Sunday, August 14, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks

Popular American director Howard Hawks was tied at 11th with 8 titles in the top 1000 (along with Chaplin, Bresson, Renoir, Powell, and Visconti), but was only 18th in total points, the director with the most titles in the top 1000 without any in the top 100. [Our 2011 update of our film polls compendium is here at Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.]

It seems like Hawks makes lots of very good films, but no real masterpieces, and that the polls pretty much correctly placed him. His films tend to mostly be macho American men films, where the men control both the action and the ladies that hang around them, who seem resigned to the fact that this is how real men act, with a take the bull by the horns spirit.

In 2009, he had 11 titles in the top 1000, but three have fallen just out, so I listed those below, led by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, now just outside at 1060. Hawks also had a low average total per film at 3168 – the only other directors with this many titles and a lower per film average were the Coen Brothers, at 2680 pts per film, but with 10 titles cracking the top 1000 this time, compared to just six in 2009, which I first compiled all the polls into one big one.

1. His Girl Friday (1940) #147
2. The Big Sleep (1941) #154
3. Bringing Up Baby (1938) #217
4. Rio Bravo (1959) #346
5. Red River (1948) #371
6. To Have and Have Not (1944) #505
7. Scarface (1932) #518
8. Only Angels Have Wings (1939) #584

Previously ranked in the top 1000, new rankings
9. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) #1060
10. Hatari! (1962) #1217
11. El Dorado (1966) #1409

I think they got his best two correct, His Girl Friday followed by The Big Sleep. I’d also rank them that way. Both feature crsip dialogue and briskly moving plots, though the plot of Sleep gets a little muddled and one killing appears to be unsolved, a mystery to the screenwriters as well, according to one source. Yet it remains one of a handful of classic American noir from the 40's, one that helped define the genre.

However, I see Bringing Up Baby and Rio Bravo as just exercises in silliness (and always overrated), easy writing if any at all (especially true of Bravo, which reeks as a serious western, and it certainly isn't funny either), neither one has ever made me laugh or get involved in any way, though I did want to belt the Hepburn character in Baby with a baseball bat just to shut her up – one of the most irritating people in cinema history. Red River is just more homage to John Ford stuff, nothing new but still another classic western in that genre canon.

To Have and Have Not, though it made Lauren Bacall famous, was much better filmed in 49 as The Breaking Point, with John Garfield and Patricia Neal (who was even smoother than Bacall and not as obvious), the version Hemingway preferred as well. Scarface is pretty standard gangster fare.

Only Angels Have Wings deserves a higher ranking, even with it’s totally cheesy special effects featuring aircraft landings on a small jungle airstrip in South America that are akin to kids' wooden models landing on a card table with plastic trees, I swear you can see cables on the planes at one point. Otherwise it’s a moving story with some good performances, typical of Hawk’s best works, when ensemble casts click and appear to mesh smoothely onscreen. This cast is led by Cary Grant and Jean Arthur (always one of my favorites), with a welcome intrusion by a young Rita Hayworth.

The ensemble clicking like machinery was especially true of His Girl Friday, it’s a classic of the genre, non-stop dialogue and plot movement, which tried to simulate news flashes in style, as it was about crime reporters on a big breaking story about a killer escaping prison. It was a remake of the previously filmed The Front Page, co-penned by Billy Wilder.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Akira Kurosawa

These are all the films of Japanese master Akira Kurosawa that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls. He is tied for 5th with 11 ranked titles, and is 4th overall in total points, after Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Scorsese. He also has 3 titles in the top 100, and many cinephiles would argue that Ikiru is perhaps his finest film and also very close to the top 100 at #101 – it will likely be within the top 100 on the next updating of these rankings as it’s reputation is growing over time. He is currently my favorite all-time director after Stanley Kubrick, and I've only seen half his vast filmography so far.

1. The Seven Samurai (1954, bw) #2 This was refilmed as the western The Magnificent Seven
2. Rashomon (1954, bw) #29
3. Ran (1985) #39 This is a retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear
4. Ikiru (1952, bw) #101
5. Yojimbo (1961, bw) #163 This was refilmed as the western Fistful of Dollars
6. Throne of Blood (1957, bw) #244 This is a retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth
7. High and Low (1963, bw) #449
8. Dersu Uzala (1975) #646
9. Kagemusha (1980) #683
10. Hidden Fortress, The (1958, bw) #788 George Lucas said this inspired Star Wars
11. Red Beard (1965, bw) #961

Seven Samurai had the original title of The Magnificent Seven - Kurosawa changed the title when the U.S. western remake came out to avoid confusion, and is a bona fide masterpiece, perhaps the greatest film of all time. In our most recent update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films, it’s now ranked only behind The Godfather, but is much more ground-breaking. It’s gritty realistic style and in-your-face action influenced all action films to follow. On top of that, the entire battle sequence was filmed in a torrential rainstorm, so water and mud are constantly flying in front of the lens, which also helped to totally immerse the viewers in the action. I also much prefer Kurosawa’s early b&w films to the later epics in color – I’m totally bored by Ran and Kagemusha, but Dersu Uzala, about a Siberian wilderness guide, is a very good color film.

