The 10 Greatest Films of All-Time (According to Us)
Yesterday, British magazine Sight and Sound released their list of the Greatest Films of All Time, as voted by a panel of film critics and directors. The list sparked some intense debate amongst film fans who disagreed with some of the choices. So we put the question out to our two film critics Matt Singer and Jordan Hoffman: what really are the Greatest Films of All-Time?
They embarked on an epic conversation, revealing their picks for the Greatest Films of all Time and debating those choices. Do you agree?
Matt Singer: Did you have any rules for putting together your fake ballot or any guidelines or theories that guided your decisions?
Jordan Hoffman: Absolutely. Since my initial brainstorm had dozens of titles, I felt that the right thing to do was to allow one perfect film to sort of “represent” different parts of my tastes. Because there could be a version of this list with five Woody Allen movies, but I felt just one had to do the trick.
Matt Singer: So you were very into you. I was more trying to find films that felt bigger than me, that somehow seemed to represent something — a technical innovation or a game changer in the world of genre or storytelling. I also picked a few based on their modern relevance; as in this maybe 50, 60 years old but it still speaks to what’s going on in our lives, as if longevity in some ways is a proof of greatness. But that’s fine to each his own. ‘ll be correct and you will be the proof that I am correct.
Jordan Hoffman: I went in an opposite direction – straight from the gut, something where I could say, “yes, this truly is one of my favorite movies of all time forever and ever amen.” To that end, yeah, I dig Sergei Eisenstein, but he’s nowhere near my list. Strangely, the directors that I’ve long considered “my favorite,” the Coen Bros., aren’t on here either. It’s a lot of stuff from my youth, so maybe I’m navel-gazing a bit, but that’s how it ended up. Should we get started? I’ll hit you with my #10.
Matt Singer: Go for it.
Jordan Hoffman: #10, after much agony, is Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’. Over Taxi Driver, over Mean Streets and over other great “New York” movies that nearly made it on the list. Also, other all the other films that represent the indie vibe of the 1990s, like Steve Buscemi’s brilliant Trees Lounge (which, I kid you not, was almost on here.) Even though this movie isn’t truly an indie, it represents, to me, ticking the “indie film of the 1990s” box.
Matt Singer: How does it represent the indie film of the 1990s for you when it’s not an indie film?
Jordan Hoffman: I think it actually opened a lot of people to seeing unusual movies from “outside the system” when it first came out. It was definitely considered something of an art house crossover. More importantly, those extended sequences to mashed-up classic rock shattered me when I first saw them. Plus all those funny Italians! This movie has it all.
Matt Singer: I love ‘Goodfellas’, but I think Scorsese’s made better — and certainly more independent. The funny Italians part I don’t think I can argue with.
Jordan Hoffman: Hit me w. your #10. Slice it thin with a razor so it liquefies in the pan.
Matt Singer: My #10 is ‘Videodrome’.
Jordan Hoffman: Pervert.
Matt Singer: Exactly, but beyond my own deranged sexual proclivities, ‘Videodrome’ is an incredible movie. You watch it today and you realize that David Cronenberg basically predicted the Internet, cybersex, reality television, essentially everything in our world. So you add that raw understanding of the future of media to a really horrifying and powerful story about a guy consumed by his obsessions and you get one masterpiece.
Jordan Hoffman: It is a very prescient film, to be sure, and one absolutely deserving of rich scholarship – it is also quite sleazy, which makes it even more fantastic. I won’t lie and say I understand the ending, but it is definitely something that belongs on a top 10. And probably Cronenberg’s best.
Matt Singer: Good, so I’m right. I feel great now.
Jordan Hoffman: So far, we’re both right. With my #9 is when I start going wrong.
Jordan Hoffman: My #9 is ‘The Right Stuff’.
Matt Singer: More like ‘The Wrong Stuff’. SNAP.
Jordan Hoffman: Now, apart from fanning the flames of my own curious obsession with the Cold War, this is one of the few movies that manages to, as Danny Rose says, rides two horses with one behind. It is really sharp and cynical but, when it needs to be, comes out heroic and patriotic. The performances are amazing, Caleb Deschanel’s photography is fantastic and there isn’t one scene that doesn’t have crackling dialogue. It is also one of the very few movies ever made that is far greater than the book it is based on (and Tom Wolfe’s no slouch!)
