My Top 101 Films

The hardest task for any film fan is to enumerate their film preferences. Concurrently, it can also be the most fun/most excruciating experience one could possibly waste time doing.  I tried to make a list of my top 10 favorite films on my other blog, then somehow wound up with 30. Because, really, you don’t want to leave out one single film you feel deserves some kind of mention.  I love the idea of a top 100 films list.  It’s a big number. It encapsulates a huge range of films and tastes, and can include both films you truly enjoy for entertainment purposes and films that blow your mind and tickle your cerebellum. I wound up with 101 films after an incredible amount of consideration. It’s safe to say this list will evolve greatly over time. Feel free to comment, positively or negatively, at the end.

Here’s the list!

101.  La Ronde

Max Ophuls – 1950

100.  Red Beard

Akira Kurosawa – 1965

99.  River’s Edge

Tim Hunter – 1986

98.  Natural Born Killers

Oliver Stone – 1994

97.  Ichi The Killer

Takashi Miike – 2001

96.  Winter Light

Ingmar Bergman – 1963

95.  A Woman Under the Influence

John Cassavetes – 1974

94.  The Twilight Samurai

Yoji Yamada – 2002

93.  The Hurt Locker

Kathryn Bigelow – 2008

92.  Blood Simple.

The Coen Bros – 1984

91.  High Noon

Fred Zinnemann – 1952

90.  Le Corbeau

Henri-Goerges Clouzot – 1943

89.  The Trial

Orson Welles – 1962

88.  Ballad of a Soldier

Grigoriy Chuckray – 1959

87.  Tokyo Drifter

Seijun Suzuki – 1966

86.  Unfaithfully Yours

Preston Sturges – 1948

85.  F For Fake

Orson Welles – 1973

84.  Star Wars: Episode IV-VI

George Lucas – 1977,1980,1983

83.  Peeping Tom

Michael Powell – 1960

82.  Eyes Wide Shut

Stanley Kubrick – 1999

81.  La Dolce Vita

Federico Fellini – 1960

80.  Umberto D.

Vittorio De Sica – 1952

79.  The Philadelphia Story

George Cukor – 1940

78.  Blow-Up

Michelangelo Antonioni – 1966

77.  Charade

Stanley Donen – 1963

76.  Late Spring

Yasujiro Ozu – 1949

75. The Sword of Doom

Kihachi Okamoto – 1966

74.  Strangers on a Train

Alfred Hitchcock – 1951

73.  The Red Shoes

Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger – 1948

72.  A Hard Day’s Night

Richard Lester – 1964

71.  Closely Watched Trains

Jiri Menzel – 1966

70.  That Obscure Object of Desire

Luis Bunuel – 1977

69.  Oldboy

Chan-wook Park – 2003

68.  Jules et Jim

Francois Truffaut – 1962

67.  The Thing

John Carpenter – 1982

66.  Rashomon

Akira Kurosawa – 1950

65.  Fight Club

David Fincher – 1999

64.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Michel Gondry – 2004

63.  The Gold Rush

Charles Chaplin – 1925

62.  The Big Lebowski

The Coen Bros – 1998

61.  Manhatten

Woody Allen – 1979

60.  Some Like it Hot

Billy Wilder – 1959

59.  Halloween

John Carpenter – 1978

58.  Miller’s Crossing

The Coen Bros – 1990

57.  Casablanca

Michael Curtiz – 1942

56.  Metropolis

Fritz Lang – 1927

55.  Tokyo Story

Yasujiro Ozu – 1953

54.  M

Fritz Lang – 1931

53.  The Seventh Seal

Ingmar Bergman – 1957

52.  The Hustler

Robert Rossen – 1961

51. 

