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Best of the best movies lists?
July 2, 2006 11:52 PM   Subscribe

So I'm a fan of movies. A little over a year ago I watched the top 100 of IMDB's top 250. I enjoyed almost all of them. I've since looked through many other lists, but I can't decide if any of them are worth working through (although I have seriously considered the writer's guild's top 100 screenplays). Are there any other lists out there that any of you have enjoyed? Are there any I should particularly avoid?
posted by ztdavis to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
I believe you meant to link here.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:05 AM on July 3, 2006


Here. Well worth the investment.
posted by dobbs at 12:09 AM on July 3, 2006


IndigoRain takes the win. My apologies for my bad 3 AM linking skills.
posted by ztdavis at 12:12 AM on July 3, 2006


Ebert's Great Movies list is pretty good.
posted by Jesco at 12:18 AM on July 3, 2006


I tried going down the AFI top movies list. I was surprised at the quality, or the lack thereof. The movies chosen were significant and probably influential, yes, but don't all stand the test of time, IMHO.

Seemed like the main criteria for selection was "first good example of X." Not best example, but merely "first good."

* On the Waterfront = "first good example of a 'social commentary' movie, first good Brando movie, etc.'
* "Some Like it Hot" = "'OMG, they're dressed as women isn't that funny, 'OMG, it's Marilyn Monroe,' etc."
* "The Graduate" = "first fuck-the-man 60s zeitgeist movie."

And we were like, "Meh. I've seen funnier and better more recently."
posted by frogan at 12:26 AM on July 3, 2006


The Sight & Sound critics poll held every ten years is the other major list, someone compiled the lists here.

Critics top 10 is good for a year to year chart.
posted by bobo123 at 12:27 AM on July 3, 2006


Jim Emerson says watch these movies, then we can talk.
posted by invisible ink at 1:04 AM on July 3, 2006


Oops, forgot to include via kottke.org.
posted by invisible ink at 1:06 AM on July 3, 2006


The British Film Institute also has a top 100, there's a bit of crossover with the AFI but it's a pretty good list of where to star with British film.
posted by biffa at 2:40 AM on July 3, 2006


It's no a list per se, but I've been almost universally pleased with the movies in the Criterion Collection, especially those from France. I watched three this past week and they were all really really good. I've seen maybe 10 in the past month and they've all been well worth it.
posted by OmieWise at 6:04 AM on July 3, 2006


dobbs: I wrote some of the pieces in that book. Thanks for the plug!
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:14 AM on July 3, 2006


Dr. Wu: If you wrote some of the pieces in that book, thank you! I have it and love it. I second the recommendation.
posted by blim8183 at 6:28 AM on July 3, 2006


frogan, I'll let someone else rip you a new one over Some Like it Hot, but I gotta ask how on earth you consider The Graduate a "fuck the man" movie?

I've heard it called many things, and I myself have called it one of the best American movies ever made, but never that. For chrissakes, the film came out in a period of great change in America (civil rights, vietnam, uprising at berkeley) and, but for one throwaway line by Norman Fell, it mentions none of it.

Maybe we just have a different interpretation of "The Man".

I've seen all the films on the Emerson list and think it's a pretty good list. As I mentioned in the Kottke thread, I'd add:

L'Avventura
Mulholland Drive
Wages of Fear
Thin Red Line
and I'd take off Annie Hall and replace it with Mahattan (or Stardust Memories, which is my favorite Allen film)

I'm sure there are a gazillion more worth adding (anything by Michael Haneke, I'd recommend), but that's what that book's for.

And yes, Dr. Wu, thanks for contributing to that book. It's wonderful.
posted by dobbs at 7:06 AM on July 3, 2006


And ztdavis, when you've exhausted the obvious fims, this ancient AskMe thread has lots of suggestions for more obscure titles.
posted by dobbs at 7:08 AM on July 3, 2006


You can find a lot of best-of lists at the Movies section at www.listsofbests.com.

I've worked through a bunch of these and I think the ones I've found most helpful are the ones you've already been through -- the AFI and Roger Ebert's Great Movies. I also like the Sight & Sound list, and a Guardian list that should be on listsofbests.com.
posted by hazelshade at 7:12 AM on July 3, 2006


Sorry, correction -- when I said 'The Guardian list,' I actually meant the 'Village Voice' list. Can't keep my publications straight.

