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Many (Four Horsemen, Requiem for the American Dream, and Donald Trump: A True, Narcissistic Sociopath, all available on YouTube now) pre-dated the election, and acted as retroactive traffic cones to help guide our communal perception of how things got this way.
I thought it might be helpful to provide a space to grow a list of the fine films that might be equally interesting, given the ways they, more tangentially, relate to everything going on. For perhaps the first time here on IMDb, I wouldn't mind adding your suggestions, as I think this could be a good resource for us all. Though I might edit in favour of films that are, themselves, exceptional.
SPOILERS! I also decided to leave out pictures where a main character dies in a way that would make a sequel too revisionary in nature (Citizen Kane, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, American History X), films with such dominant structural styling as to negate the purpose of serialization (Nolan, Villeneuve films), and films where the thematic/character elements were so solved by the roundness of the plot as to negate the point of serialization (Hitchcock, Spielberg films).
SPOILERS! That last point is definitely applied the loosest. Yet, it should be noted that several of these have had the idea of a sequel bounced around (Forrest Gump, Casablanca, The Princess Bride).
There's also 30 films from the top 250 I haven't seen, largely world pictures, in case there's some seemingly obvious omissions here.
Now, some context: I haven't seen everything, of course (only about 4500 films and 400 TV shows in my 32 years). This is a living list; I update it regularly.
I used the following classifications, in descending order of favour, to help keep the influence of Straight White American Religious Men artists to a minimum: Black cinema, Animation, LGBTQ+ (sparing no obscurity), Canadian (my home turf), World/European. Genres were considered (within the film itself and within the overall list) like this: Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller/Crime, Action/Western/Adventure/War, Music/Musical, Comedy, Drama/Romance. I neglected to strongly consider indie (relatively meaningless and invisible to the average moviegoer), and what’s increasingly called the female gaze (worthy of its own list).
Films in a continuous or spiritual series, like Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, are judged as one film (my fav face first), unless otherwise stated (some don’t deserve the shame of their descendants). Series with greater OG involvement (Star Wars, Godfather) I’ll judge more harshly than films with dubious aspirations (Alien3, Jurassic World), some of which have earned their fiefdoms on my worst films of all-time list.
The Princess Bride, The Big Lebowski, Spirited Away, The Lord of the Rings, and Kill Bill are what I consider the only perfect films I’ve ever seen. Not that I’ve never quibbled, as one does, but there’s a room in my mind for each one, where they play endlessly.
The next 300 are Mostly Perfect films I would unreservedly recommend to anyone in any circumstance, basically. The 300 after that are Sorta Perfect, and I would tailor my opinion to the listener. The rest are strong sevens, worthy of mention, but maybe a bit too abstruse, ordinary, or to-taste. They'll never all be perfect, but I'd love to see a top 1000 of Mostly Perfects. That'd be real Nirvana.
Originally, I had women from my top 1000 movie list and my top 250 doc list, but none from my top TV list, nor any who fell short of any list but who showed promise.
I cited the "brain-busting" and "disingenuous" nature of trying to rank them other than by the order their best works appeared on those lists, yet I had extended such effort to male directors. There's a few reasons for this.
Great, ambitious male directors have been allowed to work almost without restraint (comparatively speaking), so we have a broad spectrum of prolific (Woody Allen) to selective (Spike Jonze) directors to choose from, making ranking somewhat easier, or perhaps more interesting. There's also a sense with great male directors that they're getting to make what they want to make (think Frank Darabont), and therefore we know something about them by taking in their entire body of work. Their good and bad, on and off years, the talents (DPs, actors, composers, etc.) they work better with than others, their passion vs. commercial projects, and so on. Any spectrum you can think of is a spectrum a male director can be judged by.
With great female directors, few are able, it seems, to be both prolific and ambitious (Sofia Coppola, The Wachowski Sisters), and I wonder how easy it would be to be selective (*is* Valerie Faris--or any woman with under five features--really going for selectivity?). Also, with only one or two great films to go by, how can one compare the effect of any given director on their project? For instance, I think Tanya Wexler's 'Hysteria' is a perfect movie, but Sean Bobbitt (The Place Beyond the Pines, 12 Years a Slave) was the DP, Charlotte Watts (Mr. Holmes, Mr. Turner, Bright Star) was the set decorator, and Maggie Gyllenhaal can do no wrong. It's a tremendous work, but it's so hard to work out a functioning comparison between this one movie and someone else's twenty five. Imagine if M. Night had only ever made Sixth Sense. You know? (I know Wexler has other projects, but the budget's obviously not there for those, and that's more what I'm talking about: substantial budget features)
I may have made too strong a case there. The point is, I can't say if things will improve over time (it certainly won't if all we do is throw women "image" jobs like Wonder Woman and Twilight and 50 Shades--and yes, I do know the stories behind how all those came to be), but I want for my part to give these ladies of the lens, who I admire so much, the chance to be treated the same as the guys.
A few guidelines I used:
Near the top I allowed bulk of work to matter. Christine Cynn (#14 for co-directing The Act of Killing) is the highest director with only one credit.
I also gave much more credence than before to any director's other types of work. Brenda Chapman, for instance, has a tonne of animation department and story work to her name. This is distinguished from the directorial work by a long hyphen. In the same vein, I considered any director's work that fell short of my top lists. These are also found after hyphens.
Works that I simply do not like I simply do not mention. But works I haven't seen and am looking forward to appear after the parentheses. These lists are not necessarily complete; I may not realize why I should be excited for this project or that. I try to know everything, but I don't know everything. Like Jon Snow, I may even know nothing.
