Monday, June 25, 2007


Edward Copeland's Top 100 of 2007

By Edward Copeland
Even though the new AFI list of the 100 greatest American films of all time was an improvement on their first try, I couldn't help but be inspired to do my own Top 100 list. My rules are different: I'm not going to be xenophobic, meaning foreign films count. Also, to be eligible for my list, a movie must be at least 10 years old, so don't expect any titles released since 1997. Also, I decided not to include documentaries: They deserve a list all their own. It was still tough: I started with a pool of roughly 254 films. The first round of cuts was easy, but when I got down to 113, removing those final 13 was a bear and I still feel bad about having to leave some of them out. The rankings also seemed very arbitrary at times and I almost just went alphabetical, but figured that would be wimping out. Remember, this is the list of my favorites, so they don't necessarily need to be seen as the "greatest." All opinions are subjective anyway, whether decided by many or, in this case, by a jury of one.

100 Miller's Crossing directed by Joel Coen

As far as I'm concerned, the brothers' third film remains their best. I love Blood Simple, Raising Arizona and Barton Fink as well, but as far as I'm concerned, Miller's Crossing remains their most mature, accomplished work. They weren't busy mocking their characters (and the audience), seeking easy laughs with dimwitted characters speaking florid dialogue in funny accents, and their camera had calmed down as well. Instead, they just told a well-acted story of Irish gangsters in the South as they paid homage to Dashiell Hammett. Those were the days, at least as far as the Coens were concerned.

99 The Miracle of Morgan's Creek directed by Preston Sturges

The great Preston Sturges offered several possibilities for this list, but for me this madcap tale remains his finest work. Betty Hutton is a joy as the small-town girl, patriotic to the point that after a party bidding farewell to soldiers heading to the battles of WWII, she finds herself married to someone she can't remember and pregnant to boot. Enter the great Eddie Bracken as one of the few men left at home to pretend to be the impending papa. A great romp from start to finish.

98 White Heat directed by Raoul Walsh

James Cagney truly was at the top of his game in his triumphant 1949 return to the gangster genre that made him a star. How the Academy neglected to nominate him for his work as the psycho Cody Jarrett with the mother fixation remains one of their most glaring oversights in a history filled with glaring oversights.

97 Bambi directed by David Hand

Of all the animated classics to come from Walt Disney when he was alive and the studio was at the top of their game, this touching, emotional tale remains my favorite. From losing a parent to the frightening forest fire, it's one of the most intense animated films ever made for "children," but it's also one of the greatest.

96 High Noon directed by Fred Zinnemann

How could I forsake this spare, taut and classic Western? Fred Zinnemann's best film provides the perfect vehicle for the stoic style of Gary Cooper and it works even if you don't realize that it's an allegory for the Hollywood blacklist.

95 The Philadelphia Story directed by George Cukor

Often, not enough credit is given to truly fun, sparkling entertainment such as The Philadelphia Story, with its peerless trio of lead performances by Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

94 Top Hat directed by Mark Sandrich

While I love Swing Time, for me this is the apex of Astaire-Rogers vehicles. Of course, the plot is silly, but the songs are great, the dancing superb and Edward Everett Horton provides hysterical supporting laughs.

93 The Last Picture Show directed by Peter Bogdanovich

A man who started as a critic but is now better known as Dr. Melfi's shrink on The Sopranos and a frequent DVD commentary track participant, Bogdanovich did make a truly great film out of Larry McMurtry's novel about a dying Texas town, thanks in no small part to the fine ensemble he assembled including Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman.

92 Lone Star directed by John Sayles

It takes a lot to fool me and, in retrospect, I should have seen the final twist coming but the reason I didn't is because Sayles crafted in his best film a compelling story in which the plot turn was unexpected because the movie didn't rely on it. Even if the secret had never been revealed, this portrait of skeletons from the past and their influence on the lives of people today would still resonate.

91 Gone With the Wind directed by Victor Fleming

It almost has become too easy to pile on this classic because of its status, but it is still one of the great films of all times, piling in a miniseries worth of plot developments in less than four hours without ever losing a viewer's interest. Then again, Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable certainly help.

90 L.A. Confidential directed by Curtis Hanson

Of the films of fairly recent vintage, this is one that grows stronger each time I see it, earning comparisons to the great Chinatown (coming up later, as you might expect). Well acted (even if Kim Basinger's Oscar was beyond generous), well written and well directed, I believe L.A. Confidential's reputation will only grow greater as the years go on — yet it lost the Oscar (and a spot on the AFI list) to the insipid Titanic.

89 8½ directed by Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini is one director whom I find I think less of the longer I go on and the more times I revisit him (I came very close to picking Nights of Cabiria for this list and I bet eventually that will end up being my favorite Fellini). Still having seen fairly recently, I still hold quite a bit of affection for it, so it gets the spot.

88 After Hours directed by Martin Scorsese

Simply put: The tensest comedy ever made and perhaps Scorsese's most underrated film. Griffin Dunne is the perfect beleaguered straight man enveloped by a universe of misfits and oddballs in lower Manhattan when all he wanted to do was get laid. Joseph Minion wrote an excellent script and this is one case where I think the changed ending actually is superior to the original intended one. By the way, whatever happened to Joseph Minion?