Federico Fellini – 1963

50.  Leon: The Professional

Luc Besson – 1994

49.  The Apartment

Billy Wilder – 1960

48.  Heaven Can Wait

Ernst Lubitsch – 1943

47.  In The Mood For Love

Kar Wai Wong – 2000

46.  North By Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock – 1959

45.  The Double Life of Veronique

Krzysztof Kieslowski – 1991

44.  Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola – 1979

43.  All the President’s Men

Alan J. Pakula – 1976

42.  Rio Bravo

Howard Hawks – 1959

41.  The Shawshank Redemption

Frank Darabont – 1994

40.  Rebecca

Alfred Hitchcock – 1940

39.  For a Few Dollars More

Sergio Leone – 1965

38.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Milos Forman – 1975

37.  The Samurai Trilogy

Hiroshi Inagaki – 1954-56

36.  The Shining

Stanley Kubrick – 1980

35.  Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock – 1960

34.  Chinatown

Roman Polanski – 1974

33.  Se7en

David Fincher – 1995

32.  Stalker

Andrey Tarkovskiy – 1979

31.  Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo Del Toro – 2006

30.  The Decalogue

Krzysztof Kieslowski – 1989

29.  The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Luis Bunuel – 1972

28.  Taxi Driver

Martin Scorsese – 1976

27.  Throne of Blood

Akira Kurosawa – 1957

26.  The Three Colors Trilogy

Krzysztof Kieslowski – 1993-94

25.  Sansho the Bailiff

Kenji Mizoguchi – 1954

24.  Samurai Rebellion

Masaki Kobayashi – 1967

23.  The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Sergio Leone – 1966

22.  No Country For Old Men

The Coen Bros – 2007

21.  The General

Buster Keaton – 1926

20.  The Exorcist

William Friedkin – 1973

19.  Raging Bull

Martin Scorsese – 1980

18.  Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Peter Jackson – 2001-03

17.  Smiles of a Summer Night

Ingmar Bergman – 1955

16.  High and Low

Akira Kurosawa – 1963

15.  City of God

Fernando Meirelles – 2002

14.  The Third Man

Carol Reed – 1949

13.  Fanny and Alexander

Ingmar Bergman – 1982

12.  Yojimbo

Akira Kurosawa – 1961

11.  Brick

Rian Johnson – 2005

10. The  Night of The Hunter

Charles Laughton – 1955

9.  Paths of Glory

Stanley Kubrick – 1957

8.  L.A. Confidential

Curtis Hanson – 1997

7.  The Rules of the Game

Jean Renoir – 1939

6.  Seven Samurai

Akira Kurosawa – 1954

5.  Once Upon a Time in the West

Sergio Leone – 1968

4.  The Battle of Algiers

Gillo Pontecorvo – 1966

3.  The Godfather I & II

Francis Ford Coppola – 1972, 1974

2.  Ugetsu

Kenji Mizoguchi – 1953

1.  The Human Condition

Masaki Kobayashi – 1959-61

  1. October 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Hi Akira,

    I came about your blog yesterday and read your 101 list. Always interesting to see the variety. Good work and thanks for the nice stills!
    Right now I am trying to analyse myself what I liked in Japanese films of the past, which ones have stood the time and why. I should try to get hold of copies of as many as possible to view and compare.

    Meanwhile, what struck me in your list was the following:
    1. No Naruse, Imamura, Ichikawa, Shinoda, Kinoshita, Shindo, Yoshida. Those were once rather well-known in the West, certainly the first 5 who made it into that book by Audie Bock. I notice that the Kinema Junpo list of 200 films has them, again except Yoshida. Do you have an explanation why a “normal” film buff is not so impressed by their work?

    2. On the contrary you do have a number of names that never became known in the West: distributors only went for the bigger names and festival organisers seemed to stuck to the receved wisdom. Or is it that these names are “typically Japanese” , that is that the quality of their work can only be appreciated by Japanese? I mean directors like Inagaki, Okamoto, Suzuki, Miike and Yamada.

    3. I see you included Sansho the Bailiff by Mizoguchi. It was most remarkable that this film was not in the KJ list of 200.In the West it is a classic and always included. My own theory is that it was considered too negative about Japan’s past (cruelty, injustice etc. at will). Or do you think that there is another explanation?

    4. You do have Kobayashi’s greatest opus, but not Seppuku and Samurai Rebellion, for which he is most known in the West (and for Kwaidan, which was a flop in Japan, I know). What is your reason for that, I wonder? Also KJ does not rate them highly – too negative again?

    5. Good you included High and Low, better than many of his later samurai epics. But why did you leave out Ikiru? Once again, that is one of the films that made Kurosawa a hero of humanism in the West, at least for a while.

    Well, this is enough for now. I guess you have a job so you have other things to do than ponder my questions. I am retired so I can give these things more time than before. I am from Holland, by the way.

    All the best, and grateful in advance if you have a chance to provide some answers to these “burning” questions!

    Cheerio,

    Bert Bruinsma
    Apeldoorn
    Netherlands

  2. November 4, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Hello Bert,

    First things first, thanks for checking out my site and films list! Your response is top notch and you appear to have a great knowledge of Japanese cinema. Here’s some answers to your inquiries:

    1. I haven’t seen any Naruse or Kinoshita films yet, which will be rectified soon enough. I’ve only seen two Imamura films and one of them “Vengeance is Mine” would make this list if I updated it. Same goes for Ichikawa’s “The Burmese Harp” and Shinoda’s “Pale Flower”, both of which I saw after I did this list. Shindo’s “Onibaba” exclusion fro the list is an oversight, that should be on there. I think the lack of initial exposure is the reason for the lack of respect by normal film buffs. If Donald Ritchie hasn’t written a book about it, then the West doesn’t show it proper respect.

