Thursday, July 19, 2012

My 100 Favourite Films by the Numbers

Well, after many months of promising such a thing to my readers, it is finally here.  My 100 favourite films list is finally complete.  After lengthy self-deliberation and months of listing and relisting and editing and reediting and classifying and reclassifying and procrastinating and reprocrastinating, the list is finally at an even one hundred films.  I am sure I will feel the need to change it at some point (already I am feeling sad for those films that just missed the cut-off point) but alas, the list is up and running, and there it should stay - well at least until I begin to scramble it up a bit in a few months (just can't stay away).  But here and now, today at this moment, the list is what it is.  And speaking of said list, I will not reproduce it in this post (too lengthy and cumbersome), so please go over to My Favourite Films page and peruse these hundred favourites of mine, and then come back here so we can break down the list and have a little deconstruction discussion about the whole shebang.

So let us start with the obvious.  No Citizen Kane is not at the top of the list.  Many claim it to be the greatest film ever made, but I do not make that claim.  Of course, being that I rank it at number five, I suppose I am not that far off the canonical curve.  Then again, though many of my choices are of a more cinephiliac respectability (2001, Seven Samurai, City Lights, The Rules of the Game, Vertigo, The Gold Rush, Breathless, Singin' in the Rain, The Bicycle Thieves, The Seventh Seal, 8½, Casablanca), many of my choices (Assault on Precinct 13, The White Hell of Pitz Palu, Dazed and Confused, Blow Out, Leave Her to Heaven, House, Black Orpheus, I Walked With a Zombie, Cairo Station, A Canterbury Tale, Boogie Nights, Duel in the Sun, Night of the Living Dead, Samson and Delilah, Fritz Lang's Indian Epic) may lean quite a bit away from this so-called canonical curve. 

Then there are the films I have left off the list.  You will not find such usual list fodder as Gone With the Wind, Modern Times, Birth of a Nation, Stagecoach, La Strada, Wild Strawberries, Lawrence of Arabia, An American in Paris or The Godfather (neither 1 nor 2, though 3 would never be expected).  These omissions are not due to my disliking these films (several of them came close to the final cut actually) but just because I had to stop at some point.  And speaking of not stopping, this November will bring a much bigger list.  A Top 1000 List will be compiled in the Fall (after I finish My Quest) and posted right here.  This list, unlike this one, will not be ranked.  Instead it will be a chronological listing of my thousand favourite films.  But not to worry, for this list is not going anywhere, and the two will be companions to one another.  But enough of this incessant babbling.  I am a statistics nerd, so let us look at the stats of the list, shall we.

Before we break down the numbers, please allow me to clarify a few things.  Since one of these break downs will involve the nationality of the films, we should try to make clear just where some films come from.  The most blatant one is the number two film on my list, 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The film was financed by MGM but was filmed almost entirely in England.  Some proclaim the film to be a US/UK co-production, which I suppose it is as both the AFI and the BFI claim it as their own, but for all intents and purposes, it is an American film.  Just the opposite can be said of the second highest Kubrick on the list, A Clockwork Orange, for this is most assuredly a British film.  The other film that is questionable is Marcel Camus' Black Orpheus.  Made in Brazil and spoken in Portuguese, with a French director and both French and Italian money, as well as Brazilian, this is quite a mutt of a movie.  It was awarded the Oscar and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language film, under the auspices of being a French production, so for our purposes here, the film is French.  So, with the sundries out of the way, let us go to the numbers.

Though I have seen and loved many a foreign film in my forty-five years, this list ended up being quite American-heavy.  64 of the 100 films are from the US, including six of the top ten (2001: A Space Odyssey, Psycho, Citizen Kane, Singin' in the Rain, Sunrise and Night of the Hunter).  Of course two of these films were directed by a British born director and a third by a German, so it still has a somewhat international flair.  As for the rest of the world, France came in second with ten films (The Rules of the Game, Breathless, M. Hulot's Holiday, Rififi, The 400 Blows, The Wages of Fear, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Céline and Julie Go Boating, Au hasard Balthazar and the aforementioned Black Orpheus); Britannia came next with eight (The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, A Canterbury Tale, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, A Clockwork Orange, The Third Man, The Thief of Bagdad and Brazil); followed by Italia at six (The Bicycle Thieves, Death in Venice, Viaggio in Italia, Fellini's 8½, L'Avventura and the Spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly); then comes Germany with five (The Blue Angel, The White Hell of Pitz Palu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Last Laugh and Fritz Lang's Indian Epic); we then have Japan with three (Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood and the cult film House); Sweden with two (The Seventh Seal and Smiles of a Summer Night); and Hong Kong (In the Mood For Love) and Egypt...yes, Egypt (Cairo Station) with one apiece.

With nary a film from Russia or India (several just missed the final cut), let us move on to each individual decade.  My long-time favourite decade in cinema has been put to the test and has come out a runaway victor.  The 1950's give the list a total of 29 films, the highest one being Singin' in the Rain at number six.  This is followed by the 1940's, with 17 films, the highest is the number one ranked The Red Shoes; then the 1970's, with 14, the highest being Taxi Driver at number 16; and then the 1960's, with 12, with the number two ranked 2001 as its highest representative.  The other decades are in the single digits.  They are, in order, and with their highest member in parentheses, the 1930's with nine (#8. The Rules of the Game); the 1920's (#7. Sunrise) and the 1980's (#33. Brazil) with six each; the 1990's with four (#24. Pulp Fiction); and finally this past decade with three films, Mulholland Dr. its highest at no. 52.  Nothing from our current decade as of yet (The Tree of Life being the closest) and nothing prior to 1920's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.   Yes, that means no Birth of a Nation and no Intolerance.  And for that matter, there is no D.W. Griffith at all.  But that is another story for another paragraph.

