0034: The 100 Best Films (81-90)

  • 81. The Big Sleep (1946, Howard Hawks) – This is not a mystery; it is only pretending to be a mystery. Hawks and his many screenwriters do not give much of a damn discovering who did what, because the who and the what that had already happened is that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall fell for each other and fell hard. The Big Sleep captures two of the last century’s most charismatic, sexy people crawling the ceiling for each other, and if this film had been simply a documentary, it may well still be a classic. Hawks draped his actors in a sultry, steamy atmosphere and used plot devices to ratchet up the tension. Many critics try to praise second-rate films that are personal favorites by claiming the plot just does not matter very much, but The Big Sleep is one of the few films for which that saying holds true. You feel this film as much as you watch it. You sink into it. It sinks into you, too, until it becomes one dream from which you never wish to wake.

  • 82. His Girl Friday (1940, Howard Hawks) – If you have ever watched The Front Page unaware of this film, it is safe to bet that you never thought, “This movie is good, but it would be even better if one of the main characters was a woman instead of a man.” Whoever had that wacko idea was a genius. Hildy Johnson as ex-wife in addition to Hildy Johnson as abused, workaholic employee gives this material a sexual surge that races it far ahead of the excellent original. That brilliant idea married to Hawks’ frenetic pacing and the cast’s abandon to a comic frenzy turned His Girl Friday into one of the finest comedies ever made. Many critics claim it is the fastest film ever created; it certainly is in the competition. Grant and Russell race through ever line, every action is hurried, and even contemporary workplaces seem sluggish compared to this 1940s newsroom. With this battling sexual banter and the film’s occasionally self-referencing jokes, this film fragmented the screwball comedy into a new sliver, one that would resurface gloriously in the 80s with the television program Moonlighting. It is a spastic explosion of chaotic energy, energy infectious and addictive. Like Hildy, viewers are continuously sucked back in to this office’s searing electrical storm.

  • 83. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937, Walt Disney) – Perhaps one of the only things odder than Disney’s idea to make an hour and a half long cartoon is the actual animated film itself. Disney’s feature-length debut still plays as bizarre as ever. There is the fairytale story, still incredibly Grimm (imagine a modern Disney film discussing cutting hearts out of people). The animation clashes idyllic scenes with the dark realms of nightmares, just as the goofy, unreal dwarfs somehow share the screen with the human Snow White. And just what is it with Snow White’s voice? Walt not only knew the value of the strange, but he also knew that this film would never work as a lengthy cartoon. It had to be a real film, only animated, and it should take full advantage of the weird elements only a drawn feature could realistically provide. So, really then, Disney did not make an hour and a half long cartoon. He made Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, one of his studio’s best films ever, and the one the public today most sadly overlooks.

  • 84. Stagecoach (1939, John Ford) – Hooking a couple of pairs of wagon wheels to Grand Hotel is a laughable idea. Was not half the appeal of that hit the opportunity to peek into wealthy, lush surroundings of the pampered? Move the concept to the dusty trails, and nobody will line up to watch. Besides, Grand Hotel had the big stars to draw the masses. This silly western idea will never attract a huge name. It has no star. It will bomb. John Ford, however, had a huge ace up his sleeve. He had a star; the public just did not know him yet. Maybe Ford did not even realize just how huge his co-worker’s potential was. John Wayne entered that stagecoach a relatively unknown actor, but he left it further down the road to becoming cinema’s biggest star than anybody could have guessed. Not only did Stagecoach boost Wayne’s fortunes, it also reestablished the Western as a major genre. Using Hotel’s idea of throwing diverse characters (including the older film’s alcoholic doctor type) into close quarters, Stagecoach often plays closer to a drama than an oater. That attention to characterization and situation only enhances the tension, even down to the ending that other films copied so often that it is now a figure of speech. Ford’s Monument Valley became *the* old West in America’s mind, and Bert Glennon’s deep-focus photography inspired Citizen Kane, among other classics. Past this staggering influence, however, is an involving story filled with characters, and that is a major part of what makes Stagecoach one of the greatest Westerns, not to mention films, ever made. It dared to make an A-film out of B-movie conventions.

  • 85. Double Indemnity (1944, Billy Wilder) - Some films personify a genre, some films create a genre, and some films so completely define a genre, firmly fashioning its every feature, that over time, it nearly plays as a parody. In that last category, Double Indemnity certainly finds its home. Almost every cynical, dark, and thrilling facet of the film noir genre finds its ultimate expression here. Like its main actors, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson, this film oozes such a sweaty intensity that any former stereotypical impression of the viewers melts away in minutes. Even Billy Wilder shocks; up to this point, his most successful film was The Major and the Minor, a farce (though one with some seriously dark undertones). Probably few expected him to get down and dirty, and even fewer would have predicted he would be this damn good at it. This is no formula flick. This is a supreme moment in cinema; for many, this is THE film noir. Even more amazing, Wilder somehow got the public to adore this grimy, pessimistic movie, a trick of which his future classics would prove him the master.

