Channel 4 (in the UK)'s 100 Greatest Films of All Time.
November 25, 2001 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Channel 4 (in the UK)'s 100 Greatest Films of All Time. Star Wars at Number 1 - it's a great film, but is it really *that* great? This is not the only recent poll to place it there. (Sorry - the link's a little flaky at the moment - I'm sure they'll sort it out.)
posted by jonpollard (38 comments total)
 
As the old cinephile I am I'm biting my nails waiting for next year's Sight and Sound poll. That really is reliable. Check out their lists so far. It's truly interesting to notice the shifts in critical taste, e.g. the downgrading of Italian Neo-Realism. Meanwhile, I still think the best film ever made is Coppola's One From the Heart. This list is, well, a very good reason to subscribe to Sight and Sound, or Film Comment. I'd read about it somewhere and furiously identified with jonpollard's attitude. Do these guys have any idea of film as art and fun at the same time? Don't think so. And believe me, Americans, Channel 4 is about as good as it gets, BBC2 excluded, where Cinema on TV is concerned.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:02 PM on November 25, 2001


I didn't see my favorite movie in there. The list must be wrong. Sorry.
posted by whatnotever at 6:03 PM on November 25, 2001


Star Wars really was a bad movie. Now please bare with me. It was a great product at it's time, technologically speaking. If it were released today would it be such a hit? I don't think so. Look at movies like Godfather, released today I still believe it would be quite popular. Same with Clockwork Orange or most of Kubrick. Really, if you had to say "this movie is the epitome of what our culture is capable of" would you really want to say Star Wars?
posted by geoff. at 6:14 PM on November 25, 2001


Usually the last movie I see is the greatest movie I've ever seen--something to do with the short term whatch-ma-callit loss...

So, I guess I'd vote for Ghost World, right now.

But then I stopped going to movies that much eons ago. They just, I don't know, turned into TV shows with sex and violence--who wants Cheeze Whiz when you've had Gouda or Jarlsberg?--and, speaking of that, isn't there a Frontline about how blockbuster movies destroyed films on this week?

Miguel, you surprise me, I like One From The Heart, too, although I see it as a noble failure. Certainly some of the best work by all the principals--Forrest, Garr, Julia and Kazan--and the greatest opening credits ever. Almost put a period between each word there, in fact.

And certainly all the usual bells ring for me: Dodes'kaden, Seventh Seal, The Searchers would all make top ten. I'd probably put The Searchers at #1. It's like the ur source for so many films, Star Wars included... At least that's what everyone says... Scorsese, for one. (My oldest friend's little sister was in King of Comedy, by the way.)

And I'll bet I watched it twice as many times as MrBaliHai has read Emphyrio. But nothing like my friend Karen who saw A Hard Day's Night 70 times before VCR's were even invented.

And Don't Look Back, anything by Russ McKee--Sherman's March, Time Indefinite, Six O'Clock News--I love documentaries. I know a guy with a tape of Eat The Document and am I ever being nice to him... I want to see that one so bad.

But what do I know? I loved My Dinner With Andre and Metropolitan enough to go twice.
posted by y2karl at 6:48 PM on November 25, 2001


I think comparing movies of different genres is just too difficult to do. I mean, the best dramas (Godfather II, Citizen Kane) can't really be compared properly to the best action movies (Die Hard, Star Wars) or best comedies (Dr. Strangelove, Singin' in the Rain). How I feel after a comedy is completely different than how I feel after a drama, and saying I enjoyed one feeling over another is just impossible.

Even doing comparisons in the same genre over time (1970's Chinatown vs 1990's The Usual Suspects) is just too difficult because of changing styles and tastes. What seems interesting and daring 20 years ago might be considered boring or even cliched today.

I love lists and making them, but it's usually best to list movies with the comment "In no particular order" than to say that The Sting is seven spots better than Toy Story 2.
posted by Grum at 7:12 PM on November 25, 2001


y2karl - I also loved Metropolitan. My favorite Whit Sillman film, however, is The Last Days of Disco, which seems to induce palpitations in other viewers.
posted by kittyloop at 7:19 PM on November 25, 2001


Citizen Kane is the best movie ever made. Prove me wrong.
posted by MAYORBOB at 7:21 PM on November 25, 2001


um, the matrix as the number 2 film? ever?
posted by panopticon at 7:21 PM on November 25, 2001


the list keeps fudging up for me, someone please tell me if the goonies made it to the top ten?
posted by mcsweetie at 7:47 PM on November 25, 2001


Citizen Kane is the easiest movie to stick at the top of any list because almost every film student and critic has been indoctrinated with "Orson Welles is a genius and Citizen Kane is the best movie ever!" It must be true because all the experts/teachers before us say it's true.

