Premiere Magazine
100 M
OST DARING MOVIES
E
VER MADE


by Premiere Magazine

100 Most Daring Movies: Instead of quibbling with the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest American Films, Premiere Magazine decided to rethink the point. In its October 1998 newstand issue, it presented "Rebel Cinema" or 100 Movies That Shook the World, celebrating the filmmakers (and their films) who dared to be ridiculous, offensive, or even unpopular, and who still came up with classic films. See also this site's The Most Controversial Films of All-Time (illustrated).

Note: The films that are marked with a yellow star are
the films that "The Greatest Films" site has selected as the "100 Greatest Films".


Premiere Magazine
100 Most Daring Movies Ever Made
(alphabetical order)

1. Airplane! (1980), d. Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
We have clearance, Clarence. Catering to an increasingly movie-literate audience, the ZAZ boys took aim at Airport and the ripe-for-parody disaster genre with this relentlessly hilarious sketch comedy. Quick wit and shameless gags have maintained its cruising altitude and quotability.

2. Akira (1988), d. Katsuhiro Otomo
With its sprawling, apocalyptic landscapes, harrowing violence, and disturbing images of man's melding with machine, this could have been any number of post-Blade Runner sci-fi epics. Except that this one is a cartoon. A landmark that spread the gospel of Japanese animé worldwide, Akira still stuns.

3. Animal Crackers (1930), d. Victor Heerman
"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas," says Groucho, at the mansion of wonderfully curvy straight woman Margaret Dumont. "How he got in my pajamas, I don't know." Encumbered by only a few of the song-and-dance numbers that hobbled the Marx Brothers' screen debut (The Cocoanuts), Animal Crackers fully unleashes their sophisticated brand of comic absurdity.

4. Badlands (1973), d. Terrence Malick
The alienation of youth finds a rigorously poetic movie voice. From the crystalline beauty of the prairie landscapes to Sissy Spacek's affectless narration to the off-hand way in which she and boyfriend Martin Sheen go on a murder spree, Badlands gives the rage and despair of the young an ethereal grace.

5. Bananas (1971), d. Woody Allen
Allen took a giant step beyond the parameters of his stand-up act with these riotous sketches about a hyperneurotic product tester who winds up as a Latin-American dictator. A polished mix of low- and highbrow satire. Bananas proved what a unique and ambitious comic talent Allen is.

6. Battleship Potemkin (1925), d. Sergei Eisenstein
A double-barreled Soviet classic: Once revolutionary propaganda (tsarist oppressors shoot brave peasants!), it remains a timeless blueprint for modern technique, such as Eisenstein's concept of "montage," which articulated the very process of editing images together.

7. Belle de Jour (1967), d. Luis Bunuel
The greatest artists never take themselves too seriously or have to show off. To wit, Bunuel's masterpiece of perverse erotica, about a repressed housewife cum prostitute (Catherine Deneuve, at the peak of her ice-cold appeal), weaves together dreams and reality with an effortlessness that makes the distinction between them seem positively bougeois.

8. The Birds (1963), d. Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock says he especially enjoyed focusing on the "ordinary, everyday birds" that terrorize a California town. And, yes, for all of the film's brilliant use of synthesized sound and subtext (the butch-femme interplay between Suzanne Pleshette and Tippi Hedren is a hoot), it's the banal nature of the predators that give the film its edge.

9. Blade Runner, d. Ridley Scott
What makes this existentialist sci-fi noir great is less a function of its plot than of the way it's shot: Scott and cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth give us rain-slicked streets that stir the libido, and a vision of the future that's so dead-on, the rock videos, commercials, and features in its wake look silly for trying to improve on it.

10. Blazing Saddles (1974), d. Mel Brooks
An equal-opportunity offender, Brooks pokes fun at Jews, blacks, hicks, gays, and, of course, Hollywood itself, in this western parody about a black sheriff (Cleavon Little) and his alcoholic sidekick (Gene Wilder). From inter-racial sex to campfire flatulence, Brooks's trailblazing genre send-up broke taboos as brazenly as it did the fourth wall.

11. Blow-Up (1966), d. Michelangelo Antonioni
Timothy Leary was giving acid tests, accepted truths were being questioned, and Antonioni posited this story, such as it is: A jaded photographer (David Hemmings) in swinging London believes he has filmed a murder and becomes intent on proving it. Then the evidence slips away, and he and the viewer are left with the eternal question: What is reality? Indeed.

12. Blue Velvet (1986), d. David Lynch
Look closely: Amid the chirping birds of picket-fence America you'll find...a severed ear! There's Isabella Rossellini, naked and covered with cigarette burns. And inhaling drugs through a gas mask, it's the fabulously demented Dennis Hopper. Lynch's best film is a big lipsticky kiss for anyone who watched Leave It To Beaver and wondered why it seemed bizarre.

