question of the day: Of all the films you’ve ever seen, which one would you consider the greatest?

Vertigo poster

The British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound magazine once-per-decade poll to determine the greatest films ever is back. From BBC News:

Citizen Kane has been its top pick for the last 50 years.

This time 846 distributors, critics and academics championed Vertigo, about a retired cop with a fear of heights.

Starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, Vertigo beat Citizen Kane by 34 votes.

The entire top 10:

1. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
3. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
4. La Regle du Jeu (Renoir, 1939)
5. Sunrise: a Song for Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
7. The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
8. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1927)
10. 8 1/2 (Fellini, 1963)
I haven’t seen most of the films on that list — though I may make it a project to watch them and review them, you know, in my spare time — so it’s hard for me to have any opinion about the list. But it’s a good jumping-off point for thinking and talking about “great” films.

Of all the films you’ve ever seen, which one would you consider the greatest? I don’t mean films that other people would consider great, either. I want to know what you think makes a movie great, and how your personal greatest film impacted your determination of what makes for great cinema in general. I mean, for example, if a movie scared you so much that it still haunts you years later, does that mean you’ve decided that a “great” film must be unshakingly memorable?

My “greatest” film is probably Casablanca. It didn’t shape my early ideas about great movies, because I didn’t see it until I was an adult. But it encompasses many aspects that make for the most engrossing stories for me: morality that isn’t black-and-white; sophisticated humor; grownup characters making tough grownup choices; vivid characters whom you wish you could meet in real life. I don’t think a “great” film needs to be old, but I do have a sense that a great film is one that endures and remains relevant long after it was made, so of course it’s easily to make that determination about a film that has already endured, rather than one that we merely suspect may endure. Seventy years on, Casablanca, its now historical setting aside, does not feel dated: the people and how they deal with their situation feels completely modern.

Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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