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THE BEST FILMS EVER
A personal list

All films listed here stand out from the crowd. No doubt there are some films missing, but I can only appraise those I have seen. The silent era presents a particular difficulty. The number of films that have survived is small, and there is no corpus of contemporary works against which they can be judged.

The few truly great movies are highlighted in red. These films stand out from the herd as works of cinematic art. Such movies also frequently push back the borders of what is possible.

Of course this is only IMHO...

1915

Birth of a Nation - D W Griffith

1916

Joan the Woman - Cecil B De Mille

1919

Blind Husbands - Erich von Stroheim
Die Austernprinzessin (The Oyster Princess)
- Ernst Lubitsch (Ossi Oswalda)
Madame DuBarry - Ernst Lubitsch (Pola Negri)
Die Puppe (The doll) - Ernst Lubitsch (Ossi Oswalda)

1920

Anna Boleyn - Ernst Lubitsch (Emil Jannings)

1921

Camille - Ray C Smallwood (Alla Nazimova)
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Rex Ingram (Rudolph Valentino)
The Sheik - George Melford (Rudolph Valentino)

1922

Foolish Wives - Erich von Stroheim
Blood and Sand - Fred Niblo (Rudolph Valentino)
Nosferatu - F W Murnau

1923

A Woman of Paris - Charles Chaplin (Edna Purviance)

1924

The Marriage Circle - Ernst Lubitsch (Marie Prevost)
The Thief of Bagdad - Raoul Walsh (Douglas Fairbanks)
Faust - F W Murnau (Emil Jannings)
Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (Siegfried's Death) - Fritz Lang
Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache (Kriemhild's Revenge) - Lang
Girl Shy - Fred Newmeyer / Sam Taylor (Harold Lloyd)

1925

Phantom of the Opera - Rupert Julian (Lon Chaney/Mary Philbin)
Ben-Hur - Fred Niblo (Ramon Novarro)
The Lost World - Harry Hoyt (Bessie Love)

1926

Metropolis - Fritz Lang

1927

Casanova - Alexandre Volkoff
It - Clarence Badger / Josef Von Sternberg (Clara Bow)
Wings - William A Wellman (Clara Bow)
The Cat and the Canary - Paul Levi (Laura La Plante)

1928

The Wedding March - Erich von Stroheim (Fay Wray)
Queen Kelly - Erich von Stroheim (Gloria Swanson)
Pandora's Box - George Wilhelm Pabst (Louise Brooks)
Sadie Thompson - Raoul Walsh (Gloria Swanson)
Our Dancing Daughters - Harry Beaumont (Joan Crawford)

1929

People on Sunday - Robert Siodmak / Edgar G Ulmer
Die Weisse Holle vom Fiz Palu
- Dr Arnold Fanck / G W Pabst (Leni Reifenstahl)
Diary of a Lost Girl - George Wilhelm Pabst (Louise Brooks)
Picadilly - Ewald André Dupont (Anna May Wong)

1930

Der Blaue Engel - Josef Von Sternberg (Marlene Dietrich)
Bat Whispers - Roland West
Prix de Beauté - Augusto Genina (Louise Brooks)

1931

The Maltese Falcon (Dangerous Female)
- Roy Del Ruth (Bebe Daniels)
The Public Enemy - William A Wellman (James Cagney)

1932

Love Me Tonight - Rouben Mamoulian
Shanghai Express - Josef Von Sternberg (Marlene Dietrich)
Trouble in Paradise - Ernst Lubitsch
Das Blaue Licht - Leni Riefenstahl
Grand Hotel - Edmund Goulding

1933

S.O.S. Eisberg - Dr Arnold Fanck / Tay Garnett (Leni Riefenstahl)
The Bitter Tea of General Yen - Frank Capra
42nd Street - Lloyd Bacon
Bombshell - Victor Fleming
Flying down to Rio - Thornton Freeland
Duck Soup - Leo McCarey (Marx Brothers)
Sons of the Desert - William A Seiter (Laurel & Hardy)

1934

Triumph des Willens - Lene Rieffenstahl
The Merry Widow - Ernst Lubitsch
The Scarlet Empress - Josef Von Sternberg (Marlene Dietrich)
It Happened One Night - Frank Capra

1935

Tag der Freiheit - Unsere Wehrmachte - Leni Riefenstahl
The Devil is a Woman - Josef Von Sternberg (Marlene Dietrich)
The Thirty-Nine Steps - Alfred Hitchcock
Top Hat - Mark Sandrich (Rogers / Astaire)

1936

Libeled Lady - Jack Conway

1937

La Grande illusion - Jean Renoir
Nothing Sacred - William A Wellman

1938

Olympia I. Teil - Fest der Völker - Leni Riefenstahl
Olympia II. Teil - Fest der Schönheit - Leni Riefenstahl
Jezebel - William Wyler (Bette Davis)
The Adventures of Robin Hood - Michael Curtiz
The Dawn Patrol - Edmund Goulding
The Lady Vanishes - Alfred Hitchcock

