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July 01, 2007

100 Films, 100 Filmmakers


I was invited to submit a list of the 100 greatest films every made. There are times when 100 is too many films, and other times when it is not enough. The one aspect to creating the list that frustrated me was that the list was limited to feature length films. When thinking about some of the best films every made, I was forced to delete several short films, some of which are not only better than many feature films, but simply some of the best examples of filmmaking period.

As far as I'm concerned, Luis Bunuel has never topped Un Chien Andalou, a film that struck me as still contemporary when I had the chance to re-see it a few years ago. I love Alain Resnais' early features, but nothing says more about memory than Night and Fog. Most of the great films from the so-called experimental filmmakers are short, meaning that I could not include Stan Brakhage's Mothlight, Curtis Harrington's On the Edge or Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon.

porky in wackyland.jpg

On the sillier side of film history, I would have loved to have included Putting Pants on Philip. Seeing silent Laurel and Hardy films in San Francisco last year was a treat, as well as a reminder of how funny they could be. This 1927 short, directed by Clyde Bruckman, has a hilarious sequence with Stan Laurel wearing a kilt, walking over an air grate about thirty years before Marilyn Monroe's famous bit in The Seven Year Itch. The film's biggest gag does not show Laurel, but the shocked faces of the crowd. Contemporary filmmakers could learn from this film about getting a big laugh by what is left to the imagination of the audience.

I also could not list a few animated shorts from Termite Terrace, better known as Warner Brothers. Gone was Chuck Jones' One Froggy Evening, the film that introduced Michigan J. Frog. Deleted also were Robert Clampett's Porky in Wackyland and Tex Avery's Porky's Preview. I could not list my favorite cartoon of all time, Frank Tashlin's Booby Hatched featuring the voice of Mel Blanc (who else?) as the walking, talking, angry egg named Robespierre.

Until I reread the rules regarding feature length films, I almost was going to include You Nazty Spy!. The Three Stooges parody of Hitler is one sixth the length, and at least three times funnier than Charles Chaplin's sometimes maudlin The Great Dictator. Another parody not on my list is Guy Maddin's Heart of the World, for me, the best thing he has ever done, a madcap pastiche of silent Fritz Lang and Sergei Eisenstein.

Below is my list. Instead of piling on the usual suspects, I went for a more democratic approach in the off chance that some otherwise overlooked films might be mentioned by someone else contributing their list. I will offer no apologies or explanations. The comment space will be kept open for those who feel I am out of my mind being possibly the only one left on the planet who even remembers Ugo Gregoretti. Once upon a time, this filmmaker was good enough to join Rossellini, Godard and Pasolini for an omnibus film. I have added the director and year for a few films where there has been a remake or multiple use of the same title. The films are numbered but not ranked. Counting 100 films is hard enough without trying to decide which film is better.

1. Citizen Kane
2. The Searchers
3. A Hard Day's Night
4. Eight and a half
5. L'Ecclisse
6. The Leopard
7. Sherlock, Jr.
8. It Happened One Night
9. Ikiru
10. Psycho
11. Tokyo Story
12. The Circus
13. Apocalypse Now Redux
14. Rebel without a Cause
15. Pickpocket
18. Raging Bull
19. Man with a Movie Camera
20. The Roaring Twenties
21. Scarface (Howard Hawks)
22. Last Tango in Paris
23. My Night at Maud's
24. The Soft Skin
25. Contempt
27. The Rise of Louis XIV
28. Mon Oncle
29. The Third Man
30. Man's Castle
31. Dr. Strangelove
33. Omicron
34. Once Upon a Time in the West
35. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
36. Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker
37. Bay of Angels
38. Miracle at Morgan's Creek
39. Judex (Georges Franju)
40. Chinatown
41. The Girl can't help It
42. Alexander Nevsky
43. Scarlet Empress
44. Forty Guns
45. Metropolis
47. Boudu saved from Drowning
48. Burmese Harp
49. Some Came Running
50. Bride of Frankenstein
51. Bonnie and Clyde
52. Point Blank
53. The Beguiled
54. Russian Ark
55. Broken Blossoms
56. Laura
57. The Gunfighter
58. Kanal
59. The Wild Bunch
60. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
61. Deep End
62. Peeping Tom
63. A Crazy Page
64. On the Waterfront
65. Je t'aime, je t'aime
66. The Last Laugh
67. Black God, White Devil
68. Sweet Smell of Success
69. Lilith
70. Zero de Conduite
71. Come and See
72. Some Like it Hot
73. Persona
74. The Tango Lesson
75. The Ceremony (Nagisa Oshima - 1971)
76. The Chinese Feast
77. The Go-Between
78. Gabbeh
79. Best of Youth
80. The Soong Sisters
81. Olympia
82. One hundred and one Dalmations (1960)
83. Faces
84. All the Vermeers in New York
86. In the Mood for Love
87. Aguirre, the Wrath of God
88. Phantom Chariot
89. Sons of the Desert
90. The Unknown
91. Dodsworth
92. Bob le Flambeur
93. Y Tu Mama Tambien
94. A Scene at the Sea
96. Suspiria
97. All that Jazz
98. Zazie
99. Earrings of Madame De
100. Kiss Me Deadly

