MOVIE LISTS: A 26-Year Old’s Top 200 Movies of All-Time

In the Mood for Love (2000) Top 200 Movies of All Time

Last Sunday, July 22, I celebrated my 26th birthday and as tradition I have spent the last week revising my top 200 movies of all-time. Since my last Birthday I have seen well over 100 movies that I had never seen before and revisited numerous others that I had forgotten about. Our Wong Kar Wai and Wes Anderson marathons exposed me to filmmakers I had not been paying close attention to and 2011 offered several films that I considered so good, they deserved to be on my list.

As is the case with any all-time best movies list, the rankings are greatly influenced by my memory and how recently I have seen a movie. Oftentimes a film is buzzed about for long enough that my own opinion of it tends to blend with the critical consensus until I re-watch it and discover my own feelings are stronger or weaker than that of everyone else. Sometimes I worry that nostalgia for a film makes me feel more positively about it than the actually quality of that film merits. That is why I must clarify that this list reflects my opinions as of today and if I were to delete it all and start from scratch tomorrow it would be decidedly different.

Along with Wong Kar Wai and Wes Anderson, Andrei Tarkovsky makes his debut on the list for the first time with two films. The highest premiere is In the Mood for Love at number 13. There are 22 new films on the list with some of the new additions reflecting discoveries since my last birthday and others were movies I had simply forgotten about in previous years. Here are some other quick facts about my 4th Annual Top 200:

Directors to Appear Most:

  1. Stanley Kubrick – 7 Films (Highest is 2001: A Space Odyssey at #2)
  2. Alfred Hitchcock – 7 Films (Highest is Vertigo at #16)
  3. Ingmar Bergman – 6 Films (Highest is Fanny and Alexander at #3)
  4. Woody Allen – 5 Films (Highest is Annie Hall at #4)
  5. Charlie Chaplin – 5 Films (Highest is Modern Times at #10)
  6. Steven Spielberg – 5 Films (Highest is Raiders of the Lost Ark at #39)
  7. The Coen Brothers – 4 Films (Highest is Fargo at #44)
  8. Federico Felline – 4 Films (Highest is La Dolce Vita at #7)
  9. Martin Scorcese – 4 Films (Highest is Raging Bull at #31)
  10. Robert Wise – 4 Films (Highest is West Side Story at #11)

Years to Appear Most:

  • 1962 has the most with 6 films.
  • 1954, 1957, 1975, 1980, 1999, 2000, and 2003 all have 5 films.

Other Random Facts:

  • The oldest film is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from 1920.
  • The newest films are Certified Copy and Drive, both from 2011.
  • The highest ranked film from last year’s list to fall off this year is American Beauty.
  • Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 are now listed as one entry: Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 at #110.

Take a look at the entire list by clicking on the pages below and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments. Also, this year I am allowing you to download the Excel file where you can see how the list has changed in four years.

#200 – 151 | #150 – 101 | #100 – 51 | #50 – 1

Download the Complete Excel File

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  • I am roughly half a year older than you, and I am downright ashamed by how many movies on your list I have not seen (I refuse to share the number).

    I knew you loved ‘Certified Copy’ and ‘In the Mood for Love,’ but I am genuinely surprised by how highly they ranked on your list, given how recently you viewed them (not bad choices by any means, however).

    Of your eliminations from last year’s list, the most distressing one to me might actually be ‘Children of Men.’ For me, that one has only deepened in meaning, potency and relevance, and might rank among the very best sci-fi flicks of the past decade.

    • I’m sure that if you were to craft such a list, there would be a great number of films on it that shame me as well.

      I used to do a “two year rule” when I created this list, meaning two years had to pass after seeing a movie before it could qualify, but then I decided that was less fun. If a movie is great, it’s great, no matter how fresh in my memory.

  • Great Alex!! One of the best Top 200 List i have ever seen (the best actually).

    I do feel bad for some of my favorite movies that aren’t on ur list no more: American Beauty, Children of Men, Brokeback Mountain etc

    Also i watched In the Mood for Love this year and it is one of the best movies ever. I am going to make my list too before the end of this year.