Matt Singer: Hard for me to respond here, as I haven’t seen the movie in a very long time. It doesn’t resonate with me, although I have been meaning to revisit it at some point. What age did you see this movie for the first time Hoff?
Jordan Hoffman: Well, you may have hit upon something there. You are going to see 3 films on this list that were released in the years of 81, 82 & 83. When The Right Stuff came out, and I saw it in the theaters, I was just shy of my 9th birthday. Nevertheless, I’ve seen this movie numerous times – and quite recently – and I stand by the pick. It kinda represents the “epic drama” category for me.
Matt Singer: Epic drama with rocket ships. From the guy with the Star Trek logo AIM avatar. Understood.
Jordan Hoffman: Dang. Okay, tough guy, what’s your #9?
Matt Singer: My #9 is ‘The Right Stuff’. No I’m kidding. My #9 is ‘The Searchers’.
Jordan Hoffman: Racist.
Matt Singer: You mean perverted racist.
Jordan Hoffman: Who can keep track of all your faults? Why The Searchers?
Matt Singer: Because it’s ‘The Searchers’. John Wayne, John Ford, some of the most beautiful photography in the history of motion pictures, and a movie as much about the Western as the West and since the Western figures pretty large in the history of film, I figured I should have one on my list.
Jordan Hoffman: The Searchers is terrific. What I love about it is that is almost walks the line between full-born classicism and a little modernist reflection. There are whiffs of, hey, maybe these cowboys are a little nuts. But, by and large, the iconography trumps any of that intellectual crap. It is a masterpiece, but, if I were to have a Western on my list (and I don’t) I’d be stuck between this and High Noon.
Matt Singer: I’m a racist, you’re a Communist.
Jordan Hoffman: True. Okay, my #8 is another one that you’ll call bulls— on, but here goes. #8 is ‘Amadeus’. This one ticks the box of “juicy drama.” It’s just a great big delicious yarn of people being mean to one another. Plus all that great music. This film actually turned me into a bit of a classical music snob for a while (don’t worry I got better.) It’s also a great costume drama, but you don’t notice that at first because you are so caught up in the story, which is rowdy and funny and larger than life. Maybe I was a weird kid, but I wore out my store-bought VHS of Amadeus by the time I got through middle school.
Matt Singer: I guess with a pick like this, and it’s a good movie, is what does ‘Amadeus’ do better than all but, like, seven films in the history of cinema?
Jordan Hoffman: It presents a really unique conflict and then teases it out for over two hours. Salieri hates Mozart, but at the end he’s Mozart’s only friend. And we have no idea what Mozart really thinks of Salieri. It’s a completely original dynamic. . .at least until Showgirls showed up.
Matt Singer: There have been no other movies about two characters in competition before?
Jordan Hoffman: Not in this kind of setting, not with this caliber of writing. What other movie can offer up the idea of someone being a good songwriter as God punishing someone – and you completely buy it?
Matt Singer: ‘Walk Hard’ comes to mind.
Jordan Hoffman: You mock me like God mocked Salieri.
Matt Singer: God’s a ‘Walk Hard’ fan.
Jordan Hoffman: Hey – come on – and that ending, when Salieri is taking dictation, it’s presented in a whole different language. I contend that NO other film has captured the genius of the artistic process like that.
Matt Singer: Other than ‘Walk Hard’.
Jordan Hoffman: Let’s move on. Your #8?
Matt Singer: My #8 is ‘Walk Hard’. No. My #8 is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.
Jordan Hoffman: Self-loathing Jew.
Matt Singer: Correct. But, as you note, this can’t be, unlike your choices, a shameless nostalgia pick because I feel no nostalgia for ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ because I never watched it until about three years ago. When I realized that the movie I expected — schmaltz Christmas movie — was not the film it is: namely, a film that affirms the beauty of community and the power of selflessness and it’s still relevant today — this is the 1% and the 99%.
Jordan Hoffman: Matt, you’re a nice guy, so I hate to be the one to tell you this. It’s A Wonderful Life sucks.
Matt Singer: Oh does it now?
Jordan Hoffman: It’s a hundred hours long, has all the impact of a Twilight Zone episode and Donna Reed is a frump. You can take Zuzu’s petals and smoke them – this movie is a stone cold bore. Team Miracle on 34th Street!