13. Bob Le Flambeur (1955), d. Jean-Pierre Melville
One of the great, under-appreciated shaggy-dog stories of the century, in which the eponymous boulevardier, an aging gambler, engineers a daring casino robbery. Melville immediately makes the viewer feel at home in the film's seedy Paris location; by the end, you share his blithe affection for both crime and criminals.

14. Brazil (1985), d. Terry Gilliam
In the dreary, disorganized, and totally duct-up future, a young romantic (Jonathan Pryce) ignores his face-lift-happy mother and seeks out the woman of his dreams, aided by renegade handyman (Robert De Niro). Monty Python alum Gilliam stuffed this Orwellian nightmare full of eerily prescient satire (think HMOs, Dilbert, and Joan Rivers). No wonder the studio didn't get it.

15. Breathless (1959), d. Jean-Luc Godard
With this, a snotty Swiss cineaste showed audiences the world over exactly what vanguard means. The plot is hardly an earthshaker: A pretty Parisian thief (Jean-Paul Belmondo) pursues a deeply shallow American student (Jean Seberg). But the attitude and innovative style (long, improvised takes; jump cuts; undressed location shooting) of Breathless made everything before it look old.

16. Bride of Frankenstein (1935), d. James Whale
Whale turned up the juice (check out all those electrical arcs in the birth-of-the-bride scene) for the sequel to his Frankenstein, introducing wickedly witty new characters to concoct a mate for Boris Karloff's monster. Imbued with an emotional resonance and crackpot humor that the first film only hinted at, Bride is the true classic.

17. Cat People (1942), d. Jacques Tourneur
Movies show - they don't tell. But how glorious it is when they merely imply. Here Tourneur masters the impossible: the subtle horror movie. A Serbian woman (Simone Simon) fears she is transforming into a deadly cat. Is it all in her head? Tourneur turns the terrifying screws until they pop - and even then, mystery lingers in the shimmery air.

18. Un Chien Andalou (1928), d. Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali
Art, shmart: How often it's forgotten that this is a comedy. A string of surrealist images (the opener, a woman's eyeball being slit with a razor wielded by Bunuel, can still make the heartiest soul queasy) that mock the church, romance, conventional story-telling, and just about everything else (in under a half hour), it is one mad dog indeed.

19. The Conformist (1971), d. Bernardo Bertolucci
Not since silent movies has decadence been so lavishly and alluringly embodied onscreen. In telling the story of how a sexually thwarted, upper-class young man joins Mussolini's Fascists, Bertolucci applied his own, resolutely Italian craftsmanship and poetic sensibility to the innovations of the French New Wave.

20. The Conversation (1974), d. Francis Ford Coppola
This disturbing metaphor for the Watergate era examines the notion of privacy from an unusual vantage point: that of a professional wiretapper (Gene Hackman) who insists on knowing nothing about his subjects and who guards his own privacy with an irrational zeal. Post The Godfather (1972), Coppola used this much smaller canvas to explore some creepily intimate terrain.

21. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), d. Woody Allen
With this masterful inquisition into the nature of evil, Allen silenced the fans who wished he would return to outright comedy. Martin Landau plays an ophthalmologist who arranges to have his troublesome mistress (Anjelica Huston) bumped off. Instead of taking a casually brutal approach, Allen obsesses on the consequences of sin.

22. The Crowd (1928) , d. King Vidor
In Vidor's innovative and subversive film, an arrogant proto-yuppie who has lost his job and young child is forced to acknowledge that his life is no more important than anyone else's. The famous closing shot, in which the camera pulls up and we lose our hero in a sea of laughing moviegoers, perfectly externalizes his inner turmoil. It's German Expressionism, Hollywood-style.

23. Dead Ringers (1988), d. David Cronenberg
With his portraits of man wrestling with technology, disease, and emotional and sexual sterility, the Canadian director established himself as the most provocative and thoughtful new movie voice of the 80s (The Fly, Scanners, Videodrome). Exploring the perverse bond between twin-brother gynecologists (wittily played by Jeremy Irons), Dead Ringers is bloody, disturbing, and almost unbearably cold - even for a horror movie.

24. Detour (1945), d. Edgar G. Ulmer
Forty years before Blood Simple, Ulmer threw together this gritty, unrefined, ultra-low-budget film noir. Telling the tale of a spurned lover who takes on the identity of a man he has accidentally killed, and the femme fatale who blackmails him, the movie maintains a high level of suspense without the studio gloss of a Double Indemnity (1944).

25. The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), d. Gerard Damiano
The "porno chic" movement that began when Dimiano's Deep Throat was found to be not obscene reached an aesthetic crest with this lavishly produced, woman-centered fantasy of hard-core sex. Georgina Spelvin's Miss Jones introduced many an innocent American to oily massages, snake-swallowing, multiple partners, and bisexuality.

26. Dirty Harry (1971), d. Don Siegel
This devious policier, starring Clint Eastwood as the up-your-Miranda detective Harry Callahan, has an anti-authoritarian streak that was misinterpreted by such critics as Pauline Kael, who called the movie "fascist." Siegel's clean, no-nonsense style and the brutality of the crimes depicted were bracing.

