Charles Musser

Professor, American Studies, Film Studies and Theater Studies; director, Yale Summer Film Institute

US

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Battle of the Somme, The

1916

J.B. McDowell/Geoffrey Malins

Chronicle of a Summer

1961

Edgar Morin/Jean Rouch

Don't Look Back

1967

D.A. Pennebaker

Gleaners & I, The

2000

Agnès Varda

Hearts and Minds

1974

Peter Davis

Listen to Britain

1942

Humphrey Jennings/Stewart McAllister

Man with a Movie Camera

1929

Dziga Vertov

Nanook of the North

1922

Robert J. Flaherty

Sandow

William K.L. Dickson

Thin Blue Line, The

1989

Errol Morris

Comments

There are many too many films that I love that are the best, that are important. It really is a hopeless task to list them, so I often ignore these requests as silly. But I am immersed in documentary these days, so why not the best/most important films for me in this incarnation of my life? That I can do.

Sandow is there as a reminder that we should not ignore short films (including short one-shot films): besides being a wonderful film it is also the first motion picture made for explicit commercial purposes.

Battle of the Somme is a reminder that there were documentaries before Nanook – but again, it is a great, powerful film.

Nanook is there because one is either for Nanook or against it – and I am for it.

Man with a Movie Camera is there because I wrote my first paper on it and it has inspired me. I also showed it to John MacKay when he served as teaching assistant on my Introduction to Cinema class and he is now writing the definitive Vertov biography. But perhaps more importantly, my daughter took his Russian cinema course and then (without knowing my past) wrote her first paper on Man with a Movie Camera. And so on…

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