1,000 Favorites (A Personal Canon), part one

This is the first part of the Appendix of my 2004 collection Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons. — J.R.


1000 Favorites (A Personal Canon), Part 1

The criteria I’ve used for inclusion on this list are pleasure and edification; I haven’t factored in any sense of historical importance that might exist  independently of these factors. I’ve incorporated shorts as  well as features, both animation and live-action, and  videos as well as some works made for television, but not anything made for a TV series.

Broadly speaking, this list would comprise what I’d want to have on a desert island were it not for the fact that I’d want to bring along many other things that I haven’t already seen — including some of my more conspicuous omissions. No one who claims to have seen all possible candidates for the greatest films ever made could possibly be telling the truth, even in relation to a single year, and many of the exclusions here are things I haven’t yet caught up with. Many others are absent simply because I don’t value them as much as those I’ve included, and the most obvious limitation of this list is that it won’t be apparent in most cases whether I’ve excluded something because I haven’t seen it or because I don’t rank it highly enough.

Though I’ve made a conscious effort to be exhaustive, oversights and unwitting omissions that I’ll eventually hate myself for having overlooked are inevitable, because I haven’t come up with any sure-fire method of recalling or tabulating everything I’ve seen or even everything I can remember seeing. I’ve undoubtedly seen more candidates during the late 40s and most of the 50s (when I had relatively easy access to all the films shown at the theaters operated by my grandfather), and during those subsequent periods when I’ve worked as a professional reviewer in London (1974-76), New York (1979-81), and Chicago (1987-2002), though I also saw a good many films during my five years in Paris preceding my first reviewing post (1969-74).

I’ve kept this list in (rough) chronological order and alphabetical order within each year simply as a matter of convenience, and connected a director or filmmaker to each title for the sake of easy identification, not because the name is necessarily that of the most important individual. With the exception of *Corpus Callosum, titles preceded by an asterisk belong to my hundred favorite films — la crème de la crème.

J.R., December 2003

As a partial guide to my extended commentaries on some of these films, the following abbreviations (updated in 2015) are employed:

Abbas Kiarostami (with Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa; Illinois University Press, 2003): AK; Chicago Reader (CR); Dead Man (BFI, 2001): DM; Discovering Orson Welles (University of California Press, 2007): DOW; Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004): EC; Film: The Critic’s Choice (edited by Geoff Andrew; Billboard Books, 2001): FTCC; Film: The Front Line 1983 (Arden Press, 1983): FTFL; Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia (University of Chicago Press, 2010): GCHC; Greed (BFI, 1992) G; jonathanrosenbaum.net: JRN; Midnight Movies (with J. Hoberman; Da Capo, 1991): MM; Monthly Film Bulletin: MFB; Movie Mutations (coedited with Adrian Martin; BFI, 2003); Movies as Politics (University of California Press, 1997): MAP; Movie Wars (a cappella, 2000): MW; Moving Places: A Life at the Movies (University of California Press, 1995): MP; Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism (University of California Press, 1995): PM.


December 2002


L’arivée d’un train en gare de la Ciotat (Louis Lumière)

L’arrosseur arosé (Lumière)

*La sortie des usines Lumière (Lumière)



*The Tunnel sous la Manche (Georges Méliès)



A Corner in Wheat (D.W. Griffith)



Musketeers of Pig Alley (Griffith)



Fantomas (Louis Feuillade)



The Avenging Conscience (Griffith)

Child of the Big City (Yevgeni Bauer)

L’enfant de Paris (Léonce Perret)

The Wishing Ring (Maurice Tourneur)



*Les vampires (Feuillade) (CR, EC, JRN)



Carmen (Charlie Chaplin)

Intolerance (Griffith)



Judex (Feuillade)



One A.M. (Chaplin)



*Tih Minh (Feuillade) (MAP, JRN)



Barrabas (Feuillade)

Broken Blossoms (Griffith)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene)

The Oyster Princess (Ernst Lubitsch)

True Heart Susie (Griffith)



The Last of the Mohicans (Maurice Tourneur)

The Parson’s Widow (Carl Dreyer)

Die Puppe (The Doll, Ernst Lubitsch)



Cops (Buster Keaton)

Destiny (Fritz Lang)

The Kid (Chaplin)

Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty)



Dr. Mabuse (Lang)

*Foolish Wives (Eric von Stroheim) (MFB, GCHC, JRN)

Orphans of the Storm (Griffith)

Raskolnikov (Wiene)

Le souriante Madame Beudet (Germaine Dulac)



The Covered Wagon (James Cruze)

The Three Ages (Keaton)



Aelita (Yakov Protazonov)

Ballet mécanique (Dudley Murphy/Fernand Léger)

