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30 Essential Films Missing From The Sight & Sound Top 100

by The Playlist Staff
August 16, 2012 12:20 PM
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And 12 That Made The Top 250, But Could Be Higher
And yes, note, we wrote this original list when only the top 100 was out in the U.K. While these films are in the top 250 list, we would definitely consider them contenders for the top 100 of all time.

Celine & Julie Go Boating
1. “Céline and Julie Go Boating” (1974)
Called the Ulysses of movies, and while challenging yet rewarding with riches, Jacques Rivette's magically fanciful and wantonly elliptical 3 1/2 hour 1974 classic, "Céline and Julie Go Boating" is many different things to many different people and often all at once. Part Alice In Wonderland-like fantasy, part absurdist comedy, part feminist manifesto and part post-psychedelic escapade, 'Boating' is bizarre, nonsensical and masterfully oblique; a hypnotically surreal experience to be sure. Subtitled, "Phantom Ladies Over Paris," the film is a long-winding and circuitous loop (or "story"); one half about accidental friendship and intertwined identity and a second section that somehow evolves into a madcap murder mystery via psychedelic candy with a ghost story in it to boot. While lopsided, inexplicably light-hearted and long, Rivette’s opus and its circular oddness is exhilarating and essential.

Last Year At Marienbad
2. “Last Year at Marienbad” (1961)
A mercurially oblique and unnerving surrealist classic, it's a bit of a shock to see Alain Resnais' 1961 inscrutable classic missing from the S&S 100 list. Glacially paced, chilly, and hypnotically equivocal -- not to mention lavishly stylish --  its provocative abstraction is not for the impatient at heart. Resnais’ film exists in a dream-like state with no real stated context to what is outside the walls of Marienbad, leaving a good deal of space for the viewer to decide on the meaning and where in reality the story takes place. Set in an elegant chateau, a well-to-do socialite stranger tries to persuade a married woman to run away with him, but it seems she hardly remembers the affair they may have had the year previously. She entreats him to surrender this notion, and yet he persists and the film ambiguously continues with this narrative like a slow-moving puzzle box game with no solution. A fascinating exploration of the formal possibilities of film with an eerily arresting command of mood and tone, “Last Year at Marienbad” is a haunting and enduring examination of seduction.

Three Colors Red 2
3. “Three Colors: Red” (1994)
For the final film in his Three Colors Trilogy -- which explored the themes of the three colors represented in the French Flag, liberty, equality, and fraternity -- Polish auteur Krysztof Kieslowski once again tapped into the everlasting ideas of personal history, identity and ultimately, possibly the notion of rewriting time. Starring muse Irene Jacob and French icon Jean Trintignant, the film examines the lives of two strangers that meet by chance and how their lives become prophetically intertwined the more they get to know one another. Moving, enigmatic and gorgeously loaded with motifs, symbols and clues by Piotr Sobociński while rapturously scored by his longtime composer Zbigniew Preisner, "Red" is Kieslowski's magnum opus. The director declared it his final film, retired and then died one year later suddenly at the early age of 55. Another classic and a must-see pick if you haven't already is Kieslowski's "The Double Life of Veronique," which just made the top 250 S&S cut and once again stars his beautiful muse, Irene Jacobs.

The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
4. “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964)
If "Singin' in the Rain" is arguably the world's greatest musical, then perhaps "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is Europe's finest entry into the canon of the genre ("The Red Shoes" being more of a filmed ballet, rather than true musical). Though while the technical artistry of Stanley Donen’s film is unparalleled, arguably it does not hold a candle to Jacques Demy's picture emotionally. Starring Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo as star-crossed lovers who fatefully fail to find themselves in each other arms, 'Cherbourg' is breathtaking to look at it with its pop-soaked colors, but it is also  devastatingly heartbreaking both through its story, performances and songs (written by the great Michel Legrand) that evoke an aching longing that quivers with a deeply felt melancholy. An indelibly moving picture. An equally good alternate pick is Demy's "Lola."

The Conformist
5. “The Conformist” (1970)
While Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci arguably has at least "The Last Emperor" up for consideration on any greatest of all time list, if forced, we would choose his searing, beautiful and deeply sinister 1970 political drama “The Conformist.” Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Bertolluci’s moody and gripping psychological case study on fascism centers on a weak-willed coward, desperate to “belong,” who becomes a political lackey and goes abroad to arrange the assassination of his old teacher, now a political dissident. The director's always-controversial take on things identifies childhood guilt and sexual (and homosexual) shame as the roots of fascism, which gives the film yet another level of shocking emotional grotesquery. The co-star of the picture is arguably Vittorio Storaro’s visually stunning cinematography, which has been rightfully heralded the world over. With its masterful use of angles, shadows and light, Storaro practically redefines the word chiaroscuro in cinema, and adds plenty of atmospheric psychological texture to this desperate man willing to acquiesce to whatever ideological fashion of the day. This is a film that begs to be seen on the big screen in 35MM. It’s a bold, stunning masterpiece like they don’t make anymore.

The Conversation
6. "The Conversation" (1974)
Francis Ford Coppola's already got three films in the top 50, thanks to the first two "Godfather" films and "Apocalypse Now." But we'd argue his very best is the film he made in between mob movies: taut, experimental thriller "The Conversation.” Starring a career-best Gene Hackman as a surveillance expert who loses his sanity after recording a conversation between a couple that suggests a young couple is about to be murdered. Heavily influenced by Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow Up", it’s a fascinating and surprising character study as much as a thriller, it's also as much editor and sound designer Walter Murch's film as Coppola's: creating a puzzling, immersive world that rattles around your head for days afterwards.

