better what it means to cinema.

    I think the same is true for authors, -Hemingway comes to mind. Many read Hemingway and cannot understand why he is so revered, because they haven’t slogged through Dreiser and Henry James to get to him. I still think his short stories stand alone as great works but like Welles a bit of context adds more appreciation.

    • Anthony Paul
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      I think a Hemingway short story is real hard to beat.

    • ivo
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been reading avidly since early childhood, and I still remember when I read For Whom the Bell Tolls in Italian translation, when I was 13, as the first time I consciously realized that I had just read a beautiful work of art.

      • JBlilie
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

        +100. For WHom the Bell Tolls is one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. But I think, for most people, you’d need to be an adult to appreciate it (hats off to you for appreciating it as a youth!). Some knowledge of mid-20th century history really helps as well!

  24. Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Ones I remember immediately: Babette’s Feast, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Like Water for Chocolate, A Year in Provence, A Room with a View, Atanarjuat…

    • Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure I have a favourite film, and I’m not sure I’d include Atanarjuat even if I tried to make a list, but I’m glad to see it mentioned. Let me second the recommendation to see it for those who haven’t. However, some of the behaviour may well be incomprehensible to qallunaat without briefing. (I have an Inuit friend, so I’ve learned many things from her.) Things like how Inuit approach punishment, ethics, family and such may be difficult. Nevertheless it is visually stunning and very haunting as a legend goes. And the film makers make almost no concession to us qallunaat either in terms of style, attitude or even length …

  25. Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Y Tu Mama? Srsly?

    I’m going to have to think a little about my own list.

    • Posted May 7, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      Aw heck. I know there will be some I missed. But anyway. 13 is it?

      Castle in the Sky
      City of God
      Priscilla Queen of the Desert
      Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
      Watership Down
      Wonder Boys
      Silence of the Lambs

  26. darrelle
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    I’ll throw out a couple.

    1) Patton: great movie, always seemed “not right” seeing George C. Scott in other roles after that.

    2) Fifth Element: not sure if I am serious about this one, the movie certainly isn’t, but it is pretty great fun. Does that count? I am sure that all involved had a blast making the film.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      The Fifth Element? Also on my longer list. Sumptuous, if flawed. Lost out to Léon as my favourite Luc Besson film.


    • Dave Ricks
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      If you like The Fifth Element, you might enjoy hearing the “Wilhelm screams” by clicking on the links in my comment on this thread.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for enlightening me!

  27. Tim
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:03 am | Permalink


    • CJ
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:37 am | Permalink

      Falling Down

  28. Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink


    Like my lists of the best books or albums these always change. But today’s list is:

    Pulp Fiction
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    Dr Strangelove
    Seven Samurai
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    The Grapes of Wrath

    Worst movie by a country mile: Inception

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      Well, there you go. I liked Inception. A lot.


      • JBlilie
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

        Ant: We agree! Wow. I lived Inception a lot too. Great concept, well executed.

        • JBlilie
          Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

          loved … 😦

          • Posted May 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

            I was going to say… Living Inception would be kind of cool… but scary!


  29. Tim
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    If my enjoyment in watching a movie many times counts for anything, Casablanca, Groundhog Day, and Dr. Strangelove would all make my list.

    • JBlilie
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:37 am | Permalink

      Groundhog Day! Yes! Way underrated. It deasl with the idea seriously as well as humorously. Bravo.

  30. stevehayes13
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    I think ‘Goodfellas’, given its authenticity, seamlessly blended with the artistry of Martin Scorsese is, perhaps, the greatest gangster film of all time. A modern tragedy. I wrote a justification of that judgement, illustrated with clips from the film, at:


  31. CJ
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Yes, “The Big Lebowski” is a serious omission. As is “Contact” and “First Contact”. Two “objectively” great films. I did a study; double blind placebo, the works….

    • DrDroid
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      “double blind”? Does that mean you listened to the movies blindfolded? 😉

      I’m with you on Contact; I was wondering why no one on this science-oriented website had mentioned Carl Sagan’s novel. I think director Robert Zemeckis did a terrific job of telling an exciting story with emotionally involving characters and dramatic plot twists and turns. I’m not going to try and rank it somewhere in a list of all-time great films; I’ll just say that I’ve liked it enough to own the Blu-ray and I’ve watched it more than once.

      While not a great film, I’ve watched the rom-com Crossing Delancey more than once. There are some really funny moments in this film and some great acting (yeah, I know it’s a rom-com, but this one was an exception for me).

      Another movie I liked was The Commitments, about an Irish start-up band in Dublin whose manager envisions them as the “Saviors of Soul”. They are a hot-headed, argumentative bunch who nearly fall apart more than once but do eventually get a gig in an Irish pub, and when they do, look out — the music (Mustang Sally, Chain of Fools, etc) is terrific, the lead singer (13 yrs old at the time of the movie) has a voice that’s totally unexpected, and the 3 girls in the band are sensational (visually as well as sonically). I could say more about the movie but that would spoil the plot for those who might wish to watch it…

  32. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    “Les enfants du paradis” is way above any other film I have seen.

  33. tveb
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    What, no Satyajit Ray (the Apu Trilogy, The Home and the World, Charulata, The Music Room just to name a few brilliant ones)?! Completely agree with Kurosawa’s Ikiru.

  34. Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    I guess I don’t like either your taste or Ebert’s.

    I found “Citizen Kane” to be boring. I would put both “The Trouble with Harry” and “North by Northwest” well ahead of “Vertigo” for my Hitchcock preferences. I only watch “2001” on TV, and it was so boring that I turned it off before it was even half-way through.

    I didn’t like “Chinatown” at all, and I’m not a big fan of “The Wizard of Oz.”

    Apart from being non-objective, I wonder how much of film taste is cultural. I grew up in Australia, where many people liked “The Trouble with Harry”. When I came to the USA, I found that most people had never even heard of it.

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      “The Trouble with Harry,” is also available in 16.9 HD.

      I have to say that it is a revelation seeing old movies like this in HD.

      • SLC
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

        That should be 16/9.

  35. harrison
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    In no particular order:
    Way Out West, Yojimbo, The 400 Blows, The Conversation, Metropolis, Frankenstein (original), Young Frankenstein, The Ladykillers, M, Five Easy Pieces.

  36. Matt G
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    No mention of The Shawshank Redemption? Shame on you all!

    • Gareth Price
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Just about to type exactly that myself!

  37. Acbobl
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    I always get brain freeze when asked about my favorite/best movie list. Probably should get a list of all the movies ever made and take a marker to it just to remember what I’ve seen. But two movies I never have a problem remembering are “Ruby in Paradise” and “Even the Rain” (“Tambien la Lluvia”). “Ruby” is very slow and simple, but I fell in love with the Ruby character – a young woman finding her way in the world with a mind open to what her life presents her. “Rain” is Spanish and layers the stories of a Spanish film crew shooting a film in the Bolivian highlands about Columbus (to save money) with the outbreak of the Cochabamba water wars. The historical contrasts and the multidimentional roles of all the characters are complex and intriguing.
    And then at my peril I also have to mention “Mamma Mia”. I can’t help it! On a cold winter day I have to put it on just to remind myself that it’s warm somewhere and life can be goofy and fun. It’s just so obvious that no one is taking this seriously. I’m sure everyone involved in the film got on the phone with each other and said let’s all go to Greece and have a great vacation hamming it up. The utter delight the actors are having in their outlandishness somehow resets my brain.
    I do agree with Jerry. I thought that “Tree of Life” was dreadful – so pretentious. Too bad because “Days of Heaven” was so fantastic!

