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My Top 250 Films

Posted by martinteller on December 10, 2018

It’s been a few years since I updated my list of favorite films. Which makes sense because I’ve seen so few movies in those years that I have nothing “new” to add, at least in terms of something I hadn’t seen before. Still, every now and then I’d revisit a movie and think “Maybe this one is too high, I should move it down a little.” Or “I really do love this, I should make room for it on my list.” Tastes change. So I thought I’d take a stab at it. But as I agonized over chart positions, I was struck by how meaningless all this ranking stuff is. I would mentally pit one film against another to determine which I “liked” “more” and almost always the answer was… “well, it depends.” And then there was the question of what deserved to be in the prestigious Top 100 and what would be relegated to the less-flashy “Top 101-250” (ugh, I’ve always hated that clunky title) list.

So I said to hell with it. No more numbers, no more ranking. I took my previously ranked top 100, crammed it together with my unranked 101-250, threw out some movies I wasn’t quite as smitten with anymore, added some I had grown fonder of, then alphabetically ordered them into one egalitarian superlist. And I liked it! Okay sure, if you put a gun to my head and asked me to name my #1 all-time fave, chances are I’m gonna blurt out Fanny and Alexander, but goddamn it I can’t be bothered to wring my hands over what should be #74 and what should be #75. I could really throw caution to the wind and just list all the movies I love without making it conform to a nice round number. But hell, there’s got to be some hand-wringing over these things, that’s part of the fun.

Okay, enough prelude, here we go! Some more in-depth notes follow the list.

 

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)

2. The 400 Blows (1959, Francois Truffaut)

3. 8½ (1963, Federico Fellini)

4. An Actor’s Revenge (1963, Kon Ichikawa)

5. The Adversary [Pratidwandi] (1972, Satyajit Ray)

6. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog)

7. Airplane! (1980, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker)

8. Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)

9. All About My Mother (1999, Pedro Almodovar)

10. All That Heaven Allows (1955, Douglas Sirk)

11. All That Jazz (1979, Bob Fosse)

12. Amadeus (1984, Milos Forman)

13. American Movie (1999, Chris Smith)

14. The Americanization of Emily (1964, Arthur Hiller)

15. An Angel at My Table (1990, Jane Campion)

16. Aparajito (1956, Satyajit Ray)

17. The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder)

18. Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola)

19. As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000, Jonas Mekas)

20. The Asphalt Jungle (1950, John Huston)

21. Autumn Sonata (1978, Ingmar Bergman)

22. The Beautiful Washing Machine (2004, James Lee)

23. Betrayed/When Strangers Marry (1944, William Castle)

24. Beyond the Forest (1949, King Vidor)

25. The Big City [Mahanagar] (1963, Satyajit Ray)

26. The Big Combo (1955, Joseph H. Lewis)

27. The Black Stallion (1979, Carroll Ballard)

28. Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott)

29. Blast of Silence (1961, Allen Baron)

30. Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)

31. Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch)

32. The Blues Brothers (1980, John Landis)

33. Boogie Nights (1997, Paul Thomas Anderson)

34. Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam)

35. The Browning Version (1951, Anthony Asquith)

36. The Burglar (1957, Paul Wendkos)

37. Cairo Station (1958, Youssef Chahine)

38. Carmen (1983, Carlos Saura)

39. Carrie (1976, Brian De Palma)

40. Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz)

41. Charulata (1964, Satyajit Ray)

42. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Steven Spielberg)

43. The Cloud-Capped Star (1960, Ritwik Ghatak)

44. Cocorico Monsieur Poulet (1974, Jean Rouch)

45. The Conformist (1970, Bernardo Bertolucci)

46. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989, Peter Greenaway)

47. The Cranes Are Flying (1957, Mikhail Kalatozov)

48. Cruel Gun Story (1964, Takumi Furukawa)

49. Days of Heaven (1978, Terrence Malick)

50. The Dead (1987, John Huston)

51. The Decalogue (1989, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

52. Devi (1960, Satyajit Ray)

53. Devils on the Doorstep (2000, Wen Jiang)

54. Dial M for Murder (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)

55. Dillinger Is Dead (1969, Marco Ferreri)

56. Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988, Terence Davies)