The Village Voice list is here. I didn't hugely grasp the greatness of some of the films near the bottom of it, but there are other films on there that I haven't seen in other places that are quite interesting.
posted by hazelshade at 7:15 AM on July 3, 2006


If you sit through A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies you could make a nice list. Yeah, he mentions the classics on the other lists, but he highlights a lot things like Shock Corridor you won't find on many other lists.
posted by marxchivist at 7:18 AM on July 3, 2006


I too exhausted the IMDB list and a few others besides. I found the Arts and Faith 2005 top 100 spiritually significant films threw up a lot of good quality films that don't usually turn up on top 100 lists, and that I hadn't heard of or thought of investigating.
posted by fire&wings at 7:27 AM on July 3, 2006


You could always do a search for "ten films that explain America" which was a blog meme running around last year. It basically asks you to choose ten films you would show to a non-American that you believe best explains the American psyche. The list are wildly varied, but it would certainly be fun to compile you own top 100 (ten people if they each did a ten person list) from those various posts (although, you'd want to chose carefully since of course, some of these are going to be by 16-19 year olds thinking Coyote Ugly was the defining moment in American cinema).

I think it was also called "America at 24 frames per second". Or something like that.

You could also compile a list of all of the movies from Harry Knowles' seven Butt-Numb-A-Thons and try to plan on watching them at the approximate time of day/night they were originally shown.
posted by smallerdemon at 8:14 AM on July 3, 2006


Dr. Wu: If you wrote some of the pieces in that book, thank you! I have it and love it. I second the recommendation.

Ditto from me on all counts!
posted by languagehat at 8:45 AM on July 3, 2006


I gotta ask how on earth you consider The Graduate a "fuck the man" movie?

I know it's a derail, but don't you consider The Graduate to be among the first super-popular, 60s anti-establishment movies? Benjamin Braddock is the ur-slacker. While his father and friends urge Benjamin to choose a grad school or go into plastics, Benjamin spends his time at the bottom of a swimming pool and banging Mrs. Robinson. Benjamin breaks up an arranged marriage. Forget about a naked Anne Bancroft ... the movie is all about Benjamin rejecting the things his elders are telling him and finding his own way in life. Fuck the man!
posted by frogan at 9:44 AM on July 3, 2006


@ frogan

Dude! Some Like it Hot is hilarious, even today. This is a film that does stand the test of time. It has one of the funniest scripts I've ever encountered. Now everyone has preferences, and some people may genuinely not like this film, but it's a valid choice for the funniest movie of all time. I can't think of any funnier, and I have seen a lot of movies.
posted by jdroth at 10:14 AM on July 3, 2006


Now I'm remembering little bits of dialogue and businesses from Some Like it Hot and chuckling. It's going to be a good morning.
posted by jdroth at 10:18 AM on July 3, 2006


Dude! Some Like it Hot is hilarious

I think you guys are missing my point, which is that the AFI list criteria wasn't the "best" example of something, merely the "first good" example. So, Some Like it Hot is the "first good example" of a cross-dressing comedy genre that eventually spawns Tootsie and all the Monty Python movies. When SLiH first came out, people were completely bowled over to see two leading men in drag. It had never happened before (at least, it had never happened before to two Hollywood leading men).

Today? Meh.

I can't think of any funnier

DUDE!

Raising Arizona? A Fish Called Wanda? South Park? Groundhog Day? The Producers (the original)?
posted by frogan at 10:30 AM on July 3, 2006


According to the American Film Institute, Some Like It Hot is the funniest movie of all time.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:20 AM on July 3, 2006


When SLiH first came out, people were completely bowled over to see two leading men in drag. It had never happened before (at least, it had never happened before to two Hollywood leading men).

It had sure happened a lot in vaudeville, and in Elizabethan times it was the only way to do things, and, well, it's actually a pretty ancient idea.
posted by bingo at 12:42 PM on July 3, 2006


The best lists in my opinion come from your peers. Get a legal pad, a couple 12 packs and a bunch of your friends. Have them all argue about the "best movies ever!"
of the "movies everybody in our generation should see!" (absolutely not the same list)

It is quite a blast and a really fun way to spend the evening.
posted by Megafly at 3:11 PM on July 3, 2006


Benjamin Braddock is the ur-slacker. While his father and friends urge Benjamin to choose a grad school or go into plastics, Benjamin spends his time at the bottom of a swimming pool and banging Mrs. Robinson. Benjamin breaks up an arranged marriage. Forget about a naked Anne Bancroft ... the movie is all about Benjamin rejecting the things his elders are telling him and finding his own way in life.

