The 251 Best Damn Films of All-Time (Part One)

Part Two |Part Three |Part Four |Part Five |Part Six |Part Seven |Part Eight |Part Nine |Top 25

The annual top 100 list has expanded. Originally, it was only going to be 150 but then I realized I left a whole mess of great films off even at 150 so it expanded to 200 and the same realization happened at 200, but at 250 I put the hard cap on so here we are…

All 250 films are phenomenal. Every single one of them. If any of the bottom 25 films were in someone else’s top 25 I’d totally understand. This list is subjective. Remembering that is key moving forward. There will be some glaring omissions (there’s no such thing as a “bigger boat”) and you most certainly won’t agree with the placings, but just take in the list and try to understand my taste and hopefully bring your attention to a film you’ve never seen.

A little about me before we start, I’ve been watching films religiously all my life and I self-taught myself to love them. I had a brother who brought me Alfred Hitchock films which eventually led into my discovery and deep-seated love for Stanley Kubrick (whom will be mentioned on this list a shit load of times), then me bursting into full-blown cinephile status where I wanted to discover every piece of important cinema from any part of the Globe, in any form, structure, or mold. It’s an exhilarating journey exploring the inner depths of film past the Hollywood system and ultra rewarding as well as eye-opening

So, without further ado…

253. Gold Rush (1925)

Director: Charlie Chaplin (1)

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I always start my list off with Chaplin. He played an active role in what defines an actor and director’s job and is an icon that will always be remembered among the pioneers of cinema. He defined the silent era with his prop and physical humor and he never did this better than in Gold Rush. He pushed the limits of what we could do in front of the camera in terms of set design, scope, and general storytelling. His imagination was never limited by the era because he was too creative to fail. Legendary figure.

252. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Director: Robert Mulligan (1)

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One of the most important pieces of literature on the theme of understanding, To Kill a Mockingbird as a film, captured the spirit of the novel, in not only the provocative way it was intended by not shying away from the truth but digs in with the perspective of a child. Gregory Peck is magnificent as the lawyer Atticus Finch and makes the film feel lasting past the standing of the famous novel.

Well, I reckon because mockingbirds don’t do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat people’s gardens, don’t nest in the corncrib, they don’t do one thing but just sing their hearts out for us.

251. I Was Born, But… (1932)

Director: Yasujiro Ozu (1)

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Yasujiro Ozu will make a number of appearances on this list, but in terms of great forgotten silent directors, Ozu might be at the top of the list. He’s famous for his talkie human dramas, but he once delivered poignant and memorable silent films and I Was Born, But… was his best. A hilarious yet tragic look at growing up.

250. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Director: Wes Anderson (1)

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Wes Anderson is a modern master and formulated his own symmetrical aesthetic that has defined his work and paved the way for others. He’s also an excellent writer of character and The Royal Tenenbaums is the best of his filmography in that regard. Great performances, poignant yet earnest, and a laugh riot. A fantastic film that could be considered higher on this list after a rewatch.

Anybody interested in grabbing a couple of burgers and hittin’ the cemetery?

249. High Noon (1952)

Director: Fred Zinnemann (1)

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High Noon is the white male Western fantasy we all love and crave. Gary Cooper, the most mentioned actor in foreign films of all-time, standing his ground and taking on a group of bandits by himself. One of the most idealized versions of masculinity on screen, but a stylish one that’s highly entertaining. One of the few Westerns mentioned on this list.

“You’re a good-looking boy: you’ve big, broad shoulders. But he’s a man. And it takes more than big, broad shoulders to make a man.”

248. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Director: Jonathan Demme (1)

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Jonathan Demme’s magnum opus on Dr. Hanninbal Lecter is a thrilling mind riddle that never reveals its hand. Led down a path by the excruciatingly devilish charm of Anthony Hopkins clueing in Jodie Foster into the mind of a madman. Impactful throughout and ends on the highest of high notes.

“I do wish we could chat longer, but… I’m having an old friend for dinner.”

247. The White Ribbon (2009)

Director: Michael Haneke (1)

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Haneke is a master of provocative, moving art that’s incredibly subtle. He makes his message heard but through subtext and nuanced character. The White Ribbon is the story of built-up resentment children carry towards the ill decisions of their fathers and mothers. Eery in execution, and a damning mystery of childhood that culminates into a truly bewildering and haunting finish.

