Of course, if you'd have asked me a month ago, it would've looked differently than it does today. I'm always discovering new films and re-thinking and re-ordering old ones. But for now anyways, here they are. Enjoy:
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Its production design and groundbreaking use of make-up and special effects came nearly ten years before Star Wars, but it's Kubrick's balletic space compositions and his grand vision of human evolution (or devolution) that has stood the test of time in the eyes of many cinephiles, including this one.
THE THIRD MAN
(Carol Reed; 1949; United Kingdom)
For me, this is quintessential film noir - heightened by Reed's tilted angles and extravagant lighting, Graham Greene's perfectly balanced script about loyalty and friendship and that unforgettable zither score by Anton Karas. It's one of those perfect movie miracles where everything just clicks, including the historic supporting performance of the mysterious Orson Welles.
Criticized by John Wayne for its liberal, "anti-American" allegory to the blacklisting fiasco in Hollywood at the time, Wayne shamefully ran screenwriter Carl Foreman out of town in the late 50's before answering with a more "conservative response" in 1959 with Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo. Different strokes for different folks, but Zinneman's film, with it gritty, black-and-white Tex Ritter sweat and blood, kicks the ass of Wayne and his Ricky Nelson sing-a-long from "California to the New York Island."
HIGH AND LOW
From the characterizations of Seven Samurai to the heart-warming humanism of Ikiru, I think Kurosawa's greatest two-and-a-half hours were with this contemporary kidnapping-turned-procedural yarn brimming with class structure and moral subtext. A masterclass of frame composition.
LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD
French New Wave meets David Lynch in this hypnotic, lingering and almost numbingly abstract tale of recollection. With the exception of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, it's the most majestic work on this list - inspiring awe in any willing viewer.
Alain Delon stars in this stoic, pitch-perfect gangster film chronicling a hitman who lives by a strict code of honor and solitude. It beats even the best crime dramas churned out by Hollywood during the 70's. Melville injects minimalism and coolness in this perfectly-captured lone-warrior journey through the underworld.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
This ultra-stylized, ultra-violent adaptation of the excellent Anthony Burgess novel was divisive in its day and negatively influential on the youth, but Kubrick's vision and commentary on freedom of choice is undeniably eccentric and hauntingly sadistic - not for everyone. Malcolm McDowell turns in the role of a lifetime complimented by some of the most economical and ingenous location-shooting of his career. The greatest opening shot of all-time.
Kubrick's follow-up to A Clockwork Orange was comparatively restrained and glacial in its story of a selfish, exploitative Englishman played by Ryan O'Neal and his rise and fall in 18th century England. Quietly and elegantly, its as visually stimulating as any of the auteur's previous and later works. John Alcott's naturally-lit, washed-out cinematography remains some of the most revered and revolutionary in the history of cinema.
Scorsese's portrait of a madman, real-life boxer Jake La Motto (the abusive and self-abusive Robert De Niro), is an unflinching, stirring, sympathetic and heartbreaking train-wreck of a character study. It's not so much about La Motta's life inside the ring, but rather the one outside of it. Although the former scenes, which faintly resemble any form of the sport we recognize (preferring to capture the feeling of boxing rather than the realities of it), are the best ever committed to the screen.
TROUBLE IN PARADISE
(Ernst Lubitsch; 1932; United States)
It's time to lighten up, and Ernst Lubitsch's heavenly comedy about a confused, love-torn con-artist/jewel thief is a pure delight. Lubtisch's Hollywood comedies during the 1930's are always characterized as having the "Lubitsch Touch," and this was his first film to carry that distinction for me and kick-start his career of first-rate, sophisticated comedy and romance. It was once described as "pure caviar, only tastier" - that works for me.
11. THE LADY VANISHES (Alfred Hitchcock; 1938)
12. VERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock; 1958)
13. THE THIN MAN (W.S. Van Dyke; 1934)
14. SAWDUST AND TINSEL (Ingmar Bergman; 1953)
(More appropriately and with more beauty, it renders everything Mike Nichols has ever said redundant.)
15. CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles; 1941)
16. SOME LIKE IT HOT (Billy Wilder; 1959)
17. NOTORIOUS (Alfred Hitchcock; 1946)
(Ingrid Bergman's very best performance.)
18. THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (Ernst Lubitsch; 1940)
19. SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa; 1954)
(Kurosawa writes some of the most believable and interesting characters.)
20. REBECCA (Alfred Hitchcock; 1940)
21. TOUCH OF EVIL (Orson Welles; 1958)
22. BEAT THE DEVIL (John Huston; 1954)
(One of my favorite scripts - written by Truman Capote).
23. ANDREI RUBLEV (Andrei Tarkovsky; 1966)
24. IKIRU (Akira Kurosawa; 1952)
25. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (Sergio Leone; 1968)
26. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Orson Welles; 1942)
(Orson's studio-compromised masterwork still retains its framework.)
27. FITZCARRALDO (Werner Herzog; 1982)
28. JULES AND JIM (Francois Truffaut; 1961)
29. TAXI DRIVER (Martin Scorsese; 1976)
30. ROSEMARY'S BABY (Roman Polanski; 1968)
(A testament to the power of the maternal instinct.)
31. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Paul Thomas Anderson; 2007)
32. KLUTE (Alan J. Pakula; 1971)
33. THE GETAWAY (Sam Peckinpah; 1972)
34. STALKER (Andrei Tarkovsky; 1979)
35. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (John Huston; 1948)
36. DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (Robert Bresson; 1951)
37. REAR WINDOW (Alfred Hitchcock; 1954)
38. PATHS OF GLORY (Stanley Kubrick; 1957)
(The greatest anti-war movie ever made.)
39. MRS. MINIVER (William Wyler; 1942)
40. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen; 1952)
(Manic, high-wire MGM musical at its best. Jean Hagen is amazing.)
41. THE WAGES OF FEAR (Henri Georges-Cluzout; 19)
42. JEZEBEL (William Wyler; 1938)
(Its on this list for Bette Davis' career-best performance.)
43. CASABLANCA (Michael Curtiz; 1942)
44. THE VIRGIN SPRING (Ingmar Bergman; 1960)
45. ONE-EYED JACKS (Marlon Brando; 1961)
46. PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE (Michael Curtiz; 1944)
47. CONTEMPT (Jean-Luc Godard; 19)
48. THE FRENCH CONNECTION (William Friedkin; 1971)
49. VIRGINIA CITY (Michael Curtiz; 1940)
(One of Curtiz's most adamant examples of the enduring spirit of patriotism.)
50. THE ELEPHANT MAN (David Lynch; 1980)