Category Archives: Uncategorized

Personal Preferences: A Break from Meta-Lists

I spend most of my time on Make Lists, Not War compiling best-of lists made by other people into meta-lists.  I find this to be an enjoyable pastime – I always learn a lot making each meta-list, and the number of hits the website gets from folks around the world indicates that these lists are useful and/or interesting to other people.

But what about my personal best-of lists?  Like so many listers out there, I love to make lists of my favorites.  I keep running tallies of the books, films, and albums that I have rated 5/5 stars.  These lists are quite long (295 books, 266 films, and 245 albums).  Those lists are available on the website.  But recently I decided to make smaller lists of favorite albums and favorite books – I decided to limit myself to just 150 books and albums (I didn’t try this with movies – too painful).  So these aren’t all my favorites, just some of them.

Here are the links:

My 150 Favorite Albums
My 150 Favorite Books

If you want to see all my favorites, here are the links to my five-star rated books, movies and albums:

My Five-Star Books
My Five-Star Films
My Five-Star Albums 

My Life at the Movies: 2010-2019

I spend so much time compiling other folks’ lists into meta-lists that sometimes I forget to have my own opinions. So here is a link to a list of my personal favorite movies of the 2010s decade. Please note that this list may grow as I see more movies in the coming years.

Favorite Movies of the 2010s

I haven’t seen that many 2019 movies, but here are my favorites so far:

The Souvenir (US/UK, 2019) Dir: Joanna Hogg
The Irishman (US, 2019) Dir: Martin Scorsese
Marriage Story
(US, 2019) Dir: Noah Baumbach
Parasite (South Korea, 2019) Dir: Bong Joon-ho
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (US, 2019) Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Atlantics (Senegal/France/Belgium, 2019) Dir: Mati Diop
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (US, 2019) Dir: Joe Talbot

Just in case you wanted to know my least favorite films of the decade, here is a list:

Inception (2010)
Source Code (2011)
House at the End of the Street (2012)
The Endless (2017)

The Best of the 2010s: A Decade in Review

As 2019 comes to a close, various publications and critics have put out their Best of the Decade lists in film, music and literature. As is my wont, I have collected these lists and compiled them into meta-lists for your convenience. Here are the links to the meta-lists for best movies, best books and best music (albums and songs) of the 2010s:

Best Films of the 2010s
Best Books of the 2010s
Best Music of the 2010s – Albums
Best Songs of the 2010s

Too busy to click on the links? Need some information right away? Here are some sneak peeks at the top items on the lists:

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Moonlight (2016)
Get Out (2017)
The Social Network (2010)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Lady Bird (2017)
Under the Skin (2013)
Inception (2010)
Boyhood (2014)
Parasite (2019)

THE NEAPOLITAN NOVELS (2011-2014). By Elena Ferrante. Translated by Ann Goldstein  
AMERICANAH (2013). By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
THE GOLDFINCH (2013). By Donna Tartt 
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (2016). By Colson Whitehead
 (2010). By Jennifer Egan 
STATION ELEVEN (2014). By Emily St. John Mandel   
THE SYMPATHIZER (2015). By Viet Thanh Nguyen 
HOMEGOING (2016). By Yaa Gyasi

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME (2015). By Ta Nehisi Coates
JUST KIDS (2010). By Patti Smith 
THE ARGONAUTS (2015). By Maggie Nelson 
THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES: A Biography of Cancer (2010). By Siddhartha Mukherjee 
THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (2010). By Isabel Wilkerson
WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (2012). By Cheryl Strayed 
BAD FEMINIST: Essays (2014). By Roxane Gay 
H IS FOR HAWK (2015). By Helen MacDonald    

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
 – Lemonade (2016)
Solange – A Seat at the Table (2016)
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
 – Body Talk (2010)
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (2012)
David Bowie – Blackstar (2016)
Rihanna – ANTI (2016)
Arcade Fire
 – The Suburbs (2010)
Frank Ocean – Blonde (2016)
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (2017)
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour (2018)

Dancing on My Own – Robyn (2010)
Royals – Lorde (2012)
Formation – Beyoncé (2016)
Hotline Bling – Drake (2015)
Alright – Kendrick Lamar (2015)
Runaway – Kanye West (ft. Pusha T) (2010)
We Found Love – Rihanna (ft. Calvin Harris) (2011)
Rolling in the Deep – Adele (2011)
Video Games – Lana Del Rey (2011)
Everything Is Embarrassing – Sky Ferreira (2012)
Oblivion – Grimes (2012)
Old Town Road (Billy Ray Cyrus remix) – Lil Nas X (2019)

