Esther Zuckerman

Film Critic

Voted for

The Wizard of Oz1939Victor Fleming
Sullivan's Travels1941Preston Sturges
The Apartment1960Billy Wilder
The Philadelphia Story1940George Cukor
Do the Right Thing1989Spike Lee
The Piano1992Jane Campion
Clueless1995Amy Heckerling
The Producers1968Mel Brooks
GoodFellas1990Martin Scorsese
Margaret2008Kenneth Lonergan


The Wizard of Oz

1939 USA

There has never been anything like the moment when Oz bursts into Technicolor and there never will be again.

Sullivan's Travels

1941 USA

Sturges' masterpiece somehow both takes the piss out of filmmakers thinking they are changing the world and is one of the most insightful arguments for making art ever put on screen.

The Apartment

1960 USA

"I like it that way, makes me look the way I feel." Sure, "Shut up and deal" is the most often quoted line in Wilder's lonely-souls masterpiece, but the one I always return to finds Shirley MacLaine's Fran Kubelik justifying why she likes her mirror broken. It cuts like that shard of glass.

The Philadelphia Story

1940 USA

Star power at work, from Hepburn to Grant to Stewart. Still one of the funniest eviscerations of the upper class.

Do the Right Thing

1989 USA

The heat radiates off Do the Right Thing. It's sexy and angry and grows more and more potent by the year.

The Piano

1992 Australia, France

A subversive erotic drama in period clothing. Stirs the mind and the heart as it untangles one woman's desires.


1995 USA

Like, teen girls have been totally underestimated throughout time, but Amy Heckerling's comedy is a full-on Baldwin. I mean, c'mon, it invented its own language. Would I leave it off my list? As if!

The Producers

1968 USA

Who says comedy can't be cinematic splendour? The moment the Lincoln Center fountain erupts is as sumptuous as anything in a "serious" film. A middle finger to Nazis, with musical numbers that would make Busby Berkeley take note.


1990 USA

Scorsese's rock symphony about the gangster lifestyle. Thoroughly fun until the insidiousness creeps in without you even realising.


2008 USA

Overshadowed by its delayed release, Kenneth Lonergan's film is an opera of post-9/11 New York life, teenage emotions and guilt.

Further remarks

I know the flaws in my list. It's very American. It's very Hollywood. But I went for sentiment above all else. I chose movies that have given me comfort. Movies that have blown my mind. Movies that showed me what cinema could be. The "greatest" is such a hard thing to quantify, so I trusted my gut. I assume I'll change my mind as soon as I submit.