In the interest of iconoclasm, and of pointing one’s critical finger at great movies that were created, you know, sometime after the 1970s, what follows is an alphabetically-arranged list of what this reviewer thinks are world-historically worthwhile films produced after 1986, the year of his birth. The standards of judgment that these movies were able to so spectacularly and consistently surpass are the standards of a person who is, well, in his mid-20s, and who is agitated and restless and frequently lonesome. Those standards involve, more cinematically-speaking, the intensity of the movie; the intelligence of the movie; its willingness to admit that life is often disappointing, drab, and deceptive; and a preference for protagonists who are struggling to resist the rather deadening expectations of the society in which they’ve found themselves living. Given the quantity of critical cinematic verbiage that’s emanated forth on the Internet prior to, and in the wake of, the release of the 2012 Sight & Sound Top 10 list, this reviewer will say no more, but merely and humbly direct your attention to the list he’s provided.
Haley Lu Richardson (#1–10 of 6)
I’ll sidestep the usual throat-clearing about the thought process behind my all-time 10-best-movies list (the agonizing, the second-guessing, the hair-splitting between “bests” and “favorites,” the last-minute changes—yes, it was quite a ride), and cut to the chase. My picks deceptively cover six decades of film history, albeit hopscotching over three of them. Nine of my 10 choices hail from the 1960s and 1970s, making the one remaining look like a token acknowledgment of the silent era when it’s anything but. Nevertheless, six of my films were released between 1967 and 1970, which suggests what I’ve often suspected: that that era of cinema is my favorite. I hasten to add, however, that none of my selections are Easy Riders; and my timeframe stops short of any Raging Bulls. In alphabetical order, my Top 10 movies are:
For film critics, Top 10 lists are a fact of life. Yet, despite frequent complaints that Top 10s are a bore to compose at the end of each year, the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound poll is one of those rare lists to which most critics would love to be asked to contribute. It’s the Top 10. The lists themselves tend to represent each critic’s best effort to express the knowledge and creativity that the invitation supposes. You can imagine the arduousness, then, of limiting one’s selections of the greatest movies of all time to just 10 entries.
Given that my role in the larger critical dialogue is minute as compared to those participating in this year’s Sight & Sound poll, I took to the challenge of a personal Top 10 more in the spirit of fun than soul-searching. Indeed, I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about all of the films below in various capacities and stages of my life. Some meant more to me years ago than they do now, while others have lingered in my thoughts and memories beyond what seemed like an ordinary experience of watching them. Some are predictable, others perhaps naïve. But they each played an important part in my own development as a film lover, a writer, and a person.
So while individual Top 10 lists represent an opportunity for all of us to showcase our film knowledge, I see them more as a reflection of who we are as people. They are all unique, interesting, and flawed, both in concept and execution, which also makes them less significant than their epic design would suggest. That’s why I have opted for simplicity in deciding on the films for my list. While a certain amount of self-reflection is essential, some things are better felt than pondered. The following list is no doubt an expression of my personal tastes and knowledge about film, and perhaps even a statement about how I approach life. Then again, it is also a fairly arbitrary ordering of 10 films that mean a great deal to me.
For many years, I maintained a Top 10 list. It was changing all the time, but by the mid-1980s, I had pretty well nailed it down. Only by then was it a Top 12, not a Top 10, and anyone who asked me my Top 10 films got an unexpected bonus. And that was how it was until a couple of years ago, when I allowed myself the latitude of increasing my all-time favorites to a list of 15. But as a devoted game player, I respect rules and try to play by them, so for this personal Top 10 list project, I’ve forced myself to pick just 10. These are not necessarily the same 10 I would pick if my criteria were cinematic greatness, beauty, and far-reaching influence—though they easily could be. No, these are favorite films, the films that mean the most to me, the ones that give me the most and best chills. There are lots more where these came from, but for now, these are the ones. I present them in chronological order to avoid any suggestion of preference.
If you read my “Understanding Screenwriting” column at The House, you may be aware that I generally do not do Top 10 lists (“Top 10 Scripts of the Year,” “Top 10 Scripts Most Likely to be Nominated,” “Top 10 Scripts That Should Have Been Nominated,” etc.), because I try to keep the column an Oscar-hype-free zone. But the idea of going up against the legendary Sight & Sound lists was just too delicious to pass up. Of course, there are more than 10 great films, and any list is bound to change, so this is my list on the days the I wrote this: June 19 and 20, 2012. If I made up a list a month or a year later, some, if not most, of the list would change. Since I have tried to pick films from a range of time periods, the films are listed in chronological order.
Preferential classification in the arts, based on arbitrary choice or empirical study, has a tendency to beget among the chattering classes some sort of mass hysteria. Cinephiles are no exception: Just look at the almost two-month-long back-and-forth fostered by year-end lists. But the pandemonium that starts every December doesn’t even compare with the brouhaha surrounding a “best films of all time” poll. Since the Sight & Sound list is the most venerable one of them all, I expect the conversation to be exceptionally bombastic.