Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Greatest Movies of all Times

I have been a movie buff all my life. The thousands of movies I have seen include many of the world’s best. Lately I have been playing with some databases, looking at movie rankings, directors, nationalities, etc.

Perhaps the most popular movie database is IMBd - the Internet Movie Database. It is a trove of over three million titles. Unfortunately, its most popular feature is an unsatisfactory ranking of the top 250 movies, as voted by IMDb users. In other words, a popularity contest.

So I went to another website instead: TSPDT (They Shoot Pictures Don’t They). This is an excellent source, which ranks the 1,000 best movies ever made, as well as the 250 best directors, based on the votes of three and a half thousand critics, film makers and other experts. A caveat is the sample of voters: The vast majority are Americans, with a sprinkling of Frenchmen and other foreigners. Nevertheless, I want to share some of the things I discovered:

The 10 All-time Best Movies:
1. Citizen Kane, by Orson Welles, US
2. Vertigo, by Alfred Hitchcock, US/UK
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Stanley Kubrick, UK
4. Tokyo Story, by Yasujiro Ozu, Japan
5. The Rules of the Game, by Jean Renoir, France
6. 8 1/2, by Federico Fellini, Italy
7. The Godfather, by Francis Ford Coppola, US
8. Sunrise, by F. W. Murnau, US/Germany
9. The Searchers, by John Ford, US
10. Seven Samurai, by Akira Kurosawa, Japan

The 10 All-time Best Directors:
1. Alfred Hitchcock, US/UK
2. Orson Welles, US
3. Stanley Kubrick, UK
4. Federico Fellini, Italy
5. Jean-Luc Godard, France
6. Akira Kurosawa, Japan
7. Jean Renoir, France
8. Francis Ford Coppola, US
9. John Ford, US
10. Ingmar Bergman, Sweden

Among the hundreds of geniuses who have directed brilliant movies all over the world, five giants stand out: Hitchcock (I believe that I have seen every one of his films), then Welles, Kubrick, Godard and Fellini, in that order.

 The 10 Most Prolific Countries;
1. US: made 389 of the 900 best movies ever made (43%)
2. France: 137 “ (18%)
3 Italy: 56 “ (6%)
4. UK: 53 “ (6%)
5. Germany: 41 “ (5%)
6. Japan: 38 “ (4%)
7. Russia: 24 “ (3%)
8. Spain: 23 “ (3%)
9. China/Hong Kong: 19 “ (2%)
10. Sweden: 15 “ (2%)

Comments for the chauvinists among us, in other words for those who are concerned about national rankings: What about the overwhelming American dominance? First of all, I’ll repeat: this is a biased source. Most of the votes come from the US. That said, there is no doubt that the 20th century has been the American century and the Hollywood century. Nothing lasts forever, but for the past hundred years, it is what it is.

At any rate, even in this America-centric ranking, France’s contribution is proportionally larger than that of the US: based on that country’s size, it should only have produced about 8% or 70 of the world’s best pictures, in comparison with the US. And by the way, the first movie ever made is French: Voyage dans la Lune, by George Melies, 1902, ranked as the 277th best movie ever made.

My Personal Preferences:
I have seen 30% of the world’s 1000 best films, including 8 of the top 10. Among those, I have missed Ozu’s Tokyo Story and Murnau’s Sunrise.

 It is difficult to identify a small number of favorites, but I’ll try, and I will skip the most predictable ones such as Coppola’s Godfather I and Kubrick’s Spartacus. Here are my 50 favorites on the TSPDT list, by countries. The rankings are those of the TSPDT website, not mine:

Singing in the Rain, by Donen and Kelly #16
City Lights, by Charlie Chaplin #29
Touch of Evil, by Orson Welles #34
Modern Times, by Charlie Chaplin, #42
On the Waterfront, by Elia Kazan #57
Annie Hall, by Woody Allen #92
The Deer Hunter, by Michael Cimino #188
Red River, by Howard Hawk #201
The Quiet Man, by John Ford #233
Groundhog Day, by Harold Ramis #279
Schindler’s List, by Steven Spielberg #302
The West Side Story, by Robert Wise #349
Fantasia, by Ben Sharpsteen and Walt Disney #370
The Hustler, by Robert Rossen #406
High Noon, by Fred Zinnemann #416
Amadeus, by Milos Forman #441
Shane, by George Stevens #468
Pinocchio, by Ben Sharpsteen and Walt Disney #475
The Manchurian Candidate, by John Frankenheimer #538
12 Angry Men, by Sidney Lumet #551
Bambi, by David Hand and Walt Disney #574
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Blake Edwards #594
Titanic, by James Cameron #661
L.A. Confidential, by Curtis Hansen #744
Dumbo, by Ben Sharpsteen and Walt Disney #746
A Streetcar Named Desire, by Elia Kazan #777
Roman Holiday, by William Wyler #794
No Country for Old Men, by Coen brothers #815

