The 30 Greatest Films Ever Made: A Video Essay

Last week, we fea­tured the results of this decade’s Sight and Sound poll to deter­mine the great­est films of all time. Nobody could pos­si­bly agree with every sin­gle one of its rank­ings, but then, some of the joy of cinephil­ia lies in dis­agree­ment — and even more of it in doing a few rank­ings of one’s own. Such is the project of video essay­ist Lewis Bond in the video just above from his Youtube chan­nel The Cin­e­ma Car­tog­ra­phy. It presents a list of the thir­ty great­est films, begin­ning at num­ber thir­ty and end­ing at num­ber one, weav­ing through a vari­ety of time peri­ods, cul­tures, and aes­thet­ics.

We would expect no less from The Cin­e­ma Car­tog­ra­phy, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture for videos on sub­jects like cities and places in film, cin­e­matog­ra­phy, and ani­ma­tion, as well as on spe­cif­ic auteurs like David Lynch, Quentin Taran­ti­no, and Andrei Tarkovsky. None of Taran­ti­no’s films make the cut for the top thir­ty here, though they do face for­mi­da­ble com­pe­ti­tion, includ­ing Lynch’s Mul­hol­land Dr. and both Andrei Rublev and Mir­ror by Tarkovsky — not to men­tion works from the likes of Stan­ley Kubrick, Orson Welles, Ing­mar Bergman, Peter Green­away, Mar­tin Scors­ese, Ozu Yasu­jirō, and Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la.

“The idea of a canon, or any form of list, is both a mean­ing­less as well as a obses­sive endeav­or,” says Lewis Bond in the video’s intro­duc­tion. “What­ev­er the thought process was, these were the films that clear­ly, some­where, res­onate with me at my deep­est lev­el. For all I know, I could orga­nize the exact same list in a year’s time, and every entry could be dif­fer­ent.” No mat­ter to what you devote your cul­tur­al life, you sure­ly know the feel­ing, but you also know the val­ue of see­ing some­one else’s set of pref­er­ences clear­ly arranged and artic­u­late­ly jus­ti­fied.

You may not feel exact­ly the same as Bond does about both My Din­ner with Andre and the Lord of the Rings tril­o­gy (a rare dual enthu­si­asm in any case), but see­ing where he places them in rela­tion to oth­er movies can help to give you a sense of whether and how they could fit into your own per­son­al canon — as well as the kind of con­text a film needs to earn its place. It’s easy to get a bit too obses­sive about this sort of thing, which on some lev­el just comes down to end­less­ly order­ing and re-order­ing a bunch of movies on a list. But as cinephiles know, our canons are our­selves: com­plex, idio­syn­crat­ic, sub­ject to cease­less change, and — so we hope, at least — coher­ent.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Ten Great­est Films of All Time Accord­ing to 846 Film Crit­ics

The Ten Great­est Films of All Time Accord­ing to 358 Film­mak­ers

The Nine Great­est Films You’ve Nev­er Seen

The 100 Great­est Films of All Time Accord­ing to 1,639 Film Crit­ics & 480 Direc­tors: See the Results of the Once-a-Decade Sight and Sound Poll

Quentin Taran­ti­no Names His 20 Favorite Movies, Cov­er­ing Two Decades

How Film­mak­ers Tell Their Sto­ries: Three Insight­ful Video Essays Demys­ti­fy the Craft of Edit­ing, Com­po­si­tion & Col­or

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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Comments (2)
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  • Max says:

    Rank­ing and com­ment­ing the films is real­ly about shar­ing the love for cin­e­ma, but many peo­ple just being so emo­tion­al about dis­agree­ments, and on the Inter­net it seems to be impos­si­ble to express per­son­al opin­ions with­out being attacked.

    Last week I post­ed a crit­i­cism of Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Drag­on on the social media, and though I had writ­ten it in the most pos­si­ble neu­tral tone and stat­ed clear­ly that I am a fan of Ang Lee and all I writ­ten was just my per­son­al view, I still received a lot of attack in the com­ments and even­tu­al­ly I have to dis­able the com­ment func­tion.

    Any­way, I real­ly like your writ­ing. “But as cinephiles know, our canons are our­selves: com­plex, idio­syn­crat­ic, sub­ject to cease­less change, and — so we hope, at least — coher­ent.” I could­n’t agree more with this.

  • A hard pass says:

    This top 30 is dude­bro. It is almost all cen­tered on men.

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