How easily this list, submitted for the upcoming Skandies/Muriels Greatest Movies Ever Made poll, could have been a top 24, or a top 67, or top 200!
But whatever this list is, it is in no way calculated to impress. It should not be considered a rejoinder to either the recent (and somewhat controversial) Sight and Sound poll (Hey, they didn't ask me to participate either! Imagine that!), or to the Internet writers who tend to favor American movies made no earlier than the '80s, or to obscurists who might top-load their lists with foreign films or hard-to-find titles.
And of course it's not my list of the Greatest Movies Ever Made. (How could I possibly know what 20 movies would go on such a list?) But I do believe that every movie on my list is a "great" movie, accounting for all the subtle shades of meaning in such an adjective. These are the movies that I think of when I hear the word "cinema," or "movies," or "film," the ones that compose the myriad reasons I've loved the movies for as long as I can remember, the ones that constantly remind me, as I'm luxuriating in each and every one of them, of all that I have yet to see.
Yet I never begrudge returning to any of them over something new, because in addition to the pleasures they've already provided and will continue to provide, I know that they'll also lead me to unexpected places, reveal something interesting, make a connection to another part of cinema history each time I see them, and that discovery will serve to propel me forward into the as-yet unknown.
The other thing I love about making a list like this is that I already know, even as I am compiling it, that it cannot possibly be definitive, that minutes after I've finished it has already begun the process of changing, morphing, adding, subtracting, sparking thoughts of films that should have been included and remembrances of films that once would have been yet are, this time, more easily replaced.This is the glory of list-making for me personally; for others who might read it, maybe I can remind them of what may yet still be missing from their own experience, perhaps prompt them to step outside that circle into an unfamiliar world in the hopes of finding a new love. I've written at length about some of these already, and I'll soon do so about some of the others. For now, let me show you what makes me swoon...
1) NASHVILLE (1975; Robert Altman)
2) ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1969; Sergio Leone)
3) THE GODFATHER/THE GODFATHER PART II (1972/1974; Francis Ford Coppola)
4) THE LADY EVE (1941; Preston Sturges)
5) RULES OF THE GAME (1939; Jean Renoir)
6) NOTORIOUS (1946; Alfred Hitchcock)
7) SANSHO DAYU (1954; Kenji Mizoguchi)
8) HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940; Howard Hawks)
9) ONE TWO THREE (1961; Billy Wilder)
10) DRESSED TO KILL (1980; Brian De Palma)
11) NIGHTS OF CABIRIA (1957; Federico Fellini)
12) 1941 (1979; Steven Spielberg)
13) THE DEVILS (1971; Ken Russell)
14) GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953; Howard Hawks)
15) AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD (1972; Werner Herzog)
16) SPEED RACER (2008; Andy and Lana Wachowski)
17) CHARLEY VARRICK (1973; Don Siegel)
18) THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (1962; Luis Bunuel)
19) GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990; Joe Dante)
20) KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949; Robert Hamer)