Friday, 8 August 2014

A film from every year

People always ask me about my favourite films, sometimes in general and sometimes with specifications (best Japanese film, best film with Myrna Loy) and I answer as best as I can. I also like to make lists, as many do. Some frown upon lists, finding them demeaning and distortionous.* And they can be, if done badly or taken too seriously. But as a service to anybody who wonders about my favourites and as an excuse to make lists, they will be a more regular feature on Fredrik on Film from now on. Different kinds of lists, with different aims.

Today's list is chronological, featuring my favourite feature fiction films from (almost) every year since 1913. Before 1913 films were rarely of any great length, and the few that exists I have not seen. Neither have I seen any from 1914, as far as I can recall. (Unfortunately I have seen very few films from the 1910s in general, but those I have seen have in general been good, not least those by Cecil B. DeMille, who is undoubtedly one of the best filmmakers of that decade. Perhaps the best, together with Victor Sjöström.) But here is the list in full. I have tried to choose only one for every year but accept my apologies for those years when it was impossible to do so. It was especially hard in those magical years after World War 2.**

1913 Ingeborg Holm (Victor Sjöström)
1914 ?
1915 Regeneration (Raoul Walsh)
1916 Intolerance (D.W. Griffith)
1917 Thomas Graal’s Best Film (Mauritz Stiller)
1918 Old Wives for New (Cecil B. DeMille)
1919 Don’t Change Your Husband (Cecil B. DeMille)
1920 Erotikon (Mauritz Stiller)
1921 Tol’able David (Henry King)
1922 Phantom (F.W. Murnau) Nosferatu (Murnau)
1923 A Woman in Paris (Charlie Chaplin)
1924 Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton)
1925 Tartuffe (F.W. Murnau)
1926 Faust (F.W. Murnau)
1927 Sunrise (F.W. Murnau)
1928 The Last Command (Josef von Sternberg) A Girl in Every Port (Howard Hawks)
1929 Asphalt (Joe May)
1930 The Big Trail (Raoul Walsh)
1931 M (Fritz Lang)
1932 Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg)
1933 Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch)
1934 Twentieth Century (Howard Hawks)
1935 Hands Across the Table (Mitchell Leisen) Toni (Jean Renoir)
1936 Partie de campagne (Jean Renoir)
1937 The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey) La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir)
1938 Holiday (George Cukor)
1939 Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir)
1940 His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks)
1941 Stormy Waters aka Remorques (Jean Grémillon)
1942 In Which We Serve (David Lean) Cat People (Jacques Tourneur)
1943 Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock) Changing Trains (Hasse Ekman)
1944 Laura (Otto Preminger)
1945 Brief Encounter (David Lean)
1946 My Darling Clementine (John Ford) The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks)
1947 Odd Man Out (Carol Reed) Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur) Black Narcissus (Powell & Pressburger)
1948 The Fallen Idol (Carol Reed) Letter From an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls) Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky) The Red Shoes (Powell & Pressburger) Rope (Alfred Hitchcock)

The Fallen Idol, with a for Reed typical angle.

1949 The Reckless Moment (Max Ophüls) Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis) The Third Man (Carol Reed) Border Incident (Anthony Mann)
1950 All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
1951 An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli) Bullfighter and the Lady (Budd Boetticher) Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock) The Browning Version (Anthony Asquith)
1952 Casque d’Or (Jacques Becker)
1953 Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini)
1954 A Star is Born (George Cukor)
1955 The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis)
1956 A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson)
1957 Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick) Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa)
1958 Man of the West (Anthony Mann) Tarnished Angels (Douglas Sirk)
1959 Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks) The 400 Blows (François Truffaut)
1960 Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard) The Apartment (Billy Wilder)
1961 The Hustler (Robert Rossen)
1962 Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean)
1963 The Leopard (Luchino Visconti)
1964 Lilith (Robert Rossen) The Train (John Frankenheimer)
1965 Bunny Lake is Missing (Otto Preminger)
1966 Persona (Ingmar Bergman) Nayak (Satyajit Ray)
1967 Le samourai (Jean-Pierre Melville)
1968 Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone)
1969 The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah)
1970 The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci) Wild Child (François Truffaut) The Adversary (Satyajit Ray)
1971 A Touch of Zen (Hu King)
1972 Junior Bonner (Sam Peckinpah)
1973 The Day of the Jackal (Fred Zinnemann)
1974 Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette)
1975 Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet)
1976 Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese)
1977 Annie Hall (Woody Allen)
1978 Tree of Wooden Clogs (Ermanno Olmi) Fedora (Billy Wilder)
1979 Alien (Ridley Scott) Manhattan (Woody Allen)
1980 Melvin and Howard (Jonathan Demme) Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese)
1981 Southern Comfort (Walter Hill) Thief (Michael Mann) Blind Chance (Krzysztof Kieslowski)

