The ten best films ever made. We all think we could do it. Me, you, Bob from around the corner, that one kid in your class, Jill from accounting, everybody. “It’ll be easy”, we say as we scoff at the selections of critics and writers the world over whenever that Sight and Sound list finds its way onto our local newspaper stand (or your local R.S. McColl’s). We watch the year end top ten lists of Kermode or Stuckmann, we go back and watch Siskel and Ebert’s best of the decade lists, and every time there’s one movie we wouldn’t include or part of the list we would have reordered if we’d had the platform.
Frankly, choosing the ten best films ever made is incredibly difficult. When considering such a list there are endless criteria from which one could choose to base their list off: popularity, originality, box office success, how it did at the Oscars. Really, there is no one single way of creating a definitive list of the greatest movies ever made. Even if I were to only take in my own personal opinion, I know that I would change my mind week to week. After all, I haven’t seen every film ever made, I have a lot of catching up to do; who’s to say I wouldn’t swap out something for Interstellar or Stagecoach when I finally get around to ticking those off the list?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is the fear of the backlash I may receive by leaving certain films off the list. I don’t have any John Ford on the list, which means that Steven Spielberg will hate me, and I just know the middle class art students are going to come for me due to the lack of Godard, Truffaut or Varda.
Making a top ten greatest films ever made list is a lot of pressure, something that is not lost on me. All I can do is provide the top ten films which, until this point in my life, have had the most profound effect on me. Those films that I have not stopped thinking about since the day I first saw them, that I have introduced to whomever will let me, and that I have watched and rewatched until my heart’s content over the last twenty-six years. Wish me luck.
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10. Aftersun (2022)
The only film on this entire list that was released during my time writing for The Film Magazine. Thus far, only one of two new releases I have given full marks to (alongside Celine Song’s beautiful Past Lives).
Since I first saw Charlotte Wells’ debut feature film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, I have seen it a further three times in the cinema and have both directly and indirectly introduced many to the film. My passion shines brightly for this one.
With Aftersun, Charlotte Wells introduced herself to the world as an immensely talented director whose delicate portrayal of a father-daughter holiday in Turkey plays out like a gentle hand on your shoulder, leading you carefully through the complex relationship between the pair that eleven-year-old Sophie is yet to understand.
Releasing the same year as the wonderful Everything Everywhere All at Once, another film that handles the relationship between a daughter and a parent, Aftersun handles the relationship in a much more natural manner, making use of the finer details of the film to provoke the issues facing the pair, and equally providing two of the years most natural performances from Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio.
It is a simple film told in a relatively simple way, but one which is filled with layers of subtext that linger on the mind long after the credits have rolled. Frankly, given more time to cement its legacy, the debut feature of Charlotte Wells could find itself much higher on this list.
Aftersun is not only one of the greatest feature film debuts of all time, but could be one of the greatest films of all time.
9. North by Northwest (1959)
Let’s not kid ourselves, this spot is essentially a revolving door for Hitchcock projects, and though the likes of Psycho and Rear Window have not been chosen this go around they most certainly would be any other time. Right now, I do genuinely believe that North by Northwest is the great director’s most impressive achievement.
Coming years before the first James Bond film Dr. No (1962), North by Northwest is incredibly ahead of its time in regard to not only what would come in the form of the Bond series but how action cinema would evolve as a whole.
Cary Grant’s advertising executive Roger Thornhill is no secret agent, though after being thrust into a story of espionage and mistaken identity he proves that he has all the charm, wit and cunning that one would hope for. Given its immortal recognition as an early formulation of the James Bond-style film, Cary Grant more than lives up as an early iteration of that type of character. And of course, Hitchcock more than lives up to the Bond style with sex references and innuendos galore.
Most importantly, however, Hitchcock takes the action scenes needed to make a film of this magnitude work and crafts sequences that are impressive by today’s standards but simply revolutionary for the cinema of the 1950s, ultimately changing the way action movies would be created forever.
Recommended for you: Top 10 Alfred Hitchcock Films