57. Do the Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee)

58. Double Indemnity (1944, Billy Wilder)

59. Drowning By Numbers (1988, Peter Greenaway)

60. Drugstore Cowboy (1989, Gus Van Sant)

61. Duck Season (2004, Fernando Eimbcke)

62. El (1953, Luis Buñuel)

63. Elevator to the Gallows (1958, Louis Malle)

64. The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Irvin Kershner)

65. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974, Werner Herzog)

66. Eraserhead (1977, David Lynch)

67. The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin)

68. The Exterminating Angel (1962, Luis Bunuel)

69. The Face of Another (1966, Hiroshi Teshigahara)

70. Faces (1968, John Cassavetes)

71. Fanny and Alexander (1982, Ingmar Bergman)

72. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009, Wes Anderson)

73. Fargo (1996, Joel and Ethan Coen)

74. Female on the Beach (1955, Joseph Pevney)

75. I Fidanzati (1963, Ermanno Olmi)

76. Funeral Parade of Roses (1969, Toshio Matsumoto)

77. The Furies (1950, Anthony Mann)

78. Gaslight (1944, George Cukor)

79. Gimme the Loot (2012, Adam Leon)

80. The Girl Can’t Help It (1956, Frank Tashlin)

81. Girl Walk//All Day (2011, Jason Krupnick)

82. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992, James Foley)

83. The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)

84. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966, Sergio Leone)

85. Goodfellas (1990, Martin Scorsese)

86. The Graduate (1967, Mike Nichols)

87. Grizzly Man (2005, Werner Herzog)

88. Hairspray (1988, John Waters)

89. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004, Alfonso Cuaron)

90. Hausu a.k.a. House (1977, Nobuhiko Obayashi)

91. The Heiress (1949, William Wyler)

92. High and Low (1963, Akira Kurosawa)

93. The Hole (1998, Ming-liang Tsai)

94. Holiday (1938, George Cukor)

95. House Party (1990, Reginald Hudlin)

96. I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (2006, Ming-liang Tsai)

97. I Stand Alone (1998, Gaspar Noe)

98. Imitation of Life (1959, Douglas Sirk)

99. In the Heat of the Sun (1994, Wen Jiang)

100. In the Loop (2009, Armando Iannucci)

101. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, Steven Spielberg)

102. Inland Empire (2006, David Lynch)

103. Innocence (2004, Lucile Hadzihalilovic)

104. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, Frank Capra)

105. Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959, Bert Stern)

106. Jellyfish (2007, Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret)

107. Jules and Jim (1962, Francois Truffaut)

108. The Kid With a Bike (2011, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne)

109. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989, Hayao Miyazaki)

110. The Killing (1956, Stanley Kubrick)

111. The Lady Vanishes (1938, Alfred Hitchcock)

112. Lady Vengeance (2005, Chan-wook Park)

113. Last Year at Marienbad (1961, Alain Resnais)

114. Lawrence of Arabia (1962, David Lean)

115. Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989, Akl Kaurismaki)

116. Limite (1931, Mario Peixoto)

117. Linda Linda Linda (2005, Nobuhiro Yamashita)

118. The Lineup (1958, Don Siegel)

119. Lola (1961, Jacques Demy)

120. The Long Day Closes (1992, Terence Davies)

121. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002, Peter Jackson)

122. Lost in America (1985, Albert Brooks)

123. Love Exposure (2008, Sion Sono)

124. Love Streams (1984, John Cassavetes)

125. Malcolm X (1992, Spike Lee)

126. A Man Escaped (1956, Robert Bresson)

127. The Man With A Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov)

128. The Match Factory Girl (1990, Aki Kaurismaki)

129. A Matter of Life and Death (1946, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)

130. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, Vincente Minnelli)

131. The Middleman [Jana Aranya] (1976, Satyajit Ray)

132. Midnight Run (1988, Martin Brest)

133. Mind Game (2004, Masaaki Yuasa)

134. A Moment of Innocence (1996, Mohsen Makhmalbaf)

135. Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch)

136. Murder By Contract (1958, Irving Lerner)

137. The Music Room [Jalsaghar] (1958, Satyajit Ray)

138. Mysteries of Lisbon (2010, Raoul Ruiz)

139. Naked (1993, Mike Leigh)

140. Network (1976, Sidney Lumet)

141. The New World (2005, Terrence Malick)

142. Night and the City (1950, Jules Dassin)

143. The Night of the Hunter (1955, Charles Laughton)

144. Nightmare Alley (1947, Edmund Goulding)

145. Nights of Cabiria (1957, Federico Fellini)

146. El Norte (1983, Gregory Nava)

147. Not One Less (1999, Zhang Yimou)

148. Notorious (1946, Alfred Hitchcock)

149. O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000, Joel and Ethan Coen)

150. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959, Robert Wise)

