Raphael Abraham

Deputy arts editor

Voted for

Metropolis1927Fritz Lang
M1931Fritz Lang
Citizen Kane1941Orson Welles
Rashomon1950Akira Kurosawa
À bout de souffle1960Jean-Luc Godard
The French Connection1971William Friedkin
Do the Right Thing1989Spike Lee
GoodFellas1990Martin Scorsese
Margaret2008Kenneth Lonergan
Toni Erdmann2016Maren Ade



1927 Germany

The design and visuals of Lang's silent masterpiece still dazzle, even if the script is largely utter tosh. Every new generation of sci-fi filmmaker seems to rediscover it and find new things to plunder, underlining how far-sighted this future-set film was.


1931 Germany

An early sound film that makes sound central to the narrative with that eerie whistle sending a chill through the audience. For all the thousands of serial killer films that have followed, has there ever been one with more psychological depth? Peter Lorre's anguished confession, "Kann nicht! Muss!", is both terrifying and heartbreaking. And unforgettable.

Citizen Kane

1941 USA

Is there anything more left to be said? Perhaps only that in 2022 it seems just as fresh as in previous decades - and its influence can still be seen in the latest films.


1950 Japan

The plurality of perspectives so brilliantly expresses the subject nature of all storytelling and cinema and is arguably more relevant than ever in our age of twisted truths.

À bout de souffle

1960 France

In many ways the birth of modern cinema. The daring and swagger from the first scene is almost indecent. It captured so much of what the 60s would be about at the very dawn of the decade. When I first saw it as a teenager I couldn't believe how cool everything about it was for a film more than 30 years old was - another 30 years later, I still can't.

The French Connection

1971 USA

Friedkin's documentary-infused debut feature pulses with such nervous and unsettling energy, capturing the post-summer-of-love spirit of the times even for those who weren't there. I can't think of a film that better defines the word thriller, especially in Hackman's feverishly edgy performance and that breathless, peerless chase sequence.

Do the Right Thing

1989 USA

A worthy entry for the indelible "Fight the Power" opening alone. Spike Lee brilliantly captured the inventive freshness of golden age hip-hop and the racial tensions that were brewing just a few years before the LA riots - and he did it with wit, warmth and wisdom. A wake-up call for society and the complacent movie business of the time.


1990 USA

Scorsese had already made a handful of masterpieces but what better way to cap off the 1980s than with this study of the seductive power of money, status and conspicuous consumption. It contains not one boring scene and so many memorable ones and such a likeable ensemble that it's impossible not to be seduced yourself every time.


2008 USA

Lonergan's film may have not have been released until 2011 but it was made in 2005 and captures so searingly the feeling of confusion and alienation that followed 9/11, especially of course in New York. It deserves to be seen by a much wider audience than the delayed release allowed - and its reputation only seems to grow as more do see it.

Toni Erdmann

2016 Germany, Austria, Romania, Monaco

As the years (and decades) go by, it gets harder to be truly surprised by new films but this was a true original. Maren Ade skewers so much of what is absurd about 21st-century life and does it in a way that is strange, disarming and, finally, poignant.

Further remarks

As a first-timer, I found this task nigh impossible. My longlist was long indeed; my intended shortlist ended longer still. So I set up some strict barriers: one film only from each of the last 10 decades. In each case, I tried to pick a film that seemed to capture the spirit of that time and deliver something both absolutely fresh and lasting. As a result, the choices got harder as the decades went on and I surprised myself with the last couple of choices. I wonder how they'll seem to me 30 years from now - which is, perhaps, the very point of this once-in-a-decade exercise.