  38. Wildhog
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Dangerous Liaisons

  39. TJR
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Looks like my top 10 will be the most low-brow so far:

    Life of Brian
    Holy Grail
    Dr Strangelove
    This is Spinal Tap
    Love and Death
    Mulholland Drive

    Surprised there’s been no Lynch on the list so far. Mulholland drive is worth it for the a capella version of “Crying” in Spanish alone.

    Sorry about having two Cameron films in.

    • DrDroid
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Wasn’t Love and Death the Woody Allen movie where in the future he finds an old VW bug hidden in a cave and it cranks right over when he starts it up? Great sight gag, I still remember it.

      • Pete UK
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

        Sleeper, i reckon

      • SLC
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Woody Allen who I find to be about as funny as AIDS.

        • DrDroid
          Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

          I’m not a Woody Allen fan either, but I did think the VW bit was funny and it has apparently stuck in my memory.

  40. thompjs
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

    Keanu Reeves should have gotten an Oscar for that.

  41. Ray
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Melancholia for Art Movie, Charade (older version) for Romantic Thriller, Pan’s Labyrinth for Fantasy.

    It seems to me that without categories, we’re comparing apples to oranges, or Charles Dickens to Henry James — which is ‘better’.

    Oh, and kudos to you JC, for standing out against ‘Tree of Life’. One word — ‘walkouts’!

  42. Mathew Varidel
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    I agree that The Tree of Life was horrible. Here’s my list:

    2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
    A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick)
    Brazil (Gilliam)
    Memento (Nolan)
    In The Name of the Father (Sheridan)
    Irreversible (Noe)
    Fargo (Coens)
    In Bruges (McDonagh)
    Chinatown (Polanski)
    Annie Hall (Allen)

  43. Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Ebert’s list seems the usual list of “serious” and IMO tedious, films. I will say I like Citizen Kane and Vertigo was okay.

    my favorite movies (aka those I will stop what I’m doing and watch if they’re on) in no particular order?

    Fifth Element
    Die Hard
    Star Wars (unfucked with by Lucas)
    Duck Soup (and pretty much anything by the Marx Brothers)
    High Plains Drifter
    Some Like it Hot
    Heaven and Earth (Japanese samurai epic)

    I want to be entertained and a subtle message or no message at all, not to be preached to.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      Die Hard is on my longer list.

      Agree with Duck Soup for the best Marx Brothers film.

      I’ll have to check out Heaven and Earth.


      • Anthony Paul
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        If “Heaven and Earth” is what I think it is, it’s more historically accurate, e.g., it’s about a series of little wars fought by two Samurai lords. It’s not Yojimbo or Harakiri. If I’m thinking of the right movie, I liked it anyway.

  44. Pray Hard
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Greats lists … Sad thing is that so many of you young pups have not seen many of these films on the big screen. If anything remotely good comes up on such in your town, go see it no matter how big your flattie is. Some times it makes an enormous difference in one’s perception of a film. For starters, my list would include all the films which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film for the past forty years or so and, of course, their runner ups. Try Ballad of Narayama, Woman in the Dunes, the Samurai trilogy (If you want to see good martial arts movies, the Japanese have them hands own. Chinese kung fu movies are fun acrobatics, but little more.) etc., on for size. How about Dersu Uzula also? Then, there’s the Criterion collection. Anything but the formulaic Hollywood garbage prevalent today … Someone mentioned Raise the Red Lantern, damn, don’t see it if you’re already having a bad day. And, while we’re talking about films that will trigger psychotic episodes, try the French film Irreversible.

    • litchik
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      When I first moved to Boston I used to go see films all the time and saw most of the film fest offerings. One Saturday I was spending making bread I got a call from a pollster who wanted to know about my movie viewing habits. I thought why not. First questions: how many movies do you see in a week/month?, how many first run v. second movies… Then she starts asking me about particular movies, none of which I had seen or wanted to see. She was getting quite upset and I was puzzled until I realized not ONE of the movies I had seen was a Hollywood film. I said so and she persisted for another two questions and then ended the call.

      I just don’t see why it is so difficult to understand the concept “a good story well told.” Then what do I expect from an industry that thinks the writer is the least important person involved in the craft?

    • Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      Ah! Dersu Uzala! I’d recommend that. I was astonished (though why in retrospect) to see how Canadian Siberia actually looks. No tigers left here though.

  45. fullyladenswallow
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    1984 (Radford)
    12 Angry Men (Lumet)
    The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont)
    Amadeus (Forman)
    Fargo (Coen)
    Citizen Kane (Welles)
    To Kill A Mockingbird (Mulligan)
    Inherit the Wind (Kramer)
    Becket (Glenville)
    The Third Man (Reed)
    Seize the Day (Cook)

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      12 Angry Men definitely deserves consideration. By the way, it is also available in HD, in which even black and white is scintillating.

      • fullyladenswallow
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll have to look for it in HD. I’m gettin close to wanting a blu-ray player. I really loved the cinematography in that movie. It would be great to see it on the big screen. It’s unfortunate that the original print was destroyed in a fire.

        • SLC
          Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:14 am | Permalink

          I have to confess that I downloaded it from the web from one of the file sharing services. Unfortunately, that option is now severely restricted due to the shutdown of Megaupload and the arrest of its executives. As a consequence, several of the other such services have discontinued file sharing and those that remain are unsuitable for downloading HD movies because of slow downloads or long waiting times between downloads (most films on those services were divided into several files). The only remaining possibility is BTTorrent, which has become much faster as more people are using it with the disappearance of the file sharing services.

      • Lurker111
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 6:47 am | Permalink

        Of course, nowadays the actions by the protagonist in 12 Angry Men would be considered, rightfully so, juror misconduct.

        Just sayin’.

        • SLC
          Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

          How true. In the Scott Peterson case, one of the jurors was kicked off the jury during deliberations for allegedly being obstructive to the other jurors. Translation: like Henry Fonda (or Jack Lemmon in the made for TV remake), he wasn’t buying the prosecutor’s depiction of events.

    • Jacob
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Becket is one of my favorite historical dramas. Though somewhat dated, it’s still remarkably entertaining and very well-written. Unfortunately, very few historical dramas are made like it anymore.

  46. docbill1351
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    My list is short. The one perfect film. Dialog so tight you could not add nor subtract a single word:

    Kill Bill 2

    Groundhog Day is a close second. Am I right or am I right? I’m right … right?

  47. Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Adalen ’31; Battle of Algiers; Tunes of Glory; Paths of Glory; Life Is Sweet; Darling. Et al.

  48. Dominic
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Very hard to give favourites & so variable & personal (mine change), still these might be on my list today –
    Top Hat (or maybe Swing Time)
    The Company of Wolves
    Macbeth (Welles’s original version with Scottish accents)
    Quatermass & the Pit
    Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur)
    Contagion (just seen it & really liked it)
    The Day After Tomorrow (“It’s all going horribly wrong in an implausible way!”)
    The Way to the Stars

    At least that comes to mind now!

