Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Greatest Films of All Time: 51-100

You can argue forever about the content of a film, its aesthetic, its style, even its moral posture; but the crucial imperative is to avoid boredom at all costs.

Luis Buñuel

This is the fourth in a series of posts on my exploration of the world's Greatest Films of All Time. The initial post included an Introduction and Films 1-20. The other two posts were Films 21-50 and The Directors.

You can skip the following brief intro if you've already read the other posts.

Briefly, I researched and compiled 30 lists of Greatest Films from various sources around the globe, including critics such as Roger Ebert and Jonathan Rosenbaum; popular magazines like Time and Time Out (UK); films journals such as Sight & Sound, Cahiers du cinema, Kinovedcheskie Zapiski (Russia); and a range of Film Archives from countries like China, India, Ecuador, Israel, Greece, and Finland.

The 30 polls produced a total of 580 films. When films weren't ranked in the polls, I assigned a numeric value depending on the total number of films included (eg. 100 films = 20 points). So, the list I'm presenting is not a ranking of films I personally think are the greatest of all time. It's simply a reflection of results from across 30 polls voted on by hundreds of other people.

My quest was twofold: To see which works were considered the masterpieces of cinema from a variety of international sources, and to see if and how the perception of great films and great directors varied from one region of the world to another.

Films 51-100

51. The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed 396.5 points - 7 mentions
52. Sunset Blvd. (1950) Billy Wilder 379 - 7
53. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) Robert Bresson 373.5 - 7
54. Apocalypse Now (1979) Francis Ford Coppola 371 - 7
55. Ivan Groznyy I and/or II [Ivan the Terrible] (1944) Sergei M. Eisenstein 370 - 7
56. Raging Bull (1980) Martin Scorsese 367.5 - 7
57. Fanny och Alexander (1982) Ingmar Bergman 359.5 - 6
58. North by Northwest (1959) Alfred Hitchcock 357 - 6
59. Modern Times (1936) Charlie Chaplin 355 - 7
60. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) Orson Welles 350.5 - 6
61. Il Gattopardo [The Leopard] (1963) Luchino Visconti 347.5 - 7
62. Rio Bravo (1959) Howard Hawks 340.5 - 6
63. L'Age d'or (1930) Luis Buñuel 340 - 7
64. The Birth of a Nation (1915) D.W. Griffith 329 - 7
65. Barry Lyndon (1975) Stanley Kubrick 317.5 - 8
66. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Stanley Kubrick 317 - 6
67. Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman 316 - 8
68. Pierrot le fou (1965) Jean Luc Godard 315.5 - 7
69. Viridiana (1961) Luis Buñuel 309.5 - 6
70. Pickpocket (1959) Robert Bresson 303.5 - 7
71. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Victor Fleming 292 - 7
72. Il Conformista (1970) Bernardo Bertolucci 288.5 - 5
73. Jules et Jim (1962) François Truffaut 279 - 6
74. All About Eve (1950) Joseph Mankiewicz 275 - 6
75. Rear Window (1954) Alfred Hitchcock 272.5 - 4
76. Sanshô dayû [Sansho the Bailiff] (1954) Kenji Mizoguchi 267 - 6
77. La Strada (1954) Federico Fellini 264.5 - 4
78. Notorious (1946) Alfred Hitchcock 263.5 - 7
79. The Apartment (1960) Billy Wilder 248.5 - 5
80. Amarcord (1973) Federico Fellini 247.5 - 6
81. L'Année dernière à Marienbad [Last Year at Marienbad] (1961) Alain Resnais 243.5 - 7
82. Gertrud (1964) Carl Dreyer 243 - 6
83. The Wild Bunch (1969) Sam Peckinpah 241 - 5
84. Roma, città aperta [Rome, Open City] (1945) Roberto Rossellini 236 - 6
85. Hiroshima mon amour (1959) Alain Resnais 234 - 4
86. Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) Max Ophüls 233.5 - 6
87. (tie) Nosferatu (1922) F.W. Murnau 232 - 7
87. (tie) Madame de… (1953) Max Ophüls 232 - 4
89. (tie) Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder 231 - 6
89. (tie) Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes [Aguirre: The Wrath of God] (1972) Werner Herzog 231 - 5
91. To Be or Not to Be (1942) Ernst Lubitsch 227.5 - 4
92. Ikiru (1952) Akira Kurosawa 227 - 6
93. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) Sergio Leone 225.5 - 5
94. Broken Blossoms (1919) D.W. Griffith 219.5 - 6
95. Napoleon (1927) Abel Gance 210 - 5
96. Dekalog (1989) Krzysztof Kieslowski 209 - 6
97. (tie) Blade Runner (1982) Ridley Scott 197 - 5
97. (tie) Un chien andalou (1929) Luis Buñuel 197 - 5
99. Schindler's List (1993) Steven Spielberg 195.5 - 5
100. (tie) Freaks (1932) Tod Browning 195 - 4
100. (tie) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) John Ford 195 - 4

Dekalog: Krzysztof Kieslowski's 1989 Polish mini-series on the Ten Commandments

Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder seem to have done particularly well in this section of the list, with three films each. In the end, Hitchcock wound up with the most films in the Top 100, a total of five. Wilder, along with Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini, had four films in the Top 100. Directors with three films included: Buñuel, Chaplin, Coppola, Dreyer, Godard, Griffith, Kubrick, Kurosawa and Welles.

