The Reel Deal: The New Improved Best Movies List

It’s been several years since I’ve updated the Best Films of All Time lists, but I found the inspiration to do the update in a new book, The New York Times Book of Movies: The Essential 1,000 Films to See, edited by movie critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott.  I added that book’s list to the existing best movies meta-list, as well as a number of other recent lists I found online. The movie meta-list now contains over 25 lists of the best movies of all time.  I’ve made three versions of the new meta-list: one is organized by rank (that is, with the movies on the most lists at the time); one is organized chronologically; and the third version is organized by director (listed in order of birth date).  Here are the links:

Best Films of All Time – Ranked
Best Films of All Time – Chronological
Best Films of All Time – By Director

There are many excellent movies on the meta-list and a few that I don’t think deserve to be there.  There are a number of movies (and movie directors) missing from the meta-list that should be there.  There is also a bit of a cultural bias:  the meta-list is skewed heavily towards American films, and most of the foreign-language films on the list are from Western Europe, although there is a significant contingent of films from Asia (particularly Japan). There is only one African film on the list, for example, and the absence of at least one movie by Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène is shocking. Other well-known and/or well-respected directors who didn’t make the list include: Tim Burton, Todd Solondz, Darren Aronofsky, Catherine Breillat, Baz Luhrmann, and Kathryn Bigelow. (At least some of these directors – including Sembène – are on a separate list of the best film directors and their best films.) Despite these flaws, I think this is a very interesting list and well worth reading. 

As I often need to explain, this meta-list does not reflect my personal opinions of the best movies, although I do keep track of my favorite movies in a separate list.  Just for fun, I decided to compare my list of 253 favorite movies with the meta-list.  Most of my favorites (198 out of total 253) are on the meta-list. It is interesting to see which of my favorites didn’t make the meta-list.  Most of the movies on my list that are not on the meta-list fall into one of four categories: (1) short films (including animated shorts); (2) offbeat picks by well-respected directors; (3) documentaries; and (4) very recent films.  I’m not surprised by the number of my favorite recent films that are not on the meta-list; critics don’t tend to put very recent films on “best movies of all time” lists – they want to wait and see if the films of the past few years stand the test of time.  Here are 53 films I’ve rated 10/10 that are not on the meta-list of best films of all time:


  1. The Pawnshop (US, 1916) Dir. Charles Chaplin
  2. One A.M. (US, 1916) Dir: Charles Chaplin
  3. One Froggy Evening (US, 1955) Dir: Chuck Jones
  4. What’s Opera, Doc? (US, 1957) Dir: Chuck Jones
  5. Cosmic Ray (US, 1962) Dir: Bruce Conner
  6. Ruka (The Hand) (Czechoslovakia, 1965) Dir: Jiří Trnka
  7. De Düva: The Dove (US, 1968) Dir: George Coe & Anthony Lover
  8. The Wrong Trousers (UK, 1993) Dir: Nick Park

Offbeat Picks by Well-Respected Directors

  1. The Virgin Spring (Sweden, 1960) Dir: Ingmar Bergman
  2. The Trial (France, 1962) Dir: Orson Welles
  3. Darling (UK, 1965) Dir: John Schlesinger
  4. Women in Love (UK, 1969) Dir: Ken Russell
  5. Swept Away… (Italy, 1974) Dir: Lina Wertmüller
  6. 3 Women (US, 1977) Dir: Robert Altman
  7. Return of the Secaucus Seven (US, 1980) Dir: John Sayles
  8. Stardust Memories (US, 1980) Dir: Woody Allen
  9. My Dinner with Andre (US, 1981) Dir: Louis Malle
  10. Baby It’s You (US, 1983) Dir: John Sayles
  11. Short Cuts (US, 1993) Dir: Robert Altman
  12. Before Sunrise (US, 1995) Dir: Richard Linklater
  13. Traffic (US, 2000) Dir: Steven Soderbergh
  14. Waking Life (US, 2001) Dir: Richard Linklater
  15. Dogville (Denmark, 2003) Dir: Lars von Trier
  16. Slumdog Millionaire (UK, 2008) Dir: Danny Boyle
  17. The White Ribbon (Germany/Austria 2009) Dir: Michael Haneke
  18. The Tree of Life (US, 2011) Dir: Terence Malick
  19. Moonrise Kingdom (US, 2012) Dir: Wes Anderson


  1. Night and Fog (France, 1955) Dir: Alain Resnais
  2. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (US, 1968) Dir: William Greaves
  3. Microcosmos (France, 1996) Dir: Claude Nuridsany & Marie Pérennou
  4. Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (US, 1997) Dir: Errol Morris
  5. Capturing the Friedmans (US, 2003) Dir: Andrew Jarecki
  6. Tarnation (US, 2004) Dir: Jonathan Caouette
  7. Fahrenheit 9/11 (US, 2004) Dir: Michael Moore
  8. Grizzly Man (US, 2005) Dir: Werner Herzog
  9. Encounters at the End of the World (US, 2007) Dir: Werner Herzog
  10. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (US, 2010) Dir: Werner Herzog
  11. The Act of Killing (Denmark, 2012) Dir: Joshua Oppenheimer

Very Recent Films

  1. Anomalisa (US, 2015) Dir: Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson
  2. Moonlight (US, 2016) Dir: Barry Jenkins
  3. The Florida Project (US, 2017) Dir: Sean Baker
  4. The Favourite (Ireland/UK/US, 2018) Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos
  5. The Souvenir (UK, 2019) Dir: Joanna Hogg


  1. The Vanishing (The Netherlands, 1988) Dir: George Sluizer
  2. Ed Wood (US, 1994) Dir: Tim Burton
  3. Happiness (US, 1998) Dir: Todd Solondz
  4. Requiem for a Dream (US, 2000) Dir: Darren Aronofsky
  5. Fat Girl (France, 2001) Dir: Catherine Breillat
  6. Moulin Rouge! (US, 2001) Dir: Baz Luhrmann
  7. American Splendor (US, 2003) Dir: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
  8. Downfall (Germany, 2004) Dir: Oliver Hirschbiegel
  9. Once  (Ireland, 2006) Dir: John Carney
  10. Juno (US, 2007) Dir: Jason Reitman





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