Alex Massie

Movie List Mania!

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So, a big hello to Cappuccino Culture, the Spectator's new culture blog where I see Pete has reposted the list he helped compile for the Spectator's 50 Essential Films supplement. Just for good measure, Pete's added another 35 films that would be contenders for his own personal list. Brother Hoskin is a much greater cinephile than I am, but his inclusion of Eyes Wide Shut as a candidate for his own "Top 50" suggests he's also keen on offering needless provocation.

That said, I was delighted to see that the charming Whisky Galore! also made his list. Since everyone love to make movie lists, here are some films that, off the top of my head, I'd consider strong contenders for my own - middlebrow! - Top 50. The only rules in selecting them were that a) they didn't appear on the Spectator or Hoskin lists and b) no more than one movie per director. (Otherwise John Ford and Kieslowski would dominate the list.)

The Prisoner of Zenda
(John Cromwell/David O. Selznick, 1937)

The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, 1940)

The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Powell & Pressburger, 1943)

Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)

Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)

The Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)

The Horse Soldiers (John Ford, 1959)

Jules et Jim (Francois Truffaut, 1962)

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Martin Ritt, 1965)

The Conversation (Francis Ford Copolla, 1974)

Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1975)

The Man Who Would be King (John Huston, 1975)

Das Boot (Wolfgang Petersen, 1981)

Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog, 1982)

Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1983)

Mona Lisa (Neil Jordan, 1986)

Tampopo (Juzo Itami, 1987)

A Short Film About Love (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1988)

Cyrano de Bergerac (Jean-Paul Rappaneau, 1990)

Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang Yimou, 1991)

Fargo (Joel Coen, 1996)

The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998)

Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002)

Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)

So, not very much from the last 10 years? Also, none of it is obscure enough to be properly satsifying in terms of meeting the Requirements of a Good List. Still, there you have it...

I think, incidentally, that The Truman Show is one of the most under-rated films of recent years and that, in fact, its horrid relevance increases with each year that passes. But that's a matter for another time. What movies would you have on your own personal must-have lists? And which directors are represented by the wrong movies here?

UPDATE: Andrew Stuttaford rightly chides me for not including Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949). He's right. I don't quite know how I forgot about that one since it is, er, one of my favourite movies. Consider it included. I don't know why it escaped the d'Ancona/Hoskin list either...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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