Check, Please: The Arts Checklists

One of the reasons I started making lists was to figure out what movies to watch, music to listen to, and books to read.  There is so much out there and more gets produced every year.  How do you decide how to spend your limited time and energy?  My primary goal was to increase the likelihood that I would be getting high-quality material and reduce the chances that I would be wasting my time with dreck. I also wanted to avoid getting into a rut of sameness – I wanted to explore new artistic visions, not just those I was familiar with already.  I concluded that the best way to achieve my goals was to collect lists made by critics, academics and other experts of what they considered the best in each category.  I might disagree with any particular individual’s taste, but if a consensus of critical opinion formed around a book, movie, recording, or any other work of art, then there was a good chance it was worth spending my time and money on it. This process has worked very well for me for nearly 20 years now. I still have my disagreements with the critics and my own personal preferences, but going through the lists has given me huge rewards – intellectually and emotionally – and has exposed me to works of art that I never would have discovered on my own.

As I have made this journey through the arts, I found myself wanting to keep track of my progress through the meta-lists I had made. So I put together giant lists in four categories: (1) literature; (2) visual art and architecture; (3) music; and (4) film.  This lists are aggregations of various other meta-lists on the Make Lists, Not War website.  Then I began checking off the books, stories and poems I’d read, the works of visual art I’d seen, the music I’d listened to; and the movies I’d seen. I couldn’t figure out how to do an actual checklist, so instead I just highlight the items I’ve seen/heard/read in blue.  I keep a running tally at the bottom of each list.  The lists for books, movies and music get longer every year as I do my end-of-year meta-lists.  I don’t think I’ll ever finish any of these lists – that’s not the point – but it’s fun to keep track of what I’ve already checked off.

Here are the links to my checklists. I’ve also included the total number of items, the number I’ve checked off so far and the overall percentage:

My Checklists – Film  Total: 2,012.  Seen: 1,195.  Percentage: 59.3%
My Checklists – Music  Total: 2,001.  Listened to: 1,152.  Percentage: 57.5%
My Checklists – Literature  Total: 3,520.  Read: 1,427.  Percentage: 40.5%
My Checklists – Visual Art  Total: 2,897.  Seen: 391.  Percentage: 13.4%

You can use these lists too. All you have to do is cut and paste the list, get rid of all the blue highlighting and start to go through the list on your own.  Make sure to keep the items numbered to make it easier to do a tally of the ones you’ve checked off.

Know What I Like: My Five-Star Films, Books & Albums

One of the occasional challenges of running a meta-list website is having to explain to people that the rankings on the meta-lists are not my personal opinions.  I compile these meta-lists after collecting lists made by other people and combining them; the more original source lists an item is on, the higher it is on the meta-list ranking.  I do keep my own personal lists of favorites, but I don’t include them in the meta-lists, because I prefer to focus on lists created by academics, critics and other experts, not the average person.

But for those who are curious about my own personal opinions, I am providing the links to my lists of favorite movies, books and albums:

My Five-Star Films
My Five-Star Books
My Five-Star Albums

Why five stars instead of Top 100 or some other defined number? Well, if you love books, movies, and music as much as I do, and you’ve ever had to come up with a Top 10, Top 25 or even Top 100 list, you know how painful it can be to cut your list of favorites down to the required number.  Many years ago I decided that this pain is unnecessary. I have many more than 100 favorite books, albums and movies and I don’t see the point of eliminating items from the list just because of an arbitrary number.  My approach is to rate every film I see, book I read and album I listen to on a 1-5 or 1-10 basis.  Then the list of favorites makes itself, with no pain: every item that I rated five out of five (or 10 out of 10) stars goes on the list, with no numerical cutoff.  There is also no worrying about whether you like the number 1 item more than the number 2 item and so on.  Everything with five stars is a winner – there’s no competition among equals. The resulting lists, although considerably longer than Top 100 lists, depict my tastes and interest much more accurately than any arbitrary Top 10 or Top 100 list could ever do.


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





Too Soon? Reviewing the 21st Century

Listers can be impatient people. How impatient, you ask? Well, folks have been making “Best of the 21st Century” lists since 2012. Seriously?