  • 86. The Wrong Trousers (1993, Nick Park) - Nick Park's classic clay creations, Wallace and canine Gromit, are the heroes of some of the greatest family entertainments yet to grace the screen (even if, at thirty minutes or so each, they didn't grace too many theaters). This is the best of the batch, serving both as a spoof of Hitchcock, Welles, and noir while also effectively mining much of the gold in the very vaults it was gently mocking. What begins as deliciously silly grows amazingly engrossing, and Park proves a terrific director. With the incredible use of music and vantage shots here (that scene with Gromit looking up into his room while that music drones on…), it really wouldn't matter that this short is the result of months of animation work. It could have been live action, and still, it would impress. This is simply a well-made film, and the talent it took to bring its characters to life only deserves additional kudos. The Wrong Trousers won an Oscar, but give it and its partners half a chance and it will win you.

  • 87. Blood Simple (1984, Joel Coen) - The first feature of the celebrated Coen brothers, Blood Simple is certainly a product of their early days, before their desire to twist genres overcame their passion for making serious films, before the excessive accents started standing in for true humor, before plot was sacrificed to smug moments of convention deconstruction, before they lost all sense of proportion and gave in to creating two hour jokes that wouldn't be all that funny as short films, before the rot set in, before the fall. Balance is all; not a single element listed above is bad when it works in context. In fact, they are all present here. The script subverts the film noir genre, although here in the service of suspense, surprise, and a grim humor that never completely unravels the film. The accents are there, but they are not overdone to the point of destroying characters in search of lame laughs. The story does mess with many of the clichés of this style of film, but Blood Simple's deconstructive glee is firmly rooted in characters and their unique, realistic reaction to events, and the results of these elements add to the total effect of the film rather than sink it. The cast, including Frances McDormand and the amazing M. Emmet Walsh, share the spirit of the brothers, Barry Sonnenfeld proves a better cinematographer than director, and a little restraint from the film's creators all work to elevate Blood Simple to a towering position not only in the world of independent films, but in the world of cinema itself.

  • 88. Alien (1979, Ridley Scott) - So, why is Alien so scary? Sure, there's the creature itself, a sleek, hissing vision from Giger's Freudian nightmares. There's the strange symbolism (again, Freudian) about the
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    destruction of the mother, from the creatures that destroy their living hosts at birth to an oddly maternal ship that is destroyed as it expels its 'child'
    . There's
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    the clever way the credits bury the name of the sole survivor
    , a slick trick Hollywood can rarely restrain egos long enough to pull off. Really, though, while all these ingredients add to the film, Alien is really frightening because it seems so real. The film often has the grain of a home movie, and the improvisational nature of the crew camaraderie seems incredibly natural and unstaged. The exposition is slow and woven into the scenes with an unassuming grace. Even the special effects have a gritty, grimy, dim presence you never see in these CGI days. Like the worst bad dreams, this film seems so believable, even as the horrific happens, that the viewer never knows what will happen next, and when something does happen, it resonates with a force rare for a feature film. Opting for a style closer to a documentary than an expensive science fiction film, Scott crafted a chilling vision. This spawned several sequels helmed by some great talent, but none of Alien's offspring can challenge the harrowing intensity of this brutal mother.

  • 89. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989, Woody Allen) - Woody Allen worships Ingmar Bergman's artistic blend of philosophy and art, and he furiously worked to create his own concoction of these two realms at least since 1978's Interiors. One of his problems, however, is that he simply loves Bergman too much. Too often, these attempts have come across as cheap Bergman parodies rather than original works, and while a few remain interesting, none of them could really compete with Allen's other films until 1989's Crimes and Misdemeanors. Why? Because Crimes and Misdemeanors aims at the same Bergmanesque results, but instead of coping the master, Allen uses his own style. As a result, the mixture of comedy, drama, and metaphysical exploration is convincing and natural rather than forced and reverential. A great cast, terrific script, and surprisingly well-developed symbols entertain while they provoke thought and even disturb, and Allen seems sure of himself throughout the whole affair. The result is a movie with a deceptive yet incredible power; you'll laugh out loud at times, but you will be left uneasy at the end. It was Allen's second masterpiece in four years, and one of his very best films in a career full of highlights.

