1000 Favorites (A Personal Canon), part three

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


1000 Favorites (A Personal Canon), Part 3

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: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia (coedited with Adrian Martin; BFI, 2003): MMCFWC; 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



Atlantic City (Malle)

The Big Red One (Fuller) (PM, EC, JRN)

Gloria (Cassavetes) (PM, JRN)

Grown-ups (Mike Leigh) (CR, JRN)

The Little Richard Story (Klein) (CR, JRN)

Melvin and Howard (Demme)

La Mémoire Courte (Eduardo de Gregorio) (JRN)

Metaphor (King Vidor)

Mon oncle d’Amérique (Resnais) (JRN)

Out of the Blue (Dennis Hopper) (JRN)

The Shining (Kubrick)



Charmed Particles (Andrew Noren) (FTFL, JRN)

Cutter’s Way (Passer) (JRN)

Hardly Working (Lewis) (PM, JRN)

History of the World, Part 1 (Mel Brooks) (PM, JRN)

Modern Romance (A. Brooks) (JRN)

*Orderly or Disorderly (Kiarostami) (AK)

Pennies from Heaven (Herbert Ross)

La toit de la baleine (Ruiz) (PM, JRN)

*Too Early, Too Late (Straub/Huillet) (FTFL, CRN)

Two Portraits (Peter Thompson) (CR, JRN)

The Vulture (Yaki Yosha)

White Dog (Fuller) (PM, JRN)



Blade Runner (Ridley Scott) (CR, JRN)

Une chambre en ville (Demy) (JRN)

En rachâchant (Straub/Huillet)

Field Diary (Amos Gitai)

One Man’s War (Edgardo Cozarinsky) (JRN)

Scenario du film Passion (Godard)

You Are Not I (Sara Driver) (FTFL, JRN)



*Adynata (Leslie Thornton) (FTFL, JRN)

Ananas (Gitai) (JRN)

Les années 80 (Akerman) (JRN)

L’argent (Bresson)

Cracking Up (Lewis) (JRN)

Fellow Citizen (Kiarostami) (AK)

The Gold Diggers (Sally Potter) (JRN)

Hammett (Wenders)

It’s a Good Life (Joe Dante)

The King of Comedy (JNR)

My Brother’s Wedding (Burnett) (JRN)

Sans soleil (Marker) (JRN)

Selva. Un portrait de Parvameh Navai (Maria Klonaris)

Son’s Big Doll (Hou Hsiao-hsien) (CR, JRN)

The State of Things (Wenders)

The Unknown Chaplin (Kevin Brownlow, David Gill)

Videodrome (Cronenberg)



Almanac of Fall (Béla Tarr) (CR, PM, JRN)

Barres (Moullet) (GCHC, JRN)

Broadway Danny Rose (Allen)

Choose Me (Alan Rudolph)

The Day the Sun Turned Cold (Yim Ho) (CR, JRN)

The Funeral (Juzo Itami)

*Love Streams (Cassavetes) (PM, JRN)

Mutable Fire (Erotic Psyche)

1984 (Michael Radford) (JRN)

Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch) (DM)

Swing Shift (original cut, Jonathan Demme)



Day of the Dead (Romero) (MM)

The Horse Thief (Tian Zhuangzhuang) (CR, JRN)

*Manuel on the Island of Wonders (Ruiz) (EC, JRN)

*Mix-Up (Françoise Romand) (CR, JRN)

Next of Kin (Atom Egoyan)

Passionless Moments (Jane Campion)

*Shoah (Landzmann) (MAP, JRN)

Taipei Story (Edward Yang) (EC, JRN)

The Time to Live and the Time to Die (Hou) (EC, JRN)

Vagabond (Varda)



Bad Blood (Leos Carax) (MAP, JRN)

Down by Law (Jarmusch) (DM)

Joan Does Dynasty (Joan Braderman) (JRN)

*Mélo (Resnais) (PM, CR, JRN)

Mémoire des apparences (Ruiz) (PM, EC, JRN)

The Mexican Tapes (Louis Hock)

The Peddler (Mohsen Makhmalbaf) (CR, JRN)

Le rayon vert (The Green Ray, Rohmer)