87 The Night of the Hunter directed by Charles Laughton

There's something to be said for quitting while you're ahead and Charles Laughton, one of the finest screen actors ever, certainly did with the only film he ever directed. The film's influences seem more prevalent than people who have actually seen this disturbing thriller with the great Robert Mitchum as the creepy preacher with love on one hand and hate on the other and the legendary Lillian Gish as the equivalent of the old woman who lived in a shoe, assuming the old woman was well armed.

86 Back to the Future directed by Robert Zemeckis

Watchability often gets undervalued when rating a film's worth, but I never tire of sitting through this thrill ride. With equal touches of satire, suspense and genuine emotion, Back to the Future is a joy. No matter how many times I see it, the final sequence where they prepare to send Marty back to 1985 still holds me in rapt attention as I wonder if this time might be the time he doesn't actually make it.

85 Prizzi's Honor directed by John Huston

It's always impressive when one of the all-time great directors manages to keep his skills sharp right up to the very end of his career and his life. Huston's penultimate film (and The Dead is pretty damn good as well) is a great Mob satire with a plethora of memorable performances and even more memorable lines.

84 Raise the Red Lantern directed by Zhang Yimou

Before Zhang Yimou started being obsessed with spectacle and martial arts, film after film, he produced some of the greatest personal stories in the history of movies, especially when his muse was the great and beautiful Gong Li. This film was their first truly flawless effort as Gong plays the young bride of a powerful lord who already has multiple wives and who encourages the sometimes brutal competition between the women.

83 The Empire Strikes Back directed by Irvin Kershner

One of the best decisions George Lucas ever made in his Star Wars films was turning the reins over to other directors twice and letting writers such as Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan take over screenwriting and dialogue duties. Irvin Kershner got the best of it by helming what is unquestionably the series' finest hour and Brackett and Kasdan raised the words above Lucas' stilted chatter.

82 The Player directed by Robert Altman

One of the many "comebacks" of Robert Altman's career, this brilliant Hollywood satire holds up viewing after viewing because it's so much more than merely a satire. Thanks to Tim Robbins' superb performance as the sympathetic heel of a Hollywood executive and the cynical yet deeper emotional punch of Michael Tolkin's script, Altman wows from the opening eight-minute take to one of the greatest final punchlines in movie history.

81 North By Northwest directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Set piece after set piece, Hitchcock puts Cary Grant through the paces and pulls the viewer along to his most purely entertaining offering. There's not much else to say about it: It's not an exercise in style or filled with layers and depth, it's just damn fun.

80 To Kill a Mockingbird directed by Robert Mulligan

Making a decent adaptation of a great novel usually proves to be a difficult task, but Mulligan and Horton Foote pulled it off with this superb film version of Harper Lee's great book. Stand when this film passes by. It's earned it.

79 Rio Bravo directed by Howard Hawks

Hawks lands on my list for the first time (It's an outrage he only landed once on AFI's list) with this hoot of a Western with John Wayne providing the solid center while Walter Brennan and Dean Martin (oh, and Angie Dickinson too) adding the color.

78 Schindler's List directed by Steven Spielberg

The film that seemed to herald that Peter Pan had finally grown up. Sure, sometimes he punches the easy emotional buttons with too much force, but for the most part, it is a frightening and sad cinematic journey, and he certainly pulled it off with more finesse than he did with Saving Private Ryan.

77 MASH directed by Robert Altman

A comedy about the Vietnam War that's full of blood and set in Korea, just as a matter of subterfuge. The film that put Altman on the map and inspired one of TV's best comedies (until it got too full of itself), MASH still holds up with its brilliant ensemble and wicked wit.

76 King Kong directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack

The first time was the charm. One of the few insightful comments I heard on the new AFI special was when Martin Scorsese said that in many ways he finds the primitive stop-motion effects of the original King Kong more impressive than later CGI versions. He's absolutely right. The 1933 version also offers more thrills and emotions (and in half the time) than Peter Jackson's technically superior but dramatically inferior and unnecessary remake.

75 Fanny and Alexander directed by Ingmar Bergman

The film marketed as Bergman's "last feature" truly is one of his best, painting a vast semiautobiographical canvas of two children from a large theatrical family who find their lives upended when their mother weds an authoritarian monster of a minister.

74 The Crying Game directed by Neil Jordan

So much is made of this film's twist that I think it takes away from how great a movie it was before that plot turn even happened. I was fortunate enough to see it early, before the hype went into overdrive, so I thought another plot turn was the "twist" and relaxed and the real twist took me by complete, wonderful surprise. I hope someday new viewers will be able to see the film without knowing what lies ahead. Even if they do though, they will see a great study in human nature.

73 Do the Right Thing directed by Spike Lee

While Spike Lee still has talent to spare, he has yet to come close to equaling the power of his third film and its study of one hot day in Bedford Stuy. Seeing it pop up on the AFI's list this time was one of the most pleasant and overdue surprises of the list.

72 Smiles of a Summer Night directed by Ingmar Bergman

When people think Bergman, they think heavy, but here is one of his lightest and most enjoyable concoctions. With obvious echoes of The Rules of the Game, it's not only a delight as a film but it inspired the great Stephen Sondheim to write one of his earliest great scores as composer and lyricist in "A Little Night Music." Isn't it rich?

71 Treasure of the Sierra Madre directed by John Huston

Bogie got one of his best roles, John Huston made one of his greatest films and his old man got a supporting actor Oscar in the deal as well. When you see Walter Huston do his mocking, triumphant little dance, you want to join in.