  • Okay, here are a few of my thoughts on the list (which was predictably awesome):

    First of all, loved seeing “Badlands” make its first appearance on your list in the #37 spot. A great film, and absolutely deserves to be that high. Surprised “Days of Heaven” isn’t on there, though. Have you seen it yet?

    “Certified Copy” didn’t impress me as much as most of the Film Misery staff, but I agree with Justin that the fact that you’re willing to put recent films ahead of many older classics is admirable. Greatness has nothing to do with the age of the film.

    “Blade Runner” is a top twenty film for me, so I obviously think it’s way too low at #150. Was your placement based on the “Final Cut” (which is the version I was so impressed with), or a different version?

    I renew my objection to “Moulin Rouge!” being on this list altogether, to say nothing of its high placement. Truly a love it or hate it film, and I will always be in the latter category.

    Films that (in my opinion) should be on this list but aren’t include “Lost in Translation”, “The Tree of Life”, and “Blood Simple”. They should replace titles such as “The Usual Suspects”, “Spartacus”, and “The Matrix”.

    But there are always going to be a few films I disagree with. As usual, you did a great job. Can’t argue with most of the movies on here, even if I would personally switch around their order quite a bit. Some great new inclusions as well, especially “Badlands” and “The Rules of the Game”.

    Some of the films on this list that I really need see are “Fanny and Alexander” (as well as a few of the other Bergman films on here), “The Passion of Joan of Arc”, “Short Cuts”, “Goodfellas”, “Touch of Evil”, “The Third Man”, and “Blow-Up”. As always, my favorite part of this tradition is that there are always handful of movies on the list that I’ve never even heard of. Never mind that my Netflix queue is out of control as it is. I still love getting new movie recommendations. So thanks for that!

    • Thanks for the feedback, Greg!

      I have seen ‘Days of Heaven’ and I prefer ‘Badlands’ and ‘The Thin Red Line’ in terms of Malick offerings. All good films, though.

      I saw ‘Lost in Translation’ when it first came out, but haven’t revisited it and don’t remember loving it enough (need to re-watch, though). ‘Blood Simple’ would be just outside of the top 200 as would a few great recent films like ‘The Tree of Life.’

      Every year I intend to do a full write-up for each entry, but when I realize how insanely time consuming it would be I stop myself. Someday.

  • Victor

    Next year you could increase the list to 250 movies.

  • Scott

    It’s an impressive list and I agree on a lot (though vehemently disagree on others) but you’re trying too hard to impress. Surely you must have some guilty pleasures. I don’t believe for a second that these are your Top 200 favorite films of all time; rather more of a list of favs filtered by critics approval or what have you…

  • Scott

    Yep, precisely as I suspected…there’s not a single film in your Top 100 with less than 70% on the Tomatometer, not to mention less than a 7.0 on IMDB, so I find it hard to believe you’re being totally honest here. I will freely admit to having some questionable titles by cinephile’s standards in my own Top 100.

    Nevertheless I will probably be revisiting your list quite a few times for recs.

    • That’s a very interesting observation (and did you really look up all of my films on Rotten Tomatoes!?) Everybody has guilty pleasures, but I would imagine that most people are loath to include them among the greatest films ever made. For instance, I have a soft spot for movies like ‘Love Actually’ and nostalgia picks like ‘Cool Runnings,’ but there’s no way I would rank those higher than my top 200.

      I would imagine that 99% of personal top 200 lists would include all or almost all certified fresh movies. Rotten Tomatoes collects fewer reviews for old forgotten movies and far more for the beloved classics. This is largely because critics want to write more about classics today than the clunkers.

      While I have seen many many movies in my time, I have not had enough time to explore enough of the forgotten and underseen movies. When I want to watch an old movie, I tend to reach for the well-reviewed classics that appear on other people’s lists and I am likely to enjoy them as much as everyone else. Recently I have been striving to see the complete filmographies of many directors and doing so has opened me up to movies outside of the usual best list. For instance, I have David Lean’s ‘Hobson’s Choice’ and Wong Kar Wai’s ‘Fallen Angels’ on my list – two films that are often not regarded as those filmmakers’ finest works, but I sincerely adored.

