It’s one of the most daunting lists for a film critic to compile – the 100 greatest movies of all time. It’s exceptionally subjective, to be sure, and it’s something most critics experience through a collaborative effort – with a large enough group of associates that it becomes averaged out by popularity and longstanding acclaim. Rarely does anyone think about how one film matches up against another, specifically as genres are so diverse and dissimilar, and the medium itself has flourished for more than a century. For renowned projects like the American Film Institute’s lists of greatest films, hundreds of critics, historians, moviemakers, and industry insiders were polled; to collect data worthy of such grandly publicized arrangements of significant titles, it’s undoubtedly worthwhile to survey numerous authorities.
But for this site, it’s just the two of us. Nevertheless, we’ve tackled the mind-numbing task of contemplating how a film like “Jaws” might end up just one place higher or lower on a list than “The Best Years of Our Lives” – two pictures that couldn’t be more different in subject matter, tone, actors/actresses, scripting, editing, direction, and so much more. Fortunately, we tend to agree on things more often than not.
For this particular “Top 100,” there are a couple of guidelines worth mentioning. The first is that only films that received a score of 10/10 on this site are eligible for inclusion. This means that a few undeniable classics and personal favorites, such as “The Lady Eve” (1941), missed the mark by the tiniest amount (when it was originally reviewed, it only scored a 9/10). And countless movies have scored a 9/10 due to just one of us not liking it as much as the other. The second guideline is that each film must be predominantly in the English language and, if not a strictly American production, must have permeated American cinema to the point that the general populace does not consider it a foreign film. A movie like “The Third Man” is technically British, but it’s eligible since it’s widely considered a Hollywood picture – despite its filming origins and the location of its theatrical premiere. And lastly, this list isn’t meant to represent personal “guilty pleasure” movies (otherwise, the highly entertaining yet admittedly faulty “Demolition Man” might have made it on here). Each selection was instead chosen for its merit as a work of art that can be scrutinized by fellow scholars and critics and appreciated for a contribution to the medium that surpasses merely being fun or worthy of repeat viewings. These aren’t just good movies or great movies – these are the best of the best!
#100: Wuthering Heights (1939)
No, not dead, Dr. Kenneth. Not alone. He’s with her. They’ve only just begun to live.