Top 50 Must See Movies

The top 50 Must See Movies

1. Vertigo

Alfred Hitchcock, 1958
Hitchcock’s supreme and most mysterious piece (as cinema and as an emblem of the art). Paranoia and obsession have never looked better.
—Marco Müller

After half a century of monopolising the top spot, Citizen Kane was beginning to look smugly inviolable. Call it Schadenfreude, but let’s rejoice that this now conventional and ritualised symbol of ‘the greatest’ has finally been taken down a peg. The accession of Vertigo is hardly in the nature of a coup d’état. Tying for 11th place in 1972, Hitchcock’s masterpiece steadily inched up the poll over the next three decades, and by 2002 was clearly the heir apparent. Still, even ardent Wellesians should feel gratified at the modest revolution – if only for the proof that film canons (and the versions of history they legitimate) are not completely fossilised.

There may be no larger significance in the bare fact that a couple of films made in California 17 years apart have traded numerical rankings on a whimsically impressionistic list. Yet the human urge to interpret chance phenomena will not be denied, and Vertigo is a crafty, duplicitous machine for spinning meaning…
—Peter Matthews’ opening to his new essay on Vertigo in our September 2012 issue

2. Citizen Kane

Orson Welles, 1941
Kane and Vertigo don’t top the chart by divine right. But those two films are just still the best at doing what great cinema ought to do: extending the everyday into the visionary.
—Nigel Andrews
In the last decade I’ve watched this first feature many times, and each time, it reveals new treasures. Clearly, no single film is the greatest ever made. But if there were one, for me Kane would now be the strongest contender, bar none.
—Geoff Andrew
All celluloid life is present in Citizen Kane; seeing it for the first or umpteenth time remains a revelation.
—Trevor Johnston

3. Tokyo Story

Ozu Yasujiro, 1953
Ozu used to liken himself to a “tofu-maker”, in reference to the way his films – at least the post-war ones – were all variations on a small number of themes. So why is it Tokyo Story that is acclaimed by most as his masterpiece? DVD releases have made available such prewar films as I Was Born, But…, and yet the Ozu vote has not been split, and Tokyo Story has actually climbed two places since 2002. It may simply be that in Tokyo Story this most Japanese tofu-maker refined his art to the point of perfection, and crafted a truly universal film about family, time and loss.
—James Bell

4. La Règle du jeu

Jean Renoir, 1939
Only Renoir has managed to express on film the most elevated notion of naturalism, examining this world from a perspective that is dark, cruel but objective, before going on to achieve the serenity of the work of his old age. With him, one has no qualms about using superlatives: La Règle du jeu is quite simply the greatest French film by the greatest of French directors.
—Olivier Père

5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

FW Murnau, 1927
When F.W. Murnau left Germany for America in 1926, did cinema foresee what was coming? Did it sense that change was around the corner – that now was the time to fill up on fantasy, delirium and spectacle before talking actors wrenched the artform closer to reality? Many things make this film more than just a morality tale about temptation and lust, a fable about a young husband so crazy with desire for a city girl that he contemplates drowning his wife, an elemental but sweet story of a husband and wife rediscovering their love for each other. Sunrise was an example – perhaps never again repeated on the same scale – of unfettered imagination and the clout of the studio system working together rather than at cross purposes.
—Isabel Stevens

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick, 1968
2001: A Space Odyssey is a stand-along monument, a great visionary leap, unsurpassed in its vision of man and the universe. It was a statement that came at a time which now looks something like the peak of humanity’s technological optimism.
—Roger Ebert

7. The Searchers

John Ford, 1956
Do the fluctuations in popularity of John Ford’s intimate revenge epic – no appearance in either critics’ or directors’ top tens in 2002, but fifth in the 1992 critics’ poll – reflect the shifts in popularity of the western? It could be a case of this being a western for people who don’t much care for them, but I suspect it’s more to do with John Ford’s stock having risen higher than ever this past decade and the citing of his influence in the unlikeliest of places in recent cinema.
—Kieron Corless