      I will never feel like my list is perfect, but I do feel that it accurately reflects my current tastes and the movies I would gladly revisit any time.

      • Scott

        Alex, I was already familiar with the critical and general public reception for the majority so no I just looked up those that I wasn’t sure on…and I only looked through your Top 100. Personally I do have movies such as Love Actually in my Top 200 and last I recall there’s about 20 or so that aren’t certified fresh.

      • Scott

        But for the average movie fan I’d say their personal Top 200 would be more around 50 to 75 percent certified fresh. My friends tend to think I’m a bit of snob cause I rarely watch films that aren’t, lol

      • I should have specified that I mean 99% of people who are anal retentive enough to organize their movie going habits into lists and obsess over them for weeks would choose Certified Fresh movies.

    • Eric M

      This got me thinking…

      Surely as someone who is more mainstream in their movies taste, I would have movies on my list that aren’t Certified Fresh. Punch-Drunk Love and Scream are two of the more unique picks, but those hold 79% and 83% respectively.

      Next I looked at my top 10 movies in their respective years, and even movies such as The American (66%) and Like Crazy (73%) don’t wander horribly far from a great score. I would imagine that the only time you’re going to get a rotten score on a true film-fan’s list is if it’s a polarizing movie from a highly-regarded director (Antichrist, for example).

      • I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t influenced by other movie lists, but I still try to be pretty independent. The main function of movie lists for me is to inform me of classics that I may not have seen. I plan to see the three movies in the Sight and Sound top 10 that I haven’t, so they may make it onto my list next year. Does that mean I’m copying the Sight and Sound list? No, it means I am taking their recommendations and exploring them for myself.

        Not to many people are clamoring to convince me to see critically panned movies, especially if they are a few decades old. If there is ever a movie that you believe should be on my radar, I am more than happy to take it into consideration.

  • Scott

    For a taste of my own list, here’s my directors appearing most:

    Alfred Hitchcock- 9 Films (Highest is Rear Window at #1)
    Steven Spielberg- 7 Films (Highest is Saving Private Ryan at #4)
    Christopher Nolan- 5 Films (Highest is Memento at #6)
    David Fincher- 5 Films (Highest is The Game at #49)
    Howard Hawks- 5 Films (Highest is Bringing Up Baby at #99)
    Clint Eastwood- 4 Films (Highest is Unforgiven at #80)
    Frank Capra- 4 Films (Highest is It Happened One Night at #11)
    Martin Scorsese- 4 Films (Highest is Raging Bull at #33)
    Billy Wilder- 3 Films (Highest is Some Like It Hot at #18)
    Ron Howard- 3 Films (Highest is A Beautiful Mind at #68)
    Ridley Scott- 3 Films (Highest is Gladiator at #13)
    Sam Mendes- 3 Films (Highest is American Beauty at #79)

  • Eric M

    How many of these movies would you consider your true “favorites”? One of my larger spreadsheets is my movies list, where I arrange a personal Top 50. While I don’t include movies that aren’t fresh in my mind (The Godfathers and Annie Hall come to mind quickly), only 34 of those films received a perfect 4 stars. Surely you don’t hold Invasion of the Body Snatchers in the same regard as The Godfather, so where do you draw your line?

    • Scott

      Are you asking me or Alex? My answer is every one because I don’t think there should be any distinction between “favorite” and “best”…which is why I called Alex out on this. I mean you’re say these are MY Top 200 films I’m expecting to see a personalized list and not just what you think cinephiles expect to see. I don’t know if anyone else is familiar with the site Flickchart but it’s handy for formulating a favorites list that is tailored to your specific taste in film. These are my Top 20 according to Flickchart-

      Rear Window 1954
      Top Gun 1986
      Forrest Gump 1994
      Saving Private Ryan 1998
      Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981
      Memento 2000
      The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003
      Inception 2010
      Airplane! 1980
      The Bourne Ultimatum 2007
      It Happened One Night 1934
      Field of Dreams 1989
      Gladiator 2000
      American Pie 1999
      Caddyshack 1980
      The Lady Eve 1941
      Arsenic and Old Lace 1944
      Some Like It Hot 1959
      Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 2011
      Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 2009

      • Eric M

        I think Alex has made it clear he does his best to avoid outside opinions when formulating a list of what he considers “the best”. Like I said, I can draw a line between my 34th and 35th favorite movie, with the former being truly top-tier and the latter (and all below it) in a slightly lower league. So I was asking where/if Alex – or anyone else – would draw that line on their own list.

