All Top 10s Are Crap


I don’t entirely understand the compulsion to rank your favorite, or least favorite, things at the end of a year. In terms of this post, I’m of course referring to end of the year top 10 lists of movies. Well, I can understand it in terms of someone like a film critic. A film critic’s job is to try and tell the world their opinions on movies, and the top 10 list at the end of the year is one final push for their favorite films. Letting them have one final, major, spotlight before they, very likely, get completely forgotten by the masses.
Roger Ebert (him again) called top 10 lists purely political gestures. What he meant was that they were all about pushing a viewpoint of movies out into the world. His lists were important to him, and I genuinely do believe that he thought that whatever movie he put at the top of his list in a year was the best film of the year. And yet, I don’t believe he’d ever get into a fight with someone over their top 10. He would say, “Well, that’s your top 10, and here’s mine.” He and his guest would then discuss the relative merits of some of the movies on their lists and continue with their lives. I’m reminded of this episode of Siskel & Ebert (after Siskel had died and before that waste of space Roeper got brought on) when Ebert and his guest, Martin Scorsese, discussed their top 10s of the 90s. Scorsese included The Thin Red Line on his list, a movie that Ebert gave 3 out of 4 stars and left a healthy few steps from his own top 10 of that movie’s release year. Instead of arguing about whether it should be on the list at all or not, Ebert listed a couple of things he liked about the film and they moved on.

All of this is to what purpose? Well, top 10s are like assholes. Everyone has one. They’re all personal, based on experience and opinion, and they function as a demonstration of the individual’s taste in film. There’s never a definitive list. The top rated movies on IMDB will almost never align with the top rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes, and that’s completely fine. One isn’t right, and the other isn’t wrong, even if I completely agree with one and disagree with the other.

Here’s My Crappy Top 10
I made the following list about a decade ago. This list of what I consider to be the ten best movies ever has not changed since. Why? Have no better movies been made? Have I not discovered other better movies that are just as old?
The simple answer is that it took me so much time to whittle down the thousands of movies I’d seen into this ten that I never wanted to bother finagling with it ever again. I still love every single one of these movies. I still think that they are exquisite examples of the art form. If I were forming a top ten from scratch today, would it be identical? Probably not.
So, in one regard, it’s kind of a time capsule to who I was and what I liked in film from a decade ago. The list is in alphabetical order because I could never bring myself to argue about which was #6 and which was #7 in a list of films I love so completely.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Apocalypse Now
Au Revoir Les Enfants
Duck Soup
The Last Temptation of Christ
The Lord of the Rings
The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Thin Red Line

I remember when I was forming the list, part of what I considered was genres and directors. “I have my Kubrick (2001), so I can’t include another. What’s my Scorsese on this list?” It was during the formation of this list that I came across Ebert’s comment about top 10s being political things, so I embraced this mentality and it almost became a “Collection of Top Movies from Different Genres/Directors”. I don’t think there’s a textbook out there that describes how to make a top 10 list of movies of all time, but that method seems to be as valid as any other.

I’m 100% positive that some of you will look at my list and scoff. “The Lord of the Rings? Is this guy serious? That movie has about a thousand endings!” or “ he Thin Red Line? I could barely understand what the hell was going on! And what the hell was with John Travolta and George Clooney being in there for just a few lines?”

But you see, no one will ever convince me to change this list. It’s mine. It’s personal. All I can really hope to do is to convince some people to check them out. To try and grow the population of people who love the movies that I love. I would hope that, at the least, some of you who read this see that list and say, “I’ve never heard of that movie, but it must have some qualities to recommend it since this random person thinks so highly of it to include it on a top 10 list of movies of all time. I think I will check it out.”

That’s it. That’s the ultimate purpose. I want to convince you to see at least one of these movies. I’ve got movies that represent foreign films (Au Revoir Les Enfants), silent films (The Passion of Joan of Arc), screwball comedies (Duck Soup), old school studio films (Casablanca), science fiction (2001), and epics (The Lord of the Rings, and yes, I mean all three movies which I consider to be one film). If you haven’t been exposed to some genre of film, my list provides you with a gateway. I think that the represented films are the best of those genres, so they must have some worth, right?

So, What’s Your Crappy Top 10?
It doesn’t need to be a top 10. It could be a top 100, or a top 2, or a single movie you think is the best ever. Where “best” and “favorite” begin and end is a line that you decide. I personally don’t think that there’s much of a difference when I look at the movies on my list. I think they are the best and that they are my favorites at the same time. It doesn’t mean that they are perfect, but when you talk about subjective things, you don’t need to be perfect to be the best.

So, do you consider there to be a difference? If your favorite movie is Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, I’d hope that you consider there to be a difference between favorite and best because as much as I enjoy Anchorman, it’s clearly not one of the best movies ever made. But, that’s up for you to decide. Tell me that Anchorman is the best movie ever and make the case. You probably won’t convince me because I’m a smug know-it-all, but you may convince someone else to check it out. And that’s the ultimate point: To try and convince someone else to enjoy what you enjoy.

22 thoughts on “All Top 10s Are Crap”

  1. Great top 10 list. I’m gonna check out Joan of Arc now. I would replace “2001” with ” Barry Lyndon” and “Last Temptation” with “Jean De Florette”. Can’t really argue with anything else.
    Casablanca is my all time #1. The Deer Hunter also is also probably in my top 10 but I can’t pick another of your movies to bump so I suggest a top 11 list….just to be different.
    You have excellent taste.


    1. Thanks!

      I like The Deer Hunter, but I find it’s final act to be too silly to take seriously (Walken survived how many rounds of Russian Roulette before de Niro found him at the exact one he died at?).

      I’ve never seen Jean de Florette, but I shall add it to my list of movies to check out, for sure.


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