The Hollywood Reporter asked a group of "studio chiefs, Oscar winners, and TV royalty" to pick the 100 greatest films ever made. What happened next will surprise you—if you harbor any illusions that the industry is interested in anything other than English-language stories made by, and largely about, white men.
The results of any poll boil down to conventional wisdom: Once you go above half a dozen or so participants, the idiosyncrasies of individual taste drop out and you're left with blandness that increases proportionally with sample size. But even so, the results are astonishing in their failure to astonish. Next to this group, the American Film Institute's notoriously vanilla lists of top movies look like the work of an obscurantist film blogger.
Let's run a few numbers. According to the Reporter's version of the entertainment industry's 100 favorite films comprise:
- One film by a female director.
- Two films by a non-white director.
- Zero documentaries (h/t Tim Horsburgh)
- Three films in a language other than English. (Four if you count "Slumdog Millionaire" or "The Godfather: Part 2."
- Five films released before 1950
- 15 movies released in or after 2000.
Consider those last two figures for a moment. According to them, three times as many great movies have been made in the last 14 years than in the first half-century of cinema's existence. How fortunate we are to be living in this purported golden age!
Equally alarming is the pathetic showing of films directed by or about people of color, or directed by women. Female protagonists are trickier to count—does "Casablanca" count, or "The Breakfast Club"?—but the number is, generously, around one quarter of the total. Is it any wonder that, as Melissa Silverstein recently pointed out at Women and Hollywood, less than five percent of the studio films made during the last five years have female directors? (Silver lining: That's more than their one percent representation on the list.)
Lists are boring by nature, but this one is insidiously dull, revealing a pronounced lack of interest in anything but the same kind of stories Hollywood has always told from the people who, in theory, are in a position to change that.