1000 films to see before you die

by Chris Bertram on June 25, 2007

Over the next five days, the Guardian is publishing “their list of the top 1000 films ever”:http://film.guardian.co.uk/1000films/0,,2108487,00.html , in alphabetical order. Naturally, being the Guardian, they manage to screw up before getting past “A” through the shocking omission of “All About Eve”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042192/ , without which no such list can be taken seriously. I’m sure our commenters will spot other similar outrages as the week unfolds.

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1000 films to see before you die « robnotes
06.25.07 at 2:59 pm



novakant 06.25.07 at 10:15 am

I don’t know – All about Eve really hasn’t aged well, but my suspicion is that it was overrated from the start. Can anyone really sit through it without at least chuckling constantly if not bursting into laughter as both the story, as well as the acting are just totally over the top?

That said, for some reason it’s a very popular gay cult movie, but they don’t seem to take it very seriously either.


Henry (not the famous one) 06.25.07 at 10:47 am

I beg to differ–Bette Davis does a star turn,Thelma Ritter and George Sanders play their caricatures to the max, and there is just enough plot to support all the brittle witty dialogue. And Marilyn is, not surprisingly, gorgeous.

But back to our assignment: where are Boudu Saved From Drowning or Adam’s Rib or Battleground or Best In Show? And is Children of Paradise going to be listed down the road under E for Enfants? If the list is big enough to include turkeys such as Braveheart or Big Chill or Con Air or Buckaroo Banzai, then how could they leave off all of Judy Holiday’s movies?


Matt 06.25.07 at 11:28 am

Well, they got what’s one of my two or three most favorite films, _Babe_, so I guess it’s not all bad. That movie is often semi-dismissed as _merely_ the best talking pig movie of all time but it’s more than that. (The second, “Babe beyond thunderdome” or whatever it was, is rightfully left off.)


John Protevi 06.25.07 at 11:41 am

I think you mean “Return to the Planet of Babe.”


fred lapides 06.25.07 at 12:02 pm

Naturally, being the Guardian, they manage to screw up before getting past “A” —if you have so little respect for the paper, why bother to post what they have to say?


Jacob T. Levy 06.25.07 at 12:08 pm

I’m not outraged so much as baffled. I mean, I thought the Brady Bunch movie was hysterically funny, and Amelie was pretty adorable, but… c’mon.

And Breaking the Waves? Buffalo 66? feh.

Alien but not Aliens– a serious lapse in judgment probably due to a prejudice against sequels that will have its one exception in Godfather 2.

I was ready to be utterly outraged when I saw Crash listed, but it turns out to be Cronenberg’s death-fetish-fest about psychotic perverts, not the gross one.


matt w. 06.25.07 at 12:13 pm

Chris is right about All About Eve. Also, I see that Jean Cocteau’s wonderful “Beauty and the Beast” did not make the list. That it didn’t while Buckaroo Banzai did is probably criminal.


Adam Roberts 06.25.07 at 12:17 pm

Non-famous Henry is right: Braveheart is a turkey. But Apocalypto is some kind of twisted masterpiece, and didn’t make the list. Not that I’ve any desire to swell Mel G.’s coffers.


Arthur Davidson Ficke 06.25.07 at 12:25 pm

As a quick test, I immediately went to the “C” list, scrolled down, didn’t see Caddyshack and just stopped reading.


matt w. 06.25.07 at 12:30 pm

Other arguably odd omissions:

The Apu Trilogy (Ray) [Maybe they’ll be listed individually, but, in that case, Aparajito is an odd omission]

Amarcord (Fellini)

City Lights (Chaplin)


novakant 06.25.07 at 12:32 pm

just a suggestion: maybe it’s altogether a bit unproductive to moan about what’s not on the list, since one has seen and liked these films already anyway, and it doesn’t really matter if they’re on some list or not; instead one could use the list to discover films one hasn’t watched yet


Matt 06.25.07 at 12:41 pm

Yes, the Apu films should certainly be on there. Really wonderful movies.


alex earl 06.25.07 at 12:50 pm

I think that All Quiet on the Western Front is still the best war movie ever made.

And it never seems to make best of lists.


Dave 06.25.07 at 12:54 pm

If they have Austin Powers & Ace Ventura on the list they should have Caddyshack. I strongly agree with the above poster. Maybe Bill Murray’s performance is to deep for the Guardian reviewers.


norbizness 06.25.07 at 12:56 pm

After the outrage of AFI’s top 100 list, I think I’ll skip this one apart from getting a few ideas for rentals.


aaron 06.25.07 at 1:03 pm

No CaddyShack.