27. Don't Look Back (1967), d. D.A. Pennebaker
Pennebaker, in this acerbic documentary, gets the camera so far up Bob Dylan's nose that you'd swear you could see his brain pulsate. It turned out that the oft-arrogant Dylan - just as he'd always said - was all too human. Thus was born a new generation of rock docs, in which the real action is backstage.

28. Do the Right Thing (1989), d. Spike Lee
The most explosive summer movie ever, but all that burns is a pizza parlor. In Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant, the veneer of racial harmony cracks on the hottest day of the year. Lee acquits no one's narrow-mindedness, but frames his American snapshot in a familial manner - complete with the Greek chorus of Samuel L. Jackson's deejay, Mister Senor Love Daddy.

29. Drugstore Cowboy (1989), d. Gus Van Sant
Van Sant's shoestring-budget breakthrough snatched Matt Dillon from the clutches of Brat Pack-dom and offered a morality tale without the moralizing. This story of a quartet of cowboy junkies mixes gritty realism with psychedelic flourishes, and appropriately throws in a bit of Beat wisdom from William S. Burroughs.

30. Dumbo (1941), d. Ben Sharpsteen
Because of its high-brow musical premise, Fantasia (1940) is often considered to be the height of Disney animation - and a great date movie for stoners. But Fantasia looks almost elephantine next to this surreal, 64-minute cartoon classic, the coming-of-age saga of a pachyderm with massive ears. And stoners beware: It also features the eerily inebriated "Pink Elephants on Parade."

31. 8 1/2 (1963), d. Federico Fellini
In the end it's all just a great big dance, but even before the carnival music reaches its crescendo, Fellini's dervish of an autobiography has debunked all the beautiful myths of inspiration. Fellini stand-in Marcello Mastroianni heads to a spa to unwind and comes face-to-face with his entire life. A landmark of personal - to the point of being exhibitionistic - cinema.

32. Eyes Without a Face (1959), d. Georges Franju
With its clinically explicit scenes of surgery (a woman's face is literally carved off), this story of a mad doctor's misguided attempts to restore his disfigured daughter's beauty raised the bar for shock cinema. Indeed, no one since has matched the film's cool intelligence and goose-pimply lyricism.

33. Faces (1968), d. John Cassavetes
Cassavetes, working with a minuscule budget and a small circle of actor-friends (including his wife, Gena Rowlands, and Seymour Cassel), helped lay the foundation for the U.S. independent-film scene with Faces, which probes a businessman's souring marriage. His idiosyncratic vision - middle-class, middle-aged characters, unable to connect in any meaningful way - struck a nerve with the moviegoing public.

34. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), d. Russ Meyer
Three buxom (to put it mildly) go-go dancers murder an innocent race-car enthusiast and then scheme to dupe a handicapped sugar daddy out of his fortune. With appropriate pauses for catfighting and cleavage-ogling. Meyer's trash-fest curiously predicted two (seemingly opposed) '70s phenomena: feminism (or at least a weird, badass strain of it) and the mainstreaming of porn.

35. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), d. Amy Heckerling
Masturbation, abortion, and pizza deliveries in class: Teen comedy grows up. Heckerling flawlessly adapted Cameron Crowe's observations about California high schoolers into feature form and helped launch the careers of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker, and Sean Penn, whose Spicoli continues to spawn dude-clones, from Bill and Ted to Beavis and Butt-head.

36. Flesh (1968), d. Paul Morrissey
Why does Joe Dallesandro ask his girlfriend for fresh underwear? 'Cause the johns like it that way, natch. The petty hassles of a teen hustler might seem like strange fodder for an art film, but Morrissey, emerging from Andy Warhol's anti-art Factory, turned the film's unabashedly amateurish acting, lighting, and editing into the very definition of low-budget cool.

37. The 400 Blows (1959), d. Francois Truffaut
Twelve-year-old Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is a somber boy who's always running away - but what he's running from he never truly knows. More than a sentimental coming-of-age story, Truffaut's debut feature is a harsh, often sad tale that, along with Breathless, marked the arrival of the French New Wave and its fresh, streetwise style.

38. Freaks (1932), d. Tod Browning
Great Britain banned it until 1963, and even today its images of Siamese twins, pinheads, midgets, and who-knows-whats are not easy to take. The sensitive yet shamelessly exploitative story of a group of sideshow freaks who take revenge on a "normal" woman after she attempts to murder one of them, Freaks is the visionary precursor to the works of David Lynch and David Cronenberg.

39. The Gang's All Here (1943), d. Busby Berkeley
The marriage of Berkeley's choreography and Technicolor is the ultimate trip, predating 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by 25 years. Here is a musical that's impossibly bizarre: obscenely giant bananas; purple neon hula hoops; the disembodied head of portly character actor Eugene Palette floating in a field of azure; Carmen Miranda going tutti-frutti; Benny Goodman singing; and much, much more.

