Sight & Sound Essentials

The trouble with a list is that not everyone is going to agree. What's often offered as a personal selection of favorites can often be taken by a reader as a personal affront, a sign of snobbery or boorishness, even if a list is a compilation from multiple contributors. And as the fuss over the Sight & Sound Greatest Films Of All Time poll reminds us, that'll likely always be the case. After all, we know that it's all just a fun exercise, and yet looking over the full list (published today on the magazine's website along with the 800-odd submissions from critics all of the world), we still feel the pang of the absence of some of our own favorites.

So with the publication of the full poll today, we thought we'd politely offer our own suggestions of films missing from the list altogether, as well as another selection that got into the 250, but haven't yet cracked the top 100 (but could do in future years, given a film only needs a few dozen votes to make it in). This isn't necessarily to say that these films are more deserving of inclusion than those that did make it. It's more a list of some of our own favorites, because ultimately, the great pleasure of these lists is the chance to discuss, be introduced to, and catch up on the films you've missed. So if you’ve already loaded up some 50-odd films in your Netflix queue because of Sight & Sound’s “Greatest of All Time” list, consider this another 30 must-see films that you should do the same with. And feel free to add your own personal top 10s in the comments section.

So with no further ado, and in no particular order...

18 Essential Films Not On The Sight & Sound Top 250 Greatest Films Of All Time

All That Heaven Allows
1. "All That Heaven Allows" (1955)
Douglas Sirk just cracks the 2012 top 100 with the sublime "Imitation of Life," but there's always room for another of his glorious Technicolor melodramas, and "All That Heaven Allows" would certainly be our choice to join it, given its direct influence on films like Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Ali: Fear Eats The Soul" and Todd Haynes' "Far From Heaven." Detailing the May-December romance between widow Jane Wyman and gardener Rock Hudson, a cross-class affair which causes shock in both Wyman's family and society in general, it's both lavish and emotionally raw, the director once more setting his aim on the hypocrisy and rotten core at the heart of picture-perfect 1950s American suburbia. An entirely compelling watch that belies its soapy premise right up to the incredibly complex, bittersweet conclusion.

Le Samourai
2. "Le Samourai" (1967)
"There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle... Perhaps..." So goes the on-screen text that introduces Alain Delon as the hero of Jean-Pierre Melville's crime-classic "Le Samourai" (in one of the all-time great character introductions) and it's something that reflects the picture as a whole. Delon's Jef is a professional killer, and a man with few connections, or even signs of humanity. His minimalist lifestyle (mirrored by Melville's directorial technique) starts to fall apart when he's watched leaving the scene of a hit -- turning himself into a target by his employers. It's a familiar plot, but that's probably because it's the seminal hitman movie; everything from "The Killer" to "The American" owes a giant debt to Mellville's film. The director had dipped into the underworld well many times before, but never as completely or perfectly he does here -- it's his austere masterpiece of the genre, and as such, feels like the best candidate from his work for inclusion.

Cria Cuervos
3. “Cria Cuervos” (1976)
A young Anna Torrent moved thousand of audiences in the 1970s, and those performances have lived on (see Victor Erice's "Spirit of the Beehive" which is #66 on the S&S list, in which she also stars). Charming, sweet, heartbreaking and eerie, Torrent stars in Carlos Saura's film as a young girl living in Spain who loses her mother of cancer and then is visited by her later as a spectral ghost that only she can see. Possessing a prenaturally understanding of childlike behavior, or simply just capturing the essence of this endearing and precocious performer, Saura weaves a complex tale of lost innocence that is opaque and yet funny, moving and life-affirming. One for the ages.

4. "Ninotchka" (1939)
Choosing a single Ernst Lubitsch film feels like a somewhat impossible task, but as the director was entirely absent from the Top 100, it felt particularly important to find one. And so we stumped for "Ninotchka," the director's delightful 1939 comedy (written by Walter Reisch, with Lubitsch's protégés Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett), about the title character (Greta Garbo, cast beautifully against type, so much so that the film's poster touted 'Garbo Laughs!'), a Soviet envoy who comes to Paris to sell jewellery confiscated from the aristocracy, only to fall in love both the West and Count Leon (Melvyn Douglas), who's out to take the jewellery back from the Grand Duchess to whom it used to belong. It's unashamed propaganda, but propaganda with razor-sharp jokes and a feather-light touch, and one of the most purely enjoyable romantic comedies ever made.

Sullivan's Travels
5. "Sullivan's Travels" (1941)
Not so much a comedy as a statement of intent (although it's also a brilliant comedy, as it happens), Preston Sturges' masterpiece involves a Hollywood director (Joel McCrea) who decides he wants to break away from the slight comedies he's made his name on (such as "Ants In Your Plants 1939") and adapt socially-conscious, Steinbeckian novel "O Brother Where Art Thou," going method and pretending to be a hobo for research. Finding a companion (The Girl, played by Veronica Lake), believed dead, and sentenced to six years on a chain gang, he eventually comes to realize that his comedies do more to brighten up the lives of the disenfranchised than a worthy drama ever could. It feels like Sturges speaking out on behalf of his own work, but never feels defensive or indulgent; it's simply a wonderful comedy, with both satiric edge and genuine feeling.

Murmur Of The Heart
6. "Murmur of the Heart" (1971)
Charming, sweet, funny and fondly told, ultimately, Louis Malle’s ninth drama is perhaps one of the most loving and yet controversial and fucked up family values/sexual awakening films on record. An endearing coming-of-age drama, the picture centers on a precocious teenage boy growing up in bourgeois surroundings in post-World War II France, and chronicles his relationship with his paterfamilias as the youngest in a family of five. A heart murmur lands Laurent in a sanatorium away from his family and eventually into a sexual encounter with his far-too-loving mother. That the tone is so sweet and jovial -- right up until it takes this turn -- is theoretically one of the most uncomfortable elements of the film. Yet even then, the easy-going picture pulls it off, managing not to alienate or repulse the audience, but instead leaving them maybe just a little puzzled. As shocking and controversial as much of it sounds, ‘Murmur’ is a tender, graceful and effortless picture that wonderfully captures the nostalgia and innocence of an adolescence most of us can relate to -- minus those awkward hook-up years with the parents, of course.