70 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? directed by Mike Nichols

There wouldn't be a Breakfast Club without a Virginia Woolf, but I don't hold that against Edward Albee or his great play turned into a superb movie by Mike Nichols. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were never better and while the truth games and verbal battles make you cringe, you can't avert your eyes from their power.

69 Paths of Glory directed by Stanley Kubrick

Kirk Douglas was probably miscast, but this early Kubrick doesn't get the kudos it deserves and it certainly bears up better over the years than some of his later works such as A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick often tackled the futility of war and its inherent contradictions, but he really knocked it out of the park with this one.

68 Notorious directed by Alfred Hitchcock

To me, one of the crimes of both versions of the AFI list is that Psycho is the only representation of black-and-white Hitchcock, as if no one noticed him until he started working in color, but nothing is further from the truth and Notorious is one of the best examples of that. The kiss between Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant remains one of the most sensual images ever put on celluloid and Claude Rains is superb as the conflicted heavy of the piece.

67 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington directed by Frank Capra

People like to mock Frank Capra as simple-minded at times and this film especially, but it remains a rousing indictment of corruption in Washington that still echoes to this very day. It's too bad that a filibuster doesn't still mean that a senator has to do what Jefferson Smith did and hold the floor for as long as he can instead of the procedural gimmick it's been turned into today.

66 Amadeus directed by Milos Forman

Salieri may consider himself the "patron saint of mediocrity," but little is mediocre about Forman's adaptation of Peter Shaffer's play. F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce were both brilliant and you can't really argue that its musical score is weak either.

65 Bringing Up Baby directed by Howard Hawks

Here comes Howard Hawks again and Cary Grant as well. (I haven't added it up, but I suspect Grant appears in more movies on this list than any other actor). Katharine Hepburn's most inspired performance powers this screwiest of screwball comedies.

64 Horse Feathers directed by Norman Z. McLeod

Speaking of screwballs, let's hear it for the Marx Brothers and this college comedy, which ranks as my second favorite of their inspired lunacies. Whatever Horse Feathers is, I'm not against it.

63 The 400 Blows directed by François Truffaut

A breathtaking debut, the launch of a mostly great series of films concerning Truffaut's alter ego Antoine Doinel and perhaps the most famous freeze frame in film history. It's not bad as a coming-of-age picture either.

62 To Live directed by Zhang Yimou

Of the many collaborations between Zhang Yimou and Gong Li, this one remains my favorite, even though it's less heralded than many of his others. Epic in terms of the amount of story it covers, but still focused and personal in the telling, if you haven't seen To Live, you should.

61 On the Waterfront directed by Elia Kazan

This film shouldn't work and it probably wouldn't if its stellar cast hadn't saved it. Kazan and Budd Schulberg's attempt to justify their actions during the McCarthy hearings doesn't quite work as an allegory, but the film itself works as a powerful story thanks to the indelible performances it contains.

60 Bicycle Thieves directed by Vittorio De Sica

When I first saw de Sica's masterpiece, myself and fellow English speakers knew it as The Bicycle Thief. It's only been recently that we've learned the more correct English translation. I guess his film still has things to teach us today.

59 The Seventh Seal directed by Ingmar Bergman

A meditation on life, the universe and everything and, for a film whose story revolves around a chess game between a knight back from the Crusades and Death for the knight's life, it has a bit more humor than you'd expect.

58 Tootsie directed by Sydney Pollack

Pollack didn't just direct and act in this comic masterpiece, he really played tailor as well, stitching together multiple versions of its screenplay to come up with the exquisite finished garment. Dustin Hoffman's brilliant performance surrounded by an equally solid ensemble that includes a nearly all-improvised role by Bill Murray didn't hurt either.

57 Pulp Fiction directed by Quentin Tarantino

As the years roll by, many find themselves less enthused by Tarantino's masterwork. I am not among their ranks, finding that I'm as enthralled, entertained and as giddy as I was the first time I saw it whenever I see any part of it again.

56 Open City directed by Roberto Rossellini

Perhaps the crowning achievement of the Italian neorealism movement. This story of Italians fighting back against fascism and the Nazis during World War II is as powerful and moving today as it ever was.

55 Bride of Frankenstein directed by James Whale

Another instance of the all-too-rare occurrence of a sequel that's better the film that spawned it. Whale's funny followup to his own Frankenstein is full of most of the classic moments you probably associate with the story: the blind hermit, "She's alive!" and many more.

54 Broadcast News directed by James L. Brooks

As I wrote about this film during the Lovesick Blog-a-Thon hosted by 100 Films, this is the best cinematic representation of unrequited love.

53 Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Every time I hear that a friend or acquaintance is going to have a baby, I make the same simple request: Do everything in their power to keep all knowledge of this movie away from them until they see it. I would have loved to have seen it without knowing that the shower scene was coming or the truth about Norman Bates. I hope others can have that experience.

52 Vertigo directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Here comes Hitch again with his most personal and, in many ways, disturbing film about love and obsession and the need to replace what one has lost.

51 Laura directed by Otto Preminger

When I wrote about Preminger on the 100th anniversary of his birth, I pegged this film as his greatest achievement. With its great cast and sharp dialogue, I don't think there's much to argue about there.