40. The Girl Can't Help It (1956), d. Frank Tashlin
A live-action Looney Tune from former animator Tashlin - although it's open to debate whether bombshell Jayne Mansfield was not, in fact, a cartoon. The silly plot is merely the springboard for sight gags in widescreen and brilliant color, set to great '50s rock 'n' roll. Nabokov once said that nothing's more exhilarating than philistine vulgarity; here is exquisite proof.

41. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), d. Sergio Leone
Leone invigorated the ailing western - the province of aging icons - with stylish nihilism and operatic mayhem. In his third and last collaboration with Clint Eastwood (here playing "the Good"), Leone built the action to a vertiginous climax, intercutting vivid panoramas with jarring close-ups, all accented by Ennio Morricone's throbbing, wah-wah-like score.

42. Halloween (1978), d. John Carpenter
The first and best of the slash-the-sexually-active-teenager films. In an innovative twist (that would be copied ad infinitum), Carpenter shoots the opening sequence almost entirely from the psycho killer's point of view - even through the eye slits of his Halloween mask.

43. A Hard Day's Night (1965), d. Richard Lester
The musical sequences are like fever dreams of sheer bliss - rhythmic jump cuts, trick photography, and some of the Fab Four's choicest pop confections. And not only did A Hard Day's Night invent the music-video form, it also gave us four classic celebrity performances. You say you want a revolution...Here it is.

44. The Harder They Come (1973), d. Perry Henzell
It's hard to decide what about this Jamaican crime drama is most impressive: the lilting, wonderfully seductive soundtrack that introduced reggae to the world, or the film's prescient vision of crime and fame. How prescient? Jimmy Cliff stars as a struggling musician who tops the charts only after becoming a fugitive from the law.

45. The Hustler (1961), d. Robert Rossen
"I'm the best you've ever seen," Paul Newman's pool shark, Fast Eddie Felson, says to Jackie Gleason's legendary Minnesota Fats. "Even if you beat me, I'm still the best." The Hustler's macho codes of behavior were models of cool, but in the end, Eddie's aggressive pride is the tragic source of his undoing.

46. If.... (1968), d. Lindsay Anderson
The title is both provocation (what if...) and lament (if only...), and the film itself is at once a call-to-arms and a romance. Set in a bleak English boarding school, if... focuses on three unruly seniors and the ghastly revenge they enact upon their oppressors. Anderson, one of Britain's "Angry Young Men" of the '60s, created the era's most stridently anarchic work.

47. In the Company of Men (1997), d. Neil LaBute
With no money and nary a trace of music-video sizzle, LaBute gives the PC morals of big-budget Hollywood a painful kick in the private parts. Two executives, bitter over their relations with women, decide to date a vulnerable deaf temp, get her to fall in love, and drop her, just to see her suffer. Revenge was never this sour.

48. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), d. Don Siegel
An odd affliction has hit Santa Mira, California - and it's spreading fast. Siegel's tightly wound, low-budget classic packs a double punch. As a paranoid scarefest, it's a model of taut B-movie economy. As a portrait of townspeople being infiltrated by pernicious (i.e., Commie) aliens, it set the standard for political allegory in '50s sci-fi.

49. Johnny Guitar (1954), d. Nicholas Ray
Melancholy giant Sterling Hayden has never been more gently affecting than in this weird western, in which he plays the reluctant mediator in a fever-pitch battle between hardheaded women Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge. In announcing "I'm a stranger here myself," he provided a more complex motto of alienation than Brando's sneering "What've ya got?" in The Wild One (1953).

50. Jules et Jim (1961), d. Francois Truffaut
Who knew a simple triangle could yield such gorgeously complex geometry? A French enchantress (Jeanne Moreau) longing for freedom from bourgeois values, finds it, for a time, in a three-way love affair with two best friends. Even a tragic ending cannot undo the thrill of liberation conveyed by Truffaut's New Wave romance.

51. The Killer (1989), d. John Woo
What do you get when you cross Roger Corman with the ballet? A film heavy on bullet casings that tumble in sumptuous slow motion. A dapper, reticent hit man in a flowing overcoat who makes Eastwood's "Man With No Name" look like Man WIth ADD. Woo's frenetic action has been imitated by many, but few have matched his poetic grace.

52. The Killing (1956), d. Stanley Kubrick
Before tackling the universe, Kubrick set his sights on more earthbound concerns - such as rethinking the crime movie. The Killing's cast (Sterling Hayden, Timothy Carey) is cultishly cool, the tough-guy talk bitterly noir, and (foreshadowing Reservoir Dogs) the plot cleverly convoluted - jumping back and forth in time to reveal a racetrack heist as each participant saw it go down.

