Monday, March 16, 2009

My 100 Favorite Films

I had to get in on the action too. There are lists out there everywhere, some good, some great, some awful. The first thing you will notice about my list is that I cheated like crazy here, counting all of Stanley Kubrick's films, for instance, as one entry. Why? To avoid hair-splitting and to create space for a few more oddities.

Do I necessarily consider each and every one of these films on my list the greatest cinematic achievements of all time? Nope. I'm sure one or two of these (or 50) will have some of you scratching your heads. I'm tired of those American Film Institute lists with the same old formula fluff, although I'm a hypocrite myself and include a few tried-and-trues like Red River. (What I should have put is Hatari--at least the bush scenes. That would have puzzled some.) Most of these I would want to be my desert island collection, some are just downright fascinating artistically for quirky reasons (Roman Polanski's Macbeth, for example), and some should be studied by any serious student of the cinema.

Ultimately, Top 100 lists probably say more about the compiler than anything. I've grown increasingly fond of tough, gritty, realistically violent movies. I'm sure that says something about me, but I have no idea what. I still don't own a firearm and have yet to get in a bar fight.

****Note: I'd also like to hear from people on those movies (and filmmakers) you love to hate.

Tom Graves' Top 100 Film List

1. Citizen Kane – Orson Welles
2. The oeuvre of Stanley Kubrick (I’m cheating counting this as one film): 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, Eyes Wide Shut, etc.
3. Persona – Ingmar Bergman
4. Cries and Whispers – Ingmar Bergman
5. Hour of the Wolf – Ingmar Bergman
6. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie – Luis Bunuel
7. The Exterminating Angel – Luis Bunuel
8. Pandora’s Box (silent) – G. W. Pabst
9. Red River – Howard Hawks
10. The Searchers – John Ford
11. Goldfinger (the greatest Bond film of them all)
12. A Hard Day’s Night (the Beatles at their most fun)
13. Rear Window – Alfred Hitchcock
14. Psycho – Alfred Hitchcock
15. Peeping Tom – Michael Powell
16. Chinatown – Roman Polanski
17. 8 ½ ­ Federico Fellini
18. Taxi Driver – Martin Scorsese
19. Goodfellas – Martin Scorsese
20. Godfather I and II – Francis Ford Coppola
21. Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola
22. The Emigrants and The New Land – Jan Troell
23. The Road Warrior
24. Nightmare on Elm Street
25. Assault on Precinct 13
26. The Seven Samurai – Akira Kurosawa
27. M – Fritz Lang
28. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill 1 & 2 – Quentin Tarantino
29. Days of Heaven (runners up: Badlands and The Thin Red Line) all by Terrence Malick
30. The Day the Earth Stood Still
31. Alien
32. The Terminator
33. Blow Up – Michaelangelo Antonioni
34. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - John Ford
35. The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia – Sam Peckinpah
36. Cockfighter
37. Rolling Thunder (starring my great friend, the actress Linda Haynes)
38. His Girl Friday – Howard Hawks
39. Mutiny on the Bounty
40. Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein – James Whale
41. Dracula - Tod Browning’s original version
43. Freaks – Tod Browning
44. The Navigator, the General – Buster Keaton
45. Greed ­- Erich Von Stroheim
46. Some Like It Hot – Billy Wilder
47. The Last Waltz – Martin Scorsese
48. The Bicycle Thief – Vittorio De Sica
49. Point Blank – John Boorman
50. The Last Tango In Paris – Bernardo Bertolucci
51. Night of the Hunter – Charles Laughton
52. My Life As A Dog
53. Cinema Paradiso
54. Nashville – Robert Altman
55. The Last Picture Show, Targets – Peter Bogdanovich
56. The Producers – Mel Brooks’ original
57. Young Frankenstein – Mel Brooks
58. Double Indemnity
59. Bonnie and Clyde – Arthur Penn
60. Little Big Man – Arthur Penn
61. Lone Star – John Sayles
62. Passion Fish – John Sayles
63. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
64. From Here To Eternity
65. Smiles of a Summer Night ­ Ingmar Bergman
66. Amarcord – Federico Fellini
67. Jules and Jim – Francois Truffaut
68. The 400 Blows – Francois Truffaut
69. Breathless – Jean-Luc Godard
70. The 7 Beauties, Love and Anarchy, The Seduction of Mimi ­ Lina Wertmuller
71. Wages of Fear and its remake, Sorcerer – Henri Clouzot and William Friedkin
72. Blue Angel
73. Ground Hog Day
74. Cool Hand Luke
75. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Milos Forman
76. Loves of a Blonde, Fireman’s Ball – Milos Forman
77. Lola Montes ­ Max Ophuls (for the exquisite, fluid camera work)
78. Leon (the Professional) – Luc Besson
79. Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago – David Lean
80. The Commitments – Alan Parker
81. Macbeth – Roman Polanski
82. The Thin Man
83. Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Man Who Would Be King – John Huston
84. Grand Illusion ­—Jean Renoir
85. Olympia ­—Leni Riefenstahl
86. Laurel and Hardy ­ The Music Box
87. The Black Stallion – Carroll Ballard
88. The Wizard of Oz
89. Women In Love – Ken Russell
90. It’s A Gift-W.C. Fields
91. Breaker Morant
92. Midnight Cowboy
93. Hard Boiled/The Killers ­—John Woo
94. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original version) – Don Siegel
95. The French Connection – William Friedkin
96. Metropolis-Fritz Lang
97. Lonesome Dove (made for TV movie)
98. Knife in the Water-Roman Polanski
99. Rosemary’s Baby-Roman Polanski
100.The Sopranos (TV series)