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink


      I’ll have to add that; not so sure about Night of the Demon.

      I already had Quatermass and the Pit on my longer list.


    • Janice C
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      The Way to the Stars (1945) is one of my favorites. As far as other war movies I’d add J’Accuse (Abel Gance) & Rome, Open City (Fellini was one of the writers.) As well, I’m still a sucker for CasaBlanca & for personal reasons, Sahara.

      There are too many good movies to choose from, but I like Harvey, 8 1/2, the trippy Juliet of the Spirits, the Third Man, Ozu’s I was Born, But. There are so many others that are worth watching.

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Appears to be also known as “Five Million Years to Earth.” Not a bad Sci Fi flic.

  49. religionenslaves
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    How could Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice not make your lists is totally beyond me!
    Please name any other movie with better cinamatography, acting, and soundtrack (the screenplay is not bad either) and I will eat my hat.

    • religionenslaves
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      “cinEmatography”, duh

  50. Dominic
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Has no one got room for Raise the Titanic?!

  51. Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Take Shelter. See it if you love movies.

  52. MAUCH
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    There is a movie that I always leave off my lists of great movies because it does not appear to have the artistic achievement equal to directors like Kuprick or Kurosawa. Yet the movie has had an emotional lock on my memory that never fades. And the movie is:
    To Kill a Mockingbird!

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      To Kill A Mockingbird is a wonderful movie and one of my favorites. Definitely on my top ten list.

      • Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        Did you notice (given some of the themes on this site) the slight change to one of the lines to make it less controversial or something? Scout says in the book and the movie that Atticus told her that to kill a mockingbird was a sin. In the book, there’s an additional (something to the effect of) she regarded this as unusual since Atticus never called anything else a sin.

  53. David T.
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    I like both lists and I actually like Tree of Life also, but then I like semi-experimental films, still I prefer Days of Heaven from Malik.

    Suspiria (Argento)
    Hail Mary (Godard)
    That Most Important Thing: Love (Zulawski)
    Window Water Baby Moving (Brakhage)
    Successive Slidings of Pleasure (Robbe-Grillet)
    Nostalgia (Tarkovsky)
    Blood for Dracula (Morrissey)
    Images of the World and the Inscription of War (Farocki)
    L’ Intrus (Denis)
    The Double Life of Veronique (Kieslowski)

    • David T.
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

      Is this new?

      • SLC
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        I don’t know if Mr. David T. has commented here before but Prof. Coyne puts all first time commentors in moderation.

        • David T.
          Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

          I’ve commented on many other posts before but perhaps my email address was lost?

          I wondered if I said something offensive in another page, but I couldn’t think of what it was (at least nothing recent).

    • George
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      The problem with “The Double Life of Veronique” is “Dekalog”. As good, as Veronique is, Dekalog is better. But Dekalog has to be seen in its entirety, not as ten individual films. Some good things can come out of religious belief. Kieslowski said “… has retained what he calls a ‘personal and private’ relationship with God.”

      • David T.
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        I think one of my main problems with the Dekalog is that I’ve only seen it in the crummy Kino DVD edition, whereas I’ve seen the wonderful bluray of Veronique.

        Getting back to the actual movies, I think the Dekalog is very good, but it seemed cold and distant (no doubt on purpose), Veronique on the other hand seems something closer to my preference for visuals over story.

  54. Dermot C
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Any votes for Un cœur en hiver? One of the funniest movies in which nothing happens. The set-up; Emmanuelle Béart, one of the most beautiful women on the planet, spends 2 hours of screen time explaining how she wants to be Daniel Auteuil’s lover. In the end, well you can guess – a very long, very slow, very French shaggy dog story.

  55. George
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I would not call “Tree of Life” dreadful – it is much worse than that. I think “Dekalog” belongs on the list – Ebert dropped it because under the new rules it would count as ten films – and take up the entire list. I find it hard to pick just ten films. I think the absence of comedies from these lists makes them irrelevant. “Some Like It Hot” is as close to a perfect movie as I have ever seen. “Ikiru” is also close to perfection.

    • elsburymk14
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Agreed. It is very difficult for me to express how terrible Tree of Life is.

  56. Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I like a lot of films, and some of them have been mentioned. Here are some others that I think are worth watching:

    The big country (starring Gregory Peck)

    FernGully, The Last Rainforest


    Moby Dick

    Anything by Charlie Chaplain

    Once upon a time in the west



    Man without a star

    Lonely are the brave


    It happened one night


    The Pink Panther Strikes Again

    The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein 🙂

    • Hempenstein
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Glad to see Harvey get mentioned. And also re. comedies and since this website is all about cats from time to time, Cat Ballou does not seem to have been mentioned. Great cast, irreverence to religion, and in a great pairing with Stubby Kaye, the last performance of Nat King Cole.

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      “The Big Country,” another oldie available in HD.

  57. JT
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Here’s a few more:

    The Unbearable Lightness of Being
    Jean de Florette
    The Piano Teacher
    Trois Couleurs
    Good Fellas
    The 400 Blows

    • simbol
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      The seventh seal – Bergman

      • exrelayman
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        Bravo! I’ve been waiting for that one. Also by him, just as good: Virgin Spring.

  58. Pete UK
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    The Way to the Stars – toth to Dominic.
    Top Hat – you feel it has to be there somewhere
    The Godfather I and II (as one)
    Aguirre Wrath of God – OK with that
    Raging Bull – OK again but with Scorsese how do you whittle it down to one
    Amadeus – personal fave – can’t leave it out
    Pan’s Labyrinth
    I feel Ingmar Bergman ought to be here somewhere – I’ll go with the Seventh Seal for now
    Metropolis – how far ahead of his time was THAT?
    Dangerous Liaisons – beautifully put together
    and.. oh i give up

    Close runners
    Nosferatu – the original – pretty creep effort
    Lynch – I’ll go for Eraserhead for sheer paranoid weirdness
    MP and the Holy Grail

    Can’t honestly put LOTR in this list, much as I enjoyed it.

    Tinker Tailor – the original – can I count that as a film – pretty please? It is only the greatest fictional thing I have ever seen on TV. Except for the Singing Detective. And I Claudius.

  59. SLC
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    At least what I consider one of the worst movies ever made, “Night of the Hunter,” isn’t on anybody’s list so far. This movie has a cult following which, apparently, has greatly pumped up its rating over at IMBD. Awful, simply dreadful.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Oh yeah, I forgot to include the indisputably great noir fairy tale Night of the Hunter. Thanks for reminding me!

      • SLC
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        Well, it takes all kinds I guess. That’s what makes horse races.

        On a personal note, a million years ago, I got into a pickup touch football game along with one of the actors in the film, Billy Chapin. He was kind of a sad case as his last appearance was in the entertainment world was in 1958 when he was all of 15. Pretty tough when one’s career is over at age 15. As it turns out, both he and his sister, Lauren, whose career in the movies lasted rather longer, were sexually abused by their father, which resulted in years of drugs for them. A very sad story all around.