*Greed (Stroheim) (G, EC, JRN)

L’inhumaine (Marcel L’Herbier, JRN)

Der letzte Mann (The Last Laugh, Murnau)

Michael (Dreyer)

Die Niebelungen (Lang) (CR, JRN)

Paris qui dort  (The Crazy Ray, Réné Clair) (CR, JRN)

Peter Pan (Herbert Brenon)

Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton)

Strike (Sergei Eisenstein)

The Thief of Bagdad (Raoul Walsh)



The Big Parade (King Vidor)

Chess Fever (Vsevolod Pudovkin/Nicolai Shipovsky)

The Gold Rush (Chaplin)

Master of the House (Dreyer)

The Merry Widow (Stroheim) (GCHC, JRN)

Metropolis (Lang) (CR, JRN)

Potemkin (Eisenstein)

Seven Chances (Keaton)

Tartuffe (Murnau)



Dura lex (By the Law, Lev Kuleshov)

Faust (Murnau)

Fig Leaves (Howard Hawks) (JRN)

Moana (Flaherty) (MFB)

Mother (Pudovkin)

A Page of Madness/A Crazy Page (Teinosuke Kinugasa) (JRN)



Un chapeau de paille d’Italie (Clair)

Charleston (Jean Renoir)

The General (Keaton)

La glace à trois faces (Jean Epstein)

It (Clarence Badger)

October (Eisenstein)

The Ring (Alfred Hitchcock) (MFB, JRN)

Seventh Heaven (Borzage)

*Sunrise (Murnau) (MAP, JRN)



L’argent (L’Herbier) (JRN)

The Cameraman (Keaton)

Un chien andalou (Buñuel/Dali)

Le chute de la maison Usher (Epstein)

The Crowd (Vidor)

*The Docks of New York (Josef von Sternberg)

Leave ‘em Laughing (Clyde Bruckman)

La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Dreyer)

Queen Kelly (Stroheim, GCHC, JRN)

*Spione (Lang) (MFB, GCHC, JRN)

Two Tars (James Parrott)



*Arsenal (Alexander Dovzhenko) (EC, JRN)

*Black & Tan (Murphy) (MFB, PM, JRN)

Blackmail (Hitchcock) (MFB, JRN)

Dynamite (De Mille) (JRN)

The General Line (Eisenstein)

Hallelujah! (Vidor)

*Lonesome (Paul Fejos) (JRN)

The Love Parade (Lubitsch, JRN)

The Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov)

The New Babylon (Grigori Kozintsev/Leonid Trauberg)

Thunderbolt (Sternberg)



L’age d’or (Buñuel)

All Quiet on the Western Front (Lewis Milestone)

The Blue Angel (Sternberg)

Earth (Dovzhenko) (EC, JRN)

Her Man (Tay Garnett)

Laughter (Harry d’Arrast) (JRN)

Monte Carlo (Lubitsch)

Sous les toits de Paris (Clair)

Tabu (Murnau)

That Night’s Wife (Ozu) (JRN)



Blonde Crazy (Roy Del Ruth) (JRN)

The Champ (Vidor)

La chienne (Renoir)

*City Lights (Chaplin) (GCHC, JRN)

Dishonored (Sternberg)

Enthusiasm (Vertov) (JRN)

*M (Lang) (EC, JRN)

The Man I Killed (Lubitsch)

*La nuit du carrefour (Renoir) (JRN)

Philips Radio (Joris Ivens)

The Struggle (Griffith)



Boudu sauvé des eaux (Renoir)

Freaks (Tod Browning) (MP)

Horse Feathers (Norman Z. McLeod)

Las hurdes (Buñuel) (CR, JRN)

*Ivan (Dovzhenko) (EC, JRN)

*I Was Born, But…(Ozu) (CR, EC, JRN)

*Love Me Tonight (Rouben Mamoulian, JRN)

Marie, légende hongrois (Fejos, JRN)

The Mask of Fu Manchu (Charles Brabin)

Me and My Gal (Walsh)

Million Dollar Legs (Edward F. Cline)

The Music Box (James Parrott)

The Old Dark House (Whale)

One Hour with You (George Cukor/Lubitsch)

Scarface (Hawks) (JRN)

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Lang)

Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch)

Vampyr (Dreyer) (MFB, JRN)

Zéro de conduite (Jean Vigo)



The Bitter Tea of General Yen (Frank Capra) (JRN)

Bombshell (Victor Fleming)

Deserter (Pudovkin)

Duck Soup (Leo McCarey)

The Great Consoler (Kuleshov) (JRN)

*Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (Lewis Milestone) (CR, JRN)

Hard to Handle (Mervyn LeRoy) (JRN)

Man’s Castle (Frank Borzage) (JRN)

