Sunday, October 2, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Billy Wilder

Wilder with the three Oscars he won
for best picture The Apartment (1960)

Billy Wilder
(Tied for 17th with 7 titles in the top 1000, he is 12th in overall points with 31,120)

Born Samuel Wilder in 1906, in a part of Austria-Hungary that is now in Poland. Once training as a lawyer, he began writing for a Viennese newspaper, then moved to Berlin, working as a newspaper columnist and screenwriter when Hitler came to power. Having one Jewish parent, he left for Paris, then left France for the U.S. and became one of the best American directors, ironically never losing his European accent.

He was nominated for 20 academy awards and won six – three for screenwriting, two for directing, one for producer of a best picture, three of these coming for The Apartment, which won best picture. He also directed the best picture winner The Lost Weekend (1945). He rarely made a bad film and is one of my favorite five directors overall. Many credit his crime thriller Double Indemnity for starting the popularity of the film noir genre. In that film he cast both Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray (who agreed after several other actors turned down this part, fearing public backlash) out of character as two adulterers who plot the murder of her husband to collect a huge life insurance premium.

These are all the films of Wilder’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Sunset Boulevard (1950) bw #19
2. Some Like It Hot (1959), bw #66
3. Double Indemnity (1944) bw #71
4. The Apartment (1960) bw #82 – Best Picture AA
5. Ace in the Hole (1951) bw #566
6. Witness For the Prosecution (1957) bw #728
7. Stalag 17 (1953) bw #927

Other Wilder films just off the top 1000
8. The Lost Weekend (1945) #1377 – Best Picture AA
9. Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) #1509
10. Avanti! (1972) #1540
11. One, Two, Three (1961) bw #1969

Of these extra films, I would definitely move One, Two, Three up to the top 1000 myself – a terrific comedy that spoofs both capitalism and communism, as the Coca-Cola man in West Berlin, wonderfully played by James Cagney, wants to open the market behind the Iron Curtain for Coke, seeing dollar signs all across the Soviet Union. I’m shocked that The Seven Year Itch (1955) received no listing on the polls, it’s certainly better than Avanti! and produced perhaps the most iconic image in films, of Marilyn Monroe standing over a subway vent and letting the warm air blast her nether regions.

Married Tom Ewell tries to avoid the temptation
of Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch

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

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