Matt Singer: Yeah that’s why it’s become beloved by generations of Americans, because it’s like a really long, boring ‘Twilight Zone’ episode. So many movies about “America” are about this idea of me-first individualism. So, for me, this is kind of a polemical pick as much as it is a film that I do think is a masterpiece. Rereading a detailed plot synopsis last night got me all misty-eyed.
Jordan Hoffman: Okay, I might have gone a little haywire, but the truth is that I’ve never connected with the movie. It always felt like a slog. Yeah, I get it, at the end everyone helps him build his barn back up, but, I dunno, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington does the Capra optimism bit in a way that doesn’t make me roll my eyes quite as much.
Matt Singer: The world of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is the place I want to live in. Well it’s nice to find someone even more dead inside than I am because I thought I was the worst one. But now I see I have a bit more of a soul than you and I feel a lot better about me. So thank you for that.
Jordan Hoffman: “Teacher says, every time a bell rings, Jordan Hoffman throws up in his mouth.” Who’s ready for #7?
Jordan Hoffman: My #7 is the perfect reaction to the treacle of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ It is Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless’. There was no way I couldn’t include a snazzy Nouvelle Vague film here – because, you know, I am so stylish – and after debating for quite some time, I ultimately went with the first one. It’s 50 years old and still feels young.
Matt Singer: I can’t argue with this one, although it’s not on my own list. It’s a worthy pick. Not as worthy as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (or ‘Walk Hard’) of course, but worthy nonetheless. My #7 is ‘Rashomon’. Again: a formally brilliant movie that contributed a huge amount to world culture, to cinema, even to our everyday lexicon, that’s also just an amazingly watchable, gripping story (or stories, in this case). Putting ‘Rashomon’ on a list like this is also kind of a polemical pick. It’s like acknowledging that we all see these movies differently, and that’s why your ten best can be totally different than my ten best, and both can be correct. Except in your case Jordan, yours are mostly wrong but you get the idea.
Jordan Hoffman: Yeah, ‘Rashomon’ is some strong meat. While it doesn’t have the visual splendor of some of AK’s later stuff like Kagemusha or Ran, I think the fact that the title has, as you say, become a term of speech says something. It’s a movie that’s almost bigger than just being a movie, ya know? It isn’t on my list, but it is definitely a worthy choice.
Jordan Hoffman: My #6 represents absurdist comedy. It isn’t Monty Python and the Holy Grail and it isn’t Airplane! and it isn’t a Hope and Crosby film and it isn’t an early Woody Allen film . . .but it almost was. It is ‘Duck Soup’. The thing about Duck Soup is that it is the only Marx Bros. movie where you don’t want to skip past the plot to get to the goofy bits. It actually has a decent story, something to “say” (it is an antiwar film) and the musical numbers are funny. It’s alternate reality of made-up countries even lend it a surreal quality – more so than the fact that a wacko who only speaks in horn honks is in it.
Jordan Hoffman: Did I miss the part where you said I was a genius?
Matt Singer: No but The Marx Brothers were, so I’ll let you have ‘Duck Soup’.
Jordan Hoffman: Am I nuts, or does this one “still work.” It isn’t a nostalgia act.
Matt Singer: I don’t know. I honestly don’t know if a 18 year old kid would get the Marx Brothers.
Jordan Hoffman: Only one way to find out: ROAD TRIP!
Matt Singer: I’m not sure you could put ‘A Night at the Opera’ on after an episode of ‘Community’ and have people stick around and start tweeting how much they love it, most of their movies do have some really turgid scenes.
Jordan Hoffman: I don’t know. Groucho’s mind is pretty sharp, though. And the Marx Bros.’ films were damn innovative. What’s your #6?
Matt Singer: My #6 is ‘Apocalypse Now’. I decided to bypass ‘The Godfather’ and go for ‘Apocalypse Now’.
Jordan Hoffman: It’s a doozy of a film – almost made my list. And, yeah, probably better than ‘The Godfather’. At least more ambitious.
Matt Singer: Definitely more ambitious. Maybe less “entertaining” but probably more “interesting” too. A towering testament to the beauty and madness of movie-making: going into the jungle, attempting to recreate what Vietnam “was really like,” slowly going insane. Even Marlon Brando muttering in that temple — the mother of all anticlimaxes — feels appropriate somehow to the bizarre, dreamlike quality of the narrative.
