The Mindful Critic’s 50 Greatest Films

Via Reverend Danny Fisher
on Aug 8, 2009
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ikiru  Modern Times (Chaplin)  Psycho (Hitchcock) 

Over at his blog for the Chicago Sun-Times, the marvelous film critic Roger Ebert writes about “greatest movies ever” lists just as another one debuts.  He writes correctly, I think:

All lists of the “greatest” movies are propaganda. They have no deeper significance. It is useless to debate them.

That in mind, I present to you my own propaganda: a list of the 50 greatest movies I’ve ever seen.  My hope in presenting this is that you find a title or two that moves you as much as they all have moved me…

(And please share some of your favorites with us–we’re always on the look-out for good flicks!)

1. La Grande Illusion (1937), dir. Jean Renoir
2. Citizen Kane (1941), dir. Orson Welles
3. City Lights (1931), dir. Charlie Chaplin
4. Ikiru (1952), dir. Akira Kurosawa
5. The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974), dir. Francis Ford Coppola
6. The Searchers (1956), dir. John Ford
7. Vertigo (1958), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
8. The Thin Blue Line (1988), dir. Errol Morris
9. Persona (1966), dir. Ingmar Bergman
10. Raging Bull (1980), dir. Martin Scorsese
11. La Règle du Jeu (1939), dir. Jean Renoir
12. Shichinin No Samurai (1954), dir. Akira Kurosawa
13. Lawrence of Arabia (1962), dir. David Lean
14. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), dir. Stanley Kubrick
15. Psycho (1960), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
16. Tôkyô Monogatari (1953), dir. Yasujiro Ozu
17. Smultronstället (1957), dir. Ingmar Bergman
18. Casablanca (1942), dir. Michael Curtiz
19. Notorious (1946), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
20. Ran (1985), dir. Akira Kurosawa
21. The Quiet Man (1952), dir. John Ford
22. The Third Man (1949), dir. Carol Reed
23. Sunset Blvd. (1950), dir. Billy Wilder
24. 4 Little Girls (1997), dir. Spike Lee
25. Apocalypse Now (1979), dir. Francis Ford Coppola
26. Shadow of a Doubt (1943), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
27. Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), dir. Stanley Kubrick
28. Rear Window (1954), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
29. Pather Panchali (1955), dir. Satyajit Ray
30. Modern Times (1936), dir. Charlie Chaplin
31. Singin’ in the Rain (1952), dir. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
32. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), dir. Steven Spielberg
33. 8 1/2 (1963), dir. Federico Fellini
34. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), dir. Orson Welles
35. Jules et Jim (1962), dir. Francois Truffaut
36. Andrey Rublyov (1966), dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
37. Det Sjunde Inseglet (1957), dir. Ingmar Bergman
38. Les Quatres Cents Coups (1959), dir. Francois Truffaut
39. High Noon (1952), dir. Fred Zinnemann
40. North by Northwest (1959), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
41. Schindler’s List (1993), dir. Steven Spielberg
42. Vivre sa Vie (1962), dir. Jean-Luc Godard
43. M (1931), dir. Fritz Lang
44. Il Conformista (1970), dir. Bernardo Bertolucci
45. Unforgiven (1992), dir. Clint Eastwood
46. Chinatown (1974), dir. Roman Polanski
47. Annie Hall (1977), dir. Woody Allen
48. Pulp Fiction (1994), dir. Quentin Tarantino
49. Habla Con Ella (2002), dir. Pedro Almodóvar
50. Nashville (1975), dir. Robert Altman


About Reverend Danny Fisher

Rev. Danny Fisher, M.Div., D.B.S. (Cand.), is a professor and Coordinator of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at University of the West in Rosemead, CA. He was ordained as a lay Buddhist minister by the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California in 2008. In addition, he is certified as a mindfulness meditation instructor by Naropa University in association with Shambhala International. A member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains, he serves on the advisory council for the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program. In addition to his work for elephant journal, he is a blogger for Shambhala Sun. He has also written for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Religion Dispatches, The Journal of Buddhist Ethics, The Journal of Religion & Film, Eastern Horizon, New York Spirit, Alternet's Wiretap Magazine, and other publications. His award-winning website is


14 Responses to “The Mindful Critic’s 50 Greatest Films”

  1. Breathless by Godard! Seven Samurai! Princess Bride! The Candidate! Inconvenient Truth, for starting or jumpstarting a movement that matters!

  2. Rick Gilbert says:

    any "best of" list w/out "This is Spinal Tap" just doesn't go to 11!

  3. Tommy Rosen says:

    The Third Man is a truly magnificent piece of work. Interesting that in this list of fifty only 3 of them were made after 1990. I'm not arguing this fact, just thinking about the FACT that the human brain is more plastic; less flexible than it once was. Perhaps its due to mass ADD or the limits imposed by the manner in which films are made.
    BTW, Waylon is one of my favorite people. And that is saying something.


  4. "Seven Samurai" is there at #12, under its Japanese title: "Shichin No Samurai".

    Shoulda mentioned that: all titles are in their original language (Romanized, of course).

  5. Make that "Shichinin No Samurai". : )

  6. demetripacho says:

    "The Sheltering Sky", dir. Bernardo Bertolucci; "Me and You and Everyone We Know", dir. Miranda July (I hear Miranda's a big ole Buddhist. I'd say it shows in this film. So much space! Love it.)

  7. Moviegoer says:

    Clearly, Star Wars (at least the first one – now episode 4 ("A New Hope". I think) was a milestone in the 70s. Clockwork Orange was a stunning piece of work. The Matrix series was startling but may be too recent to judge its staying power. You could also venture Jackson's Lord of the Rings as monumental in its own way. A brief essay on WHY a specific film rates "top 50" is always interesting.

  8. TR: For the record, I count five (5) made after 1990: "4 Little Girls," "Unforgiven," "Pulp Fiction," "Habla Con Ella," and "Schindler's List."

  9. Kate says:

    What about the beautiful work of Miyazaki's "Spirited Away"? My favorite of all time.

  10. Great list of 50. Some I have yet to see. Thanks!

    PS. Sound like a 2nd list of 50 more is forming 🙂

  11. Fionna says:

    Not enough funny. Try Local Hero. Beauty: Scent of Green Papaya. And every person who went to high school in the US probably needs to see that deeply thoughtful critique, Sixteen Candles.

  12. elephantjournal says:

    Awww…thanks boss. Feelings mutual, 108%.

    Here's my list of faves…not necessarily great films all, but personal faves:

    Main list:

  13. was a pretty good watch, can't say that's how things really turn out, only in the movies, but It was worth the watch.

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