  • 90. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919, Robert Wiene) - All critics hail this film as a major, influential milestone in cinematic history, but it is difficult to determine just what this milestone marks. Over eighty years after its creation, this strange film still startles and captivates with its alien landscapes, its freakish lighting, and its dream / nightmare ambience. It is a hallucination that lasts under an hour, yet you are likely to dwell upon it for weeks. What exactly has it influenced? Nothing too strongly. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari walks a thin line between the accessible and the experimental, the surreal and reality, and not too many films have since been bold enough to inch that close to the edge. Still, it has seeped into the mainstream in watered-down streams. It is certainly one of the earlier horror films, and its expressionist tone would cast a huge, if not always easy to detect, shadow over early German films. From there, it has even bled, however diluted, into Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Brian De Palma, and Tim Burton. It also chose to dwell in the psychological elements of horror; sure, there are threats of physical danger, but one always feels a strain on sanity as well as on corporeal safety. Forget that, however, and just watch the film. It is one of the greatest films from the sadly forgotten silent age, and you will be amazed at the world you find here, even if you usually hate films without dialogue. This film will claim you.
Author Comments: 

Influence and historical importance mean nothing here. Each and every film is ranked based solely on its own artistic merits. All official theatrical releases are fair game. This is it - the best films ever.

I will be adding entries as time allows. The list is complete, but I wish to write a bit about each movie, so it may be several weeks until all films are listed. I hope to add at least two or three entries each weekday and more if I have the chance.

Creating this list hurt. Great films were left on the cutting room floor, and sadly, I fear movies near the bottom of the list may be looked down upon. Make no mistake - any film on this list is a fantastic work well worth your time. The difference between closely ranked films was microscopic at best.

To prevent this list's size from becoming prohibitive, I am breaking the hundred entries into blocks of ten.

Yay! I for one am psyched to see how this list turns out. Just to remind myself of your philosophy, do you make the distinction between "best" and "favorite", lbangs?


No, I don't distinguish between best and favorite. These are my favorites, and thus, I believe they are the best films. I can certainly be wrong - they might all be awful - but I have yet to be convinced any 'objective' measures are worth a flying flip at evaluating art.

Hopefully, I'll add more before months pass!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I think I should make the distinction because I love some films that have recognizable flaws. Take, for example, "Chicago" and "Talk to Her." I loved both of these films very much, but I think I might have liked "Chicago" slightly more. However, I recongized that it has a few flaws, some of which you pointed out in your review of it (along with many that I hadn't recognized). "Talk to Her", while I enjoyed it a lot, it's probably ever so slightly less than "Chicago"... and yet I realize that it's just a really great movie. So if you asked me my favorite film of the year, I would probably say "Chicago", but if you asked me what I thought the best film of the year was, I would probably say "Talk to Her."

So what is your opinion on what I said? Would you say that even if you can recognize flaws in a film, if you get so much enjoyment out of it, that the flaws shouldn't detract from a film's greatness? Do you dislike all films that contain flaws? Or do you have a different take on it?

I think every film has flaws. I think the flaws only really become problematic when they actively work against whatever the film is trying artistically to do.

Somewhere on this site, there is an incredibly long discussion between myself and several others on the entire 'best vs. favorite' issue. For fear of simply repeating a long exchange, I'll see if I can't find it and direct you in that direction. Many of us Listols have many different opinions on the matter!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Let me suggest that The Listology was predicated on the assumption that 'best' does have meaning. Jim calls for listologists to make recommendations to him and to each other. Why would he and we be interested in each other's recommendations? Must it not be that there is something special about works of art that many diverse and above-averagely intelligent people are willing to recommend? Good, better, best - despite the apparent extreme exclusivity of 'best', more than one thing of a sort can be best. It is quite permissible and appropriate to have lists of 'the best' made up of several items of the same sort. But the ultimate best(s) cannot be established as such in one lifetime - they must pass the test of multi-generational time. The works of Shakespeare are prime examples - and not even all of his works are 'best'. Quite possibly, many of The Beatles songs will pass that test too. It's fascinating to speculate what 20th century movies will be on 'best' lists this time next century. Citizen Kane? Seven Samurai? Pulp Fiction?

I agree that 'best' has meaning. I do not, however, believe there are objective criteria to determine the issue. (Yes, aesthetics is one of the most fascinating and least convincing areas of philosophy for me.) As such, to me, it is rather like religious belief. Is there a truth? Sure. Can we prove it? Not really. We can only hope to be as sensitive, developed, and receptive as possible and leap on our faith or absence of faith.

Therefore, as one who (arrogantly, no doubt) feels somewhat in a decent position to make such calls, I present my favorites, and thus, the ones I feel are the best films. I truly believe that, although I am humble enough to realize I most likely am wrong on many entries.