8. Man with a Movie Camera

Dziga Vertov, 1929
Is Dziga Vertov’s cine-city symphony a film whose time has finally come? Ranked only no. 27 in our last critics’ poll, it now displaces Eisenstein’s erstwhile perennial Battleship Potemkin as the Constructivist Soviet silent of choice. Like Eisenstein’s warhorse, it’s an agit-experiment that sees montage as the means to a revolutionary consciousness; but rather than proceeding through fable and illusion, it’s explicitly engaged both with recording the modern urban everyday (which makes it the top documentary in our poll) and with its representation back to its participant-subjects (thus the top meta-movie).
—Nick Bradshaw

9. The Passion of Joan of Arc

Carl Dreyer, 1927
Joan was and remains an unassailable giant of early cinema, a transcendental film comprising tears, fire and madness that relies on extreme close-ups of the human face. Over the years it has often been a difficult film to see, but even during its lost years Joan has remained embedded in the critical consciousness, thanks to the strength of its early reception, the striking stills that appeared in film books, its presence in Godard’s Vivre sa vie and recently a series of unforgettable live screenings. In 2010 it was designated the most influential film of all time in the Toronto International Film Festival’s ‘Essential 100’ list, where Jonathan Rosenbaum described it as “the pinnacle of silent cinema – and perhaps of the cinema itself.”
—Jane Giles

10. 8½

Federico Fellini, 1963
Arguably the film that most accurately captures the agonies of creativity and the circus that surrounds film making, equal parts narcissistic, self-deprecating, bitter, nostalgic, warm, critical and funny. Dreams, nightmares, reality and memories coexist within the same time-frame; the viewer sees Guido’s world not as it is, but more ‘realistically’ as he experiences it, inserting the film in a lineage that stretches from the Surrealists to David Lynch.
—Mar Diestro-Dópido

11. Battleship Potemkin

Sergei Eisenstein, 1925

12. L’Atalante
Jean Vigo, 1934

13. Breathless
Jean-Luc Godard, 1960

14. Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola, 1979

15. Late Spring
Ozu Yasujiro, 1949

16. Au hasard Balthazar
Robert Bresson, 1966

17.Seven Samurai
Kurosawa Akira, 1954

Ingmar Bergman, 1966

19. Mirror
Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974

20. Singin’ in the Rain
Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1951

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960

22.Le Mépris
Jean-Luc Godard, 1963

23.The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola, 1972

Carl Dreyer, 1955

25.In the Mood for Love
Wong Kar-wai, 2000

26. Rashomon
Kurosawa Akira, 1950

27.Andrei Rublev
Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966

28. Mulholland Dr.
David Lynch, 2001

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979

Claude Lanzmann, 1985

31.The Godfather Part II
Francis Ford Coppola, 1974

32.Taxi Driver
Martin Scorsese, 1976

33. Bicycle Thieves
Vittoria De Sica, 1948

34. The General
Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, 1926


Fritz Lang, 1927

Alfred Hitchcock, 1960

35.Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles
Chantal Akerman, 1975

Béla Tarr, 1994

39.The 400 Blows
François Truffaut, 1959

40.La dolce vita
Federico Fellini, 1960

41. Journey to Italy
Roberto Rossellini, 1954

42.Pather Panchali
Satyajit Ray, 1955

43.Some Like It Hot
Billy Wilder, 1959

Carl Dreyer, 1964

45.Pierrot le fou
Jean-Luc Godard, 1965

46.Play Time
Jacques Tati, 1967

Abbas Kiarostami, 1990

48.The Battle of Algiers
Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966

48.Histoire(s) du cinéma
Jean-Luc Godard, 1998

49.City Lights
Charlie Chaplin, 1931

50.Ugetsu monogatari
Mizoguchi Kenji, 1953