Jordan Hoffman: Yeah, there aren’t as many jokes. But lots of “oh, wow, man” moments. It definitely has a wonderful flow from man-on-a-mission film to surreal insanity. Now, are you putting Apocalypse Now on the list or Apocalypse Now Redux?
Matt Singer: Other movies probably convey the horrifying reality of war better than ‘Apocalypse Now’, but no movie gets at the horrifying madness of war quite like it. I don’t actually think I’ve seen the Redux version yet, so my vote is for the original.
Jordan Hoffman: The Redux version slips in the “French Plantation scene,” which is tremendous, but also some other unnecessary filler, so it is a bit of a wash. But, yeah, even with the pomposity of the over-the-top music cues, Apocalypse Now is absolutely chilling. I still get a lump in my throat at the scene when they attack the village. It’s heavy stuff.
Matt Singer: So that means you agree with me and you’re adding it to your list? Bye bye ‘Amadeus,’ hello ‘Apocalypse Now’?
Jordan Hoffman: I wouldn’t know where to put it. Because, at the end of the day, I *like* Amadeus more. I am far more likely to watch that movie again than Apocalypse Now. I have to be me! However, my #5 pick does speak to the grander, more artistic side of cinema.
Jordan Hoffman: My #5 film represents the art film and the, for lack of better term, head film. It is ‘Koyaanisqatsi.’
Matt Singer: Well let’s stop for now and do the other five another time. I have to get back to other work.
Jordan Hoffman: Clearly my #5 pick has shook you to your core. Okay, let’s take a break.
Matt Singer: Oh yeah totally. You recorded all of that?
Jordan Hoffman: I am saving this, but save a copy on your hard drive too in case my computer explodes.
Jordan Hoffman: So, dim the lights, swallow a psychotropic drug and get heavy – the #5 best film in the world according to me is ‘Koyaanisqatsi’.
Matt Singer: Gesundheit.
Jordan Hoffman: Have you seen this movie the way it was meant to be seen? Have you let it blow your mind? I first saw it in 8th grade, in an art class, and I’ve been all the more far out ever since.
Matt Singer: Unless the way it was meant to be seen is not at all, then no. This one is a blind spot of mine.
Jordan Hoffman: Oh, no! Well, I’ll entice you thusly – rarely does a movie work so well on multiple levels. If one WANTS to get all joint-smoky heavy about the meaning and the implications of the work, well, that’s what it is there for. It also is perfectly suitable for non-verbal children. It is a dazzling sound and light show that, and I say this with no hyperbole, changed cinema. It spawned immediate copycats in advertising and its influence is still felt. I’ve seen it many times, often in theaters, and it still has more to show me. It’s also just really cool. Go see it! I’ll lend you my DVD.
Matt Singer: Thanks, you friggin’ hippie.
Jordan Hoffman: Hey, man, we’re all connected. Even the towers of glass and steel! I make no judgement calls, just observe (says the movie.) (or does it.) (it’s very heavy.)
Matt Singer: My #5 is a movie about a man who would surely despise anyone who enjoys a film like ‘Koyaanisqatsi’. It’s ‘Taxi Driver’.
Jordan Hoffman: I didn’t know you were so angry.
Matt Singer: Well I am now, you’re picking movies I’ve never seen. You’re right though — this isn’t necessarily a movie I “relate” to. I’m not a particularly Travis Bickle-ian figure. But what I love about ‘Taxi Driver’ is its singular portrait of two things: loneliness and New York City in the 1970s. I’m not sure a better movie has ever been made about either of those subjects.
Jordan Hoffman: It definitely is a nice marriage of those topics. The thing is, the character could still work in any context. Solitary figures went nuts in Russian literature, but to watch a guy lose his marbles in NYC in the 1970s is a real cinematic treat. This is an endlessly watchable film.
Matt Singer: That’s a good point; I’ve easily seen ‘Taxi Driver’, a very dark movie, at least two dozens times.
Jordan Hoffman: There were times in my single days, when I would maybe feel myself going nuts and say “woah, that was a Travis Bickle moment.”
Matt Singer: I’m often made uncomfortable by how often you peel off your shirt, shave your head, and start doing pushups right in the middle of press screenings. It’s odd.