Rich B. 06.25.07 at 1:35 pm

As always, you can argue about the movies, but what makes more sense is to first have the meta-argument about what is an “Essential Movie.”

I, of course, have no complaint about the inclusion of “Airplane!”, but, really, while the comedy works just fine on its own, you really don’t get 25-50% of the jokes unless you’ve seen “Airport” (and the sequels) which are being spoofed.

Essentially, and self-referentially, “Airport” has to be in the “Essential 1000” because without it, you can’t reap the full enjoyment of “Airplane!” However, “Airport” was only one of a group of the “1970s Disaster” genre, with Towering Inferno and Poseidon Adventure, and if “Airplane!” were not on the list, there would not be much of a need to include “Airport” as Essential.


abb1 06.25.07 at 1:43 pm

How’s Apocalypto a masterpiece? If Apocalypto is a masterpiece, then all the Lethal Weapon movies must be masterpieces too, and, for that matter, pretty much every standard action movie since The Magnificent Seven.


Rich B. 06.25.07 at 1:47 pm

Also, the omissions of “Anne of Green Gables” and “Alice in Wonderland” make me wonder if this is not a list of “1,000 Essential Movies For People With No Plans To Ever Have A Daughter.”


Rich B. 06.25.07 at 1:48 pm

Also any version of “Annie!”


harry b 06.25.07 at 2:02 pm

rich b (#17) – this is why I always think that parents who allow their children to watch Life of Brian before having them watch Spartacus are basically abusive. My eldest saw Life of Brian at someone else’s house, and they hadn’t even bothered to check what other movies she’d seen. I’m still pissed off.


Rich B. 06.25.07 at 2:09 pm


You think that’s bad? I saw “Holy Moses!” before I saw either of them! I didn’t even know what spoof the spoof I was seeing was ripping off!


Keith 06.25.07 at 3:05 pm

No City of Lost Children? Feh.

I bet they leave off The Princess Bride, too.


Matt 06.25.07 at 4:55 pm

Princess Bride should certainly be on any such list. And Anne of Green Gables (and even the sequels) are quite nice, too.


Tom Scudder 06.25.07 at 4:57 pm

I have a hard time picturing a selection process that would include Buckaroo Banzai (decent movie, I have no problem with it being on the list) but not include the Princess Bride.


fardels bear 06.25.07 at 5:24 pm

I think it is truly amazing that there are EXACTLY 1000 movies we must see before we die. What are the chances of that? Aren’t we lucky there aren’t 782 movies we must see before we die? Or 1351 movies to see before we die?


rea 06.25.07 at 5:29 pm

Bad Santa?????


Doctor Slack 06.25.07 at 5:41 pm

I’ve only gotten to the A’s, but it’s not looking that bad so far. There are some strange choices (Ace Ventura?) but also some good choicees that could have easily gotten overlooked (Akira, Alphaville and Amores Perros for instance). Apocalypto is well worth excluding from any such list; good costume design and some decent action sequences do not amount to a “must-see” movie… oh, and there’s the whole weird, racist depiction of the Maya thing.


ponte 06.25.07 at 6:14 pm

Bad Santa??? Hey, this list isn’t so bad after all!


Matt T. 06.25.07 at 6:34 pm

Actually, they manage to screw up before the list even begins.

Alphabetically, they begin with Ace in the Hole.

Which means that they skipped A Better Tomorrow.

Then, at #2, they have…Ace Ventura?

Two egregious mistakes before I even start scrolling down. 998 films to go…I don’t think I’ll make it.


David 06.25.07 at 6:37 pm

I’m actually rather fond of Buckaroo Banzai. John Lithgow is hysterical. But not at the expense of Beauty and the Beast.


joel turnipseed 06.25.07 at 7:03 pm

Dissing Buckaroo Banzai? Laugh while you can monkeyboys…

Meantime, some pretty essential films left of this list! After agreeing wholeheartedly about All About Eve and Caddyshack, as well as All Quiet on the Western Front (must get the 1930 Milestone directed version, and not the Richard Thomas lead from 1979), here’s a short list of films in my library I can’t believe they overlooked:

Adam’s Rib and The Awful Truth–I don’t know, maybe I’ve read too much Cavell, but I can’t get enough of these things. Then again, they probably already have The Lady Eve, His Girl Friday, and The Philadelphia Story slotted (as I suspect they have Pather Panchali slotted for Ray’s trilogy stand-in) & figured they had to cut somewhere. Still…

To politics: no Premminger’s Advise and Consent or Rossen’s All the King’s Men? Criminal!

