600 or so films to get started on. Bolded titles viable for kids. Best entry points for novices to pre-1970, 'Classic Film' in Blue. Bolded Blue for the combination, i.e., for best entry points that are also good for kids. [Notes: (1) Years of release are more than 99% uncontroversial, but in a few cases, e.g., Cleo from 5 to 7, I've used the year that's customarily been associated with a picture even if that means diverging from IMDb. (2) I've included a few TV events, e.g., Threads, The Singing Detective, that were momentous enough in their times to appear on some movie critics' end-of-year lists, and that are in fact discussed these days as if they were films. Observe too the case of Das Boot (1981), which was originally viewed by me and most everybody outside West Germany as a 2 hour film, but is now mostly viewed at home in 3+ hour forms, with the 6 hour, TV-miniseries version normally preferred and thought to be definitive. (3) I have a blindspot w.r.t. South Asian cinema: Satyajit Ray has left me cold so far, as have other recommendeds such as A River Called Titus and Sho-Lay. I may need better recommendations, but maybe this side of world film culture will be forever closed to me.]
1920 The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (HM: Way Down East, Genuine)
1921 The Phantom Carriage (HM: The Kid)
1922 Dr Mabuse - The Gambler (HM: Nosferatu)
1923 La Roue (HM: Safety Last!)
1924 Sherlock Jr (HM: The Last Laugh, Entr'Acte)
1925 The Gold Rush (HMs: Battleship Potemkin, Ben-Hur)
1926 Faust (HM: The Lodger, Ménilmontant)
1927 Sunrise (HMs: The General, Metropolis, Napoleon, It, Berlin-Symphony of A Great City) The first monumentally great movie year (which is painful - Silent film comes of age just as it's about to go obsolete/extinct).
1928 Passion of Joan of Arc (HMs: The Crowd, Steamboat Bill Jr, Ports of New York, The Last Command, L'Étoile de Mer) Another grand year to cap the Silent era.
1929 The Man with A Movie Camera (HMs: Pandora's Box, Blackmail, Un Chien Andalou)
1930 All Quiet on the Western Front (HM: Earth, Au bonheur des dames, People on Sunday)
1931 M (HMs: City Lights, The Public Enemy, Frankenstein)
1932 Freaks (HMs: Scarface, Trouble In Paradise, Bourdu Saved From Drowning, Vampyr)
1933 42nd Street (HMs: Gold Diggers of 1933, King Kong, Zéro de conduite, Baby Face, Design for Living)
1934 It Happened One Night (HMs: Twentieth Century, L'Atalante, Dames)
1935 The 39 Steps (HMs: Top Hat, A Night At The Opera, Sylvia Scarlett)
1936 Modern Times (HMs: Swing Time, My Man Godfrey)
1937 Stage Door (HMs: La Grande Illusion, The Awful Truth, Lost Horizon, Stella Dallas)
1938 Bringing Up Baby (HMs: The Lady Vanishes, Robin Hood, Olympia, Holiday)
1939 The Rules of The Game (HMs: Gone With The Wind, Dark Victory, The Wizard of Oz, Mr Smith Goes To Washington, Of Mice and Men, The Roaring Twenties, Le Jour se lève, Destry Rides Again) A year for the ages obviously.
Pickings are still fairly slender in the early '30s but 1933 is very good. 1937-1939, however, is the real deal; suddenly bunches of films that are as good as any ever made turn up (and, e.g., consider 1937: one's dealing with such riches that films as good and thoroughly enjoyable as Make Way For Tomorrow, Pepe Le Moko, Topper, The Edge of the World, Shall We Dance don't make the cut). Hurray.
1940 His Girl Friday (HMs: Philadelphia Story, Rebecca, The Grapes of Wrath, The Thief of Baghdad, Fantasia)
1941 Citizen Kane (HMs: The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, Ball of Fire, Meet John Doe, The Devil and Daniel Webster)
1942 Casablanca (HMs: Now Voyager, Palm Beach Story, To Be or Not To Be, The Magnificent Ambersons)
1943 Shadow of a Doubt (HMs: Le Corbeau, Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The Ox-Bow Incident)
1944 Double Indemnity (HMs: Laura, Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Meet Me In St Louis, Murder My Sweet)
1945 'I Know Where I'm Going!' (HMs: Brief Encounter, Rome Open City, Mildred Pierce, Dead of Night, Les enfants du paradis)
1946 It's A Wonderful Life (HMs: Notorious, The Best Years of Our Lives, A Matter of Life and Death, La belle et la bete, The Big Sleep, Great Expectations) This year's highs may be the highest ever.