A young Toshiro Mifune plays a
detective in Stray Dog

For me, the most glaring omission here is Stray Dog (1949, bw), a police procedural about a rookie detective (played by Kurosawa favorite Toshiro Mifune) having his gun stolen on a crowded bus, and his dogged search in Tokyo’s black market for the missing gun, which is now being used to commit other crimes. This film caused a sensation in Japan and a whole wave of police procedural films as a result. His High and Low is a throwback to Stray Dog, being another police investigation, this one of a child’s kidnapping for a huge ransom from a corporate executive, also played by Toshiro Mifune. These two films will make you want to watch all of Kurosawa’s crime films.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Friday, August 12, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Jean-Luc Godard

These are all the films of Godard’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls. He place third with overall titles, tied with Bergman at 12, behind Hitchcock and Scorsese, and down from 16 in 2009, so he’s actually had four titles fall out of the top 1000. But then, with only 1 in the top 100, he's tied with about 60 others there; compare that with Kubrick's six.

1. Contempt (1963) #89
2. Pierrot le fou (1965) #124
3. Masculine-Feminine (1966) #126
4. Breathless (1959) #159
5. My Life to Live (Vivre sa vie) (1963) #171
6. Band of Outsiders (Bande à part, 1964) bw #268
7. Week-End (1967) #304
8. Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1966) #341
9. Alphaville (1965) #544
10. A Woman is a Woman (1961) #712
11. Passion (1982) #951
12. Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980) #976

Not my favorite canonical director (though at least interesting), I hope he loses four over the next two years as well and he’ll be down where he more appropriately belongs. Many of his films are two hour discourses about the same thing, usually leftists reading propaganda (not that there's anything wrong with revolution! just do it, don't read a prepared statement about it - viva Che!), or sometimes people just telling you about themselves (Two or Three Things) – boring! But then, "your results may vary", lol..

Apparently others don’t think so. In fact, his top ranked film here, Contempt, is two hours of mostly silent brooding, and perfectly fits the archetype of what I don’t like about Godard – I personally think he wastes film footage and makes the creative process as easy as possible for himself by singles takes and not much editing and long scenes where not much happens. Most of these look like they were made in a few days – see Two or Three Things I Know About Her, Week-End (which is dreadful to sit through in a theater), Alphaville, and A Woman Is a Woman for more examples, if you have some time to kill. (I'd rather be having a root canal than sit through Week-End again)

A few films however, appear fresh and lively by comparison. I especially liked Band of Outsiders and Breathless – each were classic b&w films with a vitality usually lacking in Godard, these actually have pace and move like a good film should. These films may give the filmgoer a wrong impression of his overall work however, as he quickly moved from these faster-paced stories to the films with no stories, only long discourses. I received plenty of school lectures growing up, I don’t need them in films as well, not even in documentaries. Godard will be a acquired taste at best for most film fans, I find most of these more on the pretentious than artistic side of the scale.

One interesting film that didn’t make the top 1000 is better than most of these that did, Le Petit Soldat (1960), which has a journalistic and gritty style through most of its fast moving story, then disintegrates into political rhetoric. It’s about Algerian agents operating in Switzerland against France and trying to avoid capture from intelligence agents. It almost has a John Le Carré feel to it.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Ingmar Bergman

The films of Swedish master Bergman are a mixed bag, as he can often produce what I consider art, as in The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, then he can descend into the angst and inner hell of characters in crisis - films like Cries and Whispers and Scenes From a Marriage almost sent me out of the theater. He is definitely a visual master worth studying, by anyone interested in cinema, but don't expect many pleasant hours here, outside of the lighter Fanny and Alexander - this is some serious stuff.

Hey, where's that midnight sun when you need it, eh?

