James Swanton


Voted for

All about Eve1950Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Bride of Frankenstein1935James Whale
The Innocents1961Jack Clayton
The Maltese Falcon1941John Huston
The Night of the Hunter1955Charles Laughton
Oliver Twist1948David Lean
On the Town1949Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans1927F.W. Murnau
Vampyr1932Carl Th. Dreyer
Vertigo1958Alfred Hitchcock


All about Eve

1950 USA

Mankiewicz's astringent screenplay is as great a masterpiece as any play by Wilde; a shimmering cast proves that glamour on screen works best when barbed.

Bride of Frankenstein

1935 USA

The film that synthesises the best elements of Whale's horror filmography: the technical wizardry of The Invisible Man, the deranged comedy of The Old Dark House and Karloff, as spellbinding as he was in Frankenstein. A high point for Hollywood fantasy.

The Innocents

1961 USA, United Kingdom

All films are arguably ghost stories – but along with Vampyr, this is the greatest of the supernatural variety. I believe in these ghosts with my whole being.

The Maltese Falcon

1941 USA

Never have I wanted to follow two characters out of a film more than Gutman and Cairo. A strangely beautiful friendship hatched between thoroughly despicable people.

The Night of the Hunter

1955 USA

Laughton's career-length frustrations at cinema's expressive limitations are here redeemed. A journey through the heart of darkness, in which heart and dark have equal weight – just as in Laughton's acting.

Oliver Twist

1948 United Kingdom

What finer instance of a classic novel translated into an equally classic film? Lean's Great Expectations was but the warm-up for this greater expressionism.

On the Town

1949 USA

Surging euphoria from start to finish; every bit as glorious as Singin' in the Rain and worthy of recognition for coming first.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

1927 USA

The supreme example of what was at risk of being lost when the talkies arrived. Thank God that Murnau slipped this one under the wire.


1932 Germany, France

The underworld of so many horror films is here transformed into an overworld: light-diffusing, revelatory, transcendent. No on-screen space seems to me more three-dimensional – or less knowable.


1958 USA

Hitchcock embraces romance so harshly that he makes his film bleed: in its coruscating colours, in its penetrating Herrmann score, in its mean-spirited, cruelly inexplicable central tragedy. Overwhelming.