The Class of 2015: My Favorite Movies of All Time

Way Down East

Way Down East

Back in the summer of 2010, I saw my thousandth movie. It had taken more than twenty-two years. At some point in the next couple months, I’ll double that. In other words, I’ve watched three or four new-to-me movies every week for the last five years. This doesn’t sound that crazy (to me, at least) when I look at the numbers, but it’s felt like a sprint the whole way. When I was a teenager, I thought of myself as an expert on movies, on the basis of having seen the AFI Top 100 and little else. The paradox is that the more I see, the more I become aware of what I still need to see. I’m kind of in a no-man’s-land right now. I’ve encountered people on the internet who are roughly my age and seem to have seen a thousand movies more than I have. Then there are non-cinephile friends and family who wonder how I have as much time on my hands as I do. The push and pull can be tiring, but every day takes me a bit closer to having the first clue what I’m talking about.

Tess

Tess

It’s June again, my movie-watching New Year, when I take stock of what I saw in the last twelve months and make adjustments to my master list of favorite movies. That list, consisting of movies that have reached the “four stars or better” plateau, is now 556 strong. It’s a house on stilts, and the stilts just keep getting longer. I don’t think I’ve been profligate in bestowing approval on films, but it’s probably time to recognize that, while I like four-star movies a lot, my “favorites” are the next level up. Sometimes moving the goalposts is a good thing. I will post the top 100 on this blog and the top 300 on Letterboxd. As for the other 256, I don’t have to care so much about how I rank them now, which is a liberating feeling. Still, as per tradition, I’m using this post to share all the movies that are making their debut on the master list this year, as well as give one final bow to any movies that have dropped out.

Two sustained endeavors define the last year for me. First was my French New Wave retrospective back in November, which contributed four out of the forty-five additions to the list, two in the top five. Second was a much more extensive but much less structured project: a romp through the Roaring Twenties to complete Top 10 lists for each year. As of one year ago, I’d seen 35 movies from that decade. Now I’ve seen 119, with most of those viewings happening since the start of 2015. Eleven silent movies now join the list. In the coming year, I’m hoping to fill in some gaps for current-day world cinema, of which I have many.

Safe

Safe

Looking over the new additions to the list, I get a sense of what kinds of movies strike a chord with me these days. The picture is a little on the depressing side. The films I’ve chosen tend toward the somber, the oneiric, and the gently frightening. There’s one comedy, though. It’s about the zombie apocalypse. I’m not sure what all this says about my current state of mind. My twenties have been disappointing in some ways, and the last few years in particular have been marked by one minor physical ailment after another. Maybe hope and light will get a better foothold on my imagination in the years to come, but for now I have a soft spot for films that embrace the weirdness of existence. The number one addition is also the only film to jump into the top 100 this year. That stodgy group remains almost identical to last year’s. The most notable change is that now my all-time top 10 includes five movies from the 1990’s — i.e. far too many, i.e. a comical bottleneck of movies that came out when I was a kid. It might take a long process for a truly eclectic top 10 to emerge (as the goalposts continue to move). I’m very much looking forward to it.

Under the Skin

Under the Skin

So now, ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to present the Class of 2015.

Entries Exits
551. Coeur fidèle (1923) 112. The Swan Princess (1994)
548. Frank (2014)
544. The King of Kings (1927)
527. The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
512. Ministry of Fear (1944)
508. The Wedding March (1928)
507. Autumn Sonata (1978)
506. Certified Copy (2010)
498. The Fountain (2006)
497. Hard Boiled (1992)
492. Miss Lulu Bett (1921)
487. Bird People (2014)
486. The Big Parade (1925)
483. Sisters (1973)
478. Strange Days (1995)
473. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
468. The Circus (1928)
466. The Wildcat (1921)
465. Night Moves (2013)
455. Inherent Vice (2014)
448. Greed (1924)
435. A Page of Madness (1926)
428. Taste of Cherry (1997)
425. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
424. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
417. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
416. Gone Girl (2014)
410. Way Down East (1920)
408. Scarface (1932)
405. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
395. Orpheus (1950)
386. GoodFellas (1990)
382. Les Bonnes Femmes (1960)
380. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
373. Boyhood (2014)
366. Mystery Train (1989)
362. Safe (1995)
320. A Separation (2011)
318. The Pirate (1948)
271. Interstellar (2014)
265. Tess (1979)
253. Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
245. Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)
244. Don’t Look Now (1973)
62. Under the Skin (2013)

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