The Best of ‘Best of All Time’ Movie Lists By Filmmakers

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Yes, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of listicles recommending films of all kinds (take a look at some of ours here). But how about some recommendations for the best recommendations? And by that I mean the top film picks from some of the most powerful and beloved international filmmakers (alright, 4 are American so not that international). These filmmakers have dedicated their lives to the art, and taking a look at what drives them is both an insight into their works as well as a feast of classics and lesser-watched gems from around the world.  1. Bong Joon-Ho (2012, Sight & Sound ‘Greatest Films of All Time’ list) Bong Joon-Ho might have come into the brightest of limelights recently but in 2012 he was one of the many prestigious filmmakers asked to vote for his top films for the famous Sight & Sound list. Along with some expected classics, the South Korean director also includes films which other, Western, filmmakers might miss out on, and one particular 2000s American film which is rarely put in such Top 10s.  The List: A City of Sadness (Hsiao-hsien Hou, 1989)  Cure (Kurosawa Kiyoshi , 1998)   Fargo (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1995)  The Housemaid (Kim Ki-young, 1960)  Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)  Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)  Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)  Vengeance is Mine (Imamura Shohei, 1979)  The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953)  Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)  2. Ava DuVernay, (2019, Turner Classic Movies “The Essentials”) It’s hard to sum up Ava DuVernay in a line. The co-writer, producer, and director of the excellent limited series When They See Us, as well as the first black woman to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, picked a selection of 18 essential films for Turner Classic Movies. It’s unlike most other lists, especially due to the wide range of films chosen. Ashes and Embers (Haile Gerima) Losing Ground Dog Day Afternoon Harlan County U.S.A. The Battle of Algiers  Daughters of the Dust” (Julie Dash)  La Point Courte (Agnes Varda) The Meetings of Anna (Chantal Akerman) Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray) Sounder Claudine West Side Story Gandhi Cabin in the Sky (1943) Rashomon (1950) A Warm December (1973) The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) Marty (1955) 3. Martin Scorsese (2014, Criterion Collection ‘Top 10’ list) How could we not include Marty? Apart from being a filmmaker whose own films have been named by plenty of others on such lists, he’s also one of the world’s foremost cinephiles. His dedication to cinema extends into his work outside of direction-  on film preservation and restoration. His list is clearly in love with Italian cinema, and why shouldn’t it be? Scorsese’s list is as personal as you would imagine a list of one’s favourite films should be, as well as a treasure trove of gems you might have missed otherwise.  Paisan by Roberto Rossellini The Red Shoes by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger The River by Jean Renoir Ugetsu by Kenji Mizoguchi  Ashes and Diamonds by Andrzej Wajda  L’avventura by Michelangelo Antonioni  Salvatore Giuliano by Francesco Rosi  8 ½ by Federico Fellini Contempt by Jean-Luc Godard The Leopard by Luchino Visconti  4. Sofia Coppola  I’ve cheated a little bit with Sofia Coppola (most well-known for Lost in Translation) by including two of her lists- one of her five favourite films, and the other of her favourite films from the 21st century. What can I say? She’s a great director with a fascinating list of recommendations! In the very same breath, Coppola is unafraid to mention a lesser-known movie of her father, an ambitious, iconic Kubric adaptation, as well as an 80s John Hughes film. And that’s really what the love of cinema is about: loving all the languages of cinema. And might I add, what an impressive, unexpected 21st century selection.  (2010, Rotten Tomatoes, ‘Five Favourite Films’) Rumble Fish – Francis Ford Coppola, 1983 Breathless – Jean-Luc Godard, 1960 Sixteen Candles – John Hughes, 1984 Lolita – Stanley Kubrick, 1962 The Last Picture Show – Peter Bogdanovich, 1971 (2017, The New York Times, ‘Favourite Films of the 21st Century’) ‘Force Majeure’ (2014) ‘The White Ribbon’ (2009) ‘The Savages’ (2007) ‘Head-On’ (2005) ‘Daddy’s Home’ (2015) ‘Under the Skin’ (2014) ‘The Incredibles’ (2004) ‘Together’ (2001) ‘Grizzly Man’ (2005) ‘Ida’ (2014) ‘Fish Tank’ (2010) ‘Ex Machina’ (2015) 5. Steve McQueen (2012, Sight & Sound ‘Greatest Films of All Time’ list) Rounding off our five special picks of filmmakers’ picks is the brilliant Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave, Hunger, Shame). This is yet another selection from one of the most widely-known polls – the 2012 Sight & Sound list – that shines through with a good mix of filmmaker favourites as well as some which you won’t find in many other places, such as Andy Warhol’s Couch and Jean Vigo’s 1933 film, Zero for Conduct. It’s a shame that Spike Lee’s masterpiece, Do The Right Thing isn’t included in more lists but it finds a welcome place here.  The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966) Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999) Couch (Andy Warhol, 1964) Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989) Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963) Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984) The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939) Tokyo Story (Yasujirô Ozu, 1953) The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953) Zero for Conduct (Jean Vigo, 1933) 

Yes, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of listicles recommending films of all kinds (take a look at some of ours here). But how about some recommendations for the best recommendations? And by that I mean the top film picks from some of the most powerful and beloved international filmmakers (alright, 4 are American so not that international). These filmmakers have dedicated their lives to the art, and taking a look at what drives them is both an insight into their works as well as a feast of classics and lesser-watched gems from around the world. 