1947 Black Narcissus (HMs: Out of The Past, Kiss of Death, Odd Man Out, Brighton Rock)
1948 The Red Shoes (HMs: Bicycle Thieves, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Oliver Twist, Fallen Idol, Red River, Germany Year Zero, Rope)
1949 The Third Man (HMs: White Heat, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Queen of Spades, They Live By Night)
1950 Sunset Boulevard (HMs: All About Eve, Rashomon, In a Lonely Place, Gun Crazy, La Ronde, Orphee, Asphalt Jungle)
1951 A Streetcar Named Desire (HMs: Strangers on a Train, A Place in the Sun, Miracle in Milan)
1952 Singin' in the Rain (HMs: Ikiru, Forbidden Games, Umberto D., Le Plaisir, The Bad and The Beautiful)
1953 Tokyo Story (HMs: Shane, The Wages of Fear, The Band Wagon, The Earrings of Madame de…, Roman Holiday, From Here To Eternity, Bienvenido Mister Marshall)
1954 Rear Window (HMs: Seven Samurai, On The Waterfront, Dial M For Murder)
1955 The Night of The Hunter (HMs: Diabolique, Rififi, Kiss Me Deadly, All That Heaven Allows, Rebel Without a Cause, Smiles of A Summer Night, Ordet, The Man From Laramie, Bad Day at Black Rock, Love Me or Leave Me) Superb year.
1956 The Killing (HMs: The Searchers, Invasion of The Body Snatchers, Forbidden Planet, Bigger Than Life, The Wrong Man, A Man Escaped)
1957 A Face In The Crowd (HMs: The Sweet Smell Of Success, Paths of Glory, 12 Angry Men, Wild Strawberries, Nights of Cabiria, Throne of Blood)
1958 Vertigo (HMs: Touch of Evil, Man of The West, Elevator to the Gallows)
1959 North By Northwest (HMs: Some Like It Hot, The 400 Blows, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Pickpocket, Rio Bravo, Anatomy of a Murder)
1960 Psycho (HMs: The Apartment, La Dolce Vita, Peeping Tom, Late Autumn, Eyes Without a Face, Les Bonnes Femmes, Spartacus, Breathless, Letter Never Sent, The Virgin Spring, Le Trou, Zazie dans le Métro) Great year.
1961 Cleo from 5 to 7 (HMs: The Hustler, Last Year At Marienbad, West Side Story, Yojimbo, The Innocents, La Notte)
1962 The Manchurian Candidate (HMs: Lawrence of Arabia, To Kill A Mockingbird, L’Eclisse, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Vivre Sa Vie, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, Lolita, La Jetée, Mamma Rosa, Ivan's Childhood, Adorable menteuse, Il Sorpasso) Great year.
1963 81/2 (HMs: Hud, Contempt, Birds, Billy Liar, Charade, The Silence)
1964 Dr Strangelove (HMs: Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Mary Poppins, Band of Outsiders, Red Desert, Onibaba, Fail Safe, Marnie)
1965 Pierrot Le fou (HMs: Repulsion, The Battle of Algiers, Chimes at Midnight, Juliet of the Spirits, Cat Ballou, The Hill, I Knew Her Well)
1966: Blow-Up (HMs: Persona, Au Hazard Balthazar, Andrei Rublev, Seconds, The Good The Bad & The Ugly, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Alfie). Most mind-bending movie year ever?