Passing Fancy (Ozu)

Stoopnocracy (Dave Fleischer)

Topaze (d’Arrast)



Angèle (Marcel Pagnol) (CR, JRN)

L’Atalante (Vigo) (PM, JRN)

The Black Cat (Edgar G. Ulmer)

Cleopatra (De Mille)

The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich)

Judge Priest (John Ford)

Our Daily Bread (Vidor)

The Scarlet Empress (Sternberg)

La signora di tutti (Max Ophuls)

Toni (Renoir) (MFB, JRN)

Twentieth Century (Hawks)



Aerograd/Frontier (Dovzhenko) (EC, JRN)

Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale)

Le crime de Monsieur Lange (Renoir)

Ruggles of Red Gap (McCarey)

The Scoundrel (Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur)

*Sylvia Scarlett (George Cukor) (JRN)

The 39 Steps (Hitchcock)


1936 The Devil Doll (Browning)

Fury (Lang)

Modern Times (Chaplin) (GCHC, JRN)

The Only Son (Ozu)

The Prisoner of Shark Island (Ford)

Rose Hobart (Joseph Cornell)

Schlussakkord (Final Accord, Douglas Sirk) (JRN)

Show Boat (Whale)



La grande illusion (Renoir) (CR, JRN)

The Great Garrick (Whale) (JRN)

*Make Way for Tomorrow (McCarey)

Les perles de la couronne (Sacha Guitry) (JRN)

You Only Live Once (Lang)



Alexander Nevsky (Eisenstein)

La bête humaine (Renoir)

The Childhood of Maxim Gorky (Mark Donskoi)

The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock)

Olympia (Leni Riefenstahl)

You and Me (Lang)



L’espoir (André Malraux)

Love Affair (McCarey)

Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks)

*La règle du jeu (Renoir)

*Story of the Late Chrysanthemums (Kenji Mizoguchi) (JRN)

The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming)



*Christmas in July (Preston Sturges)

Foreign Correspondent (Hitchcock)

The Grapes of Wrath (Ford)

The Great Dictator (Chaplin) (PM, GCHC, JRN)

The Long Voyage Home (Ford, JRN)

Pinocchio (Ben Sharpsteen/Hamilton Luske)

Rebecca (Hitchcock)

The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch) (GCHC, JRN)

The Thief of Bagdad (Ludwig Berger/Michael Powell/Tim Whelan)



All That Money Can Buy (William Dieterle)

Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (Ozu)

Citizen Kane (Orson Welles) (DOW, JRN)

Dumbo (Sharpsteen) (JRN)

Hellzapoppin (H.C. Potter) (JRN)

The Maltese Falcon (John Huston)

The Strawberry Blonde (Walsh)

Suspicion (Hitchcock)



Cat People (Jacques Tourneur)

The 47 Ronin (Miozoguchi)

*The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles) (DOW, GCHC, JRN)

The Palm Beach Story (Sturges)

Sullivan’s Travels (Sturges)

Les visiteurs du soir (Marcel Carné)



Le ciel est à vous (Grémillon) (CR, JRN)

*Day of Wrath (Dreyer) (JRN)

Dumb-Hounded (Tex Avery)

Heaven Can Wait (Lubitsch)

I Walked with a Zombie (J. Tourneur) (JRN)

The Leopard Man (J. Tourneur) (JRN)

Lumière d’été (Grémillon) (CR, JRN)

Red Hot Riding Hood (Avery) (JRN)

*The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson) (CR) (JRN)

This Land is Mine (Jean Renoir)

Who Killed Who? (Avery) (JRN)



*Ivan the Terrible, parts I and II (Eisenstein) (JRN)



At Land (Maya Deren)

Brief Encounter (David Lean)

Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder)

Les enfants du paradis (Carné)

Jammin’ the Blues (Gjon Mili) (JRN)

Laura (Otto Preminger) (EC, JRN)

Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli)

Screwball Squirrel (Avery) (MFB, JRN)

To Have and Have Not (Hawks) (MP, JRN)

The Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks (Edgar Neville) (JRN)

When Strangers Marry (William Castle)


1945 The Clock (Minnelli)

Les dames du bois de Boulogne (Robert Bresson)        

Duel in the Sun (King Vidor)

Scarlet Street (Lang)

The Three Caballeros (Norman Ferguson) (JRN)


1946 La belle et la bête (Cocteau)

*The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler) (CR, JRN)

Five Women Around Utamaro (Mizoguchi) (MFB, JRN)

From This Day Forward (John Berry) (JRN)

Gilda (Charles Vidor)

The Man I Love (Walsh)

A Matter of Life and Death (Powell/Pressburger)

My Darling Clementine (Ford)

