Compiling a list of what you believe are the greatest films ever made is a daunting task. Every critic and movie buff has a more or less available list hidden somewhere in their minds (or plainly written down, carefully cultivated). I have resisted to do the latter for many years, even though my list really hasn’t changed over the past ten years. Perhaps that’s the reason I feel the time has come to finally publish the list on this website; if there are future changes they won’t be so significant as to render this current list pointless.
So, here they are, my favorites. They may be overwhelmingly American. Some will call them childish in a way, not intellectual or significant enough. Others will consider them not diverse enough. But they largely mirror who I am, as a person and what my tastes look like. The history of Hollywood is part of my genes; Tinseltown has made me tap my feet, and thrilled me, throughout my life. Its heavy presence on this list is no mystery.
1968-Britain. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Cast: Keir Dullea, William Sylvester, Gary Lockwood.
What I wrote: “All the existential thoughts make for a slow but mesmerizing, incredibly beautiful epic where the special effects dominate every sequence and the art direction combines the 1960s with a futuristic concept.”
1939-U.S. Directed by Victor Fleming. Cast: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr.
What I wrote: “The film is one huge salute to the power of childhood imagination as well as an attempt to tell kids that it’s necessary to have the courage to say out loud, ‘the emperor is naked’.”
1972-U.S. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan.
What I wrote: “The baptism scene is almost humorous in its irony, as Michael renounces Satan in church at the same time as his capos murder his enemies. These are all people governed by a set of rules and principles; if they are broken another guidebook on how to solve the conflict must be followed. What makes this the greatest gangster movie ever made is the fact that emotions nevertheless keep events unpredictable.”
1974-U.S. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Cast: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton.
What I wrote: “Making a sequel that meets at least some of the expectations is difficult enough, but actually exceeding them, creating another epic that is even more complex and just as entertaining as the first, is outstanding.”
1960-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles.
What I wrote: “The shower sequence is one of the most famous scenes in cinema history; meticulously designed, shot and edited, it features a quick series of cuts, nudity, brute force, the horrifying illusion of someone being attacked with a knife, and Bernard Herrmann’s ingenious, screeching score accompanying it.”
1957-Sweden. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Cast: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Nils Poppe.
What I wrote: “Watching Bergman’s perhaps greatest masterpiece, The Seventh Seal, makes one think of not only how groundbreaking it was in its time but how intellectually challenging it is. Nowadays, few Swedish films try to achieve what Bergman was looking for.”
1975-U.S. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss.
What I wrote: “It takes time before the monster appears, a technique that was to be employed in many other films. It is easy to fear something we can only imagine (and we’re good at conjuring up gruesome images in our heads).”
1952-U.S. Directed by Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen. Cast: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor.
What I wrote: “It’s a lovely example of another musical being churned out of the dream factory that just happens to be the one perfect, flawless product. Singin’ in the Rain must be to MGM what Casablanca (1942) is to Warner.”
1959-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason.
What I wrote: “This is the kind of perfection that Hitchcock was aiming for. It is with mathematical precision that he decides when to employ the ingredients of the film, when it needs humor, romance and spectacular excitement.”
1962-Britain. Directed by David Lean. Cast: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn.
What I wrote: “The story is not always true to history, but there are no lulls, the dialogue is intelligent and the production values exceptionally high. Lean and cinematographer Freddie Young fill every shot with memorable images.”
11 Sunset Blvd
1950-U.S. Directed by Billy Wilder. Cast: Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroheim.
What I wrote: “Self-loathing and insanity seem to be the risks of life in Hollywood, but they’re also perfect ingredients for a great drama. That’s the way it goes – the darkness of cinema and real life forever entwined.”
1940-U.S. Directed by Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton Luske. Voices of Dickie Jones, Christian Rub, Cliff Edwards.
What I wrote: “The war was partly to blame for poor results from Europe. In the end, though, after rereleases and video earnings many decades later, the movie made a lot of money. Today, new generations at Disney and Pixar look back at the legendary ‘Nine Old Men’ animators and their collaborators and recognize geniuses at work.”