Dylan Cave

Fiction curator, BFI National Archive

UK

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Battle of Algiers, The

1966

Gillo Pontecorvo

Beep Beep

Chuck Jones

Do The Right Thing

1989

Spike Lee

Kind Hearts and Coronets

1949

Robert Hamer

Man with a Movie Camera

1929

Dziga Vertov

Playtime

1967

Jacques Tati

Seven Samurai

1954

Akira Kurosawa

Singin' in the Rain

1951

Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly

Vertigo

1958

Alfred Hitchcock

Wild Strawberries

1957

Ingmar Bergman

Comments

I’ve found it almost impossible to whittle my longlist down to the ten greatest (didn’t the 1952 critics have it so much easier with only 50-odd years of cinema to consider?) and I’m slightly surprised that my final list doesn’t include any Almodóvar, Buñuel, Denis, Dreyer, Godard, Hawks, Herzog, Kubrick, Lynch, Ozu, Peckinpah, Powell, Scorsese or, indeed, Welles – but just one from each of these would take me over ten yet again. Instead I’ve settled on a list of films that I feel have ambition, albeit in different forms, for what cinema can be. Crucially, I think each film is largely successful in achieving what it sets out to do – isn’t that the biggest challenge in filmmaking? A couple of notes: To the nine full-length heavyweights I add Chuck Jones’ Road Runner movie Beep Beep – a clichéd contrast perhaps, but I find it hard to consider nearly 120 years of cinema without acknowledging animation. Beep Beep features an extended sequence where the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote enter a tunnel wearing miners’ helmets and continue their perennial chase as onscreen dots of light. Jones manages to wring out the gags from these two dots – a great instance of pure cinema. Also, I must slightly pedantically point to Playtime’s gauge – 70mm – to signify that the full scale and ambition of Tati’s film is best appreciated on that size or equivalent theatrical projection.

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