I've also decided to dispense with discussing my least favourite works of these directors, since my exposure is so limited, and half the time I'd be talking about something I actually really like. What's the point of that?
I'm going to let the list grow to whatever length, because I'd like to keep that record. But just so you know, Floria Sigismondi (who I share a hometown with), currently at #115, marks the top of women whose top work fell somewhere off my top lists.
Lastly, here's what I call my seven scales of the screen, spectrums that I'll refer to when evaluating the following works/artists:
Dullness to Watchability Offensiveness to Humanity Nonsensicality to Authenticity Trainwreck to Triumph Sequel/Adaptation/Remake to Creativeness Embarrassment to Inspiration Excessiveness to Tightness
I have not had the honour of seeing anything directed by Jill Soloway, Angelina Jolie, Claire Denis, Lexi Alexander, Nancy Meyers, Lina Wertmuller, Agnes Varda, Amma Asante, Dee Rees, Miranda July, Kasi Lemmons, Mia Hansen-Love, Gillian Armstrong, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Ida Lupino, Barbra Streisand, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Agnes Jaoui, Anne Fontaine, Deepa Mehta, Katherine Dieckmann, Clare Kilner, Julie Davis, Chantal Akerman, Vera Chytilova, Leni Riefenstahl, Larisa Shepitko, Samira Makhmalbaf, Sian Heder, Meera Menon, Niki Caro, Dawn Porter, So Yong Kim, Sarah Gavron, Sophie Hyde, Deniz Gamze Erguven, Marielle Heller, Melanie Laurant, Patricia Riggen, Desiree Akhavan, Anna Muylaert, Maya Forbes, Debbie Allen, Ana Lily Amirpour, Jamie Babbit, Anna Boden, Isabel Coixet, Gia Coppola, Donna Deitch, Julie Delpy, Shana Feste, Hannah Fidell, Tanya Hamilton, Sanaa Hamri, Leslye Headland, Beeban Kidron, Julia Leigh, Phyllida Lloyd, Jocelyn Moorhouse, Stacie Passon, Gillian Robespierre, Patricia Rozema, Jill Sprecher, Alice Winocour
Scroll to the bottom of this page for a list of near-misses, and directors with only two titles.
This list tabulates the best films made since the year 2000, from top ten lists submitted by 177 of the world's top film critics. The range of voices is roundly impressive. You can see here how everyone voted:
As delighted as I was to have a list like this, I was a bit disappointed not to have a ranked list of the female critics' opinions. No title on the standing top 100 didn't have the male vote, as you can see here...
...and it's a lot easier to eyeball the male ranking for its order as a result. 8 films on the top 100 had no female vote, and a good few had little enough to figure they'd be gone from a top hundred, and as you'll see, they are.
As usual, watchability creates the most prominent demarcation points in this list, but I have to observe at least one major difference between films and docs and that is the issue of fantasy vs. information. In the fantasy of film, we like to imagine that the heightened reality speaks to or reflects truths that other art forms cannot express. But how many times in just this millennium have you heard a director say "We're not making a documentary here"? Spielberg used that line on Munich. Sorkin on The Social Network. Eastwood probably should have used it on American Sniper if he did not.
Documentaries can have any number of goals as an object of entertainment, but the height of its aspiration is as a vessel for conveying an unmolested truth about life into our future. Unlike with films, which allow you to suspend disbelief, docs ask you to wrestle with a very necessary, constant, and valuable tide of disbelief. Reversing climate change and man-made extinctions, discovering a cure for cancer or aids, exposing the connections of suffering and politics: the onus on these educators couldn't be more severe. For they help to show us where "teaching the controversy" ends.
There Will Be Brawl (2009)
The Epitome of the Concept
What's amazing about this labour of love is that once one has witnessed the epic scope of its production and its running time one cannot imagine the concept executed any other way. Sure, it tantalizes to dream of a silver screen adaptation, but it would be like trying to film The Divine Comedy. In other words, the ratio of insiders to outsiders, people who would get the references to people that would be left cold, is too crazily imbalanced for international acceptance or appeal.
That said, every level of this production is in a groove all its own.
The performances, ranging from the shiver-inducingly awesome to the knee-slappingly horrendous, are all exactly where they need to be. One even wonders if some of the stinker performances aren't on purpose, a tongue-in-cheek send-up of the gritty reboot genre.
The technical aspects often far exceed expectations, even if they are somewhat lacking to the modern movie-going eye. But remember: all gamers have dreamed of the day that a halfway decent, dramatic, heart-wrenching Mario story would be told. So it's fitting that such a feat was pulled off by fans of the source material, depending on what scant resources are available to such a project. In this era of CGI and throw-away eye-poppery, every second of the way you'll be asking, "How did they do that?" A rare sensation indeed.
As I said before, the story is a parody of the gritty reboot, with Luigi (fittingly, the star of the show) stumbling through the dark intrigue that cloaks the film, and its Super Smash Bros. cast, playing the wasted gumshoe clawing back against the shadowy tide that has allowed the once great kingdom to fall into the grip of the four dons (Dedede, Ganondorf, Mewtwo, and Bowser).
If you're a fan of the Nintendo-verse, or a Smash Bros. gamer, you really owe it to yourself to immerse in Zach Grafton's triumphant, totemic accomplishment. At three hours, you'll find yourself not drawn to your console of choice, but to the next episode, as one brilliant cliff-hanger after another entices you inexorably on.