Part 1. Part 2.
And finally, in Part 3, I get around to looking at the actual list. The number in parentheses following each movie indicates the number of positions it moved up or down since the last list, ten or nine or whatever years ago. (S) means it holds the same position as before; (N) means it's new to the list. Movies in bold
are the ones I've seen. And I can already tell you, they're far fewer than I should've seen by now.
1. Citizen Kane
This film has become so firmly entrenched in the #1 spot, it's going to take an awful
lot to ever dislodge it. And I think that's great. I love this movie, and I will often say it's the best movie ever made. (I change my mind a lot. Sometimes I say it's one of three other movies on this list, which I will mention when I get to them. Sometimes I say it's McCabe & Mrs. Miller
, which should be on this list, but isn't. And sometimes I say it's RoboCop
.) I envy those who have yet to see it, and pity those who don't want to. I think those who avoid it just don't understand how damn entertaining
it is. It's no dry exercise in style, though it is
a visual masterpiece. It's funny, and warm, and mysterious, and chilling, and exciting. And it's the granddaddy of the "twist ending" school of film -- who is Rosebud? -- even though, all in all, that's got nothing to do with its greatness.
2. The Godfather
Here's another film I'll sometimes call the greatest ever made, even though I'll have to have recently seen it to give it that kind of endorsement. Otherwise, it's merely very, very, very great.
Switched places with The Godfather
since the previous list, and I think that's a step in the wrong direction. The more I see it, the greater I think this movie is; it seems there is no possible way I can treasure it more, and then I rewatch it, and I do
. It's just unbelievably perfect in every way. It's another movie I often claim to be the greatest ever, and I expect it soon will move into my #1-of-all-time slot permanently and without challenge -- but for now, I still think Kane
edges it out.
4. Raging Bull
Big move up the charts for a film I like and respect, but never really loved
. It's been a long time since I've seen it, is perhaps why; I need to rewatch it soon with fresh eyes.
5. Singin' in the Rain
Wonderful, wonderful entertainment, but I'm still surprised to find it in the top ten. Though I find it hard to argue against that ranking.
6. Gone With the Wind
An epic classic, but maybe not true greatness. I think it's a bit overrated -- not a lot
, but a bit.
7. Lawrence of Arabia
is a true epic, one which should be placed above GWTW
. More beautiful, more awe-inspiring, better acting -- better everything
. A masterpiece. (But not a film I have ever called the greatest.)
8. Schindler's List (+1)
First on the list I haven't seen. I intend
to, some day, but it's hard to get in the right mood. "Hey, let's rent that three-hour black & white film about one of the most horrific crimes in human history!" "Great! I'll get the popcorn!!" Some
day, I promise.
leap up the chart for the film widely considered Hitchcock's best. I disagree. I've given it a couple chances to win me over, but it always leaves me cold. I acknowledge its technical brilliance, and I love Jimmy Stewart, generally, but he, and the rest of the film, just don't work for me. I don't hate
it, I just don't love it.
10. The Wizard of Oz
, I love
. One of the few children's films that is equally as magical for adults. And dig those flying monkeys!
11. City Lights (+65)
Another gigantic leap up for a movie. I've never seen it. I don't think I've ever seen any
Chaplin film, aside from random clips. I really should.
12. The Searchers
The biggest move by any film on this chart, up or down. Its critical reputation has solidified over the past decade, it would seem. I think it's great, but I haven't seen it since college. I should rewatch it.
13. Star Wars
I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it, even though it will never affect anything: Star Wars
a good movie. It's simply not
. Visually impressive, yes. Influential -- of course. But the acting, writing, and directing, with a few exceptions, range from passable to awful. Also: HAN SHOT FIRST, dammit!!
I don't know, maybe it's the lateness in life in which I first saw it, but I just don't think this film is that
great. The high moments are brilliant, I admit, but in between them, I get bored.
15. 2001: A Space Odyssey
And then, there's a film like this, which many people find boring, and I can even understand that point of view -- but I find every frame fascinating. And I don't even get stoned to watch it! Still, might be ranked a little high, especially after the leap up seven spots.
16. Sunset Boulevard
Probably my favorite Wilder film, and I've never seen a Wilder film I haven't loved. So: that's high praise, is my point.
17. The Graduate
I used to love this movie so much
. I still love it, but I'm over my extreme worship phase. I think the move down is a good thing; it didn't belong in the top ten.
18. The General (N)
I've never seen a Buster Keaton movie. I need to have a Keaton/Chaplin film festival some weekend.
19. On the Waterfront
I think this is overrated. Not in general, just in this particular list. It's very good, and Brando is great, but top twenty is overdoing it.
20. It's a Wonderful Life
It's hard to objectively judge this movie these days, having been bombarded with it every Christmas since its copyright expired and it entered the public domain. But I do love Jimmy Stewart, as I may already have mentioned, and the "Buffalo Gal won't you come out tonight" sequence, with the breaking the old house's windows, and throwing a lasso around the moon, and Donna Reed hiding in the bushes, and so on, is one of the most purely wonderful scenes in film history.