Jordan Hoffman: I was referring more to the eating of Chuckles while watching porn, but okay. Shall we go on to $4?
Matt Singer: Yessir. What have you got?
Jordan Hoffman: The #4 movie is the one that’s the most popular on my list. If ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ represents art cinema at its apex, this is unadulterated Hollywood. I speak of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.
Matt Singer: Mm, I like the juxtaposition. Wasn’t ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ what the Egyptians called the Ark?
Jordan Hoffman: There is no more enthralling sequence in cinema than the truck chase – it is a masterstroke surrounded by a movie that is just so much fun and just a little bit smart. Obviously, seeing it (or what I could watch when I wasn’t covering my eyes) as a kid adds a nostalgia factor, but I really think there was some magic in the water when they made it. It is funny, it is scary, it is thrilling and boy is it iconic. What do you think, am I overpraising it? Is it worthy of a pedestal like this?
Matt Singer: Well if we’re talking about watchability, you’re not going to find much better than ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. It is definitely one of the great achievements of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking. Pure popcorn pleasure. If that is your measurement for greatness, I find no fault whatsoever.
Jordan Hoffman: I feel that that needs to be on the list somewhere. I’ll catch flak from my snooty friends for having no Bergman or Godard on my list, but I think we both agree we have 300 movies tied for 11th place. What is YOUR number 4?
Matt Singer: My number four is another genre movie, but this one is a wee bit older. It’s Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’.
Jordan Hoffman: Matt, have I told you lately that the hand and the heart must be mediated by the head? Or whatever it is they say 300 times?
Matt Singer: My argument for ‘Metropolis’ goes something like this: 1) It basically invented a genre and you still see its influence in movie theaters to this day. 2) It is absolutely riveting. I recently what they call “The Complete ‘Metropolis’” at Ebertfest, with live musical accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra and it truly was one of the greatest movie-going experiences of my lifetime. I had seen it before but seeing it the way it was meant to be seen — at its nearly original length, on the big screen, with live music pounding through a gorgeous movie palace — it just doesn’t get much better than that. I guess technically three films get better than that, according to me, but anyway…Shall me move on to #3?
Jordan Hoffman: My #3 is similarly sci-fi but so much more. It is Stanley Kubrick’s collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke, Douglas Trumbull and the Spheres: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Here’s another one, like ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ and like ‘Taxi Driver’ that just kills it on both a deep and surface level.
Matt Singer: And on a let’s-take-drugs-and-watch-something-trippy level. What’s next? ALTERED STATES at #2?
Jordan Hoffman: If one wanted to, you could enjoy it strictly as a World’s Fair showcase: This is What The Past Looked Like, This Is What Future Will Look Like. I’m sure that’s how most people in 1968 dealt with it. Then, of course, if you are looking for spiritual enlightenment, and you aren’t finding answers to big questions elsewhere, the discourse in the film is no less valid, in my opinion, than one you’ll find anywhere else. I’m not ashamed to admit that I find deep meaning in 2001 that I find difficult to express through words. I’m also always losing at chess against computers’
Matt Singer: Maybe you find it difficult to express because the movie itself doesn’t do the best job of expressing it. Don’t get me wrong, I like 2001 — but it’s not my favorite Kubrick, and it’s not even close. Give me ‘The Shining’ any day or even ‘Full Metal Jacket’, which I think it really underrated. But then again I’ve never seen ’2001′ tripping balls on acid, so maybe that’s what I’m missing.
Jordan Hoffman: I love all his other movies. But they’re just movies. This is something else, man and, to be sure, the message is indeed obscured, by design.
Matt Singer: Perhaps.
Jordan Hoffman: What’s your #3? Literal McGee and the Whats-On-The-Screen Gang Go To The Market?
Matt Singer: Perhaps we feeble headed humans are not equipped to receive transmissions from the space gods of Jupiter. My #3 is maybe my version of your ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ pick, the perfect Hollywood movie. It’s Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’. By now everyone knows the incredible bait and switch Hitchcock pulled with his protagonists.
Jordan Hoffman: I wouldn’t call ‘Psycho’ straight Hollywood, though. Main character gets killed 40 minutes in! (Spoiler?)
