Ghibli Blog Rankings - The 50 Greatest Movies

Ghibli Blog: 50 Greatest Movies

Yes, Citizen Kane is still number one in this house!

The Sight & Sound 2012 poll of greatest films has been unveiled, which means it's time for everybody to pull out their long lists of favorite movies.  And now, after many days of hard work and endless revisions, I present my rankings of the best movies ever made.  Short comments follow after the rankings.

Ghibli Blog Rankings - The 50 Greatest Movies

1. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
2. Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz)
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
4. Lawrence of Arabia (1962, David Lean)
5. Seven Samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa)
6. Star Wars (1977, George Lucas)
7. Duck Soup (1933, Leo McCarey)
8. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Th. Dryer)
9. The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)
10. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchkock)

11. Omohide Poro Poro (1991, Isao Takahata)
12. Mimi wo Sumaseba (1995, Yoshifumi Kondo)
13. City Lights (1931, Charlie Chaplin)
14. Ran (1986, Akira Kurosawa)
15. Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola)
16. The Fog of War (2003, Errol Morris)
17. Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick)
18. Annie Hall (1977, Woody Allen)
19. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson)
20. (tie) Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg)
20. (tie) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, Steven Spielberg)

21. The Godfather Parts I & II (1972, 74, Francis Ford Coppola)
22. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, Ang Lee)
23. Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
24. Floating Weeds (1959, Yasujiro Ozu)
25. The Big Sleep (1946, Howard Hawks)
26. Nights of Cabiria (1957, Frederico Fellini)
27. Princess Mononoke (1997, Hayao Miyazaki)
28. Porco Rosso (1992, Hayao Miyazaki)
29. The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Fleming)
30. Elizabeth (1998, Shekhar Kapur)

31. Metropolis (1926, Fritz Lang)
32. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
33. Throne of Blood (1957, Akira Kurosawa)
34. Modern Times (1936, Charlie Chaplin)
35. Young Frankenstein (1974, Mel Brooks)
36. Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)
37. Pulp Fiction (1994, Quentin Tarantino)
38. Yojimbo(1961, Akira Kurosawa)
39. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1968, Sergio Leone)
40. Fantasia (1940, Walt Disney)

41. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996, Jim Mallon)
42. Ben-Hur (1959, William Wyler)
43. The Seventh Seal (1957, Ingmar Bergman)
44. Network (1976, Sydney Lumet)
45. Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Leaned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963, Stanley Kubrick)
46. Gauche the Cellist (1982, Isao Takahata)
47. Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985, Gisaburo Suugi)
48. The Red Shoes (1948, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
49. Beetlejuice (1988, Tim Burton)
50. (tie) Clue (1985, Johnathon Lynn)
50. (tie) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986, John Hughes) 

And now for a few quick thoughts.  You fine readers have no idea how many times I've shuffled movies around this list, adding this, dropping that, desperately finding a place to squeeze in The Royal Tenenbaums and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, trying to remember whether I loved or merely liked The Seventh Seal.  My mind constantly pulls out wonderful memories, reflective laughs and meditations.

I believe the key was writing a Top 50 list of movies, instead of the standard "Top 10."  With a shorter list, one stays careful and overly cautious, wary of giving up a cherished classic.  I won't cede Citizen Kane or Casablanca to anyone.  However, if I expand my palette to fifty films, a far richer landscape emerges.  Now I can embrace the vast history of cinema, honor the earliest classics, and raise the banner for modern pictures that deserve to be honored.  I could easily add another fifty movies without blinking an eye.  The Shining!  La Dolce Vita!  F For Fake!  Ivan the Terrible! Waking Life!  This could go on forever, which is an exhausting thought.

I'm thinking that I should write essays on each individual film on this list, make it a running series.  That would give me more time to explore each film in better detail than I can here.  Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions.  Enjoy.