This is the third of the movies I mentioned above that I sometimes say is the greatest film ever, rather than Citizen Kane
. I think it is genius, absolute genius. I love every single thing about it, from Burt Young eating the Venetian blinds right through to "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." Jack Nicholson's greatest role, with epic performances from Faye Dunaway and John Huston as well, and a jaw-dropping cameo from director Roman Polanski ("You're a very nosy fellow, kitty cat"). A brilliantly perplexing mystery, about a crime as big as the city of Los Angeles, and an achingly tragic and twisted romance as well. (Personal trivia note: I was an extra in the sequel, the not-nearly-as-good The Two Jakes
. Which is what makes me two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.)
22. Some Like It Hot
Another from Wilder. A comedy classic, starring my favorite actor who's not Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon. The last time men wearing dresses was ever funny. Take that, England!
23. The Grapes of Wrath (-2)
Never seen it. Never read the book, either. I have the book, somewhere. I should read it. Maybe after I finish with all that Vonnegut.
24. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
I haven't seen this movie for so long, I want to believe it's not that great. It probably is, but my admiration for Spielberg's films, with few exceptions, generally diminishes over time. I need to watch it with a grown-up's eyes for the first time, and see how it holds up.
25. To Kill a Mockingbird (+9)
Another movie I keep meaning to see, another book I keep meaning to read. Oh well.
26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
I love Jimmy Stewart, as I may have said eight or nine times by now, but I would not rank this among his three best (as this list does). I wouldn't rank it among his ten best. It's very dated, and a little boring.
27. High Noon
I've always thought this was a highly overrated movie, despite the presence of Grace Kelly, the most beautiful woman ever to have lived. It's been so long since I've seen it, I think I could watch it again and judge it with unbiased eyes, see if I can't appreciate it more. (Or confirm in my mind that it is
28. All About Eve (-12)
I started watching it once, and stopped, for some reason. Never went back and finished it. I really should.
29. Double Indemnity
Another master work from Billy Wilder. I like that it's moving up the chart.
30. Apocalypse Now
Great stuff. I always wonder if it's really that good, if maybe it wasn't just all my friends who loved it so much (and there were a lot of them) who convinced me that it was so excellent, and then I see some of it again, and yes, it's really that good.
31. The Maltese Falcon
Wow, is this the first John Huston film on the list? (As a director, that is; we've already seen him as an actor in Chinatown
.) That's surprising. He's one of the best directors ever, no question. And this is a fabulous movie.
32. The Godfather Part II
The first movie since Kane
not to have changed positions on the list! It's weird seeing Part II
so much lower on the list than the original; you tend to think of them as one piece of work. I think this is probably an appropriate ranking. I used to think it was nearly the equal of the first, but that's not really so. As good as this is, the first is better by leaps and bounds.
33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
A surprising drop for a great film, but I think it's about where it should be.
34. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
I like that this has moved up so much. I haven't seen it for ages.
35. Annie Hall
Haven't seen this for ages, either. I remember not liking it nearly as much as everyone else always seems to. I still like it, though.
36. The Bridge on the River Kwai
I also remember not liking this nearly as much as everyone else. I thought it was kind of boring, actually. I should give it a second chance.
37. The Best Years of Our Lives (S)
The last movie on the list not to change positions. I don't feel much of a desire to see it.
38. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
I'd call this John Huston's best movie, and if not for Casablanca
, Bogart's best as well. He is amazing
in this; his greedy, treacherous Fred C. Dobbs is light years from his cynical but inevitably heroic Rick Blaine. Just an awesome movie.
39. Dr. Strangelove
I love this movie, but I've only seen it once.
40. The Sound of Music
I've seen this one a million times, and I keep loving it. So I'm a softie; so my heart melts at "My Favorite Things." So what? I'm only human.
41. King Kong
I haven't seen this since I was a little kid. I don't really feel any urgency to see it again.
42. Bonnie and Clyde
This blew my mind when I first saw it. So ahead of its time. Legendary performances from Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.
43. Midnight Cowboy
Rated X when it was first released, but I don't know, most of the stuff without Dustin Hoffman kind of bored me. Not nearly as shocking or titillating as I guess it was once considered to be. Nor as interesting. That ending devastated me, though.
44. The Philadelphia Story
is my favorite Jimmy Stewart movie. This is my favorite movie of everyone involved. Love it, love it, love it.
I'm perplexed by the big jump up the list. I thought people were finally starting to realize this isn't all that good.
46. It Happened One Night
I loved it when I saw it, but that was at least a decade ago. I'd like to see it again. I thought Claudette Colbert was heavenly. And I liked Clark Gable a million times better here than in GWTW
47. A Streetcar Named Desire (-2)
I really, really should see this.
48. Rear Window
Probably my favorite Hitchcock. Definitely like it a lot more than Vertigo
. Another great Jimmy Stewart performance, and the presence of Grace Kelly doesn't hurt.
49. Intolerance (N)
I doubt I'll ever see this, though I wouldn't object
to seeing it. I'm just not ever going to seek it out.
50. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
I loved the whole trilogy, but as I said before, it just seems weird to be putting it in a list like this so soon. Maybe in a few more years, and with a few more viewings, I'll be okay with it.
That's plenty enough for now. And hey, I've seen more of the list than I'd thought: 41 out of the top 50. Not too shabby.
I'll finish up with the last half of the list tomorrow or Sunday.