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 1, 2007 06:17 PM


Peter, I've never heard of OMICRON or SOONG SISTERS. The highest-rated film on your list I've never seen is probably Borzage's MAN'S CASTLE (not for lack of wanting). And perhaps you meant ALL THE VERMEERS IN NEW YORK (by Jon Jost)...?

Posted by: girish at July 1, 2007 07:34 PM

Thanks for catching my error on Jost. I should have checked that before publication. The Soong Sister might still be available from Netflix which was how I saw Mabel Cheung's film. It's the true story of three Chinese sisters, one who married Sun Yet-sen, and another who married Chiang Kai-shek. The sisters are played by Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh and Vivian Wu.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at July 1, 2007 07:44 PM

I was thinking about putting together a list myself, something I hadn't tried in a few years. But I too was frustrated by the restriction against short films. So many of my favorites do not fit under the umbrella of the "feature" (even if I've never seen a satisfactory, unambiguous definition of that word) film.

I've seen 72 1/2 of the films on your list (the Best of Youth being the cause of the fraction). Mostly the better-known ones, but the top film I haven't seen is quite well-known: the Last Tango in Paris. One of these days...

Posted by: Brian at July 1, 2007 09:23 PM

Apocalypse Now Redux? Really? The one where they keep getting off the river instead of staying on the river? I wish I could agree with you on that one, but...

Posted by: the shamus at July 1, 2007 09:34 PM

Nicely done, Peter. Great list. :)

I think was invited to participate in the same "top 100" venture that you were, so I also posted my list over at my blog as well.

Posted by: Damian at July 1, 2007 11:31 PM

Thanks for that, Peter.

Posted by: girish at July 2, 2007 07:07 AM

Peter, here's where the benefits of all those top 100 lists spreading like a virus start to show their benefit-- Your list reads like an excellent combination of things I've seen (and would agree and disagree wih) and a wonderful collection of titles I've still yet to see. What a wonderful thing to be able to take to one's Netflix queue! (By the way, Netflix, or someone, should have The Soong Sisters somewhere-- I have a Region 1 DVD fom Tai Seng (I think). If you're aching for it, well...

And I knew I was forgetting something: #6! Damn!

Posted by: Dennis Cozzalio at July 2, 2007 07:36 PM

You know, I was actually thinking of checking out The Soong Sisters the other week. It's really that good? Guess I will the next time I go to the store.

Posted by: Chris at August 3, 2007 12:52 PM

All late Ozu. (Tokyo Twilight, Early Spring, Late Summer, Equinox Flower, etc,) Au Hasard Balthazar and Diary of a Country Priest. Stray Dog. My Mother's Smile. La Cienega. All Bruno Dumont's films. Lost in Translation and Lady from Shanghai and Mr. Arkadin and Rohmer's films. The Woman Next Door, Two English Girls. County Hospital and the Music Box. Godard's Number Two and all of Godard--le Mepris and Pierrot are as good as films get but just typical Godard films. City Lights. The General. The Big Sleep. l'Atalante. More more more...

Posted by: Jody Rope at July 8, 2008 07:56 PM