Poll: Greatest Movie Ever

My father and David Akiba had a lengthy debate once about what the greatest movie of all time was.  My father argued for La Strada.  David argued for The Bicycle Thief.  Both are on my need-to-see list.  (A significant deterrent is that I have a small screen, which makes watching subtitled films rather annoying.)  

But what would you say? What is the greatest movie of all time? Some factors to consider: Best usage of the medium (cinematography, visual special effects, etc), writing, meaningfulness, repeat watchability . 

My candidates so far, which are obviously heavily slated toward American movies andv are all post-1980: 
Days of Heaven, Annie Hall, Brokeback Mountain, The Princess Bride, The Living End, When Harry Met Sally

I posted this question on Facebook, and so far Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Shawshank Redemption, and Harvey have been suggested. 

I’m not sure I’m satisfied with any of these yet.  But it’s a brainstorm list, to start. 

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~ by realsupergirl on October 16, 2007.

18 Responses to “Poll: Greatest Movie Ever”

  1. *the* best is a weighty title but American Beauty is definitely on my short list.

  2. This is right up my alley, since I put together a list of my top 250 films (the top 50).

    Now I can’t really reproduce that list here because you’re asking a slightly different question – one I interpret as the artistically greatest movie. Here is my short list:

    Persona (1966, Bergman), Seven Samaurai (1954, Kurosawa), Night of the Hunter (1955, Laughton), Last Year at Marienbad (1961, Resnais), Hiroshima Mon Amor (1959, Resnais), Le Samouraï (1967, Melville), Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Dreyer), M (1931, Lang), Aguirre, Wrath of God (1973, Herzog), The Godfather (1972, Coppola), Lion in Winter (1968, Harvey), Casablanca (1942, Curtiz) and Chinatown (1974, Polanski).

    If I were forced to pick, I’d probably pick Casablanca even though it is a really conventional choice. While I have watched each of those films multiple times, it’s one of the few ones that is just as clever and fun after viewing 50 or 100.

    (Note: most of mine are subtitled, and thus would also kill your screen).

  3. p.s. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls? Were they serious? Have they actually watched it? OMG – one of my bottom 20 movies of all time. Seriously – one of the biggest steaming pile of crap movies I’ve ever seen and I like Roger Ebert.

  4. Well, the person who picked it ran the Bad Video Board at my college, and has a great appreciation for classically “bad” movies…and an offbeat sense of aesthetics, in general. But I haven’t seen it.

  5. Somehow, that is the perfect context to justify that selection.

  6. 2001: A Space Odyssey

  7. All I’m going to say is that I can’t believe some of the choices for best movie listed here…I found a lot of them unwatchable, including “American Beauty.”

    My choices in no order:

    Lawrence of Arabia
    Wings of Desire
    F for Fake
    La Strada
    Kurosawa’s Dreams
    Sleuth (which I hear is being remade…?)
    Pulp Fiction (guilty pleasure)

  8. McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye (Elliot Gould in a Raymond Chandler story updated to Los Angeles in the early seventies? It actually works really well), Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Belle du Jour, Afterlife (from Japan, the best film ever made about heaven), La Ley del Deseo aka Law of Desire (Almodovar’s best film: don’t let anyone tell you any different), Jane Campion’s An Angel at My Table (based on an autobiography of a New Zealand writer. It’s a better, more nuanced portrait of girls, sisterly relationships, mental illness, poverty and the life of women artists than any other film you’ve ever seen.), Intimacy (as close to pornography as two great, great actors have ever come–so to speak. Adultery and divorce based on writing by Hanif Kureshi), Long Night’s Journey into Day (documentary about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, directed by an out dyke), You and Me and Everyone We Know (beautiful, sometimes wrenching portraits of adolescence and childhood along with the most outrageous sex chat ever devised by a six year-old: ))((, indeed), The Lives of Others (a great love story amid government-sanctioned spying of citizenry in East Germany a few years before reunification), Lilies (queer take on memory, murder, love, repression, Jean Genet and… cross-cultural/gender casting in Quebec early in the twentieth century), The Makioka Sisters (portrait of a wealthy family in Japan during World War II, though the film barely mentions the war. The quiet, pretty, “traditional” sister shows she has a will of iron when she refuses each of the long line of dorks her family arranges for her to marry), When Billy Broke His Head (documentary about disability made by a man who suffered brain damage in a motor scooter accident) and Atarnajuat the adaptation of an Inuit legend, three hours of action-adventure, murder, jealousy, adultery and “evil”: a mysterious stranger whose visits are brief, unexpected and terrifying. I’ve spent a lot of my life in movie theaters.

  9. I totally thought about Law of Desire as a contender! But I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I wasn’t sure if it was as amazing as I remembered. But I totally agree – it’s still one of his best, and CERTAINLY the best movie Antonio Banderas ever made.

  10. Never heard of a couple of these…I have to say I found Lawrence of Arabia unwatchable, however. But clearly, La Strada is really one I need to see, since both you and my father are people whose opinions I really respect. I think I meant to see Wings of Desire – I’ve heard really good things about it and I love Wim Wenders.

  11. The Incredibles.

    Seriously. That film RULES, on so many levels.

  12. I love The Incredibles…yes, it is amazing…but if we’re going to nominate a Pixar/animated film (and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t) I’d have to go with Finding Nemo over The Incredibles. It touches of levels of human pathos equal to an ancient Greek tragedy. Seriously. And it moves me every single goddamn time I watch it.

  13. I agree that I with other folks who said I found many of others’ favorites unwatchable. Perhaps it is the intenseness of some movies that makes them so hated and loved at the same time. (“Pulp Fiction” comes to mind. Although I must admit there are some great quotes from that movie, I wish I could get a few scenes out of my head–and I didn’t even watch the whole thing!)

    As for best movie ever, here are some that come to mind:

    -Princess Bride
    -Amelie
    -Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    -An Inconvenient Truth
    -Winged Migration
    -The Lord of the Rings trilogy
    -Thelma and Louise
    -and a few other teen angst movies like, “Say Anything”, “But, I’m a Cheerleader” and “Real Women Have Curves.”

    Many of these had a great impact on movie making and/or popular American culture, and if that were to be the criteria, I’d have to admit that the Matrix, while not a “great” or particularly original movie, should be right up there.

    Fun exercise….

  14. Amelie is a good candidate, IMO.

  15. Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. It’s a documentary about four men with unusual jobs (roboticist, topiary gardener, naked mole rat expert, lion tamer) which becomes a meditation on the meaning of being human. I love it, it’s one of very few films I own on DVD.

  16. That is a great one…I somehow had excluded documentaries from the category because it’s so hard to compare them to other movies, in terms of all the other categories (like visual effects, use of the medium)…and probably also because there are a number of great documentaries that I’d nominate for best documentary of all time – Live Nude Girls Unite, Hoop Dreams, Jupitor’s Wife, The Thin Blue Line, The Up Series…and also Fast Cheap and Out of Control.

  17. Sling Blade

  18. okay people? I know I am late, but Touch of Evil? Definitely the greatest movie of all time. A more recent favorite of mine is Children of Men.

    also a personal all-time favorite is definitely Lawrence of Arabia. (As well as all the Aliens movies, though objectively Alien is the best.)

    “Why do you love the desert, Lawrence?”
    “Because it is clean.”

    Not to mention the cinematography.

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