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Thursday, 18 May 2000

The IMDb Top 250 Project

Back in 2004 I decided to finally get on with something I've meant to do for many years: to watch and review all of the films listed in the Top 250 at the Internet Movie Database, from The Godfather at the top to Judgment at Nuremberg at the bottom.

After all, I've always thought of myself as a film fan. I've watched films for as long as I can remember, a lot of films and a wide variety of them too. I knew a lot about them and the people who made them. Even as a youth I bought film magazines, albeit generally specialist ones, and scouted for VHS bargains at flea markets and video rental stores; once DVDs came out I started buying them the way some people buy food. I've also been following the invaluable resource that is IMDb ever since I could download the entire thing from a friend's university account onto fourteen floppy disks.

So I'm a film fan. Yet I could never get past the fact that I hadn't seen three out of every five of the movies on the IMDb Top 250 list, a list that contains what are supposed to be the greatest films ever made. How could that be? Well the one and only reason was unavoidable: maybe I wasn't the expert I thought I was. Maybe I merely knew a lot about a little and there was a lot more out there about which I knew nothing at all. That was certainly backed up when I did some analysis. I had huge gaps, glaring gaps that suggested that I was really more of a cinematic novice than an experienced viewer, merely one with a few areas of expertise.

Partly that's because rather than seeing the latest Oscar winner, it's always been far more likely that I'd be watching a cult movie, an obscure movie or a really bad movie. If life was really good, it would satisfy all three of those descriptions at once. I'd delved quite a way into genres with cryptic names like kaiju, giallo or anime. I had something of a background with Hammer horrors, spaghetti westerns and Hong Kong bullet ballets; fifties sci-fi B-movies, seventies exploitation flicks and all the offbeat stuff that Alex Cox chose to air on Moviedrome on BBC2. You could say that I shared a lot of my taste with industry luminaries like Jonathan Ross or Quentin Tarantino. The big difference is that they've seen the famous stuff too.

To the best of my memory, I hadn't seen a single film by Akira Kurosawa or Ingmar Bergman, Frank Capra or Preston Sturges, D W Griffith or Sidney Lumet. While I knew who they were by sight, I'd never seen Gable or Garbo in a movie, let alone Garfield or Gilbert, Gardner or Gish. Other recognisable names I'd only seen in a single film, people like Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Jack Lemmon, Bette Davis and Woody Allen. That can't be good. I even remembered back to a trip to Universal Studios in Florida where I thoroughly enjoyed an exhibit dedicated to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, without recognising most of what was on show. When I counted up what I'd seen of his work I could only get to four and one of them was an obscurity.

So in 2004 I began working through the whole IMDb Top 250, watching the films, reading up on them and reviewing them, with vague aims of publishing the results in book form as a travelogue through the history of cinema by someone who thought he was an expert but quickly found that he wasn't. However the list could only ever be a starting point, albeit a solid one, and I had to track sideways to the actors and filmmakers I discovered, learning more about them and about cinema in general through experiencing their work. That decision led to a minor blog on my main website and then to this far more substantial blog and a couple of million words. It also led to a journey I thought might take a couple of years taking no less than seven instead. Here are the results, posted five reviews a week through 2010 and with subsequent followup to address the changes since I began.

I hope your journey is as fascinating, as enjoyable and as eye opening as mine.

This Week's Five Reviews (Week 19: 19 May 2010)
# Title Year H D Director(s) IMDb
69 Modern Times 1936 6 6 Charlie Chaplin IMDB
95 The Seventh Seal 1957 7 7 Ingmar Bergman IMDB
109 Run Lola Run 1998 7 6 Tom Tykwer IMDB
191 Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror 1922 6 6 F W Murnau IMDB
214 Rain Man 1988 6 6 Barry Levinson IMDB

Here's the static list I've worked from as I grabbed it in late 2004, with links to my reviews, IMDb pages and ratings from my better half and I. I'll post five more every Wednesday night through the year. I'll follow up in 2011 with films that charted after I grabbed this list.

Here's a link to the current IMDb Top 250 List, which is an everchanging thing.

