Simple Top Tens

2010s

Best of the Decade

  1. TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN (David Lynch)
  2. SILENCE (Martin Scorsese)
  3. CAROL (Todd Haynes)
  4. THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick)
  5. THE DAY HE ARRIVES (Hong Sang-soo)
  6. MISTRESS AMERICA (Noah Baumbach)
  7. MEEK’S CUTOFF (Kelly Reichardt)
  8. MARGARET (Kenneth Lonergan)
  9. MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (Jia Zhangke)
  10. BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Richard Linklater)

2017

  1. TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN (David Lynch)
  2. 17776 (Jon Bois)
  3. THE DAY AFTER (Hong Sang-soo)
  4. CLAIRE’S CAMERA (Hong Sang-soo)
  5. SONG TO SONG (Terrence Malick)
  6. PERSON TO PERSON (Dustin Guy Defa)
  7. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (Chad Stahelski)
  8. GET OUT (Jordan Peele)

2016

  1. SILENCE (Martin Scorsese)
  2. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Kenneth Lonergan)
  3. CAMERAPERSON (Kirsten Johnson)
  4. YOURSELF AND YOURS (Hong Sang-soo)
  5. TONI ERDMANN (Maren Ade)
  6. THE HANDMAIDEN (Park Chan-wook)
  7. KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE (Robert Greene)
  8. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (Mike Mills)
  9. ELLE (Paul Verhoeven)
  10. CERTAIN WOMEN (Kelly Reichardt)

2015

  1. CAROL (Todd Haynes)
  2. MISTRESS AMERICA (Noah Baumbach)
  3. MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (Jia Zhangke)
  4. BLACKHAT (Michael Mann)
  5. RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN (Hong Sang-soo)
  6. MY GOLDEN DAYS (Arnaud Desplechin)
  7. HAPPY HOUR (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)
  8. ALOHA (Cameron Crowe)
  9. HENRY GAMBLE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY (Stephen Cone)
  10. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (George Miller)

2014

  1. PHOENIX (Christian Petzold)
  2. BOYHOOD (Richard Linklater)
  3. TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
  4. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Wes Anderson)
  5. INHERENT VICE (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  6. HILL OF FREEDOM (Hong Sang-soo)
  7. L FOR LEISURE (Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn)
  8. THE MEND (John Magary)
  9. NON-STOP (Jaume Collet-Serra)
  10. JOHN WICK (Chad Stahelski)

2013

  1. BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Richard Linklater)
  2. MANAKAMANA (Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez)
  3. OUR SUNHI (Hong Sang-soo)
  4. “Let Your Light Shine” (Jodie Mack)
  5. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  6. THE IMMIGRANT (James Gray)
  7. STRANGER BY THE LAKE (Alain Guiraudie)
  8. THE WORLD’S END (Edgar Wright)
  9. THE GRANDMASTER (Wong Kar-wai)

2012

  1. MOONRISE KINGDOM (Wes Anderson)
  2. PASSION (Brian De Palma)
  3. FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach)
  4. THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT (Dan Sallitt)
  5. TO THE WONDER (Terrence Malick)
  6. RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (Paul W.S. Anderson)
  7. IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (Don Hertzfeldt)
  8. THE ACT OF KILLING (Joshua Oppenheimer)
  9. IN ANOTHER COUNTRY (Hong Sang-soo)
  10. LEVIATHAN (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Véréna Paravel)

2011

  1. THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick)
  2. THE DAY HE ARRIVES (Hong Sang-soo)
  3. MARGARET (Kenneth Lonergan)
  4. MELANCHOLIA (Lars von Trier)
  5. THE WISE KIDS (Stephen Cone)
  6. UNKNOWN (Jaume Collet-Serra)
  7. PINA (Wim Wenders)

2010

  1. MEEK’S CUTOFF (Kelly Reichardt)
  2. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (Edgar Wright)
  3. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (David Fincher)
  4. “Lady Blue Shanghai” (David Lynch)
  5. RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (Paul W.S. Anderson)
  6. TRUE GRIT (Joel & Ethan Coen)

2000s

Best of the Decade

  1. MULHOLLAND DR. (David Lynch)
  2. YI YI (Edward Yang)
  3. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Wong Kar-wai)
  4. A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (Steven Spielberg)
  5. GOODBYE, DRAGON INN (Tsai Ming-liang)
  6. LOST IN TRANSLATION (Sofia Coppola)
  7. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch)
  8. MIAMI VICE (Michael Mann)
  9. BEFORE SUNSET (Richard Linklater)
  10. THE NEW WORLD (Terrence Malick)