Routine Pleasures (Jean-Pierre Gorin)

Sherman’s March (Ross McElwee)

Sleepwalk (Driver) (CR, JRN)

Tampopo (Itami) (CR, JRN)



Candy Mountain (Rudy Wurlitzer/Robert Frank) (CR, EC, JRN)

La chouette aveugle (Ruiz) (EC, JRN)

Damnation (Tarr) (PM, JRN)

From the Pole to the Equator (Yervant Gianikian/Angela Ricci Lucchi)

Full Metal Jacket (Kubrick) (EC, CR, JRN)

Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth) (CR, JRN)

House of Games (David Mamet) (CR, JRN)

Ishtar (May) (EC, JRN)

Landscape Suicide (Benning) (CR, JRN)

The Last Emperor (Bertolucci) (CR, JRN)

Mammame (Ruiz) (CR, JRN)

The Silent Majority (Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa)

Tough Guys Don’t Dance (Norman Mailer) (CR, JRN)

Universal Hotel/Universal Citizen (Thompson) (CR, JRN)

Walker (Alex Cox) (CR, EC, JRN)

A Western (Laurie Dunphy, JRN)

*Where is the Friend’s House? (Kiarostami) (AK)

*Yeelen (Brightness, Cissé) (CR, JRN)


1988 Bird (Clint Eastwood) (PM, JRN)

Black Sin (Straub/Huillet)

Camp Thiaroye (Sembene/Thierno Faty Sow) (CR, JRN)

Decalogue (Krzysztof Kieslowski) (EC, CR, JRN)

*Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terrence Davies) (EC, CR, JRN)

Essai d’ouverture (Moullet) (GCHC, JRN)

Golub (Jerry Blumenthal/Gordon Quinn) (CR, JRN)

Hairspray (John Waters) (CR, JRN)

High Hopes (Leigh) (CR, MAP, JRN)

King Lear (Godard) (PM, JRN)

Puissance de la Parole (Godard)

*A Tale of the Wind (Ivens/Loridan) (EC, JRN)

Talking to Strangers (Rob Tregenza) (MAP, JRN)

Trois place pour le 26 (Demy) (JRN)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Robert Zemeckis) (CR, JRN)



The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Terry Gilliam) (CR, JRN)

*The Asthenic Syndrome (Kira Muratova) (MAP, JRN)

Cézanne (Straub/Huillet)

Chameleon Street (Wendell B. Harris Jr.) (CR. JRN)

City of Sadness (Hou) (EC, JRN)

The Deadman (Peggy Ahwesh/Keith Sanborn) (CR, JRN)

Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee) (CR, MAP, JRN)

Enemies, A Love Story (Paul Mazursky) (CR, JRN)

Forevermore: Biography of a Leach Lord (Eric Saks) (CR, JRN)

The Iceman Cometh (Clarence Fok Yiu-leung)

Images of the World and the Inscription of War (Harun Farocki) (CR, JRN)

Marriage of the Blessed (Makhmalbaf)

Mr. Hoover and I (De Antonio) (CR, JRN)

Rembrandt Laughing (Jost) (CR, JRN)

A Spy in the House That Ruth Built (Vanalyne Green)

Sweetie (Campion) (CR, JRN)



Archangel (Guy Maddin) (EC, CR. JRN)

*Close-up (Kiarostami) (AK)

The Confession (fragment, Paradjanov) (CR, JRN)

Days of Being Wild (Wiong Kar-wai)

Homework (Kiarostami) (AK)

How to Live in the Federal Republic of Germany (Farocki) (CR, JRN)

The Machine That Killed Bad People (Steve Fagin)

Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (James Ivory)

No, or the Vainglory of Command (de Oliveira)

*Nouvelle vague (Godard)

One Hour (Robert Frank) (JRN)

Texasville (Bogdanovich) (CR, JRN)

To Sleep with Anger (Burnett) (CR, JRN)

White Hunter, Black Heart (Eastwood) (GCHC, JRN)



*Actress (Stanley Kwan) (EC, JRN)

Les amants du Pont Neuf (The Lovers on the Bridge, Carax)  (MAP, JRN)

