Publisher’s Note: (This article was written Oct. 22, 2014. Updates to the list itself occur frequently, but the article, and the statistics written therein, will remain unchanged for continuity’s sake. For example, the most recent film at the time this article was written was Boyhood. As you can see from the lists, more recent films have been added.)
The following is a series of spreadsheets all designed to show off my list—The FilmSage’s list—of the greatest movies ever made. Please refer to my countdown videos to view my explanation of the evolution of this list. The purpose of this particular spreadsheet is not to rank the films in countdown order—which is a very difficult task considering the nature of evolving tastes and exposure to film. Instead, this list is a directory of sorts to help you track down the movie to watch based on what your in the mood for. The list can be viewed by title (alphabetically), by director (alphabetically), by date, by country of production, by length, and by color format. I, personally, think it’s most fun to view the list in date order.
Note that this list attempts to limit itself to 555 films and 555 films only. Don’t ask why I selected 555. I just did. I thought 5-5-5 was a good, fun number. Because of this, not every good movie ever made, not even every great or exceptional movie ever made, is included. This is by no means an exhaustive list. You’ll find The Avengers, Superman and The Dark Knight, but you won’t find all the other good superhero movies (most notably last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier). You’ll see Road to Morocco, but you won’t see the other Road to… movies. You’ll see Good Morning, Vietnam, but Robin Williams won’t grace the rest of the list, despite the fact that Mrs. Doubtfire and Good Will Hunting were superb. So please, don’t worry if your favorite movie is not on the list. It’s very likely that I still think it’s a good movie. As a matter of fact, I keep kicking myself that I can’t include more movies on this list. Just today, I realized that The Longest Day, Arthur, Horse Feathers and That Obscure Object of Desire aren’t on here. It’s too bad, but I want this list to represent world cinema in all its eras and all its genres and a lot of great movies, therefore, won’t make the cut.
When I stop to consider the sheer magnitude of great cinema available for our consumption, I am amazed at how wonderful cinema is as an art form. There are so many pieces of great art, entertainment, and history out there! This list—and, for that matter, this entire blog—is designed to open you up as a reader and as a movie-goer to just how much great cinema there is. It will also help you to avoid those pieces of terrible cinema into which, unfortunately, the casual movie-goer is too often ready to march.
Hopefully this understanding will help you as you read to realize that I do not try to be an elitist. Some critics, undeniably, are. But it’s important to realize that people become movie critics because they love movies, not because they hate them and not because they feel that only 100 good movies have ever been made and all other films are trash. As a matter of fact, I’ll bet that most critics like most movies they see. I know that, for the most part, I like the majority of movies to which I am exposed. However, it’s important to realize that there have been lots of movies since their birth in 1888. IMDb reports that 1,026,760 different films have been made since 1874 from documentaries to short films to TV mini-series to feature films. Therefore, while I say this list of 555 represents “the greatest movies ever made”, please take it with a grain of salt. I will never live long enough to watch every movie ever made. (555 is only 0.0541% of 1,026,760).
However, the claim is a reasonable one when one considers that “Greatness” and “goodness” are different things. To be great is to invoke something more than just quality. It also invokes impact and influence. It represents an era, an idea, or a person. Roger Ebert said that great movies are reflections of their makers. Issues of poor quality can even be compensated for by recognition of such principles. In that regard, I can say that this list of 555 represents a very good sample of the greatest movies ever made.
Some fun notes about this list: Alfred Hitchcock is the most represented director with 14 films. Yasujirô Ozu is in second place with 13. Ingmar Bergman is third with 12. Jean Renoir is in fourth place with 9. Akira Kurosawa and Robert Bresson are tied for fifth with 8 apiece. One from Great Britain, two from Japan, one from Sweden, two from France. There is a four-way tie for most-represented director from the United States between Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Stanley Kubrick with 7 apiece. The largest jump between years is between 1902 and 1915, but from 1915 until 2014, not a single year is unrepresented. The most represented year is 1962, with 18 pictures from that year making the list. In this year alone, seven nations are represented: the United States, France, Mexico, Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Japan. When it comes to represented nations over the course of the entire list, the United States of America is by far the most represented with 287 selections (this is about 50% of the movies). In second place is France with 82. 277 of the films are in black and white. The oldest film on the list is Georges Méliès’ science-fiction short film, A Trip to the Moon. The youngest film on the list is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. The shortest film is Ten Minutes, an Italian-Bosnian film that is, you guessed it, ten minutes long. The longest is The Decalogue, a ten-part made-for-TV movie that totals 9 hours and 32 minutes long. The average length of the movies on this list is 1 hour 55 minutes and 43 seconds. Not that that matters.
You will also be able to navigate to reviews of the particular movies involved. The structure of the blog is such that the reviews are posted on a rolling basis and therefore get hidden the more I write. This will help to get to the reviews easier. You can also access them in the order in which they were meant to be read from the Index page.
Due to the nature of this site’s format, only a small section of the list can be viewed a single time. You’ll have to scroll to the side and down to view remaining columns and rows.