Lists by des-47
The result is I believe the most diverse and balanced list I’ve yet compiled. Though the English language and western European cinema are still, as often, overrepresented, I’ve done more justice than other canon-formers to, for example, early cinema, the avant garde and animation. You might not wholeheartedly enjoy everything on the list, but if you have at least a passing interest in the cinema beyond its ability merely to entertain, you should at least find each has something to offer in any combination of quality, technical innovation, thoughtfulness or originality.
Short subjects, one-off TV productions, mini-series, documentaries and other non-narrative and non-theatrical forms all find their place, though ongoing TV series are avoided as they’re difficult to judge against standalone productions. I’ve cheated a little to create more room by representing multi-part films, trilogies and so on with the first part to be released, and a note about the others.
I was first inspired to create this list while working my way through the films I hadn’t seen in the best-selling 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and starting to question some of the choices. I’ve long since watched every film in every edition of that book, and in the current Sight and Sound Critics Top 250, and well over 80% of the titles in the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1,000 ‘list of lists’, so I can claim to be much more familiar with the ‘canon’ than I once was – and more confident about departing from it. Happy viewing!
Though I’ve included a wide range of genres, the list is restricted to films I’ve actually seen rather than just read about, so inevitably reflects my own preferences and tastes as well as the availability of material. And while the English language and western European cinema are, as often, overrepresented, I believe I’ve done reasonable justice to genres often neglected in lists of this kind, including early cinema, the avant garde and animation.
One-off TV productions and mini-series are also included as a consistent distinction between these and film is increasingly difficult to maintain, though single episodes of ongoing TV series are avoided. I’ve cheated a little to create more room by representing multi-part films, trilogies and so on with the first part to be released, and a note about the others.
A fair scattering of the ‘usual suspects’ that regularly appear in lists of this kind are present and correct, with good reason, though I’ve also tried on occasion to avoid the obvious in favour of neglected films or unexpected surprises. This is the first iteration of the list to be prepared since I finished watching every film listed in the 2003 edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and the Sight and Sound 2012 Top 250 Critics’ Poll, so pre-2000 canonical classics conspicuous by their absence have most likely been considered then omitted in favour of something fresher and more interesting.
A PDF version of the list, in the correct order (I've given up wrestling with the quirks of IMDb ordering) and with additional background information, can be found at https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/884833/films/1001films-ddm-0913.pdf.
It’s been a generally worthwhile experience – I’ve seen many excellent films and all have been at least interesting. But I’ve also encountered a significant few that in my view don’t quite justify their place on the list when set against the exclusion of more deserving cases. Pondering this, it occurred to me to draw up my own 1001 list based on my own viewing which, although of course much narrower than that of Schneider’s heavyweight panel, is I believe extensive enough for the task.
Lists of this length have an aspiration to objectivity, and the opportunity to give a rounded picture of cinema history and culture – it’s unlikely any one person, including myself, could claim to enjoy wholeheartedly every listed item. But I’m confident each film has something to offer to anyone with at least a passing interest in the moving image beyond its ability merely to entertain. However, I’ve been limited by the breadth of my own viewing, which is inevitably biased towards my own preferences and tastes, so there’s probably more science fiction, horror and film noir represented here than, say, westerns or romcoms. I’ve also tried in some places to avoid the obvious in favour of neglected films or unexpected surprises.
I’ll avoid the customary liberal hand-wringing about the bias towards English language and Western European cinema at this point, but availability is also a factor. One thing I will defend, however, is the strengthened representation of animation, shorts and the avant garde in comparison to Schneider’s list, one of the most egregious features of which is the complete absence of Chuck Jones and Norman McLaren. Likewise the increased allotment to early and silent cinema – in 1001 Movies, the entire two decades plus of cinema history prior to Birth of a Nation (DW Griffith 1915) are represented by a mere two films.
I’ve widened the field to include several additional examples of one-off TV productions and mini-series. The strict division between TV and film has been muddied from the days of cinema serials and TV using celluloid film as a production medium, and in the age of digital production and exhibition, multi-channel broadcasting and straight-to-DVD releasing, it seems to me completely unsustainable. However I’ve stopped short of including single episodes of ongoing series as it’s unfair to treat these as complete works in themselves.
Although it's a list of 1001 films, only 1,000 are listed here -- IMDb won't let me list Super 8½ (Bruce LaBruce 1994), presumably because it's tagged as an adult film.
The list is inevitably subject to updating and is now in its third iteration. I hope you find it interesting and diverting.