53. Kiss Me Deadly (1955), d. Robert Aldrich
Thick-headed detective Mike Hammer (a too-perfect Ralph Meeker), accustomed to peeping in bedroom windows, here stumbles into a front-row seat at the apocalypse. This delirious noir is unrepentantly sleazy and nihilistic. Aldrich achieves his tone with a cool detachment that latter-day acolytes visibly strain to mimic. Number of likable characters: one. And he gets killed off early.

54. The Last Picture Show (1971), d. Peter Bogdanovich
Shooting in black and white and rendering a small-town Texas location as if it were an old movie set, Bogdanovich (and an outstanding ensemble, including Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, and Oscar winner Cloris Leachman) eulogized Hollywood's golden age, even as he signaled a new era of cinematic honesty.

55. Last Tango in Paris (1973), d. Bernardo Bertolucci
"Got to the movies to see love," a woman instructs Paul (Marlon Brando), a widowed American expatriate who falls into the ultimate rebound relationship. But do "the movies" show us love that's filled with raw desire and crippling emptiness? Directing Brando to his greatest performance, Bertolucci drenched Last Tango in a psychosexual realism never before - and rarely since - captured on film.

56. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), d. John Ford
As close as Ford ever came to making a revisionist western. Scrapping the Monument Valley vistas and grand battles that established his reputation, he here exposes the lies behind the taming of the West: The civilized yet defenseless James Stewart must rely on John Wayne's rugged strength to prevail against sadistic outlaw Lee Marvin.

57. Man With a Movie Camera (1929), d. Dziga Vertov
Radical filmmakers of the '60s worshiped Vertov for his "agit-prop" newsreels, but this day-in-the-life-of-a-city documentary is his true legacy. Using the camera like a jazz instrument - tilting it every which way, even splitting the screen into kaleidoscopic parts - Vertov constructed a new reality out of workaday Moscow.

58. The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978), d. Rainer Werner Fassbinder
The brief '70s creative explosion known as the New German Cinema reached its molten core with this Fassbinder masterpiece. A simple love story told with dizzying complexity, it was meant as an allegory of Germany's economic miracle - and spiritual emptiness.

59. Mean Streets (1973), d. Martin Scorsese
Scorsese comes into his own. Baby gangsters Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro slowly drown in insular Little Italy - a location that the director, a native, understands only too well. Though the interiors were shot in Hollywood, the plucked-from-life characters evoked the streets of New York with unprecedented passion.

60. Medium Cool (1969), d. Haskell Wexler
How long can one watch before getting involved? That is the question posed by this deft piece of docu-fiction. Robert Forster plays an ambulance-chasing Chicago cameraman who discovers love and the relevance of protest at the 1968 Democratic Convention. The footage of the riots Wexler shot with his actors is chilling - enough to actually shake today's audiences out of political apathy.

61. Metropolis (1926), d. Fritz Lang
Lang's vision of the year 2000 retains its power even as we approach the millennium. One of the earliest films to pit the individual against totalitarian conformity, Metropolis, with its images of spired skyscrapers and synchronous lines of blue-collar drones, defined a new type of futuristic-nightmare art, the influence of which can be seen in such films as Brazil and Gattaca.

62. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974), d. Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
Using pastiche, anachronism, gore ("Look, you stupid bastard, you've got no arms left!"), even an appearance by (an animated) God - in the service of a raucous romp through (on) the King Arthur legend - England's Monty Python troupe brilliantly married the sensibilities of Tom Stoppard and Mel Brooks. Inspired anarchy for the U.K. - and everybody else.

63. My Brilliant Career (1979), d. Gillian Armstrong
This turn-of-the-century feminist fairy tale heralded the arrival not only of Australian cinema but of a major directing talent. With unusual assurance, Armstrong chronicles the struggle of a young writer (Judy Davis, in a star-making performance) who, much to the surprise of audiences, spurns her handsome lover (Sam Neill) in order to focus on her life's work.

64. Nashville (1975), d. Robert Altman
Perfecting the techniques he pioneered in M*A*S*H (overlapping dialogue; improvisational ensemble acting) and introducing a few new ones (actors singing their own, live-sync songs), Altman serves up a 159-minute pageant of sex, violence, music, religion, fame, and politics. There's never been anything quite like it: an epic of ironic Americana.

65. The Night of the Hunter (1955), d. Charles Laughton
Robert Mitchum was playing charismatic psychopaths before De Niro or Walken entered high school. As a murderous preacher who's convinced he's carrying out the Lord's wishes (he has the words LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles), Mitchum stands for all things evil. It was - and is - a shocking depiction of a man of God.

66. Night of the Living Dead (1968), d. George A. Romero
Transplanting the horror movie from the supernatural to the everyday, Romero's shoestring production conjures up flesh-chewing zombies in the boondocks outside Pittsburgh. Stark and bitter, it has served as a classy model for the countless gorefests that have followed.

67. Nosferatu (1922), d. F. W. Murnau
The crowning achievement of German Expressionism: a silent horror film that actually looks and feels like a nightmare. Max Schreck plays the Prince of Darkness with an unflinching ugliness: pointy, asymmetrical ears; morphine eyes; and skin that looks daubed with stale Oreo filling. The benchmark of bloodsuckers.