50 The Apartment directed by Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder made so many great comedies with varying levels of pathos that it's hard to pick just one. I considered Some Like It Hot and One, Two Three, but this one remains for me his best film among the ones played primarily for laughs.

49 Die Hard directed by John McTiernan

A running gag between Wagstaff and I in recent years is that I believe Die Hard is the greatest film ever made. OK, I don't really believe that, but this is one of the best, especially as far as action goes and Alan Rickman remains one of the all-time great movie villains.

48 Shadow of a Doubt directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Supposedly, Hitchcock often named this gem as his personal favorite of his films and it certainly remains one of his best with its dry, mordant wit and a great lead in Joseph Cotten.

47 Sunrise directed by F.W. Murnau

The time is over for the debate as to whether the Oscar this classic silent won in the Academy's first year was the equivalent of "best picture." All that needs to be said is that is a great film, Academy seal of approval or not.

46 The Conversation directed by Francis Ford Coppola

The Godfather Part II may have won best picture in 1974, but for my money it wasn't even the best Coppola film that year, let alone the best picture (not that it isn't good). This simple tale of an eavesdropping expert's sudden moral qualms remains riveting and thoughtful to this day.

45 Lawrence of Arabia directed by David Lean

If it weren't for the weaker second half, this movie that almost defines epic would have landed higher on this list. Still, with its stunning cinematography, gorgeous score and great Peter O'Toole performance, it belongs here nonetheless.

44 Taxi Driver directed by Martin Scorsese

I'm not talking to you Travis, but about you, and Scorsese and Paul Schrader's dark, modern spin on The Searchers only grows more stunning as the years roll on. Robert De Niro gives one of his greatest performances and, for my money, this may remain Jodie Foster's finest work.

43 The Ox-Bow Incident directed by William A. Wellman

This film doesn't get mentioned as often as it should, but its portrait of the perils of vigilante justice comes through as strongly today as I imagine it did when it was originally released.

42 Grand Illusion directed by Jean Renoir

Jean Renoir made a lot of great films and at least two unquestionable masterpieces, including this one, yet you seldom hear his name come up unless you are talking with real cinephiles, which is a shame because his films don't belong to elite tastes: They belong to everyone. This vivid portrait of WWI prisoners of war proves that since it was the very first time the Academy bothered to nominate a foreign language film for best picture. It should have won too.

41 Ikiru directed by Akira Kurosawa

As opposed to Renoir, Kurosawa is routinely mentioned by many as a master, thanks mainly to his great sword-laden epics, but for me this "modern" film is one of his strongest, telling the sad story of a long suffering bureaucrat who seeks meaning in life when he's diagnosed with terminal cancer. A truly touching, remarkable film.

40 Strangers on a Train directed by Alfred Hitchcock

When compiling this list, I feared it was becoming too Hitchcock-centric, forcing the omission of other great filmmakers but dammit, he made so many films that mean so much to me, it would be dishonest to place a quota system on him. Robert Walker's great performance as the madman who expects the wimpy Farley Granger to live up to his part of a hypothetical murder deal remains chilling to this day.

39 The Manchurian Candidate directed by John Frankenheimer

One of the saddest things about the revised AFI list was seeing this superb political thriller drop off the list. I hope the ridiculous and pointless remake by Jonathan Demme didn't leave a bad taste in voters' mouths to the point that they punished the original. It remains a taut (and funny) thriller and Angela Lansbury's Mrs. Iselin remains a villain for the ages.

38 M directed by Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang made a lot of good movies, but nothing equaled this tale told in his native language. Peter Lorre made his mark as the hunted child killer in a film filled with atmosphere, suspense and thought.

37 It Happened One Night directed by Frank Capra

Even people who view Capra as a sentimental sap tend to like this great madcap romantic romp thanks to the great chemistry of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. May the walls of Jericho always fall and keep this gem on these lists.

36 Seven Samurai directed by Akira Kurosawa

As personal and moving as Ikiru is, this ultimate swords and sandal epic from the Japanese master remains my favorite. It never grows old.

35 Bonnie and Clyde directed by Arthur Penn

The next two films on the list come from the same year and the reason they are ranked back-to-back is that I'm constantly switching my allegiance as to which 1967 classic is the best. For this list, Penn's great telling of the Depression-era bank robbers with its great cast lands in second place.

34 The Graduate directed by Mike Nichols

What comes in first for 1967 at this point in time is this great satirical comedy that always seems to speak to a new generation. Occasionally, it slips a little in my esteem, but it always seems to bounce back.

33 The Searchers directed by John Ford

John Ford is a great but I do have to admit that I believe he's a bit overrated, but not in the case of this Western which only grows stronger with each viewing and contains John Wayne's best-ever performance and one of film history's finest final shots.

32 Annie Hall directed by Woody Allen

When I wrote about this film earlier this year on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, I noted that in a way its structure is reminiscent of Citizen Kane and I think that, in addition to Woody's priceless dialogue and Diane Keaton's effervescence, is what keeps it as fresh today.

31 Red River directed by Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks directed John Wayne to his second-greatest performance in this thrilling tale of a cattle drive and bitter rivalries. It also contains the perfect example of a Hawksian woman as Joanne Dru keeps talking, even with an arrow protruding from her body.

30 All About Eve directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

You know 1950 was a great year for movies released in the United States when a picture as great as All About Eve only finishes third on my list for that year. That takes nothing away from it though with its brittle and brilliant dialogue and multiple great performances, especially George Sanders as Addison DeWitt.