Whereas the most recent work in Films 1-50 was from 1976 (Taxi Driver) and the average year of production was 1949, Films 51-100 tended to be a little newer. The most recent work was from 1993 (Schindler's List) and there were four films from the 1980s: Raging Bull, Fanny and Alexander, Dekalog and Blade Runner. The average year of production was 1956.

Technically, Kieslowski's Dekalog is not a motion picture but a series of ten one-hour programs shown on Polish television. But it often gets included in polls of great "films." And, according to IMDB, Stanley Kubrick said Dekalog was the only masterpiece he could name in his lifetime. So, there. Whatever it is, it's one of the most powerful works I've ever seen.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was Kubrick's 1975 period piece, Barry Lyndon, ranked #65, just ahead of the more well-known Dr. Strangelove. Again, these two Kubrick's films didn't do well outside of the US/UK polls, though Cahiers du cinema did include Barry Lyndon. I've never seen this one by Kubrick and would be curious to hear from others who have.

Another surprise was Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West cracking the Top 100 at #93, even ahead of his own Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo [The Good, the Bad and the Ugly] (1966), which I always thought was more popular - it's currently ranked #5 at IMDB. Three other westerns showed up in Films 51-100: Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo, ranked #62, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, at #83, and John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, tied at #100. (Ford's The Searchers was the top western at #16.) Of the five westerns in the Top 100, I prefer The Wild Bunch.

Peckinpah's western also made it two films for William Holden in the Top 100, along with Sunset Blvd. (#52)

Other actors who showed up in multiple films: John Wayne (The Searchers, Rio Bravo, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) Jimmy Stewart (Vertigo, Rear Window and It's a Wonderful Life), Cary Grant (North by Northwest, Notorious), Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca, Notorious), Robert De Niro (Godfather II, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), Marcello Mastroianni (La Dolce Vita, 8½) , Jean-Paul Belmondo (À bout de souffle, Pierrot le fou), Jack Lemmon (The Aprtment, Some Like it Hot), and, of course, Peter Lorre (M, Casablanca). Charlie Chaplin also starred in all 3 of his films: The Gold Rush, City Lights and Modern Times.

The actor who showed up the most in the Top 100: Orson Welles. He starred in all three of his own productions (Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil and The Magnificent Ambersons), and also gave an unforgettable performance as Harry Lime in Carol Reed's The Third Man (#51). And, of course, there's his little-known but amazing tour de force as Munchkin #27 in The Wizard of Oz.

I didn't officially track actors in the list; I'm just eye-balling the film titles - so there may be others who appeared in multiple films. (Ah!, Claude Rains, for example: Notorious, Casablanca and Lawrence of Arabia. And Anthony Quinn: Lawrence of Arabia and La Strada.)

Freaks, directed by Tod Browning(Dracula 1931), was an interesting case. It didn't show up on any US/UK lists, and I always considered it a minor cult film, but it was very highly regarded in other areas. The Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique chose it as one of the 20 Greatest Films of All Time, the Fundación Cinemateca Nacional de Venezuela as one of the 24 Greatest of All Time, and the Cinémathèque Française as one of the 33 Greatest. It also ranked highly in the other French poll - #21 (tied) - the Cahiers du cinema Top 100.

It's interesting to note how much of a drop off there is in votes received between the #1 film, Citizen Kane, and #100, Freaks and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Kane showed up in all 30 polls and had a total of 1,735 points. The films at #100 each only appeared in four polls and had a total of 195 points. Only 16 films showed up in at least half of the 30 polls. After that, the number of movies considered "greatest" begins to grow exponentially. From that information, I would say that any kind of film canon must exist in a fluid state. Maybe that's why the IMDB Classic Film Board Top 200, which changes every two months, strikes me as a useful poll.

In the end, there were 46 English-language films from the US/UK in the Top 100. Non-English European films accounted for 47 titles (if you include Russia). Among individual European countries, France accounted for the most productions, with 19. Asia only had 7 titles in the Top 100, six of them from Japan.

Films ranked 51-100 that show up in my own list of Favorite 100 Films: Sunset Blvd., Apocalypse Now, North by Northwest, Pierrot le fou, The Wild Bunch, Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes [Aguirre: The Wrath of God], Double Indemnity, and Dekalog.

Future posts in the series will include Films 101-200 and Films by Time Period. In the meantime, I would like to hear about your own experiences with the films listed 51-100. Faves, ones you can't stand, etc.

Until the next reel. . . .


crystal said...

This is fun :)

I have seen Barry Lyndon and I don't think I'd pick it as one of any top 100 movies, though it was beautiful to look at. I just couldn't like the main character or see the point of the story.

I remember Nosferatu - another silent movie I went to with the old boyfriend. Pretty fun.