“I don’t know if the story that I want to tell you, reflects the truth in every detail. Much of it I only know by hearsay, and a lot of it remains obscure to me even today, and I must leave it in darkness. Many of these questions remain without answer. But I believe I must tell of the strange events that occurred in our village, because they may cast a new light on some of the goings-on in this country…”

246. Out of the Past (1947)

Director: Jacques Tourneur (1)

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A beautiful romance about the lasting power of the past and its hold over people. Starring Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, who will undoubtedly show up on this list more than most actors, along with the flawless Jane Greer. A stylish romance that transports you to another, simpler time.

Kathie: “Oh Jeff, you ought to have killed me for what I did a moment ago.”

Jeff: “There’s time.”

245. An Enemy of the People (1989)

Director: Satyajit Ray (1)

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Satyajit Ray is a legendary director that will make a few appearances on this list, but the first one is the toxic power of religion and a man who goes against power for the sake of public health in An Enemy of the People. Based on a play, it follows a proud man’s journey into despair as he takes the path of most resistance and gets taken down by systems and institutions while holding onto his morality. A beautiful film with a powerful message.

244. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Director: Billy Wilder (1)

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Billy Wilder’s first entry on the list, but certainly not his last. A wildly entertaining procedural that plays like a classic whodunnit but trapped in a courtroom. Starring the indomitable Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in this story and Wilder’s direction holds the tension to the last possible second. Wonderful film.

“I am constantly surprised that women’s hats do not provoke more murders.”

243. Room (2015)

Director: Lenny Abrahamson (1)

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Room is one of those rare experiences that places you in a situation without context and we have to learn and understand as the characters do. A film that absolutely blew me away on the first watch with a brilliantly discovery-oriented first half and a damning yet hopeful portrayal of trauma in the second half. Brie Larson is never better, but it’s Tremblay who makes the experience lived in.

“Once upon a time, before I came, you cried and cried and watched TV all day, until you were a zombie. But then I zoomed down from heaven, through skylight, into Room. Whoosh-pshew! And I was kicking you from the inside. Boom, boom! And then I shot out onto Rug with my eyes wide open, and you cutt-ed the cord and said, “Hello, Jack!”

242. The Public Enemy (1931)

Director: William A. Wellman (1)

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James Cagney, from anyone who took interest in him, is basically regarded as the man among all-time great actors. In The Public Enemy, he plays a mother-loving Chicago hoodlum that fits the mold of that character like a glove. Loud, bombastic, and poignant while always reserving that edge of ego. It’s a phenomenal performance from Cagney in a fantastic film overall.

Tom Powers: “Hiding behind Ma’s skirts, like always.”
Mike Powers: “Better than hiding behind a machine gun.”

241. Being There (1979)

Director: Hal Ashby (1)

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Sheltered, comfortable, and now forced to change. Hal Ashby’s Being There is a story of breaking out and the hidden potential of people that have never been invested the time into developing that potential. Peter Sellers is unbelievable as Chance the Gardner and his lack of self-awareness shows through. Hilarious in an endearing way and poignant in others. A brilliant film that shows Ashby’s humanistic sensibilities as a director.

“This is just like television, only you can see much further.”

240. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007)

Director: Cristian Mangu (1)Image result for 4 months 3 weeks and 2 days cinematographyThe most realistic and damning portrayal of abortion ever put on film. The full weight of the decision and how the systems of government do whatever necessary to suppress the urge to abort. A stunning film that provides moments of sheer shock through what these women had to go through. The direction is provocative in all the right ways.

“I got rid of it. It’s in the bathroom.”

239. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto (1)

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The most batshit insane movie on the entire list. The origin story of a villain shot through endless amounts of metal rods jammed into our main characters morphing and evolving body. Short, sweet and shocking cinema at its finest.

“Together, we can turn this fucking world to rust!”

238 Holy Motors (2012)

Director: Leos Carax (1)

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Attempting to describe the madness of Holy Motors wouldn’t do Carax’s vision or Denis Lavant’s performance justice. It needs to be experienced. A mesmerizing journey of perverse habitation of people and their lives to a disturbing degree.

Angèle: I’ll be punished?
Mr. Oscar: Yes. Your punishment, my poor Angèle, is to be you. To have to live with yourself.

237. Mean Streets (1973)

Director: Martin Scorsese (1)

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The first mention of the great American-Italian New York director that defined cinema and molded the mob genre. Mean Streets is his first foray into the genre and a free-flowing, uninhibited trip into daily life. It feels less like a narrative feature and almost more like a documentary. The first extended look at the incredible Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel in their first of many Scorsese pictures.