Update 8/8/12, 1:11pm - Raiders or Last Crusade?  Last Crusade or Raiders??  Which movie Indiana Jones movie takes the #20 spot?  This dilemma has consumed me all week, and I cannot pick one film over another.  Raiders is grittier, pulpier, has scarier villians, and Karen Allen.  Last Crusade has more and better action scenes, is way funnier, and has Sean Connery.  Both are, essentially, the same movie, and equally great.

So I'm going to cheat and declare a second mulligan (the first one being the two Godfathers joined together at #21).  Raiders and Last Crusade will share the 20th slot, and you can just pick your favorite.  Now I'm going to walk away before I really get carried away.  This project is finished!

Update #2: 8/9/12 8:40am - More cheating.  Marcee and I watched Chaplin's City Lights last night, and I immediately realized my mistake in ranking it so low.  It deserves a Top 10 spot, but I can't fit it in, and I want to promote the two Studio Ghibli films, so we'll take 13th Place.  This is the final edit, I swear(chuckling)!  Thanks for your patience, feel free to hurl wisecracks.

Update #3: 8/9/12 10:20am - Great, I can't read and I can't count.  I really should pay Reed Nelson to be my editor.  There were two movies at #34, so I've shuffled things around...and we end with yet another mulligan.  But it's fitting that a "Top 50 Movies" list would really have 53, in a Calvinball sort of way.


Pablo said...

Daniel, did you forget Spirited Away? Really?

Loving the list, though I love Brazil way over Star Wars. And yes, love Vertigo too.
Have you seen Stalker, by Tarkovsky?

Anonymous said...

No Tokyo Story? That does surprise me.

If you haven't seen it, definitely do so.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Ah, the part where everyone asks, "Why didn't you choose X?" As always, these things are subjective, and come down to how many different movies I could fit into the Top 50. It wouldn't be fun if I crammed in every film by Kurosawa, Kubrick and Miyazaki. Diversity and variety are far more interesting and fun to me.

Spirited Away is a terrific movie, visually spectacular and endlessly creative, but I don't believe it is Miyazaki's best film. It's an escapist picture at heart, one that lacks the more complex and serious themes of the director's work. A great movie, but a little light.

After much consideration, I chose Mononoke Hime as Miyazaki's greatest work. It's a richly complex story, full of nuance and unanswered questions, looks fantastic on the big screen, and defines "anime cool" better than just about anyone - dark, violent, passionate, honest. This movie could never be made in the West. It's the true successor to Kurosawa's bloody epics.

So Mononoke gets my vote.

My thoughts on Ozu's Tokyo Story are more or less the same. It's a wonderfully haunting and quiet film, deserving of all its success. But I'd much rather watch Floating Weeds, which has its wonderfully rich color palette and wistfully sorrowful clowns. The look of the buildings, the falling rain, the rose petals...ah, Ozu's rose petals!

I'd also prefer to watch Takahata's Omohide Poro Poro, with its documentary elements, pop-culture commentary, and romantic surrealism. Like Miyazaki, Takahata has earned the mantle of a Japanese master, and should be honored for it.

Brazil is a really good movie. One of the nearby shops has the Criterion laserdisc box, and I'm strongly tempted to grab it. I haven't seen Stalker, but I'm really not a big Tarkovsky fan (too sloooow). Sam Hiti also mentioned Rififi, but I haven't seen that yet. I'll work on that.

llama said...

Nice list, though the top ten kinda resembles one of those lists assembled via critical consensus. Good pick on those top two Ghiblis.

Blood Muffin said...

I don't understand why you placed Only Yesterday (Great Film) and Whisper of the Heart (Great Film) above Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke (the best animated film ever made). Princess Mononoke is the better film in my opinion hands down. but everyone has a different opinion I just find it interesting.

Ah Pook said...

Neat list, I'll have to get ahold of Floating Weeds, most Ozu's the seasons in the title.

If I had to compile my own personal top-whatever, I'd have to give precedent to Takahara's work, it just echoes in my memory a lot more than Miyazaki's work. Perhaps 'cause he's more concerned with the mundane? (Whisper of The Heart has that inclination too, and Miyazaki's partially responsible for that.) I don't know...

Night on The Galactic Railroad is probably my favorite animated film. Haunting.

Gotta acknowledge The Third Man as my favorite movie, though. It's the kind of stuff that lingers.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if you have seen Harakiri by Masaki Kobayashi. I think that might be the first perfect film I've ever seen. The screenplay by the prolific Shinobu Hashimoto, is brilliant and Masaki Kobayashi's some of the best sword fights I've seen in a chambara film. Tatsuya Nakadai, gives one of the most captivating performances I've ever seen in a film. Honestly I can't find a single flaw or nitpick in the film on either a writing or technical level, everything just shines.

I agree with everything you said about Only Yesterday and Princess Mononoke. I enjoy all of Miyazaki's films one way or another, but Princess Mononoke is really something else. I've watched it countless times and I have never gotten sick of it, I just keep finding new: more layers,more subtle nuances, and a greater emotional connection to the characters. Plus I just love the artwork and animation. Later Ghibli films would be more visually eye popping, but Princess Mononoke(and the rest of the early Ghibli films) has an organic painterly look to it that I'm missing from the later Ghibli films(or any modern day animated film for that matter). It also has my favorite Joe Hisashi soundtrack, it's so beautiful yet so sad at the same time. Only Yesterday is my favorite Takahata film and a film that resonates with me deeply on a very personal level. I'll be honest I never really got into Ozu films, while I can appreciate them on an artistic level, I just can't connect to any of the characters on any personal level. Only Yesterday's different, Taeko is probably the most realistic protagonist I've ever seen in a animated feature and I can identify a lot with feeling trapped in your life and not being able to move forward. It's a movie that inspires me to take chances and not be content to live in a dull colorless life. I also really love the realistic animation, Takahata makes great use of the prerecord method of recording the voices first and animating around them. I love this because the performances and the dialog come out very natural this way, it really sounds and feels like real people talking. I also think this the best Ghibli movie in terms of facial expressions. You really get into the thoughts of Taeko not just through her dialog(which is also the most natural and realistic I've seen an animated film) but through the subtle facial expression. I always used to say that live action is the best way to go when it comes to expressing subtle emotions, but Only Yesterday proved me that a skilled animator can be just as effective if not more. I'm defiantly importing both when they come to Blu Ray.

Andrew said...

Guess I'm a sucker for the fanciful. Hmmm, a lot of movies on there I've been looking for. The Royal Tenenbaums is a Wes Anderson I have not seen yet. The DVD+BD selection around here is the pits and it's getting worse...

YTSL said...

Did I miss seeing "My Neighbor Totoro" on your list or is it really not there? No offence meant but I have to say that I'm pretty surprised that there are not more Studio Ghibli movies in the list since this has been posted on the Ghibli blog.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro were on earlier drafts of my Top 50 list. I debated every one of the Ghibli movies before deciding on my favorites. One by Takahata and Miyazaki? Fine. How about two? Hmm, worth considering. Anything more would be needless indulgence.

I was keen to have a varied and diverse list of movies. This is, after all, a reflection of my own tastes and my education in the cinema. Should there be more Hitchcock, or Ford, or Welles, or Truffaut, or Ozu?

We must conclude, at the end, that "greatest movie" lists are little more than parlor games, food for happy debates and an excuse for film lovers to come together. These things are always arbitrary, and we certainly love more than the ten or fifty movies that we rank and debate.

Animated movies were criminally overlooked by the 2012 Sight & Sound poll, and one of my goals was to highlight what I consider some of my personal favorites. Seven animated features, including six anime and five Ghibli titles, is highly impressive.

Speaking of which, where are everyone's "top movies" lists?

J.R.D.S. said...