68. Olympia (1938), d. Leni Riefenstahl
This epic account of the 1936 Berlin Games gave Hitler's deadly myth of Aryan superiority an aesthetic gloss. It established Riefenstahl as one of the century's best documentarians and most morally compromised artists. And it stands as a stinging rebuke to the argument that beauty is truth.

69. Open City (1946), d. Roberto Rossellini
With Cinecitta studios in ruins after the war, Rossellini took to the streets of Rome - and invented neo-realist style. Using both actors and nonprofessionals, eschewing artificial lighting and sets, and telling the tragic tale of a Communist Resistance leader's vain attempt to elude the Nazis, Rossellini rewrote the rules of filmmaking.

70. Pandora's Box (1928), d. G. W. Pabst
Fed up with Hollywood, Louise Brooks landed in Pabst's silent German classic as Lulu, the floozy with a hard-driving lifestyle (sex, booze, and befriending Jack the Ripper) that leads to her downfall. Her luminous bad-girl persona still feels modern, as does her black-tressed bob, which continues to reappear in movies such as Something Wild and Pulp Fiction.

71. Peeping Tom (1960), d. Michael Powell
Taking Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) to its logical conclusion, Powell shows us that voyeurism (read: moviegoing) is more than just a turn-on: It has moral consequences. This utterly disturbing and honest horror movie puts you in the shoes of a psychotic camera nut who films women as he's killing them. Viewing will never seem innocent again.

72. Persona (1966), d. Ingmar Bergman
No wonder Bergman is Woody Allen's hero: He turns psychoanalysis into movies - literally. When a hospitalized actress (Liv Ullmann) breaks down, so does the film, sprockets and all. Later, when the personalities of Ullman and her nurse (Bibi Andersson) start to merge, their images are shockingly joined. Hypnotic and incisive, Persona is also Bergman's most self-consciously cinematic work.

73. The Piano (1993), d. Jane Campion
An idiosyncratic drama from Down Under that became an international sensation. Holly Hunter's mute Englishwoman arrives in nineteenth-century New Zealand with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and beloved piano; before long, her prearranged groom (Sam Neill) finds her making music with a local nativist (Harvey Keitel). The movie's startling eroticism is matched by its glittering score and lush cinematography.

74. Pink Flamingos (1972), d. John Waters
Bad taste is just like good taste, only gross. Or so Waters and his freaky cast (particularly Divine, his drag-queen muse) set out to prove, exploring the extremes of ick (eating dog poop, copulating with chickens) in utterly banal Baltimore. To some, Waters's epic first feature was just gross, but others saw inventiveness, hilarity, and the zeal of a pioneer.

75. Raising Arizona (1987), d. Joel Coen
This sophomore effort by the Coen brothers (Ethan was cowriter-producer) was persuasive evidence of their talents. Shot by Barry Sonnenfeld, it's an offbeat screwball cartoon with a skillful cast (Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman) that milks laughs from such unexpected gags as a baby flying off a car's roof.

76. Rashomon (1950), d. Akira Kurosawa
When a Japanese warrior is killed, the police interrogate witnesses, only to find in each retelling of the event that there is no one true version. The first major postwar Japanese film to be released stateside, Rashomon emerged as the definitive cinematic treatment of point of view.

77. Repulsion (1965), d. Roman Polanski
The undercurrent of most horror movies is the fear of sex. Polanski's hat trick was to make that fear explicit - yet even more seductively terrifying. Slowly, inevitably, he creates madness out of everyday life - in this case, that of a quiet young manicurist (Catherine Deneuve) who, repelled by intimacy, blossoms into a delusional murderer.

78. Reservoir Dogs (1992), d. Quentin Tarantino
Imagine Luca Brasi and Tony Montana debating Madonna's early work over coffee...and you'll have a rough idea of how Tarantino turned the gangster movie upside down. The film's nonlinear retelling of a botched robbery - and its ultracool, pop-culture-spouting characters - connects with the viewer on a magically clever artificial plane.

79. Ride the High Country (1962), d. Sam Peckinpah
Before Peckinpah could let loose with The Wild Bunch (1969), he had to bury the Old West for good. Here, the cowboys and Indians and endless panoramas of Ford and Hawks are gone, replaced by the colorful memories exhanged between Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott's aging former lawmen as they transport gold.

80. The Road Warrior (1981), d. George Miller
Refining and expanding his Mad Max concept (brave loner outwits thugs in a feral future outback), Miller came up with the best non-American action-adventure movie ever made. Its relentless narrative thrust and stylish barbarity anticipates Cameron's The Terminator (1984). Mel Gibson - still padded with baby fat - first demonstrated here the mythic lethal weapon he could be.