    • JT
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Nope, the worst movie ever made is a horror film called “Mr. Jingles”. Absolutely terrible. If you can believe it, the camera (camcorder?)is actually out of focus for most of this film, but if you keep watching, you’ll find that that’s just a minor quibble. I’m laughing as I write this, it was that bad.

  60. TJR
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    An interesting thing is that several of the lists above have appended the names of the directors to the names of the films, but none of them have given the names of the writers.

    In the above I only spotted one writer mentioned by name, but many directors and actors.

    Says it all, really.

    (Obviously in some cases the director wrote it too).

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      If it went through any studio system, chances are that many changes happened to the script between final draft and shooting, plus the director, editor, and studio usually have the prerogative to make changes as they see fit. Richard Corliss’s book Talking Picture emphasizes the screenwriter’s role in moviemaking, but otherwise, for quite legitimate and practical reasons, even if the initial idea comes from a screenwriter, he or she could rarely be considered the “author” of a finished film more than the director or performers.

      • Dave Ricks
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        “Actors? Schmucks. Screenwriters? Schmucks with Underwoods.” [Jack Warner]

        “Did you hear about the actress who was so dumb, she slept with a writer?” [Anonymous]

        “Who do I have to fuck to get off this movie?” [Added for context]

  61. Joseph
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Mr. Coyne, I was surprised that you chose “Y Tu Mama Tambien” as one of the best films ever made. When I finished watching it for the first time (some years ago), I was kinda taken aback by its style (But it had a cultish following–a “cult hit” for short). It’s like reading a Henry Miller novel really–but there’s something in it that bothered me. The movie, despite its roguish qualities, is really bathed in sentimentality. And sentimentality, in art, is a crime.

    Episode upon episode, the viewer is bombarded with hints and overtones that sex is superficial, and living life on abandon is great nausea. But of course it is–the director intended it to be–he overloads the film with these episodes (oh, the leif motif!) so that the ideas get stuck in our minds. This is called hard-boiled sentimentality. Do you not smell Buddhistic pessimism in all of these?

    To illustrate my point, I recommend that you watch “Chungking Express” by director Wong Kar-Wai (I hope I get his name correct). Now that’s a film for the person who loves life, a person who is a true “Hellene” :), a person who is not afraid of possibilities because therein lies the sweetness of life.

  62. Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    A few more:

    It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

    Svengali (1931)

    Blade Runner


    Titanic (pretty much any version)

    The day the Earth stood still

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      And Soylent Green

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Blade Runner : The original theatrical version? Or one of the director’s cuts?


      • Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        Any version with babelicious Sean Young in it. 🙂

      • Posted May 5, 2012 at 2:55 am | Permalink

        The difference between the theatrical release and the directors cut taught me how just a few discretionary changes can make the difference between an average film and a masterpiece.

    • Vaal
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Bladerunner, hell yeah!

      Westworld. Thumbs up for mentioning that one. I watched it recently on DVD with my son and it reminded me of just how awesome Yul Brynner was as the sinister robotic gunslinger. I just bought it on Blu-Ray.


    • Cliff Melick
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Finally, someone lists Blade Runner, which I consider to be the finest SciFi flim of all time.

      I might as well nominate The Razor’s Edge (since no one else has), the Bill Murray remake, which not only proved that he could play a serious part, but do it extremely well. The scene with him burning his books to stay warm is one of those moments that reveals a basic truth of life. Great film!

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 12:05 am | Permalink

        I’d enjoyed the original (when I was a teenager and looking into eastern religions before putting them in the same bucket as Xtianity), but found the Bill Murray version hugely tedious – couldn’t see anything original or different in it (would have believed it was a shot-for-shot copy), and Murray went through the motions without even bothering to act.

        He was great in Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day (movies that I have never been able to resist watching to the end) but lamely pretentious in TRE, I thought.

        I could put a list of faves here (including The Fifth Element
        Terminator I&II
        The Third Man
        Life of Brian
        The African Queen
        Twelve Monkeys
        Back to the Future I-III
        Blade Runner (any version)
        Alien + Aliens
        The Pillow Book),
        but haven’t seen most of the arty European and Asian films that have been mentioned.

  63. SLC
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    “Westworld” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” available in HD.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Oh, I’ll definitely add the latter to my longer list.


  64. earlycuyler
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Blazing Saddles–the best western ever!

    • bric
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Best appearance of a baked bean in a moving picture

      • earlycuyler
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        “What did you expect? “Welcome, sonny”? “Make yourself at home”? “Marry my daughter”? You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      Better then “High Noon”? Not hardly.

      Another personnel note, one of the actors in the movie was a man named Bob Wilke, who was the guy that Grace Kelly shot in the back. Wilke was a character actor who usually played heavies and downright mean guys. My dad played golf with him a couple of times and said he was one of the nicest guys one would ever want to meet, totally different from the parts he played.

  65. bric
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    A top 100 might be possible, but the top 10 varies on a daily (even hourly) basis . . . however:
    I can’t imagine a list without Bunuel – Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie would be my choice but The Exterminating Angel and Un Chien Andalou are possibles
    The Life of Oharu (Mizoguchi)feminist classic and Toshiro Mifune
    Some Like it Hot (Billy Wilder) as someone said above, just perfect
    Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Terry Jones) ‘I’m not the Messiah’
    Pillow Book (Peter Greenaway) complex, poetic, sexy, and a wonderful soundtrack
    Rope (Hitchcock) masterly demonstration of pure cinema
    Infernal Affairs (Wai-Kung Lau) hard-boiled policier with a flawless plot and great characters
    Murmur of the Heart (Louis Malle) scandalous fun
    The Passenger (Antonioni) if only for the endless discussions about how the final shot (a tribute to the opening of Touch of Evil) was made
    My Neighbour Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki) for the fabulous cat-bus obviously. But I want my own Totoro

    • bric
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      I have to mention another Studio Ghibli anime, Pom Poko which was recently appallingly badly remade by Hollywood. The climactic scene when the raccoon dogs ‘fly’ by inflating their testicles has to be seen . . .

  66. David Leech
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    In no particular order.

    the Treasure of Sierra Madre, 12 Angry Men, The Life of Brian, Casablanca, Clockwork Orange, Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now, Zulu, Lawrence of Arabia.

    Shame on you all for not mentioning this film, the original one with Spencer Tracy, Inherit the Wind.

    • fullyladenswallow
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      …but…but I did mention Inherit the Wind.

      • Dominic
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 4:32 am | Permalink


  67. Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I’m totally on board with the Tree of Life hate. Good lord, what a load of pretentious horseshit.

  68. Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Vertigo is one of Hitchcock’s worst movies. Jimmy Stewart falling madly in love with a woman he just met makes no sense to me. Aocalypse Now is okay but not ten best. Citizen Kane is boring. 2001 is dated and boring.
    What’s wrong with comedies? Anybody ever see It’s A Mad Mad World?

    • S A GOULD
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      How about Rutherless People? The opening animated titles were clever and inspired.

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Actually, the funniest movie I ever saw was “Network,” a satire that totally eviscerated network television.

      • Dermot C
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        I rather think that Vertigo is not about love, but about obsession, rather like Wuthering Heights. If you’ve ever been stalked, you’ll know it’s very real and frightening because of its inexplicability.