1967: Belle de jour (HMs: The Graduate, Le Samourai, Weekend, Cool Hand Luke, Point Blank, Two for The Road, Marketa Lazarova, La Collectionneuse)
1968: 2001 (HMs: Once Upon a Time In The West, Les Biches, Planet of the Apes, Rosemary's Baby, Night of the Living Dead)
1969: The Wild Bunch (HMs: Kes, Butch Cassidy, Z, They Shoot Horses Don't They?, La Piscine)
1970 The Conformist (HMs: Tristana, Patton, Le Boucher, La Rupture, Le Cercle Rouge, Performance, Little Big Man)
1971 Straw Dogs (HMs: The Devils, Dirty Harry, A Clockwork Orange, The Last Picture Show, Carnal Knowledge, McCabe and Mrs Miller, Harold and Maude, Duel, Out 1, Fiddler On The Roof, Wake In Fright, Walkabout)
1972 The Godfather (HMs: Aguirre -The Wrath of God, Cries and Whispers, The King of Marvin Gardens, Last Tango in Paris, Frenzy, Deliverance, Ulzana's Raid)
1973 The Spirit Of The Beehive (HMs: Mean Streets, Scenes from a Marriage, Badlands, The Exorcist, O Lucky Man, Don't Look Now, The Sting, The Last Detail, Amarcord, The Long Goodbye, Scarecrow, The Mother and The Whore, Lady Snowblood, American Graffiti)
1974: Chinatown (HMs: The Godfather Part 2, The Conversation, The Parallax View, The Taking of Pelham 123, Alice in the Cities, Phantom of The Paradise, Céline and Julie Go Boating, The Gambler, La Cabina)
1975: Jaws (HMs: The Mirror, Jeanne Dielman, The Passenger, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, The Man Who Would Be King, Night Moves, Day of The Locust, Barry Lyndon, Shivers, Tommy)
1976: Taxi Driver (HMs: 1900, Network, The Outlaw Josey Wales, In The Realm of The Senses, Carrie, Kings of the Road)
1977: Annie Hall (HMs: Star Wars; Close Encounters; Eraserhead; L'une Chante, L'autre Pas; Three Women)
1978: Days of Heaven (HMs: The Deer Hunter, Invasion of The Body Snatchers, Halloween, The Long Weekend, Autumn Sonata, Interiors)
1979: All That Jazz (HMs: Apocalypse Now, The Tin Drum, Alien, Breaking Away, Nosferatu the Vampyre, The Life of Brian, The Marriage of Maria Braun)
1970-1975 are just insanely great movie years; I could have HM-ed 20 films for each of those years, and in some cases my choice for my fave film amounts to which of a year's top handful I've seen lately. But it couldn't last, and the drop-off in breadth of quality from 1976 onwards, with 1979 a slight exception, is quite noticeable.
1980: Raging Bull (HMs: The Elephant Man, The Shining, Mon Oncle D'Amerique, The Stunt Man, The Empire Strikes Back, Stardust Memories)
1981: Das Boot (HMs: Diva, Gallipoli, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mephisto, Blow Out, My Dinner With Andre, Possession)
1982: E.T. (HMs: Fanny and Alexander, Blade Runner, Diner, Missing, The Thing)
1983: The King of Comedy (HMs: The Right Stuff, Risky Business, Angst, Rumble Fish, A nos amours)
1984: Amadeus (HMs: The Terminator, Paris TX, Stranger Than Paradise, Blood Simple, Once Upon A Time In America, Broadway Danny Rose, Threads, Full Moon In Paris, The Company of Wolves) The '80s' best film year by miles.
1985: Ran (HMs: Brazil, Back To The Future, A Room With A View, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Vagabond, Witness)
1986: Blue Velvet (HMs: The Fly, Aliens, Decline of the American Empire, The Singing Detective, Stand By Me, The Mission)
1987: Raising Arizona (HMs: Wings of Desire, Withnail and I, The Year My Voice Broke, Full Metal Jacket, The Untouchables, Broadcast News, Au Revoir Les Enfants)
1988: Die Hard (HMs: The Vanishing, High Hopes, 36 Fillette, Une affaire de femmes, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, A Fish Called Wanda, My Neighbor Totoro)
1989: Do The Right Thing (HMs: The Seventh Continent, Heathers, Dekalog)
A noticeable thinning of the field of really great films from previous decades. It does occur to me, however, that the 'great film' concept probably doesn't show '80s film to its best advantage. For example, 1987 is probably the greatest movie year in my lifetime for sheer entertainment value: (in addition to those already listed) Robocop, La Bamba, Dirty Dancing, Princess Bride, Fatal Attraction, Moonstruck, Wall Street, Predator, Evil Dead 2, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Radio Days, No Way Out, Near Dark, Lost Boys, House of Games, Lethal Weapon are all good-to-very-good but in no way 'breakthrough' or 'game-changing' films. They collectively attracted incredibly diverse crowds, and most have had long afterlives on vhs/dvd/tv. They're almost enough to make you think that great-ness per se is over-rated in a popular art-form....