29 The Maltese Falcon directed by John Huston

Huston's first time out as director remains my favorite of his work with its great cast, led by Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade. Films such as this truly are the stuff dreams are made of.

28 The Crowd directed by King Vidor

In the 1927-28 contest for "Artistic Quality of Production" at the Oscars, this film faced off against Sunrise and Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness. While Sunrise is great, I have to admit my preference is for Vidor's film and its tale of striving to succeed when everything seems to conspire to keep you down.

27 The Wizard of Oz directed by Victor Fleming

My dog doesn't usually watch TV, but whenever this comes on, she's drawn to it and one time even seemed to sit on the couch and watch it from beginning to end. Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the colors, but I'm hard pressed to argue with my dog.

26 The Wild Bunch directed by Sam Peckinpah

There's a lot of death in The Wild Bunch, but what makes the film so remarkable is not the violence, but its depiction of the death of an era and of a way of life.

25 Dog Day Afternoon directed by Sidney Lumet

Again and again when making this list, I factored in how often I can watch a film and Dog Day Afternoon is an example of a movie that never tires for me. If I catch it at any point and nothing else is on, it always rivets me to the end.

24 City Lights directed by Charles Chaplin

Has there ever been a more touching image placed on film that the ending of this silent film, made well after silent films were dead, when the newly sighted blind girl realizes her benefactor was a little tramp? I don't think so either.

23 Jaws directed by Steven Spielberg

The film that really put Spielberg on the pop culture map remains to me his greatest accomplishment. Two distinct and perfect halves: Terror on the beach followed by the brilliance of three men on a boat. It's also an example of how sometimes trashy novels can be turned into true works of film art in a way great novels usually miss the mark in translation.

22 Chinatown directed by Roman Polanski

There's a good reason that Robert Towne's screenplay often is cited as one of the great examples of writing for film. If only all scripts (including Robert Towne ones) were this superb.

21 Double Indemnity directed by Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder (like Howard Hawks) had the talent to soar in almost any genre and this quintessential film noir is a supreme example. How it lost the Oscar to Going My Way and Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson failed to get nominations still puzzles me. Wait – no it doesn't. The Academy is wrong much more often than they are right.

20 It's a Wonderful Life directed by Frank Capra

No one gives this film the credit for its darkness that it really deserves. This isn't sappy sentimental drivel, this is about a man who feels as if he's been pissed on all his life and finally reaches the end of his rope. James Stewart's talent, Capra's gifts and the script by Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett make George Bailey's journey plausible and touching. Only a Mr. Potter could hate this film.

19 The Godfather directed by Francis Ford Coppola

It's almost become shorthand to argue that Part II is better than Part I in The Godfather trilogy, but I disagree. Part II is very good, but the original still takes the top spot in my book. I don't think the crosscutting of Michael and young Vito ever quite meshes and instead interrupts the rhythm of Part II. No such problem in the original, which is another example of making a movie masterpiece out of a pulpy novel. It set the template pretty much every mob movie or story to follow (though really, I think HBO's The Sopranos owes more to GoodFellas in its depiction of the everyday life of a gangster). Another great ensemble with the starmaking performance by Al Pacino as the reluctant heir to the family business and Marlon Brando with cotton in his cheeks yet still able to avoid the campiness that afflicted much of his later work.

18 Children of Paradise directed by Marcel Carné

This epic may be one of the least well-known great films of all time. It's even more extraordinary when you realize the condition it was filmed under in occupied France. Jean-Louis Barrault is brilliant as the gifted mime in love with a woman he saves from a false accusation of crime. The woman (Arletty) gets around, to say the least. It's romantic tragedy on a grand scale with a running time of nearly three hours (in some cuts, more than three hours) but it holds your attention throughout. Every movie lover owes it to themself to seek out this film if they haven't seen it. As Roger Ebert wrote in an appreciation of the film, "Carné was the leading French director of the decade 1935-1945, but to make this ambitious costume film during wartime required more than clout; it required reckless courage."

17 The General directed by Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman

When I wrote about The General recently for the 1927 blog-a-thon hosted at Goatdog's Blog , I wrote, "(T)hough The General provides plenty of laughs, it should really be classified more as an adventure than a comedy because it produces just as much suspense as silliness. It's also striking for a degree of realism in its Civil War setting that you wouldn't expect your run-of-the-mill comedy to take the effort to realize." Thankfully, the AFI corrected their 1998 error by including the film on this year's list.

16 Jules and Jim directed by François Truffaut

You would think that being in love with the same woman would provide irreparable harm to a friendship, but it doesn't always have to, even if odds are the triangle will not turn out well as in the case of Truffaut's beautiful tale. As Jim says at one point, "We played with life and lost." Truffaut played with film and certainly won, though anyone who loves his work can rightfully be called a winner as well. As Roger Ebert wrote in another of his appreciations, "There is joy in the filmmaking that feels fresh today and felt audacious at the time. In the energy pulsing from the screen you can see the style and sensibility that inspired Bonnie and Clyde, a film Truffaut was once going to direct, and which jolted American films out of their torpor."

