For an utterly authoritative list of the greatest films of all time, look no further than the Sight & Sound Magazine’s The Greatest Films Poll, commissioned every ten years since 1952. As conservative as they are – the six editions from 1952 to 2002 have only 33 films shifting positions in the Top 10 – the selections always have come up with undeniable masterpieces. Movies that every serious film enthusiast should see.
The Greatest Films Past Polls (1952-2002) – Sight & Sound
In the latest 2012 edition (originally published in the September 2012 Issue), critics helped to dethrone Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles) from the number 1 position – maintained for five decades – and crowned Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock) as the best film of all time.
- 2012 Poll Critics’ Top 250 Films – Sight & Sound
- 2012 Poll Directors’ Top 100 Films – Sight & Sound
- 2012 Poll All Films – Sight & Sound
For a more extensive list, attempting to represent the whole history of cinema, all genres, all countries, the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (ed. Steven Jay Schneider) (first published in 2003) is an exceptional guide. Since its publication, the huge book has become kind of a bible for film enthusiasts, with several blogs dedicated to the attempting of watching all of its titles.
- 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die – Steven J. Schneider
Back in 2004 The New York Times published a book, The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made (ed. Peter M. Nichols), another relevant list of great films. Compared with the 1001 Movies tome, this book is more conservative in its approach. Whereas the former tries to encompass all movements, all breakthroughs, the representatives of all new techniques in the history of the medium, The New York Times Guide, in a straightforward way, attempts to simply list the greatest movies of all time.
Back in 1986, Danny Peary published his book Guide for the Film Fanatic. The book has more than 1,600 short reviews of must see films. Then in 2006, the FILMFANATIC.ORG site was created with the intention of discussing Peary’s choices. The site is a real gem: it is well-written with extensive information on the films. FILMFANATIC.ORG mention both the 1001 Movies book and The New York Times one, comparing those lists to the one in Peary’s book.
In 2007 The Guardian newspaper in the UK also had a go at the 1,000 Films to See Before You Die (originally published between 25/06/2007 and 29/06/2007). The list is also very good, but (like The New York Times‘ one) definitely less representative of say, cult or avantgarde cinema, than the book edited by Schneider. With films like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994, Tom Shadyac) and Zoolander (2001, Ben Stiller), The Guardian‘s list leans more to the popular, but is nevertheless an impressive guide for cinephiles.
- 1,000 Films to See Before You Die – The Guardian
Then, in 2010 The Guardian published another list of The Greatest Films of All Time (originally published between 16/10/2010 and 22/10/2010), this time divided by genre. A total of 175 films were selected into seven different categories: romance, crime, comedy, action and war, drama and art house, sci-fi and fantasy, and horror. The list…
- The Greatest Films of All Time – The Guardian
Personally I would not have films like Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Team America: World Police, Airplane!, Last of the Mohicans, Distant Voices, Still Lives, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Stars Wars, Dark Star, Edward Scissorhands, The Princess Bride, Starship Troopers, Let the Right One In, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween or The Evil Dead/Evil Dead II as the greatest films of all time. But I suppose the film critics at The Guardian tried to strike a balance between the best representatives of the art form and truly popular exemplars of the individual genres. The main problem with The Guardian‘s selection was that it had too few categories and too many mediocre films.
From a purist perspective, where lists of greatest films are made of masterpieces only, and a balance act does not have to be achieved, there are titles that cannot be omitted. Films like City Lights and It’s a Wonderful Life (Romance); Se7en and Fargo (Crime); Young Frankenstein and Sideways (Comedy); The African Queen and Das Boot (Action and War); Bicycle Thieves and Last Year at Marienbad (Drama and Arthouse); Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and The Quiet Earth (Sci-Fi and Fantasy); The Birds and The Vanishing (1988) (Horror). The films divided by genre have the links below.
The 25 Best Films • Romance – The Guardian
- The 25 Best Films • Crime – The Guardian
- The 25 Best Films • Comedy – The Guardian
- The 25 Best Films • Action and War – The Guardian
- The 25 Best Films • Drama and Arthouse – The Guardian
- The 25 Best Films • Sci-Fi and Fantasy – The Guardian
- The 25 Best Films • Horror – The Guardian
Then in October 2013, The Guardian had another selection of greatest films by genres. This time though they had the sense of expanding the number of categories and limiting each one to a Top 10… (originally published between 07/10/2013 and 20/12/2013). The 22 different categories are: romance, action, comedy, horror, sci-fi, crime, art house, family movie, war, teen movie, superhero movie, western, documentary, movie adaptation, animation, silent, sports movie, film noir, musical, martial arts movie, biopic and music movie.
- Top 10… (22 Categories) – The Guardian
And now to the mother of all lists. The site They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?, created and managed by Bill Georgaris, is probably the most comprehensive list-making to be found on the internet. Georgaris has the bravery of assembling thousands of the most relevant polls of greatest films around the world into a database and from there he generates a list of the most acclaimed films ever made into ranking order: THE 1,000 GREATEST FILMS. Also on the site is the greatest films of recent times: THE 21ST CENTURY’S MOST ACCLAIMED FILMS.
- THE 1,000 GREATEST FILMS – They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?
- THE 21ST CENTURY’S MOST ACCLAIMED FILMS – The Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?
Last but definitely not one bit the least (no modesty was considered here!) is my own list of the greatest films of all time. All the big guns are there, but I also believe there are some less well-known gems – The Quiet Earth anyone?! My 200 film selection can be found on the page PANDORA’S BOX, on the right-side bar.
- PANDORA’S BOX – TOWARDS A GREATER CANON
August 2014. ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo Ricardo Pizzeghello.