Breathless, by Jean-Luc Godard #14
400 Blows, by Francois Truffaut #23
La Grande Illusion, by Jean Renoir #39
Les Enfants du Paradis, by Marcel Carne #54
Vivre sa Vie, by Jean-Luc Godard #120
The Wages of Fear, by Henri-Georges Clouzot #251
Forbidden Games, by Rene Clement #714

The Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio De Sica #13
L’Avventura, by Michelangelo Antonioni #28
La Dolce Vita, by Federico Fellini #31
La Strada, by Federico Fellini #66
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, by Sergio Leone #149

The Third Man, by Carol Reed #43
Strangers on a Train, by Alfred Hitchcock #395

Three Penny Opera, by G. W. Pabst #230
Triumph of the Will, by Leni Riefenstalh #432

Seven Samurai, by Akira Kurosawa #10

Wild Strawberries, by Ingmar Bergman #68
The Seventh Seal, by Ingmar Bergman #70
The Virgin Spring, by Ingmar Bergman #649

Viridiana, by Luis Bunuel #76
Los Olvidados, by Luis Bunuel #105

So these are my favorite 50 pictures on TSPDT’s list of the 1,000 best films ever made.

In addition, I also put together a list of 30 movies notably missing from the TSPDT list, and which I also like a great deal, by countries. Again, the rankings are not mine. They and the scores are the ones used by the IMDb website:

Saving Private Ryan, by Steven Spielberg #33
The Gladiator, by Ridley Scott #47
Gone Girl, by David Fincher  (2014) #83
Witness for the Prosecution, by Billy Wilder #86
Indiana Jones, by Steven Spielberg #102
The Wolf of Wall Street, by Martin Scorsese #127
Judgment at Nuremberg, by Stanley Kramer #158
Twelve Years as a Slave, by Steve McQueen (US/British) #166
Grand Budapest Hotel, by Wes Anderson (2014) #180
You Can’t take it With You, by Frank Capra 8.0
Planet of the Apes, by Franklin Schaffner 8.0
Fiddler on the Roof, by Norman Jewison 8.0
Dances with Wolves, by Kevin Costner 8.0
Avatar, by James Cameron 7.9
The Ten Commandments, by Cecil B. DeMille 7.9
From Here to Eternity, by Fred Zinnemann 7.8
Apocalypto, by Mel Gibsons 7.8
Midnight in Paris, by Woody Allen 7.7
Falling Down, by Joel Schumacher 7.6
The Little Mermaid, by Ron Clements 7.6
Broadway Danny Rose, by Woody Allen 7.5
Mutiny on the Bounty - 1962, by Lewis Milestone 7.2
Cleopatra 1963, by Joseph Mankiewicz 7.0
The Greatest Show on Earth, bu Cecil B. DeMille 6.7

French: Jean de Florette, by Claude Berri 8.1
Manon Des Sources, by Claude Berri 8.1

Italian: Life is Beautiful, by Roberto Benigni #28

British: Slumdog Millionaire, by D. Boyle and L. Tandan (British/Indian) #243
Zorba the Greek, by Michael Cacoyannis (British/Greek) 7.8
Notting Hill, by Roger Michell 7.0

As to the list of the 250 greatest directors, I want to add just a few names to it, alphabetically:
1. Ben Affleck, because he is so new and coming on so strong, right now (Argo)
2. Mel Gibson, because he has, despite screwing up so badly, still managed to come out with provocative and original movies, even recently (Apocalypto, The Passion of Christ)
3. Cecil B. DeMille, because he is such an immense historical figure who has made historical movies (The Greatest Show on Earth, The Ten Commandments)
4. Oliver Stone, because he is incapable of making boring movies (Platoon, JFK, Natural Born Killers, Wall Street, The Doors)

And one more thing: During the 1950s and 1960s, Doris Day and company made a whole bunch of very entertaining and funny films that have withstood the test of time: Films such as Pillow Talk, Send Me No Flowers, The Thrill of it All, Lover Come Back, That Touch of Mink, and Move Over Darling involve actors such as Rock Hudson, Cary Grant and James Garner, directors such as Norman Jewison and Delbert Mann, and the central star is always Doris Day, incredibly traditional and corny and always hilariously funny, at least if you can get past the insane ways in which the culture dealt with sex and gender back then.

No doubt there are great gaps in this article, which reflect gaps in my knowledge. For example, I am utterly unfamiliar with Japanese and other Asian movies. Also, I don’t do justice to the rich movie traditions of some other countries, for example Russia (Eisenstein). Even so, I hope that you can connect to some of my “lists,” as I am sure that you have seen at least some of these pictures. leave comment here

© Tom Kando 2014