« Infernokrusher programming language | Main | Clinton, Obama, sexism, feminism, etc »

Top movies


Having finally watched Das Boot recently, I'm now a step closer to having seen the top 75 of the IMDB's Top 250 movies.

I'm not sure it's a good goal. After all, I've now seen 66 of those 75, and didn't think much of quite a few of them. The list is determined by IMDB user ratings, so perhaps I'm just out of step with the average IMDB user, but only one of their top 10 would make my own top 20 list, and only a few others in their top 10 would make my top 100 list.

But the completist in me doesn't want to give up when I'm so close.

I've seen all of the top 39. The first one I'm missing is currently at #40: American History X. Nothing I've heard about it makes me at all interested in seeing it, except that I sometimes like Edward Norton. So the project may founder right there; I've got better things to do with my time than watch a movie I don't want to see just 'cause 140,000 IMDB users liked it.

There are three others I'm missing in the top 50: The Departed, There Will Be Blood, and The Lives of Others (a.k.a. Das Leben der Anderen). All three were released in the past two years, which makes me a little skeptical; newish movies sometimes rocket high onto the list and then gradually subside over time. (Note, for example, that Memento and Amélie were in the top 25 when I wrote about the list in 2003; both have slipped down since then, supplanted by older movies.) Currently, the most recent movie in the top 40 was released in 2003.

So if you count only movies released before 2006, I've seen all of the top 50 except for American History X. But the list is the list, even if it changes later, so I won't pretend the more recent ones aren't on it.

In the top 75, the only other ones I'm missing are No Country for Old Men (2007) (which I was planning to see anyway), Double Indemnity (1944) (which I can't remember whether I saw or not), Requiem for a Dream (2000), Downfall (a.k.a. Der Untergang) (2004), and Raging Bull (1980).

Don't know if I have any interest in most of those. It may be time to give up on this project.

Of course, even if I persevere, I may never be entirely done, 'cause the list changes over time. A year ago, I finished seeing all of the top 40, and was only missing five from the top 60, of which I've now seen two more; but I'm now missing one from the top 40 and six from the top 60. If watching two movies on the list leaves me further behind than when I started, that's another sign that I should probably give up.


Of the ones you mention not having seen, The Lives of Others is the one I most enjoyed.

It depends, I suppose, on whether the goal is a sort of cultural literacy in film, or just the completion of a task. If you are trying to make sure that references to good/popular films don't pass you by, then (it seems to me) part of what's going on is the addition of recent movies and their catchphrases, visual references and sudden stars. Those will drop out of the common conversation as they drop off the list, but while they are recent, they are part of it, so it makes sense to keep at it.

Of course, cultural literacy in that sense is a red queen's race. I think one reason we've started allowing our culture to be defined by teenagers is that they have the energy to keep up with it.


I'm eager for you to see The Departed. I've seen very few movies in the last 6 years. This is one of them, and I thought it was phenomenal. I'm still thinking about it, and we watched it months ago.

I don't know where Raging Bull ranks for you, on this list of movies you might not bother watching, but I've never seen it, and would like to, just to own the cultural references I seem to run into for that movie.


I saw American History X -- eh. It was shattering in it's portrayal of the brutality of a racist, but then the redemption part (made oh-so-poignant by the fact that someone close to him was heading down the same racist road -- what a surprise!) was pretty much just movie stuff.

I also recently saw No Country for Old Men. Caveat -- I was watching it on a laptop, at work, while doing paperwork and somewhat interrupted. But when it ended, my coworker and I both stared at each other and said, "that's it?" It felt like all the pieces had been lined up, and now Tommy Lee Jones would take action of some sort... but instead he sat on the sofa with his wife and the credits started to roll... We really couldn't figure out what was so great about it. Perhaps with undivided attention we'd have been stunned by the brilliance of it, but generally I was glad you & I didn't go see it during my visit. And I certainly have no plans to spend another few hours of my life trying again, with more focus, to see if it makes a difference.

Post a comment