Rating System
1 - Abysmal | 2 - Bad | 3 - Poor | 4 - OK | 5 - Good | 6 - Excellent | 7 - Classic

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The IMDb Top 250 List (late 2004)
# Title Year H D Director(s) IMDb
1 The Godfather 1972 Francis Ford Coppola IMDb
2 The Shawshank Redemption 1994 Frank Darabont IMDb
3 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003 Peter Jackson IMDb
4 The Godfather: Part II 1974 Francis Ford Coppola IMDb
5 The Seven Samurai 1954 7 7 Akira Kurosawa IMDb
6 Schindler's List 1993 Steven Spielberg IMDb
7 Casablanca 1942 7 7 Michael Curtiz IMDB
8 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002 Peter Jackson IMDb
9 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001 Peter Jackson IMDb
10 Star Wars 1977 George Lucas IMDb
11 Citizen Kane 1941 7 7 Orson Welles IMDB
12 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 1975 Milos Forman IMDb
13 The Empire Strikes Back 1980 Irvin Kershner IMDb
14 Rear Window 1954 7 7 Alfred Hitchcock IMDB
15 Dr Strangelove 1964 Stanley Kubrick IMDb
16 Pulp Fiction 1994 Quentin Tarantino IMDb
17 Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981 Steven Spielberg IMDb
18 The Usual Suspects 1995 6 6 Bryan Singer IMDB
19 Memento 2000 7 7 Christopher Nolan IMDb
20 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 1966 Sergio Leone IMDb
21 12 Angry Men 1957 7 7 Sidney Lumet IMDB
22 North By Northwest 1959 6 6 Alfred Hitchcock IMDb
23 City of God 2002 Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund IMDb
24 Lawrence of Arabia 1962 David Lean IMDb
25 Psycho 1960 7 7 Alfred Hitchcock IMDB
26 Amélie 2001 7 7 Jean-Pierre Jeunet IMDb
27 It's a Wonderful Life 1946 Frank Capra IMDb
28 The Silence of the Lambs 1991 Jonathan Demme IMDb
29 Goodfellas 1990 Martin Scorsese IMDb
30 American Beauty 1999 Sam Mendes IMDb
31 Sunset Boulevard 1950 7 7 Billy Wilder IMDb
32 Once Upon a Time in the West 1968 7 7 Sergio Leone IMDB
33 Vertigo 1958 7 7 Alfred Hitchcock IMDb
34 The Matrix 1999 Andy & Larry Wachowski IMDb
35 To Kill a Mockingbird 1962 7 7 Robert Mulligan IMDB
36 Apocalypse Now 1979 Francis Ford Coppola IMDb
37 The Pianist 2002 Roman Polanski IMDb
38 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2004 Michel Gondry IMDb
39 The Third Man 1949 7 7 Carol Reed IMDB
40 Paths of Glory 1957 7 7 Stanley Kubrick IMDB
41 Fight Club 1999 David Fincher IMDb
42 Taxi Driver 1976 6 6 Martin Scorsese IMDb
43 Spirited Away 2001 Hayao Miyazaki IMDb
44 Some Like It Hot 1959 7 7 Billy Wilder IMDB
45 Double Indemnity 1944 7 7 Billy Wilder IMDB
46 Das Boot 1981 7 7 Wolfgang Petersen IMDB
47 Singin' in the Rain 1952 7 7 Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen IMDB
48 Chinatown 1974 7 6 Roman Polanski IMDb
49 LA Confidential 1997 7 7 Curtis Hanson IMDB
50 M 1931 7 7 Fritz Lang IMDB
51 Requiem for a Dream 2000 7 7 Darren Aronofsky IMDB
52 The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957 David Lean IMDb
53 The Maltese Falcon 1941 7 7 John Huston IMDB
54 All About Eve 1950 Joseph L Mankiewicz IMDb
55 Se7en 1995 David Fincher IMDb
56 Monty Python and the Holy Grail 1975 Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones IMDb
57 Rashomon 1950 Akira Kurosawa IMDb
58 Saving Private Ryan 1998 Steven Spielberg IMDb
59 Raging Bull 1980 Martin Scorsese IMDb
