Next week I am starting a ten part summer series, releasing my top 100 films of all time. Obviously I haven’t seen every movie, but I’ve seen a lot of really good ones. I’ll release it ten at a time, which will generate an intense amount of anticipation, perhaps anger that your favorite film hasn’t made the list, or is too low, or perhaps something is too high. I want your feedback. Film is incredibly subjective. What makes a movie great? I will include a brief description of why I think each movie is one of the greatest ever made, and hope to pique your interest in critically enjoying every film on the list.
Here is basically what I am looking for in ranking these films. Ranking them is seemingly senseless and subjective, but I do like some movies better than others, and I do think there is a certain shared sense of objectivity when looking at movies. I think just about everyone would agree, for instance, that Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994) is a better film than Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Raja Gosnell, 2008), or Year One (Harold Ramis, 2009). What makes one movie better than another? Its a tough question to answer. My criteria for this list does not necessarily reflect a universal criteria, and for any given film one of these might outweigh another.
- Personal Preference: How much I purely enjoy the film. Can I watch this film repeatedly, and does the film demand repeated viewings?
- Technical Skill: How do all the elements of film (Editing, cinematography, sound, music, lighting, mise-en-scene, acting, screenplay/story, etc.) come together? All of these films exhibit high technical skill, but some are “tighter”, or “better”executed.
- Historical/Cultural Significance: Is this film important in the history of film? Did this film make a significant contribution to the art of cinematic storytelling, or make a profound or poignant statement of historical/political significance?
- Transcendance: (1) How does the film hold up? Is it still just as worthy of viewing today as it was when it came out? (2) Does this film speak to humanity collectively, crossing the boundaries of the ordinary to communicate something of our humanness? Or perhaps does the film give us an encounter with the Divine Other, something outside of us that spurs us to action?
- Popularity: How popular is this film? Did it receive acclaim from critics and moviegoers alike? Or perhaps made a come back as a cult classic, or originally misunderstood film?
This is my basic criteria, and like I said, on any given movie one or more of these will outweigh the others.
Here’s my thing: I believe that film is incredibly powerful. Films have the power to change people, to encounter people in a transcendant way, in a divine way. All things are ultimately God’s things, regardless of whether we believe they are or not. He can (and does) use everything to give people an awareness of Him, a sense of Him. We all have an awareness of the divine in us, whatever we choose to call it, and movies extend the parabolic/prophetic lens to help us understand ourselves on our own terms and in terms of the divine.
For those who have eyes to see, let them see. For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.