These are all the films of Bergman’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls combined in a big spreadsheet. Bergman was tied with Godard for 3rd highest film count at 12 (after Hitchcock and Scorsese), and was sixth in total points among all directors, pretty lofty heights. (My own results vary, lol.. he's not my favorite; I admire him more than I like or enjoy him, and I suspect this is true of most cinephiles)

1. The Seventh Seal (1957) bw #31 Medieval knight Max von Sydow plays a chess game with Death while fleeing the Black Plague with his family - just another typical Swedish family film
2. Fanny and Alexander (1982) #46 A nostalgic family album kinda film, so un-Bergmanlike that perhaps it had a different sperm donor, I dunno.. maybe he liked Fellini's Amarcord
3. Persona (1966) #86 C'mon man, any two beautiful women I've known that were together in a house this much would have definitely experimented (and I've known many!), this film failed to deliver much of anything but a big audience tease - hey, L'avventura did the same thing now that I think about it, the dressing scene on the boat!
4. Wild Strawberries (1957) #104 Beautiful story, and realistic, just kinda slow like most Bergman films, but very rewarding, my favorite after Seventh Seal
5. Cries and Whispers (1972) #273 Not even Liv Ullman close-ups are worth all this cinematic pain
6. Winter Light (1962) #512
7. Silence, The (1963) #553
8. Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) #559
9. Scenes from a Marriage (1973) #664
10. Through a Glass Darkly (1961) #743
11. Virgin Spring, The (1960) #882
12. Sawdust and Tinsel (1953) #975

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Top Ranked Films of Luis Buñuel

Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel, a friend of surrealist painter Salvador Dali, has given cinema a glimpse of his unique vision of cinema as art. His most accessible film, Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie [photo below], is a gentle satire of suburban life, in which dinner guest arrive for a dinner that gets continually delayed by the mind of Buñuel and other unforeseen events.

1. Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The (1972) #99
2. Belle de jour (1967) #218
3. Viridiana (1961) #231
4. L'Âge d'or (1930) #263
5. That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) #293
6. Exterminating Angel, The (1962) #365
7. Los Olvidados (1950) #419
8. Tristana (1970) #443
9. El (1952) #685
10. Phantom of Liberty, The (1974) #827

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of the Coen Brothers

Joel and Ethan Coen
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain, © 2011 Getty Images

These are all the films of the Coen Brothers, Ethan and Joel, that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls. They usually share both directing and screenwriting duties, so I lumped them all together here, and they had 10 titles make the top 1000 in all.

Frances McDormand won a best actress
Oscar® for her sheriff character in Fargo

1. Fargo (1996) #49
2. No Country for Old Men (2007) #133 [AA]
3. Big Lebowski, The (1998) #260
4. Barton Fink (1991) #467
5. Raising Arizona (1987) #626
6. Serious Man, A (2009) #627
7. Miller's Crossing (1990) #673
8. Blood Simple (1984) #717
9. True Grit (2010) #889
10. O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000) #958

My favorite Coen Brothers film remains one of the funniest ever made, Raising Arizona. This is also one of the fastest-paced films ever.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Martin Scorsese

These are all the films of Scorsese’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls. Martin had 13 titles in all, second only to Hitchcock's 14, and in my opinion, a much better, more serious body of work than Hitch's.

1. Taxi Driver (1976) #3
2. Raging Bull (1980) bw #25
3. Goodfellas (1990) #26
4. Casino (1995) #120
5. Mean Streets (1973) #166
6. The Departed (2006) #191 [AA]
7. The King of Comedy (1982) #393
8. Age of Innocence, The (1993) #417
9. Last Temptation of Christ, The (1988) #494
10. After Hours (1985) #531
11. Shutter Island (2010) #567
12. My Voyage to Italy (1999) #755
13. Last Waltz , The (1978) #796

More ranked, but outside the top 1000
14. The Aviator #1265
15. New York, New York #1410
16. Gangs of New York (2002) #1681
17. No Direction Home #1824
18. Personal Journey w Martin Scorsese #2072

This list could also include the excellent Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, which won Ellen Burstyn her only Oscar®, so far anyway, as best actress. The one really missing in the top 1000 to me is Gangs of New York, which came it at #1681.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of Federico Fellini

These are all the films of Fellini’s that made the top 1000, in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls - he had nine total, including two in the top 100. [Photos courtesy of]

Fellini and wife, actress Julietta Masina

1. 8 ½ (1963) Italy, bw #40
2. La Dolce Vita (1960) Italy, bw #74
3. La Strada (1954) #114
4. Nights of Cabiria (1957) Italy #172
5. Amarcord (1973) #254
6. I Vitelloni (1953) #348
7. Juliet of the Spirits (1965) #478
8. Fellini Satyricon (1969) #682
9. Fellini's Casanova (1976) #842

Many prefer the metaphor-laden surrealism of 8 ½, but I think I lean toward the realism of the decadent artists portrayed in La Dolce Vita. Both are classics. Wife Julietta Masina’s performance makes Nights of Cabiria a must-see for fans of Italian cinema, it’s a rare gem.

A more accessible film for the public may be the affable comedy Amarcord (1973), a beautifully shot color film about growing up in Italy. It's said that he wrote down his nightmares and dreams in a journal, hence the surrealist aspect of most of his films, as he's obviously attempting to partially film his own subconscious.