  69. Posted May 4, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Many good films there. But I want to particularly endorse Kurosawa’s Ikiru which is probably my all-time favorite film.

  70. Launcher
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    My list includes “No Country for Old Men”, “Mulholland Drive”, and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – a diverse array, but all superior for their class of cinema.

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was something of a satire on Hollywood serials of the 1930s like Flash Gordon and Superman, complete with cliffhangers.

  71. DV
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    What no “Dumb and Dumber” and “Clerks II”?

  72. merkinjpustart
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    These four have remained constant for me over the years . . .
    A Clockwork Orange
    Aguirre, Wrath of God
    Taxi Driver

    • Roz
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Cannot beat Taxi Driver. (Try watching it with a french dub)

      Jaws is another fave of mine

    • merkinjpustart
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      I should add Sorcerer by William Friedkin (I liked the French original Wages of Fear by Clouzot, but not nearly as much as this remake). It has a perfect ending.

      • steve oberski
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

        And the sound track to Sorcerer by Tangerine Dream is a favourite of mine.

        When my car got broken into and the CD player was stolen the only thing I really missed was that CD which was in it at the time.

  73. Jim Thomerson
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I think the the two best westerns are “Valdez is coming”, from the Elmore Leonard novel. The movie is better than the book, though I enjoyed both. The other is Rio Bravo with John Wayne. The screenplay was by Leigh Brackett, a favorite si-fi authoress. It contains every single cliche found in western movies.

    “The Gods must be crazy” is my favorite comedy. I has comedy at a number of levels and can be enjoyed by everyone, at least in part. It starts out like a National Geographic special for the first five minutes or so. I have actually seen patrons get up and walk out of the theater during this segment.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Some of Brackett’s sf novels were rather like Westerns. Travelling around California, Nevada and Arizona, you can easily imagine her Martian cities.

      She also wrote some mean crime novels.


    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Another personnel note. I went to grammar school for 2 years with one of the actors in Rio Bravo, Ricky Nelson. Another sad story as he died in a plane crash in the 1960s leaving behind a wife and two children.

    • SLC
      Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      I have to say that I preferred El Dorado to Rio Bravo, mainly because Robert Mitchum was a better actor then Dean Martin.

  74. steve oberski
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Dark City

    Man Bites Dog

    A Clockwork Orange

    2001: A Space Odyssey

    Fifth Element (the opera scene was classic)

    The Hidden

    Jacob’s Ladder

    Leon The Professional

    Groundhog Day


    Time Bandits

    Blazing Saddles

    Twelve Monkeys


    Marx Brothers – Duck Soup

    The Name of the Rose

    V For Vendetta

    Law Abiding Citizen

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Ooh, quite a few in common there.

      Dark City is a small gem.

      And two films with Natalie Portman! ❤ And two with Bruce Willis…


      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Dark City have to be on my list, certainly.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        Actually, those of steve’s list I’ve seen I like too. So I’ll probably take a look on the others.

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      I like that list, Steve 🙂

      For me, I would add:

      Dark Crystal
      Die Hard 4
      Minority Report
      Captain America (that took me a little by surprise)
      Hot Fuzz
      Spirited Away
      Princess Mononoke
      Scott Pilgrim
      Eagle Eye

      …and my one absolutely guilty pleasure:

      Crank (and its sequel)

      Then again, I enjoyed the old Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and the whole Harry Potter series, so I might just be a bit mainstream… ish.

      • litchik
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        Are some parts of the country experiencing a comma shortage?

      • Utakata
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        Lol, Hot Fuzz. 🙂

    • Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, Sarah Brightman tore the Diva Dance up; so too did this lady:

      • Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        Eep! And by Sarah Brightman I meant of course Inva Mula. *looks around for coffee*

  75. tyrone slothrop
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Just additions:

    Sunset Boulevard (Wilder)
    A Touch of Evil (Welles)
    The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah)
    The Stunt Man (Rush)

    And then, because it speaks to me in myriad ways:

    Sideways (Payne)

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Actually, IMHO, John Payne’s best role was in, “Kansas City.”

      • tyrone slothrop
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 4:47 am | Permalink

        Kansas City Confidential is a fine film, but that’s with John Payne. Sideways was directed by Andrew Payne.

        • SLC
          Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

          My mistake.

  76. Jeff Sherry
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Always tough to single out a top ten group of films, but here it goes:

    Metropolis, The Seven Samurai, Double Indemnity, The Cat’s Meow, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, Sullivan’s Travels, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, Goodfellows, Citizen Kane and Amadeus,

    • salon_1928
      Posted May 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      The Treasure of Sierra Madre – excellent pick – maybe may favourite Bogart film.

  77. Vaal
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Ok, I could go all ex-film-school grad arty. Instead I just have a list of great flicks that have lasting impact (at least on me) and that have always rewarded upon viewing them again:

    Jaws (The movie that made me, and a generation, want to become film-makers)



    Taxi Driver

    The Third Man

    The Exorcist

    7Th Voyage Of Sinbad

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (0ld and 78 remake)

    Young Frankenstein

    The Incredibles

    It’s A Wonderful Life

    Superman (Chris Reeves)

    King Kong (original)


    • Cliff Melick
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      Yow! Another Blade Runner fan.

  78. Filippo
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    For starters, on the positive list, I suggest “Dead Poets Society” and “The Outsiders.”

  79. Keith Bonham
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Lots of excellent movies!

    One you may not have come across is “The Hedgehog” A French movie based on the equally wonderful novel “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery. Beautiful and heartbraking.

    • bric
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 12:24 am | Permalink

      I got this from the library (read the book last year); not really top 10 material, but strongly recommended – a quiet little film about a reclusive rebarbative concierge and a neurotic alienated suicide-obsessed 12-year old girl doesn’t sound promising, but it is made with great wit, is literate and features several cats in supporting roles.

  80. Jose
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    El verdugo
    La Strada
    Ladri di biciclette
    Honkytonk Man

    • ivo
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      La strada! This film is amazing. I don’t know how Fellini pulled this out, so moving, suspended between gritty realism and lyrical fairytale.

  81. Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    The only two start-to-finish perfect movies I’ve seen are both by Tarkovsky: The Mirror and Stalker. The former is probably my favorite work of art across all genres, and certainly the pinnacle of the great Russian tradition of existentially significant illnesses.

    Some other movies I love are: In the Mood for Love and its sister 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai), Aguirre, The Wrath of God (Werner Herzog), Satantango (Bela Tarr), Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa), and Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky).

    I’ve only been watching movies seriously for about a year and a half, and I tend to watch slowly, that is, I don’t watch movies all that often, and I tend to linger on the ones I do watch, so this isn’t a broadly informed list. The Tarkovsky films are films I expect to still see in my top ten in 40 years when I’m properly well-watched, or something along those lines. The others are films that could potentially make a top ten made at such a time.

    This reminds me that I need to watch Ugetsu. I’ve been putting it off too long.

    • salon_1928
      Posted May 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      In the Mood for Love – awesome pick – one of the best movies I’ve seen that’s been made in the last 20 years.

      • Posted May 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        Oh definitely yes. Every single moment of that film is achingly gorgeous. Wong Kar-Wai is so good at exploring strange rituals in relationships, and this film is the pinnacle of that, if only because the scenario is so… normal, at least relative to his other films.