The test of multi-generational time is a weak one for determing artistic excellence in my book. True, most of what weathers the storm is solid, but at any given point, works are forgotten, rediscovered, and join the canon. That canon is a very elastic thing. Its relationship to the best is, to my mind, rather like the relationship of the stock market to the economy - Obviously, there is a connection, and obviously, they are not one and the same.

I think of Gilgamesh. It was lost to western civilization for centuries before we rediscovered it about a hundred years ago. Now, most would agree it rests in the canon. Did it suddenly become a great work again on rediscovery? No. The canon was incomplete, as it always will be.

Additionally, many artists will drop favor over hundreds of years and then rise again. A snapshot canon is a great, educational device (Bloom's appendix to his The Western Canon is an intriguing, flawed one great for starting debates), but it never quite lives up to the ideal, unless that ideal is simply to show which works are considered great by a group of people at a time.

Other issues of course enter in here, language and translation being a very big, often hard to overcome one.

The time test often also rests as much on historical significance as it does on artistic excellence, and those two certainly are not the same.

The pondering of 'what will survive' is fascinating, though. If odds hold up, only two or three works from each genre of each century will truly grow to be considered masterworks (certain times are excepted, but whether ours is one is a guess I won't begin to venture). When the dust settles, I'll wager that several of Dylan's works stand a much better chance of hanging around than most Beatles' songs. Miles Davis is a good survival candidate as well. :)

Any way, I don't want to sound cranky. You brought up some good points I don't remember being made in the previous debates on the matter, so I responded with my views. I'll shut up now and try not to ground them into the ground!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well, I will open my big mouth again, because I left out an imporant word above. In the rirst sentence, I should have said, "I do not, however, believe there are objective criteria to determine the issue *definitely* .

Gee, otherwise, conversation on such matters would be rather pointless, eh?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I may need clarification on two of the terms you use, 'objective criteria' and 'definitely'. But let me see if I understand you. Are you saying that a set of criteria for the evaluation of a work of art would be objective if all could apply them and end up with much the same evaluations? And would such unanimous results establish an artwork's value beyond question, that is, definitely? Perhaps it's a good thing we don't have such a set of criteria, it would take most of the fun (not out of enjoying art, but) out of evaluating art.

I have to say, though, that I don't see your point about the Gilgamesh. Surely, to be a candidate for canonisation an artwork must be available for evaluation. The Gilgamesh is not like the music of J.S.Bach, which was never lost, was always available since its composition, but the great value of which was not widely appreciated until Mendelsohn revived and championed it. The Gilgamesh was lost and could not be evaluated until it was found.

Your point about the futility of analysing art is particularly interesting to me. It occurs to me that the reason such analysis is futile is because a work of art is a unity that is more than the sum of its parts. When we reduce an artwork to its various ingredients we may have all the ingredients before us but we no longer have the 'more', we no longer have the unity that is in fact the object of our final evaluation.

Well, I just woke up, but let's see...

I use the term objective as opposed to subjective. At some point, each work of art boils down to the, "Does it work, and how well?" test, and I'm not convinced there is a way to answer that question that cuts out purely personal response. To my mind, evaluating art is the process of trying to figure out why it does or does not work and how. This is done objectively and after the first question is answered. Attempting to answer the first question with purely objective means is (IMHO) a mistake.

I still like my point on Gilgamesh :)! My point was that the 'test of time' tends to leave us with strong works, but I am not convinced every great work always survives without interruption, and thus, at any given second, the list of surviving, time-tested works is woefully incomplete. This can be because great works are lost (like Gilgamesh) or simply undervalued for a time (Bach, Euripides, or Melville). I simply wanted to point out that the test of time often loses *or* neglects great great works, so it is not a test I put a huge amount of credence in.

I'm not sure I made a point about analyzing art being futile, and if I did, ignore me. As I have said before on this site, I just think it is important for this to take place after judging the (effect of the) work.

I will add, however, that I am not sure I am comfortable using 'unity' in place of 'effect', or even 'synergy'. Maybe too much Aristotle, but some works are wonderful almost because of their sprawl or lack of formal unity. Maybe we are talking of the same concept but using different words. What do you think of the terms 'effect' and 'synergy'? Am I reading your word too formally?

Shalom, y'all!

L Bangs

Just one question now - if you don't believe there are any objective criteria for this, how could you be "wrong" about which films you think are great?

Well, that was the point of my last minute correction post. There are some objective criteria, but they don't 'definitely' classify something as great or not. We can split a film into some component parts, say, acting, script, directing, etc. We can then rate those parts. The trick, though, is that the film that rates highest in each area will not necessary be the best film. A film might have bad acting, and yet, it might be better than a film full of great performances.

