Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 11, 2014

My list of the 100 greatest films

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 12:18 pm

A while back Jeff St. Clair asked some CounterPunch contributors for a list of what they considered to be the 100 greatest films of all time. I put this together pretty much off the top of my head and not in preferential order. I would say that those that came to mind first probably rate the highest, particularly “Sansho the Bailiff”, which I consider the greatest film ever made. Have you seen it? If not, put it on your bucket list. I saw it in 1961 and it has haunted me ever since. I notice, btw, that there were 101 ilms in my list–I am not sure why. In any case, you can take these to the bank.

  1. Sansho the Bailiff
  2. Weekend
  3. Seven Samurai
  4. Battle of Algiers
  5. Wages of Fear
  6. Dr. Strangelove
  7. Battleship Potemkin
  8. Berlin Alexanderplatz
  9. Jules and Jim
  10. Chinatown
  11. Modern Times
  12. Metropolis
  13. Napoleon
  14. Lola Montes
  15. Lonely are the Brave
  16. Tokyo Story
  17. The Wind Will Carry Us
  18. Godfather, part 2
  19. L’Atalante
  20. Salt of the Earth
  21. On the Waterfront
  22. Los Olvidados
  23. Bad Day at Black Rock
  24. Princess Mononoke
  25. Peppermint Candy
  26. The Shining
  27. Hari Kiri (the original)
  28. The Grapes of Wrath
  29. Nothing But a Man
  30. Sherlock Jr.
  31. Psycho
  32. The Seventh Seal
  33. Annie Hall
  34. Reds
  35. The Leopard
  36. L’Avventura
  37. Winter Sleep
  38. Yol
  39. Camp de Thiaroye
  40. The Sting
  41. McCabe and Mrs. Miller
  42. A Walk in the Sun
  43. Not One Less
  44. Pather Panchali
  45. Yojimbo
  46. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)
  47. Sunset Boulevard
  48. Sullivan’s Travels
  49. La Dolce Vita
  50. Morgan!
  51. Heaven’s Gate
  52. The Grand Illusion
  53. Zero for Conduct
  54. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
  55. Contempt
  56. Way Out West
  57. Some Like it Hot
  58. Seven Days of the Condor
  59. Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  60. A Night at the Opera
  61. Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
  62. One-Eyed Jacks
  63. Nuts in May
  64. Pat and Mike
  65. Tell Them Willie Boy is Here
  66. Gun Crazy
  67. Breathless
  68. Riff-Raff
  69. The Palm Beach Story
  70. The Singing Detective
  71. Bob Le Flambeur
  72. A Better Tomorrow
  73. Johnny Guitar
  74. Rififi
  75. Kanal
  76. The Bicycle Thief
  77. Ikiru
  78. Hearts and Minds
  79. How to Train Your Dragon
  80. Open City
  81. 1900
  82. Crimson Gold
  83. In the Year of the Pig
  84. The Wide Blue Road
  85. Ceddo
  86. The African Queen
  87. Army of Shadows
  88. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence
  89. Shoot the Piano Player
  90. Au Hasard Balthazar
  91. The Harder They Come
  92. Strangers on a Train
  93. From Here to Eternity
  94. A Streetcar Named Desire
  95. Memories of Underdevelopment
  96. Z
  97. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
  98. A Separation
  99. The White Balloon
  100. Wild Strawberries
  101. Andrei Rublev


  1. There are 101 movies because you listed Jules And Jim twice. #9 and #66

    Comment by Brad Andersen — December 11, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

  2. Surprised Midnight Cowboy didn’t make it? Paths of Glory? Breaker Morant? Ah, but a list of 100 fills quickly.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 11, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

  3. Thanks for the head’s up, Brad. I changed 66 to “Gun Crazy”, a noir and the greatest B-movie ever made!

    Comment by louisproyect — December 11, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

  4. Ahhhh ….. John Dahl and Peggy Cummins. Nice pick. And nice list too.

    Comment by Brad Andersen — December 11, 2014 @ 3:33 pm

  5. Thanks for posting, although for the life of me I cannot understand why “M. Hulot’s Holiday” or any Hulot movie is so well regarded.

    Comment by Cal — December 11, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

  6. Interesting that you included “The Harder They Come”, a gritty, powerful film.

    Comment by Richard Estes — December 11, 2014 @ 6:24 pm

  7. and, Richard Estes, a great soundtrack!