La belle noiseuse (Rivette) (CR, JRN)

*A Brighter Summer Day (230-minute version, Edward Yang) (EC, CR, JRN)                                                                                                                                                             La cabale des oursins (Moullet)

Defending Your Life (A. Brooks) (CR, JRN)

Hangin’ with the Homeboys (Joseph B. Vasquez) (CR, JRN)

My Own Private Idaho (Gus van Sant) (CR, JRN)

Night and Day (Akerman) (MAP, JRN)

Rhapsody in August (Kurosawa) (MAP, JRN)



Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Coppola) (CR, JRN)

Careful (Maddin) (CR, JRN)

Close My Eyes (Stephen Poliakoff) (CR, JRN)

Deep Cover (Bill Duke) (PM, JRN)

The Famine Within (Katherine Gilday) (CR, JRN)

Guelwaar (Sembene) (CR, JRN)

The Hours and Times (Christopher Munch) (CR, JRN)

Life and Nothing More… (Kiarostami) (AK)

The Long Day Closes (Davies) (CR, JRN)

Naked Lunch (David Cronenberg) (CR, JRN)



Bitter Moon (Polanski) (MAP, JRN)

The Blue Kite (Tian) (CR, JRN)

Calendar (Egoyan) (MAP, JRN)

D’est (Akerman) (JRN)

Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis) (CR, JRN)

Highway Patrolman (Cox) (CR, JRN)

Hyenas (Diop Mambéty) (CR, JRN)

I’ll Do Anything (unreleased musical version) (JRN)

Latcho drom (Tony Gatlif) (MAP, JRN)

Matinee (Dante) (CR, JRN)

My Favorite Season (André Téchiné) (CR, JRN)

La naissance de l’amour (Garrel) (CR, JRN)

*The Puppet Master (Hou) (MAP, EC, JRN)

Ruby in Paradise (Victor Nunez) (CR, JRN)

The Scent of Green Papaya (Tran Anh Hung) (CR, JRN)



Ashes of Time (Wong) (CR, JRN)

Chartres Series (Brakhage)

Crumb (Terry Zwigoff) (MAP, JRN)

Dieu sait quoi (Pollet)

Exotica (Egoyan) (CR, JRN)

Exterior Night (Rappaport)

The Last Boleshevik (Marker) (MAP, JRN)

Red (Kieslowski) (MAP, JRN)

*Sátántángo (Béla Tarr) (EC, CR, JRN)

The Second Heimat (Edgar Reitz) (CR, JRN)

That’s Entertainment! III (Bud Friedgen/Michael J. Sheridan) (CR, JRN)



Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater) (CR, JRN)

Blush (Li Shaohong) (EC, JRN)

*Dead Man (Jarmusch) (DM, JRN)

From the Journals of Jean Seberg (Rappaport) (EC, JRN)

Good Men, Good Women (Hou) (EC, JRN)

A Great Day in Harlem (Jean Bach) (JRN)

Haut bas fragile (Rivette) (CR, EC, JRN)

Safe (Todd Haynes) ((MAP, CR, JRN)

Salaam Cnema (Mohsen Makhmalbaf)

The Son of Gascogne (Pascal Aubier) (CR, MW, JRN)

Underground (Emir Kusturica) (CR, JRN)

*When It Rains (Burnett) (EC, JRN)



The Ceremony (Chabrol) (EC, CR, JRN)

Goodbye South, Goodbye (Hou)

Improvisation (Mili) (filmed in 1950 with Charlie Parker; released on video in Japan in 1996) (JRN)

Irma Vep (Assayas) (CR, EC, JRN)

Mahjong (Yang) (EC, JRN)

Oriental Elegy (Alexander Sokurov) (CR, JRN)

Suicide (Gregg Bordowitz) (CR, JRN)

Thieves (Téchiné) (CR, EC, JRN)

Whispering Pages (Sukurov) (CR, JRN)



The Apostle (Robert Duvall) (CR, JRN)

Blue Moon (Ko I-Cheng) (MMCFWC, JRN)

Comrades, Almost a Love Story (Peter Chan) (CR, JRN)

Destiny (Youssef Chahine) (CR, MW, JRN)