151. Offside (2006, Jafar Panahi)

152. Once (2006, John Varney)

153. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975, Milos Forman)

154. Ordinary People (1980, Robert Redford)

155. The Organizer (1963, Mario Monicelli)

156. Orlando (1992, Sally Potter)

157. A Page of Madness (1926, Teinosuke Kinugasa)

158. Pather Panchali (1955, Satyajit Ray)

159. Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick)

160. Peacock [Kong Que] (2005, Changwei Gu)

161. Pickup on South Street (1953, Sam Fuller)

162. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, Peter Weir)

163. Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982, Alan Parker)

164. La Promesse (1996, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne)

165. Quadrophenia (1979, Franc Roddam)

166. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg)

167. Ran (1985, Akira Kurosawa)

168. Rat-Trap (1982, Adoor Gopalakrishnan)

169. Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)

170. Red Beard (1965, Akira Kurosawa)

171. Remember the Night (1940, Mitchell Leisen)

172. Ride the Pink Horse (1947, Robert Montgomery)

173. Rio Bravo (1959, Howard Hawks)

174. Rosetta (1999, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne)

175. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson)

176. Safe (1995, Todd Haynes)

177. Sansho the Bailiff (1954, Kenji Mizoguchi)

178. Saraband (2003, Ingmar Bergman)

179. Sátántangó (1994, Bela Tarr)

180. Sawdust and Tinsel (1953, Ingmar Bergman)

181. Scenes From a Marriage (1973, Ingmar Bergman)

182. The Scent of Green Papaya (1993, Anh Hung Tran)

183. Secrets & Lies (1996, Mike Leigh)

184. Sepet [Chinese Eye] (2004, Yasmin Ahmad)

185. The Set-Up (1949, Robert Wise)

186. Seven Samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa)

187. The Seventh Victim (1943, Mark Robson)

188. Shame (1968, Ingmar Bergman)

189. The Shining (1980, Stanley Kubrick)

190. Silent Hill (2006, Christophe Gans)

191. Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen)

192. Sita Sings the Blues (2008, Nina Paley)

193. The Skin I Live In (2011, Pedro Almodovar)

194. Smiles of a Summer Night (1955, Ingmar Bergman)

195. The Son (2002, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne)

196. Songs from the Second Floor (2000, Roy Andersson)

197. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973, Victor Erice)

198. Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)

199. Stalker (1979, Andrei Tarkovsky)

200. Stop Making Sense (1984, Jonathan Demme)

201. Storm Fear (1955, Cornel Wilde)

202. The Story of Qiu Ju (1992, Zhang Yimou)

203. Subarnarekha [The Golden Thread] (1965, Ritwik Ghatak)

204. Sudden Fear (1952, David Miller)

205. Sweet Smell of Success (1957, Alexander Mackendrick)

206. Swimming to Cambodia (1987, Jonathan Demme)

207. Syndromes and a Century (2006, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

208. A Tale of the Wind (1988, Joris Ivens)

209. Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorsese)

210. That Obscure Object of Desire (1977, Luis Bunuel)

211. They Made Me a Fugitive (1947, Alberto Cavalcanti)

212. Thief (1981, Michael Mann)

213. Thieves’ Highway (1949, Jules Dassin)

214. The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)

215. Thirst for Love (1966, Koreyoshi Kurahara)

216. Three Colors: Blue (1993, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

217. Three Colors: Red (1994, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

218. Through a Glass Darkly (1961, Ingmar Bergman)

219. Time of the Gypsies (1988, Emir Kusturica)

220. Touki Bouki (1973, Djibril Dip Mambety)

221. The Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick)

222. The Trial (1962, Orson Welles)

223. The Turin Horse (2011, Bela Tarr)

224. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

225. Underground (1995, Emir Kusturica)

226. The Vertical Ray of the Sun (2000, Anh Hung Tran)

227. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)

