Not that anyone asked, but my top ten films of all-time would like something like this:
1) Playtime (1967), dir. Jacques Tati
2) Sherlock, Jr. (1924), dir. Buster Keaton
3) Floating Weeds (1959, color version), dir. Yasujiro Ozu
4) The Thin Red Line (1998), dir. Terrence Malick
5) The Black Stallion (1979), dir. Carroll Ballard
6) Three Colors: White (1994), dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
7) The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes (1971), dir. Stan Brakhage
8) Monsoon Wedding (2001), dir. Mira Nair
9) F for Fake (1975), dir. Orson Welles
10) Nashville (1975), dir. Robert Altman
Now, I’m confident in #1-3, both the choices and their placement. The rest could fluctuate wildly, depending on what I ate or drank on any given day, how much, what meds I’m on, and whether I had exerted myself recently in physical activity. The list reflects not just films I think are influential on the form but just favorites—movies I return to over and over—and those that represent the apotheosis of a given genre, mode, or filmmaker’s methods.
Points of clarification, caveats, dissensions, and surprises to myself: 1) I realize that this list veers heavily toward American productions, and that’s what I’m most familiar with. 2) Europe is probably under-represented, though it’s worth noting that a French film ranks #1 for me. South America and Africa are also lacking. This says less about those countries and continents’ output than about my lack of cinematic education in those arenas. 3) There’s no animation on this list, which is intentional. I’ll do a separate list for that soon. 4) I intentionally tried to choose only one film per director; otherwise the first eight slots would have belonged to Tati, Ozu, and Altman. 5) I aggressively tried to make this more contemporary than the Sight & Sound list. 6) Only one woman, and for a film that many wouldn’t call seminal. But I love Monsoon Wedding deeply, and I think it gets at what a postcolonial, globalized world looks like better than almost anything I’ve seen. Still, boo on me. 7) Apparently, I really like multilayered films teeming with characters and overlapping plotlines, and which explore a network of people (a community) rather than one individual. This sort of movie accounts for four out of ten. That says more about my social/ethical interests than perhaps it does about cinema. 8) For all my writing and engagement with Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg, neither made the cut, though E.T. and Munich came close. Not sure what that means. 8) And, yes, finally, I have indeed seen both Citizen Kane and Vertigo. Touch of Evil, Chimes at Midnight, and F for Fake are all superior Welles. I’m not a huge Hitchcock fan, generally, but I think North by Northwest, The Birds, Notorious, and Rear Window are all deeper, more involving, and more entertaining than Vertigo, which I just don’t understand the love for.
Here’s a set of honorable mentions that I considered for the #10 slot: Aguirre, the Wrath of God; The Best of Youth; Bullets over Broadway; Do the Right Thing; I Know Where I’m Going; Killer of Sheep; The Lady Eve; Lone Star; The Marriage of Maria Braun; Offside; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure; Rough Magic; The Royal Tenenbaums; nearly half of Steven Spielberg’s oeuvre; Some Like It Hot; Stop Making Sense; Trouble in Paradise; Volver; Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; Yi-Yi.
All right. Start the arguing.