|2001: A Space Odyssey
|Once upon a Time in the West
|Francis Ford Coppola
|Terminator 2 Judgment Day
|La Vie d'Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2
There can be no 'best films of all time' poll without at least one Hitchcock movie. I could easily put Vertigo or North By Northwest but I choose Rear Window. Hitchcock's thriller is a fascinating study about cinematic voyeurism and consequently a meta-film about watching (and interpreting) films, with James Stewart as one of us – a cinephile. The eyes are the rear window to the soul.
In Bergman Island one filmmaker says to the other 'No one expects Persona'. No one expects it because a film like that comes along once in a lifetime, even for Bergman. The brilliant psychological drama changed the face of arthouse cinema forever quite literally in that magnificent shot of two womens' faces merging into one in a close up, emerging as an ageless postmodern masterpiece.
2001: A Space Odyssey
One small step for film, one giant leap for cinema. Science fiction genre and cinema reached its peak in Kubrick's 2001 which, in a cinematic sense, equals and even surpasses Armstrong's real life achievement. Kubrick filmed space like no other director before or after him in this thoughtful, mind-altering sci-fi that still transcends space and time in one match cut.
Once upon a Time in the West
The Wild Bunch, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, High Noon and The Searchers are all grand westerns but this is the grandest, the most operatic and melancholic. It encompasses the past and the future of the genre and cinema, from classic to revisionist westerns, from silent to action films. Leone celebrates and mourns the mythology of the Old West, maybe the mythic grandeur of Old Hollywood as well.
Scorsese and De Niro have several movies ready-made for this list (Raging Bull, GoodFellas, even Casino to me) and yet I choose Taxi Driver in which both of them set the highest standard. This is a masterclass in acting and filmmaking, a timeless portrait of still relatable modern urban isolation and loneliness in the big neon-drenched city, visually dreamy and psychologically nightmarish.
The Godfather I&II are phenomenal, as is The Deer Hunter and The Thin Red Line, but when it comes to Coppola and war movies, Apocalypse Now is unbeatable. To paraphrase Rambo, Coppola became war to survive making a war movie. Apocalypse Now is a personification of war and its spectacular madness, a film that looks like a war movie to end all war movies and wars, but you can still smell the napalm in the morning which only makes it more powerful.
I've seen and heard things you people wouldn't believe. Flying cars off the shoulder of Hollywood. I've watched neon signs glitter in the dark near the Hauer Gate and listened to Vangelis' Tales Of The Future. All those audiovisual moments will not be lost in time like tears in the rain. Time to watch Ridley Scott's timeless sci-fi film one more time and dream of electric sheep.
Terminator 2 Judgment Day
Conan the Barbarian, Predator, Alien(s), RoboCop and Die Hard could also make the list but it's difficult to beat the way Cameron directed an even greater successor to the great first Terminator. Tears melt in molten steel in the best and most visionary science fiction action movie of all time where human emotion is equally as important as cyborg action. 'I know now why you cry...'
The best film of the 2000s is a cinematic fever-dream come true. The most beautiful fever-dream in the history of cinema. Lynch dreamt a film about Hollywood's dream factory that walks a thin line between dreams and nightmares, reality and illusion. What begins like a classic noir mystery ends in a noirish dream within a dream. Mulholland Drive is more than just a film – a dream experience.
La Vie d'Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2
I think that at least one film from the 2010s deserves to be on the list. There were a few candidates (Boyhood, Once Upon a Time In Anatolia, Her...) but the final choice is Kechiche's unforgettable story about love featuring the best female performances of the last decade. Simultaneously epic and intimate, lifelike and cinematic, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is emotionally so intense, honest and raw you could easily forget you're watching a movie.
As a film critic and a film lover, I practically face mission impossible making a list of ten best movies of the year since I started doing it back in 2004, let alone ten greatest movies of the decade and especially ten greatest movies of all time.
Preparing for the 'Sight & Sound Greatest Films Of All Time' poll, I was asking myself more than ever how to balance cinephilia and criticism? How to make a list personal and have it include movies that can also be, and are, 'best films of all time'? How to avoid the same directors, actors or genres when, for example, at least five Hitchcock and De Niro movies could make top-ten lists and the same goes for westerns, thrillers, sci-fi, action, gangster, war films...? Finally, do you dare question the established film canon and include movies that aren't often 'routinely' named the best of all time, namely those from the 90s onwards?
I tried to find a balance between all of this while adding and removing movies left and right to narrow down my choice from at least a hundred to 'just' ten, with many regrets. Every single one of those movies, which were eventually removed, could deservedly form dozens of 'ten greatest films of all time' lists and will form them some day when the next poll hopefully comes.
Meanwhile, this 'final' list, with films arranged in chronological order, paints the picture of cinema itself which can be, and usually is, emotional, beautiful, challenging, intellectual and metaphysical on every level, in every frame.
Each of these films awakened a rainbow of emotion and left a lasting impression on the first and every subsequent viewing. These films have opened my eyes and shaped my feelings as a cinephile, a critic and a human being. They have forever changed how I reflect on cinema, the world and life itself.