Brian, I agree, editing should be seamless, but if someone says they are a student of film, they will notice it nonetheless
my top 10:
Lawrence of Arabia
The Manchurian Candidate (62)
Touch of Evil
The Last Picture Show
The French Connection
The Fisher King
Jaspar, what about them caught your attention?
Lawrence of Arabia is simply put the greatest editing fete ever…Sydney Pollack referred to each scene as being like an individual work of art…and Anne Coates editing pulls it all together…and then there is the match being blown out scene
The editing of The Fisher King is an almost buried treasure….Lesley Walker’s work on this film is astounding…
In the Blink of an Eye: Top-notch Editing
So there are my favorites, in the above list.
A quick defense for Black Swan, the editing was beautiful, not a frame wasted. The pacing of the film was perfect, every aspect of the cutting was spot on.
Howards End is another example of brilliant pacing, the performances themselves help the pacing, but the editing moves this passed just another period drama.
A film with an interesting editing history is Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973). Originally edited to 99 minutes, further editing was suggested by Roger Corman for its US release. When British Lion was bought by EMI, the executives all but buried the film, and had Eric Boyd-Perkins, an editor with quite a respectable British Horror movie pedigree, re-edit the film, cutting it by about 13 minutes, removing some of the flabby narrative and slightly reordering the story, (particulary where Hardy spends the first six minutes of the film on Seargeant Howie’s back story, and the section where Lord Summerisle gives us treatise on the history and beliefs of Summerisle).
In my opinion, Boyd-Perkins takes what is an interesting but flawed narrative and creates a tight, perfectly paced story, where the needless attempts at plot exposition have been removed but the the ideas they were attempting to portray are still addressed anyway.
This is maybe an example of a director (and its main star) being too close to the production of the film to understand that excessive verbiage does not make a good film, and where the editor, editing the film from more of a visual point of view, creates a movie with better pacing and is more effective from a story-telling angle.
Granted, sometimes editors need to save directors from themselves
Here is a fine thread about editing that has been lost in the mix