Matthew Dancona

The Spectator’s 50 Essential Films: Part One

Peter Hoskin and Matthew dAncona count down the first 25 of The Spectator's 50 Essential Films

Peter Hoskin and Matthew d’Ancona count down the first 25 of The Spectator’s 50 Essential Films

The studio logo fades. The opening credits roll. And so we come to the main feature: The Spectator’s 50 Essential Films — a selection of the very best that cinema has to offer, and all in glorious Technicolor.

This isn’t just a celebration of motion pictures — though it’s certainly that — but also a testament to The Spectator’s own passion for the medium. I’m certain that our offices on Old Queen Street contain a greater per capita proportion of film fans — crazed, honest-to-God, bleary-eyed film fans — than pretty much any other building in all London. And that gets reflected in a magazine which pays due attention and respect to the silver screen. Graham Greene, Basil Wright, Peter Ackroyd, Hilary Mantel and now the inimitable Deborah Ross have ranked among our cinema critics. And we’re lucky to have frequent written contributions from the glamorous end of the film industry.

We’ve been guided by this wider legacy, as much as by our present deliberations, in choosing the final 50 films. A premium has been placed on wit, Britishness and — above all — intelligence; not to skew the final selection, you understand, but to distinguish this effort from other film lists out there. And, of course, it wouldn’t really be a Spectator product without a healthy dash of contrariness.

As a result, there are some notable absentees from our list, as well as a few less familiar entries. I won’t spoil the suspense of what’s to come, except to say that you won’t find Casablanca (1942), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) or Lawrence of Arabia (1962) anywhere among these pages. And I’m sad that some of my personal favourites — Canyon Passage (1946), Track of the Cat (1954), Bigger than Life (1956), O Lucky Man! (1973) and any of about 20 John Ford films — haven’t made the cut either.

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