I love the movie too, but I think it's almost a reflex action to stick it at the top of lists and challenge anyone who disagrees.

Gone With The Wind and Casablanca are two other movies (while great) that get the same treatment.

The "It's a Classic!" label is really hard to argue against.
posted by Grum at 7:49 PM on November 25, 2001


Citizen Kane is the best movie ever made. Yup. And Jacobs Ladder. And Slingblade. And Papillion.
posted by Mack Twain at 7:51 PM on November 25, 2001


Direct link to the top ten for lazy types like me.
posted by Catch at 8:03 PM on November 25, 2001


I think that a much more interesting question is why the media loves to produce these types of lists so much. To me this seems like a meaningless exercise intended primarily to fill space on a webpage or column inches in a magazine.

Viewing a film is a very subjective experience. The only thing that matters to me are whether or not a particular film affected me in a distinct way. Using that criteria, I'd have to pick Plan 9 From Outer Space over Citizen Kane.
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:05 PM on November 25, 2001


I believe Citizen Kane's greatness had a lot to do with the revolutionary way it was done. The camera angles are great and really add to the mood, but just because it's revolutionary; does it make it the best?
posted by geoff. at 8:12 PM on November 25, 2001


I must have missed a memo, when did Channel 4 become the all knowing authority on movies?
posted by X-00 at 8:13 PM on November 25, 2001


The Searchers
posted by y2karl at 8:13 PM on November 25, 2001


citizen kane was a damn good movie... but that tiny toons episode damn near ruined it for me (i had seened the tiny toons catastrophe first.). i'm not a big "movie guy" though. in fact, i'm barely 5'6.. ::crickets chirp; silence:: eh, i got nothing.
as i was saying, i'm not too big on movies. it's rare when i can see a movie more than once in a short period of time. off the top of my head, the only ones i don't really mind watching over and over are bringin' up baby, sixteen candles, and a number of anime movies... then again, i thought godfather 2 was butt, and that the third one own3d that one.
posted by lotsofno at 8:44 PM on November 25, 2001


This movie list seemed to be extremely modern at the top of the list, and has it got closer to 100, the years got closer to 1900.

Lists about movies, books, and television shows are nothing more than interesting to see what other people conceive as great. Actually, lists about anything are really entertaining to me.

I base a movie simply on my urge to want to see it again. That being said, The Matrix would probably be number one for me. But, that's just me. I'm no Channel 4 from the UK.
posted by Mark at 10:20 PM on November 25, 2001


To each his own... really, you and I might hate a certain movie, but it'll be a source of inspiration for someone else.. And saying things like "If this were released today... would it hold up?" ... well duh... No,... that's called Progress and Technological advance, I never got in to Gone With The Wind but I'm only 30ish... my parents think it's one of the great movies of all time..., perhaps because Harry Potter is out now, there wrong?... NE way, I never did see my 2 favorite movies on the list On Golden Blonde and Saving Ryan's Privates!!!
posted by danger at 10:33 PM on November 25, 2001


I don't listen to audience polls on greatest. Because what happens is that Star Wars is considered the greatest movie of all time, and L. Ron Hubbard and Ayn Rand dominate the Top 10 of the Greatest Books of the 20th Century. The academy (and not the Oscar one) is there for a reason.
posted by solistrato at 10:47 PM on November 25, 2001


On the subject of Kane, it would be damned foolish, even if you dislike the movie, to deny its innovative structure and cinematography. The problem is that Gregg Toland's visual contributions (who also shot some great deep focus on The Best Years of Our Lives) are frequently left in the lurch when discussing the film and that the script did not come solely from Welles, but was co-written with Herman Mankiewicz. One of the problems with these sorts of laundry lists or the deification of any particular auteur is that it completely undermines both the import of a film and the many talented people who came together to make it happen.

My own position on the Welles front: As much as I love Kane, in my view, it can't possibly compare to the intricate tone and unique classical structure of Touch of Evil or the fascinating Shakespeare experiment of Chimes at Midnight, which concentrated solely on the Hal-Falstaff dialogue of the Henry IV plays. These two movies qualify Welles as an innovator as much as Kane does.
posted by ed at 11:51 PM on November 25, 2001


Of course, Welles was only 25 when he did "Citizen Kane" (what a depressing thought, eh?)