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  • mass | August 21, 2012 2:56 AMReply

    You forgot about Lumet's masterpiece, "Network".

  • Blessing | August 21, 2012 1:06 PM


  • bob hawk | August 20, 2012 4:25 PMReply

    Thanks for including COME AND SEE -- a masterpiece worthy of anyone's top 100 of all time. I first saw it at the Roxie Theater in S.F. I knew nothing about it except for the calendar blurb. To say that it blew me away is an understatement. At certain points I could barely breathe, the imagery was stunning, and the "content" (the innocent POV amidst the mesmerizing devastation) was profoundly affecting. When it was over, I could hardly believe what I just saw, went to the concession stand for reinforcements, and sat through it again. In the following days I recommended it to as many people as possible, and went back two more times.

  • JAMES SMITH | August 19, 2012 5:31 PMReply

    How about: The French Connection; The Philadelphia Story; All About Eve; High Noon; Dinner at Eight; Dodsworth; The Letter; The Maltese Falcon; Network; The Exorcist; Patton; The Graduate; Judgement at Nuremberg; Our Hospitality; The Painted Veil (2006) - shall I go on?

  • Bill Murray | August 17, 2012 9:12 PMReply

    There Will Be Blood.

  • Adam Pelletier | August 17, 2012 11:50 AMReply

    “pretty much soft-core porn In the Realm of the Senses,”
    Nice one dick, thanks for shurgging off a great movie like that. I watched a lot of porn in my days, hardcore and soft, kinda remember jerking off to that. I don`t recall having the urge to do it during In the Realm of the Senses. Instead I was blown away by a truly great film, not a soft core dope.

  • Fry | August 16, 2012 11:56 PMReply

    I already mentioned this some time earlier in another post, but Sergei Parajanov's 'Shadows of our Forgotten Ancestors' really deserves consideration, to me it's an unparalelled masterpiece. And maybe some Nicholas Ray?

  • StephenM | August 16, 2012 7:44 PMReply

    "Three Colors Trilogy --which explored the themes of the three colors represented in the French Flag, fraternity, justice, love" ----Umm, not to be too much of a pedant, but the themes are Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Getting them wrong is kind of like misquoting the Declaration of Independence or something, and it can totally screw up your reading of the films.

  • Rodrigo | August 16, 2012 11:58 PM

    Whoops. Thanks for the flag, not pedantic at all. You are very correct. I wrote this on the subway and put in fillers cause i couldn't remember it offhand (you can tell Fraternity was in caps while the others were not) and meant to switch out and forgot to do once it went live. i should have just used the standard TK and it woulda been caught in the edit.

  • Lucy | August 16, 2012 6:44 PMReply

    Great list! Sullivan's Travels and Le Bête et la Belle are two of my favorite films!

  • Wes | August 16, 2012 6:43 PMReply

    Here, here for: La belle et la bête, Last Picture Show, Conversation, and Badlands!

  • E'le | August 16, 2012 6:30 PMReply

    Cria Cuervos is a good pick (especially in comparison to The Spirit of the Beehive, which I wasn't crazy about).

  • Wes | August 16, 2012 6:44 PM

    I feel the same way about the Conformist, but I might be a minority there.

  • Wes | August 16, 2012 6:41 PM

    I agree about Spirit of the Beehive. The only thing I liked about it was the cinematography.

  • Wes | August 16, 2012 5:53 PMReply

    This is my current (probably for the last two years or so) list of favs (in no particular order): No Country for Old Men, Persona, Vertigo, Citizen Kane, 2001, Mirror, Raging Bull, Apocalypse Now, Fargo, and Chinatown. However, I've been inspired by the Olympics to create a tournament bracket of my favorite 50 or so films. I'll watch two per week, and this list will likely change in the next year or so. Haha.

  • tristan eldritch | August 16, 2012 3:09 PMReply

    Great list. I really agree about La Notte - it's as formally brilliant (if not more so) than the others in the trilogy, and has that emotional accessibility (even warmth, I think) that you mention. And some of the most rapturously gorgeous b and w cinematography ever committed to film. Man, I love that film!

  • Wes | August 16, 2012 6:40 PM

    I always go back and forth between La Notte and L'Avventura. I remember really liking La Notte as I was watching it for the first time. I don't remember enjoying my first experience with L'Avventura. However, with repeated viewings of the latter, it has grown on me very much.

  • Rodrigo | August 16, 2012 5:21 PM

    Nice to hear someone agree. Outside of L'avventura, it's tops of his 4-tryptch.

  • yer | August 16, 2012 2:00 PMReply

    Malick is an arthouse god. How are none of his films on the list??

  • Lucy | August 16, 2012 6:47 PM

    I love Malick! The New World is in the top tier of my favorite film list! I was in high school when the film came out and I had the best film experience I was so moved. The same happened with the Tree of Life, his films affect me in ways many other films just don't.

  • Wes | August 16, 2012 6:38 PM

    All of his movies are awesome! Badlands, Days of Heaven, Thin Red Line, New World, and Tree of Life! What's wrong with these people?

  • E'le | August 16, 2012 6:33 PM

    Is there one Malick film you're thinking of in particular? I've been disappointed by all I've seen of his except for Days of Heaven.

  • yer | August 16, 2012 2:21 PM

    JT, stick to Chris Nolan films buddy!

  • jt | August 16, 2012 2:04 PM

    Yer, not all of Malick's films are great ( or even good) , but they are great to look at. Thats for sure.

  • [A] | August 16, 2012 1:11 PMReply

    Terrific list! And I've seen many of these movies, too.

  • Anton Jacoves | August 16, 2012 12:26 PMReply

    I mean look this can go on forever really

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