2009

  1. ORPHAN (Jaume Collet-Serra)
  2. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Quentin Tarantino)
  3. “Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis” (Daïchi Saïto)
  4. SWEETGRASS (Ilisa Barbash & Lucien Castaing-Taylor)
  5. PUBLIC ENEMIES (Michael Mann)
  6. FANTASTIC MR. FOX (Wes Anderson)
  7. BLONDES IN THE JUNGLE (Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn)

2008

  1. TWO LOVERS (James Gray)
  2. WENDY AND LUCY (Kelly Reichardt)
  3. “Green Fuse” (Daïchi Saïto)
  4. AFTERSCHOOL (Antonio Campos)
  5. BURN AFTER READING (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  6. WALL•E (Andrew Stanton)

2007

  1. DEATH PROOF (Quentin Tarantino)
  2. 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS (Cristian Mungiu)
  3. HOT FUZZ (Edgar Wright)
  4. THE DARJEELING LIMITED (Wes Anderson)
  5. RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (Russell Mulcahy)

2006

  1. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch)
  2. MIAMI VICE (Michael Mann)
  3. OLD JOY (Kelly Reichardt)
  4. THE HOST (Bong Joon-ho)

2005

  1. THE NEW WORLD (Terrence Malick)
  2. LADY VENGEANCE (Park Chan-wook)
  3. HOUSE OF WAX (Jaume Collet-Serra)

2004

  1. BEFORE SUNSET (Richard Linklater)
  2. HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (Zhang Yimou)
  3. KILL BILL VOL. 2 (Quentin Tarantino)
  4. PRIMER (Shane Carruth)
  5. SHAUN OF THE DEAD (Edgar Wright)
  6. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (Michel Gondry)
  7. COLLATERAL (Michael Mann)
  8. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (Wes Anderson)

2003

  1. GOODBYE, DRAGON INN (Tsai Ming-liang)
  2. LOST IN TRANSLATION (Sofia Coppola)
  3. KILL BILL VOL. 1 (Quentin Tarantino)
  4. OLDBOY (Park Chan-wook)
  5. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY (Joel & Ethan Coen)

2002

  1. FEMME FATALE (Brian De Palma)
  2. HERO (Zhang Yimou)
  3. ON THE OCCASION OF REMEMBERING THE TURNING GATE (Hong Sang-soo)
  4. PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  5. RESIDENT EVIL (Paul W.S. Anderson)
  6. SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (Park Chan-wook)

2001

  1. MULHOLLAND DR. (David Lynch)
  2. A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (Steven Spielberg)
  3. SPIRITED AWAY (Hayao Miyazaki)
  4. ALI (Michael Mann)
  5. THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  6. THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (Wes Anderson)

2000

  1. YI YI (Edward Yang)
  2. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Wong Kar-wai)
  3. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (Ang Lee)
  4. “The Heart of the World” (Guy Maddin)
  5. THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE (Mark Dindal)
  6. YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (Kenneth Lonergan)
  7. MISSION TO MARS (Brian De Palma)
  8. DANCER IN THE DARK (Lars von Trier)
  9. JOINT SECURITY AREA (Park Chan-wook)

1990s

Best of the Decade

  1. CLOSE-UP (Abbas Kiarostami)
  2. A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY (Edward Yang)
  3. CHUNGKING EXPRESS (Wong Kar-wai)
  4. TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (David Lynch)
  5. TRUST (Hal Hartley)
  6. HEAT (Michael Mann)
  7. “Outer Space” (Peter Tscherkassky)
  8. DAYS OF BEING WILD (Wong Kar-wai)
  9. LOST HIGHWAY (David Lynch)
  10. TASTE OF CHERRY (Abbas Kiarostami)

1999

  1. “Outer Space” (Peter Tscherkassky)
  2. EYES WIDE SHUT (Stanley Kubrick)
  3. COWBOY BEBOP: “Pierrot le Fou” (Shinichiro Watanabe)
  4. COWBOY BEBOP: “Speak Like a Child” (Shinichiro Watanabe)
  5. THE MISSION (Johnnie To)
  6. THE INSIDER (Michael Mann)
  7. THE MATRIX (Lana & Lilly Wachowski)
  8. THE STRAIGHT STORY (David Lynch)