Every Chayefsky script should make it: where’s The Americanization of Emily?

Action flicks seem to make this list in undue numbers: where’s Liman’s Bourne Identity?

Finally, a personal Top 50 that really bums me out by its absence (especially since I could look at Claire Forlani all day long & Wright was just perfect): Schnabel’s Basquiat.

But then, why make a list like this if you don’t intend to piss people off so much they waste twenty minutes of an afternoon ranting about it!


ponte 06.25.07 at 7:05 pm

Matt T, Actually, A Better Tomorrow would have been filed right before Betty Blue.


Rich B. 06.25.07 at 7:42 pm

A few more additions that meet my definition of “Essential”:

Along Came Jones

Along Came Jones: Westerns::Scream: Horror.

Gary Cooper spoofing himself (and Westerns in general), in a movie that actually turns out to be a pretty good Western.

The African Queen

Certainly not Casablanca in terms of overall quality, but if you could only see one Humphrey Bogart movie, this one probably best exemplifies “Bogey-ness.”

And something from the Abbott & Costello Meet . . .” genre, but definitely not “Africa Screams,” which is essentially Abbott & Costello Meet the Three Stooges, because that one is godawful.


fred lapides 06.25.07 at 7:53 pm

I had thought that the film made of my marriage would have at least got a mention as a contender…it turned out later to be a warmup for what might have made a good fight movie


Aulus Gellius 06.25.07 at 8:37 pm

American Pie really doesn’t deserve to be on there either.


Brett 06.25.07 at 9:33 pm

Die Brücke should be on there. Absolutely gripping and one of the best anti-war movies ever.

And, you know, if Con Air can make it, how about Bat 21?


Doctor Slack 06.25.07 at 9:36 pm

Lots to agree with in the B and C lists, too, some of them again good choices that could easily have gotten passed over (City of God and Brick, for instance). Also evidence of someone being deliberately loopy (Chicken Run a movie for the ages? I don’t think so) but it kind of balances out.


Drew 06.26.07 at 12:06 am

I’ve just examined the “A’s” thus far, and fully agree that “All About Eve” should be on the list as should one of the earliest and best of the so-called screwball comedies, “The Awful Truth” with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. “Adam’s Rib” is also missing.


Henry (not the famous one) 06.26.07 at 1:33 am

Okay class–time to turn to today’s assignment:

They left out Destry Rides Again, Dinner at Eight, 42nd Street and Gentleman Jim. I can understand leaving out Follow The Fleet–but how do you forget 42nd Street??

BUT they also omitted Gandhi and Forrest Gump, for which they should be thanked. Which more than balances out including Face/Off–what is it with this Cage fetish?

AND they included Dark Star and Crooklyn. Thanks for small favors.


Randy Paul 06.26.07 at 1:40 am

Rich B:

Airplane is actually a parody of Zero Hour, not Airport.


Doctor Slack 06.26.07 at 3:13 am

The D’s are the weakest so far. Some good choices still, but Dead Presidents, Dick Tracy, Dirty Dancing and especially Dumb and Dumber are all thoroughly missable movies. (Evidently one of the judges is convinced, mistakenly, that Carrey’s real brilliance was in the days of his rubber-faced witless comedies.) Dead Man is a notable omission.

Not much to disagree with in the E’s excepting the omission of Enemy at the Gates, the only decent Hollywood film about the Eastern Front, where after all the Second World War was basically decided. (In fact, are there any other Hollywood films about the Eastern front?)

The F’s are also pretty good (yes, with the exception of Face/Off — and I’m betting the same person with the Carrey comedies fetish is also nursing the Cage action movies fetish). The Fiddler on the Roof is a truly glaring omission there, though, as is For a Few Dollars More. (Though I guess they did get The Good, The Bad and the Ugly in there later.)

Gandhi is not really an acceptable omission, actually. The movie it could’ve bumped? The terminally overrated Gummo, easily. Other than that, the G’s are also pretty good.


Doctor Slack 06.26.07 at 3:14 am

Oh, and no Das Boot under D. That’s a big one.


Henry (not the famous one) 06.26.07 at 3:38 am

#44–Das Boot is there under B for Boot.

But where is “Animal House”? If one sign of a good movie is the number of lines of dialogue it thrusts into the culture, then Animal House belongs to be there. These list-makers, after all, gave us “Blues Brothers,” which is a much inferior movie, notwithstanding Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway, etc. (give me the T.A.M.I. show if it’s clips we want).

