These are not my favourite films, although some overlap. Sometimes my favourite films are not the best ever made (1986’s Short Circuit, my family’s film that we all quote from in chorus when the gang get together, is certainly not cinematic mastery). Also, I have not seen every film in existence. Tokyo Story, which regularly frequents these kinds of lists in Cahier Du Cinema, Sight and Sound, etc, is a film I have simply yet to get around to.
The films that have been selected are, I believe, the peak of cinematic mastery. They span nearly the length of cinema’s existence, and are deliberately chosen to reflect a wide range of genres, countries, and times. One major reason for this is to force myself to list films that are not exclusively 1980s horror movies, which I could quite easily do. The second is because that list would be wrong, as although they could be peak horror, some would undoubtedly be worse than films outside the genre.
Therefore, for better or for worse, at the time of writing, listed from oldest to youngest and with no system of ranking, here are my picks for the 10 Best Films of All Time.
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10. La Voyage dans la Lune (1902)
It is impossible to understate how important this film was.
From the grandfather of special effects, Georges Méliès, come fifteen minutes of sheer adventure, adapting the Jules Verne novels “From the Earth to the Moon”, and “Around the Sun”, along with H. G. Wells’ “First Men on the Moon”, it is a film which pushed the limits of the medium, bringing thrills beyond the stars to the screen for all to see.
Hand-painted frame by frame to add a splash of colour, employing all of Méliès’ stage magic knowhow, it still has the power to captivate to this day, despite being created only seven years after the Lumiere brothers demonstrated their kinematograph at the 1895 December World Fair. The rocket splatting into the eye of the moon is an image almost everyone in the world has seen, despite rarely knowing where it comes from.
It is fun and joyous and, thanks to restoration work and new scores, able to keep its legacy going over 120 years later. Not a single cast or crew member from this film is alive today, yet A Trip to the Moon lives on.
9. Psycho (1960)
We could argue over Hitchcock’s best film for decades. Indeed, many have done, and we still never will agree. Vertigo famously dethroned Citizen Kane in Sight and Sound magazine as the best film ever in 2011, a title the Welles film had held for many decades. Yet Psycho takes my vote for numerous reasons.
Not only is its story iconic – the shower scene one of the greatest sequences in cinema history – and its production history something of legend, but it is supreme mastery of cinematic craftsmanship.
Every shot is glorious, every moment timed to perfection. Suspense is at an all-time high, mystery around every corner. Yet perhaps what is most startling is its efficiency, Hitchcock’s most underappreciated skill. If a scene required 50 cuts, he’d have it. If it required a simple shot/reverse shot with the most subtle of powerful, timed camera cuts to a tighter or a lower angle (see the dinner between Marion and Norman), he did it. It is an exercise in extreme precision, in efficiency of storytelling, and it cuts deeper than almost any other film.
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