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Roger Ebert’s Essential Films

Ok, so after yesterdays’ list of book-to-film adaptations, here’s another long list of movies. This time, it’s Jim Emerson’s 101 Essential Films. Emerson writes:

This isn’t like Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies” series. It’s not my idea of The Best Movies Ever Made (that would be a different list, though there’s some overlap here), or that they were my favorites or the most important or influential films, but that they were the movies you just kind of figure everybody ought to have seen in order to have any sort of informed discussion about movies. They’re the common cultural currency of our time, the basic cinematic texts that everyone should know, at minimum, to be somewhat “movie-literate.”

So, I looked up the list and here it is, with only a couple changes. (I added “Fight Club” because it’s essential and it hadn’t been released at the time I made the list.) I remember I tried to represent key examples of all important genres, movie stars, directors, historical movements, and so on — like an overview of the 20th century in 101 movies. Yes, there are many more I’d like to add, but remember, this is only a primer. How many have you seen?

“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) Stanley Kubrick
“The 400 Blows” (1959) Francois Truffaut
“8 1/2” (1963) Federico Fellini
“Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (1972) Werner Herzog
“Alien” (1979) Ridley Scott
“All About Eve” (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
“Annie Hall” (1977) Woody Allen
“Bambi” (1942) Disney
“Battleship Potemkin” (1925) Sergei Eisenstein
“The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) William Wyler
“The Big Red One” (1980) Samuel Fuller
“The Bicycle Thief” (1949) Vittorio De Sica
“The Big Sleep” (1946) Howard Hawks
“Blade Runner” (1982) Ridley Scott
“Blowup” (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni
“Blue Velvet” (1986) David Lynch
“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) Arthur Penn
“Breathless” (1959 Jean-Luc Godard
“Bringing Up Baby” (1938) Howard Hawks
“Carrie” (1975) Brian DePalma
“Casablanca” (1942) Michael Curtiz
“Un Chien Andalou” (1928) Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali
“Children of Paradise” / “Les Enfants du Paradis” (1945) Marcel Carne
“Chinatown” (1974) Roman Polanski
“Citizen Kane” (1941) Orson Welles
“A Clockwork Orange” (1971) Stanley Kubrick
“The Crying Game” (1992) Neil Jordan
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951) Robert Wise
“Days of Heaven” (1978) Terence Malick
“Dirty Harry” (1971) Don Siegel
“The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972) Luis Bunuel
“Do the Right Thing” (1989) Spike Lee
“La Dolce Vita” (1960) Federico Fellini
“Double Indemnity” (1944) Billy Wilder
“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964) Stanley Kubrick
“Duck Soup” (1933) Leo McCarey
“E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) Steven Spielberg
“Easy Rider” (1969) Dennis Hopper
“The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) Irvin Kershner
“The Exorcist” (1973) William Friedkin
“Fargo” (1995) Joel & Ethan Coen
“Fight Club” (1999) David Fincher
“Frankenstein” (1931) James Whale
“The General” (1927) Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
“The Godfather,” “The Godfather, Part II” (1972, 1974) Francis Ford Coppola
“Gone With the Wind” (1939) Victor Fleming
“GoodFellas” (1990) Martin Scorsese
“The Graduate” (1967) Mike Nichols
“Halloween” (1978) John Carpenter
“A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) Richard Lester
“Intolerance” (1916) D.W. Griffith
“It’s A Gift” (1934) Norman Z. McLeod
“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) Frank Capra
“Jaws” (1975) Steven Spielberg
“The Lady Eve” (1941) Preston Sturges
“Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) David Lean
“M” (1931) Fritz Lang
“Mad Max 2” / “The Road Warrior” (1981) George Miller
“The Maltese Falcon” (1941) John Huston
“The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) John Frankenheimer
“Metropolis” (1926) Fritz Lang
“Modern Times” (1936) Charles Chaplin
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975) Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam
“Nashville” (1975) Robert Altman
“The Night of the Hunter” (1955) Charles Laughton
“Night of the Living Dead” (1968) George Romero
“North by Northwest” (1959) Alfred Hitchcock
“Nosferatu” (1922) F.W. Murnau
“On the Waterfront” (1954) Elia Kazan
“Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) Sergio Leone
“Out of the Past” (1947) Jacques Tournier
“Persona” (1966) Ingmar Bergman
“Pink Flamingos” (1972) John Waters
“Psycho” (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
“Pulp Fiction” (1994) Quentin Tarantino
“Rashomon” (1950) Akira Kurosawa
“Rear Window” (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
“Rebel Without a Cause” (1955) Nicholas Ray
“Red River” (1948) Howard Hawks
“Repulsion” (1965) Roman Polanski
“Rules of the Game” (1939) Jean Renoir
“Scarface” (1932) Howard Hawks
“The Scarlet Empress” (1934) Josef von Sternberg
“Schindler’s List” (1993) Steven Spielberg
“The Searchers” (1956) John Ford
“The Seven Samurai” (1954) Akira Kurosawa
“Singin’ in the Rain” (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
“Some Like It Hot” (1959) Billy Wilder
“A Star Is Born” (1954) George Cukor
“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) Elia Kazan
“Sunset Boulevard” (1950) Billy Wilder
“Taxi Driver” (1976) Martin Scorsese
“The Third Man” (1949) Carol Reed
“Tokyo Story” (1953) Yasujiro Ozu
“Touch of Evil” (1958) Orson Welles
“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948) John Huston
“Trouble in Paradise” (1932) Ernst Lubitsch
“Vertigo” (1958) Alfred Hitchcock
“West Side Story” (1961) Jerome Robbins/Robert Wise
“The Wild Bunch” (1969) Sam Peckinpah
“The Wizard of Oz” (1939) Victor Fleming