1990: Goodfellas (HMs: Miller's Crossing, Life is Sweet, Jacob's Ladder, Close-up, An Angel at my Table)
1991: My Own Private Idaho (HMs: Les Amants du Pont Neuf, Delicatessen, Barton Fink, Silence of the Lambs)
1992: Unforgiven (HMs: The Player, The Crying Game, Husbands and Wives, Glengarry Glen Ross, One False Move, Reservoir Dogs) A very macho year that set the tone for the next few years!
1993: Naked (HMs: Groundhog Day, Short Cuts, Schindler's List, Blue, The Wrong Trousers, Dazed and Confused)
1994: Pulp Fiction (HMs: Crumb, Exotica, Muriel's Wedding, Once Were Warriors, Heavenly Creatures) Commonwealth represent.
1995: Safe (HMs: Welcome to the Dollhouse, Heat, Toy Story, Se7en, Dead Man, To Die For, Angels and Insects, La Haine)
1996: Fargo (HMs: Secrets and Lies, Breaking The Waves, Trainspotting, Lone Star, Crash, Emma)
1997: The Sweet Hereafter (HMs: Boogie Nights, LA Confidential, Affliction, The Butcher Boy, Jackie Brown, Gattaca, Live Flesh, Nil By Mouth, Funny Games, Starship Troopers, Titanic, Fireworks, In the Company of Men, Firelight, On connaît la chanson, Good Will Hunting, My Best Friend's Wedding) Fabulous year.
1998: Rushmore (HMs: Shakespeare in Love, Happiness, The Big Lebowski, Run Lola Run)
1999: Topsy-Turvy (HMs: All About My Mother, The War Zone, Election, Being John Malkovich, Toy Story 2, The Matrix, Fight Club, Mifune)
A strong decade for US and English-language film generally I'd say. It was relatively hard to find foreign language films that were HM-worthy.
2000: Code Unknown (HMs: Memento, Requiem for a Dream, Songs from the Second Floor, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Amores Perros, Wonder Boys, You Can Count On Me, Cast Away, American Psycho) A very good year.
2001: Mulholland Dr. (HMs: The Piano Teacher, Gosford Park, Royal Tenenbaums, Wit)
2002: Punch-Drunk Love (HMs: Talk To Her, Far From Heaven, City of God, Lilya 4-ever)
2003: Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (HMs: Dogville, Oldboy, Memories of Murder, The Triplets of Belleville)
2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (HMs: Sideways, Downfall, The Bourne Supremacy, The Incredibles, Team America:World Police, Before Sunset)
2005: Caché (HMs: The New World, Brokeback Mountain, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu)
2006: Children of Men (HMs: Pan's Labyrinth, The Lives of Others, Volver, The Prestige, Paprika)
2007: No Country For Old Men (HMs: There Will Be Blood, 4 months 3 weeks 2 days, Zodiac, Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Hot Fuzz, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Ratatouille, Water Lilies, Persepolis) A wonderful year.