1. Bong Joon-Ho (2012, Sight & Sound ‘Greatest Films of All Time’ list)

Bong Joon-Ho might have come into the brightest of limelights recently but in 2012 he was one of the many prestigious filmmakers asked to vote for his top films for the famous Sight & Sound list. Along with some expected classics, the South Korean director also includes films which other, Western, filmmakers might miss out on, and one particular 2000s American film which is rarely put in such Top 10s. 

The List:

  • A City of Sadness (Hsiao-hsien Hou, 1989) 
  • Cure (Kurosawa Kiyoshi , 1998)  
  • Fargo (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1995) 
  • The Housemaid (Kim Ki-young, 1960) 
  • Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) 
  • Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980) 
  • Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958) 
  • Vengeance is Mine (Imamura Shohei, 1979) 
  • The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953) 
  • Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007) 

2. Ava DuVernay, (2019, Turner Classic Movies “The Essentials”)

It’s hard to sum up Ava DuVernay in a line. The co-writer, producer, and director of the excellent limited series When They See Us, as well as the first black woman to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, picked a selection of 18 essential films for Turner Classic Movies. It’s unlike most other lists, especially due to the wide range of films chosen.

  • Ashes and Embers (Haile Gerima)
  • Losing Ground
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Harlan County U.S.A.
  • The Battle of Algiers 
  • Daughters of the Dust” (Julie Dash) 
  • La Point Courte (Agnes Varda)
  • The Meetings of Anna (Chantal Akerman)
  • Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray)
  • Sounder
  • Claudine
  • West Side Story
  • Gandhi
  • Cabin in the Sky (1943)
  • Rashomon (1950)
  • A Warm December (1973)
  • The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
  • Marty (1955)

3. Martin Scorsese (2014, Criterion Collection ‘Top 10’ list)

How could we not include Marty? Apart from being a filmmaker whose own films have been named by plenty of others on such lists, he’s also one of the world’s foremost cinephiles. His dedication to cinema extends into his work outside of direction-  on film preservation and restoration. His list is clearly in love with Italian cinema, and why shouldn’t it be? Scorsese’s list is as personal as you would imagine a list of one’s favourite films should be, as well as a treasure trove of gems you might have missed otherwise. 

  • Paisan by Roberto Rossellini
  • The Red Shoes by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
  • The River by Jean Renoir
  • Ugetsu by Kenji Mizoguchi 
  • Ashes and Diamonds by Andrzej Wajda 
  • L’avventura by Michelangelo Antonioni 
  • Salvatore Giuliano by Francesco Rosi 
  • 8 ½ by Federico Fellini
  • Contempt by Jean-Luc Godard
  • The Leopard by Luchino Visconti 

4. Sofia Coppola 

I’ve cheated a little bit with Sofia Coppola (most well-known for Lost in Translation) by including two of her lists- one of her five favourite films, and the other of her favourite films from the 21st century. What can I say? She’s a great director with a fascinating list of recommendations! In the very same breath, Coppola is unafraid to mention a lesser-known movie of her father, an ambitious, iconic Kubric adaptation, as well as an 80s John Hughes film. And that’s really what the love of cinema is about: loving all the languages of cinema. And might I add, what an impressive, unexpected 21st century selection. 

(2010, Rotten Tomatoes, ‘Five Favourite Films’)

  • Rumble Fish – Francis Ford Coppola, 1983
  • Breathless – Jean-Luc Godard, 1960
  • Sixteen Candles – John Hughes, 1984
  • Lolita – Stanley Kubrick, 1962
  • The Last Picture Show – Peter Bogdanovich, 1971

(2017, The New York Times, ‘Favourite Films of the 21st Century’)

  • Force Majeure’ (2014)
  • ‘The White Ribbon’ (2009)
  • ‘The Savages’ (2007)
  • ‘Head-On’ (2005)
  • ‘Daddy’s Home’ (2015)
  • ‘Under the Skin’ (2014)
  • ‘The Incredibles’ (2004)
  • ‘Together’ (2001)
  • ‘Grizzly Man’ (2005)
  • ‘Ida’ (2014)
  • ‘Fish Tank’ (2010)
  • ‘Ex Machina’ (2015)

5. Steve McQueen (2012, Sight & Sound ‘Greatest Films of All Time’ list)

Rounding off our five special picks of filmmakers’ picks is the brilliant Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave, Hunger, Shame). This is yet another selection from one of the most widely-known polls – the 2012 Sight & Sound list – that shines through with a good mix of filmmaker favourites as well as some which you won’t find in many other places, such as Andy Warhol’s Couch and Jean Vigo’s 1933 film, Zero for Conduct. It’s a shame that Spike Lee’s masterpiece, Do The Right Thing isn’t included in more lists but it finds a welcome place here. 

  • The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
  • Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
  • Couch (Andy Warhol, 1964)
  • Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
  • Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
  • Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)
  • The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
  • Tokyo Story (Yasujirô Ozu, 1953)
  • The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953)
  • Zero for Conduct (Jean Vigo, 1933) 
Anupama Chopra

Anupama Chopra

"Film Companion is a celebration of the movies. It’s a platform that is committed to quality journalism, which is well-researched and balanced, and isn’t paid news. We bring you engaging and informative content on movies that includes, reviews of films and web shows, interviews, film festival news, features and masterclasses. "

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“Film Companion is a celebration of the movies. It’s a platform that is committed to quality journalism, which is well-researched and balanced, and isn’t paid news. We bring you engaging and informative content on movies that includes, reviews of films and web shows, interviews, film festival news, features and masterclasses. “

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