Top 15 Criterion Films (And an ordered list of cuts)

Kurosawa’s dominance is halved, as to be expected. A flick that I absolutely adore gets dropped like an orphan on a church doorstep (is that metaphor a little cruel as well as dated?). And the big giant nuclear bomb allegory named ゴジラ fights for its life!

  1. 3:10 to Yuma

  2. 400 Blows

  3. Adventures of Zatoichi

  4. Alphaville

  5. Anatomy of a Murder

  6. And God Created Woman

  7. The Atomic Submarine

  8. The Ballad of Narayama

  9. Band of Outsiders

  10. The Bank Dick

  11. Belle du Jour

  12. Bob le Flambeur

  13. Bottle Rocket

  14. Branded to Kill

  15. Brazil

  16. Breathless

  17. Le Cercle Rouge

  18. Charade

  19. Chungking Express

  20. Crazed Fruit

  21. Cronos

  22. The Darjeeling Unlimited

  23. Dazed and Confused

  24. Diabolique

  25. Double Suicide

  26. Le Doulos

  27. Drunken Angel

  28. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

  29. Easy Rider

  30. The Game

  31. Gate of Flesh

  32. Godzilla

  33. Hard-Boiled

  34. High and Low

  35. Homicide

  36. Hopscotch

  37. House

  38. The Ice Storm

  39. Kagemusha

  40. Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

  41. M

  42. Man Bites Dog

  43. The Man who Fell to Earth
  44. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

  45. The Naked City

  46. Naked Lunch

  47. Patriotism

  48. Peeping Tom

  49. Pickpocket

  50. Pierrot le Fou

  51. The Pornographers

  52. Ran

  53. Rashomon

  54. Repo Man

  55. Repulsion

  56. Rififi

  57. Robocop

  58. Rosemary’s Baby

  59. Royal Tennenbaums

  60. Salo

  61. Le Samorai

  62. Seven Samurai

  63. The Seventh Seal

  64. Shoot The Piano Player

  65. Sisters

  66. Straw Dogs

  67. Stray Dog

  68. Time Bandits

  69. Tokyo Drifter

  70. Trafic

  71. Videodrome

  72. A Woman is a Woman

  73. A Woman Under the Influence

  74. Yojimbo

  75. Youth of the Beast


#24 – The Ice Storm: I was shocked that Ang Lee’s quirky little exploration of 1970′s suburbia made it this far, and so, it’s the first to be cut. There’s a poetic and beautiful, yet disturbing examination here that, just, wow. It will keep you so invested in every one of the Hoods. Truly remarkable, and one of the best forays into American family dysfunction ever.

#23 – Kagemusha: This guts me. I really, really like Kagemusha. This is Kurosawa post-exile, and while some may say that he’s off his game, or just not himself, this all might be true, but that’s what makes it great. This is Kurosawa at his most vivid and indulgent. Superb flick. If this had been from anybody else, it would probably be in my top 10, which seems ridiculous to hold that against Kagemusha.

#22 – Breathless (À bout de souffle): Godard’s first, and some consider his quintessential. I, clearly, very much disagree, but that isn’t to say that À bout de souffle isn’t amazing. It totally is. Controversial, visceral, and essentially French New Wave. This movie made modern cinema. Period.

#21 – Crazed Fruit: This was to Japanese cinema what Godard was to the French. This shattered the visual restraint at the time, and ripped at the social, too. Bleak, sensual, and angry. A barbed jab at 1950s youth and excess and yet, at the same time, a romantic poem in its admiration of it all.

#20 – Godzilla: Wait… what? Heh, yes. Even from the pop culture fiend and admittedly kaiju-obsessed guy like me, Godzilla only makes it to twenty. While it has had perhaps the single-most impact on me personally and especially my sci-fi leanings, cinematically it’s not as good as some of these others. It’s a great, great movie that I cherish above a lot of these, but isn’t quite as good when I look at it objectively. Okay, moving on, before I start to cry.

#19 – Rashoumon: At the time, this movie was so stunningly high concept. I think it holds up remarkably well, still. I don’t really want to say much about this one. If you’re curious, just watch it. Hopefully you’ll be as floored as I was. This was also the start to a common theme through a lot of later Kurosawa. See where it started.

#18 – Drunken Angel: And another Kurosawa goes down. This is Japanese crime noir as only Kurosawa can do. For me, it’s not best exploration of the type (more on that later), but it is the most restrained. It’s an almost loving exploration of a growing friendship between two guys who both have nothing to really live for, but keep on doing it anyway. Truly explores the limits of mortality, or just barely being mortal. Fantastic performances from the principal cast.

#17 – House: One of the most cinematically jarring experiences ever. This is at once a hilarious exploration of characters as caricatures (which has so heavily imprinted on me) and at another time, a sadistic torture of its audience. It’s as horrific as it is playful. Completely utterly avant garde and so entirely lovely. This is one of the flicks I reference a lot when setting up universes, or explaining goals in writing. To watch House is to understand my brand of fiction. So why only #17? Boy good question. Actually, as I began writing this explanation, I started to regret it. Had it not been for recent viewings, it would have been top ten easily. There’s just some cinematic strength that is missing here. Seriously, though, despite it not being in the top ten, I recommend it over a lot of flicks that are.

#16 – Le Samouraï: The quintessential hitman flick. The quintessential Melville. The quintessential Delon. If you’re not getting it yet, this flick is quintessential. It’s crime noir at its most personal. Melville’s brand of minimalist cinema (that launched a thousand careers) shines. You wouldn’t have the fantastic film Drive without this. Trust me.

And with that, we’re down to fifteen: Alphaville, Anatomy of a Murder, Branded to Kill, Le Cercle Rouge, Charade, Chungking Express, Double Suicide, Easy Rider, Hard-Boiled, High and Low, Pickpocket, Pierrot le Fou, Seven Samurai, Tokyo Drifter and Yojimbo. This section (up through the top ten) was tough, and I think I made a lot of choices I wouldn’t have any other day. There are films left that are much worse than some that have been cut, I just *like* them more and some that have been cut that I *like* more, but aren’t as “good.” It’s not an exact, or even permanent science. Anything in the top 25 here could easily be my favourite flick ever next week. Especially House. Wow is that a good flick.

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