Notorious (Hitchcock)

Païsa (Rossellini)

Sciuscia (Shoeshine, Vittorio De Sica)


1947 Dark Passage (Delmer Daves) (JRN)

Germany Year Zero (Rossellini) (JRN)

I Know Where I’m Going (Powell/Pressburger)

King Size Canary (Avery)

*Monsieur Verdoux (Chaplin) (JRN)

Motion Painting No. 1 (Oskar Fischinger) (JRN)

Odd Man Out (Carol Reed)

Out of the Past (J. Tourneur)

Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot)

Woman on the Beach (Renoir)



The Argyle Secrets (Cy Endfield) (MAP, JRN)

The Bicycle Thief (De Sica) (EC, JRN)

Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky)

Good Sam (McCarey) (JRN)

A Hen in the Wind (Ozu) (JRN)

The Lady from Shanghai (Welles)

Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls)

Moonrise (Borzage)

The Pirate (Minnelli)

The Red Shoes (Powell/Pressburger)

Rope (Hitchcock)

*Spring in a Small City (Fei Mu) (JRN)

La terra trema (Luchino Visconti)

They Live By Night (Nicholas Ray) (MAP, EC, JRN)



Adam’s Rib (Cukor)

Bad Luck Blackie (Avery) (JRN)

Begone Dull Care (Norman McLaren)

Blood of the Beast (Georges Franju)

Ecole des facteurs (Jacques Tati)

Les enfants terribles (Melville)

Gun Crazy (Joseph L. Lewis)

Intruder in the Dust (Clarence Brown)

Jour de fête (Tati) (EC, JRN)

Late Spring (Ozu) (JRN)

Little Rural Riding Hood (Avery) (MFB, JRN)

The Reckless Moment (Ophuls)

Samson and Delilah (De Mille)

Stromboli (Rossellini)

Thieves Highway (Jules Dassin)

The Third Man (Reed) (DOW, JRN)

The Window (Ted Tatzlaff)



All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)

Annie Get Your Gun (George Sidney)

Cinderella (Wilfred Jackson/Luske/Clyde Geronimi)

The Father of the Bride (Minnelli)

The Flame and the Arrow (J. Tourneur)

The Gunfighter (Henry King)

In a Lonely Place (Ray) (MAP, EC, JRN)

Los olvidados (Buñuel)

Orphée (Cocteau)

Panic in the Streets (Elia Kazan)

The Sound of Fury/Try and Get Me! (Cy Endfield) (MAP, JRN)

*Stars in My Crown (Tourneur) (JRN)

Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder)

Wagonmaster (Ford)



Ace in the Hole/The Big Carnival (Wilder)

Alice in Wonderland (Clyde Geronimi/Luske/Wilfred Jackson)

Bellissima (Luchino Visconti)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Wise) (JRN)

Hôtel des Invalides (Franju)

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Albert Lewin) (JRN)

Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly)

*The Steel Helmet (Samuel Fuller) (PM, EC, JRN)

A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan) (CR, JRN)

The Tall Target (Anthony Mann)

The Well (Leo Popkin/Russell Rouse)

The White Sheik (Federico Fellini) (JRN)



Angel Face (Preminger) (EC, JRN)

The Bad and the Beautiful (Minnelli)

*The Big Sky (Hawks) (JRN)

Clash by Night (Lang)

Europa 51 (Rossellini)

Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa)

The Life of Oharu (Mizoguchi) (MFB, JRN)

Limelight (Chaplin) (GCHC, JRN)

The Lusty Men (Ray)

Madame de… (Ophuls)

Monkey Business (Hawks)

*My Son John (McCarey) (JRN)

The Narrow Margin (Richard Fleischer) (MP)

*Othello (Welles) (PM, DOW, JRN)

Park Row (Fuller) (EC, JRN)

Son of Paleface (Tashlin)

Les statues meurent aussi (Alain Resnais) (JRN)

Umberto D (De Sica)

Venom and Eternity (Jean-Isadore Isou)


The Band Wagon (Minnelli)

The Big Heat (Lang)

Dangerous When Wet (Charles Walters)

Duck Amuck (Chuck Jones)

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (Roy Rowland) (JRN)

*Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks) (PM, CR, JRN)

The Golden Coach (Renoir) (JRN)

I Love Melvin (Don Weis) (EC, JRN)

Kiss Me Kate (George Sidney)

*The Naked Spur (Mann) (EC, JRN)

99 River Street (Phil Karlson)

Pickup on South Street (Fuller) (PM, EC, JRN)

*The Sun Shines Bright (Ford) (GCHC, JRN)

Tokyo Story (Ozu) (EC, JRN)

Ugetsu Monogatari (Mizoguchi)

(to be continued)

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