The criteria gets us closer, and gives us much to debate over, but it can't decide for us.

I can be wrong because I agree with Bertie - Best, or even Great, does have meaning. Trying to pin down exactly what makes something great is the fun, and I argue, highly imperfect, part. Creating a formula for what is 'Best' will always leave you crying in the end, as one great work after another eludes your scheme.

Not that it isn't tons of fun trying...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

OK, I lied about the "just one more question."

I don't wanna start another whole big discussion on this, but last year we got into a massive debate about the movie "Signs."

Now I would argue that what "Signs" is trying artistically do to is to establish a series of events that seem to be coincidences in order to restore a man's faith in God. You said that some of the events were not believable, such as when Mel's kids "outvote" him to stay at the house instead of moving near water. However, if it is necessary for them to stay at that house in order to get to what the film is trying artistically to do, how does that flaw detract from the film?

This is just an example of one of the flaws you pointed out. However, I may be misinterpreting what you said.

You are going to get me yapping about my entire aesthetic philosophy here, one that is still very fluid and changing. Nah, I'll pass and just give the Reader's Digest version.

An artist creates a world with his or her own rules. As long as the artist plays by the artist's own rules, or at least has a great reason for breaking them, we go along.

If the entire film has people acting unbelievably, then the 'strange' coincidences mean nothing to us. In Signs, I believe it is safe to say that Mel's character is central to the film. We need to take his doubts and his mental processes seriously. When he allows the kids to outvote him, it strikes us that Mel's character is, well, I can't quite think of the word, but mentally unbalanced is somewhat close. If we view Mel as nuts or silly enough to let children's sentimental reasoning lead to an almost sure death, it certainly hurts the film.

As for the ending, it is rather like if I created a mystery, a classic mystery. I introduce ten characters, I drop clues, and the viewer (reader) is left guessing all the time 'who done it'. At the end, however, I reveal it was a sniper outside the house you never meant, and all the clues meant little after all. My point was to show how random life is.

Now, this can be done, but it is a very, very tough trick to pull off. When you shred expectations you have built for an entire film, you had better be able to fill it in a different way with something else. Signs' replacement is something approaching a Deus Ex Machina - the entire film is a trick, a gimmick - and while many people respond to gimmicks, they simply by themselves seldom are emotionally satisfying. In Signs, there isn't much left but the trick. In fact, the trick is the point of the film.

The viewer wants all the weird elements to combine into a 'oh, I see now' moment, but they don't. Instead, we have something close to God just stepping down and fixing everything up at the end. The clues don't fit. They are not supposed to. Very unsatisfying.

I could have handled that to some degree had the film really worked with the aftermath of this fact. It doesn't. It ends like almost every other monster film. Every one is happy, and faith has been restored. By a few tricks. Abracadabra. He broke his own rules, and he refused to do much to justify it.

In other words, the writer's explorations are half-assed and add up to little more than sleight of hands.

Of course, if the rest of the film wasn't silly, stilted, ripped off of better sources, and boring beyond belief, I might have been a bit more forgiving... ;)

My goodness, that's a ton. Feel free to disagree, although I must admit, I have not typed this much about a film I do not like since Vertigo!

Any way, I have to run and pick up some laundry, so I haven't time to look all that over before I fly. Forgive any typos. I'll be back!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Strange, I found Signs highly entertaining throughout, and very fast-paced. Whatever other complaints can be made about it, I wasn't expecting anyone to call it 'boring.' To each his own.

Alas, I was bored throughout. Sorry.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I hereby declare the "best vs. favorite" discussion Listology's philosphical Vietnam. :-) But I mean that in a good way; I do enjoy these conversations, even if they can be tantalizingly open-ended.

For me, it all comes down to the guilty pleasures. There are movies that I enjoy despite their badness. Thus they would rate higher on my "favorite" scale than movies that I think are qualitatively better. Since my "favorite" list and my "best" list diverge along those movies, I have to imagine it diverges elsewhere as well.

So I distinguish between the two. Another reason is that I don't think I know enough to take a stab at "best", but I'm working on it.

Jim, I couldn't agree more, except I think that anyone can take a stab at the best. I don't think there is a right or wrong when it comes to this, as long as you can distinguish guilty pleasures from good movies.

I, however, don't think I can take a stab at "best" because, even though I have seen more great movies than the average 16-year-old, I still have a long way to go.

I am declaring myself neutral in this war. I have not yet formulated my ideas on the differences between the two, but I have them very close in my mind.

Excellent! This list has lain dormant for too long! I'm happy you're returned your attention to it.

Thanks, Jim! Someday, maybe I'll finish this list. And that revision of the rock albums list. And my So You Wanna Be lists. And...


Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Please update this one!
Pretty please?

Great, great review of Alien. Cameron was the smart one - not only did he make the best sequel, he didn't even try to "challenge the harrowing intensity [of the original]." The others tried and fell VERY short.

Thanks! Don't know why I found that review so intimidating to write. I put it off, and put it off, and...

I agree about Cameron. In fact, he has some great ideas for sequels, especially to films that don't seem to beg for follow-ups. His expansion of The Terminator was briliant.

Thanks. I'll try to get this done in the next year or two... :)

I might do my Double Indemnity review over, as I'm frankly not very happy with it.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Before you get to rewriting your Double Indemnity review, I expect you'll have to defend your "realistic reaction to events" line in your Blood Simple review to AJDaGreat. Based on his review (#22), I'm surprised he hasn't popped in already!

Well, as it's considered a classic, I feel there's maybe something I'm missing about the movie. But yeah, I'll give you they're unique, but if I walked in and saw my boss dead by a murder I didn't commit, I wouldn't consider cleaning up the blood with my clothing to be a realistic reaction.

I would if I was trying to cover for a murder that I assumed was committed by my wife. The character wasn't that smart to begin with, and his panic struck me as quite believable. But that's just me.

I remember reading your comments on the film, and I wondered if you caught why he was doing that. AAA came to the same conclusion I did. He thinks his lover has offed the guy, and he doesn't want her to get caught, so he panics a bit. Later in the film, when she is truly innocent, he fears she is only playing innocent with him and that she might be setting him up, which, of course, if Blood Simple was following the film noir formula closely, would have been the case. Here, it is not.

Does that clear up the motivation, or do you find our view unconvincing?

Thanks for the comments, guys! I love this list, and I need to get more of a move on. I do think I'm going to do that Indemnity review over, though. I like it even less today.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Hmm, I must admit, I didn't consider that before AAA said anything. Maybe Frances McDormand's character seemed too nice to me to commit the murder. And then since I didn't realize it, I assumed John Getz didn't realize it either. But that is a good call.

However, I still don't buy the sequence where (1) Hedaya, bleeding and motionless for awhile, somehow comes alive in the car, (2) Getz gets out and runs away, (3) Getz decides that with Hedaya weak and vulnerable, now would be a good time to kill Hedaya, (4) Getz decides he doesn't want to kill Hedaya and instead buries him alive (?).

I mean, maybe you could say that Getz wants to avoid trouble with the law by not killing Hedaya. But he's already in so much crap already, and burying him alive isn't that much better than shooting him. Speaking of which, I have no idea where that burying idea comes from...

I dunno, I just felt a lot of times at the climactic scenes the motivations weren't that clear. Sure, there's panic, but I think some of the decisions go beyond "panicked" and become "ridiculous."

I think Getz simply is not a killer. He was reluctantly willing to clean up a mess for love's sake, but at the end, he cannot bring himself to deal an actual fatal blow. Digging seems such easier and removed...

If Hedaya suddenly proved alive, I don't know. I can think of many people who might jolt and run for a frightened second. Hedaya still living is stretching matters a bit, but in the context of the film, it didn't bother me much.

Just my reactions on watching the film...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

By the way, I love that you're continuing this project. Can't wait for the rest!

I saw the argument above on "best" vs. "favorite". Let me give this a try...

I'll keep it simple:

"Best" is simply the highest degree of likeness or affection towards something.

"Favorite" is simply the highest degree of likeness or affection towards somthing.

Both are based on opinion.

It takes an opinion to make judgements on things. NOT FACTS. Facts are inarguable. FACTS ARE FACTS. Best and Favorite are degrees, opinions. FACTS are absolutes. Absolutes, authority, the like, have no place in the world of art, as the field, and judgements upon it are entirely cultured from one's emotional response, affection, feelings, etc. one gets out of it. Therefore "best" and "favorite" are simply how one feels about a certain work or something, anything. There truly is no one all-encompassing "best film" or "best album", etc. Personally I'd probably rank "Citizen Kane" and "Pet Sounds" #1 respectively. But another guy I know wouldn't consider either. We're both right. To him, such and such is #1. To me, "Citizen Kane" and "Pet Sounds" are. My selections aren't BETTER, except to me and those who may agree with me.

Since judging art is solely and utterly a matter of opinion there is no actual difference between
"best" and "favorite" and those who suggest there is are merely attempting to find organization and authority in a field that is entirely open to personal interpretation to determine it's value.