15 Modern Times directed by Charles Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin was audacious enough to continue making silent films (although he did allow for sound effects and an occasional song) all the way to 1936. In my opinion, he saved the Little Tramp's best for last in this hysterical tale of man vs. the modern age. The comedy is as funny as you'd expect and even more pointed than usual. Since Chaplin knew the Little Tramp was making his swan song, he even let him waddle off into the sunrise. Sound didn't stop Chaplin, who had two great sound efforts to come with The Great Dictator and Monsieur Verdoux. Still, his early works are the most precious gifts. Truly, his silence was golden.

14 The Third Man directed by Carol Reed

As I wrote when marking the 100th anniversary of Reed's birth (forgive my self-plagiarism, but it makes this enterprise go faster), "Rewatching The Third Man recently, it once again captivated me from the moment the great zither music by Anton Karas begins to play over the credits. ... If you haven't seen The Third Man (and shame on you if you call yourself a film buff and you haven't), watching the Criterion DVD really is the way to go, not only for a crisp print but to be able to compare the different versions offered for British and U.S. audiences (though only the different openings are included – we don't see what 17 minutes David Selznick cut for American audiences). With its great scenes of Vienna, sly performances and perhaps the greatest entrance of any character in movie history, The Third Man stays near the top of all films ever made, even nearly 60 years after its release."

13 Duck Soup directed by Leo McCarey

When Mickey (Woody Allen), depressed and suicidal, wanders into a movie theater in Hannah and Her Sisters, it's this inspired mixture of lunacy that bring him back around. After all, who can sit through the joy that is Duck Soup and not feel better afterward. There is no contest for me as to which Marx Brothers vehicle is the best. With its classic mirror scene and the loosest of plots designed to make the insanity of war look even crazier, I never get tired of Duck Soup. Watch it if only for the great Margaret Dumont. Remember, you are fighting for her honor, which is more than she ever did.

12 His Girl Friday directed by Howard Hawks

As a journalist, His Girl Friday contains one of my favorite nonsequiturs in the history of film. Delivered with frantic panache by Cary Grant as unscrupulous newspaper editor Walter Burns: "Leave the rooster story alone. That's human interest." Oh yeah, this may also be one of the funniest films ever made with rapid fire dialogue, a great sparring partner for Grant in Rosalind Russell and a priceless supporting cast to boot. It's the best remake ever made (and the film it was based on, The Front Page, is pretty damn good too). Making Hildy Johnson a woman and Burns' ex-wife was a stroke of genius. Besides, when you watch any version of this story where Walter and Hildy are both men, it's clear this isn't a platonic working relationship. I don't advise any more remakes (forget Switching Channels, if you can), but I wonder how it would play if the leads were two gay men?

11 Singin' in the Rain directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly

Currently, we live in a time of a vicious circle: Movies inspire theatrical musicals which in turn become movie musicals (or in most cases, don't. Don't be looking for High Fidelity: The Musical on the big screen anytime soon). Still, there was a time when musicals were created as motion pictures. Singin' in the Rain is the very best example of one of those. The songs are great, the dance numbers are inspired and the performances are a joy. On top of that, it's even a Hollywood story, set in the awkward time between silent film and sound and milking plenty of laughs from the situation, especially through the spectacular performance of Jean Hagen as a silent superstar with a voice hardly made for sound and a personality barely suitable fir Earth. Gene Kelly gives his best performance and a young Debbie Reynolds shines and then there is Donald O'Connor making us all laugh. Singin' in the Rain decades later inspired (if that's the right word) a Broadway stage version. It wasn't very good. Stick with the movie.

10 The Purple Rose of Cairo directed by Woody Allen

When I wrote about this film for the Screenwriting Blog-a-Thon hosted by Mystery Man on Film, I said, "As far as I'm concerned, this film is Allen's masterpiece. Others will cite Annie Hall or Manhattan or some other titles and while I love Annie Hall and others as well, over time The Purple Rose of Cairo is the Allen screenplay that has reserved the fondest place in my heart. The screenplay isn't saddled with any extraneous scenes and no sequence falls flat as it builds toward its bittersweet ending. For me, it's Woody Allen's greatest screenplay and one of the best ever written as well." I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of people who have said to me since I wrote that how they agree, even among moviegoers who declare themselves not to like Woody Allen as a rule. It's the perfect blend of comedy, fantasy and realism and one of the greatest depictions of the magic of movies ever put on film. In The Purple Rose of Cairo, when Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) and his pith helmet step off the screen, the repercussions end up being both hilarious, touching and painfully real.

9 Sunset Boulevard directed by Billy Wilder

Of all the great films Billy Wilder made, this "Hollywood story" has always occupied the dearest place in my heart. It's funny, yet pretty bizarre when you get right down to it. William Holden is great as the cynical screenwriter out to sponge off a faded and perhaps delusion silent screen star (Gloria Swanson). With memorable line after memorable line, the screenplay almost deserves to be recited. Here's another example of a movie that got turned into a Broadway musical that never should have been. I hope few of you had the misfortune of seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber's monstrosity, which had pedestrian lyrics that seem lifted right out of The Simpsons parody of a musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire. I remember many a debate among theater fanatics about whom was the best Norma. Was it Glenn Close? Patti LuPone? Betty Buckley? The answer is and always will be that there is only one great Norma Desmond and she was played by Gloria Swanson.