228. Visage [Face] (2009, Ming-liang Tsai)

229. Waiting for Happiness (2002, Abderrahmane Sissako)

230. Wallace and Gromit in The Wrong Trousers (1993, Nick Park)

231. War and Peace (1966, Sergey Bondarchuk)

232. The Wayward Cloud (2005, Ming-liang Tsai)

233. Wendy and Lucy (2008, Kelly Reichardt)

234. Werckmeister Harmonies (2000, Bela Tarr)

235. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, Robert Aldrich)

236. What Time Is It There? (2001, Ming-liang Tsai)

237. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, Mike Nichols)

238. Who’s Camus Anyway? (2005, Mitsuo Yanagimachi)

239. The Wicker Man (1973, Robin Hardy)

240. The Wind Will Carry Us (1999, Abbas Kiarostami)

241. Winter Light (1962, Ingmar Bergman)

242. The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Fleming)

243. Woman in the Dunes (1964, Hiroshi Teshigahara)

244. A Woman Under the Influence (1974, John Cassavetes)

245. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988, Pedro Almodovar)

246. Xanadu (1980, Robert Greenwald)

247. Yojimbo (1961, Akira Kurosawa)

248. You, the Living (2007, Roy Andersson)

249. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967, Jacques Demy)

250. A Zed and Two Noughts (1985, Peter Greenaway)

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. First of all, I regret that I don’t have better reviews to link to for a lot of these. Some of them are very brief (I think one is just a quote from the movie!) and a couple aren’t especially positive. But oh well. Some of them I just never wrote a decent review for, and I sure don’t have the time to do it now.

Alphabetization can be tricky when dealing with foreign language titles. I’ve tried to go with the titles most commonly used in America. For Pratidwandi and Jana Aranya I used the English translations because I suspect that’s what Criterion will do when they eventually release them. I also maintained consistency in ordering without using leading articles, as in El Norte and I Fidanzati. One English title presented a problem: Betrayed is just as commonly referred to as When Strangers Marry. I opted for the former to match Warner’s DVD release.

There were 27 revisions to the list. I didn’t remove any films that were in my previous top 100, but gone from the old “101-250” list are:

Amélie
Annie Hall
Band of Outsiders
Close-Up
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Cry of the City
Le Doulos
Dying at Grace
F for Fake
Force of Evil
Goodbye Solo
Un homme qui dort
Hoop Dreams
Kanal
Kill Bill
The Letter Never Sent
Love and Death
Metropolis
Napoleon
The Phenix City Story
Play Time
Psycho
Serenity
Talk to Her
Viridiana
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Wild Strawberries

Woody Allen loses big here. He simply creeps me out now to the point where I can’t enjoy his movies like I used to. Likewise, Talk to Her is a great movie but problematic to a degree I can no longer ignore. It’s a shame to lose three documentaries but as much as I admire the ones I removed and would recommend them, they’re not films I would go back to or are special to me. I also lost three noirs, but replaced them with three that are dearer to me. I just watched Wild Strawberries again the other day, and while I think it’s fantastic, it’s just not crying out to me to be included. There’s nine other Bergmans on the list so it’s probably okay. Let’s see, what else? I felt that Wallace & Gromit were already covered well enough with Wrong Trousers. Some of these are movies I could easily have in my library and yet I haven’t felt compelled to buy them, which made them easy cuts. And then there’s some I still really like but there were others I preferred to include.

So let’s get to the additions:

The Big Combo
Blazing Saddles
Cocorico Monsieur Poulet
Distant Voices, Still Lives
Duck Season
The Empire Strikes Back
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
Female on the Beach
In the Heat of the Sun
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The Kid With a Bike
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Lost in America
Love Exposure
Mind Game
The Organizer
Pickup on South Street
La Promesse
Quadrophenia
Ride the Pink Horse
Smiles of a Summer Night
The Son
Spirited Away
Swimming to Cambodia
That Obscure Object of Desire
The Wind Will Carry Us
A Zed and Two Noughts

Some of these were added because recent rewatches warmed me up to them: Distant Voices, Mind Game, and Smiles of a Summer Night. Those were all in the past month and really were the impetus for redoing this list. A couple — The Empire Strikes Back and Lord of the Rings — are populist choices that I realized I was snubbing purely out of snobbery. Likewise, some are old favorites that I maybe don’t “rate” as highly as others for whatever reasons, but they have a special place in my heart: Lost in America, Last CrusadeSwimming to Cambodia and Blazing Saddles. As you can see, we have our three new noirs. And I realized that the Dardenne brothers are more precious to me than I previously gave them credit for, with three new entries. I’m pleased to bring slightly more animation to my list as well.

