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100 Essential Films
100 Essential Films

In response to the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest American movies, film scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum took the AFI to task for what he saw as a product "symptomatic of an increasingly dumbed-down film culture that continues to outflank our shrinking expectations." Of course, any list of this kind (including Sight and Sound's decennial roster and the Village Voice Film Critic's Poll from a few years back) is not without its blind spots. Participants are often forced to pick a select group of favorites and make a number of concessions ("Well, if I want Antonioni to make it into the collective top 10, I'd better hedge my bets with L'Avventura instead of my personal favorite Zabriskie Point."). Consequently, underdogs and obscure gems have little chance of being represented on a composite list that's typically unveiled with little-to-no "justification for any of its titles" (to borrow again from Rosenbaum). Rather than present a list that looks like everyone else's, Slant Magazine has decided to do something a little different.

While you will find many popular classics and critical favorites on our list of 100 Essential Films, our goal was to mix things up a bit. This list should not be construed as a definitive "greatest films" package, but as an alternative compiled by a group of kinky film-lovers wanting to give serious critical thought to neglected, forgotten and misunderstood gems. We aimed for the kind of list where post-Cahiers Orson Welles could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a pre-pastiche Brian De Palma; where it's understood that Hitchcock, Dreyer, Ford and Ozu created masterpieces besides film-school staples like Vertigo, The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Searchers, and Tokyo Story; and where the postmodern irony of Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life is allowed space next to its modern-day equivalent: Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls (gasp!). Because space was tight, documentaries, shorts and animated films were not eligible. Additionally, we limited directors to no more than one spot on the list. Check back every few days as we randomly introduce a new film.

And if this goes over well, we'll return soon with another list, tentatively referred to in our small circle as "100 Essential Films 2: Electric Boogaloo."

 

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