a couple of new ones to throw in the DVD player:

-George Washington (a little known gem)
-Spellbound (documentary on National Spelling Bee)
-Fog of War (fascinating film on Robert McNamara)
-the remake of Dawn of the Dead
-28 Days
-The Cooler
-The Triplets of Belleville (especially the black and white intro)
-American Splendor
-Shattered Glass (about New Republic writer/faker Stephen Glass-- has some terrific low key performances and a story surprisingly gripping)
-Sexy Beast (Ben Kingsley delivers a better performance here than Gandhi)
-Lock, Stock, and Three Smoking Barrels
-Hard Eight

Jonathan Rosenbaum's Alternative 100 Best American Films

Rosenbaum is about as quirky a critic as has been ever taken seriously. I violently disagree with many of his choice picks and think some of them strange enough to qualify him for a straitjacket. But such is the bloodsport of film criticism. There are films he lists that not only have I never seen, but that I have never heard of. That alone is enough to make me want to take up arms against him. That said, I find his quirks fascinating in a rainy day when I am bored sort of way. His list certainly gets the blood flowing faster than the Novocaine list put out by the AFI (American Film Institue), which follows Rosenbaum's list.


Ace in the Hole/The Big Carnival (1951)
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Avanti! (1972)
The Barefoot Contessa (1954)
The Big Sky (1952)
Bigger Than Life (1956)
The Black Cat (1934)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Broken Blossoms (1919)
Cat People (1942)
Christmas in July (1940)
Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962)
The Crowd (1928)
Dead Man (1995)
***Oh please! Arty tripe by Jim Jarmusch who at least gave us the interesting Mystery Train.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
***My belief is that 50 years from now this silly agitprop from Spike Lee will get unintended laughs in the same way people now watch Reefer Madness.
The Docks of New York (1928)
Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1974)
11 x 14 (1976)
Eraserhead (1978)
***Time for the straitjacket!

Foolish Wives (1922)
Force of Evil (1948)
Freaks (1932)
The General (1927)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Gilda (1946)
The Great Garrick (1937)
Greed (1925)
Hallelujah, I'm a Bum (1933)
The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
Housekeeping (1987)
The Hustler (1961)
Intolerance (1916)
Johnny Guitar (1954)
Judge Priest (1934)
Killer of Sheep (1978)
***Saw it finally. Boring film school artiness disguised as truth-telling.
The Killing (1956)
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)
***No, not John Cassavetes. I'd rather watch a film by that great Japanese auteur Yoko Ono.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
The Ladies' Man (1961)
The Lady From Shanghai (1948)
Last Chants for a Slow Dance (1977)
Laughter (1930)
Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948)
Lonesome (1929)
Love Me Tonight (1932)
Love Streams (1984)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
***I have never understood the following this inferior Welles film has. Nowhere close to the artistry of Citizen Kane.
Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
Man's Castle (1933)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Mikey and Nicky (1976)
Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
My Son John (1952)
The Naked Spur (1953)
Nanook of the North (1922)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
The Nutty Professor (1963)
The Palm Beach Story (1942)
Panic in the Streets (1950)
Park Row (1952)
The Phenix City Story (1955)
Point Blank (1967)
Real Life (1979)
Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1971)
Rio Bravo (1959)
Scarface (1932)
The Scarlet Empress (1934)
Scarlet Street (1945)
Scenes From Under Childhood (1970)
The Scenic Route (1978)
The Seventh Victim (1943)
Shadows (1960)
Sherlock Jr. (1924)
The Shooting (1967)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
The Sound of Fury/Try and Get Me! (1950)
Stars in My Crown (1950)
The Steel Helmet (1951)
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
Sunrise (1927)
Sylvia Scarlett (1935)
The Tarnished Angels (1958)
That's Entertainment! III (1994)
This Land Is Mine (1943)
Thunderbolt (1929)
To Sleep With Anger (1990)
Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son (1969)
Track of the Cat (1954)
Trouble in Paradise (1932)
Vinyl (1965)
Wanda (1971)
While the City Sleeps (1956)
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)
Woodstock (1970)
The Wrong Man (1957)
Zabriskie Point (1970)
***No, this guy needs two straitjackets.

Copyright © 1998 Chicago Reader Inc.

