Top 100 Films (Readers)
(in four parts)

from Time Out Film Guide

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Top 100 Films: Time Out's Readers' Top One Hundred (below) was compiled in 1998 from readers who submitted their all-time Top Ten film lists. Descriptions of the films below were excerpted from the Time Out Film Guide (Seventh Edition).

Facts and Commentary About the List:

  • More than 1,000 films were nominated.
  • Hollywood dominated the list, with American films (just over half the total) outstripping their nearest rivals by a ratio of more than three to one.
  • The earliest film in the poll was Battleship Potemkin (1925) and the most recent films were The Full Monty (1997) and L.A. Confidential (1997).
  • There were two silent films in the list; six from the 1930s, 15 from the '40s; and 14 each from the four decades from 1950 to 1989. Twenty-three films from the 1990s made it into the top 100.
  • Martin Scorsese - deemed the most popular director, had five films in the top 100.
  • Other directors' totals: Alfred Hitchcock (4), Krzysztof Kieslowski (3), Sergio Leone (3), Orson Welles (3), and Billy Wilder. Woody Allen (2), Joel Coen (2), Francis Ford Coppola (2), Victor Fleming (2), Milos Forman (2), Howard Hawks (2), Stanley Kubrick (2), Akira Kurosawa (2), David Lean (2), Powell and Pressburger (2), Nicolas Roeg (2) and Wim Wenders (2).
  • Fifty-four other directors were represented by one film each.
See also: Time Out's Top One Hundred (Centenary)

Time Out Film Guide
Top 100 Films (Readers)

from Time Out Film Guide

(part 1, ranked)

(1) The Godfather (1972), d. Francis Ford Coppola, US
Disregarding the ambitious but botched third installment, this is not only one of the cinema's great gangster sagas but a gloriously-detailed - if romanticized - historical look at the ethics of American business, family values and food consumption (all that pasta!) For once, Part II was superior to the original, though the whole thing - a model of Hollywood craftsmanship - was instrumental in igniting several careers: De Niro, Pacino, Duvall, Caan. Brando's finest hour, the mannerisms and mouth full of cottonwool not withstanding.

(2) Casablanca (1942), Michael Curtiz, US
Made in the year when the outcome of the war hung precariously in the balance, this was, and is, popular cinema par excellence - achingly nostalgic, clear cut, ruthlessly well plotted - and a film which has triumphantly withstood the test of time. Bogart, the laconic club owner, and Bergman the girl he left in Paris, and for whom he still feels tenderness and more...Who can forget Rains, Henreid, Lorre, Greenstreet, Veidt, Dooley Wilson, Marcel Dalio and SZ Sakall; and who will not rise (in their mind at least) for the singing of 'The Marseillaise'?

(3) Citizen Kane (1941), d. Orson Welles, US
The most influential talkie ever, this poignant, witty account of the multifarious contradictions in one man's life (a news tycoon based on William Randolph Hearst, who effectively banned the movie for years) takes delirious delight in exploiting the film medium to its full. Rewarding, too, as a prophetic autobiography by its 25-year-old writer/director; most intriguing, however, is that there's actually no one around to hear Kane mutter 'Rosebud,' the enigmatic word that sets the film's search-for-meaning story going. So is everything we see and hear really the dying man's dream?

(4) Blade Runner (1982), d. Ridley Scott, US
2019: a Chandlertown odyssey, adapted from Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, in which Harrison Ford hunts down human robot killers, both repulsive and seductive. A seminal sci-fi movie whose reputation has grown since the release of the restored Director's Cut in 1991: simultaneously bleak and glittering, with a bold and extraordinarily evocative production design.

(5) Vertigo (1958), d. Alfred Hitchcock, US
The master of suspense at his least concerned with suspense, proffering an unprecedentedly bleak vision of human love; namely, of how we try to mold others' personalities and looks according to our own (diseased) desires. An unsettling, dreamy tale of irrational obsession, much loved by Hitchcock imitators - and the great Jimmy Stewart performance.

(6) Apocalypse Now (1979), d. Francis Ford Coppola, US
Orson Welles abandoned plans to film Conrad's Heart of Darkness and made Kane instead. In the early '70s, Francis Coppola returned to the idea, with George Lucas down to direct on location in the middle of the Vietnam conflict. Eventually, Coppola grasped the reins himself, and the project mushroomed into this spectacular, hallucinatory phantasmagoria of war.

(7) Some Like It Hot (1959), d. Billy Wilder, US
The greatest farce from the talkies' most consistently funny and biting film-maker. Anyone who would argue with that should submit themselves to this glorious transvestite chase movie in which edgy jazz musicians Lemmon and Curtis witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, join an all-women band, are troubled by romance, both available and simultaneously impossible, and find dime-flipping George Raft and his heavies breathing ominously down their necks.. and not forgetting Marilyn and her heart-stopping gowns.

(8) Taxi Driver (1976), d. Martin Scorsese, US
The best alien movie ever made? De Niro's space capsule is a checker cab, while New York at night is on the outer limits of another world. This remains a profoundly troubling essay on violence and insanity; its images burn in the mind, twenty years on, and will probably still burn twenty years hence when most of the extreme, mocking mayhem of the cinema of the 90's is long forgotten. For the cinephile, De Niro's Travis Bickle subconsciously informs all the great actor's subsequent performances: there is the spring, waiting to uncoil...