1939

La Règle du jeu - Jean Renoir
Gone with the Wind - Victor Fleming
His Girl Friday - Howard Hawks
Stage Coach - John Ford
The Wizard of Oz - Victor Fleming

1940

The Letter - William Wyler (Bette Davis)
The Thief of Bagdad - Ludwig Berger / Michael Powell
The Philadelphia Story - George Cukor

1941

Citizen Kane - Orson Welles
The Little Foxes - Edmund Goulding (Bette Davis)
The Maltese Falcon - John Huston

1942

Les Visiteurs du soir - Marcel Carné
Now Voyager - Irving Rapper (Bette Davis)
In This Our Life - John Huston (Bette Davis)
The Way to the Stars - Anthony Asquith
Casablanca - Michael Curtiz
Those Magnificent Ambersons - Orson Welles

1943

To Have And Have Not - Howard Hawks
Report from the Aleutians - John Huston

1944

Murder, My Sweet (Farewell My Lovely) - Edward Dmytryk
Double Indemnity - Billy Wilder

1945

Les Enfants du Paradis - Marcel Carné

1946

Duel in the Sun - King Vidor & others
Deception - Irving Rapper (Bette Davis)
Gilda - King Vidor

1947

Spring River Flows East - Cai Chusheng / Zheng Zunli
Out of the Past (Build My Gallows High) - Jacques Tourneur
Life With Father - Michael Curtiz

1948

Red River - Howard Hawks / Arthur Rosson
Treasure of the Sierra Madre - John Huston
Key Largo - John Huston (Bogart / Bacall)
The Lady From Shanghai - Orson Welles
Jour de Fete - Jacques Tati

1949

Beyond the Forest - King Vidor (Bette Davis)
Battleground - William A Wellman
The Third Man - Carol Reed
Twelve O'clock High - Henry King
Kind Hearts and Coronets - Robert Hamer
Crows and Sparrows - Zheng Junli

1950

All About Eve - Joseph L Mankiewicz (Bette Davis)
Sunset Boulevard - Billy Wilder
In A Lonely Place - Nicholas Ray (Humphrey Bogart)

1951

Summer interlude - Ingmar Bergman

1952

The Importance of being Earnest - Anthony Asquith

1953

Summer with Monika - Ingmar Bergman
Le Salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear) - Henri-Georges Clouzot

1954

The Seven Samurai - Akira Kurosawa
Les Diaboliques - Henri-Georges Clouzot
La Strada - Federico Fellini

1955

Du rififi chez les hommes (Rififi) - Jules Dassin
Smiles of a Summer Night - Ingmar Bergman
The Ladykillers - Alexander Mackendrick
Anatomy of a Murder - Otto Preminger

1956

Biruma no tategoto (The Burmese Harp) - Kon Ichikawa
Nights of Cabiria - Federico Fellini
Kiss Me Deadly - Robert Aldrich
Baby Doll - Elia Kazan
Attack! - Robert Aldrich
The Searchers - John Ford

1957

The Seventh Seal - Ingmar Bergman
Wild Strawberries - Ingmar Bergman
Throne of Blood - Akira Kurosawa
Sweet Smell of Success - Alexander MacKendrick
Paths of Glory - Stanley Kubrick

1958

Ashes and Diamonds - Andrzrey Wajda
Touch of Evil - Orson Welles
The Face - Ingmar Bergman
The Hidden Fortress - Akira Kurosawa
The Naked and the Dead - Raoul Walsh
Vertigo - Alfred Hitchcock

1959

L'Avventura - Michelangelo Antonioni
À bout de Souffle (Breathless) - Jean-Luc Godard
Hiroshima mon amour - Alain Resnais
Le Quattre Cent Coups (The 400 Blows) - Francois Truffaut
Some Like It Hot - Billy Wilder
Pork Chop Hill - Lewis Milestone

1960

La Dolce Vita - Federico Fellini
The Virgin Spring - Ingmar Bergman
Tirez sur le pianiste (Shoot the Pianist) - Francois Truffaut
The Apartment - Billy Wilder
Pote tin Kyriaki (Never on Sunday) - Jules Dassin

1961

Jules et Jim - Francois Truffaut
L'Aneé Dernier à Marienbad - Alain Resnais
Yojimbo - Akira Kurosawa

1962

La Notte - Michelangelo Antonioni
The Waltz of the Toreadors - John Guillermin
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? - Robert Aldrich
Lolita - Kubrick

1963

- Federico Fellini
The Servant - Joseph Losey
Billy Liar - Schlesinger
Dr Strangelove - Stanley Kubrick
Le Mepris - Jean-Luc Godard

