As many films as I’ve seen, there are a lot I have yet to watch. And this list is by no means a definitive record of the films I need to see, so much as an overview of some of the biggest gaps in my cinematic education. I’m sure there are films I left off, and some of my choices may not be perfect–filling a list of 100 is tricky–but drawing on the various best-films lists of critics, awards groups, and even my cousin, I compiled a good checklist against which I can measure myself. Films marked with a single asterisk (*) are films I own but have not seen.
I was reminded of this post the other day when its anniversary came around, and decided to update it to reflect the films I’ve seen or added to my collection in the interim. I have to say, I’m not sure how I compiled this list–some of these films, excellent as they are, have never strongly been on my radar (Au Revoir Les Enfants in particular comes to mind).
I was reminded yet again of this post, once again right around the anniversary of its publication. I’ll update it yet again. I’ll probably try and make this a yearly thing.
3/25/17 – I’ve seen a few more of this since the last update, and I had a few tweaks to make. So here you go.
- All Quiet on the Western Front*
- Au Revoir Les Enfants
- The Battle of Algiers*
- The Best Years of Our Lives*
- Bicycle Thieves
- The Birth of a Nation*
- Bonnie and Clyde*
- Boyz N the Hood*
- Brief Encounter
Bringing Up BabyIt’s got some very funny moments, but I found Katherine Hepburn’s character awfully hard to take. I never gave it a score, but it’d probably be in the mid-high 70s. Enjoyable but not a masterpiece.
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
- Charulata (The Lonely Wife)
- Children of Men*
- Children of Paradise*
Chimes at MidnightJust saw this in a theater, in the new restoration which Criterion will be releasing in August. I’ll see it again at that time, taking advantage of the subtitles; between the poor sound quality and the Shakespearean dialogue, the film can be a touch hard to understand at times. That said, if I don’t put it in the top rank of Welles’ films – in part because the technical issues serve to distance one emotionally from the material – there’s much in it that’s great, especially Welles’ performance as Falstaff and his stark imagery, which often reminded me of Eisenstein. When I update this list again I’ll provide my refined thoughts. (Well…)
- City Lights
- City of God*
- The Color of Pomegranates
- Come and See
- Cries & Whispers
- The Crowd
- Day of Wrath
- Dead Ringers*
- The Decalogue****
The Discreet Charm of the BourgeoisieLoved this. The surreal anti-humor and the skewering of the upper classes remain fresh and delightful 45 years on. Hopefully Criterion reissues it at some point. (89 – ****)
- Double Indemnity*
- Fanny and Alexander
The Fountain*I hated this. What a pretentious mess. Points, I suppose, for being its own thing, but on the whole I found it just insufferable. Another one I never rated (since I grudgingly admit I probably ought to see it again), but I’d go around 45 for now.
- The 400 Blows
- A Generation**
- Godzilla (1954)*
- The Gold Rush*
- The Gospel According to St. Matthew
- The Graduate
- The Grapes of Wrath*
- Halloween (1978)
- High and Low
- Hiroshima Mon Amour
- Hoop Dreams*
In the Mood For LoveI didn’t watch it quite closely enough to form a firm opinion of it. I was impressed by the cinematography, and it seemed to be a reasonably moving tale of unfulfilled longing, but it didn’t blow me away or anything.
- It Happened One Night*
- The Jazz Singer (1927)*
- Jules and Jim
The KillingSolid early Kubrick. It’s not on the level of his greatest work; the voice-over is tiresome and some elements feel a bit amateurish (the bit with the little dog at the end is pretty weak stuff). But the editing, the presences of Timothy Carey and Kola Kwariani, and the ample evidence of Kubrick’s budding genius make it well worthwhile. (83 – ***½)
- King Kong (1933)*
The King of ComedyOne of the scariest films I’ve ever seen, yet it won’t have that effect on most. But Rupert Pupkin is everything I’ve ever feared becoming, and to see his obliviousness drive everyone in sight up the wall is one of the most gut-wrenching cinematic experiences I can think of. De Niro is incredible, Jerry Lewis is great, Sandra Bernhard is great, and Scorsese is at his best. One of the greats. (93 – ****)
- La Dolce Vita*
- La Strada
- Last Year at Marienbad
- Late Spring
The Leopard*Striking film. Takes a while to get going, but it’s worth it. And on an aesthetic level, it’s absolutely stunning. The production design and cinematography are jaw-dropping. A fascinating look at the decline of aristocracy. (87 – ****)
- Mahanagar (The Big City)
- Malcolm X*
- A Man Escaped*****
Mean Streets*Forgot to check this off the list. It’s very, very good; if it falls short of perfection, mostly because it feels a little too plotless, it’s impressive how close it comes. Johnny Boy is as unnerving in his recklessness as Rupert Pupkin is in his obliviousness. And there’s some vintage Scorsese direction on hand–the “Rubber Biscuit” scene is incredibly vivid. (85 – ***½)
- Modern Times
- M. Hulot’s Holiday*
- Mulholland Dr.*
- Nights of Cabiria
- Pan’s Labyrinth
Pather PanchaliI saw this along with the rest of the Apu Trilogy when Janus put them into theaters in anticipation of the Criterion release (which, of course, I own). They’re all great, **** films; Pather earns an 89 from me (Aparajito earns an 87 and The World of Apu a 91). Beautifully crafted in all departments. I’ll say no more; now that Criterion has done them justice there’s no reason for you not to see them.
