Brief Thoughts about the Sight and Sound Director Lists

A lot of the bluster is finally dying down regarding Sight & Sound’s recent release of their Greatest Films of All-Time list. They have both a list compiled by critics and a list compiled by directors, with various director top 10s trickling out over the last few weeks. Most of the discussion has centered around Vertigo (1958) toppling Citizen Kane (1941) for the top slot. But I don’t care about that. They’re both great, and you should see them both if you like movies. It’s the director lists I’d like to discuss.

The least surprising revelation ever: Woody Allen loves art house films.

I was checking out this list of 20 directors and their top 10s, and a few things jumped out at me. First and foremost, I love how much the lists reflect the kinds of films these various filmmakers create. Quentin Tarantino’s list is the most eclectic, eschewing the classics for lesser-known and more recent fare. Scorsese’s list is very Italian, with 4 of his 10 coming from Italy (including one I’d never heard of about the mob). Bela Tarr loves the dry stuff- Tokyo Story, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alexander Nevsky, and Au Hasard Balthazar. Woody Allen is a fan of classic art house. Edgar Wright’s list is a blend of action, horror, and comedy. And then, there’s Guillermo del Toro’s list.

The list that del Toro created is an example of why I’m drawn to the guy as a filmmaker. His list features some of the best, and most influential, horror films ever made- Frankenstein (1931) and  Nosferatu (1922). It also features two spectacularly inventive and hard to define films- Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) and Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bete (1946). For good measure, the list also includes my favorite Chaplin film (Modern Times), a highly underrated Buñuel film (Los Olvidados), and Scorsese’s epic, Goodfellas. It’s not exactly the list I would make but it features the filmmakers I’d want to highlight.

Pleasantly surprised to see The King of Comedy made a list

It’s worth noting how much respect Scorsese has amongst his peers. It’s completely justified, but unexpected since he’s such a relative newcomer in the history of cinema. Four of his films- Raging Bull (1980), Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990), and even The King of Comedy (1983)– popped up on the other 19 lists in that article. 10 of the other 19, more than half, listed at least one Scorsese film. It makes me really happy to see him getting those kinds of accolades. He deserves it.

The list that most echoes what I might make comes from Woody Allen. His list also includes a Buñuel film, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972); Bergman’s seminal work, The Seventh Seal (1957); Citizen Kane (1941); Truffaut’s epic, The 400 Blows (1959); and Grand Illusion (1937). This is noteworthy to me for a few reasons. Bergman and Buñuel are my two favorites, and Woody Allen has always had a tremendous respect for Bergman. Also, you my note that the two French films he included are both films that placed in the top 10 of my recent 50 Greatest French Films list. Like my list, he had Grand Illusion in higher regard than Rules of the Game, which is not common.

More than anything else, I admire the diversity of the individual director lists. None of them really fixate on any one genre. You have to love movies a lot, and love a lot about a lot of different kinds of movies, to endure the trials and tribulations of making a movie. I think these lists bear that out.


Filed under Movies

18 responses to “Brief Thoughts about the Sight and Sound Director Lists

  1. The lists were great, I checked them out today. Surprised how many filmmakers contributed, but they were great fun to read.

  2. I think your last paragraph summarizes it perfectly. It’s all about variety. You don’t have to like everything, but you at least have to experience it.

  3. nimorphi

    Looking at the lists I realized two things:
    1. I freaking LOVE Los Olvidados. (anything by Bunuel really)
    2. i really hate Miranda July’s films.

    • nimorphi

      One other thing. There was love for Badlands, but none for Days of Heaven, which I think is a superior film.

    • Looks like I’ve dodged a bullet by having never seen a Miranda July movie.

      Los Olvidados is sort of the forgotten Bunuel classic. Art house people know all about his later French films and his early French films, but Los Olvidados gets glossed over. I’d give my left nut for Criterion to release it.

  4. Nice piece John! Those lists are interesting because they give us a peak of what a director likes and how he blends his influences into his own films!

  5. Allen and Bergman,two best philosophers in movies. Though Guillermo del Toro chose two classic horror movies,I think his biggest influence is still Hitchcock.

    Such a pity the passed couldn’t vote,also some great living ones missed this,I had a post about famous directors’ top 10 including Quentin and Scorsese,their lists look slightly different now.

  6. I would like to see what kind of list you would come up with, John. I know it’s a ridiculous notion to whittle down the entire history of film to 10 titles, but your tastes are quite diverse. I bet it would have some surprises.

    • Funny you should ask- Phil asked me a few days back in the comments section of the Q&A. Here was my answer.

      -The Seventh Seal
      -Sullivan’s Travels
      -The Godfather
      -Citizen Kane
      -Sunset Boulevard
      -Zero for Conduct (and I’m only excluding A Trip to the Moon because it’s a short)
      -Andrei Rublev

      I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but I think those are kind of the peak of movie-making. Goodfellas, 2001, The 400 Blows, Grand Illusion, Modern Times, The General, and 8 1/2 would be just on the outside looking in.

  7. I think they missed out Lean’s works..if I am not too wrong Lawrence of Arabia was in 82th. Anyway I am happy that Vertigo was in number 1 for Sight and Sound cuz he deserved it

    • You and me both on Vertigo, although I’m surprised there’s been as much backlash as there has been about that.

      • True,Citizen Kane have been in every film list as one of the top ten for quite a while. I am surprised that LoA wasn’t the top 10…in AFI-LoA was ranked pretty high for best movies,soundtracks and epics..however it was their own opinion

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