Last week, we featured the results of this decade’s Sight and Sound poll to determine the greatest films of all time. Nobody could possibly agree with every single one of its rankings, but then, some of the joy of cinephilia lies in disagreement — and even more of it in doing a few rankings of one’s own. Such is the project of video essayist Lewis Bond in the video just above from his Youtube channel The Cinema Cartography. It presents a list of the thirty greatest films, beginning at number thirty and ending at number one, weaving through a variety of time periods, cultures, and aesthetics.
We would expect no less from The Cinema Cartography, previously featured here on Open Culture for videos on subjects like cities and places in film, cinematography, and animation, as well as on specific auteurs like David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, and Andrei Tarkovsky. None of Tarantino’s films make the cut for the top thirty here, though they do face formidable competition, including Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. and both Andrei Rublev and Mirror by Tarkovsky — not to mention works from the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman, Peter Greenaway, Martin Scorsese, Ozu Yasujirō, and Francis Ford Coppola.
“The idea of a canon, or any form of list, is both a meaningless as well as a obsessive endeavor,” says Lewis Bond in the video’s introduction. “Whatever the thought process was, these were the films that clearly, somewhere, resonate with me at my deepest level. For all I know, I could organize the exact same list in a year’s time, and every entry could be different.” No matter to what you devote your cultural life, you surely know the feeling, but you also know the value of seeing someone else’s set of preferences clearly arranged and articulately justified.
You may not feel exactly the same as Bond does about both My Dinner with Andre and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (a rare dual enthusiasm in any case), but seeing where he places them in relation to other movies can help to give you a sense of whether and how they could fit into your own personal canon — as well as the kind of context a film needs to earn its place. It’s easy to get a bit too obsessive about this sort of thing, which on some level just comes down to endlessly ordering and re-ordering a bunch of movies on a list. But as cinephiles know, our canons are ourselves: complex, idiosyncratic, subject to ceaseless change, and — so we hope, at least — coherent.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.