As a rule, I avoid all films with the filmmaker’s name in the title, lol..

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of John Ford

These are all the films of John Ford’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls. He had ten this time, down from 14 in 2009. [Photos courtesy of]

Long considered the 'iconic' American director, he made the most revered westerns of all time, and practically defined the genre by himself. Yet, some of his best films are outside that genre.

My favorite Ford film is The Grapes of Wrath (1940), from John Steinbeck's Pulitzer-winning novel, and a story that got them all branded 'Commies' by the McCarthy-run HUAC; it's simply a humane story about every person deserving some dignity, justice, and work in life.

Next I prefer his best western, The Searchers (though She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is also a great one in spite of the title), then non-westerns missing from the top 1000, The Informer (1935, about IRA terrorists, for which Ford favorite Victor McLaglen won his only acting Oscar), and Mister Roberts (1955, a comedy about a naval supply ship during WW2, he shared directing credit with Mervyn Leroy). It’s good to see the underrated My Darling Clementine rising over time, it’s the one about the gunfight at the O.K. corral, with Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clancy Brothers; it may be Ford's finest b&w western.

They Were Expendable (1945) is also an underrated war film, about the PT boats and their crews. It was his first film after making war propaganda films for the government’s war effort from 1941-1945, and he used that experience to make a taut, realistic and often overlooked war film about a little known part of the Pacific war, that of the U.S. patrol boats, which were mobile but small and vulnerable, hence the title.

1. Searchers, The (1956) #65
2. Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (1962) #107
3. Grapes of Wrath, The (1940) #144
4. Stagecoach (1939) #283
5. My Darling Clementine (1946) #315
6. Quiet Man, The (1952) #425
7. How Green Was My Valley (1941) #528
8. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) #765
9. They Were Expendable (1945) #782
10. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) #865

Wayne's own favorite performance
was in this Ford cavalry film,
about a retiring colonel, tired of
all the Indian wars. It could be
his most affable western character.

The other cavalry film, Fort Apache, should also be on this list - it's ranked 1998th this time. I'm always bored by Stagecoach, The Quiet Man, and How Green Was My Valley, but they're still all finely crafted - but "that's just my opinion, I could be wrong" (Dennis Miller).

As always: your results may vary, void where prohibited, not responsible for accidents

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of Stanley Kubrick

All 11 titles of Kubrick's made the top 1000. He is 2nd in overall points (after Hitchcock) with 57,302

These are all the films of Kubrick’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls. In fact, these are all eleven films that Kubrick made, and he has the most titles in the top 100 with six. 2001 thankfully changed the look of science fiction films forever.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) #4
2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) #18
3. Barry Lyndon (1975) #56
4. Clockwork Orange, A (1971) #59
5. Paths of Glory (1957) #91
6. Shining, The (1980) #94
7. Full Metal Jacket (1987) #135
8. Killing, The (1956) #366
9. Spartacus (1960) #390
10. Lolita (1962) #474
11. Eyes Wide Shut (1999) #568

2001 was shot entirely on a sound stage in England

I think Kubrick is the most interesting director of all time. Never made a bad film really, though admittedly his masterpieces came early. Those in the top half of these rankings are all classics. 2001 is ranked #2 after Godfather now on all polls combined as best film of all time. In my opinion it's better, more visionary and artistic, and also had more influence on the film industry. Godfather merely continued a long line of gangster films, with more artistry. 2001 caused an resurgence of the entire science fiction genre, with Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron, and Ridley Scott to soon follow.
See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock

1st in titles with 14, 1st in total points with 64,881 (7,000 ahead of #2 Stanley Kubrick)

These are all the films of Hitchcock’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls. His 14 titles led all directors in total film count in the 1000. [Photos courtesy of]

1. Vertigo (1958) #12
2. Psycho (1960) #14
3. North by Northwest (1959) #27
4. Notorious (1946) #54
5. Rear Window (1954) #64
6. Rebecca (1940) #153
7. Strangers on a Train (1951) #157
8. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) #264
9. Birds, The (1963) #282
10. 39 Steps, The (1935) #372
11. Rope (1948) #457
12. Lady Vanishes, The (1938) #621
13. Dial M for Murder (1954) #657
14. Marnie (1964) #681

For me, Hitchcock made a lot of good films, but few great ones. I like Vertigo a lot, especially Stewart's performance, but found Psycho, North by Northwest, The Birds, and others to be a bit too incredible and bordering on the preposterously silly (Torn Curtain).

I did like his early British classics The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps, also Strangers on a Train, so I guess I lean toward his black-and-white films with less tongue-in-cheek, something that he avoided in Vertigo as well.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition