Yesterday I looked at a list of Time's assessment of the 100 best films of all time. Most I had never heard of, most of the rest I had never seen, and most of what I thought should be there was nowhere on the list. But there were a few movies I had seen and that I know should not have made it onto such a list.
So I scanned the web for other such lists, but they were much the same. Some films I think got on their lists because of their historic significance; they are milestones to look at when considering the development of the art of moviemaking. But is that a reason to put them on a best-of list? Intolerance? Birth of a Nation? Star Wars? Metropolis? Worth seeing if you are studying the history of film, but would one watch them over and over, getting more from them each time? Well, maybe you would, maybe they would be the first four on your list. But not on mine.
So, here is my. . .
Tentative* Top Ten Films of All Time
according to Doug who is no connoisseur
1 A Fiddler on the Roof: I’ve probably watched this more than twenty times over the years, but it grows with me and is at least as moving now as the first time I saw it.
2 Babbette’s Feast: The clearest portrayal of the gap between the grace we are given and the grace we perceive that I can think of.
3 Dekalog: Ten hour-long films, one based on each of the ten commandments. But the relation to the commandment is not always clear and one has to ponder the connection. I come away from some of them with the uneasy question, “Do I really, REALLY, agree with that commandment?”
4 Hamlet (the one with Mel Gibson): This is the least changed from Shakespeare’s language of the versions of Hamlet that I have seen, and by far the best. Through superb acting and intonation, and even through his eyes, the language is rendered so clear that one hardly notices we haven’t spoken like that in five hundred years. In fact, we never did.
5 The General: The funniest physical comedy around. And amazing when one considers that Buster Keaton actually performed those daredevil stunts on a moving train, without the aid of modern special effects. Also great are Keaton’s “Scarecrow” and “The Paleface.”
6 The Rabbit Proof Fence: True story of three Aborigine girls who were “relocated” by the Aussie govt, but decided to relocate themselves hundreds of miles back home. Their simple commitment to each other and to their family is beautiful.
7 The Trouble With Harry: Alfred Hitchcock’s hilarious murder mystery in which too many people are sure that they killed Harry.
8 Amadeus: The comic character of Mozart, mixed with his tragic relationship with his father, with Salieri, and with his wife, plus almost superhumanly beautiful music make one not even care if the history is accurate; it’s a great story. BTW, I don’t know if the history is accurate, it may be, but I expect they took some liberties.
9 Remains of the Day: A servant in the house of a British Nazi sympathizer. . . I can’t explain this one. Delicately woven story, such subtly portrayed characters, like no other film I know.
10 An Affair to Remember: They fall in love and agree to meet, but an accident postpones that meeting for many years. It’s a story of pride and self-sacrifice, full of Cary Grant humor.
Ten is too few, so here are some nearly-made-its.
Children of Heaven, Cry the Beloved Country, To Kill a Mockingbird, Moby Dick (the old one), Rear Window, Arsenic and Old Lace, Spirited Away
*I reserve the right to revise this list after further reflection.
Anyone else want to log in with their favorites? Perhaps you'll remind me of one I should have put on my list.