60 Alien 1979 Ridley Scott IMDb
61 American History X 1998 Tony Kaye IMDb
62 The Wizard of Oz 1939 7 7 Victor Fleming IMDB
63 Kill Bill: Vol 1 2003 Quentin Tarantino IMDb
64 Léon 1994 Luc Besson IMDb
65 The Manchurian Candidate 1962 John Frankenheimer IMDb
66 Mr Smith Goes to Washington 1939 Frank Capra IMDb
67 The Sting 1973 7 7 George Roy Hill IMDB
68 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948 7 7 John Huston IMDB
69 Modern Times 1936 6 6 Charlie Chaplin IMDB
70 Touch of Evil 1958 7 6 Orson Welles IMDB
71 Reservoir Dogs 1992 7 7 Quentin Tarantino IMDB
72 Life is Beautiful 1997 Roberto Benigni IMDb
73 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 Stanley Kubrick IMDb
74 A Clockwork Orange 1971 7 7 Stanley Kubrick IMDB
75 Finding Nemo 2003 Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich IMDb
76 Ran 1985 Akira Kurosawa IMDb
77 The Great Escape 1963 John Sturges IMDb
78 On the Waterfront 1954 Elia Kazan IMDb
79 Amadeus 1984 Milos Forman IMDb
80 Annie Hall 1977 7 6 Woody Allen IMDB
81 The Apartment 1960 7 6 Billy Wilder IMDB
82 Jaws 1975 7 7 Steven Spielberg IMDB
83 Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2000 Ang Lee IMDb
84 High Noon 1952 7 7 Fred Zinnemann IMDB
85 Braveheart 1995 Mel Gibson IMDb
86 Metropolis 1927 Fritz Lang IMDb
87 Aliens 1986 James Cameron IMDb
88 Fargo 1996 7 7 Joel Coen IMDB
89 The Shining 1980 Stanley Kubrick IMDb
90 Strangers on a Train 1951 7 7 Alfred Hitchcock IMDB
91 City Lights 1931 7 7 Charles Chaplin IMDB
92 Donnie Darko 2001 6 6 Richard Kelly IMDb
93 The General 1927 Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman IMDb
94 Blade Runner 1982 7 7 Ridley Scott IMDB
95 The Seventh Seal 1957 7 7 Ingmar Bergman IMDB
96 The Sixth Sense 1999 M Night Shayamalan IMDb
97 The Great Dictator 1940 7 7 Charles Chaplin IMDB
98 Duck Soup 1933 6 5 Leo McCarey IMDB
99 Cinema Paradiso 1988 Giuseppe Tornatore IMDb
100 Princess Mononoke 1997 Hayao Miyazaki IMDb
101 The Princess Bride 1987 6 7 Rob Reiner IMDb
102 Full Metal Jacket 1987 Stanley Kubrick IMDb
103 Notorious 1946 7 7 Alfred Hitchcock IMDb
104 The Bicycle Thief 1948 Vittorio De Sica IMDb
105 Rebecca 1940 7 7 Alfred Hitchcock IMDB
106 The Best Years of Our Lives 1946 7 7 William Wyler IMDB
107 Yojimbo 1961 7 7 Akira Kurosawa IMDB
108 The Big Sleep 1945 7 7 Howard Hawks IMDB
109 Run Lola Run 1998 7 6 Tom Tykwer IMDB
110 Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991 James Cameron IMDb
111 Toy Story 2 1999 Ash Brannon, John Lasseter & Lee Unkrich IMDb
112 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969 George Roy Hill IMDb
113 It Happened One Night 1934 7 7 Frank Capra IMDB
114 Patton 1970 Franklin J Schaffner IMDb
115 Forrest Gump 1994 Robert Zemeckis IMDb
116 The Graduate 1967 Mike Nichols IMDb
117 The Deer Hunter 1978 Michael Cimino IMDb
118 Kill Bill: Vol 2 2004 Quentin Tarantino IMDb
119 Glory 1989 Ed Zwick IMDb
120 Manhattan 1979 Woody Allen IMDb
121 Cool Hand Luke 1967 Stuart Rosenberg IMDb
122 Dogville 2003 Lars Von Trier IMDb
123 The Philadelphia Story 1940 7 7 George Cukor IMDB
124 Once Upon a Time in America 1984 Sergio Leone IMDb
125 Mystic River 2003 Clint Eastwood IMDb
126 The African Queen 1951 John Huston IMDb
127 Unforgiven 1992 Clint Eastwood IMDb
128 The Searchers 1956 John Ford IMDb