And Gandhi? three hours plus of a wax figure posing as a person. I like Ben Kingsley, but this is bad hagiography.


Brett 06.26.07 at 4:45 am

A few more candidates:

Beshkempir (The Adoptive Son) should be on the list; it’s really beautiful.

The Fog of War; Funeral in Berlin.

Godzilla (!), Le Grand Bleu.


Chris Bertram 06.26.07 at 7:05 am

Seems a bit random whether a non-English film is listed under the English or the original title: Les 400 Coups is under F not Q.


SG 06.26.07 at 9:13 am

I predict S will not contain “Streetfighter.” This is going to disappoint me terribly. Also, I presume there is a part 2 of the E section still to be released, but no “Empire Strikes Back”?

The only list Face/Off should be on is a list of movies that waste your bittorrent bandwidth. In fact I bet you can’t even find it on bittorrent.

As for David Lynch… why is it film “experts” insist on watching crap?


Katherine 06.26.07 at 11:23 am

Honestly, why bother getting wound up over a list that is of course going to be subjective? Eg, at #43, Dirty Dancing is stated to be “thoroughly missable” – possibly for you, Dr Slack, but not for any female growing up in the 80’s. Thoroughly unmissable for us lot.


Jacob T. Levy 06.26.07 at 11:27 am

Ghost? GHOST??

I really liked Flirting With Disaster, but it doesn’t belong on the list. Glad to see Fast Times and Fish Called Wanda. And Part 1 of the H list is surprisingly good (La Haine, Halloween, Heathers, Harold & Maude, Hard Boiled, Happiness, and Hairspray– all worthy entrants that could have been overlooked but weren’t).

But, good lord. Ghost. Res ipsa loquitur.


Doctor Slack 06.26.07 at 1:06 pm

Henry: Das Boot is there under B for Boot.

Ah. Right! I feel better now, thanks.

As for Gandhi, I think a good case can be made that it’s hagiography (even Indian government propaganda), but the same is true of Alexander Nevsky‘s relationship to Russia (Stalinist Russia, no less) and not necessarily a reason for excluding it.

Katherine: why bother getting wound up over a list that is of course going to be subjective?

Because it’s fun. What kind of a question is that?

(As we’re on CT, let me rephrase that. It can be useful and instructive to trot out and examine the bases of one’s aesthetic preferences from time to time, even and sometimes especially in a tongue-in-cheek polemical fashion and despite the impossibility of reifying anyone’s opinions as objective truths.)

Dirty Dancing is stated to be “thoroughly missable” – possibly for you, Dr Slack, but not for any female growing up in the 80’s.

Fair, but even so, that doesn’t necessarily make it a “must” for a general movie-going populace, in the same way that Dumb and Dumber and Con Air‘s vast box office successes in later years wouldn’t seem to me to necessarily qualify them for that honour.


Rich B. 06.26.07 at 1:41 pm

#42 — The plot is taken from Zero Hour!, but there would have been no reason to “borrow” the plot of a relatively obscure 25 year old movie had it not been necessary to spoof the increasingly ridiculous big-budget disaster flicks Airport, Airport ’75, and Airport ’77.


Rich B. 06.26.07 at 1:48 pm

Also, no “Godfather 2.” Stop the insanity.

Upon long reflection, that may be even more extreme than their bizarre omission of “Grease 2,” without which we may never have had any works from the Michelle Pfeiffer oeuvre.


Katherine 06.26.07 at 2:23 pm

“Dirty Dancing is stated to be “thoroughly missable” – possibly for you, Dr Slack, but not for any female growing up in the 80’s.

Fair, but even so, that doesn’t necessarily make it a “must” for a general movie-going populace, in the same way that Dumb and Dumber and Con Air’s vast box office successes in later years wouldn’t seem to me to necessarily qualify them for that honour.”

Well, if we’re actually going to debate what counts as “essential”, I’d say that a film of enormous cultural importance to a large demographic group could make a good argument for being “essential”. Con Air and Dumb and Dumber, for all their box office clout, can’t say that.


Doctor Slack 06.26.07 at 2:44 pm

Con Air, no, but Dumb and Dumber probably could. Depending on how we define “enormous cultural importance.”