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (Errol Morris) (EC, JRN)                                                                                                                                                    Happy Together (Wong) (CR, JRN)

Jazz ’34: Remembrances of Kansas City Swing (Altman) (CR, JRN)

Love and Death of Long Island (Richard Kwietniowski) (CR, JRN)

The River (Tsai Ming-liang) (CR,JRN)

The Second Civil War (Dante) (JRN)

Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami) (AK, CR, JRN)

Yours (Jeff Scher)



Alone. Love Wastes Andy Hardy (Martin Arnold) (GCHC, JRN)

Bulworth (Warren Beatty) (CR, JRN)

Circle’s Short Circuit  (Caspar Stracke) (CR, JRN)

Divorce Iranian Style (Kim Longinotto/Ziba Mir-Hosseini (CR, MMCFWC, JRN)

Histoire(s) du cinéma (Godard) (GCHC, JRN)

*Inquietude (de Oliveira) (CR, JRN)

Khroustaliov, My Car! (Alexei Guerman) (CR, JRN)

New Rose Hotel (Abel Ferrara)

The Newton Boys (Linklater) (CR, EC, JRN)

The Thin Red Line (Malick) (EC, JRN)

West Beirut (Ziad Doueiri) (CR, JRN)



The Apple (Samira Makhmalbaf)

Beau travail (Claire Denis) (CR, GCHC, JRN)

Besieged (Bertolucci) (CR, EC, JRN)

Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick) (CR, EC, JRN)

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jarmusch) (EC, DM, JRN)

I Stand Alone (Gaspar Noé) (CR, MW, JRN)

Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano) (CR, EC, JRN)

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Julio Medem) (CR, JRN)

Mr. Zhao (Lu Yue) (CR, JRN)

Public Housing (Wiseman)

Rosetta (Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne) (EC, JRN)

Rushmore (Wes Anderson) (CR, JRN)

6ixtynin9 (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang)

*The Wind Will Carry Us (Kiarostami) (AK, JRN)



The Child and the Soldier (Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi) (CR, JRN)

Chunhyang (Im Kwon-taek) (CR, JRN)

The Day I Became a Woman (Marziyeh Meshkini) (EC, JRN)

George Washington (David Gordon Green) (CR, JRN)

Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (Varda) (CR, JRN)

Hamlet (Michael Almereyda) (CR, JRN)

The Heart of the World (Maddin) (EC, JRN)

The Hole (Tsai) (CR, JRN)

In the Mood for Love (Wong) (CR, JRN)

Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) (CR, JRN)

*Platform (Jia Zhang-ke) (CR, JRN)

Yi Yi (Yang) (CR, JRN)



*A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Spielberg) (EC, JRN)

The Circle (Jafar Panahi) (MMCFWC, JRN)

I’m Going Home (de Oliveira) (CR, JRN)

The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein (John Gianvito) (CR, JRN)

Mulholland Drive (Lynch) (JRN)

My Voyage toItaly (Scorsese)

Operai, contadini (Straub/Huillet) (EC, JRN)

Où gît votre sourire enfoui? (Pedro Costa) (JRN)

Pistol Opera (Seijun Sukuzi) (CR, JRN)

Waking Life (Linklater) (EC, JRN)

What Time is it There? (Tsai) (CR, MMCFWC, JRN)



The Cat’s Meow (Bogdanovich) (CR, JRN)

*Corpus Callosum (Snow) (EC, JRN)

Femme Fatale (De Palma) (CR, JRN)

Russian Ark (Sokurov)

Spider (Cronenberg)

Springtime in a Small Town (Tian) (CR, JRN)

Tangos volés (Eduardo de Gregorio) (GCHC, JRN)

The Tracker (Rolf de Heer) (CR, JRN)

25th Hour (Lee) (CR, JRN)

Y tu mamá tambien (Alfonso Cuarón)



Crimson Gold (Panahi) (CR, JRN)

Down with Love (Peyton Reed) (CR, JRN)

Elephant (van Sant) (CR, JRN)

Go Farther (Ron Mann)

Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Tsai) (CR, JRN)

Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen) (GCHC, CR, JRN)

The Same River Twice (Robb Moss) (CR, JRN)


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