129 Ben-Hur 1959 William Wyler IMDb
130 The Elephant Man 1980 David Lynch IMDb
131 Return of the Jedi 1983 Richard Marquand IMDb
132 The Green Mile 1999 Frank Darabont IMDb
133 Bringing Up Baby 1938 7 7 Howard Hawks IMDB
134 Stalag 17 1953 7 7 Billy Wilder IMDB
135 Talk to Her 2002 Pedro Almodovar IMDb
136 The Grapes of Wrath 1940 John Ford IMDb
137 Shrek 2001 Aron Warner IMDb
138 Smultronstallet 1957 Ingmar Bergman IMDb
139 Life's a Bitch 2000 Alejandro González Iñárritu IMDb
140 Lost in Translation 2003 Sofia Coppola IMDb
141 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989 Steven Spielberg IMDb
142 The Night of the Hunter 1955 7 7 Charles Laughton IMDB
143 Back to the Future 1985 Robert Zemeckis IMDb
144 Arsenic and Old Lace 1944 7 7 Frank Capra IMDb
145 The Straight Story 1999 7 7 David Lynch IMDB
146 A Christmas Story 1983 6 6 Bob Clark IMDB
147 Platoon 1986 Oliver Stone IMDb
148 Gone With the Wind 1939 6 6 Victor Fleming IMDb
149 The Wild Bunch 1969 Sam Peckinpah IMDb
150 The Hustler 1961 7 7 Robert Rossen IMDB
151 The Gold Rush 1925 Charles Chaplin IMDb
152 All Quiet on the Western Front 1930 6 6 Lewis Milestone IMDB
153 Young Frankenstein 1974 Mel Brooks IMDb
154 The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938 7 7 Michael Curtiz & William Keighley IMDB
155 His Girl Friday 1940 Howard Hawks IMDb
156 Die Hard 1988 John McTiernan IMDb
157 Battleship Potemkin 1925 Sergei Eisenstein IMDb
158 Hero 2002 7 7 Zhang Yimou IMDB
159 Life of Brian 1979 Terry Jones IMDb
160 The 400 Blows 1959 Francois Truffaut IMDb
161 Monsters, Inc 2001 Peter Docter, David Silverman & Lee Unkrich IMDb
162 The Grand Illusion 1937 Jean Renoir IMDb
163 Spartacus 1960 Stanley Kubrick IMDb
164 Witness for the Prosecution 1957 Billy Wilder IMDb
165 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962 7 7 John Ford IMDB
166 Charade 1963 Stanley Donen IMDb
167 The Celebration 1998 Thomas Vinterberg IMDb
168 Gladiator 2000 Ridley Scott IMDb
169 Roman Holiday 1953 6 6 William Wyler IMDB
170 Sling Blade 1996 Billy Bob Thornton IMDb
171 Grave of the Fireflies 1988 Isao Takahata IMDb
172 Magnolia 1999 Paul Thomas Anderson IMDb
173 The Day the Earth Stood Still 1951 7 7 Robert Wise IMDB
174 The Conversation 1974 Francis Ford Coppola IMDb
175 Ed Wood 1994 Tim Burton IMDb
176 A Streetcar Named Desire 1951 Elia Kazan IMDb
177 Toy Story 1995 John Lasseter IMDb
178 The Killing 1956 7 7 Stanley Kubrick IMDB
179 To Be or Not to Be 1942 Ernst Lubitsch IMDb
180 Almost Famous 2000 Cameron Crowe IMDb
181 A Night at the Opera 1935 6 6 Sam Wood IMDB
182 All the President's Men 1976 Alan J Pakula IMDb
183 Brazil 1985 7 7 Terry Gilliam IMDB
184 Three Colours: Red 1994 Krystof Krystofski IMDb
185 The Insider 1999 Michael Mann IMDb
186 Big Fish 2003 7 7 Tim Burton IMDB
187 21 Grams 2003 Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu IMDb
188 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 2003 7 7 Gore Verbinski IMDB
189 Shadow of a Doubt 1943 6 6 Alfred Hitchcock IMDB
190 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1966 Mike Nichols IMDb
191 Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror 1922 6 6 F W Murnau IMDB
192 Gandhi 1982 Richard Attenborough IMDb
193 Ikiru 1952 Akira Kurosawa IMDb
194 Harvey 1950 7 7 Henry Koster IMDb