Break down why you like a certain film. It will never be anything other than opinion, no matter how scientific you attempt to be with it. Your degree of affection towards camera work, acting, whatever, is solely being judged by you and is opinion. Great camera work, art direction, no matter how technical, is still based on opinion when critiqued. That is: purely emotional likeness or affection towards something. You see, there is no "right" or "wrong" here, except within you and you're personal integrity and certainty upon which you base your opinion. Try it: think about your favorite film: You like the actors? Yes. Why? Because I thought he really made it seem real the way he acted like..." Opinion. How about the camera work? "Oh yes, the movement of the camera was quick and really relayed each scene..." Opinion. The only fact is that it is a FILM. That is all. Anything past that is an alteration, addition (great film), subtraction (bad film) and therefore is open to interpretation since it is only supported by interpretation. I could tell you Citizen Kane is a film. Inalterable. FACT. I could tell you Citizen Kane is the greatest film. Opinion.

Conclusion: "best" and "favorite" are absolutely the same thing, so arguments over "which one" are pointless. One's best film is also his favorite film and if one alters one or the other he is just not being self-determined in his viewpoint. If one feels, say "Titanic" is the film he enjoyed most, yet "Children Of Paradise" is "better" because he finds it more artistically accomplished, he is just kidding himself. He is simply in agreement with a separate person or source who said something convincing about it. This particular thing or things (whether art direction, acting, or anything) that was said to make "Children Of Paradise" so great is not actually evident to this person who says "Children Of Paradise" is the "better" film or he would actually find it more enjoyable than "Titanic" as well. The truth is that if this person saw each, one after the other, without having ever heard any so-called "authority" on the merits of either, he would judge solely on his view of the films and in his case "Titanic" would be his "favorite" and the "best" film, as they are the same darn thing!

I'm tired and hope I've made a point, even if I did just repeat myself over and over in more dissecting ways. Thanks for giving my mind a twist. It needed the work out.

Any questions? Comments?

I certainly agree that both are based on opinion. But think of it this way: there ARE certain aspects about a film that aren't necessarily bad, so they can't detract from it being the "best", but might not necessarily appeal to my tastes, so they can detract from it being my personal "favorite."

Take, for example, "On the Waterfront." I watched this film a while ago, but I didn't pay much attention to it. I'm sure it was my fault for having the attention span of a - well, of a teenager. Does that make "On the Waterfront" a bad film? I don't think so. I think I owe it a rewatch, in fact.

Now take "The Jerk." This is a flawed movie with a corny story and a few pretty lame jokes, but the movie still manages to keep me in stitches. I really like "The Jerk", but I can still recognize it's not a great film.

The fact is, great films are not always enjoyable. I just watched "Requiem for a Dream", which was though-provoking, disturbing, and challenging. I loved the movie, but I wouldn't want to watch it again anytime soon.

Same goes for music. I'm certainly not going to sit here and tell you that John Linnell (of They Might Be Giants) is a better composer than Beethoven. But if you asked me if I wanted to listen to TMBG's Lincoln or Beethoven's 5th, I will pick the former.

Just my opinion of course.

Good comments. I like constructive arguments or trying to figure stuff out amongst one another.

So, why is "The Jerk" not a masterpiece then? It's a comedy and it leaves you in stitches. It sounds like you love it. Based on that, the film seems like it is directed, acted and paced in a way where you respond very well to it-with hilarious results infact. As comedic entertainment, that is it's job. It seems that, for you, it does this very well.

There is no reason whatsoever I can see that you shouldn't give The Jerk a very high rating and consider it a great film.

It's important to realize that the purpose of art is communication and if it does this-no matter how crude a form it comes in, it is art. The degree that it communicates monitors it's brilliance.

I find the album "Astral Weeks" to be gut-wrenchingly dramatic, sometimes even tear-jerking. I could practically fall in love with Van Morrison for making the album. I could say the same thing of "Blue" by Joni Mitchell (of which I find to be somewhat similar in structure and feel).

I also know of girls who have gone to concerts and watched the Backstreet Boys/N' Sync (I hardly know the difference), and practically fainted, cried-whatever.

I may get asassinated soon for saying this but, in this instance the art of the Backstreet Boys is absolutely comparable to that of Van Morrison, as the effect created by each was similar as regards to communication from one human being to another. Whether I want to agree with it or not, they are each capable of the same effect.

About "The Jerk": Here is a film that was one of the worst reviewed films of the year of its release (2002? 2003?) yet you find it great. This, in itself is proof that there is no "best" over "favorite". Don't fool yourself into thinking "The Jerk" is not a great film. You find it great. Is there another criteria?

If so, please delineate your criteria for choosing a "best film" versus a "favorite film".

"The Jerk" was Steve Martin's first film, made in 1979. I honestly have no idea how it was reviewed in the year of its release. At IMDB.com, it currently has a vote rating of 6.7 out of 10, which is not a great rating but certainly a good one.