If you're able to play region B Blu-ray Discs (which they'll almost inevitably be, in order to deter Japanese reverse-importing) and/or region 2 DVDs the 1959 Floating Weeds is getting a dual format from Eureka in the UK (who also already have one of Kobayashi's 1962 Harakiri come to mention it), who do "probably the best" home video treatments with English subtitles other than Criterion (and without their ignorance of animation and region codes other than their own).

YTSL said...

Hi again Daniel --

"Speaking of which, where are everyone's "top movies" lists?"

This is my top 100 list from four years ago:-

Although looking at it recently, it shocked me that I forgot the Japanese "Shall We Dance?" because I do love it so.

(And yes, my list is very Hong Kong movie heavy, as befits my interest. But I've got 9 Japanese films in my top 100 movies list -- and of those, two are Studio Ghibli films.)

jFan said...

Well, time to get into the swing of things. I'm perhaps younger than most people making these lists; undoubtedly it will have grown by college. Here its is, My Top Movie List as of August 31, 2012:
1. Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)
2. Aliens (James Cameron, 1986)
3. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
4. Fargo (Coen Brothers, 1996)
5. Field of Dreams (Phil Alden Robinson, 1989)
6. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
7. The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999)
8. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
9. King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, 1933; Peter Jackson, 2005)
10. Let Me In (Matt Reeves, 2010)
11. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson)
12. The Lion King (Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff, 1994)
13. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Peter Jackson, 2001-3)
14. Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997)
15. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
16. Sanjuro (Akria Kurosawa, 1962)
17. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
18. The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
19. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
20. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
And many runner-ups, and upcoming entries. :)

Felix said...

Citizen Kane a great movie, maybe one of the most important, even of the top 5. But number one? Could anyone possibly explain this coherently? A common few with such dedication should have some argumentative backing of almost apodictic status. But when I watch it, I see next to the greatness many parts, elements and aspects that, clearly, don't exceed every movie ever made...

What's with the singer-farce? Apart from its painfulness and length to watch, what makes it such a remarkable, transcendental drama? Etc.

Felix said...

"Spirited Away is a terrific movie, visually spectacular and endlessly creative, but I don't believe it is Miyazaki's best film. It's an escapist picture at heart, one that lacks the more complex and serious themes of the director's work. A great movie, but a little light."

I can't agree with this, and it seems to be a disagreement about basic undercurrents of Miyazaki-movies. Nothing about this movie as far as I can see is escapist in any strict, negative sense of the word. Surely you can draw this logical conclusion, but it would be accidental, a mere "reservation" depending on the context of your viewing as far as I can see, but not a lasting judgement.
For one, the altering of Chihiro is certainly not the effect of an escape from her issues, but a "finding of herself". I think this is quintessential in judging the whole "positive" outlook of Miyazaki per se, or else it would be hard to distinguish him from any other "pretty" entertainment, or it becomes a pure intellectual argument of the ideology that his movies present.
Then, Chihiro is emotionally challenged throughout the movie, and it is mostly frightening and dangerous, and the ending is not "sweet" but kind of regretful, which is not a nod to the wish to escape again (as maybe could be seen in the Peter Pan "mythos"), but a major element of life - but Miyazaki would probably say (as I've seen him do) that she will come to deal with it.
Also there are aesthetic elements which I think make it unique among his movies. There is this almost overly lush bathing house, but also this Zen-like, minimalist trainride and water landscape.
The infinite imagination that some refer to, on the other hand, and that may be seen as one element of escapism, I do simply do not recognize. I don't think it is very inventive at all, if I would look only for this, I would be very bored and could point probably to an endless list of more "inventive" or "visually stunning" examples. The lush invention that I see serves merely to create a certain atmosphere of life and the overfilled environs, but not much to marvel at.

A couple more things could be said, but that should be the essence of my view.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

If you want to understand Citizen Kane, here's what I'd recommend: the Criterion Collection CAV laserdisc, the Roger Ebert commentary on the Kane DVD/Blu-Ray, and Pauline Kael's "Raising Kane." That should be a good start. As always, these things are only a matter of personal opinion. It's alright, ma, it's life and life only.

