Xun Li

Senior Research Fellow

Voted for

Intolerance1916D.W. Griffith
Battleship Potemkin1925Sergei M. Eisenstein
Citizen Kane1941Orson Welles
Spring in a Small Town1948Fei Mu
Je t’aime, je t’aime1968Alain Resnais
Ici et ailleurs1975Anne-Marie Miéville, Jean-Luc Godard
Stalker1979Andrei Tarkovsky
The Baby of Mâcon1993Peter Greenaway
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives2010Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Pina2011Wim Wenders



1916 USA

After having the first try of the double-focus and parallel narrative in A CORNER IN WHEAT (1909), Griffith completed his great four-story parallel narrative structure in INTOLERANCE. This film is the origin of cinematic art.

Battleship Potemkin

1925 USSR

This film is a masterpiece of Russian montage. For almost 100 years Montage has heavily influenced on all kind of image creation from commercial to artistic. Montage is not only a device for general filmmaking but also (especially) a spirit of film both as art and as resistance. We also have seen the montage ideas and practice in the audiovisual designs in contemporary films.

Citizen Kane

1941 USA

Untold CITIZEN KANE! A modernist film in the classical Hollywood period. Every modern innovation of cinematic art seems to be traced back to this source.

Spring in a Small Town

1948 People's Republic of China

The greatest Chinese film (without "one of" )! Theatre (Peking Opera), poetry and cinematic form all in one. The film idea and practice was in the lead of filmmaking in China, even in the world.

Je t’aime, je t’aime

1968 France

Following Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Resnais successfully completed his "time-image" creation in this film. Unfortunately as a science-fiction film it came out in the same year as 2001: A Space Odyssey. So the latter as an innovative, hard science fiction covered up the intellectual achievement of the former at that time. As we see more and more science-fiction films follow the conception of this film in recent years, now we should highly give this film a fame, a position in film history it deserved earlier.

Ici et ailleurs

1975 France

Very brilliant, Godardian essay film classic. The usage of previous documentary materials, videocamera (very few people can use at that time) as a reflexive element, the watching (gaze) as a politically-oriented link and the dominant role of voice-over, etc. all these are paradigmatic and have a profound impact on the filmmakers are wild about essay film as well as other experimental forms.


1979 USSR

Just like Alain Resnais, Tarkovsky dealt with film not only as art and poetry, but also philosophy. The some of hard science-fiction classics would fade away with the progress of science and technology. They only have a nostalgic radiance as time goes by. But Tarkovsky's STALKER have been deeply inspiring different generations of filmmakers with his depth of philosophic thought and unique and extraordinary cinematic image/sound creation. It is always new in understanding and thinking the multiformity of time, space and universe.

The Baby of Mâcon

1993 United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Germany

Greenaway is a unique existence in the world cinema. My favorite Greenaway is his 1980-1990s films. The designs of "by numbers"and "by alphabet" in his films always make me fascinated, but THE BABY OF MACON shocks me in the deep. It is a violent challenge to the soft and elegant film tradition while the reflexive staging breaks both the fourth wall of theatre and the boundary between theatre and film. The darkness of religion, royal family and mass society becomes a whole in human hearts. This film demonstrates the power of a film comes from the coherence of content and form. Greenaway is a film master using different medium to conduct his narrative and expression. This is particularly significant in contemporary filmmaking under the conditions of multi-media.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

2010 Thailand, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands

Apichatpong probably is the most successful example that a local film director becomes an international master. His film UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES is a convergence of social reality, local history, myth, folklore on cinematic modernity. It embodied sufficient complexity. It is an independent film in Thailand while it is a slow-paced, contemplative, arthouse film in the western cultural sense. As a Golden Palm winner, this film is a symbol of Apichatpong cinema's influence on the filmmakers in Southeast Asia as well as in China, who like or even follow his film style.


2011 United Kingdom, Germany, France

Dance is always a subject of cinematography. We have seen the famous dance scenes from Busby Berkerly's elegant choreography in the sound stage to Milos Forman's wild cinematic dancing (HAIR) on location. They tried to achieve a stereoscopic effect of dance on the two-dimensional screen. These two kinds of cinematographic methods belong to the different aesthetic tendencies of classical and modern periods. Wim Wenders combined these two ways into 3D cinematography and put Pina's choreographic art in the centre. This artistic 3D film was completely different from American commercial 3D filmmaking like AVATAR and READY PLAYER ONE and became the greatest classic of European 3D film art. Now we see dance goes into Virtual Reality creation like Terence Malick's TOGETHER (2018), and Das Totale Tanz Theater (2019), Le bal de Paris de Blanca Li (2021). So PINA (3D) undoubtedly is the important bridge between the past and the future.

Further remarks

It is very hard to choose my Top 10 in cinema history. You always choose one while missing dozens. So I would like to focus on the cinematic forms and structures, multiple-media hybrids, and the depth of expression in the greatest films I have chosen. And I would have a little consideration on the image creativity under the conditions of new media technology as well.