“You too good for this ten dollars? It’s a good ten dollars. You know Michael, you make me laugh. You see, I borrow money all over this neighborhood, left and right from everybody, I never pay them back. So, I can’t borrow no money from nobody no more, right? So who would that leave me to borrow money from but you? I borrow money from you, because you’re the only jerk-off around here who I can borrow money from without payin’ back, right? You know, ’cause that’s what you are, that’s what I think of you: a jerk-off. You’re a fucking jerk-off! You’re laughing ’cause you’re a jerk-off. I’ll tell ‘ya something else”

236. Pale Flower (1964)

Director: Masahiro Shinoda (1)

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A class struggle between a low life Yakuza and upper-class women coming to terms with their own loneliness, as the two cross paths in seek of new lives. A subtle love story of two wildly different people drawn together. Stylish, tension-filled entry into Shinoda’s fantastically dark filmography.

235. Good Will Hunting (1997)

Director: Gus Van Sant (1)

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Robin Williams is a treasure. A human treasure that is sorely missed and no one on earth could’ve given this poignant and meaningful performance like he did in Good Will Hunting. Every moment he’s on-screen is a revelation. He brings this important story of hurt and belonging to its emotional core. It’s meaningful acting that stays with you.

“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

234. Frances Ha (2012)

Director: Noah Baumbach (1)

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Awkwardness is such an endearing trait and that social anxiety centered perspective in Frances Ha, unfortunately, speaks to me on every imaginable level. Greta Gerwig plays the role the way it’s meant to be played, and the interactions are all so grounded in the real world. It was a peek into life for upper-middle white people and the stupid problems we deal with on a daily basis.

“I like things that look like mistakes”

233. The Taste of Tea (2004)

Director: Katsuhito Ishii

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Humanistic art with a free-flowing structure that loosely follows a modern family living normal lives but based in a world of surrealism. Mainly, a giant head that follows around one of the main characters. The cherry blossom cinematography makes this weird yet authentic film so connected to the world and nature. Highly irregular but mindlessly watchable.

232. Ugetsu (1953)

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi (1)

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Mystifying folktale on the spoils and riches of war. Damning in its portrayals towards the brutality of war and how the one’s profiting off the tragedy are doomed to a vast hell. A self-destructive journey towards realization. Mizoguchi at his most atmospheric and traumatizing with one of the all-time great moments on the lake.

231. Mikey and Nicky (1976)

Director: Elaine May (1)

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Grimey and stylish film focused on fragile masculinity and the shallow lifeless end to one’s existence devoid of any meaning. A strange exploration of slow dying death and the repercussions that come along with that. Elaine May’s surreal buddy cop script is so true to actual human behavior and the beats people take in actual conversation. Cassavetes and Falk are magical together.

“It’s very hard to talk to a dead person. I have nothing in common”

230. The Lost Weekend (1945)

Director: Billy Wilder (2)

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Wilder’s second film on the 251, the Best Picture-winning descent in the jaws of alcoholism and one of the most accurate accounts of the subject. It felt like a personal project for Wilder, a known alcoholic, and we feel the unrest that comes along with addiction. Ray Milland has never been better as the stress compresses down on his character.

“Don’t wipe it away, Nat. Let me have my little vicious circle. You know, the circle is the perfect geometric figure. No end, no beginning.”

229. Mildred Pierce (1945)

Director: Michael Curtiz (1)

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Joan Crawford is a gem and Mildred Pierce is her swan song. A strong independent woman fighting against societal norms, homicidal jealous boyfriends and the police department that doesn’t trust women on their own. One of Curtiz’s most self-aware films and a great message in a noir genre normally not known for this type of messaging.

“I was always in the kitchen. I felt as though I’d been born in a kitchen and lived there all my life, except for the few hours it took to get married.”

228. The Rules of the Game (1939)

Director: Jean Renoir (1)

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The Rules of the Game implying there are any rules to Jean Renoir’s bourgeois French satire where everyone tries sleeping with everyone else behind their backs. Devoid of basic plotting as this flirtatious game of runaround shows a childlike amusement with tragedy, greed, and sex (under the surface). The ruling class reverting to immature dolt with no self-control. It’s brilliantly funny.

“You have to understand, its the plight of all heroes today. In the air, they’re terrific. But when they come back to earth, they’re weak, poor, and helpless.”

227. Mississippi Burning (1988)

Director: Alan Parker (1)

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A powerful story of a racist community insulating themselves to commit atrocities on the small black minority in a Mississippi town. A painful experience that shows a genuine distrust for neighbors, the police department, and even the outside forces of the FBI. Alan Parker’s vision bears down on you and continually pushes until nothing’s left to feel but the horror. Incredibly hard-watch but an important story about a town that’s been forgotten.

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