Monday, July 09, 2007

33 films that shifted films for me.

by Ryland Walker Knight


Well, while eating my lunch I did some internet surfing. I went to my friend Sean's blog, The End of Cinema and saw his 30 favorite films of the moment. Then I followed his first link to the impetus for his post to one by Senor Emerson at Scanners (how goes it, dude?) where he names his 30 favoritest films (and others from a German mag called Steadycam). I'm mostly allergic to lists cuz they fix something that is forever unfixed but being a film geek on top of that I thought I'd play along, kinda. To combat my allergy I decided I would try to remember the thirty films (in some hazy chronological viewing order) that shifted my relationship to films or colored my understanding with a new hue. This way, the list will continue, right? Yeah, but it still could be wrong. Plus, it's not really all-time favorites, even though most pop up here. (If you want a hazy stab at that, I've got a YMDB list that I routinely re-order below the top three.) Anyways... let's give it a shot. Ready? Set. Go.


  1. Star Wars, Lucas, 01977 [Thank you UC Theatre and uncle Brad]
  2. Predator, McTiernan, 01987 [Kindergarten, baby!]
  3. Blade Runner, Scott, 01982 [1st grade? yeah...]
  4. Citizen Kane, Welles, 01941 [AMC _was_ cool]
  5. Shadow of a Doubt, Hitchcock, 01943
  6. Vertigo, Hitchcock, 01958
  7. Rear Window, Hitchcock, 01954 [all three of these were viewed on VHS back to back to back]
  8. Night of the Living Dead, Romero, 01968 [Paramount Theatre on Halloween; I learned what horseradish was, too]
  9. Road Warrior, Miller, 01981 [one of those VHS with the huge plastic packaging]
  10. GoodFellas, Scorsese, 01991 [middle school VHS days]

  11. da hoof

  12. Chinatown, Polanski, 01974 [UC? I think I bought it, not my dad]
  13. 2001, Kubrick, 01968 [silly tube tv only 21"]
  14. Pulp Fiction, Tarantino, 01994 [upstairs at the Cal, my dad had already seen it twice]
  15. The Graduate, Nichols, 01967 [Silver Screen Video]
  16. Manhattan, Allen, 01979 [AMC]
  17. The Conversation, Coppola, 01974 [SS]
  18. Lawrence of Arabia, Lean, 01962 [Paramount]
  19. The Thin Red Line, Malick, 01998 [opening day in LA with my mom, who really didn't like it; I've always loved it]
  20. Rushmore, Anderson, 01998 [opening day at the Shattuck]
  21. Magnolia, Anderson, 01999 [the fucking Oaks]

  22. dead end driver

  23. Mulholland Dr., Lynch, 02001 [three times in three days in downtown Berkeley then once more the next week in LA]
  24. McCabe & Mrs Miller, Altman, 01973 [what's this, a DVD?]
  25. 25th Hour, Lee, 02002 [downstairs at the Cal]
  26. The Rules of the Game, Renoir, 01939 [thanks, Criterion]
  27. In The Mood For Love, WKW, 02000 [ditto]
  28. Pierrot le fou, Godard, 01965 [PFA]
  29. The Sacrifice, Tarkovsky, 01986 [thanks, Allison]
  30. 2001, Kubrick, 01968 [yeah, it shifted again when I saw it in 70mm]
  31. The New World, Malick, 02005 [uptown, 150-minute cut, Allison and I wanted to walk all the way home we were so energized to be alive]
  32. Miami Vice, Mann, 02006 [well, really, at home on DVD is when it crystalized; but it had played on a loop in my brain the whole summer and fall after I saw it once, opening day, first showing, in SF at the AMC Van Ness]
  33. INLAND EMPIRE, Lynch, 02006 [two days in a row, downstairs at the Cal, alone and then with Cam; I cried both times; people have called me "gay"]
  34. The Awful Truth, McCarey, 01937 [Cavell seminar]
  35. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson, 02004 [a lesson in humility]


And yet, even this feels inadequate a picture of my taste and its slow evolution. What about Bergman? Where's Casavettes? Where's Out 1? What about shit like Saving Silverman? Or the fucking Lord of the Rings? Claire Denis? Kieslowski? Reygadas? Antonioni? Motherfucker: Spielberg and Japanese films?! Jaws and Seven Samurai should probably be on the list, but I feel like I didn't even really see them for the films that they are until somewhere in the last five years (or less). That's the fucking problem with this shit, at least for me: I can never feel comfortable really trying to play by the rules and fix a set amount of anything to define me. Look at that silly blogger profile I've got! Where's the goddamned Preston Sturges on my list above? Why am I even this wound up about it all? Weird. Well, I said I would play along as best I could so there's that. Next?


  1. A list can't be wrong. Completeness is an illusion.

  2. My List:

    14 American
    6 French
    4 Chinese
    2 Japanese
    2 Italian
    2 British

    Your List:

    26 American
    2 French
    1 Chinese
    1 Australian
    1 Russian
    1 British

    What's my point? You need to watch some Hou Hsiao-hsien movies.

  3. Well, duh. This list, as I said, doesn't really represent my favorites, tho, like yours does, as you said. The list of 9 on YMDB is much more "accurate" I think. But, there's the scare quotes to show I don't really mean that even if I do... I know it's an illusion: that's why it's a frustrating proposition. We are all tempted to search for that kind of a sublime but it's pretty unattainable. But that damned allure... that damned pull of it... it's unavoidable, even if it's an illusion.

  4. Using your criteria, my list would pretty much be the same. Citizen Kane would probably replace Duck Soup, though. And Rashomon would be on it somewhere.

  5. Rashoman is pretty remarkable. I haven't seen it in so long.... not since VHS, I think. You have the Criterion? I still don't have Seven Samurai or the Yojimbo/Sanjuro set. But, honestly, I think I'd rather own Sans Soleil or Ivan's Childhood at this point.... just no funds. But I think I got a job, so that should help things, bit by bit.

  6. I got Sans Soleil, but I haven't watched it yet. I'm really looking forward to it though.

  7. Finally visiting, here after Love Streams and the Silent Film Festival. Nice list. We share some of the same touchstones, notably 1 (Coronet, being demolished as I type), 6 & 7 (Channel 44, or was it 2?) 12 (perhaps even smaller tube), 16 (some other video store I think), 18 (Coronet. sniff.) 19 (opening weekend at the AMC 1000), 24 (VHS, then Gramercy in NYC), 28 (same as you, a few years earlier), 29 (Rafael Film Center, then Metreon). And the rest ain't exactly shabby either, though I've still not seen 2 or 30 in any format.

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Brian. I'm certainly jealous of your _Star Wars_ at the Coronet experience. One other I forgot, tho, was _Fargo_ at the Northgate (was that the name? the huge one in North Beach?), when I was in 7th or 8th grade. Shit, anything at the Coronet would be tight. The last thing I saw there, tho, was _X-Files_. I know, right?