- Paths of Glory
The Philadelphia StoryGreat fun. Maybe a few jokes haven’t held up, but Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant are at their best, and James Stewart, while not earning his Oscar (he felt the same way) is hard to resist either. I don’t have an official score for it, but I’d put it mid-to-high 80s.
- Rome, Open City
- The Rules of the Game*
The SacrificeObviously I don’t have a firm opinion of it–you can’t really judge a Tarkovsky on the first viewing–and I’d put it below Stalker and Andrei Rublev (and maybe The Mirror), but as with all his films it’s quite stunningly made. Luckily, it’s on Netflix, so I can return to it sooner rather than later.
- Sansho the Bailiff
- Scenes From a Marriage
- Sophie’s Choice
- The Spirit of the Beehive
A Streetcar Named DesireI watched this while recovering from surgery, so I was probably not at my sharpest. My impression from that viewing, however – it’s good. I didn’t necessarily think it was great, and I confess Brando didn’t blow me away like I expected, but I owe it another viewing. Sullivan’s TravelsThis, however, I really liked. It’s a shame Preston Sturges flamed out so quickly, but he made some great comedies while he could. (89 – ****) Sunrise* Really enjoyed this for the most part. There were some weak points (the whole thing with the pig was just…weird), but on the whole, it’s a really beautiful film (that final shot gets me every time) and I mean to see it again. (86 – ***½) Tender Mercies*Saw this and reviewed it here.
- The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
- The 39 Steps*
- To Be or Not to Be (1942)
- Tokyo Story
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre*
- The Usual Suspects*
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Another post surgery watch. I liked it quite a bit, but I’m not prepared to offer up an opinion beyond that. I’ll go back to it someday (maybe when I take back up my long-waylaid All-Time Film Awards project).
- Wild Strawberries*
- Wings of Desire*
- Within Our Gates
- A Woman Under the Influence*
7 8 films off the list. Let’s see what I can replace them with:
- Grave of the Fireflies* (A friend and I once planned to do this as part of a “Depressing Animation Day” along with The Plague Dogs, Where the Wind Blows, and Ringing Bell. Sad that never happened.)
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (This and the other Brat Pack/John Hughes films. I’m not that interested in them, but they’re cultural touchstones, so I probably should. Doubt I’ll like any of them as much as Planes, Trains and Automobiles or Home Alone, however.)
- Earth (there are a lot of Soviet films from the 20s and 30s I need to see, but this and Mother are pretty damn high on the list; I’d say Potemkin, but I’ve technically seen it–it was just years and years ago)
- Top Hat (along with The Gay Divorcee and the other major Astaire-Rogers films)
- Taste of Cherry (I need to see a lot of Abbas Kiarostami’s films, but this, while not universally beloved, seems to be a good starting point)
- The Lavender Hill Mob (and a great many other Ealing comedies–the only one I know I’ve seen is The Ladykillers)
- Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (I haven’t seen any Fassbinder; this seems like a good representative work, but what I really want to tackle is Berlin Alexanderplatz.)
** Also Kanal and Ashes and Diamonds.
**** Technically a set of 10 hour-long films, but most sources consider it as one film.
***** Also Diary of a Country Priest, Pickpocket, Mouchette, etc.
3/25/17: I won’t update this list again. I’ll prepare a v. 2.0 at some point in the coming months.