1998

  1. THE THIN RED LINE (Terrence Malick)
  2. COWBOY BEBOP (Shinichiro Watanabe)
  3. RUSHMORE (Wes Anderson)
  4. COWBOY BEBOP: “Sympathy for the Devil” (Shinichiro Watanabe)
  5. FESTEN (Thomas Vinterberg)
  6. SNAKE EYES (Brian De Palma)

1997

  1. LOST HIGHWAY (David Lynch)
  2. TASTE OF CHERRY (Abbas Kiarostami)
  3. PICKPOCKET (Jia Zhangke)

1996

  1. BREAKING THE WAVES (Lars von Trier)
  2. FARGO (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  3. BOTTLE ROCKET (Wes Anderson)
  4. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (Brian De Palma)

1995

  1. HEAT (Michael Mann)
  2. BEFORE SUNRISE (Richard Linklater)
  3. “Premonitions Following an Evil Deed” (David Lynch)

1994

  1. CHUNGKING EXPRESS (Wong Kar-wai)
  2. VIVE L’AMOUR (Tsai Ming-liang)
  3. TO LIVE (Zhang Yimou)
  4. RIVER OF GRASS (Kelly Reichardt)
  5. THE GLASS SHIELD (Charles Burnett)

1993

  1. GREEN SNAKE (Tsui Hark)
  2. CARLITO’S WAY (Brian De Palma)
  3. D’EST (Chantal Akerman)
  4. JURASSIC PARK (Steven Spielberg)

1992

  1. TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (David Lynch)
  2. REBELS OF THE NEON GOD (Tsai Ming-liang)
  3. THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (Michael Mann)
  4. RAISING CAIN (Brian De Palma)

1991

  1. A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY (Edward Yang)
  2. BARTON FINK (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  3. UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD (Wim Wenders)
  4. “Ambition” (Hal Hartley)
  5. TWIN PEAKS: “Beyond Life and Death” (David Lynch)
  6. RAISE THE RED LANTERN (Zhang Yimou)
  7. THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
  8. ONLY YESTERDAY (Isao Takahata)
  9. TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (James Cameron)

1990

  1. CLOSE-UP (Abbas Kiarostami)
  2. TRUST (Hal Hartley)
  3. DAYS OF BEING WILD (Wong Kar-wai)
  4. TWIN PEAKS: “Lonely Souls” (David Lynch)
  5. WILD AT HEART (David Lynch)
  6. TWIN PEAKS: “Pilot” (David Lynch)
  7. TWIN PEAKS (David Lynch & Mark Frost)
  8. TWIN PEAKS: “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer” (David Lynch)
  9. JU DOU (Zhang Yimou)

1980s

Best of the Decade

  1. SANS SOLEIL (Chris Marker)
  2. PARIS, TEXAS (Wim Wenders)
  3. THE TERRORIZERS (Edward Yang)
  4. BLADE RUNNER (Ridley Scott)
  5. STOP MAKING SENSE (Jonathan Demme)
  6. BLUE VELVET (David Lynch)
  7. MANHUNTER (Michael Mann)
  8. THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH (Hal Hartley)
  9. RAN (Akira Kurosawa)
  10. SOMETHING WILD (Jonathan Demme)

1989

  1. THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH (Hal Hartley)
  2. THE KILLER (John Woo)
  3. CASUALTIES OF WAR (Brian De Palma)
  4. THE SEVENTH CONTINENT (Michael Haneke)

1988

  1. “Cat Listening to Music” (Chris Marker)
  2. AKIRA (Katsuhiro Otomo)
  3. AS TEARS GO BY (Wong Kar-wai)
  4. DIE HARD (John McTiernan)

1987

  1. DAUGHTER OF THE NILE (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
  2. WINGS OF DESIRE (Wim Wenders)
  3. ROBOCOP (Paul Verhoeven)
  4. RAISING ARIZONA (Joel & Ethan Coen)

1986

  1. THE TERRORIZERS (Edward Yang)
  2. BLUE VELVET (David Lynch)
  3. MANHUNTER (Michael Mann)
  4. SOMETHING WILD (Jonathan Demme)
  5. ALIENS (James Cameron)
  6. BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (John Carpenter)