I don't think that I'm being influenced very much by the critical reception of this film. I'm recognizing myself that it's not a great film. It's episodic and unfocused. The ending feels very tacked-on. Some of the jokes are pretty lame (one guy's glasses fall off and he says, "Damn these glasses." Steve Martin points to the glasses and says "I damn thee!"). Some of the jokes are lame but they make me laugh anyway (Steve has a dog named "Shithead"). And some of the jokes are quite good. So it's uneven, but when it's good, I really enjoy it.

The fact is, if art is about communication, I'm not really sure what "The Jerk" is communicating. It doesn't make me think of anything in my own life. I don't know anyone as bright-eyed, naive, and lovable as Steve Martin's character. "The Jerk" doesn't present any messages. There's no meaning to it. It's just pretty damn hilarious.

Okay, you responded to the "guilty pleasure" section. Now how about the other part - where the viewer feels it's his / her fault for not really connecting. You commented that you really love Joni Mitchell's Blue. Do you like it better than a symphony by Beethoven? If so, do you think Joni Mitchell is a better composer than Beethoven? If so, do you think Joni Mitchell communicates emotions better than Beethoven? If so, is it possible that you just don't understand how Beethoven communicates? If so, does that make Beethoven not so "great"?

This is a good entry in the perennial "best v. favorite" Listology quagmire. Still, including this your post, I have yet to see an argument that convinces me there's no difference between the two. I suppose if you believe there are no higher criteria (not trying to imply God), no platonic ideals (loosely defined), no semi-objective measurement for success or failure (in regards to art, anyway), then there would be no such thing as "best" and thus the conversation would be meaningless, and the only judgements of artistic worth would be in the eyes of the individual viewer alone, considered separately for others. I don't really know why, but I find that idea depressing. And it thus means that somebody who's seen 11 movies in their life and then writes a "10 best movies of all time" is just as "correct" as someone who has seen 10,000 movies and creates such a list. I think the latter is more likely to manifest what's "best", but both get equal play when you're talking about "favorites."

My daughters (6 and 2) are my favorite painters, but I don't think they're better than Rembrandt.

Will this list ever be finished, in numbers 84-1?

It will, but alas, it will be when the muse moves me. If I try to force these types of list, I end up with horrid reviews like the Double Indemnity one above, which I really need to replace...

The list is done; the reviews are not. :(


Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Would you mind giving us the list, and filling in reviews later?

I probably will not go that route, but I will try to push this broken-down cart forward a bit.

There, I added several entries.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Yay! I'm always glad to see updates to this list!

I also have a question about future installments. I think you enjoy keeping us in suspense, but I was wondering, have you kept this list updated with the recent films that you've loved? If so, would you mind telling me about where Before Sunset will fall on this list? I'm just wondeirng how the 2000's films will generally fit in.

This list is frozen from the time I made it, somewhere around early 02 or so (Wow, that long? How pathetic!)). To add newer entries would knock the older ones down, and I am having a tough enough time finishing this one as it is!

I will think about where Before Sunset probably ranks on this list and let you know my thoughts.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs


I will have to rewatch The Big Sleep some day in a "plot doesn't matter" mindset.

His Girl Friday-to-Moonlighting evolution: bravo.

I've caught snippets of some of the classic Disney movies I've shrugged off in the past as my daughters have watched them, and what I have seen convinces me that I really must revisit them in earnest (well, probably not Peter Pan).

Bring on 80-71!


Hopefully, I will finish this before the decade is up! :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Will we ever know who is on #80?

Who's on first base.

Just for you, 1922, I'll give out a preview. 80 is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Ah, thanks. Now, I ask for #79 to #1...no, OK, I'll wait... :-)

Always leave 'em wanting more!

I usually jump on this list in spurts. I suspect one is coming soon, so perhaps you won't have to wait too long to see 71 -79!

If I don't hurry up with this, I'll have to revise it to include newer films!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

OK, I hope to see the complete list before AFI announces its "200 years, 200 movies"... :D

Wow! Some of my favorite films, all in a ten-film span. I don't even need to go into Alien, but I love seeing The Big Sleep and Stagecoach here too. Have you ever heard about Orson Welles obsessively screening Stagecoach as he was preparing to film Citizen Kane? Apparently he was taken by the way interiors were filmed by Ford...

Johnny Waco

Thanks! Oddly enough, these are some of my favorite films as well! :)

I have heard that story. I'm not sure, but I even think either Welles or Peter B. relates it on the supplemental stuff on the DVD. Ford certainly was not the first to shoot interiors from low down, but he was one of the best at doing it!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs