Every two years, I do a sort to come up with my 50 favorite films. You can see the 2012 version here, and the 2016 version will go up tomorrow.
The actual pool of films I rank usually numbers in the hundreds. That’s because I’ve found that some films will dramatically change in ranking. For that reason –and the amount of time needed to do the rankings and write them all down– I only do the ranking every two years. You can read more about the pairwise comparison method I use for sorting films here.
No, and quit trying to change the conditions of the test. Speaking of which, here are the ground rules:
- These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
- Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
- TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
- TV mini-series are not included.
- Regular TV series are right out.
- These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an evil doppelganger/replicant/host.
- There is no rule # 7.
Also, as previously mentioned for the 2012 edition, this is like any other highly subjective list: it is well-reasoned and eminently defensible. So, without further ado, counting down from 50:
50) The Court Jester
49) A Christmas Story
48) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
46) Captain Horatio Hornblower
45) Galaxy Quest
44) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
43) The Hunt for Red October
42) The Right Stuff
41) The Iron Giant
40) Big Fish
39) Toy Story 2
38) The Incredibles
37) The Milagro Beanfield War
36) When Harry Met Sally
35) Twelve Angry Men
34) Never Cry Wolf
33) Chariots of Fire
32) The Blues Brothers
31) Black Hawk Down
30) The Namesake
29) Miracle on 34th Street
28) Raising Arizona
27) Stalag 17
26) The Matrix
25) Minority Report
24) Das Boot
23) North by Northwest
22) Field of Dreams
21) Citizen Kane
20) The Lives of Others
18) To Kill a Mockingbird
17) Schindler’s List
16) Star Wars
15) Like Water for Chocolate
14) Children of Men
13) The Empire Strikes Back
12) The Princess Bride
11) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
10) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
8) Raiders of the Lost Ark
7) Rob Roy
5) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
3) The Shawshank Redemption
2) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
1) Singin’ in the Rain
Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)
- Total films in sorting: 457
- Total Comedies: 15
- Total Dramas: 32
- Total Action-Adventure Films: 10
- Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 23
- Total Westerns: 0 (I’m not counting Milagro)
- Total War Movies: 10
- Total Musicals: 3
- Total Animated Films: 3
- Total films with Liam Neeson: 2
- The film at the bottom of the list (#457): The Exorcist
- The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: The Day the Earth Stood Still
Comparing this list to the 2012 edition shows me how much the passage of time will change how I relate to a given film. For example, consider The Namesake, which I first saw in 2007. I always enjoy films that deal with the intersection of cultures, but besides that, this film has everything: coming of age, love, death, betrayal, hope, identity, and so on. And Norwegians may not get this, but when you’re an American named Bjorn, the weight of your name is palpable.
However while I still like the film, I haven’t seen it since 2007 — and the circumstances that gave it such personal resonance at the time have faded. Its rank was #16 in 2012 and is #30 for 2014. I suspect I will find something to reflect about in the film as I age, as I certainly do for films like Citizen Kane or Ran. The best films contain multitudes after all — and while these are my personal favorites, I think most in this top tier are also objectively good. Perhaps The Namesake will climb upward again, but maybe not. That’s why these biennial snapshots are so interesting.
I could see a music fanatic compiling a list of their favorite albums or songs or artists every few years to see what is moving them through the passage of time. In fact, you could do it for so much of the arts. I love books, but I’m not sure if I’d be up to doing favorite novels and authors — if for no other reason than it’s usually quicker to watch a feature film than read a novel.
So films it is. I’ll list my 2016 edition tomorrow.