1985

  1. RAN (Akira Kurosawa)
  2. BRAZIL (Terry Gilliam)
  3. AFTER HOURS (Martin Scorsese)

1984

  1. PARIS, TEXAS (Wim Wenders)
  2. STOP MAKING SENSE (Jonathan Demme)
  3. DUNE (David Lynch)
  4. THE TERMINATOR (James Cameron)

1983

  1. SANS SOLEIL (Chris Marker)
  2. THE KEEP (Michael Mann)
  3. SCARFACE (Brian De Palma)

1982

  1. BLADE RUNNER (Ridley Scott)
  2. KOYAANISQATSI (Godfrey Reggio)

1981

  1. POSSESSION (Andrzej Zulawski)
  2. BLOW OUT (Brian De Palma)
  3. THIEF (Michael Mann)
  4. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Steven Spielberg)
  5. THE ROAD WARRIOR (George Miller)

1980

  1. THE SHINING (Stanley Kubrick)
  2. RAGING BULL (Martin Scorsese)
  3. DRESSED TO KILL (Brian De Palma)
  4. THE ELEPHANT MAN (David Lynch)
  5. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Irvin Kershner)
  6. HOME MOVIES (Brian De Palma)

1970s

Best of the Decade

  1. ERASERHEAD (David Lynch)
  2. OUT 1: NOLI ME TANGERE (Jacques Rivette)
  3. A NEW LEAF (Elaine May)
  4. THE DEVILS (Ken Russell)
  5. JEANNE DIELMAN | 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE | 1080 BRUXELLES (Chantal Akerman)
  6. DAYS OF HEAVEN (Terrence Malick)
  7. ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
  8. TAXI DRIVER (Martin Scorsese)
  9. STALKER (Andrei Tarkovsky)
  10. APOCALYPSE NOW (Francis Ford Coppola)

1979

  1. STALKER (Andrei Tarkovsky)
  2. APOCALYPSE NOW (Francis Ford Coppola)
  3. ALIEN (Ridley Scott)

1978

  1. DAYS OF HEAVEN (Terrence Malick)
  2. HALLOWEEN (John Carpenter)

1977

  1. ERASERHEAD (David Lynch)
  2. ANNIE HALL (Woody Allen)
  3. STAR WARS (George Lucas)

1976

  1. CARRIE (Brian De Palma)
  2. TAXI DRIVER (Martin Scorsese)

1975

  1. JEANNE DIELMAN | 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE | 1080 BRUXELLES (Chantal Akerman)
  2. NASHVILLE (Robert Altman)
  3. JAWS (Steven Spielberg)
  4. BARRY LYNDON (Stanley Kubrick)

1974

  1. ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
  2. PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (Brian De Palma)
  3. CHINATOWN (Roman Polanski)

1973

  1. BADLANDS (Terrence Malick)

1972

  1. THE HEARTBREAK KID (Elaine May)

1971

  1. OUT 1: NOLI ME TANGERE (Jacques Rivette)
  2. A NEW LEAF (Elaine May)
  3. THE DEVILS (Ken Russell)

1960s

Best of the Decade

  1. THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (Jacques Demy)
  2. “La jetée” (Chris Marker)
  3. THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (Jacques Demy)
  4. PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman)
  5. THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (Gillo Pontecorvo)
  6. WAVELENGTH (Michael Snow)
  7. BREATHLESS (Jean-Luc Godard)
  8. “The House is Black” (Forough Farrokhzad)
  9. LOLITA (Stanley Kubrick)
  10. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Stanley Kubrick)

1968

  1. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Stanley Kubrick)

1967

  1. THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (Jacques Demy)
  2. WAVELENGTH (Michael Snow)
  3. PLAYTIME (Jacques Tati)
  4. DONT LOOK BACK (D.A. Pennebaker)
  5. DRAGON INN (King Hu)
  6. “Sailing with Bushnell Keeler” (David Lynch)
  7. BRANDED TO KILL (Seijun Suzuki)

1966

  1. PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman)
  2. THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (Gillo Pontecorvo)
  3. BLACK GIRL (Ousmane Sembène)

1965

  1. PIERROT LE FOU (Jean-Luc Godard)
  2. CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (Orson Welles)
  3. “Kustom Kar Kommandos” (Kenneth Anger)

1964

  1. THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (Jacques Demy)
  2. DR. STRANGELOVE, OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (Stanley Kubrick)

1963

  1. “The House is Black” (Forough Farrokhzad)
  2. CONTEMPT (Jean-Luc Godard)
  3. “Mothlight” (Stan Brakhage)