Cowboy Dev said...

Citizen Kane? Really? Does your number one really have to be the same number one AS EVERY OTHER CRITIC. It's bad enough your favorite anime is everything Ghibli makes. So bland and predictable.

Anonymous said...

My top 50 personal list of the greatest films:

1 - Spirited Away
2 - The Mirror
3 - 2001
4 - Seven Samurai
5 - 8 1/2
6 - Nausicaa
7 - Apocalypse Now
8 - Andrei Rublev
9 - Rashomon
10 - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
11 - Princess Mononoke
12 - Barry Lyndon
13 - There Will Be Blood
14 - My Neighbor Totoro
15 - Yojimbo
16 - Persona
17 - Dr. Strangelove
18 - Aguirre The Wrath of God
19 - Citizen Kane
20 - Grave of the Fireflies
21 - Wild Strawberries
22 - Only Yesterday
23 - The Godfather I and II
24 - Kiki's Delivery Service
25 - The Empire Strikes Back
26 - Ran
27 - Blade Runner
28 - Vertigo
29 - The Seventh Seal
30 - Once Upon a Time in the West
31 - Clockwork Orange
32 - Star Wars
33 - Alien
34 - Tokyo Story
35 - Pulp Fiction
36 - M
37 - North by the Northwest
38 - Taxi Driver
39 - Whisper of the Heart
40 - The Shining
41 - The Lord of the Rings
42 - Back to the Future
43 - Mulholland Drive
44 - Porco Rosso
45 - Psycho
46 - The 400 Blows
47 - The Terminator
48 - Kagemusha
49 - Wall-E
50 - Ranging Bull

Michael Sporn said...

I have to agree with the supporters of SPIRITED AWAY, especially when FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF makes the list (even as a tie.) I'd probably add more of Kurosawa's brilliant films.

But it's all personal. I am amazed at how many I agree with on your list.

By the way, it's taken so long to comment here, because it is all personal, isn't it. Why should I criticize any of your favorites!?

C_Oliver said...

Out with the old classics, in with the new masterpieces: belatedly, my Top 25 films solely from the last 25 years, arbitrarily limiting each director to one movie (not that any such list isn't entirely arbitrary anyway):

The Big Lebowski (1998)
Casino (1995)
Chungking Express (1994)
The English Patient (1996)
Ed Wood (1994)
Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
Hard Boiled (1992)
Heat (1995)
The Ice Storm (1998)
Jackie Brown (1997)
The Last Days of Disco (1998)
Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989)
The Lion King (1994)
Magnolia (1999)
Mystery Train (1989)
The Player (1992)
Quiz Show (1994)
Terminator 2 (1991)
Trainspotting (1995)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Spirited Away (2001)
Wings of Desire (1987)
Yi Yi (A One and A Two) (2000)
Zatoichi (2003)
Zodiac (2007)

harika said...

Nice Blog

Jack Bettis said...

I would have wanted to see at least one or two of the British 'Angry Young Men' films of the 50's and 60's, such as the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, The Leather Boys, Dark at the Top of the Stairs, The L-Shaped Room, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, etc., and I applaud your effort. Taxing at best.

Anonymous said...

Nice list. Personally, I don't much care for making "best films of all time" lists; the subject of what makes a film great is so subjective. I've heard Casablanca called both a great classic and campy schlock. I've heard The Passion of Joan of Arc called both the greatest portrayal of faith on film and painfully pretentious, Star Wars called both a modern myth and shallow drek. I don't agree with any of the negative assessments, but it shows you how diverse the broadness of what people consider great or not so great.

I think personal favorite lists are much more interesting; it shows a lot about that person, their tastes, their worldview. I'm assuming this list isn't necessarily your personal favorites one. Could we ever see that?

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