Blind Chance

1982 The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese)
1983 The Big Chill (Lawrence Kasdan) Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola)
1984 A Passage to India (David Lean)
1985 A Room With a View (James Ivory)
1986 Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen)
1987 Hope and Glory (John Boorman)
1988 Chocolat (Claire Denis)
1989 The Unbelievable Truth (Hal Hartley)
1990 Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami) Trust (Hal Hartley)
1991 La belle noiseuse (Jacques Rivette) The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
1992 Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood) In the Soup (Alexandre Rockwell)
1993 Remains of the Day (James Ivory)
1994 Chungking Express (Wong Kar-Wai) Quiz Show (Robert Redford)
1995 Heat (Michael Mann)
1996 Nénette et Boni (Claire Denis) Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson)
1997 Paper Airplanes (Farhad Mehranfar)
1998 After Life (Hirokazu Koreeda)
1999 Three Kings (David O. Russell)
2000 In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai)
2001 Delbaran (Abolfazl Jalili) Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
2002 10 (Abbas Kiarostami)
2003 Café Lumière (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
2004 Collateral (Michael Mann)
2005 Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney)
2006 Still Life (Jia Zhangke) I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (Park Chan-wook)
2007 Alexandra (Alexander Sokurov)
2008 The Song of Sparrows (Majid Majidi)
2009 A Serious Man (Ethan & Joel Coen)
2010 Last Night (Massy Tadjedin)

It is perhaps worth pointing out that all films on the list are not equally good. There are many films not listed that are much better than some of those above, that is inevitable. And consequently some directors, such as Raoul Walsh and Wes Anderson, are not represented with the films I think are their best. And before you start writing an angry comment accusing me of dimwitted philistinism because your favourite film is missing, please remember that it is possible I have not seen it, or that it stands as a very close second on its year.

A final note: Murnau's reign in the 1920s is remarkable. He was some artist.


*Why is not distortionous a word?
** This was harder than I thought. I got a few films attached to the wrong year and has made adjustments, and some films have been replaced. On some films I have noticed that my sources give different years, such as Gun Crazy (1949 and 1950), Journey to Italy (1953 and 1954) and The Adversary (1970 and 1972). I do not know why that is, but I have had to choose which year to use. Blind Chance was made in 1981 but the Polish censors kept it from being released until 1987.


  1. Great post! As you surely know I love lists, but I never take them seriously.

    I will with your kind blessing create a post on my blog with my own list. It will be a list that I need to work on for some time I think, and there will be holes for some years...

    "Distortionous"? I thought it was a word. I have alsways used it anyways! LOL.

    A note: ususally Alien is seen as a 1979 film... I noticed it at once, it would the first film on my list, my anchor, my lighthouse in the darkness...

    1. You're right of course, I accidentally paired it up with the wrong Allen.

  2. Nice list with a lot of good choices, but also a lot I haven't seen. A list like this is very personal so I won't say I agree or disagree with this and that. Personally I haven't seen a whole lot before the 1930's (if you exclude short films), about 20 or so. So I'd start a list like this from the 1930's.

    I agree that a list like this is difficult to put together, considering there can be several great films in a year that would all be the best in another, weaker year.

    My favorite films may not always be the ones that are the best. So far, I've put my favorite films between 1987-2013 here (with a top 10 list from that year by clicking the pictures).

    1. Making lists is always hard! But that's part of the challenge and the fun.

  3. Erotikon, huh? That is probably one of the earliest films I have seen and I didn't get it (enough to like it, that is). The story-telling was much too unfamiliar for me.

    But an excellent list to use as a ticking-off-standard -- thanks!

    1. When I began watching and studying films, as a teenager, early films were not for me, and it took quite a while before I got used to them. But the more I saw the easier I got until I suddenly felt that there was no longer any difference really.