1962

  1. “La jetée” (Chris Marker)
  2. LOLITA (Stanley Kubrick)
  3. AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON (Yasujiro Ozu)
  4. VIVRE SA VIE (Jean-Luc Godard)
  5. L’ECLISSE (Michelangelo Antonioni)

1961

  1. LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD (Alain Resnais)
  2. LA NOTTE (Michelangelo Antonioni)

1960

  1. BREATHLESS (Jean-Luc Godard)
  2. LA DOLCE VITA (Federico Fellini)
  3. L’AVVENTURA (Michelangelo Antonioni)
  4. THE BAD SLEEP WELL (Akira Kurosawa)

1950s

Best of the Decade

  1. SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa)
  2. THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Charles Laughton)
  3. “Duck Amuck” (Chuck Jones)
  4. VERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock)
  5. TOKYO STORY (Yasujiro Ozu)
  6. REAR WINDOW (Alfred Hitchcock)
  7. THE 400 BLOWS (François Truffaut)
  8. SUNSET BLVD. (Billy Wilder)
  9. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (Nicholas Ray)
  10. JOURNEY TO ITALY (Roberto Rossellini)

1959

  1. THE 400 BLOWS (François Truffaut)
  2. THE WORLD OF APU (Satyajit Ray)
  3. HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (Alain Resnais)
  4. “Window Water Baby Moving” (Stan Brakhage)

1958

  1. VERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock)

1957

  1. SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (Alexander Mackendrick)
  2. THRONE OF BLOOD (Akira Kurosawa)
  3. PATHS OF GLORY (Stanley Kubrick)
  4. “What’s Opera, Doc?” (Chuck Jones)
  5. “Ali Baba Bunny” (Chuck Jones)

1956

  1. THE SEARCHERS (John Ford)

1955

  1. THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Charles Laughton)
  2. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (Nicholas Ray)
  3. NIGHT AND FOG (Alain Resnais)
  4. PATHER PANCHALI (Satyajit Ray)

1954

  1. SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa)
  2. REAR WINDOW (Alfred Hitchcock)
  3. JOURNEY TO ITALY (Roberto Rossellini)
  4. GODZILLA (Ishiro Honda)

1953

  1. “Duck Amuck” (Chuck Jones)
  2. TOKYO STORY (Yasujiro Ozu)
  3. THE SAGA OF ANATAHAN (Josef von Sternberg)
  4. THE BIG HEAT (Fritz Lang)
  5. “Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century” (Chuck Jones)
  6. “Duck! Rabbit, Duck!” (Chuck Jones)

1952

  1. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly)
  2. “Rabbit Seasoning” (Chuck Jones)
  3. “Feed the Kitty” (Chuck Jones)
  4. “Operation: Rabbit” (Chuck Jones)

1951

  1. “Rabbit Fire” (Chuck Jones)

1950

  1. SUNSET BLVD. (Billy Wilder)
  2. “Rabbit of Seville” (Chuck Jones)
  3. RASHOMON (Akira Kurosawa)

1940s

Best of the Decade

  1. CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles)
  2. CASABLANCA (Michael Curtiz)
  3. MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON (Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid)
  4. DETOUR (Edgar G. Ulmer)
  5. MILDRED PIERCE (Michael Curtiz)
  6. THE GANG’S ALL HERE (Busby Berkeley)
  7. THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed)
  8. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (Frank Capra)
  9. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (Billy Wilder)
  10. LAURA (Otto Preminger)

1949

  1. THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed)

1946

  1. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (Frank Capra)
  2. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Jean Cocteau)

1945

  1. DETOUR (Edgar G. Ulmer)
  2. MILDRED PIERCE (Michael Curtiz)

1944

  1. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (Billy Wilder)
  2. LAURA (Otto Preminger)

1943

  1. MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON (Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid)
  2. THE GANG’S ALL HERE (Busby Berkeley)

1942

  1. CASABLANCA (Michael Curtiz)

1941

  1. CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles)

1930s

Best of the Decade

  1. M (Fritz Lang)
  2. THE RULES OF THE GAME (Jean Renoir)
  3. TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Ernst Lubitsch)
  4. THE GODDESS (Wu Yonggang)
  5. CITY LIGHTS (Charles Chaplin)
  6. TABU (F.W. Murnau)
  7. L’ATALANTE (Jean Vigo)
  8. MARIUS (Alexander Korda)
  9. MOROCCO (Josef von Sternberg)

