Charles Musser

Professor, American Studies, Film Studies and Theater Studies; director, Yale Summer Film Institute


Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Battle of the Somme, The


J.B. McDowell/Geoffrey Malins

Chronicle of a Summer


Edgar Morin/Jean Rouch

Don't Look Back


D.A. Pennebaker

Gleaners & I, The


Agnès Varda

Hearts and Minds


Peter Davis

Listen to Britain


Humphrey Jennings/Stewart McAllister

Man with a Movie Camera


Dziga Vertov

Nanook of the North


Robert J. Flaherty


William K.L. Dickson

Thin Blue Line, The


Errol Morris


There are many too many films that I love that are the best, that are important. It really is a hopeless task to list them, so I often ignore these requests as silly. But I am immersed in documentary these days, so why not the best/most important films for me in this incarnation of my life? That I can do.

Sandow is there as a reminder that we should not ignore short films (including short one-shot films): besides being a wonderful film it is also the first motion picture made for explicit commercial purposes.

Battle of the Somme is a reminder that there were documentaries before Nanook – but again, it is a great, powerful film.

Nanook is there because one is either for Nanook or against it – and I am for it.

Man with a Movie Camera is there because I wrote my first paper on it and it has inspired me. I also showed it to John MacKay when he served as teaching assistant on my Introduction to Cinema class and he is now writing the definitive Vertov biography. But perhaps more importantly, my daughter took his Russian cinema course and then (without knowing my past) wrote her first paper on Man with a Movie Camera. And so on…

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