My Ten Favorite Films






Ten best lists of films are dumb. They force dumb choices and add almost nothing to serious discussion and criticism.


Big deal.





I love them. I love reading them. I love making them. And here is how I go about it.




At any given time I always have a list of contenders. If a film has any claim whatsoever on ever making it into my top ten, it goes on the list. Then, one by one, I cross out films until there are only ten left. These are the films that I most enjoyed watching, not those that I would necessarily rank as the highest expressions of the craft. Having said that, it is almost certainly the case that my contenders are overwhelmingly well crafted. But to make my top 10, I have to viscerally and emotionally love the experience of watching the film.




Important: “Love” does not mean that I found the experience pleasant, just that I reveled in the pleasure of watching a story told with narrative skill and total command of the formal elements of film.


The best example of a film that embodies all these confusing criteria is my favorite of them all, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog.”  I suppose you could say I enjoyed watching it, but if you have seen it you will understand why “enjoy” is perhaps not quite the most apt word for the experience. What, after all, do you say about a film in which one of the very best of the  sections (#1  I Am the Lord Your God) was so emotionally shattering that I have only watched it once and almost certainly will never be able to watch it again?




So here is the list as of today. If a film has a number, it made the top ten. The reasons why a film didn’t make the top ten are varied and, most often, beyond rational explanation. My choices are infinitely more visceral than cerebral.


By the way, I have a separate documentary list, which I will post soon. Salesman, although a documentary,  is a work of such poignancy and genius that it would make any list I create. 


I very much hope you might post your ten best lists and describe your agreements and your quarrels with mine. Perhaps you think that either an omission or inclusion of mine is unforgivable.


Let me know.



Mr. Smith Goes to Washington


1. Dekalog (1989) 


Au Revoir les Enfants


Shop on Main Street  (1965)


10. Midnight Cowboy


It’s a Wonderful Life


3. Jeux interdits




Atlantic City




Das Boot


The General


The Swimmer  


7. Goodfellas


Paris, Texas


8. Rear Window




Invaders from Mars


4. Salesman


Strangers on a Train


The Graduate


French Connection


2. Godfather 1/Godfather 2


9. Double Indemnity


Les Enfants du Paradis


Les Diaboliques




Le Salaire de la peur

Hotel Terminus


5. Amarcord


6. Night and Fog




The Third Man




The Marriage of Maria Braun





10 thoughts on “My Ten Favorite Films

  1. I think I have a summer movie list now professor! Godfather 1 & 2 are brilliant! I’m definately going to check the others out, thanks! Have a nice summer!

  2. I just have to warn you that, given my tastes, this is a list that will require a lot of tissues to dry your tears. Hey you know me from class. Im a happy guy. Film, though, is where I often get in touch with sadness.

    By the way, all are available from Netflix.

    Enjoy your summer!

  3. Where’s “The Blues Brothers”? That’s my all-time favorite…no better film ever made!!! I do, however, agree with your #2 (I don’t even consider it a trilogy…he should have quit while he was ahead). OK, Stevie G…I’ve said my piece. Motin out!

  4. Sorry, I couldn’t give you just ten, Steve, but I did put them in today’s order of preference (it’ll change tomorrow).

    The Leopard
    The Conformist
    Mrs. Miniver
    Lacombe Lucien
    Seduced and Abandoned
    Love and Anarchy
    Dr. Strangelove
    Woman of the Dunes
    Children of Paradise
    La Strada
    Seven Beauties
    I Vitellone
    Throne of Blood
    Once Upon A Time In The West
    Nights of Cabiria
    The 400 Blows
    Fellini Satyricon
    8 1/2
    Smiles of a Summer Night
    The Passenger
    Stray Dog
    The Godfather I & II
    Blithe Spirit
    Le Rayon Vert (Summer)
    Claire’s Knee
    A Man and a Woman
    Best Years of Our Lives
    The Philadelphia Story
    A Passage to India
    Pierrot Le Fou
    Le Samourai
    Come and See
    Kaagaz Ke Phool
    Night of the Iguana
    Gun Crazy
    Pepe Le Moko
    Gadjo Dilo
    Five Easy Pieces
    The Browning Version
    The Graduate
    The Life of Emile Zola
    Hell in the Pacific

    So many left out…

  5. Hey, Professor. It’s Gabe Toro, I took your course a couple of years ago. I, too, am a complulsive list-maker, as well as a cinema lover, and as such, lists like this always intrigue me, especially when they are so varied. Movies are like diets, they must be balanced.

    You have a great list, and a couple of them threaten my own. My ten…

    10. Jurassic Park- The first movie I ever truly LOVED. I watch it to this day and still believe Stevie Spielberg has a warehouse filled with actual dinosaurs out there.
    9. Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon- High camp, mixed with nostalgia. When you’ve got the glow, you know.
    8. El Topo- I met Alejandro Jodorowsky once and honestly, it was like dining with a god.
    7. W/R: Mysteries Of The Organism- The most primal, rebellious film I’ve ever seen, in that my initial reaction was to tear my clothes off and run into the streets.
    6. Cinema Paradiso- I cry like a baby multiple times during this movie.
    5. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy- I don’t even own the movie yet and somehow I can quote the ENTIRE THING.
    4. Being John Malkovich- A movie that changed my life and made me want to become a screenwriter.
    3. Do The Right Thing- Outrage, outrage, outrage- it’s both exhilarating and saddening that this film still retains it’s contemporary punch.
    2. The Holy Mountain- Like the titular peak, you don’t watch this movie, you climb it.
    1. 2001: A Space Odyssey- Encompasses so much. Does what all movies should do- it expands the mind until it is near elastic.

    I maintain a semi-professional movie blog that I think you might enjoy at , lots of thoughtful, topical analysis on today’s releases, as well as a number of cheap jokes. Hope you visit, since I’ll be following your entires from this point on.

  6. I’m kind of relieved that I’ve seen them all. I’ve been watching all my favorite films from the 60’s and 70’s and am dismayed at how they really don’t stand up very well. What looked like realism after the plastic 50’s studio era just looks kind of slow and obvious in today’s fast lane (have you watched teenagers watch The Graduate? Not a lot of traction despite Buck Henry’s brilliant script, the incredible editing, the music, etc. etc.). The movie that caught me by surprise was Shampoo. It seemed frivolous at the time, but watching a movie about the night before Nixon was elected is pretty provocative today. Movies I would add: MASH and The Player.

  7. Pingback: My Ten Favorite Films: A Revised List « Media and Mayhem

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