EDIT: I incorrectly attributed this list and the above paragraph to Roger Ebert, as it was on his website and I wasn’t reading carefully. I apologize to Mr. Emerson for the confusion.

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11 Comments

  1. Hmm … almost nothing that I’ve seen that you haven’t, amazingly.

    I do suggest you catch “Double Indemnity” and “The Third Man” — both films noirs with femmes fatales. The first, with Fred MacMurray(!) as the protagonist who falls from grace. Not your “My Three Sons” type of character. The second has Orson Welles as a slimy operator who ran a drug-cutting scheme in post-war Berlin.

    • “The Third Man” has been on my list for years, I’ve just never managed to get around to it. There’s two or three films on the list that I thought to myself “You know, I *really* need to see that one.

      When we first got cable in the late 1980s, I watched a lot of AMC, which is how I caught most of the “classic” films on the list.

  2. The list should really have included Birth of a Nation. Yes, its message is horrible, but you don’t know movie history if you don’t know about it.

  3. I’ve seen 40, including a few you haven’t. I would highly recommend Jaws and The Third Man above the rest.

    • I’ve seen bits of Jaws. Not enough to claim I’d seen it, but enough to let me know I wouldn’t enjoy it.

      The Third Man has long been on my list of “movies to get around to seeing.”

  4. Actually, the list comes from Jim Emerson, who edits the rogerebert.com website and has his own blog, Scanners, there.

  5. Oh all the “artsy” films I’ve seen that you haven’t I can highly reccomend “Blow Up” really, it’s a neat plot and intersting as well as wonderful cinematography. 🙂

    Oh and you bum! I just HAD to do this of course so it’s in my blog as well. 🙂

  6. I am surprised the original Jazz Singer didn’t show up. Probably for similar reasons to Birth of a Nation; Al Jolson does do a blackface turn in the last scene.

  7. Get thee to “The Lady Eve” instanter. Henry Fonda, Eugene Pallette, William Demarest, Barbara Stanwyck, etc.--wonderfully funny Billy Wilder!

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