        Have you seen 2046? The more I think about/watch the two, the more clear it becomes to me that neither can be properly understood without thinking about the other. I do think ITMFL is the superior of the two, but not by much, at this point.

    • David T.
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      For some odd reason and I can’t explain it, but Stalker was slightly boring to me, I find this really strange because I adore Mirror and Nostalgia (so I know the type of pace Tarkovskly uses, I’ve seen his others too). Anyways, I’ll second Mirror for being an almost perfect film.

  82. Nick
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I looked through the first 45 comments and was surprised that there was no mention of my (probably) favorite movie of the last 10 years: The secret in their eyes.

    I understand that they are doing an American remake, and I urge film lovers to try and see the original first. If the remake even comes close it should be amazing.

  83. Jose
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    In general I’m fond of filmmakers who were very popular with the public back in the day and only later critics began praising them, sometimes to the point of shifting the public’s opinion about them, making them look more arty or elitist when they didn’t seek that status. Three of these are García Berlanga, Truffaut and Eastwood.

    As a contrast, full-time art academia folks like Buñuel or Godard just come across as pretentious. And the worst of all are directors like Bertolucci whose greatest dream is to be part of this group.

  84. Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Since there’s some disagreement, Silence of the Lambs (scary). Schindler’s List (drama), Casablanca (classic) and The Music Man (musical)

  85. Dermot C
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Wot? No The Life of Brian? Funniest film ever?

    George Harrison stepped in at the last minute when EMI, I think it was, withdrew finance. Because “he wanted to see what the film was like”. Terry Gilliam called it the dearest ever cinema ticket.

  86. cubswin84
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    top 20 – you decide the order:

    To Kill A Mockingbird
    On the Wterfront
    Last Picture Show
    5 Easy Pieces
    Silence of the Lambs
    American Graffiti
    Taxi Driver
    Deer Hunter
    Full Metal Jacket
    Malcolm X
    Annie Hall
    Ordinary People
    Midnight Cowboy
    The Graduate
    Godfather 1 & 2
    Lawrence of Arabia
    12 Angry Men
    Schindler’s List
    West Side Story

  87. SLC
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Another oldie but goodie, “Call Northside 777,” maybe Jimmy Stewart’s best effort.

  88. SLC
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Another oldie, “Suddenly.” This is best know for the outstanding performance of Frank Sinatra, probably the best of his career, as a professional hit man hired to assassinate the president. Sinatra was so good in this movie that he never again would accept a part as a heavy, thinking that it would typecast him and hurt his singing career. In addition the performance as the sheriff of Suddenly of Sterling Hayden was probably the best of his career. They really played off each other.

    • tyrone slothrop
      Posted May 5, 2012 at 4:44 am | Permalink

      As for Sterling Hayden, I always thought his Col. Jack T. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove was brilliant. Sellers is great too (but his best role was in Being There).

  89. Nadeen
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Top 10 favorites:

    Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski)
    Alien (Scott)
    Bedazzled (Donen)
    Rachel, Rachel (Newman)
    Fargo (Cohen brothers)
    The Beguiled (Siegel)
    The Dancer Upstairs (Malkovich)
    Lolita (Lyne)
    The Life of Brian (Jones)
    To Kill A Mockingbird (Mulligan)

    • SLC
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      1. It’s the Coen brothers.

      2. I like the take of Mad Magazine, Rosemary’s Booboo.

      • Nadeen
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        1. oops

        2. sounds dreadful

  90. Dermot C
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    The Coen Brothers turn up a lot in these lists; I still think that their first was the best – Blood Simple. Southern Gothic film noir. The opening monologue: something like: “They say folks in Russia do things together, share in common. Down here in Texas, we do things different.” You know it’s not going to be good!

    Asked why the film was so-called, a Coen brother quoted Dashiel Hammett, as I recall. DH was asked what his novels were about. He replied, “Blood, simple.”

  91. MoarSciencePlz
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    OK, I’m probably risking my life here, but a flick I’ve seen at least a dozen times, and like it better with each viewing is “Joe vs. the Volcano”.

    (quickly dives into nearest foxhole to await inevitable bombardment)

  92. Dermot C
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t seen all the recommendations, but what about Touching the Void, the drama/doc? Two memorable scenes: how does the mountaineer with a broken leg escape from a ledge 150 feet down a crevasse (and he does)? The funniest black joke; when the same man, convinced he is about to die, can’t get the song-worm Brown girl in the ring out of his head. “Is this really it?”, he thinks in his despair.

  93. Badger3k
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie)
    Anything with Paulie Shore
    KISS meets the Phantom of the Park


    (OK, I was kidding…except for the KISS movie)

  94. Carl
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Okay my list will be different then Ebert’s although I do trust him on most movie reviews. My top ten are:
    1. Shindler’s List
    2. The Dark Knight
    3. One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    4. Avatar
    5. Pulp Fiction
    6. Fargo
    7. No country for old Men
    8 Inglourious Basterds
    9.The Departed
    10.2001 A space Odyssey

  95. Ned
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    A few favorites that haven’t appeared in the comments (in no particular order)

    Animal House
    My Favorite Year
    Quiz Show
    Body Heat
    Toy Story 3

  96. MikeN
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    How about a polite request to Jerry to put up a post on top 10 atheist/secular/anti-religious/pro-science movies?

  97. Utakata
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Blade Runner (Scott)
    2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
    Spirited Away (Miyazaki)
    Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
    Good Fellows (Scorsese)
    The Killing Fields (Joffé)
    Graveyard of the Fireflies (Takahata)
    Akira (Otomo)
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Python 6)
    Annie Hall (Allen)
    Harry Potter 3 (Cuarón), 5, 6, and both 7’s (Yates)
    Star Wars – the original version (Lucas)
    Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino)

    Note: These are subject to change if I think of something else I’ve forgotten.

  98. Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Well, I’ll just say upfront that I refuse to watch any movie directed by Polanski. He’s a child rapist no less than many catholic priests – about which this community is often rightly exercised. But Polanski is different somehow (he makes entertaining movies, so I guess somehow that makes up for it all). Thank you, no.

    2 movies I like (for the same reasons), and which were quite helpful to me when I was coming of age in the deep south:

    12 Angry Men
    Imitation of Life

    • Bruce S. Springsteen
      Posted May 5, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink

      I can sympathize with your feelings about Polanski, and this is an interesting ethical dilemma I like presenting to people. But I simply cannot dismiss “The Pianist” from my list of brilliant, moving films. It’s there, and it is what it is, no matter what Polanski is.

  99. Kiwi Dave
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    There are so many wonderful movies that a consistent top ten list is impossible; here are two memorable films no one else has listed.

    Runaway Train: Kurosawa is one of the scriptwriters; Eric Roberts, Jon Voight and others show they can act. A prison breakout movie with a serious theme, visually and aurally wonderful.

    Jesus of Montreal: I saw this just once, decades ago. Some actors perform a passion play. Reality begins to reflect the play.

  100. greyhound1405
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Sorry but these are all blockbuster gore/war and horror!
    What about Humour?
    What about Compassion?