Some notes on the list as a whole…. there are 21 films that I’ve only seen once. I was going to list them, but screw it, I’ve done enough listing things for one day. Almost all of them were on the chopping block at some point as I agonized over what to include. After all, to what extent can you call a film a “favorite” if you haven’t even bothered to see it a second time? But sometimes a single viewing can leave a big impact, and they’re all movies I look forward to seeing again, when the time is right (sadly, six of the 21 still have no decent home video release in this country).

Only seven films directed by women on my list, which I’m not proud of. There are several others I would call honorable mentions, but there’s no denying that females are under-represented in my list. Part of this I can blame on an industry that is extremely gender-imbalanced. But I should really do more to seek out films by women. Also there are only a scant few movies by African-Americans, another area where my filmic education has room for expansion. Doing a bit better as far as international cinema goes. By my quick count, there’s 110 films in languages other than English (plus two silents of foreign origin).

In addition to the 9 Ingmars, there are 8 films by Satyajit Ray, and 5 each by Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, and Ming-liang Tsai.

Three of the four people in that Boogie Nights screenshot have passed away in recent years. William H. Macy, watch your back!

I’ve made my lovely wife sit through about 60 of these. Some she really loved, but boy, there were some she really really hated.

Alright, that’s enough nerding out over my own damn list. Thanks for reading!

8 Responses to “My Top 250 Films”

  1. mrpj said

    This is refreshing to see. It’s funny, I was just starting to get into your blog when you ended it in 2016. In spite of that, I’ve gone back and found some interesting films I really enjoyed (Sita Sings the Blues and Girl Walk//All Day were especially terrific). The variety and quality of the films you recommend is astounding.

    I have a blog with a a number of posts and I would be thrilled if you read one or two of them. Mine is pretty freeform, but I have focused on film and music for the most part. I’m working on a review for a book at the moment, Dino Buzzati’s “The Tartar Steppe”. There’s a movie based on the book that might be intriguing to you.

    It seems you are (more than a little) done with this blog, but know that I’m glad to see this latest (perhaps final) list.

    • mrpj said

      Here is the link to my blog: https://chillkangaroo.wordpress.com/
      Read it if you wish.

      • Thanks for commenting! I like the idea of starting up the blog again, but the reality is it’s just too time-consuming to do it well. Also I have a baby now and it’s a rarity when I get to watch even one movie a week (usually in 5 minute chunks).

        Your blog looks very interesting! Seems like you went incredibly deep on Pather Panchali’s soundtrack. I have to say I found it amusing that you went with a 10-point scale but still have a lot of gradation within it. I struggled so much with my ratings system, I changed it three times over the course of this blog!

      • mrpj said

        I understand, present in the real world is important. Congrats on the baby! I’m at the end of my finals at school. I’m currently a senior in college.

        The piece about Panther Panchali’s soundtrack was a version of the paper I submitted for Indian Music Theory, which I took last year. I presented part of my paper at the Shastra Symposium in Wayne, NJ. I need to fix some things with the overall paper if I want to have it published, but presenting it was a terrific experience.

        I struggle with my ratings system as well. For now, I go with the gradations on Anthony Fantano’s theneedledrop channel on YouTube. His system allows him to distinguish between how much he likes two albums he has given the same score on his scale. Your 1-100 system works in this regard as well.

  2. Evan said

    What a nice surprise to see your new top 250 list Martin! I stopped by recently to read one of your reviews (as I often do) and had fun combing through your list. I’ve only seen 157 of them so I have quite a bit of watching to do. As someone who loves a lot of Woody Allen movies and Talk to Her I completely understand why they’ve fallen of our your list. It can sometimes be hard to look beyond the filmmaker and/or their subject matter (and it should be). I recently re-watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for the first time in many years and it was so much fun. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was better than its reputation. It seems like critics only really have time for Raiders of the Lost Ark (which is admittedly even better). I’m really looking forward to watching a lot of these, but in particular I’m excited about Duck Season. It’s not talked about a whole lot, but everyone who sees it seems to fall in love with it. Hopefully this is not your last posting even if it’s every couple years or so. And congratulations to you and your wife on the new baby!

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