Henry (not the famous one) 06.26.07 at 3:06 pm

I think that the exclusion of Godfather II is not all that unreasonable (although we can come up with so many worse movies that were included, which I have already done ad nauseam), because it is so overpraised, While Lee Stasberg’s performance as Hyman Roth is great and the scenes in Cuba are a change of pace, the sepia-tinted scenes in Little Italy before Prohibition are stodgy, the modern plot line involving Fredo, Pentangeli, Kay and the rest is creaky, and the assassination of Hyman Roth (think Oswald and Ruby) presages the absurdities of Godfather III (remember poison-tipped umbrellas?). It is, in the final analysis, a sequel, living off the strengths of the first installment like a parasite.


Katherine 06.26.07 at 3:22 pm

Dumb and Dumber? How so? Honestly? I mean, I know it was popular and feted as funny and all that, but I’m not sure how it could be defined as being culturally important. I suppose you could just about make an argument for it highlighting the dumbing down of popular culture or something.


Lester Hunt 06.26.07 at 3:33 pm

These lists never seem to include my second favorite movie of all (after Vertigo): Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, 1948). I bet this one won’t, either.


matt w. 06.26.07 at 3:37 pm


Earrings of Madame De… didn’t make it either. I bet Lola Montes will be the representative Ophuls.


sharon 06.26.07 at 3:51 pm

Dunno about Dirty Dancing to be honest, but Strictly Ballroom had better be in there or I will sulk.

I like the list so far. It’s a movies listing of which an unusually high proportion of the entries are films I’ve either seen or already know I want to see at some point in the future, so I can feel mildly gratified at my excellent taste (Bourdieu eat your heart out), and cheerfully overlook the stuff that makes me roll my eyes.


Doctor Slack 06.26.07 at 4:15 pm

Dumb and Dumber? How so?

A great many people who grew up in the nineties will cite it as one of their favourite comedies and a wonderful memory that will stay with them forever.

What’s that you say? That doesn’t necessarily redeem its cheesiness and shallowness? Eeeexactly.


Aulus Gellius 06.26.07 at 6:50 pm

They seem to be pretty consistently refusing to list sequels, even where that seems bizarre (e.g., Evil Dead but no Army of Darkness; the real test will be if they give us Terminator but not Terminator II — I like the first one better, but I know I’m in the minority).

You can see their point: remember, this isn’t the 1000 best movies ever, but 1000 to see before you die. Do the Bill and Ted’s movies deserve twice as many spaces as Casablanca?

On the other hand, I only wish I still had the opportunity to die before seeing Face/Off, or Dumb and Dumber, or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (there, I said it).

And where the hell is First Blood?


Aulus Gellius 06.26.07 at 6:51 pm

Oh, and I second comment 41: God bless them for leaving out Forrest Gump.


mark 06.26.07 at 7:18 pm

It must be a fake list–Gunga Din is not on it.


Rich B. 06.27.07 at 1:04 am

Other notable omission is “Desert Hearts,” which I think is billed as the first mainstream movie with gay characters falling in love that doesn’t end in tragedy.

Also notable for casting Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company as a homophobe.


astrongmaybe 06.27.07 at 11:54 am

Where’s Dr. Mabuse? A Design for Living? Ivan’s Childhood?


Doctor Slack 06.27.07 at 1:10 pm

Kill Bill must have seemed too obvious a choice… but then maybe not, since Independence Day and Men in Black made the cut. Again, someone just trying way too hard to be populist. Also some overrated films, especially Leaving Las Vegas and The Limey… and was that really the best they could do for the J’s? I don’t remember The Jerk or Jerry Maguire being all that shit-hot, for instance.

But again there’s some good stuff on there (Irreversible, Mephisto, The Killing), and especially under the I’s, some movies I’ve never seen that sound pretty fantastic. (I can’t believe I’d never heard of In This World.)

I wonder what happened to part two of the H’s.


Ken Houghton 06.27.07 at 2:27 pm

Mel Gibson’s greatest movie–Gallipoli–fails to make the list?

(I made it through about four minutes of Apocalypto. Heavy-handed doesn’t begin to describe it. Forget Woad Warriors.


sharon 06.27.07 at 5:12 pm

If you go to part one of the H’s the link to part two is in the sidebar.


Bruce from Missouri 06.28.07 at 4:53 pm

No Run Lola Run? WTF?

Eraserhead? That is the worst movie I ever watched? Again, WTF?


Doctor Slack 06.28.07 at 8:00 pm

The worst pick of the list so far for me (as in, a worse pick than Ace Ventura) is Naked, hands down. I think people tend to be too free with the word “pretentious,” but every frame of that film cries out for that description.

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