Matt Singer: SPOILER ALERT FOR A 50 YEAR OLD MOVIE! What makes ‘Psycho’ brilliant is that knowing the twist does almost nothing to the way you enjoy it. You could use ‘Psycho’ as the textbook in a Filmmaking 101 course. The use of music, lighting, camera movement, perspective, framing, it’s all perfect.
Jordan Hoffman: Why ‘Psycho’ over ‘Rear Window’ or ‘Vertigo’?
Matt Singer: I love ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Rear Window’ and ‘North by Northwest’ and ‘The 39 Steps’ and ‘Frenzy’ and on and on. But ‘Psycho’ is, to me, this perfect little nugget. Every single aspect of it is just as good as it can possibly be. And, like I said, you can learn everything you need to know about how to make a movie, and how to work an audience into a lather, just by watching ‘Psycho’.
Jordan Hoffman: It does seem to tell a small story, which is nice. I think the epilogue is kinda awful, though. I know it was 1960 and all, but it elicits chuckles now.
Matt Singer: Some people hate the psychiatrist character. I like it as a nice time capsule of this bygone era. “A guy dressed in woman’s clothing? What what?!?!”
Jordan Hoffman: That’s a decent rationalization, I’ll accept that.
Matt Singer: “What’ll think of next? Diet soda pop?”
Jordan Hoffman: Are your ready to switch gears for #2?
Jordan Hoffman: Let’s not kill ‘em with knives but with jokes. And with insight into the human heart. The #2 movie of all time is ‘Annie Hall’.
Matt Singer: The Woodman Cometh.
Jordan Hoffman: Of course, I could make a top 10 movies in history and make them all Woody Allen. And I can easily argue myself into thinking ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ is just as good as ‘Annie Hall’. However, this has got everything Woody ever offered in one package. The persona, the absurdist humor, the sight gags, the poignant relationship stuff, great jazz, Tony Roberts, a love letter to New York. . .there’s a reason everyone says it is his best. It basically is.
Matt Singer: When I was 21, I thought it was the best film ever made. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s dimmed just a bit in my estimation. Just a bit. Maybe all the self-conscious trickery doesn’t tickle me quite as much or I’ve just gotten a lot more mature, and you haven’t, I think that’s what I’m saying.
Jordan Hoffman: Yeah, but that was pretty new back then! The 4th wall gags and the use of flashback and flash forward. It had been done, but not ever in a movie like that. Or to that extent. And then to have the movie be ABOUT something and not just about gags. I still love it. Obviously, as I’m calling it my 2nd favorite movie of all time. Quick story: The “first kiss now before dinner” gag. I used to pull that all the time. It worked 100% of the time. My wife isn’t really a movie buff (part of the reason we’re together, I think.) A few years ago I sat her down to watch ‘Annie Hall’. And when she saw that scene she FLIPPED OUT.
Matt Singer: Nice.
Jordan Hoffman: Now tell me how ‘Metropolis’ influenced your courtship.
Matt Singer: Well I once told my life “I know” when she said “I love you,” like Han Solo does in ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ The reception I got was about as chilly as Carbonite, my friend. Apparently, I am not as suave as Han Solo. Anyway, shall I to my #2?
Jordan Hoffman: Ha . . .is that a clue as to your #2 pick?
Matt Singer: It is not! My #2 is Jacques Tati’s ‘Playtime’.
Jordan Hoffman: Woah! Did not see that coming.
Matt Singer: Why is that?
Jordan Hoffman: I guess just because I find that movie enjoyable but have no desire to ever see it again. How long can I dance in that restaurant?
Matt Singer: Forever, my friend. I feel about ‘Playtime’ the way you feel about 2001. It’s not easy to express what exactly they are, but somewhere in this movie lie the secrets of the universe. It’s more than 40 years old, but it still feels like a manual to modern life in all its absurdity, and silliness, and beauty. Maybe I just admire a movie that sees the world with equal parts sarcastic humor and deep affection. Something about that speaks to me, I guess.
Jordan Hoffman: I buy that. It definitely has a tenderness to it. And the set pieces are as good as you’ll find in Chaplin or Keaton. I just think it kinda drags a bit. Were I to pick a silent comedy, I’d definitely go with ‘The General.’ That’s wall to wall comedy and the timing is still remarkable. I recognize ‘Playtime’ is a special film, don’t get me wrong though.
Matt Singer: I AM GETTING YOU WRONG.
