Robin Baker

Head curator, BFI National Archive


Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Annie Hall


Woody Allen

Atalante, L'


Jean Vigo

Barry Lyndon


Stanley Kubrick

Gold Diggers of 1933


Mervyn LeRoy

Long Day Closes, The


Terence Davies

Man with a Movie Camera


Dziga Vertov

Matter of Life and Death, A


Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger

Pather Panchali


Satyajit Ray

Third Man, The


Carol Reed



Alfred Hitchcock


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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