2008: Synecdoche NY (HMs: Happy-Go-Lucky, Let The Right One In, In Bruges, The Dark Knight, Wall-E, Martyrs [warning: very gory and disturbing; probably not worth it for most people even on their bravest days])
2009: Inglourious Basterds (HMs: The White Ribbon, Fish Tank, The Hurt Locker, In the Loop, Avatar, Fantastic Mr Fox, A Serious Man, Dogtooth, L'enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot)
2010: True Grit (HMs: The Fighter, Winter's Bone, I Saw the Devil, How To Train Your Dragon)
2011: A Separation (HMs: We Need To Talk About Kevin; Once Upon A Time In Anatolia; House of Tolerance; Melancholia; Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene; Bridesmaids)
2012: Amour (HMs: Life of Pi, The Master, Django Unchained, Holy Motors)
2013: Under The Skin (HMs: 12 Years A Slave, The Act Of Killing, Gravity, Frances Ha)
2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel (HMs: The Immigrant, American Sniper, Gone Girl, Leviathan)
2015: Son of Saul (HMs: Room, Inside Out, Ex Machina, Look of Silence, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Spotlight)
2016: The Lobster (HMs: The Handmaiden, Toni Erdmann, Moonlight, Julieta, The Witch, Love and Friendship, Spring Street, Zootopia)
2017 A Ghost Story (HMs: The Phantom Thread, Dunkirk, Faces Places, Nocturama, Good Time, Mudbound)
2018 Leave No Trace (HMs: The Favourite, Burning, Shoplifters, First Reform, Hereditary, The Death of Stalin, Spider-man Into The Spider-verse) [Still yet to see Beale St, The Wild Pear Tree.]
2019 Parasite (HMs: Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Jojo Rabbit, When They See Us, Atlantics, Little Women) [Looking Forward To: Knives Out, Pain & Glory]
2020 The Father (HMs: Minari, Promising Young Woman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always) [Yet to see: Martin Eden, Small Axe, Little Joe, First Cow]
So Haneke is the director of the millennium so far for me, taking honors in 2000, 2005, and 2012 (and he was very close in 2001 and 2009 too). Movie of the millennium so far for me? Probably Mulholland Dr., but A Separation, No Country, Code Unknown, Punch-Drunk Love, Amour, Parasite, and Eternal Sunshine run it close.
Does my list embody a 'great man' personal theory of film? Maybe! Here are my repeaters: Hitchcock tops 6 times from the '30s through to 1960; the Coens 4; Powell&Pressburger, Kubrick, Scorsese, and Haneke 3 apiece; and Chaplin, Murnau, Lang, Renoir, Capra, Hawks, Wilder, Kazan, Peckinpah, Spielberg, Lynch, Tarantino, and Wes Anderson each hit twice according to me.
So my director ranking (going just by their #1s) is:
3=. Powell&Pressburger, Kubrick, Scorsese, Haneke
7=. Chaplin, Murnau, Lang, Capra, Hawks, Wilder, Kazan, Peckinpah, Spielberg, Lynch, Tarantino, W. Anderson
Note that my year-champions win Best Picture Oscars 9 times (Sunrise, All Quiet On The Western Front, It Happened One Night, Casablanca, Godfather, Annie Hall, Amadeus, Unforgiven, No Country for Old Men), and the top prize at Cannes 6 times (Third Man, Blow-Up, Taxi Driver, All That Jazz, Pulp Fiction, Amour), and there's no overlap between these sub-lists (thanks to Rocky, Kramer v. Kramer, Forrest Gump, and Argo). [Update: finally in 2019, Parasite was my best &, famously, was the first film since Marty (1955) to win both the Best Picture Oscar and the Palm d'Or.]
2017 Note: There are only fifteen woman-directed films on my list, with Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia (1938) as my first, Agnes Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7 (1961) as my second (and my only woman-directed year-topper), Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielmann (1975) as my third, Varda again with L'une Chante, L'autre Pas (1977) & Vagabond (1985) as my fourth & fifth, Catherine Breillat's 36 Fillette (1988) as my sixth, and Campion's An Angel at my Table (1990) my seventh. But things are looking up: more woman-directed films (one each from Kathryn Bigelow, Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsay, Debra Granik, Marielle Heller, Marin Ade, Varda, and Dee Rees) have made my list in the 21st Century than did over the 80 years of the 20th Century that my list covers. Progress!
2018 Note: Roughly 72% of my picks are English language films, just over 12% are in French, 5% in German, 2.4% in Italian, 1.9% in Swedish, 1.7% in Japanese, and 1.2% in each of Russian and Spanish (all other languages are sub-1%). Over 5% of my picks for this century, however, are in Korean. S. Korea is the critical and commercial success story of recent cinema.
2020 Note: There are now 22 woman-directed films on my list, including two from Sciamma, a fourth from Varda, and a second from Granik, the 2018-topping Leave No Trace. Mucho progress!