81. The Rules of the Game (1939), d. Jean Renoir
A love roundelay involving an aviator, his dream girl, and her rich husband (among others), Rules is Renoir's masterpiece. What's so great about it? The fluid, deep-focus photography; the script's heady mix of humor, pathos, and tragedy; and most of all, the sense that we are witnessing the boundaries of an art form becoming limitless.

82. Scarface (1932), d. Howard Hawks
"Screw the Hays office," producer Howard Hughes wrote to Hawks. "Start the picture, and make it as realistic, as exciting, as grisly as possible." Hawks did exactly that, recruiting theater star Paul Muni to play a Chicago gangster closely modeled on Al Capone. Six decades later, Scarface still explodes on the screen with bold, cynical brutality.

83. Scarface (1983), d. Brian De Palma
An operatic exercise in excess, De Palma and screenwriter Oliver Stone's epic remake of the Hawks classic is almost twice as long, more opulently produced, and far more graphically violent. It's also the source for much of '90s gangsta style. As a Cuban drug kingpin in Miami, Al Pacino gives a deliriously crude, over-the-top performance.

84. Seconds (1966), d. John Frankenheimer
A stunningly inventive mix of Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling, and John Cheever, Seconds offers one suburban banker the chance to be "reborn" as the artist he'd always dreamed of being. Frankenheimer borrowed '50s paranoid sci-fi style to create a personal, instead of political, allegory.

85. The Seven Samurai (1954), d. Akira Kurosawa
See the audience squirm in anticipation of another subtitled, black-and-white yawner. Now see Toshiro Mifune. See the swordplay. See the audience enthralled: They now know that it's not just white men who can stage action with panache. See white men copy Kurosawa - to lesser effect.

86. Shaft (1971), d. Gordon Parks
Ushering in the era of blaxploitation films, Richard Roundtree's Shaft was a black riff on Bogart: a hip private dick as adept at shutting down black or white criminals as he is at seducing black or white women. Superfly is a drug dealer; Black Caesar, a cold-blooded gangster; but Shaft is a bad mother on the right side of the law.

87. Sherlock, Jr. (1924), d. Buster Keaton
Buster, the stone-faced projectionist, dreams of stepping inside the movies he projects. Keaton, the director, then plays with film language, orchestrating a mind-bending array of acrobatic, screen-within-the-screen stunts. All of this is unpretentiously designed to keep you laughing, entertained, and involved. Hail, Buster. Hail, Keaton. And hail, and again.

88. Shock Corridor (1963), d. Sam Fuller
An ambitious reporter fakes mental illness to gain entry into an insane asylum; there he meets a black patient who's busily organizing a K.K.K. chapter, and a group of women who ravage him in the "nympho ward." Fuller's still-provocative shock tactics pushed the crime drama onto a higher plane - one where satire and exploitation turn film noir pitch black.

89. Stranger Than Paradise (1984), d. Jim Jarmusch
Indie elder statesman Jarmusch confounded and delighted audiences with this simple-on-the-surface gem. Shot in black and white, Stranger consists of a series of static long shots, in which characters carry on their sparse dialogue. It's a triumph of style over substance, much imitated but rarely duplicated.

90. Sullivan's Travels (1941), d. Preston Sturges
Sturges slaps Hollywood silly. His sly, Mobius strip of a comedy offers this message: Message movies are self-righteous pap. A rich, knee-jerk Hollywood director (Joel McCrea) goes undercover as a hobo to research Depression woes and winds up in prison, howling at a Mickey Mouse cartoon.

91. Sweet Smell of Success (1957), d. Alexander Mackendrick
With its sharp dialogue, jazzy score, and compassionless characters, Sweet Smell revealed the smarmy underbelly of urban life as the movies never had. Tony Curtis is a small-time flack trying to squirm his way out of the grip of a tyrannical columnist (Burt Lancaster). Little hope is offered by the film's uncompromising ending.

92. Swept Away By An Unusual Destiny In the Blue Sea of August (1975), d. Lina Wertmuller
A wealthy Northern Italian woman is stranded on a deserted island with her coarse Sicilian servant. But servant soon becomes master - and our heroine soon finds rapture. Wertmuller's audaciously ribald brand of feminism set an example for Jane Campion and Kathryn Bigelow to leave PC on the cutting-room floor.

93. The Terminator (1984), d. James Cameron
Forget Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): Instead of a glossy, Spielbergian veneer, Cameron gave B-movie adventure a rough-edged, high-tech feel. Essentially one long chase sequence (and a proto-video game), the movie, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a lethal robot from the future, has the ruthless simplicity of high-speed haiku.

94. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), d. Tobe Hooper
A few salient facts about this low-budget horror classic: 1) it's considerably less gory than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; 2) its depraved humor is no less funny for being so thoroughly, well, depraved; 3) the fact that the characters that are killed off are so unlikable in no way diminishes the horror of their deaths; 4) however bad its influence, the film itself is truly great.