Well, 1) it is not an arranged marriage that he breaks up--Carl's someone she meets at Berkeley; 2) initially Mr. Robinson and Ben's parents all encourage him to date Elaine Robinson; 3) the time at the bottom of the pool happens before any of his "rebellion". In fact, it's the embarassment of the gift (the diving suit) that propels him to seek refuge in Mrs. Robinson (admitedly there is one scene where he's floating on a raft where his father inquires as to his activities); 4) I hate to be a stickler, but Ben is not encouraged to go into plastics "while" he's anything. Plastics is suggested in the first 3 minutes of the film (pretty much right after the opening credits).

Yes, part of TG is about Ben "finding his own way in life"--but that's a staple of the genre--in fact, I can't think of a coming of age film that doesn't have a protagonist doing that.

Throughout the movie, it becomes clear that Mrs. Robinson wants a better life for her daughter than she has had herself. Ben (and presumably everyone else, including the audience) assumes this means she thinks little of Ben when I imagine she detests the life he represents (which mirrors her own, Mr. Robinson and Mr. Braddock being business partners). It's a bitter victory that in order to snub Benjamin she has to see Elaine with another man and that Elaine chooses Carl, who is an even closer approximation of the husband she doesn't love.

To me, the end of the film suggests not that Ben (and Elaine) have triumphed over the man, but, rather, that they soon will be "The Man".

Of course, the final shot is ambiguous so that optimists can claim the opposite--but even they'd be hard pressed not to see a cynic's (or realist's) pov.

One of the reason this film so impresses me is the maturity with which the subject is handled. Just imagine the premise at it's most base description being handled today. You'd have the forced hijinx of American Pie and the film would quickly be forgotten. AFI and others don't insist The Graduate is one of the best films of the 60s because it was "the first" anything; it's because it is so well done that its appeal is timeless.
posted by dobbs at 3:39 PM on July 3, 2006


The Onion's AV Club has some suggestions it's okay to hate.
posted by oxford blue at 7:28 PM on July 3, 2006


I'm an obsessive movie list maker going way back. My early lists included all best picture Oscar winners along with every movie in Danny Peary's excellent Cult Movies series of books. Peary's Alternate Oscars book is also a good source to balance out the official Oscar list.

For on-line resources, it looks like filmsite.org would be just what you are looking for. You might also check out some of the lists at filmaffinity and Sourcelight.
posted by Otis at 12:10 PM on July 5, 2006


A few years ago, when I decided I was really serious about the film thing, I took 8 or 9 of the most interesting-looking "Greatest Film" lists, tallied them up, and generated a new list of films that appeared on 3 or more of the lists. It was sort of a consensus version of various such lists. Then I spent a year or so watching every film on it in chronological order.

Anyway, I'm happy to post that list here, but it's LONG, and I'm worried it'll break the thread. What's the etiquette here? Should I post it? Put it in my blog and link to it? Offer to e-mail it to anybody who is interested?

For the record, here are the original Best Lists that I used to compile it:

Sources:
• The 200 greatest films list at www.filmsite.org
• AFI's 100 years... 100 movies
• Library of Congress's National Film Registry
• IMDB's top 100
• Roger Ebert's list of Great Movies
• "Best Picture" winners from every year

The above lists tended to over-represent recent films and English-language films, so I also threw in:
• Filmsite.org's list of "The Greatest Silent Films"
• "Best Foreign Film" oscar
• An interesting-looking list a guy named Andrew Slattery posted to the Internet

And here is the relatively short list of films that appeared on 6 or more of the above lists. The number of stars is the number of lists it appeared on:

1931 City Lights(*******)
1934 It Happened One Night (******)
1941 Citizen Kane (******)
1942 Casablanca (*******)
1944 Double Indemnity (******)
1946 It's A Wonderful Life (******)
1952 Singin' In The Rain (******)
1954 On The Waterfront (*******)
1957 The Bridge On The River Kwai (******)
1964 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying... (******)
1972 The Godfather (******)
1977 Annie Hall (******)
posted by yankeefog at 12:36 AM on July 6, 2006


Post it, yankeefog! Post it!
posted by jdroth at 10:57 AM on July 6, 2006


Sorry about the delay! My Internet connection was down, and then... Er... Well, I forgot.

Anyway, after some reflection, it seemed like a relevant and clearly identified self-link was better than dumping a 200-line comment into a thread. So, I've gone ahead and (SELF LINK!) posted the list on my blog.
posted by yankeefog at 5:59 AM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Thanks yankeefog!
posted by ztdavis at 2:17 AM on August 16, 2006


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