One of the difficulties in explaining the significance of Kane to a younger audience is that they don't grasp that many of the innovative ideas were so widely adopted that they became de rigueur in later films. No one had ever (for example) played with sound the way Welles, who cut his professional teeth in radio, had. No one since Eisenstein had really played with the visual elements (using film cuts to generate suspense, confusion, unify scene transitions, etc). No one had ever manipulated the narrative timeframe of a story in that manner; most movies had followed a simple A--->B timeline, some got daring and used flashbacks, but no one had ever went forward, backward, sideways, up and down the way Welles pulled it off.

In other words, the reason that Kane is a greater film than (say) "Gone With The Wind" is that it didn't merely tell a great story -- it told a great story while taking advantage of the film media. GWTW is a wonderful movie, but it is at heart a play done on film. Granted it had an enormous stage (big enough to accomodate the burning of Atlanta) but it really doesn't tap into the techniques and unique possibilities afforded by the medium itself.

This isn't to say that one is obligated to admire Kane more than GWTW. That is subjective. What isn't subjective is that Kane influenced virtually every significant movie after it.
posted by RavinDave at 2:42 AM on November 26, 2001


RavinDave: I hate to rain on your parade, but concerning your "No one since Eisenstein had really played with the visual elements" comment, have you ever heard of a little movie called Stagecoach? In fact, Welles watched the John Ford classic religiously (along with Grand Illusion) before making Kane.
posted by ed at 2:56 AM on November 26, 2001


Those who are knocking Channel 4 as an authority: the list is voted for by viewers with the intention of making a programme based on it (which I watched last night - v.good). It's not supposed to be the definitive list ever. I was surprised their weren't more films in the top twenty from the past couple of years. I know the Matrix and Gladiator got in there, but the public usually has much more difficulty remembering back too far.
posted by Summer at 3:08 AM on November 26, 2001


could i just mention a favourite of mine: Das Boot
posted by quarsan at 3:36 AM on November 26, 2001


If the criteria of the list is regarding historical significance to the direction of cinema, both Citizen Kane and Star Wars belong on that list of best movies ever. If it's on worldwide audience satisfaction over the decades, both films still make it in the list.

In fact, I generally dismiss any list that I see which doesn't have both films in the top ten, and preferably the top three.

Personally I put them in first and second place but I'm often torn as to which is actually first. Star Wars used to be first without question when I was younger, but as I get older, Kane wins, but just barely. They are two movies that 1) tell what is inherently a simple story in a plush, lavish, audience rewarding, entertaining way, and 2) stretched the limits of the technology of its time in order to accomplish the first goal. Both of these films accomplish the purpose of filmmaking - to entertain the audience with a story.

If the criteria is timelessness, Kane beats Star Wars, but it's older so it's got more evidence of timelessness on its side. Star Wars is comparatively a young pipsqueak, but I loved it when I was a pipsqueak and I still love watching it today. I'm watching Star Wars right now in fact. The lush music. The varied but fluid pace of the plot. The rich variety of characters and settings. The humor and wit. The attention to realism and detail. I think time will prove that whether or not you love these films, they will both be remembered fondly a century from now, and there will be a new audience.

Am I not being impartial? You be the judge.

Personally I can't stand The Godfather because I hate the subject matter. I didn't personally enjoy the film at all, because I don't believe we should raise organized crime to a level of hero or god status in any storytelling. Criminals should be the bad guys. I don't enjoy a movie that does otherwise. However, I grudgingly have to admit that it too fits the above criteria. It's going to have longevity. It's lush. Vibrant. Tells a story in a magnanimous way. It significantly affected filmmaking, and its touch can still be felt in other movies since. It has inspired others. I can't stand the damn thing, but it too belongs in the top three.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:48 AM on November 26, 2001


Since I started this whole thing off: a couple of points:

1) For my money, Casablanca gets it - the guy they had on the programme defined 'classic' as (and I paraphrase) "a piece of art which has the capacity endlessly to entertain and interest, time and time again'". It's not a bad definition, and one that for me puts Casablanca ahead of the pack.

2) There's always some film that someone else thinks is the best ever made that you'll never even have heard of. I used to be a professional film reviewer, and there were certainly a few in the list that I haven't seen, so I'm sure the same is true of everyone else. Any list like this is therefore going to be dependent on which of the short-listed items the voting public have seen.

3) The ongoing media need to create lists of this kind seems to have found its ultimate expression at Channel 4, who run a different Top Ten almost every Saturday. The seven related sites listed in their A-Z on channel4.com are only the tip of their iceberg.
posted by jonpollard at 3:57 AM on November 26, 2001


Caddyshack
posted by Frasermoo at 6:03 AM on November 26, 2001


The lame thing about this Channel 4 poll was that they pre-selected 100 films and then you had to choose the ten you liked best, so you couldn't vote for a film if it wasn't already on the list... would have been better if you could have written in your choices!!!
posted by mokey at 6:31 AM on November 26, 2001


The academy (and not the Oscar one) is there for a reason.