    My favourite is Robin Williams in… (drum rolls)… ‘Patch Adams’

  101. Posted May 5, 2012 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    This will probably show my age and lack of familiarity with the classics, but here it goes.

    Blade Runner (Director’s Cut)
    Pulp Fiction
    A Clockwork Orange
    12 Monkeys
    Fight Club
    There Will Be Blood
    Lord Of The Rings
    The Matrix

    • George
      Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      One of the best things about classic movies is that you can get them at your local library. Just start working your way through the AFI’s lists of great movies:

  102. Posted May 5, 2012 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    Here are more with humor:

    The Bank Dick

    Never give a sucker an even break

    You can’t cheat an honest man

    (all starring W.C. Fields)

    And the names in the credits in The Bank Dick are hilarious.

    Here are more with compassion (or something like it):

    Old Yeller

    Crying in the rain (Van Johnson/Jane Wyman)

    Of Mice and Men

    And some more honorable mentions:

    Hatari (John Wayne)

    The Court Jester (Danny Kaye)

    The Buccaneer (Yul Brynner)

    The Public Enemy (Cagney)

    Dances with wolves

    The Mummy (Karloff)

    Robin Hood (Errol Flynn)

    The Abyss

    I, Robot

    The first men in the moon

    I also like the mummy movies with Brendan Fraser.

  103. Bruce S. Springsteen
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    All of the above are great, and who could choose, but here are ten of my quirkier or less obvious favorites from my own film viewing history. Ten minutes from now, I could make another, completely different, equally compelling list:

    The Man Who Would Be King
    The Lion In Winter
    Barry Lyndon
    Zorba the Greek
    The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao
    The Postman Always Rings Twice
    The Sweet Smell of Success
    Paper Moon
    The Day of the Locust
    The Day of the Jackel

  104. Harbo
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    and Stardust

  105. Harbo
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I agree with most of the above and have many new ideas for a rainy day, and would like to add a few we seem to have missed:
    Das Boot (all versions)
    Porco Roso (Ghibli in general)
    Cabaret (and I hate musicals)

  106. salon_1928
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    I don’t know if I could ever do a top 10 (or 13) list – my favourites change with my mood, what’s going on my life, etc. If I could put that list together, 2 of Jerry’s picks would definately make it onto my list though – those are:

    The Passion of Joan of Arc, and
    The Wizard of Oz

    A lot of people have posted some of my other favourites so I’ll just add 2 that I havne’t seen (although they may be in the comments somewhere…):

    Wild Strawberries (Bergman)
    The Red Shoes (Powell, Pressburger)

  107. Posted May 5, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Additional contribution: It isn’t a great movie, but for some reason I have a soft spot for _Starman_ (with Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen). It is sometimes described as _ET_ for adults, which is curiously enough correct and more or less a good thing.

    • salon_1928
      Posted May 5, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      Funny…Jerry’s a huge fan of The Last Picture Show (as am I), Starman strikes a chord wtih you…well, Fearless (the one with Bridges and Rossellini) has to be an alltime favourite film for me. I’m not sure about a top 10 film but definately one that I watch whenever I see it on an at least once every couple of years. Come to think of it, add The Big Lebowski to that list…

  108. Strider
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Ther’re too many posts to read through but I’d be sad if I didn’t chime in with “The Searchers”

  109. PeteJohn
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I’m a big movie fan, but must admit that I’ve not seen a great many of the films listed in the comments or on Ebert’s list. Maybe I need to branch out.

    Anyway, I feel like I’m still allowed to list out the films I would consider the best I’ve seen. Not necessarily my favorites, but the best I’ve seen:

    1. The Godfather
    1a. Apocalypse Now

    (It was really tough to pick between the two. One is dark, psychological, and experimental, the other operatic. I ended up saying Godfather was better, but only slightly)

    3. Dr. Strangelove
    4. Schindler’s List
    5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    6. Once Upon a Time in America
    7. GoodFellas
    8. The Wild Bunch
    9. The Searchers
    10. 12 Angry Men

    HM: The Shawshank Redemption (my favorite movie), No Country for Old Men, Pulp Fiction, Platoon, and Fargo

  110. harrylime
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Top 17, listed alphabetically:

    Casablanca (Curtiz)
    Chinatown (Polanski)
    Citizen Kane (Welles)
    City Lights (Chaplin)
    Ikiru (Kurosawa)
    Jules and Jim (Truffaut)
    The Lady Eve (Sturges)
    La Strada (Fellini)
    Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)
    Nashville (Altman)
    The Night of the Hunter (Laughton)
    Paths of Glory (Kubrick)
    The Searchers (Ford)
    The Third Man (Reed)
    Tokyo Story (Ozu)
    Vertigo (Hitchcock)
    Winter Light (Bergman)

    …and a special shout-out to Patton, the favorite film of Jerry’s dad & my grandfather.

    • salon_1928
      Posted May 5, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      Winter Light – superb pick…Bergman never misses for me (at least not yet). And there’s Ingrid Thulin – tough to have a bad or uninteresting film when she’s onscreen…

  111. exrelayman
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Having perused all the comments, I now chime in with some wonderful movies I did not see listed so far, and nobody should go through life without seeing if they possibly can:

    Sling Blade
    The Green Mile
    The Scarlet Pimpernel
    Rocky Horror Picture Show
    Little Shop of Horrors
    Golden Child
    Short Circuit
    Quigley Down Under
    Dream Team
    Deal of the Century
    Big Trouble in Little China
    Brother Sun Sister Moon
    The Little Princess
    Little Lord Fauntleroy

  112. Dominic
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    My dad was a Powell and Pressburger fan and I guess his list would have included –
    A Canterbury Tale
    The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
    A Matter of Life and Death
    Also perhaps –
    The Lady Killers
    The Servant

    • Dominic
      Posted May 6, 2012 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      Ah – The Go-between

  113. Piero
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m slightly ashamed (but also slightly proud) to admit I have only seen “2001”, “The Godfather”, “Chinatown” and “The wizard of Oz”, none of which I liked in the least. “2001” was technically marvellous at the time, but it thoroughly failed to capture the essence of the book. “The Godfather” (I, II and III) was just another gangster story, with some scenes filmed in Sicily for aesthetic or increased pathos purposes. It also failed to reach the standards of Puzo’s novel. The wizard of Oz, on the other hand, is a wholly incoherent tale made into an even more incoherent script. The original tale is quite forgettable (what is it trying to tell us?), and the film version lives up to such lowered expectations.

    I’ve never seen “La Dolce Vita”, but I have read the script. WTF? Is Fellini trying to actually say something? The symbolism is crass, and if Anita Ekberg was cast in a leading role, it only shows that Fellini had a penchant for large breasts (as evident in “Amarcord”).

    “Chinatown”? Really? I never got the point of that film. What’s so special about it? I could name thousands of better films: “The remains of the day”, “Roma, città aperta”, “Una giornata particolare”, “Hamlet” (the Russian version, with Innokentij Smoktunovskij and Annastassja Verstinskaya, which you can watch on YouTube), “Brutti, sporchi e cattivi”, “La stanza del figlio”, etc.

