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Matt's Big essential chronological list of favorite films

by Matt Severson
Matt's Big essential chronological list of favorite films by Matt Severson
The purpose of the list is to have a chronological survey of the 500+ films that mean the most to me, listed in chronological order. The Auteurs website is still missing some of the films I’d like to have here: THE PAINTED LADY (1912, Griffith), STELLA DALLAS (1925, Henry King), AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927, Monta Bell), MARIUS (1931, Korda, Pagnol), PENGUIN POOL MURDER (1932, George Archainbaud), SNOW WHITE (1933, Dave Fleischer), KITTY FOYLE (1940, Sam Wood), THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940, Raoul Walsh), THE SEA WOLF (1941, Michael Curtiz), FOR ME AND MY GAL (1942, Busby Berkeley), ROAD HOUSE (1948, Jean Negulesco), MEN IN WAR (1957, Anthony Mann),… Read more

The purpose of the list is to have a chronological survey of the 500+ films that mean the most to me, listed in chronological order. The Auteurs website is still missing some of the films I’d like to have here: THE PAINTED LADY (1912, Griffith), STELLA DALLAS (1925, Henry King), AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927, Monta Bell), MARIUS (1931, Korda, Pagnol), PENGUIN POOL MURDER (1932, George Archainbaud), SNOW WHITE (1933, Dave Fleischer), KITTY FOYLE (1940, Sam Wood), THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940, Raoul Walsh), THE SEA WOLF (1941, Michael Curtiz), FOR ME AND MY GAL (1942, Busby Berkeley), ROAD HOUSE (1948, Jean Negulesco), MEN IN WAR (1957, Anthony Mann), THE ST. VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE (1967, Roger Corman), VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972, Robert Young), BLOW OUT (1981, Brian De Palma), SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984, John Hughes), SCREEN PLAY (1993, Barry Purves), THE KINGDOM, PART 1 (1994, Lars Von Trier), PERSUASION (1995, Roger Michell), THE WONDERFUL, HORRIBLE LIFE OF LENI REIFENSTAHL (1995, Ray Muller), and JUDY BERLIN (2000, Eric Mendelsohn). I figured this would be an easy list to keep and maintain over time — hope it’s useful or interesting to other people out there. If you think there is some grievous error on something that I missed (or haven’t seen), please let me know.

Ozu’s my all-time favorite filmmaker, and you’ll see lots of his work, along with a healthy representation of other Japanese filmmakers as well. Lots of classic European art cinema and American genre films. I tend to think of the period 1950-1969 is the single most fertile and imaginative period of film so far — it’s the period when most of the great auteurs of this century were really coming in to their own and producing some of their greatest masterpieces (Ozu, Bresson, Mizogiuchi, Kurosawa, Godard, Truffaut, Dreyer, Wilder, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Rays — Satyjit and Nicholas, etc.) — it’s a period of extraordinary richness, and I’m sure there are still many great films waiting to be rediscovered. I’m particularly interested in the period 1961-71, because it seems to me that here, more than in other time periods, filmmakers were testing their own limits, and the absolute limits of the cinema — Kubrick’s 2001 comes immediately to mind, in the way that it deals with the scale, scope, and size of space — and its relationship to man — Kubrick’s vision here is still mind boggling over 40 years later; also in the group would be Godard’s WEEK-END (“End of Cinema”), Snow’s WAVELENGTH, Bergman’s PERSONA, Resnais’ LAST YEAR IN MARIENBAD, Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, Watkins’ THE WAR GAME, Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, and Rivette’s OUT 1.

Also, being a kid in the 1970s and also a big horror, sci-fi and fantasy geek (with an emphasis on the horror), the period of 1968-1982 seems to me the greatest period for the fantasy genre. Roughly bracketed by the watershed films 2001/ROSEMARY’S BABY/NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on one end, and BLADE RUNNER/E.T./THE THING/POLTERGEIST/THE EVIL DEAD on the other, I relate to the films from this period on a very fundamental level.

There are a number of popular, critically-respected, and/or award-winning films that I don’t connect with: THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915, Griffith), IVAN THE TERRIBLE (1946, Eisenstein), AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951, Minnelli), THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951, Huston), FORBIDDEN GAMES (1952, Clement), THE GOLDEN COACH (1953, Renoir), FLOATING CLOUDS (1955, Naruse), BEN-HUR (1959, Wyler), TOM JONES (1963, Richardson), THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW (1964, Pasolini), DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965, Lean), ARMY OF SHADOWS (1969, Melville), THE MOTHER AND THE WHORE (1973, Jean Eustache), HEIMAT (1984, Reitz), PLATOON (1986, Stone), CINEMA PARADISO (1988, Tornatore), FOREST GUMP (1994, Zemeckis), TITANIC (1997, Cameron), AMELIE (2001, Jeunet) and a lot of others, that you won’t find on this list.

A few other blind spots: No Hou Hsiao-Hsien, for starters. For the record I’ve seen THE PUPPETMASTER (1993), GOOD MEN, GOOD WOMEN (1995), GOODBYE SOUTH, GOODBYE (1996), FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI (1998), MILLENIUM MAMBO (2001), THREE TIMES (2005), and FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON (2007) — but none of them affect me the way they apparently move others. Some of his films have their moments (the opening chapter of THREE TIMES, and sections of FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI), but honestly — I find them a little… dull. I need to see more of his early work, and I obviously need to see CITY OF SADNESS (1989). Also, no Abbas Kiarostami. Kind of the same situation. So, I’m working on these, and some other filmmakers. Who knows — maybe I’ll see the light one of these days! Silent cinema is also not very well-represented here, either. So maybe that’ll change over time as well.

Anyway, after all this, I hope you enjoy the list. Please keep in mind that I’ll probably be adding to it as time goes on.

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