8 Rear Window directed by Alfred Hitchcock

When I wrote about Rear Window back in March, the post was inspired by my surprise that some Hitchcock fans find the film a lesser effort while I maintain it's Hitch's very best. Francois Truffaut wrote in his book "The Films in My Life," "...I am convinced that this film is one of the most important of all the 17 Hitchcock made in Hollywood, one of those rare films without imperfection or weakness, which concedes nothing." I concur. For me, Rear Window nearly is perfect and revisiting it only strengthened my resolve on the matter. It is the ultimate exploration of film as voyeurism and the most triumphant example of Hitchcock's attempts to use a confined setting for a movie as he tried in Lifeboat and Rope. He truly was in control of his full faculties as a director in terms of pacing and just about everything else you can imagine. On top of that, there is always the great sequence of the kiss. I'm as puzzled now as I was when I first heard the naysayers express their lack of love for this masterpiece.

7 Network directed by Sidney Lumet

"I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!" Do I need to say anything more?

6 Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese

Some people will pick Raging Bull as Martin Scorsese's greatest work or some will say Taxi Driver. Others, whom I presume are only saying it to be contrarians, will even cite New York, New York, which to me is overwhelming evidence as to why you should never take cocaine or date Liza Minnelli, let alone do both at the same time. For me though, GoodFellas is the Scorsese at his very best. Really, it is a virtual filmmaking class in the form of a feature movie. Watch it again and again, absorb and learn. Great use of camera? Check. Stunning cinematography? Check. Brilliant sound design? Check. How to use songs to make truly memorable montages? Check again. This is a movie that starts with Tony Bennett and ends with Sid Vicious. I love every minute of this movie, from the bravura sequences such as the tracking shot through the Copacabana, the discovery of corpses to the piano exit from "Layla" right down to the way Robert De Niro uses a bottle of ketchup.

5 Nashville directed by Robert Altman

Pauline Kael probably said it best when she wrote that you get elated by the images in Nashville. It's a movie that seems to get deeper and greater every time I see it. This is Robert Altman's masterpiece and I can't deny I let out a little cheer when I heard it made the new edition of the AFI list after being omitted before. Now that we have lost the great Altman, I'm guessing this film's reputation will only grow stronger, and deservedly so.

4 Casablanca directed by Michael Curtiz

The finest example to ever come out of the Hollywood studio system. When I hear young people say they've never seen it or (even worse) find Casablanca boring, it makes me fear for our future. I guess youth often is wasted on the young.

3 Citizen Kane directed by Orson Welles

When I wrote about Citizen Kane on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, I asked, "Where does one begin writing about a film like Citizen Kane when so many words have been written about the film over the past 50 years that it seems every possible angle has been explored?" I still feel that way. It speaks for itself.

2 Dr. Strangelove directed by Stanley Kubrick

This film only gets funnier and more daring the longer time goes on, even when the Cold War has disappeared (for now). We can't afford a mine shaft gap, but this masterpiece has plenty of comic gold buried in its mines.

1 The Rules of the Game directed by Jean Renoir

Picking No. 1 is always the most difficult task for me. My top 10 have remained fairly stable for years, but the order always shuffles a bit. Somehow though, more often than not, Jean Renoir's 1939 classic, almost lost to the world and not seen in the U.S. until the 1950s, always lands on top. Some day, when I'm not as exhausted, I'll discuss why in more detail.


That was a mighty task you completed, Ed. Out of curiosity, you should list the 13 titles that were cut. I was surprised that no Sergio Leone movie made it on.
The 13 that just missed the cut (alphabetically) were The Court Jester, Diabolique, The Dirty Dozen, Goldfinger, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Halloween, The Magnificent Ambersons, A Night to Remember, Rashomon, The Red Shoes, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Some Like It Hot and Trouble in Paradise.
-On my blog, I have a pretty good defense for Titanic you should read

-I loved Double Indemnity but I think it's understandable it lost the Oscar to Going My Way. Not that Going My Way was the best movie of the year, but Double Indemnity was a landmark film that's best apprecaited looking back in time for kickstarting the film noir genre.

-I don't neccessarily think a top 100 list needs to make it a point to be inclusive to Howard Hawks. He had a number of great films and was a chameleon in every genre but I don't think he has any one film that really screams for inclusion. Bringing Up Baby was one of the most overrated screwball comedies I've seen and I found the chemistry between the two unconvincing. I find the same true with Woody Allen (although people think Annie Hall is a classic).

-If I were to spring for a 3rd Altman picture, i would have gone for the ultimate revisionist Western in McCabe and Mrs. Miller

-You are absolutely right that it's a tragedy Manchurian Candidate wasn't on the list. I don't think there's ever been a better political thriller in existence.
Although I still think you'd do well to include a few more foreign films in there, that list is at the very least a vast improvement on the AFI's. Forty-something of those titles would make it into my own top 100 as well. Otherwise, you only have a couple I actively dislike (Mockingbird, Star Wars 2); a couple of them I'm yet to see (After Hours, Ox-Bow Incident); and a whole pile of them I quite adore (L.A. Confidential, The Graduate, Seven Samurai, M, The Searchers are all hovering just below my top 100, threatening to stumble into it any day now).
Goran, you really must see After Hours and especially The Ox-Bow Incident.
I love this list. I'm glad someone besides me was afraid they were putting too much Hitchcock into their top 100--and that Rear Window came out on top for you. It's very close to my all-time favorite film, and certainly I believe it's Hitchcock's best. I'm looking forward to seeing you write further on The Rules of the Game. I saw it when I was probably too young and film-inexperienced to get it--seeing it at the top of a list as good as this one tells me I for sure need to reevaluate it asap.
Excellent list. And you justified each one. Man.