      • That’s a really good question. I would say every movie on my list is worthy of an “A” grade and every movie I would heartily recommend to everyone, but I would probably say the Top 100 are masterpieces in my mind, the best cinema history has to offer.

        Every film on the list I highly recommend, though.

        Also, I agree with Scott that “favorite” and “best” should be considered the same thing.

  • Jose

    One reason I enjoy reading this list is to see how many of these films I’ve seen (90, which is like, a lot more than last year.)

    • Scott

      Nice! I just checked my tally and it’s 103.

      • i have seen 94!

      • Okay, I decided to bit the bullet and count (and over-count): I’ve seen 153 of Alex’s top 200. Not great, but not as bad as I expected either.

        Of Alex’s top 100, I’ve seen 75. Of his top 50, I’ve seen 35. Of the top 10, I’ve seen a dismal 6.

        ‘Fanny and Alexander’ is his highest-ranked movie that I’ve not seen.

        9 of the movies in my personal top 10 are on Alex’s top 200. The mean ranking of those 9 movies is 63.

        My personal #1 is Alex’s #51 (yep, I’m a philistine).

      • I have the Criterion DVD of ‘Fanny and Alexander’ if you ever want to borrow it. It makes for great Holiday viewing with the whole family (just stop it 1/3rd of the way through).

        You should post your top 200 when your birthday rolls around. Or at least top 50. I’m sure there will be many on your list that I haven’t seen.

  • A lot of people have been asking me how I come up with this list, so I thought I would explain it here:

    I keep the above Excel spreadsheet updated throughout the year. Whenever I watch a movie that I feel deserves a spot on the list, I’ll add it at the bottom of the table. Then when my birthday approaches I open the file, add a new column for 2012 and go through each movie and give it a rank in values of 10 (10 for the top tier films, 20 for the second tier films). I then sort them and go through them again from top to bottom and assign single numerical ranks (i.e. ‘The Godfather – 1, ‘2001’ – 2, etc. all the way down to 200).

    The reasons for my decision I explained above, but usually if there are two in close competition I ask myself the “what to watch now” question, meaning what movie would I rather watch right now.

    It is not scientific, but I make do. The goal is not to prove undoubtedly that one film is better than another, but to provide a new list of movies that I love and hope other people will discover and love as well.

  • Scott

    The reasons for my decision I explained above, but usually if there are two in close competition I ask myself the “what to watch now” question, meaning what movie would I rather watch right now.

    That’s how Flickchart works essentially. Sometimes you get crazy matchups of films in completely different genres and you might love both quite equally, but over time the more you rank based on the “what would I watch right now? question the more your personal taste and preferences emerge :)

  • Genadijus

    I’m not so big fan of rankings, especially if it’s related with a piece of art. Movie ranks depends on emotions, environment, people you’re watching the movie with, how the topic of the movie is important to you…
    Only time can distinguish the best movies of the best.
    Whatever, I like Your great list of favourite movies, but I miss a lot of movies from great European directors.

    • I agree that lists are completely subjective and likely a product of the sports-obsessed American mentality. However, they do serve the excellent function of recognizing good films and providing recommendations. Every film on my top 200 is one that I would recommend for people to see, and I’d encourage everyone to judge the movies for themselves.

      Also, I do need to see more European directors, especially the contemporary ones. Any recommendations?

  • Scott

    BTW, I’m 24, soon to hit the quarter century mark, later this month. I like your idea of Alex is revisiting movies on your birthday. I may have to do the same…

  • RKular

    Thats crazy I just turned 26 today! My birthday is on July 22nd also. Wow thats a crazy coincidence. Thanks for the list.

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