    Comment by uh...clem — December 11, 2014 @ 6:39 pm

  8. Thanks for the list. I take it “Weekend” is the 67 French film.

    Comment by Shawn Britton — December 11, 2014 @ 7:25 pm

  9. I’m surprised you didn’t mention The Match Factory Girl by Kaurismaki. you raved about it and several others of his.

    Comment by uh...clem — December 11, 2014 @ 7:48 pm

  10. Los Olvidados: Yes. A vision of hell.

    The Grapes of Wrath: The greatest leftist film ever made by an American

    Reds: Long, ponderous, repetitive and not really very political. Should have won Best Picture over the right-wing Chariots of Fire. But still overrated on the left.

    Heaven’s Gate: I tried to like this but it honestly really did suck

    Bob Le Flambeur: Hell yes, even though it was ripped off by Oceans Eleven

    Kanal: The pro-Putinites are going to be after you for this one. Amazing Wajda got it through the censors.

    Army of Shadows: Two by Melville, a man after my own heart.

    Comment by srogouski — December 11, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

  11. Personally I think A Man Escaped is a better film than Au Hasard Balthazar or Pickpocket but your mileage may vary. It’s like choosing between Beethoven’s 3rd, 5th, and 9th.

    Comment by srogouski — December 11, 2014 @ 9:58 pm

  12. I would also add The Battle of Chile and Harlan County, USA.

    Arturo Araya’s funeral in The Battle of Chile is one of the most subtly chilling things ever put on film.

    Comment by srogouski — December 11, 2014 @ 10:05 pm

  13. Yes, srogouski, Harlan County USA was a mighty film powerful, particularly since it was a documentary, but also mighty depressing since as that time, 1972, when labor (the trade union movement) was at it’s apex of power in the USA, it documented how enormous the obstacles were.

    I disagree on Reds but understand the critics, most of whom I know critique it from the Left. To me the most memorable scene was when Zinoviev changed Jack Reed’s Speech words in order to hoodwink the Muslims which was arguably probably historically accurate and a definite mistake by the Bolshevik party that if true is to be counted amongst their sins.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 12, 2014 @ 1:57 am

  14. Since this topic of best films is sure to generate lively debate & interesting insights with possible suggestions heretofore unconsidered I suggest that Proyect, just for the hell of it over the Holidays, breaks it down to categories like: “10 or 20 Best War Films — “10 or 20 Best Films on Revolution” etc., to see where that sort of exercise leads?

    My wise old man once told me as a kid that the only thing that delineates “epochs” throughout human history were: “wars & revolutions”.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 12, 2014 @ 2:10 am

  15. Anybody (like Spike Lee) interested in one of the most powerful American film scenes ever produced was in “Easy Rider” (1969) when they were tripping on acid in that old New Orleans cemetery where the backround noise is this constant “tang, tang, tang, tang” which could only be, as it turns out, the Army Corp of Engineers pounding in the steel stanchions for the Levy’s which would eventually fail in 2005. Just think about that next time you watch that great film.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 12, 2014 @ 2:30 am

  16. Don’t get me wrong, Reds should have easily won Best Picture that year.

    Comment by srogouski — December 12, 2014 @ 2:59 am

  17. I don’t find Harlan County USA to be depressing at all. Watching those hillbilly women organize an armed resistance against the mining company’s thugs was actually quite inspiring. The odds were completely against them and they still prevailed.

    Harlan County USA is also set for a revival since it’s most famous scene (the “gun thug” aiming at Barbara Kopple) was just reenacted by the Oakland Police at a Black Lives Matter march.


    Comment by srogouski — December 12, 2014 @ 3:04 am

  18. Reblogged this on 21st Century Theater.

    Comment by 21st Century Poet — December 13, 2014 @ 1:50 am

  19. Of Roman Polanski’s films, I would rank “Rosemary’s Baby” higher than “Chinatown.” “Memories of Underdevelopment” is a great choice, but “Strawberry and Chocolate,” also by Tomas Gutierrez Alea, is a good choice also. Where’s “Groundhog Day?”

    Comment by John B. — December 13, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

  20. @19 – Agreed as to inspiring.

    Depressing because that kind of Solidarity & those kinds of victories seem so remote today.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 13, 2014 @ 11:02 pm

  21. @21 – John B. Your old friend Don Smith took me to see both of those Polanski films as a kid and we both liked the realism of the Chinatown mystery better than the surrealism of the Baby movie, which the Hyde Park theater at first refused to let me watch due to age but somehow Don finagled it.