Loved The Apartment, Sunset Blvd, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Notorious (think I had a past post on Notorious). They're all great. I just saw Rear Window a while ago before I stopped the TV ..... still reaaly good.

I saw The Wild Bunch and found it upsetting - so nihilistic.

Of coures, Blade Runner is in a class of its own :)

Still haven't worked up the courage to see Shindler's List.

Toronto movie guide said...

Another list! No-no, I'm not being sarcastic; call me somewhat nerdy, but whenever I wanted to watch a good movie, I would look up a few lists, such as this one, compare them, and then decide what to see. I can't help it; I like good movies! In my perspective, why bother wasting time with movies you have very little clue about, or which may have high ratings simply because they've been released recently?

Time will test them. We here at Toronto movie madness should know...

Yours truly,

cowboyangel said...


I enjoyed reading your comments. thanks for the lowdown on Barry Lyndon.

Your knowledge of silent films is impressive. I've seen a few but am really just now investigating Chaplin and Keaton, for instance. Nosferatu is one of the ones I really want to see.

The Wild Bunch is nihilistic, yes. But I think it taps into something about the west and the mythology of the west that usually gets missed. It's very well written.

Plus, it's just a bad-ass film. :-)

Blade Runner is definitely in a special class.

I haven't seen Schindler's List either, though more because I don't like Spielberg and fear what he may have done with a subject like the Holocaust.

cowboyangel said...


Thanks for visiting. And all the way from Canada! I keep wanting to see Toronto, now that it's played the role of New York in so many recent films. I can usually tell when it's Toronto, because the streets look so much cleaner.

I hate most lists. So, of course, I tried to make my own from a bunch of others. I'm pleased, but I'm not sure anyone else is. I think that's the way these things go.

I'll check out your site.

Liam said...

The actor thing is a whole other ball game. It seems that since the lists are director-based, we're seeing director's favorite actors (Marcello and Cary Grant).

cowboyangel said...


Yes, I was going to mention that many of the actors were working with specific directors, like Marcello with Fellini and Grant with Hitchcock. Also Stewart's in two Hitchcock films, John Wayne in two Ford films, De Niro in two by Scorsese, etc.

Why do you say the lists are director-based, though? Do you think Roger Ebert or Time magazine are thinking in terms of Directors? Some, I would guess, but not necessarily as the first thing.

My posts have been director-based. But that's me.

It's interesting to me that most fans probably think of movies first in terms of stars. The Dark Knight = Heath Ledger, not Christopher Nolan. Whereas critics and maybe serious film-lovers think more in terms of directors.

Several of the films in the Top 100, however, seem more star-based than director-based. No one thinks of Victor Fleming in regards to The Wizard of Oz - they think Judy Garland. I didn't even know Fleming had directed it, to be honest. Casablanca = Bogart and Bergman, not Michael Curtiz.

Disappointing to only see Bogey in one film in the Top 100. Personally, I think The Maltese Falcon belongs in a Top 100. Because it's an excellent all-around film - acting, directing, writing, cinematography, editing, story; it was essential in the development of a major genre - film noir; and it marked the emergence of both John Huston and Bogart. I'm guessing it will show up in the Top 200.

cowboyangel said...

Another thought on stars and directors: Film is interesting because it locks in the cast and crew eternally. They are always an integral part of the creative work. I don't think that's as true in other performing arts. In theatre, a play can be done by hundreds or thousands of different companies, and only once in a while do we associate a specific actor with a role in terms of analyzing the work itself. When one analyzes Hamlet, Olivier is probably not mentioned (unless one is writing about different actors playing the role.) But in film, you always have to take into consideration the actors. If you analyze The Maltese Falcon as a work of art, you have to talk about Bogart, Greenstreet, Lorre and Mary Astor. And, of course, Elisha Cook Jr.

Jeff said...

That's a much better list than the top 50, in my opinion. More watchable films; not such boutique choices.

Second me as one who'd like to see an actor's list over a director's list.

You liked Aguirre: The Wrath of God? I thought it was atrocious, even though I love Klaus Kinski. I liked the old silent Nosferatu too, but I especially liked Klaus Kinski in the Nosferatu remake with Isabelle Adjani.

I never saw Barry Lyndon, but I don't recall it being so highly regarded when it came out. Wild Bunch and Blade Runner were both wildly original classics. Terrific films, both.

cowboyangel said...


Thanks for the comments. Yeah, I liked Aguirre. So did Crystal! Heck, so did Roger Ebert! It's one of his 100 Great Movies. And if Roger Ebert likes it, then you know it has to be good. :-)

Second me as one who'd like to see an actor's list over a director's list.

What do you mean? No entiendo. What would an actor's list look like?

Yeah, I didn't think Barry Lyndon was that highly regarded when it came out. Another reason I was surprised to see it ranked ahead of Strangelove. And, to be honest, I'm surprised Strangelove is so low on the list. But maybe it's a film that resonates more in the US.

I thought of it this week when listening to news on the anthrax case. A member of the United States Army launched a terrorist attack, using biological weapons, against his own country. That's really intense. Someone in the Army crazy enough to do such a thing. Which, of course, made me think of Strangelove! Scary stuff.