95. The Thin Blue Line (1988), d. Errol Morris
An eerily confident loser on death row named Randall Adams proclaims his innocence in the murder of a Dallas cop - and convinces. (Adams was later retried and freed.) In this documentary mix of reenactments and interviews with shady Texans, Morris comes closer than any current filmmaker to capturing the essence of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

96. Touch Of Evil (1958), d. Orson Welles
Welles's last Hollywood film, a south-of-the-border cop melodrama, is remarkably idiosyncratic, from its legendary opening crane shot to the strangely angled setups and crosscut plotlines. Luckily, the director's preferred version of the film has been assembled for fall 1998 re-release.

97. Trainspotting (1996), d. Danny Boyle
Tracking a pack of Scottish junkies through the eyes of a conscientious addict (Ewan McGregor), this delightfully scatological romp blends tragic illness, goofy hallucinations, and violent crime into a surprisingly upbeat worldview. It hit the somnolent British movie scene like a 10cc shot of speed.

98. 28-Up (1985), d. Michael Apted
Imagine a less intrusive version of The Truman Show: A documentarian films British children, revisiting them once every seven years and producing a group of features (starting with 7-Up) about their lives. A fascinating study of development, 28-Up was also the first to realize the full potential of this groundbreaking series.

99. Walkabout (1971), d. Nicolas Roeg
An Australian teen (Jenny Agutter) and her little brother, abandoned in the outback, are saved by an aboriginal boy and find paradise in the wilderness. Though the film glorifies the natural world, Roeg's ultrahip, rapid-fire cutting owes more to Godard than to Thoreau.

100. Zero For Conduct (1933), d. Jean Vigo
This 44-minute fantasy about a boarding-school revolt gorgeously blends surrealism (a book featuring animated pictures) and satire (the school inspector is a bearded midget). Vigo foresaw the French New Wave and molded a century's worth of upstart schoolboy sagas.
 

Facts and Commentary About This List:

  • The 100 films on their list, presented in alphabetical order, were chosen by the magazine's editors for their startling ideas and images. Some were from foreign lands or scorned genres; many were made with tiny budgets; but all are great, and none were recognized by the AFI.
  • Foreign-language films in the list included: Otomo's animated Akira (1988), Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925), Bunuel's Belle de Jour (1967), Melville's Bob Le Flambeur (1955), Godard's Breathless (1959), Bunuel's and Dali's Un Chien Andalou (1929), Bertolucci's The Conformist (1971), Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963), Franju's Eyes Without a Face (1959), Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959), Truffaut's Jules et Jim (1962), Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972), Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera (1929), Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), Lang's Metropolis (1927), My Brilliant Career (1979), Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia (1938), Rossellini's Open City (1946), Pabst's Pandora's Box (1928), Bergman's Persona (1966), Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950), Renoir's The Rules of the Game (1939), Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai (1954), Wertmuller's Swept Away By An Unusual Destiny In the Blue Sea of August (1975), and Jean Vigo's Zero For Conduct (1933).
  • Silent films included: Battleship Potemkin (1925), Un Chien Andalou (1928), King Vidor's The Crowd (1928), Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera (1929), Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), Murnau's Nosferatu (1922), Pabst's Pandora's Box (1928), and Buster Keaton's Sherlock, Jr. (1924).
  • Animated films included Akira (1988) and Disney's Dumbo (1941).
  • Independent films, porn films, edgy films, or underground films included: Gerard Damiano's The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989), Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Cassavetes' Faces (1968), Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), Paul Morrissey's Flesh (1968), Lindsay Anderson's If.... (1968), Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men (1997), Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool (1969), Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), John Waters' Pink Flamingos (1972), Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992), Gordon Parks' Shaft (1971), Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor (1963), Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line (1988), and Michael Apted's 28-Up (1985).
  • Comedy films included: Airplane! (1980), The Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers (1930), Woody Allen's Bananas (1971), Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles (1974), Amy Heckerling's Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Frank Tashlin's The Girl Can't Help It (1956), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974), the Coens' Raising Arizona (1987), Keaton's Sherlock, Jr. (1924), and Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels (1941).
  • Horror films included: Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Tourneur's Cat People (1942), Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (1988), Tod Browning's Freaks (1932), John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968), Nosferatu (1922), Polanski's Repulsion (1965), Frankenheimer's Seconds (1966), and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
  • Western films included: Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar (1954), John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country (1962).
  • Other notable films included: Terence Malick's Badlands (1973), Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966), David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986), Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985), Coppola's The Conversation (1974), Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Edgar Ulmer's B-noir Detour (1945), Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971), Don't Look Back (1967), Richard Lester's A Hard Day's Night (1965), The Harder They Come (1973), Rossen's The Hustler (1961), John Woo's The Killer (1989), Kubrick's The Killing (1956), Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (1971), Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973), Altman's Nashville (1975), Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955), Jane Campion's The Piano (1993), The Road Warrior (1981), Howard Hawks' Scarface (1932) and De Palma's Scarface (1983), Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success (1957), James Cameron's The Terminator (1984), Orson Welles' Touch Of Evil (1958), Danny Boyle's Trainspotting (1996), and Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout (1971).

Previous Page