The only reason I can figure out is to annoy me. There is a cult of the academy as much as there is the cult of Ayn or Elron. Certain types of movies are practically shoo-ins for an AA. Hell, people predict the results with uncanny accuracy all the time, because they know how the academy votes. Its as much popularity based as a more democractic list. You may personally find them to be more toward your liking, which is super, but art is still very subjective. What the Cable Guy does for me as a comedy is my business and I don't need an authority or popularity list to change or validate that.

Come on people, its just a vote. Is anyone surprised that Star Wars is number one? I'd be surprised if it wasn't. There's no excuse for film buffs to criticize these lists, if you can't figure out what drives average people to films in droves and makes them love it you probably aren't as smart as you think you are.
posted by skallas at 7:16 AM on November 26, 2001


Here is an alternative link to the same list.

What is it that drives average people to films in droves and makes them love them skallas? You sound so sure I think Hollywood could use your services -- they could eliminate the hundreds of bombs they make every year.

As for Star Wars, Lucas himself wasn't sure about its potential to make money. From Easy Rider, Raging Bulls, after a test screening:

Marcia (Lucas' wife) was upset and started to cry. "It's awful!"... Lucas felt like he'd failed, that it wouldn't cross over to adults. He kept repeating, "Only kids -- I've made a Walt Disney movie, a cross between Willy Wonka and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. It's going to do maybe eight or ten million.

George asked, "All right. What do you guys really think?" Brian De Palma started in on him, he was merciless, as George took notes. Brian said, "What's this Farts of Others? And the crawl at the beginning looks like it was written on a driveway. It goes on forever. It's gibberish." "Who are these fuzzy guys? Who are these guys dressed up like the Tin Man of Oz" ... George was ashen, but he was taking it all in, writing it down.


So what is it that makes a movie popular? In Star Wars wake, the problem has been that Hollywood has concluded , well, something like Star Wars, with predictably bloated, childish, merchandised, marketed results.
posted by dydecker at 8:22 AM on November 26, 2001


Sorry. That link again.

http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Guardian/0,4929,606035,00.html
posted by dydecker at 8:25 AM on November 26, 2001


You sound so sure I think Hollywood could use your services -- they could eliminate the hundreds of bombs they make every year.


I think you're taking that out of context, the film experts should at least acknowledge that a popular vote will bring up movies like Star Wars and not act surprise or uppity because it tops the chart again. This is a list of old movies, so hindsight is 20/20. If the film buffs can't accept that hype, marketing, and celebrities are just as important to the average moviegoer than plot, direction and acting then they are in their own special state of denial.
posted by skallas at 8:59 AM on November 26, 2001


Movie lists, book lists, lists of lists, whatever. I think they are valuble because they give people like me (who did not major in english or film or theatre) the opportunity to look at the list, say "hey, other people really like this or that, i have never experienced this or that before," and go out and rent it / check it out from the library / buy it. kind of off the topic, i realize, but talking about what you feel about movies (i.e. which one is better) seemed to be getting no where. . .

btw, i still can't believe gladiator was on any list, oscar winning or top ten. . .
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 9:29 AM on November 26, 2001


I think the only benefit of lists like this is as a recommendation tool; people who don't watch a lot of movies can check out some of these movies and maybe enjoy them. If film experts sniff at the list it is because there are no gems in there for them to discover.

As for the bitching and moaning critics, I think you are right; if the list upsets them they are taking things way too seriously. It is a list of movies that people enjoyed and says much about marketing and hype as well as quality. Obviously there is a certain percentage of people who are young or don't really see many films and so have no basis for comparison, and they vote too.

Actually, if you compare the critics top 100 with this audience list it is surprising how similar they really are. The American AFI released a list last year perhaps fifty percent similar to this. So I don't think reviewers, critics and audiences are too out of whack.
posted by dydecker at 9:48 AM on November 26, 2001


Shouldn't that be 'best 100 english language films' (apart from crouching gerbil hidden donkey)?
posted by asok at 10:47 AM on November 26, 2001


no, no

'Crouching Homo Hidden Sausage'
posted by Frasermoo at 12:30 AM on November 28, 2001


A link to the BBC mirror of the list.
posted by feelinglistless at 12:58 PM on December 4, 2001


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