A while ago a colleague told me it would be nice to have a list of films for our students and for any interested colleague to educate themselves in cinema History. More than 100 years after the brothers Lumière set the foundations for the birth of a new art, cinema is not yet an integral part of everyone’s education, as Literature is supposed to be. This means that in practice any cinema lover–every ‘cinéfilo’–is self-taught.

Even so, as I have confirmed to myself by checking the fabulous Filmsite web, edited by Tim Dirks, there is an enormous difference between the generations born before and after the 1980s in Spain. Those of us whose childhood and youth were spent in the Spain of the then monopolistic Televisión Española were given a wonderful education in cinema History which those of you growing up in the 1990s and later have totally missed.

The emergence of private television, beginning with the infamous TeleCinco of its early stages, totally destroyed a way of enjoying cinema on tv. Gone were the films more than ten years old, anything filmed in black and white and whatever came from places other than Hollywood. Gone were the film cycles devoted to a period, genre or director. The film critics we were used to seeing on TV, gentlemen as intelligent but as little telegenic as Alfonso Sánchez, were replaced by idiotic announcers who clearly had no idea what they were presenting at all; one can still see them now and then. La2 continues the good practice of offering a more serious approach with a weekly hour devoted to good cinema, the programme Días de Cine. The rest just offer advertising for the new releases.

One of my projects for this Christmas break has been going through the list of films I remember seeing (I keep it at www.imdb.com) to find the most glaring gaps in my own cinema education. I must clarify that I’m not a film buff in the sense that I will not go out of my way to praise an obscure Iranian film instead of a reasonably good American production. I will see any new Iranian film that fits my interests and the same applies to any other nationality but I just don’t feel the urge to give myself an education in their film History. Having exposed my philistinism and having warned my reader that I was looking for gaps in my Anglo-American filmography (I don’t really like Spanish cinema much…), I’ll praise again Dirks’ Filmsite.

I found there a list of ‘greatest films’ for each year since 1902 (http://www.filmsite.org/greatestfilms-byyear.html) and went through it with much enjoyment. This was increased as I recalled having seen most films on Spanish television. I mean the films released up to the early 1980s, when I started going to the cinema with my friends and often on my own (as an undergrad student). Since then, and for the reasons concerning the private channels, television is by no means an important film source for me, with the only occasional exception of La2.

I want, however, to thank here publicly the film programmers of Televisión Española for having been such wonderful teachers to all kinds of audiences–both the audiences that preferred the more popular genres and the audiences that enjoyed the art-house orientation of the film cycles on what is now on La2. I happened to be a mixture of both and I’m sure I have these anonymous benefactors for this, something that private television will never be able to match.

Back to the list I never managed to made: you can make your own on the basis of Tim Dirks’ selection (which goes beyond Anglo-American, I must say) or use my own selection of his selection. I have chosen the magic figure of 100 years, 100 films (check IMDB for any further information on them) and here’s the list. There may be films in it I personally don’t like but it is my intention to highlight a certain oblique canon, not even of the best but of the most often remembered or discussed by film aficionados. All films are American, except where the contrary is noted:

1915 The Birth of a Nation, D. W. Griffith
1916 Intolerance, D. W. Griffith
1917 The Unfortunate Marriage, Ernest C. Warde [Dirk includes no film for 1917, I have chosen this one based on IMDB ratings]
1918 Shifting Sands, Albert Parker [ditto…]
1919 Broken Blossoms, D.W. Griffith
1920 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (original German title: Das Kabinett Des Doktor Caligari), Robert Wiene
1921 The Kid, Charles Chaplin
1922 Nosferatu, A Symphony of Terror/Horror (original German title: Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens), F.W. Murnau
1923 Safety Last, Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor
1924 Greed, Erich von Stroheim
1925 Battleship Potemkin (original Russian title: Bronenosets Potyomkin), Sergei Eisenstein
1926 The Son of the Sheik, George Fitzmaurice
1927 Metropolis, Fritz Lang [the sound period starts here in 1927 with The Jazz Singer]
1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc (original title: La Passion De Jeanne D’Arc), Carl Theodor Dreyer; silent film
1929 Pandora’s Box (original German title: Die Büchse der Pandora), Georg W. Pabst
1930 All Quiet on the Western Front, Lewis Milestone
1931 Frankenstein, James Whale
1932 Freaks, Tod Browning
1933 King Kong, Merian C. Cooper
1934 It Happened One Night, Frank Capra
1935 A Night at the Opera, Sam Wood
1936 Modern Times, Charles Chaplin
1937 Grand Illusion (original French title: La Grande Illusion), Jean Renoir
1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood, Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
1939 Gone With the Wind, Victor Fleming, George Cukor, and Sam Wood
1940 The Grapes of Wrath, John Ford
1941 Citizen Kane, Orson Welles
1942 Casablanca, Michael Curtiz
1943 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (UK), Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
1944 Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder
1945 The Children of Paradise (original French title: Les Enfants Du Paradis), Marcel Carne
1946 The Best Years of Our Lives, William Wyler
1947 Miracle on 34th Street, George Seaton
1948 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, John Huston
1949 The Third Man (UK), Carol Reed
1950 All About Eve, Joseph L. Mankiewicz
1951 A Streetcar Named Desire, Elia Kazan
1952 Singin’ in the Rain, Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
1953 From Here to Eternity, Fred Zinnemann
1954 On the Waterfront, Elia Kazan
1955 Rebel Without a Cause, Nicholas Ray
1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Don Siegel
1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai, David Lean
1958 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Richard Brooks
1959 Ben-Hur, William Wyler
1960 Psycho, Alfred Hithcock
1961 West Side Story, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins
1962 Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean
1963 The Leopard (original Italian title: Il Gattopardo), Luchino Visconti
1964 My Fair Lady, George Cukor
1965 The Sound of Music, Robert Wise
1966 Blow-Up (UK), Michelangelo Antonioni
1967 The Graduate, Mike Nichols
1968 2001: A Space Odyssey (UK), Stanley Kubrick
1969 Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper
1970 M*A*S*H, Robert Altman
1971 A Clockwork Orange (UK), Stanley Kubrick
1972 The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola
1973 The Exorcist, William Friedkin
1974 Chinatown, Roman Polanski
1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show (UK), Jim Sharman
1976 Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese
1977 Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope, George Lucas
1978 The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino
1979 Alien, Ridley Scott
1980 The Elephant Man, David Lynch
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg
1982 Blade Runner, Ridley Scott
1983 Local Hero (UK), Bill Forsyth
1984 Amadeus, Milos Forman
1985 Brazil (UK), Terry Gilliam
1986 Hannah and Her Sisters, Woody Allen
1987 The Last Emperor (UK/It./China/HK), Bernardo Bertolucci
1988 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Original Spanish title: Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios), Pedro Almodóvar
1989 Born on the Fourth of July, Oliver Stone
1990 Edward Scissorhands, Tim Burton
1991 Beauty and the Beast, Kirk Wise
1992 Basic Instinct, Paul Verhoeven
1993 Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg
1994 Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino
1995 The Usual Suspects, Bryan Singer
1996 Trainspotting (UK), Danny Boyle
1997 Titanic, James Cameron
1998 Shakespeare in Love (US/UK), John Madden
1999 The Matrix, Andy and Larry Wachowski
2000 Billy Elliot (UK), Stephen Daldry
2001 Amelie (original French title: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain), Jean-Pierre Jeunet
2002 Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore
2003 Lost in Translation (US/Japan), Sofia Coppola
2004 Downfall (original German title: Der Untergang), Oliver Hirschbiegel
2005 Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee
2006 The Lives of Others (original German title: Das Leben der Anderen), Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
2007 Into the Wilde, Sean Penn
2008 The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan
2009 Up, Pete Docter
2010 The Social Network, David Fincher
2011 Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn
2012 Amour (France), Michael Haneke
2013 Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón
2014 Boyhood, Richard Linklater
2015 Carol (UK/US), Todd Haynes

This list, I insist, is not meant to be anything but a starting point: it’s not a list of the best, not even within the same year–how can one choose between Lawrence of Arabia and To Kill a Mockingbirg, both 1962 films, or between Schindler’s List and Groundhog Day, both released in 1993? Navigate it as you wish, but do give yourself an education in film History…


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