But we here at Make Lists, Not War don’t judge. If you want to make a list of best 21st Century films, books or music less than two decades into the 100-year period, you go right ahead. And if you do, you know that Make Lists, Not War will collect those lists and compile them into meta-lists. And we’ll keep looking out for new lists and update the meta-lists accordingly. The current update is thanks to The Guardian newspaper, which recently published its top 100 books, movies and albums of the 21st Century so far. I’ve added those to the meta-list, which you can find by clicking on the link below:

Best of the 21st Century (So Far)

For those who need to know right now, here is a sneak peek at the items on the most lists:

Movie: There Will Be Blood

Album: Elephant – The White Stripes

Book: The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

The Best Buildings of I.M. Pei

Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei died this month at the age of 102.  Here are his best designs (as determined by a web survey of lists of “best I.M. Pei buildings”), in chronological order, with multiple photos for each.

Mesa Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Boulder, Colorado (1961-1967)
NCAR Mesa Laboratory (DI00221)
pei mesa lab 6pei mesa lab 5pei mesa lab 4

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
Ithaca, New York (1973)
pei cornell 7pei cornell 1
pei cornell 2pei cornell 3

East Building, National Gallery of Art 
Washington, D.C. (1974-1978)
pei dc 1pei dc 4pei dc 3pei dc 2

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Boston, Massachusetts (1979)
pei kennedy 5pei kennedy 1pei kennedy 4pei kennedy 6pei kennedy 2

Pyramide du Louvre
Paris, France (1989)
pei louvre 2pei louvre 1pei louvre 3
pei louvre 5

Bank of China
Hong Kong, China (1982-1990)
pei chinapei china 2pei china 3pei china 4

Miho Museum
Shiga, Japan (1997)
pei miho 4pei miho 3pei miho 1pei miho 2

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Cleveland, Ohio (1998)
pei rock 5pei rock20140810. The rear view of the great I.M Pei's Rock and Roll Halpei rock 4

Museum of Islamic Art
Doha, Qatar (2008)
pei islam 6Museum of Islamic Art Dohapei islamMuseum of Islamic Art Dohapei islam 3


The Greatest Albums of All Time

Remember albums?  The LP still exists, but these days most music is listened to (and sold, when someone bothers to buy it) as individual songs.  In a way this is a throwback to the way music was marketed from the 1920s until the mid-1950s, when the long playing album first arrived.  At first, most LPs were just compilations of singles, with some filler.  Then someone got the idea of thinking of the LP as a cohesive whole.  The heyday of these through-composed LPs was the 1960s and 1970s, but artists have continued to make albums since then until today.  It’s just that so many folks have abandoned the format as a way to listen to music that listening to albums seems a little old fashioned these days.  I still think there is value to the format and other people seem to agree with me, since critics and fans alike still enjoy making lists of the best albums of all time.  I found over 30 such lists and put them together into one big meta-list, which consists of the 370 albums (containing music made between 1936 and 2010) that appeared on at least three of the original source lists.  (The most-listed album was on 32 of the lists.)

I originally published a Best Albums meta-list back in 2013, but I have added a number of new lists that have come out since then.  The results are interesting.  Most of the music falls into the rock and pop genres, with a fair amount of R&B, folk and hip hop/rap. There are a huge number of albums from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, quite a few from the late 1970s and early 1980s and then the numbers go down (with an uptick for the alt.rock/grunge/Brit pop period in the 1990s).  There is no classical and very little jazz, blues, country or world music. Fortunately, I’ve created separate meta-lists for jazz, blues, country, world, hip hop and classical music.

I’ve arranged the Best Albums meta-list in three iterations: (1) by rank (that is, with the albums on the most lists at the top), (2) chronological, and (3) by artist. The lists by rank and chronological include the album cover art; the list by artist includes photographs of the artists (performing live, in most cases).  Here are the links:

Best Albums of All Time – Ranked
Best Albums of All Time – Chronological
Best Albums of All Time – By Artist

You Can Beat It with a Stick: The Best Drummers of All Time

In keeping with the new lists of “best musicians” (I’ve done guitarists already), I’ve created two meta-lists of the best drummers of all time.  I collected a whole bunch of “best drummers of all time” lists and combined them into two meta-lists.  The first list is organized by rank (that is, with the drummers on the most lists at the top).  The second list is organized chronologically by date of birth.  The list includes drummers in many different genres, including jazz, rock, funk/R&B and Afropop.  Here are the links to the two new lists (drumroll please….)

Best Drummers of All Time – Ranked
Best Drummers of All Time – Chronological