(9) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), d. Stanley Kubrick, US
Still triumphantly - exasperatingly - the most spectacular and magisterial space movie of all time. Just what it means (from the prehistoric ape tossing up a bone, through the black monolith, to the vast human fetus) is unclear. Here, however, is the lurking, unambiguous danger of the rogue computer: a prophetic warning - as we await the effect of the millenium bug - more than thirty years before the event.

(10) It's A Wonderful Life (1946), d. Frank Capra, US
Never was divine intervention so urgently needed as on the Christmas night James Stewart - personifying a man who judged himself a failure - stood on the ledge of a snowy bridge and contemplated suicide. A film designed to grab your cockles and warm them till they smoulder.

(11) GoodFellas (1990), d. Martin Scorsese, US
Another Mob picture: De Niro and Scorsese again, both in top form. Liotta, eyes on fire, is the unblooded youngster who aspires to be a big time 'family' member. A fast, violent, stylish portrait of the Italian American underworld from the mid- '50s to the late '70s. Screen murder has rarely been committed with such cocky assurance, or contemplated with such sang froid.

(12) North By Northwest (1959), d. Alfred Hitchcock, US
'What's the O for?' 'Nothing,' replies Cary Grant's Roger O Thornhill, revealing the redemptive moral strain that underlies this admirably light-hearted romantic thriller. It's not just magnificent set-pieces (most notably the attack by a crop-duster's plane and the chase on Mt. Rushmore), but a sly, witty satire on the shallow ethics of modern advertising man.

(13) Pulp Fiction (1994), d. Quentin Tarantino, US
The most recent film in the top fifteen had, inevitably, to be a Tarantino movie - just as, had this poll been conducted in the '60s, it would have had to be a cutting-edge Godard. Three up-to-the-minute stories, full of effing and blinding and pop cultural references, and lashings of Grand Guignol violence (and more), executed with that breezy, exhilarating confidence which says look at me - and keep looking.

(14) Seven Samurai (1954), d. Akira Kurosawa, Jap
An epic Western in eastern garb, with a genuinely Homeric sense of character, nature and physicality, plagiarized to far less effect by The Magnificent Seven. Kurosawa himself, of course, meant it partly as a tribute to Ford, though Jack probably never filmed action - let alone mud and rain - quite so well. Even Mifune, as unrestrained energy incarnate, is overshadowed by Takashi Shimura's paragon of threatened, ancient wisdom.

(15) The Third Man (1949), d. Carol Reed, GB
Dang-gadang-gadang...and Welles' Lime is less than cordial. Pulp writer Cotten chases the shadow of his old friend, now gone to the bad, through a devastated Vienna still shell-shocked by the war. This cool, perfect adaptation of Grahame Greene's novel is photographed in black and white by Robert Krasker: the ferris wheel, the boy with a ball, the kitten and the polished shoes, the fingers through the grating.

(16) Lawrence of Arabia (1962), d. David Lean, GB
Much admired by the likes of Spielberg for its sumptuous desert imagery and its slick editing (the match and the sun), and more recently for its romanticized view of its enigmatic hero. The rot, probably, set in here for Lean, but there's no denying its visual elegance or its vaunting ambition.

-- Raging Bull (1980), d. Martin Scorsese, US
Often lauded as the finest movie of the '80s, this biopic of boxing champ Jake La Motta is less about physical violence in the ring (though that's depicted, in stunning monochrome, with superbly visceral energy) than about the emotional violence of marital and family relationships, particularly as perpetrated by brute, inarticulate males.

(18) Gone With The Wind (1939), d. Victor Fleming, US
Scarlett O'Hara's getting of wisdom. What more can be said about this much loved, much discussed, legendary blockbuster from Margaret Mitchell's novel. It epitomizes pre-war Hollywood at its most ambitious: respectable middlebrow entertainment on a huge polished platter. Acted to the hilt by all concerned, spectacular and then some, an evergreen classic. The tears flow on cue, every time.

(19) A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven) (1946), d. Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger, GB
Though partly a propaganda piece aimed at improving Anglo-American relations, this beautifully bizarre romantic fantasy, in which love conquers death at a celestial court, is also a cheeky display of Powell and Pressburger's contempt for the grim homilies of the British 'documentary boys'. The second Bill and Ted movie may have paid dubious homage to the Stairway to Heaven, but this really is absurd material made utterly enthralling by wit and endless invention.

(20) Schindler's List (1993), d. Steven Spielberg, US
Spielberg's most grown-up film, a noble account - photographed in grainy black and white, and not sparing the viewer from matter-of-fact horrors - of the wartime work of Oskar Schindler, the ambiguous, unknowable man who saved the lives of 1,100 Polish Jews by employing them in his factory. A Hollywood film, of course, for both good (marvelously edited, effortlessly well acted) and bad (sentimentality creeps in at the end), but one made with unassailable conviction.

(21) Rear Window (1954), d. Alfred Hitchcock, US
Masterly voyeuristic thriller with James Stewart as the man who sees too much.

-- The Searchers (1956), d. John Ford, US
The pioneer spirit gives way to the demands of family, community, and civilization. A heartbreaker.

(23) Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) (1945), d. Marcel Carne, Fr
France's answer to the Occupation: a tribute to the life of the mind and the sovereignty of the heart.

(24) Chinatown (1974), d. Roman Polanski, US
Nicholson inhabits the skin of down-at-heel private eye Jake Gittes in this silky film noir.

(25) Manhattan (1979), d. Woody Allen, US
Allen's relaxed, uncomplicated, rhapsodic love affair with New York.

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