Knew you were a Rules Of the Game fan, but didn't know you were that big of one.

Glad to see that you gave After Hours a rank also. I would agree that it is Scorsese's most underrated film to date and definitely one of his best.
Lots of great additions here I was happy to see: Night of the Hunter, White Heat, Laura, Strangers on a Train, Rio Bravo, Bride of Frankenstein and The Ox-Bow Incident especially. You're right about Dr. Strangelove aging beautifully, and I think the same is true of The Ox-Bow Incident.
The Purple Rose of Cairo! YES!!!
Wonderful list, Mr. C. I just wish I could have made room for a few of the favorites you listed, namely Lone Star (1992), L.A. Confidential (1997), The Night of the Hunter (1955), Prizzi’s Honor (1985), Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Rio Bravo (1959), Notorious (1946), On the Waterfront (1954), Vertigo (1958), The Apartment (1960), The Manchurian Candidate (1962—I can’t believe I left this one off the list!), The Crowd (1928), Double Indemnity (1944), and The Third Man (1949).

I have but one question--am I the only person in the blogosphere who thinks Holiday (1938) is a better movie than both The Philadelphia Story (1940) and Bringing Up Baby (1938)?
Holiday didn't do much for me, but I wouldn't presume to speak for the entire blogosphere.
The list is an absolute good, Ed. The list... is life.

Well, not really. But it's still a good list. :)

Many of the films on your top 100 are also on my top 100 (soon to be posted at my blog) and that always feels good. Like you, my list is very Hitch-centric (it also happens to be very Spielberg-centric for which I'm sure I'm going to take some heat).
I could quibble. There are some movies I'd put on my list, and some I'd take off. But mostly, I think, there'd be a lot of overlap.

I kind of like these lists that have been popping up again. A few years ago they were popular, and now it seems to be time to re-assess. (Though leaving off films of the past ten years is probably smart.)

I won't dispute the films at the top of the list here, though if I had to pick a group that was ranked together, I might want to watch the ones in the 20s for sheer enjoyment.

In case anyone thinks picking top movies is an easy task, there is this (growing) list of 1,000 from the Guardian. Among the crimes: where is City Lights?

- John
I agree, I think Purple Rose is Allens' best work (even if it doesn't in my opine live up to Sherlock, Jr.).
Jusy FYI, Ed...

I've now got my own list up at Windmills.

Again, good job on yours.
Here's my list in no particular order. I did not look at yours first. We do share many of the same films, although you sometimes pick different films from the same directors. I posted mine at

1. The General
2. Sherlock, Jr.
3. Touch of Evil
4. Citizen Kane
5. My Darling Clementine
6. The Searchers
7. Ball of Fire
8. Bringing Up Baby
9. Notorious
10. Psycho
11. Gone with the Wind
12. Rules of the Game
13.Dr. Zhivago
14. Lawrence of Arabia
15. High Tide
16. The Piano
17. Reds
18. Fanny & Alexander
19. Swing Time
20. The Philadelphia Story
21. The Earrings of Madame De
22. Casablanca
23. 2001: A Space Odyssey
24. Dr. Strangelove
25. For Whom the Bell Tolls
26. It Happened One Night
27. It’s a Wonderful Life
28. The Apartment
29. Some Like it Hot
30. Ninotchka
31. Trouble in Paradise
32. Sunrise
33. La Strada
34. The African Queen
35. The Man Who Would be King
36. All About Eve
37. Meshes of the Afternoon
38. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
39. Annie Hall
40. The Conformist
41. Battleship Potemkin
42. Secrets and Lies
43. Napoleon
44. War and Peace
45. The Bicycle Thief
46. Way Down East
47. Bonnie & Clyde
48. The Last Laugh
49. The Third Man
50. The Last Detail
51. Meet Me in St. Louis
52. The Bad and the Beautiful
53. Goodfellas
54. Shanghai Express
55. Chinatown
56. The Wind
57. The Sweet Smell of Success
58. The Gold Rush
59. The 400 Blows
60. Jules et Jim
61. Duck Soup
62. Au Hazard Balthazar
63. E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial
64. West Side Story
65. I Know Where I’m Going
66. Pinocchio
67. Finding Nemo
68. Raise the Red Lantern
69. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie
70. The Seven Samurai
71. The Marriage of Maria Braun
72. Fargo
73. The Road Warrior
74. From Here to Eternity
75. The Godfather trilogy
76. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
77. The Lady Eve
78. Frankenstein
79. Titanic
80. Terminator 2
81. Master and Commander
82. The Graduate
83. Do the Right Thing
84. Breaking the Waves
85. East of Eden
86. King Kong
87. Once Upon a Time in the West
88. The Wild Bunch
89. Blow Up
90. Midnight Cowboy
91. Mon Oncle
92. Nashville
93. Network
94. To Kill A Mockingbird
95. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her
96. Platoon
97. Pulp Fiction
98. Unforgiven
99. All About My Mother
100. Pickup on South Street
I love The Court Jester and those last 13 were a hard cut to make. Then again it shows even if just one person is doing it how arbitrary and rankings can really end up being. Hopefully, if nothing else, they do offer rental ideas for movies people haven't seen or heard of.
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