    Don liked the corny Polanski film “Fearless Vampire Killers” better than the Baby film.

    4 great movies not yet mentioned that deeply impressed me as a youth that I can still watch over & over:

    One Flew over the Cukoos’s nest

    Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid

    Cool Hand Luke

    The Pope of Greenwich Village

    The latter 2 were directed by the same director, Stuart Rosenberg, who was a highly underrated genius director.

    To me a top 100 movie list without “Cool Hand Luke” has missed something important as it’s the ultimate saga of modernity versus the square peg of the individual getting shoved into the round hole of the State. It epitomizes that conflict between individualism and society debated since the French Revolution as well as that ancient Japanese saying that “the tallest nail always gets hammered down”

    My top 100 would definitely have both of those Rosenberg movies.

    FWIW, Johnny Depp. whose a pretty damned good actor, says the “Pope of Greenwich Village” is his favorite film of all time.

    2 more underrated films that would make my top 100 are:

    “The Last Detail”

    “Tin Men”

    Both are like the “Huckleberry Finn” of movies in that they brilliantly capture a time in the USA that can never be re-created.

    Perhaps that’s why conservatives are deeply nostalgic in that they long for an impossible bygone era.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 13, 2014 @ 11:53 pm

  22. Speaking of Jonny Depp, Dead Man should probably be on any list like this.

    Comment by srogouski — December 14, 2014 @ 7:38 pm

  23. “Speaking of Jonny Depp, Dead Man should probably be on any list like this.”

    No. No it shouldn’t.

    Comment by Cal — December 15, 2014 @ 6:12 pm

  24. re: No. No it shouldn’t.

    Comment by srogouski — December 15, 2014 @ 7:54 pm

  25. If not Dead Man, then Stranger than Paradise.

    Comment by srogouski — December 15, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

  26. If not them them then “Donnie Brasco” for crying out loud.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 16, 2014 @ 12:51 am

  27. Jarmusch above Depp

    Comment by srogouski — December 16, 2014 @ 1:54 am

  28. It is hard to overstate the brilliance of “Sansho the Bailiff”, and the original “Hari Kiri” is a landmark samurai tendency film, a powerful indictment of any society that uses people to perpetrate violence and then casts them aside. I actually prefer “Alphaville” [‘I’m Ivan Johnson from New York”], “La Chinoise” and “Le Gai savoir” to “Weekend”. The late Juliet Berto is fabulous in “Le Gai savoir”.

    Comment by Richard Estes — December 17, 2014 @ 12:35 am

  29. I loved Juliet Berto in La Chinoise.

    Anne Wiazemsky is so beautiful you can see why Godard dumped Anna Karina for her. The kid from 400 Blows is great. But Berto steals that movie in every scene she’s in.

    Comment by srogouski — December 17, 2014 @ 2:42 am

  30. i see weekend seemed to make the grade, and chinatown; i didnt see eraserhead, repo man, nashville, el topo (a neccesity for dessert urbanites), bridge over river kaui, one old fellini, one about mexico and gold with humphrey bogart, aguirre and the wrath, wotzek, black orpheus, orphee (cocteau), some old ones from india etc. maybe thats like a 1280 SAT or maybe more. mccabe and misses miller has great music.

    Comment by ishi — December 17, 2014 @ 9:50 am

  31. I think that there is one film better than those 101 put together. It would be very hard to get a hold of. It would go over the heads of most people.
    It would go over the heads of even more Americans. OK maybe it is not really a good film at all if it goes over the heads of most audiodunces.
    So let me rephrase my assertion. This film is better than than all of them, up to the 101st, put together, to anyone who can uncover the almost completely hidden stories embedded in the film.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — December 27, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

  32. Hahhahaha you thought that I was joking. The name of the film is the Assault. There are many films with the title, The Assault. Only one of them is the correct one.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — December 27, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

  33. In case you are thinking of expanding to 103, I nominate Ace In The Hole and Days Of Wine And Roses

    Comment by Brad Andersen — January 1, 2015 @ 5:47 am

  34. […] is not the first South Korean film to dramatize the Gwangju uprising. In 1999 I reviewed “Peppermint Candy”, a film I included in my list of the greatest 100 ever made. Yongho, The anti-hero of […]

    Pingback by A Taxi Driver | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — August 11, 2017 @ 2:26 pm

  35. Andrei Rublev in position 101? This list is one of the most dismal things I have ever seen.

    Comment by Maximilian1979 — October 8, 2019 @ 4:44 pm

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