Do We Really Need Another List?

I thought we were done with lists – all those Top 50, Top 250 and, just to ring in the changes and go post-modern, Top 28 or Top 113 or whatever. When everyone knows they are so easy to manipulate – social media polls in particular or simply by who is allowed to vote.

Maybe it felt time to challenge the authority of the recent Sight & Sound once-in-a-decade-poll especially in some bizarre fit of whatever the top movie (Jeanne Dielman… 1975) was a) one I had never heard of and b) hardly anyone had ever seen and c) was deemed better than Vertigo (1958) and The Godfather (1972) and three-quarters of the other hallowed movies on the rival Variety chart.

But, as ever, I fell into the trap. The minute a poll chimes with your own views, then of course that’s deemed worthwhile and correct.

So this is esteemed trade magazine Variety getting into the act.

And it’s not Vertigo (1958), the dethroned Sight & Sound champ, at the top of the heap but Hitchcock’s other rule-breaker, Psycho (1960).    

You can always tell the movie education of critics by their choices. I doubt if the current Variety bunch have sat their way through all the movie classics of the last century the way their predecessors, including many of the older contributors to Sight & Sound; you’re talking the difference being maybe half a century of movie-watching. That’s a lot to ignore out of ignorance.  

Anyway, I’m not much interested in all the other decades and there are certainly some interesting/unusual/odd/flabbergasting choices which might have other critics in an uproar or at the very least achieve the expected soundbites/soundbytes.

But the 1960s comes out pretty good, although there’s no room for Once Upon a Time in the West (1969). The elegiac gets the nod over the operatic, The Wild Bunch (1969) No 41 on the list and no place for Sergio Leone. Also out in the cold The Searchers (1956) and in its place – at No 34, the highest western on the chart – another Ford classic Stagecoach (1939).    

In order, the 1960s winners are: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – at No 7 and therefore top sci fi movie of all time. Among the top foreign pictures of all time is Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966) – at No 18 and one spot above The Godfather Part II (1974). Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960) – at No 23 – takes the comedy gong.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967) wasn’t ever going to be the top gangster film not with two Godfathers and Goodfellas as the competition but still it slots in at No 27. Fellini’s  (1963) grabs the 33rd spot, just below Vertigo. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – at No 38 – is beaten to the top historical epic spot by Seven Samurai (1954) and Gone with the Wind (1939).

Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960) docks at No 44; Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Godard’s Breathless (1960) at No 50; and  Mia Farrow giving birth to Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is named best horror picture. Best spy picture? It’s a shoo-in for “Bond, James Bond” in Goldfinger (1964).

The Sound of Music (1965) can’t beat The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952) but frankly I’m astonished it made the cut – at No 87 – since for the last six decades it’s been blown many a critical raspberry. Two rungs below is Catherine Deneuve in Luis Bunuel’s sex drama Belle de Jour (1967).  Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai (1967) tops the assassin stakes at No 93. Top pop music picture is A Hard Day’s Night (1964) with the incomparable Beatles at No 96. Propping up the bottom of the list is The Graduate (1967).

Not that I should be doing Variety’s work for it, but the 1960s came joint-second in terms of the highest number of films charting from a single decade.

Should you be so inclined to check out the full Variety chart, you’ll find it here.

Author: Brian Hannan

I am a published author of books about film - over a dozen to my name, the latest being "When Women Ruled Hollywood." As the title of the blog suggests, this is a site devoted to movies of the 1960s but since I go to the movies twice a week - an old-fashioned double-bill of my own choosing - I might occasionally slip in a review of a contemporary picture.

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