AFI (the American Film Institute) recently updated their list of the 100 greatest movies of all time.
Not to be outdone, I present to you my list of the greatest films of all time. You will notice their number one pick is absent from my list…however, there are some shared views. During my first 27 years on this earth, I’ve watched a lot of films and loved many…but only a few make this list…
Please keep in mind, while I am very serious about many of the selections (the TOP TEN especially), many of the lower level selections are meant to be an amusing hodge-podge of sentimental favorites and off-the-wall films that you might not typically expect to find on such lists.
Without further adieu…David H. Schleicher presents his
27 Years 27 Movies: The Greatest Films of All Time:
27. The New World (2005, director: Terrence Malick). There have been other films in the past three or four years that have received 10/10 ratings from me for their entertainment value, but this is the only film from the past three or four years to have made this list. It’s a film I have never really stopped thinking about. It’s too transcendent to fully grasp on the first view (which is why I gave it a 9/10 initially), but it’s transcendent none the less, and shares many themes with the film that appears at Number One on my list.
26. Night of the Hunter (1955, director: Charles Laughton). This American gothic chiller is one of my favorite films from childhood. If it weren’t for the all-too-happy ending, it would rank much higher.
25. The Elephant Man (1980, director: David Lynch). Emotionally resonant and haunting true tale of John Merrick is one of the most devastating films I’ve ever experienced.
24. Airplane! (1980, director: Jim Abrams and David Zucker). Who said everything on this list had to be serious? This is the granddaddy of all spoof films, and it’s the best. It’s the only film I can watch over and over and still laugh at every stupid sight gag and every dumb one-liner. A special nod must go to the Naked Gun films, which as a trilogy were the most consistently funny examples of this under appreciated genre. I never formally reviewed this film as it never warranted such a review.
23. Fargo (1996, director: Joel Coen). Bittersweet black comedy about a botched kidnapping that leads to murder sentimentalizes and lampoons the upper Midwest lifestyle. It’s all played dead seriously, but with those accents!
22. American Beauty (1999, director: Sam Mendes). I still have my doubts about how this will be viewed over time, but I suspect it could play very well as a satire in twenty years.
21. Memento (2000, director: Christopher Nolan). This is the only gimmick film I know of where the gimmick (it’s told backwards from the point of view of a man suffering from short-term memory loss) works on every conceivable level.
20. Wet Hot American Summer (2001, director: David Wain). Really? My first year out of college I watched this about once a month. It got me through a very rough time. Who knew a send-up of those summer camp movies from the 1980’s that I hated would be so funny? This features some of the best absurdist humor and jokes so dumb they are smart. This is my generation’s cult comedy.
19. Gladiator (2001, director: Ridley Scott). Past generations had their Cecil B. DeMille epics and Ben Hur. My generation had this slickly produced bloody spectacle that entertained me on every level.
18. The Shining (1980, director: Stanley Kubrick). This is the most artistic horror film ever made, and the best.
17. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000, director: Ang Lee). For a brief moment, I believed people could fly.
16. The English Patient (1996, director: Anthony Minghella). This film gets a bum rap these days, but it’s my generation’s version of a David Lean film, and I still love it.
15. Barry Lyndon (1975, director: Stanley Kubrick). This is the best film ever made about 18th century Europe.
14. The Sweet Hereafter (1997, director: Atom Egoyan). This is as austere, cynical, and heartbreaking a look at grief as I’ve ever experienced.
13. Braveheart (1995, director: Mel Gibson). If Mel Gibson had stopped directing after this, I think it would be looked upon more favorably. Still, it’s the most emotionally visceral film I can recall seeing in my lifetime.
12. Dr. Strangelove (1964, director: Stanley Kubrick). It terms of satire played for laughs, this takes the cake. As a political Cold War farce, this withstands the scrutiny of time with continued belly aches.
11. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, director: Steven Spielberg). This is the best example of what I feel Spielberg has always stood for: that sense of awe and a humanistic view of the world at large.
10. Gone with the Wind (1939, director: multiple entities). I had the pleasure to see this on the big screen during its last re-release (circa 1999 if I recall correctly). It can only be truly appreciated on the big screen. Movies don’t get bigger than this. A beautiful mess that had disaster written all over it. Yet Hollywood dazzled us. Still a classic by any means.
9. Goodfellas (1990, director: Martin Scorsese). The best mob movie. The best Scorsese movie. Period. End of discussion. You think I’m being funny?
8. Zentropa (aka Europa) (1991, director: Lars von Trier). Works shockingly well as a throw-back to post WWII-era espionage thrillers and as a shocking piece of avant-garde cinema. Before he went Dogma, von Trier delivered his unnerving masterpiece.
7. Shadow of a Doubt (1943, director: Alfred Hitchcock). Hitchcock routinely named this amongst all the films he ever made as his personal favorite. Who’s to argue with the master? This chiller hits all the right notes as it depicts true innocence uncovering true darkness set against the backdrop of the American Dream. I have never written a formal review of this film. It’s just that good.
6. Casablanca (1942, director: Michael Curtiz). It’s the underlying cynicism and the most quotable dialogue ever uttered on screen that make this classic hold up so well over the years. It contains my favorite line ever, spoken by Claude Rains to Bogart, “I’d like to think you killed a man; it’s the romantic in me.”
5. Network (1976, director: Sidney Lumet). Satire is so hard to do with a straight face, but this eerily prophetic film still shocks and captivates today thanks to the smartest script ever written (thank you Paddy Chayefsky) and the greatest ensemble acting I’ve ever seen.
4. The Pianist (2002, director: Roman Polanski). This is the most brutally honest and gripping film ever made about surviving the Holocaust.
3. Paris, Texas (1984, director: Wim Wenders). Allegedly this was Kurt Cobain’s favorite film of all time. Underrated and little seen, this is the type of slow-burning character piece that slips under your skin and haunts you for days afterwards.
2. Mulholland Drive (2001, director: David Lynch). This is where my “favorite” blurs with “the greatest.” This fevered meditation on the power of film and the dreams of a tortured actress is the most artistic film about Hollywood ever made. Lynch described it as “a Love Story in the City of Dreams.” I agree.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, director: Stanley Kubrick). Depicting man’s first contact with intelligent life outside of this planet, this is the ultimate example of film as art. As such, I rank it as the greatest film of all time.
Upon more critical review on a different day with a longer list, these films may have made the cut:
King Kong (the 1933 version)
From Hitchcock: The Lady Vanishes, Rear Window, Vertigo
From Spielberg: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan
From Scorsese: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Departed
Others: Freaks, A Streetcar Named Desire, Chinatown, Five Easy Pieces, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Annie Hall, Atlantic City, Gandhi, Secrets & Lies, Lost in Translation, 21 Grams
Films that always seem to appear on everyone else’s lists but will never appear on mine:
The Wizard of Oz, Psycho, Jaws, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, any Musical or Disney film
Written by David H. Schleicher