James Berardinelli's All-Time Top 100

It has now been close to 13 years since I embarked upon what I called at the time my greatest challenge as a film reviewer: whittling down the nearly 6000 films I had seen (at the time) to the top 2%. I have no idea if I got it "right" or not, but the Top 100 that resulted from that effort remains one of my most notable personal accomplishments. Lists in general are meant to spur discussion and this one is no different. My sincerest hope, however, is that it will provide fodder for those in search of good movies to watch at home. Some are available on streaming services. I believe all (or at least nearly all) are available on Blu-Ray or "old-fashioned" DVD.

I started compiling the list in late 2001 (shortly after I returned from the 2001 Toronto Film Festival, the "9/11" festival) and had the order mostly completed by Christmas Eve. I began posting it, one title per week, in early January and completed it in late 2003. Here are some excerpts from the original introduction:

People love lists… Like everyone else, I have a soft spot for [them]. Perhaps because I'm an engineer by trade, I like organizing things, and lists are effective ways of doing that. Still, I don't pay much attention to any of the so-called "All Time" film rosters - whenever a prominent one pops up, curiosity prods me to check it out, but it doesn't mean much to me. I don't get upset if my favorite films aren't there - in fact, in many cases, I expect them to be absent. There's nothing more individual and personal than a Top 100 list. Attempts to quantify the Best 100 movies of all time are doomed to failure, since the words "quantify" and "art" are incompatible bedfellows.

So why am I making my Top 100 list available for the world to see? One reason is that, amidst all of the e-mails I get, this is one of the most frequent requests… Another reason is to highlight some underrated films by their inclusion (and, conversely, to do the same with some overrated films by their omission)…

Please note that the title of the list is my "Top 100 Films of All-Time" not the "Best 100 Films of All-Time". My ego is not large enough to allow me to claim to be able to compile the latter list. To date, I estimate I have seen about 6000 movies. That's a lot - more than many people see in a lifetime - but it also means that there are thousands of films I have not seen, and, with so many holes in my viewing roster, I can't even attempt to compile a comprehensive list…

Also, the list is a living thing. As I see more movies, it will evolve and change. When a great new film comes out, it may enter the list. Likewise, I may see and fall in love with an older movie. Thus, to start with, there are no runners-up. But, as other movies enter the list, those near the bottom will slip into runners-up status…

Some might assume that the list will be comprised solely of four star films. It is not. There are many four-star films to be found, but also quite a few with three-and-one-half stars. There are also a number of four-star films that didn't make the list. There's no definitive reason for this, except that the passage of time has, in some cases, enhanced or decreased my opinion of a particular movie…

So I have now reached a point when the "living list" needs to be revisited. Since I last revised the Top 100 a few years ago (adding Apted's Up Series and The Dark Knight), there have been some very good movies but, until last year, nothing that challenged me to change the list. 2013, however, brought two great films to my attention (one of which was released domestically in 2014) that warrant inclusion. They are: Before Midnight and Like Father, Like Son. The former is the third installment in Richard Linklater's Before series (it's currently a trilogy but that will likely change in another 8 years). It enters the list at #68, only a few slots behindBefore Sunrise. (Before Sunset didn't make the Top 100, although it would have made a hypothetical Top 200.) The latter is a Japanese film and features neither Dudley Moore nor Kirk Cameron. A masterful and emotionally potent exploration of identity and fatherhood from acclaimed director Hirokazu Kore-eda, this one is truly worth searching out. (As I write this, it is available for streaming.) It enters at #83.

The addition of two titles means that Vertigo and Dead Again slip into the growing pond of "Honorable Mentions." Technically, that means that the Top 100 is now the Top 109.

As of September 2014, here's the list as it stands, with links to the reviews:

Run Time: 2:08
U.S. Release Date: -
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Mature Themes)
Genre: THRILLER
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, ...

Run Time: 1:47
U.S. Release Date: 1991-08-23
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Violence)
Genre: THRILLER
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi, ...

Run Time: 1:36
U.S. Release Date: 1989-07-12
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Genre: ROMANTIC COMEDY
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, ...

Run Time: 1:54
U.S. Release Date: -
MPAA Rating: "NR" (Violence, Sexual Situations)
Genre: THRILLER
Director: Howard Hawks
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, ...

Run Time: 1:42
U.S. Release Date: 2003-09-12
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Brief Nudity)
Genre: DRAMA
Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, ...

Run Time: 1:39
U.S. Release Date: 1995-02-24
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Sexual Situations, Profanity)
Genre: DRAMA
Director: Lee Tamahori
Cast: Rena Owen, Temuera Morrison, Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell, ...

Run Time: 3:42
U.S. Release Date: -
MPAA Rating: "G" (Nothing Objectionable)
Genre: DRAMA/ROMANCE
Director: Victor Fleming
Cast: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, ...

Run Time: 1:50
U.S. Release Date: 1982-06-04
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Violence)
Genre: SCIENCE FICTION
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Cast: William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, ...