1964

The Gospel according to St Mathews - Pier Paolo Pasolini
Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte - Robert Aldrich

1965

How to Murder your Wife - Richard Quine
The Ipcress File - Sidney J Furie
The Great Race - Blake Edwards

1966

La Battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers) - Gillo Pontecorvo
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Sergio Leone
The Dance of the Vampyres - Roman Polanski

1967

Accident - Joseph Losey
Weekend - Jean-Luc Godard
Le Samourai - Jean-Pierre Melville
Bonny and Clyde - Arthur Penn
Point Blank - John Boorman
The Producers - Mel Brooks
The Graduate - Mike Nichols

1968

Once upon a time in the West - Sergio Leone
The Charge of the Light Brigade - Tony Richardson
Barbarella - Roger Vadim

1969

Ma Nuit chez Maud - Eric Rohmer
The Italian Job - Peter Collinson
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - George Roy Hill
The Wild Bunch - Sam Peckinpah
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? - Sydney Pollack
Midnight Cowboy - John Schlesinger
Easy Rider - Dennis Hopper

1970

Paton - Franklin J Schaffner
Catch 22 - Mike Nichols
Tora! Tora! Tora! - Fleischer / Fukasaku / Masuda / Kurosawa
Little Big Man - Arthur Penn
Myra Breckinridge - Michael Sarne
The Balad of Cable Hogue - Sam Peckinpah

1971

Waterloo - Sergei Bondarchuk
Death in Venice - Luchino Visconti
The French Connection - William Friedkin
The Last Run - Richard Fleischer / John Huston

1972

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie - Luis Buñuel
The Godfather I - Francis Ford Coppola
Avanti! - Billy Wilder
Play It Again, Sam - Woody Allen

1973

The Night Porter - Liliani Cavani
Badlands - Terrence Malick
The Godfather II - Francis Ford Coppola
O Lucky Man - Anderson
La nuit américaine (Day For Night) - François Truffaut
Dillinger - John Milius
The Long Goodbye - Robert Altman
Electra Glide in Blue - James William Guercio
American Graffiti - George Lucas
Sleeper - Woody Allen
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid - Sam Peckinpah

1974

Amarcord - Federico Fellini
Chinatown - Roman Polanski
Blazing saddles - Mel Brooks
Young Frankenstein - Mel Brooks

1975

The Man Who Would Be King - John Huston
Love and Death - Woody Allen

1976

Casanova - Federico Fellini
Taxi Driver - Martin Scorsese
The Man Who Fell To Earth - Nicolas Roeg
All the President's Men - Alan J Pakula

1977

The Duelists - Ridley Scott
Cross of Iron - Sam Peckinpah
Annie Hall - Woody Allen

1978

A Wedding - Robert Altman

1979

Apocalypse Now - Francis Ford Coppola
Manhattan - Woody Allen

1980

Airplane! - Jim Abrahams / David Zucher

1982

Das Boot (The Boat) - Wolfgang Peterson [TV version best]
Time Bandits - Terry Gilliam

1982

The Executioner's Song - Lawrence Schiller
Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy - Woody Allen

1983


1984

Amadeus - Milos Forman

1985

Mishima - Paul Schrader
Ran - Akira Kurosawa
Tampopo - Juzo Itami

1986

Aliens - James Cameron

1987

Intervista - Federico Fellini
The Last Emperor - Bernado Bertolucci
Empire of the Sun - Steven Spielberg
Rouge - Stanley Kwan
Witches of Eastwick - George Miller

1988

The Naked Gun - David Zucher
Akira - Katsuhiro Ôtomo (animated film)
Beetlejuice - Burton
Hairspray - John Waters
Die Hard - McTiernan
Small Soldiers - Joe Dante

1990

The Godfather III - Francis Ford Coppola
Goodfellas - Martin Scorsese

1991

Delicatessen - Marc Caro / Jean-Pierre Jeunet

1992

Blade Runner - Ridley Scott
Qiu Ju da guan si (The Story of Qiu Ju) - Zhang Yimou (Li Gong)
Strictly Ballroom - Baz Luhrmann

1993

Bawang bie ji (Farewell My Concubine) - Chen Kiage (Li Gong)

1994

Serial Mom - John Waters
Ed Wood - Tim Burton

1995

Sense and Sensibility - Ang Lee
Toy Story - John Lasseter

1996

Irma Vep - Olivier Assayas (Maggie Cheung)

1997

Men in Black - Barry Sonnenfeld

1998

A Bug's Life - John Lasseter / Andrew Stanton
Antz - Eric Darnell / Tim Johnson

2001

Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away) - Hayao Miyazaki
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Peter Jackson

2002

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Peter Jackson

2003

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Peter Jackson