1939

  1. THE RULES OF THE GAME (Jean Renoir)

1934

  1. THE GODDESS (Wu Yonggang)
  2. L’ATALANTE (Jean Vigo)

1932

  1. TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Ernst Lubitsch)

1931

  1. M (Fritz Lang)
  2. CITY LIGHTS (Charles Chaplin)
  3. TABU (F.W. Murnau)
  4. MARIUS (Alexander Korda)

1930

  1. MOROCCO (Josef von Sternberg)

Pre-1930s

  1. SUNRISE (F.W. Murnau)
  2. THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  3. NOSFERATU (F.W. Murnau)
  4. THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (Raoul Walsh)
  5. STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. (Charles Reisner and Buster Keaton)
  6. “Un Chien Andalou” (Luis Buñuel)
  7. BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (Sergei Eisenstein)
  8. “A Trip to the Moon” (Georges Méliès)
  9. NANOOK OF THE NORTH (Robert J. Flaherty)
  10. THE BIRTH OF A NATION (D.W. Griffith)

The Gang’s All Here

Written for The Solute’s Forgotbusters series, edited by Sam Scott.

The name “Busby Berkeley” is practically synonymous with the extravagant Hollywood musicals of the Depression era. For about fifteen years, Berkeley was the king of the musical, serving as the choreographer and sometimes director of lavish song-and-dance films, as his geometric, intricate dances often served as the highlights of the somewhat standard backstage dramas that typified the Hollywood musical of that time. Indeed, it was not until the rise of the Freed Unit, with its own iconic musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain and The Band Wagon, that the musical numbers became more integrated into the narrative instead of being largely confined to the stage.

Berkeley is perhaps best known today for the famous films he choreographed for other directors at Warner Bros., such as 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Footlight Parade. These films were all made in 1933, and slowly Berkeley’s brand of extravagance became less popular, as he even made forays into straight drama. Thus, the late-career masterpiece that is The Gang’s All Here is even more unexpected.

The Gang’s All Here was made in 1943, in the middle of World War II, and it stands out for a number of reasons. First, and perhaps most importantly, it was the first color film that Berkeley had directed or even worked extensively on, and stunningly he shows no sign of tentativeness, lavishly and liberally using the fantastical Technicolor to render the both the songs and the narrative sequences in strong hues that add a vital amount of character to the images. Secondly, he was the sole director of the film, and while this may not have altered too much, it gives The Gang’s All Here a more cohesive approach than something like 42nd Street (the only other Berkeley movie I have seen); the aesthetic approach is very similar in most of the scenes and there is an abundance of performances that occur even during the narrative sections.

The plot of The Gang’s All Here is relatively straightforward, relying more on the character interactions than any sense of drama or urgency. The film begins in the Club New Yorker, known for its lavish and wild shows featuring Phil Baker (Phil Baker) and Dorita (Carmen Miranda), as it introduces the de facto protagonist Andy Mason (James Ellison), an Army sergeant about to leave for the Pacific Front. He sees and then meets Eadie Allen (Alice Faye), a new dancer at the Club, and they quickly fall in love. He leaves the next day, and is allowed to return home after receiving a medal. Upon receiving this news, Andrew Mason Sr., his father (Eugene Pallette) decides to throw a party when his son returns/ And, after a series of deliberations, he invites the performers at the Club New Yorker and the Benny Goodman Orchestra (as themselves) to stay at his and his colleague’s homes while they rehearse for a new show and frames the party as a war bond rally. From here, the film splits into a surprisingly complex number of sub-plots, the most relevant being the Andy’s desire to marry Eadie even though he is betrothed to Potter’s daughter Vivian, but by the film’s closing party, as everyone is reconciled. It is a pleasurable story, to be sure, and some parts become truly emotional (especially Eadie’s loneliness at Andy’s absence), but it is by and large an excuse for the musical sequences that grow more and more strange, culminating in perhaps the most profoundly odd 5 minutes I have ever seen in any film. Shall we begin?

The very first shot is a marvel, beginning with a shadowed figure singing “Aquarela do Brasil” (yes, the song from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil). The camera zooms in, and then moves down an inexplicably abstract pattern of lines before settling on a boat from Brazil carrying both passengers and cargo. The camera pans up an improbably large bundle of fruit and back down to reveal Dorida, who begins singing as the camera moves over to Phil Baker, then through the proscenium to reveal the entirety of the audience. And that’s all just in the first shot.