    Most “best films” lists are biased, and include mostly or exlusively English-language films. Yet the best films are made either in the UK or in non-English speaking countries. “Avatar”, for example, was utter crap: a kind of “Dances with wolves” set in an alien world. It had nothing original to offer, the acting was puke-inducing, yet it became a blockbuster. Why? Because ir was aimed at the 50% of the population whose IQ is below 100.

    The Oscars are awarded by Americans. Yes, there is an Oscar for the best foreign film, but that’s just a token. In fact, the best film-making is to be found outside the US. If you think I’m exaggerating, just watch the Russian and the American version of “Solaris”, and if you don’t agree with me after that experience, I’m afraid you are beyond redemption.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted May 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      My list has six non-Anglophone films on it, so your accusation of bias hardly obtains in this case. I can’t explain in this space why I think the Godfather and Chinatown are good, but if you go to the Rotten Tomatoes website and look at the critics’ reviews, you’ll see some reasons.

      This is all subjective, of course, but the critics do tend to have similar opinions on those two movies, at least.

    • Dermot C
      Posted May 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Points on 2 films, Piero.

      On ‘The Wizard of Oz’, Rushdie, with whom I have never been able to get on as an author, wrote an interesting short piece on the film and how he loved it; it’s his best piece, I think. The more I see it, the more I like its profoundly ambivalent message about there being no place like home; for ‘home’, as well as being banal and literally monotone, is a place where even those who are supposed to protect you are incapable of doing so; rather like Jane Austen’s view of parental figures. Did you know that the studio almost deleted the song ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, because they thought it slowed the pace of the film? Producers know nothing.

      On Hamlet, there is a literary criticism, commom, apparently, in Russia. Who directs the events in the play? Answer: it is Fortinbras, the prince of Norway. Why? Who wants revenge on the Danish royal family? The Norwegian royal family. Because the Danes did away with Fortinbras’ father. Who is left standing at the end? None of the Danes. And Fortinbras inherits the throne. Very conspiratorial; very Russian, very complicated, very Russo-ironi-cynical!

      • Posted May 7, 2012 at 12:53 am | Permalink

        “Rushdie, … wrote an interesting short piece on the film and how he loved it” This?


        • Dermot C
          Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:34 am | Permalink


          I think so; the cover looks familiar. At 5 and a half smackers, the publishers aren’t shy of charging the full whack; it’s an hour’s read, if that.

    • harrylime
      Posted May 6, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      You can’t dismiss La Dolce Vita without having seen it, nor can you write off Ekberg as eye candy. A script is merely a foundation; it conveys dialogue and blocking (the least important aspects of a Fellini film) but not performance or tone.

      The Godfather uses the gangster milieu to present a Shakespearean saga of family, loyalty and changing times/mores. Chinatown limns a moral landscape as mutable and decentralized as Los Angeles itself (and quite eloquently, in the opinion of most).

      I think forcing the question “What is it trying to tell us?” would render any film banal.

      And do you really find The Wizard of Oz incoherent?

  114. sailor1031
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    There are no best movies;
    A few personal faves:

    A man for all seasons
    Lost Sex
    Wild strawberries
    Ladri di biciclette
    8 1/2
    Jazz on a summer’s day
    Fort Sagane

  115. Posted May 7, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on robinducret.

  116. Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    There are few Shakespearean films that would make the general publics’ top ten(with the possible exception of “Shakespeare in Love”) but for me, such films as there are can be viewed time and time again. Shakespeare is about words and depth of meaning not just plot and visuals.


    Ken Branagh gives us the 1996 “eternity” version (about four hours long), shot in beautiful 75mm. for the serious fans and the general public alike. It has a stellar cast including Ken as Hamlet, Kate Winslet and Julie Christie. A more controversial Hamlet is the Ethan Hawke up-to-date offering, very accessible though not for purists.

    Twelfth Night

    The Trevor Nunn version is the best by far with Helena Bonham Carter, Nigel Hawthorne and Ben Kingsley, who shows, incidentally, why his first ambition was to be a pop singer. It’s a pity that this was not also shot in 75mm but the acting and locations are great.

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    Ever popular version with Kevin Kline as Bottom and Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania. Great spectacle and beautiful music. Easy and enjoyable viewing.

    As You Like It

    Ken Branagh again gives us a very enjoyable though not perfect version with Romola Garai and Kevin Kline. I seem to view this film obsessively but that’s my problem!

    Romeo & Juliet

    Directed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1968. Still a great film after all these years. Stunning visuals and accessible to young and old alike.

    Much Ado About Nothing

    Also a Ken Branagh production. Worth watching, easy viewing. Stars are Denzil Washington, Emma Thompson and Keanu Reeves.


    Julie Taymor gives us a highly individual take on the seldom produced play Titus Andronicus. It stars Jessica Lange and Anthony Hopkins – need I say more?


    I am waiting for this to be released on DVD. It has received great reviews and stars Ralph Fiennes.

    • Pete UK
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      But the best Hamlet for me is the poor quality audio recording of a broadway production starring Richard Burton as the Prince. It isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it works for me. The Voice is utterly magnetic. You can’t afford to listen to it whilst boiling an egg – time just stands still for it.

      I quite liked Pacino’s Shylock too.

      • Posted May 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the reminder re. Al Pacino. I fished out the DVD and was reminded how good he was. He also makes an appearance in another DVD “Looking For Richard” following the actors in a rehersal of Richard 111. Whilst on the subject of this play,Ian Mckellen’s Richard 111 is well worth finding as well.

    • Living Fossil
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      I had forgotten Branagh’s Hamlet. Whew! So impressive as to defy memory? Thanks.

  117. Pete UK
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    We’ve largely overlooked children’s films in our deliberations. Many were very good: Mary Poppins and Oliver! were amongst my favourites as a child, but I’m not sure they were great.

    But The Railway Children surely has to be in my list somewhere. Sentimental, yes, but as an evocation of the innocence of childhood and (in Agutter’s case) those first moments of growing awareness) it’s superb.

    And I’m sure there are others worthy of contention.

    • cubswin84
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      Bambi, Lady & The Tramp, ET, and Sounder for families;

      additional need to be mentioned great films: Carnal Knowledge, The Pawnbroker, Last Tango in Paris, Catch 22, Stalag 17, Bang the Drum Slowly, Lenny, Soldier Blue, Diner, Boy in the Striped Pajamas, In Cold Blood, Kind Hearts & Coronets, Arsenic & Old Lace, The Killing Fields, 8 1/2, Girl Interrupted, Casualties of War, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff……..
      Time for me to shut up — for now!?

  118. James
    Posted April 4, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I come from the future, professor, to give you kudos on including Y Tu Mama Tambien in your list, especially since it seems the commenters who mentioned didn’t particularly care for it. Truly an excellent movie.

  119. Posted February 4, 2014 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    My top 11 (including Citizen Kane):

    Children of Paradise (1945)
    The Big Sleep (1946)
    Dr. Strangelove (1964)
    Apocalypse Now (1979)
    Chinatown (1974)
    Sunset Blvd. (1950)
    Vertigo (1958)
    Casablanca (1942)
    King Kong (1933)
    Citizen Kane (1941)
    The Third Man (1949)

  120. Posted February 5, 2014 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Bad Day at Black Rock (Sturges)

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