Girish Shambu

Editor, Film Quarterly's online column Quorum

Voted for

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles1975Chantal Akerman
Born in Flames 1983Lizzie Borden
Daughters of the Dust1991Julie Dash
Beau travail1998Claire Denis
All over Me1996Alex Sichel
The Gleaners and I2000Agnès Varda
In the Cut2003Jane Campion
Smiley Face2007Gregg Araki
A Girl at My Door2014July Jung
Get Out2017Jordan Peele


To ask for the “greatest films of all time” is not an innocent question. It’s a loaded one because it implicitly demands a posture of objectivity; a rational process that arrives at the “correct” answers; and an omniscient knowledge of all global cinema that no human being could possibly possess. In short, it is premised on a fantasy. Objectivity, as the saying goes, is often little more than straight white male subjectivity in disguise. And it is no accident that a question that demands an objective response has the effect of making us all deliberate, cautious, nervous: anything but reckless. In other words, the question exerts a strong gravitational pull towards what has already been deemed great and enshrined in the past, ie, the SWM canon. The prospect of abandoning this “impossible objectivity” is intimidating because that would mean breaking the rules of the game.

And yet that is exactly what we must do. To be fair, the poll rules provide an opening by specifying that the idea of “greatest” is “open to your interpretation.” And into this breach we must step, reclaiming subjectivity, our distinct lived and embodied experience, and our radical differences despite our shared passion for cinema.

In the last decade, the single most powerful influence upon my own cinephilia has been the ever-intensifying realisation of a central injustice in film culture: the marginalisation of women in every single realm, from financing and production all the way to film criticism. My list was produced using a simple, personal rule: these are the films that I have admired and returned to the most in the last ten years.