To describe the extent of the ingenuity of The Gang’s All Here, or to just describe each musical number in an acceptable amount of detail, would take several articles. Berkeley’s approach here is less in line with the strict theatricality of something like 42nd Street, where an explicit narrative is being told, and more in terms of a free-associativity, where the performance is embraced for the performance’s sake. From an utterly inexplicable number featuring a long line of chorus girls wielding giant bananas to a simple performance on the Staten Island ferry by Eadie to Andy (that features the fourth-wall breaking exchange, “Hear the orchestra?” “Where’s it coming from?”), to the second-to-last number, featuring heretofore unseen young children dancing in polka-dot dresses, scenes that would normally be incredibly disruptive and extraneous in an ordinary film are the most important, as Berkeley constructs a celebration of creativity and art that is never less than a joy to watch.

But the most surprising aspect of The Gang’s All Here is the ending, which quite literally comes out of nowhere. After a brief segment of the performers with lighted, floating hoops while wearing what look like space suits the film literalizes the kaleidoscopic effect that Berkeley had received acclaim for, turning the dance into completely abstract images, before the faces of all the principal players zoom out of the screen and the heads of the entire cast sings in unison. It is an eerie, almost scary effect, one that would shock almost any viewer.

How then, can such a profoundly weird film be forgotten? Most likely, The Gang’s All Here was probably dismissed as “just another” Hollywood musical, and it likely is about as famous as any other famous-at-the-time film from that era. But Berkeley’s accomplishment speaks for itself; he once said that his main goal was to top himself, and here, at the end of his heyday, he made a musical film that shares more qualities with the avant-garde than anything else, even the musicals which he had done so much to popularize.

Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party

Going to resume posting reviews I’m especially proud of, starting with this most personal of films.

The first clue to the brilliance of this film is in the title: Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party. Rather than being a simple character study, it is a vibrant, free-wheeling ensemble piece, often abandoning the ostensible main character for entire sequences and placing him in the background for some scenes in which he does appear in. By adopting this structure, Cone crafts an incisive, heartbreaking, yet hopeful cross-section of a specific part of America: a Southern Christian family and their friends, both religious and not, and with widely varying sets of beliefs and sexualities. It feels both extremely focused and unexpectedly universal; especially to me, it felt like one of the most personal films I have ever seen, for reasons I won’t go into in this review.

Even from a technical point of view, Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party is wonderfully made, with particular attention to the various points of view that switch from scene to scene. Chiu’s cinematography is natural but subtly striking, capturing the vibrant party well as it gets later and later, and comes to the fore during some beautiful underwater shots that almost seem otherworldly in their serene nature. Cone’s editing ensures that the flow of faces and ideas never gets dull or shortchanged, helped by the use of both electronic, driving modern music and a strangely ethereal score.

But Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party soars on the perfect combination of its ensemble cast and its screenplay. As a whole, the cast naturalistically inhabits all of these characters so well, making each and every one of the twenty people on screen stand out from each other and interacting with exactly the right amount of chemistry that would be right for that specific grouping. It is hard to choose any standouts, as the ensemble forms such a cohesive unit, though perhaps Doman (who shoulders the responsibility of the main character with poise), Neilan (who plays my favorite character in the film with no small amount of ease), and Laidlaw (who gives perhaps the most demanding performance, delivering a difficult revelatory monologue in devastating fashion) deserve just slightly more credit.

Cone’s screenplay is built on a sense of the moment-to-moment; it is cohesive in both its character developments and its view of these broken but strong figures, but much of the joy of Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party is in seeing the interactions that occur, the little discrete scenes that pop up within each chunk of the film that offer a change in the viewer’s perspective on each person. From an unexpected crying fit, to a misguided remark, to a simple affirmation of one’s sexuality, the little things manage to make the viewer understand that these characters are, by virtue of their status as humans, unable to be cozily categorized into preconceptions. They are complex, deeply seated in their beliefs yet able to be changed in the course of a single day. But perhaps the most important change of all happens to Henry. In one day, the same shot changes meaning profoundly, and he, on his birthday, becomes more open, more thoughtful, in the way that I sense this film wants the world to be. Where else can you see Gregg Araki’s Kaboom and a Christian book in the same set of presents?