195 Being John Malkovich 1999 Spike Jonze IMDb
196 Stand By Me 1986 6 7 Rob Reiner IMDB
197 The Exorcist 1973 William Friedkin IMDb
198 Dog Day Afternoon 1975 Sidney Lumet IMDb
199 Twelve Monkeys 1995 Terry Gilliam IMDb
200 Mulholland Dr 2001 David Lynch IMDb
201 In America 2002 Jim Sheridan IMDb
202 The Terminator 1984 James Cameron IMDb
203 Trainspotting 1996 7 6 Danny Boyle IMDB
204 Groundhog Day 1993 Harold Ramis IMDb
205 The Passion of Joan of Arc 1928 7 7 Carl Theodor Dreyer IMDb
206 The Lion in Winter 1968 Anthony Harvey IMDb
207 Miller's Crossing 1990 4 5 Joel Coen IMDB
208 This is Spinal Tap 1984 7 7 Rob Reiner IMDB
209 La Strada 1954 7 7 Federico Fellini IMDB
210 Laura 1944 Otto Preminger IMDb
211 The Right Stuff 1983 Philip Kaufman IMDb
212 1963 Federico Fellini IMDb
213 King Kong 1933 7 7 Merion C Cooper & Ernest B Schoedsack IMDB
214 Rain Man 1988 6 6 Barry Levinson IMDB
215 Whale Rider 2002 Niki Caro IMDb
216 Adaptation 2002 Spike Jonze IMDb
217 Network 1976 7 7 Sidney Lumet IMDB
218 Bonnie and Clyde 1967 5 6 Arthur Penn IMDB
219 Midnight Cowboy 1969 6 6 John Schlesinger IMDB
220 The 39 Steps 1935 Alfred Hitchcock IMDb
221 Snatch 2000 Guy Ritchie IMDb
222 The Big Lebowski 1998 Joel Coen IMDb
223 Stagecoach 1939 John Ford IMDb
224 Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels 1998 7 7 Guy Ritchie IMDB
225 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans 1927 F W Murnau IMDb
226 X2 2003 Bryan Singer IMDb
227 The Thin Man 1934 7 7 W S Van Dyke IMDB
228 Rio Bravo 1959 Howard Hawks IMDb
229 In the Heat of the Night 1967 7 7 Norman Jewison IMDB
230 The Untouchables 1987 Brian De Palma IMDb
231 Bride of Frankenstein 1935 7 7 James Whale IMDB
232 The Others 2001 Alejandro Amenabar IMDb
233 The Killer 1989 John Woo IMDb
234 Planet of the Apes 1968 Franklin J Schaffner IMDb
235 Persona 1966 Ingmar Bergman IMDb
236 Fanny and Alexander 1982 Ingmar La Cava IMDb
237 Sullivan's Travels 1941 7 6 Preston Sturges IMDB
238 Kind Hearts and Coronets 1949 7 7 Robert Hamer IMDB
239 The Station Agent 2003 Thomas McCarthy IMDb
240 Red River 1948 7 7 Howard Hawks IMDB
241 Being There 1979 Hal Ashby IMDb
242 Children of Paradise 1945 Marcel Carne IMDb
243 Beauty and the Beast 1991 Kirk Wise & Gary Trousdale IMDb
244 Spider-Man 2 2004 7 7 Sam Raimi IMDB
245 Heat 1995 Michael Mann IMDb
246 Traffic 2000 Steven Soderbergh IMDb
247 Minority Report 2002 Steven Spielberg IMDb
248 Good Will Hunting 1997 Gus Van Sant IMDb
249 Sleuth 1972 Joseph L Mankiewicz IMDb
250 Judgment at Nuremberg 1961 Stanley Kramer IMDb

2 comments:

Dave said...

This is a really good idea for any fan of film. Even if it takes a person decades to get around to seeing them all, it's a good piece-meal goal. A coworker and I have the top 100 taped up on a wall with our initials next to the one's each of us have seen. I've got a ways to go still.

Hal C F Astell said...

Thanks, Dave. I have continued to work through these, even though my focus for reviews changed. My other key project at the time morphed into what became my first book.

I'm floating around 210 or 211 on the IMDb Top 250 at the moment, depending on how the bottom few swap out. I have most of the rest ready to go so it's only a matter of time...

And yes, I will return to the review side of this project at some point.