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

 

Smile

 

Atlantic City

 

Fargo

 

Das Boot

 

The General

 

The Swimmer  

 

7. Goodfellas

 

Paris, Texas

 

8. Rear Window

 

Shoah

 

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

 

Psycho

 

Le Salaire de la peur


Hotel Terminus

 

5. Amarcord

 

6. Night and Fog

 

Happiness

 

The Third Man

 

M

 

The Marriage of Maria Braun

  

 

 

 

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