We always hear about end-of-the-year Top Ten Best Films, the Ten Best Films of All-Time, and on and on. When the subject comes up, because I know of and have seen so many films and now am making the, I am always asked what mine are. And that’s a difficult answer: Do you respond with the best films you’ve ever seen or the films that are your personal favorites? The Seven Samurai is, undeniably, one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen – and am grateful to PBS for having introduced it to me when I was fifteen. That said, it’s not a film I find myself watching as often purely for pleasure or the emotional memory that may be attached to it.
So below I am going to list my favorite films in a variety of different categories. When you’ve seen several thousand movies it’s note easy to keep it to just Ten, so bear with me on my lists and reasons.
Hopefully, you’ll take enough interest to check them out yourself.
(F.Y.I. – This page is an on-going progress. And will probably become very long!)
Ten Best Films
These are the films I have seen that are of such mind-numbing greatness that their impact and influence have stimulated my mind and influenced my thoughts on cinema and life.
1 War And Peace U.S.S.R. 1967 dir: Sergei Bondarchuk
This film came out during the height of the Cold War and was ironic for it’s day to have been made as a prestige picture by the Soviet Union for its own people and for the world. It is six hours long and was released in two three-hour parts. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967. Two years later ABC-TV ran it over four nights as a summer time mini-series. From the first frames I was magnetized. Watching this film, and then reading the 1,200 page book changed my views of life, people, human development and personality complexity. The filmmaking was of a scale, both huge, sweeping battle sequences, and intimate and even intellectual observations of life — captured with a liberated camera-work that took on the dimensions of being a character in itself. The book and the film has impacted my every opinion of the world, life and cinema.
2 Lawrence Of Arabia U.K. 1962 dir: David Lean
Perhaps the most perfect film I’ve ever seen. This is the first film I can remember seeing on the big screen. I was a little kid and it was a re-release on a second billing with Dr. Strangelove. We got there for just the tail-end of the final War Room sequence, then Lawrence started. Again, from the opening music and the overhead shot looking down on a driveway as Peter O’Toole crosses the diagonally-sectioned cement, like the complex and fractured personality of T.E. Lawrence, I was hooked. The acting, shot-to-shot arrangement and lighting, costuming, music and editing are atext book example of perfect motion picture craftsmanship.
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey USA/UK 1968 dir: Stanley Kubrick
If anyone was of age to see this movie when it first was first released, then you can remember the jaw-dropping experience of seeing something the likes of which you had never seen before. From the subtlety of performance and story, to the strikingly original visuals and compositions, even the colors, to the special effects, which I don’t think have ever been equaled. It’s the rare film that you watch and feel smarter for having seen it.
4 Wonderland UK 1999 dir: Michael Winterbottom
5 The Godfather & The Godfather Part Two USA 1974 & 1977 dir: Francis Coppola
The Black Stallion USA 1978 dir: Carroll Ballard
The Seven Samurai Japan 1953 dir: Akira Kurosawa
Apocalypse Now USA 1980 dir: Francis Coppola
These are the films I find myself watching over and over. That make me feel good or that have some emotional connection — to where I was at the time I first saw it or where the film took me to.
Zodiac USA 200 dir: David Fincher
In This World UK 2002 dir: Michael Winterbottom
In Harm’s Way USA 1964 dir: Otto Preminger
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946 dir: William Wyler
The Big Country USA 1958 dir: William Wyler
On The Beach USA 1959 dir: Stanley Kramer
And Now, My Love France 1973 dir: Claude Lelouch
A Man And A Woman France 1966 dir: Claude Lelouch
Roman de Gare France 2007 dir: Claude Lelouch
In Cold Blood USA 1967 writer-dir: Richard Brooks
The Professionals USA 1966 writer-dir: Richard Brooks
Prince of the City USA 1981 dir: Sydney Lumet
The French Connection USA 1971 dir: William Friedkin
A Clockwork Orange UK 1971 writer-dir: Stanley Kubrick
Barry Lundon UK 1975 writer-dir: Stanley Kubrick
The Deerhunter USA 1978 writer-dir: Michael Cimino, dp: Vilmos Zigsmond
Coming Home USA 1978 dir: Hal Ashby, dp: Haskell Wexler
Bound For Glory USA 1976dir: Hal Ashby, dp: Haskell Wexler
The Landlord USA 1970 dir: Hal Ashby, dp: Gordon Willis
The Aviator USA 2004 dir: Martin Scorsese
The Thomas Crown Affair (Steve McQueen) USA 1968 dir: Norman Jewison, dp: Haskell Wexler, editor: Hal Ashby
Bullitt USA 1968 dir: Peter Yates
The Landlord USA 1970 dir: Hal Ashby
Bound For Glory USA 1976 dir: Hal Ashby, dp: Haskell Wexler
The Loved One USA 1967 dir: Tony Richardson, dp: Haskell Wexler
28 Days Later UK 2002 dir: Danny Boyle
Slumdog Millionaire UK 2008 dir: Danny Boyle
R.P.M. USA 1969 dir: Stanley Kramer
Peyton Place USA 1958 dir: Mark Robson
The Best Of Everything USA 1959 dir: Jean Negulesco
The Cardinal USA 1963 dir: Otto Preminger
Hurry Sundown USA 1967 dir: Otto Preminger
Such Good Friends USA 1971 dir: Otto Preminger
$ (Dollars) USA 1972 writer-dir: Richard Brooks
The Year of the Dragon USA 1985 dir: Michael Cimino