“Formative” Films/Timeline

Prompted by the occasion of Kiarostami’s passing, an attempt to chronicle some measure of the development of my cinephilia. An even more stream-of-consciousness post than usual.

(tentative list)

Formative Films: Blade Runner, The Battle of Algiers, Close-Up, Eraserhead, Sans soleil, Jeanne Dielman, Yi Yi

It must be said that, especially before the first wave or phase of my cinephilia, I retain random, often off-color memories from bad movies that I happened to watch; hopefully these will fade eventually. Perhaps inevitably, most of my favorites are in here, though important films/probable former first-place favorites to me, like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back to the Future, are not.

Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin: at least for the foreseeable future, I think this is the first film memory I have. The timeline fits: it was released the year I was born, obviously is a children’s movie, and conceivably I could have seen it when I was only a few years old; I still remember the “skull” and the shadow of Christopher Robin (no clue on what was the first film I saw in theaters though, might go back and try to figure it out)

First Wave of Cinephilia (summer of 2013?) 2001: A Space Odyssey, City Lights, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Blade Runner, Citizen Kane, The Searchers, Raging Bull, Vertigo, North By Northwest, The Deer Hunter(?): some mixed reactions from this time; e.g. distinctly remember being awed by 2001, though not to the extent I am now, while my mother and sister fell asleep, and was somewhat underwhelmed by most of the latter half; kind of happy that this wave ended quickly, wasn’t nearly invested enough to truly engage with the films. From these films, Blade Runner was probably formative; remained my favorite film for an extended time and I truly was in awe of the soulful spectacle.

Autumn Semester Break Weekend 2015 (January 29-February 2) Breathless, Chinatown, La jetée, Badlands, 8 1/2, Night and Fog, The 400 Blows, Seven Samurai, Singin’ in the Rain, Casablanca, Sunrise, Tokyo Story: pretty sure that this is the weekend that restarted my cinephilia; must credit They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They for making me aware of people like Tarkovsky (and, memorably, Salo), but I don’t think it really clicked in a sense deeper than a film like Apocalypse Now until that weekend; mostly on an emotional level then but I still remember certain moments, like the marsh tracking shot and the city zoom in Sunrise, that struck me on a technical level even then.

The Battle of Algiers, Close-Up (first half of 2015, June 25): if I can call any two films formative before I started Letterboxd, it would be these two (maybe discounting 400, Sunrise, Tokyo Story). It helps that I saw these at relatively isolated points, and though I remember seeing various films like Vivre sa vie, La dolce vita, and L’avventura distinctly on their own, these two were the ones that  especially stood out, Battle for how boldly political it was (especially at a time when I was staunchly conservative) and Close-Up for its heartbreaking celebration of cinephilia; I was aware of the various techniques of both but they swept me up with such gusto, such awe.

Eraserhead (midnight June 6, 2015): this is my B.C./A.D. The visceral impact, the technical perfection, the pure nightmarish quality shook me to my core. I saw Mad Max: Fury Road later that day and was underwhelmed because of how profoundly affected I was at the time.

Sans soleil: if Close-Up is the must-see film for cinephiles, then Sans soleil is the must-see film for any living person; I remember I started to watch it but was interrupted 15 minutes in by my dad, who wanted to watch Kingsman (we both hated it); I restarted the next day and was destroyed and rebuilt.

Days of Heaven: don’t know why I chose to restart my Letterboxd (which had lain dormant with only one diary entry for Moonrise Kingdom, I think on April 18?) with this, but perhaps the move to Georgia emboldened me to usher in a new stage; last film I saw before was Grave of the Fireflies on the plane.

Jeanne Dielman/Persona: a bit unsure on these but I think these two, especially Jeanne Dielman, inform my sensibilities to a strong extent; both two immensely formal and daring works that shocked me to no end.

Yi Yi: I could put just the camera move on Ting-Ting when she’s taking out the trash on this list and it would suffice, it was such a revelatory use of simple but pure camera movement to convey  a sense of humanism, of emotion that put me in a true state of awe. The crosscutting between the first date and the reminisces was similarly revelatory, but everything felt so alive yet so precise; just so .

Queen of Earth: I remember being surprised that, in a day of seeing (and meeting!) Wenders and Melville that this film by a director I had heard little about was the best I saw. I wouldn’t necessarily  stand by this statement now, but I’m fairly certain that this was the first truly  independent film, and was an important step for me to rely slightly less on the canon.