Welcome to that paragraph.  Many of the great directors are on the list.  Welles, Hitchcock, Ford, Bergman, Kurosawa, Scorsese, Coppola, Renoir, Lubitsch, Lang, Murnau, Powell and Pressburger.  But there are several somewhat surprising omissions.  As we found out last paragraph, there is no Griffith.  Joining him in absentia are such big names as Tarkovsky, Eisenstein, Ozu, Mizoguchi, Sturges, Capra, Satyajit Ray, Dreyer and Kazan.  Now the latter director did just miss out with his On the Waterfront.  But what of the directors who did make the list?  Well, the big winner ended up being Stanley Kubrick, with a total of five films (2001, A Clockwork Orange, Paths of Glory, The Killing, Lolita) on the list.  Next up is the filmmaking duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger.  They have four films (The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, A Canterbury Tale, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) on the list.  And Powell can actually take credit for a fifth film, as he was one of three co-directors (and the most likely guiding voice) on The Thief of Bagdad.  Also with four films (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Mean Streets, Raging Bull) is Martin Scorsese.   Several directors have three films on the list.  They are: Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, The Lady From Shanghai); Billy Wilder (Sunset Blvd., Double Indemnity, Some Like It Hot); Howard Hawks (His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo, The Big Sleep); and of course Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window).  There are several more with two apiece (Murnau, Tarantino, De Palma, Spielberg, Chaplin, Kurosawa, Bergman, Nick Ray and Woody Allen).  Oddly enough, three of my favourite directors, Renoir, Godard and John Ford only make the list once each.

Anyway, that is the breakdown of my favourite films list.  To toss one final stat in, black and white wins over colour by a score of 52 to 48 (and I have counted The Wizard of Oz as a colour picture).  And (one final final thing) I should probably list those films that just missed making the list, and would therefore be numbers 101 through 113.  This baker's dozen are, in no particular order, Duel in the Sun, On the Waterfront, The River Fuefuki, The Sweet Smell of Success, Electra Glide in Blue, M, In a Lonely Place, Kill Bill (1 and 2), Alphaville, Sawdust and Tinsel, Pick-Up on South Street, Halloween (the original) and Grand Illusion.  As I said earlier, there will be a 1000 films list coming by year's end, so keep an eye out for that.  And if anyone wants to send their own lists along, be it top 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 or whatever, please feel free to put those in the comments section of the actual list page.  That way they can all be in one place for everyone to peruse.  So to quote a certain character from a certain film on the list, "Check ya later."


Mark said...

Oy, I got confused and posted this comment at the list post first. Here it is again.

So Kevyn, Just confirming this is a 'favorite' list and not a 'best' list? At any rate, here's what struck me about your ranking:

I feel like your list is a little 'canonical,' to borrow the term from your other post, also it seems to really skew male: Scorsese, Hitchcock, Welles, Noir, etc.

I was disappointed to not see a Bette Davis film like 'All About Eve', but gratified to see you take a pass on the 80s and Meryl.

The only real shocker was 'Meet Me in St. Louis,' which I actually like a lot, but not as much as 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' or some primo Astaire / Rogers like 'Swing Time.'

'Gun Crazy' seems like an odd choice for you — I'd have pegged you as an "In a Lonely Place' kind of guy.

'Chinatown' might be the best movie ever made. :-)

It's nice to see some love for 'Leave Her to Heaven,' but it's still not the film that 'Rebel' is.

I'm a Chaplin fan since grade school, but I can' get down with your comedies. I guess it's strange for to see this list without a 70s Mel Brooks film or a Monty Python thrown in somewhere in the 20-30 range.

'Brazil' is cool, but give me 'Time Bandits' any day of the week. I just love to see little people.....hitting each other.

'Goodfellas,' 'Taxi Driver,' and 'Mean Streets,' but no 'Godfather,' not to mention Popeye Doyle or Eddie Coyle, fascinating.

No animation, no 'It's a Wonderful Life,' hooray!

'Amadeus' seems like it ought to be here as well......

Great stuff — I really enjoyed reading this post!

Kevyn Knox said...

There are some canonical choices on here, but overall I do not think it overly canonical.

As for the male aspect. I am a male. But then The Red Shoes is number one, so take that however you wish.

All About Eve almost made the list. It would probably end up at about #120 or so.

Gun Crazy? Love love love it. Obviously you do not have me pegged.

Leave Her to Heaven? Is that one male based as well?

As far as Mel Brooks goes. Meh, he's okay. Python is pretty great and Holy Grail would be on hee if this were a top 150 or so.

As I state in the post, The Godfather is a great film(s) but just not in my top 100. As for Popeye Doyle, I still don't see what all the fuss over The French Connection is. Pretty mediocre in my book.

It's a Wonderful Life? That would definitely be in a top 200 list.

Amadeus? Again, what's all the hoopla for?

And thanx for reading.