Patrick McGilligan

Film historian; critic; biographer, Patrick McGilligan’s many books include the Backstory series of interviews with screenwriters and biographies of major film personalities including, most recently, Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director (HarperCollins, 2011). He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for


Federico Fellini

400 Blows, The


François Truffaut

Annie Hall


Woody Allen

Citizen Kane


Orson Welles

General, The


Buster Keaton



Fritz Lang



Robert Altman

Règle du jeu, La


Jean Renoir

Seven Samurai


Akira Kurosawa

Seventh Seal, The


Ingmar Bergman


Annie Hall may or may not be Woody Allen’s ‘greatest’, but it’s the gold standard in modern comedy. Comedy is underrated in filmmaking; so, still, is Woody Allen. Citizen Kane is nearly perfect as either ‘art’ or showbusiness. I adore La Strada, but 8 1/2 is the Fellini of Fellinis. Godard is bolder (and maybe closer to my politics) but I prefer Truffaut. The 400 Blows stands for the breakthroughs of the French New Wave and all new waves past and future. From the golden age of silent comedy, The General is as funny as it gets, with ingenious storytelling and filmmaking. Metropolis is a pinnacle of Ufa, Fritz Lang and the silent era. Nashville is a one-of-a-kind, crazy-quilt microcosm of America. La règle du jeu is the Renoir of Renoirs. Seven Samurai is consummate Kurosawa and perhaps the greatest action picture ever made, as emotionally as it is physically exhausting. Bergman insisted on exploring profound ideas in film. Doomsday parable The Seventh Seal, at only 96 minutes long, is packed with questions about the meaning of life and death and the existence of God. yet it is also grand entertainment. My ‘greatest’ films – quickly narrowed down to narrative features – combine three criteria: first, the chosen film is generally one of the best in a great filmmaker’s long career; the film also had to be a landmark or influential – I might adore La Strada or Day for Night, but 8 ½ and The 400 Blows are the greater milestones, and while other Altman titles may draw votes, Nashville is his legacy film; finally, I chose the ten that I would pick to take to a desert island. These are personal favorites, and each time I watch them my pleasure is renewed.

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