The American Film Institute's By-the-Numbers Top 100 List

1 Citizen Kane (1941)
2 Casablanca (1942)
3 The Godfather (1972)
4 Gone With the Wind (1939)
5 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
6 The Wizard of Oz (1939)
7 The Graduate (1967)
8 On the Waterfront (1954)
9 Schindler's List (1993)
10 Singin' in the Rain (1952)
11 It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
12 Sunset Boulevard (1950)
13 The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
14 Some Like It Hot (1959)
15 Star Wars (1977)
16 All About Eve (1950)
17 The African Queen (1951)
18 Psycho (1960)
19 Chinatown (1974)
20 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
21 The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
22 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
23 The Maltese Falcon (1941)
24 Raging Bull (1980)
25 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
26 Dr. Strangelove (1964)
27 Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
28 Apocalypse Now (1979)
29 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
30 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
31 Annie Hall (1977)
***Am I the only one who thinks this movie is terribly dated now?
32 The Godfather, Part II (1974)
33 High Noon (1952)
34 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
35 It Happened One Night (1934)
36 Midnight Cowboy (1969)
37 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
38 Double Indemnity (1944)
39 Doctor Zhivago (1965)
40 North by Northwest (1959)
41 West Side Story (1961)
42 Rear Window (1954)
43 King Kong (1933)
44 The Birth of a Nation (1915)
45 A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
46 A Clockwork Orange (1971)
47 Taxi Driver (1976)
48 Jaws (1975)
49 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
50 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
***Pleasant enough entertainment but no desert island winner for me. And "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" is enough to dump this one in the wastebasket forever anyway.
51 The Philadelphia Story (1940)
52 From Here to Eternity (1953)
53 Amadeus (1984)
54 All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
55 The Sound of Music (1965)
***Pauline Kael was right about this one. The truth got her sacked from Redbook magazine.
56 M*A*S*H (1970)
57 The Third Man (1949)
58 Fantasia (1940)
59 Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
60 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
61 Vertigo (1958)
62 Tootsie (1982)
***Dustin Hoffman in drag is deserving of the pantheon?
63 Stagecoach (1939)
64 Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
65 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
***Fava beans and chianti aren't that good.
66 Network (1976)
67 The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
68 An American in Paris (1951)
69 Shane (1953)
70 The French Connection (1971)
71 Forrest Gump (1994)
***This list is like a box of choc-o-lates.
72 Ben-Hur (1959)
***According to Gore Vidal Masala was hot for Judah Ben-Hur. That factoid might make the chariot race more interesting next time around.
73 Wuthering Heights (1939)
74 The Gold Rush (1925)
75 Dances With Wolves (1990)
***Ta-tonka. Tey in the winnnnnn. The things I learn from movies.
76 City Lights (1931)
77 American Graffiti (1973)
78 Rocky (1976)
79 The Deer Hunter (1978)
80 The Wild Bunch (1969)
81 Modern Times (1936)
82 Giant (1956)
83 Platoon (1986)
84 Fargo (1996)
85 Duck Soup (1933)
86 Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
87 Frankenstein (1931)
88 Easy Rider (1969)
89 Patton (1970)
90 The Jazz Singer (1927)
91 My Fair Lady (1964)
92 A Place in the Sun (1951)
93 The Apartment (1960)
94 GoodFellas (1990)
95 Pulp Fiction (1994)
96 The Searchers (1956)
97 Bringing Up Baby (1938)
98 Unforgiven (1992)
99 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
***Is this some sort of Hollywood political correctness afoot here? Otherwise how can anyone explain such a choice?
100 Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Now -- On to My List of Bad Films and Bad Film Directors
by Tom Graves

Recent bad movies I have seen:

Elephant -- static claptrap posing as art. Gus van Sant is another overrated filmmaker.

Safe -- boring does not begin to describe the paralysis of this one-dimsensional portrait of a woman who finds her world literally toxic. Todd Haynes is not a bad director, and Velvet Goldmine is even worth watching. But this one inexplicably has a following.

Films and directors I think are waaay overrated

Early Spike Lee (however, I am very fond of Clockers, Malcolm X, The Inside Man, and Miracle at St. Elena (sp.?))
Anything by John Cassavetes (no exceptions)
Solaris ­-- the original and the remake
Pasolini ­-- anything, especially Teorema
most of Werner Herzog with the exception of the documentaries by and about him
all of Fassbinder, particularly the Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
Tree of Wooden Clogs
Oliver Stone (God! What a hack!)
Brian De Palma­ with a few exceptions such as Carrie and Blowout
Gus Van Sant
Atom Egoyan
Luchino Visconti
Lars von Trier
Peter Greenaway
In the Heat of the Night and Rod Steiger
Meryl Streep
The Deer Hunter
El Topo
much of Woody Allen
Godfather III
La Dolce Vita
Fellini’s last films
The new Star Wars flicks...boring!
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (snore!)
most films about the Civil War


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