    2. I think anything “typically Japanese” will always have a stigma and be less appealing to Western film viewers. You have to understand their mode of filmmaking and narrative structure, which is based on the culture and placement of value in their society. Plus their earliest films were separated by how “Japanese” they were: anything too Japanese was not exported, only films that were deemed more Western were shipped to foreign markets. Hence the reason we’re just now getting ahold of some great Japanese films that were never screened for foreign audiences.

    3. I’m a little shocked by “Sansho the Bailiff”s exclusion. Your negative theory could be a possibility. I would also wonder if Japanese critics hold any films produced during the Occupation to a lower grade as their content was controlled, to some degree, by foreigners. Or was that film made post-Occupation? Seems like the theme would play more to Westerners, again. The notion of challenging tradition with human rights would have been a new ideology for Japan, which is, as you know, a country steeped in tradition and respect.

    4. Perhaps “Harakiri” is too negative also. It’s interesting that it would be excluded, I would love to know the reason. It could wind up on my list next time, I have the dvd at home and need to give it another watch. “Samurai Rebellion” is one of my favorites and it probably isn’t high enough on the list, though Kobayashi does occupy the top spot.

    5. As for “Ikiru”, I’ve only watched it once and, while I did like it very much, it didn’t strike me as much as many other Kurosawa films. It’s another one that deserves another viewing and could wind up on my list next time. It’s hard to juggle all the Kurosawa films for me, really. I love all of them. If I didn’t restrain myself I’d have a dozen Kurosawa flicks and some other flick would get left out.

    Again, thank you for reading and for the fantastic comments and questions! I hope I answered some of them adequately.

  3. December 19, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Hi Akira,

    Thanks for your very complete answer to my comments! I am really grateful for that. It took me some time to acknowledge it, am great at postponing, somehow. I do agree with almost all of what you say, e.g. glad that you will mention Onibaba, a broodingly sensual film with great scenery, and also a predecessor of later horror movies. And also what you say about Western critics following what Donald Ritchie and Audie Bock and a few more said first. It is the same for a lot of other art: this or that authority says it’s good, and the lesser gods agree with that. In Holland you had critics who just used the TImes Literary Supplement and the New York Review of Books for knowing what they had to think of certain foreign books. Few of their readers read these publications. With online reviews this practice has become untenable – good for them!

    You also say that “typically Japanese” films will always be less appealing to Western audiences. I think that is true for the majority. But the way I remember my early experiences with Japanese films, it was just because they were so different that I liked them, at least it was one of the reasons. The same with Japanese novels of the time, which a lot of readers here found rather slow-moving and plot-less, vague about emotional development, and what have you. But I was intrigued by the way people’s behavior could be different from the directness which you are accustomed to here, or at least how it could be described very differently. And they had an enigmatic quality – you never quite knew what the proponents were thinking, and so you could fantasize. Of course I was not the only one to like Oriental art; you read often the comment that Westerners just yearn for the exotic flavor and so since the 19th century they are interested in Orientalism. Perhaps that is no longer so true as it was in the 60s when we did not yet have that much access to foreign cultures and long-distance mass tourism had not yet been invented. I am now trying to analyse in how far this element of exotic thrill-seeking determined my preferences.

    Well, I will also start searching the web for the old films which you mentioned and re-watch them after all these years. Since you seem to be able to acquire all of them, this should be no problem. Maybe when I find some gem I will take the liberty to suggest to you that it might be a candidate for your list. But in view of the differences between those of the West and of Japan, there is no absolute truth here. Everyone sees something different in a work of art, and you like best what touches your emotional core. Sansho the Bailiff just appealed a lot to viewers here because of its archaic cruelty but ultimately, the redemption of the main characters, and because of their moral valor. They were individuals standing up against the injustices of the time (they had to, but all the same). Still, films that are just very well written, made and acted can be appreciated as gems, even if they did not make you cry. “Ikiru” seems to be in that position for you. I think it was rather a hit here because a lot of people had the impression in those days of still limited possibilities for most, that their lives were not going to be a success, and they were so moved when Mr. Watanabe in the film was able to just avoid dying with that knowledge. By the way, a minute ago when I checked his name, I learned on Wikipedia that it was inspired by a story by Tolstoy. Kurosawa was quite open to Western influences, that must be part of his enduring appeal here. But his films are just great, I agree with you that it is difficult to say which ones are better than the others, At least that holds true until Dersu Uzala when the descent in quality began, caused by the lack of financing and interest at home.

    Well, all the best and I will keep reading your blog!.

    Bert Bruinsma
    Holland.

  4. November 26, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Very good information. Lucky me I discovered your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

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