Today the British Film Institute’s ‘Sight & Sound Magazine’ announce their prestigious once-in-a-decade list of ‘The Greatest Films Of All Time’. It is widely considered to be the great grandfather of all lists. If you’ve never bought this very special issue before, please do.
I myself bought the 1992 edition and 2002 edition, featuring the exhaustive poll of film critics and film makers. The full list of individual top tens from film makers is a fantastic shopping list of cinema that needs to be seen. I am still making my way through all the suggestions for the last poll. It’s a lifetime pursuit and an incredible one at that.
And what’s more, this year, the team at ‘Sight & Sound’ asked me to contribute a top ten for this decade’s poll in. And I am in ridiculously illustrious company. This is both a huge honour and a source of incredible pain. Why? Because top tens are hard.
Do you go with your head or heart? Do you give further kudos to the accepted milestones of classic cinema or do you draw from your more personal list of favourite movies.
Both Roger Ebert and Michael Atkinson have written eloquently on the difficultly on writing any definitive list. I will admit that I struggled with my list (to be published in the September 2012 edition of ‘Sight & Sound’), trying to cover both works of undeniable wonder as well as my own true passions.
So is my top ten a straight split between five ‘greats’ and five ‘favourites’? Something like that…
Previous finalists that I do adore and admire but don’t actually crop up on my personal top ten list include ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘Persona’, ‘The General’, ‘Seven Samurai’, ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Sunrise’.
Already, that is a lot of indelible classics to leave out. Some very nearly made the list, some I just haven’t seen enough and some I just still want to see on a big screen.
I scrawled an initial handwritten list of some potential inclusions for my own top ten list and the ones that didn’t make the grade absolutely pain me. And yes, you can laugh at my handwriting and highly pretentious choice of notepaper.
What to do? Share the wealth over more than a centenary of cinema? Spread your ten votes across all of world cinema? Have more than one work by the same director? (No). Have more than one film from the same genre? Be true to the movies you’ve seen a million times? Or the films that change your life with a single viewing?
So even as I am both honoured to be asked and excruciated by the process, it is a very high class problem to have. Either way, I cannot wait to see the final top ten itself.
Way back in 2008, Empire Magazine asked for a personal top ten to contribute to their list of ‘500 Greatest Movies Of All Times’. This resulted in a very different list to the one I submitted earlier this year to ‘Sight & Sound’. Maybe it was easier to pick ten greatest ‘movies’ instead of ten greatest ‘films’…
Here’s my blog from September 2008…
Worth noting that only four of the list below make my ‘Sight & Sound’ list.
Listzomania: The EMPIRE 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time
EMPIRE featuring a Top 500 chart polled from readers and writers / directors / producers etc.
If you buy the actual issue too you can see my handwritten Top Ten on page 101.
I struggled and strained with this list and made some painful omissions (no QT! No Leone! No Hitchcock).
What I came up with was this: a very personal list of favourites…
1 – RAISING ARIZONA
2 – AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
3 – CARRIE
4 – RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
5 – BOOGIE NIGHTS
6 – DIRTY HARRY
7 – EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN
8 – TAXI DRIVER
9 – DON’T LOOK NOW
10 – BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS
Above my number one and indeed above ranking was… RIKI OH: THE STORY OF RICKY
And scrawled below in the tiny space under my Top 10 list were these…
THIS IS SPINAL TAP
THE THING (’82)
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
BACK TO THE FUTURE
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
THE WILD BUNCH
DAWN OF THE DEAD ’78
And I could have filled out another 481 easy too without having to think much.
A top ten list is way too tough, really.