Updating the Top 100

April 28, 2018
A thought by James Berardinelli

It has now been more than 16 years since I embarked on 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 via streaming, 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…

Since I last revised the Top 100 in 2014 (to add Before Midnight and Like Father, Like Son), four films have percolated to the top: Little Shop of Horrors (the 1986 musical, which earned a re-review in 2017), Grave of the Fireflies (the animated classic), Interstellar (Christopher Nolan's space epic), and O.J.: Made in America (the 8-hour documentary).

The addition of titles means that King Kong, Lawrence of Arabia, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and Manhattan slip into the growing pool of "Honorable Mentions." Technically, that means that the Top 100 is now the Top 113 and that the film holding the #88 position when it debuted is now off the list.

As of April 2015, here's the list as it stands, with links to the reviews:

1. Patton
2. Decalogue
3. Rear Window
4. City Lights
5. Schindler’s List
6. The Godfather
7. Casablanca
8. Raiders of the Lost Ark
9. It’s a Wonderful Life
10. A Fish Called Wanda

11. Citizen Kane
12. Monty Python’s the Life of Brian
13. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
14. 2001: A Space Odyssey
15. Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring
16. Raging Bull
17. Dr. Strangelove
18. Three Colors: Red
19. Cinema Paradiso
20. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

21. The Sweet Herafter
22. Amadeus
23. Raise the Red Lantern
24. My Fair Lady
25. The War Zone
26. The Bridge on the River Kawai
27. Wages of Fear
28. High Noon
29. The Empire Strikes Back
30. The Princess Bride
31. The Up Series
32. Seven Samurai
33. Chinatown
34. Das Boot
35. Rashomon
36. Bonnie and Clyde
37. Diabolique
38. Do the Right Thing
39. Goodfellas
40. Sunset Blvd.
41. The Hidden Fortress
42. The World of Apu
43. Dances with Wolves
44. Singin’ in the Rain
45. Aliens
46. All About Eve
47. Godfather 2, The
48. Platoon
49. Taxi Driver
50. Glory
51. Requiem for a Dream
52. The Apartment
53. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
54. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
55. Star Wars
56. Blue Velvet
57. Jaws
58. Beauty and the Beast
59. The Untouchables
60. Die Hard
61. Grave of the Fireflies
62. Glengarry Glen Ross
63. Time Bandits
64. Gettysburg
65. Nashville
66. Memento
67. Before Sunrise
68. Yojimbo
69. Nostferatu
70. Before Midnight
71. The Hustler
72. Interstellar
73. Cries and Whispers
74. Un Coeur en Hiver
75. The Third Man
76. The Wizard of Oz
77. This is Spinal Tap
78. Halloween (1978)
79. The 400 Blows
80. The Wild Bunch
81. Crumb
82. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
83. Hamlet (1996)
84. Pulp Fiction
85. To Kill a Mockingbird
86. Like Father, Like Son
87. The Departed
88. Boyfriends and Girlfriends
89. Say Anything
90. The Dark Knight
91. Swept Away
92. O.J.: Made in America
93. Stop Making Sense
94. Purple Noon
95. The Natural
96. Psycho
97. Magnolia
98. Munich
99. On the Waterfront
100. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
101. King Kong
102. Lawrence of Arabia
103. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
104. Manhattan
105. Vertigo
106. Dead Again
107. When Harry Met Sally
108. The Big Sleep
109. Lost in Translation
110. Once Were Warriors
111. From Russia with Love
112. Gone with the Wind
113. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan