Robin Baker

Head curator, BFI National Archive

UK

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Annie Hall

1977

Woody Allen

Atalante, L'

1934

Jean Vigo

Barry Lyndon

1975

Stanley Kubrick

Gold Diggers of 1933

1933

Mervyn LeRoy

Long Day Closes, The

1992

Terence Davies

Man with a Movie Camera

1929

Dziga Vertov

Matter of Life and Death, A

1946

Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger

Pather Panchali

1955

Satyajit Ray

Third Man, The

1949

Carol Reed

Vertigo

1958

Alfred Hitchcock

Comments

When compiling this list I remembered Rex Harrison’s appearance as a castaway on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs – he had the chutzpah to select a playlist comprising almost exclusively of Benny Goodman tracks. By the same rules I could very easily have been happy with wall-to-wall Hitchcock, Powell or mid-period Woody Allen. In the name of diversity I have added a few other directors and, given that I know of no useful measure of greatness, I worked largely by the pleasure principle. I have watched each of these films repeatedly for decades. Each time I watch them they surprise with new meanings or details that I had failed to spot in the past. Even writing down their names makes me want to turn on the DVD player as soon as I get home. If, howver, I was eschewing notions of greatness and my list was wholly determined by the number of times I have watched a film it might have looked rather more like this: Parkgate Iron and Steel Co., Rotherham (Mitchell and Kenyon, 1901); N or NW (Len Lye, 1937); English Harvest (Jennings, 1938); Kiss Me Kate (Sidney, 1953); Land of the Pharaohs (Hawks, 1955); Imitation of Life (Sirk, 1959); Snow (Jones, 1963); Zulu (Endfield, 1964); Fahrenheit 451 (Truffaut, 1966) and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (Demy, 1967).

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