Jordan Hoffman: I like the part when he goes in the wrong elevator and then the wrong cubicle. Then is in traffic because this is what life is. But the calliope music is nice.
Matt Singer: Exactly. Life is a series of wrong elevators, Jordan. And chairs that make fart noises. Because, obviously.
Jordan Hoffman: Anyway, we can dance in this bistro all night. . .should I get to the #1 movie ever made in the history of the world according to me? Wait I have to stand up, this is getting exciting. Let me put on a tie.
Jordan Hoffman: Strike that, let me put on a fez. . .because we are taking a trip to . . .’Casablanca’. ‘Casablanca’, like one of my earlier pics, ‘The Right Stuff’, is one of the few movies that manages to be really cynical but also very uplifting at the same time. This movie packs everything in and does ‘em all well. Love story, war story, classic Hollywood iconography, music, comedy, beautiful to look at. It’s historic, it’s important, but its depiction of lost love and regret are timeless. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times and still I’m tied up in knots at the end. No joke: there is a part of me always thinking “what’s going to happen” when Major Strasser gets to them at the air field. How is that possible? I don’t know. No, I do know. It is because it is the greatest movie ever made.
Matt Singer: And then there was that time you told your wife it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and she thought you just made that up.
Jordan Hoffman: Actually, she thinks I’m Victor Lazlo, fighting fascism. Don’t tell her otherwise.
Matt Singer: You must remember this, Jordan: never lie to your wife. ‘Casablanca’ would probably be my #11 film on my list. Unless I’ve said that about another movie, in which case it would be #12. I can’t keep track anymore, we’ve been doing this for so long.
Jordan Hoffman: OK, I was just about to yell at you, but I guess if it ranked that high it is okay.
Matt Singer: Phew.
Jordan Hoffman: It’s amazing to think how many lines of every day vernacular come from this movie.
Matt Singer: Round up the usual suspects!
Jordan Hoffman: I use Captain Renault’s “shocked, shocked” constantly. And “round up the usual suspects” quite a bit, too. I think the thing that is most amazing is what a troubled production it was. Just another gig on the lot, rushed because of the political situation. Somehow it turned into something else. Now it is your turn to play As Time Goes By. . .your #1 movie, please.
Matt Singer: It’s definitely a movie that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Well, after all this, any guesses what it could be?
Jordan Hoffman: Yeah, I don’t know It’s possible you may just go for it and say ‘Citizen Kane’. And I wouldn’t argue. . .
Matt Singer: ‘Citizen Kane’, my #1. My first viewing of ‘Citizen Kane’ when I was 13 years old or something like that did something to me, infected me with some kind of disease of movie obsession, and I have yet to recover. Inventive, insightful, beautiful, tragic, hilarious, it is not just the best movie ever, it’s EVERY movie ever.
Jordan Hoffman: ‘Citizen Kane’ is terrific. And I’ve watched it again very recently to confirm that I still believe that. I gotta say, though, somehow the others on my list are films I’m more likely to watch again soon, and that I still find great value in. But despite it not being on my list, I can’t exactly argue it not being your top pick. It *is* very much THE movie. It’s like the Beatles of movies. And I love the Beatles. I just don’t have an itch to play their albums much these days.
Matt Singer: This is where we differ. I still listen to The Beatles and I still watch ‘Citizen Kane’. For no reason whatsoever other than i love it I watched it again about two months ago. Here I think the parts are equally brilliant to the whole. It’s the best movie ever with the best acting ever, the best cinematography ever, the best makeup ever, the best music ever, the best use of flashbacks ever.
Jordan Hoffman: It’s also about a sled.
Matt Singer: Best use of sledding ever! Dorothy Comingore FTW.
Jordan Hoffman: I hate to be in a position to say anything negative about ‘Citizen Kane’, but it does get a little heavy handed at times. I know it is all a big fat allegory, but, I dunno, smashing up the room as an old man, it’s a tiny bit much, wouldn’t you say?
Matt Singer: In one badass take! Followed by that long lonely walk down that corridor, where he passes between two mirrors, refracting his image into an infinite number of permutations. Summing up the entire movie’s thesis in a single image. But, no, you’re right, it’s meh. Blasphemer!
Jordan Hoffman: Did I say anything about the mirror shot? I love that. And the screeching cockatoo that looks like a film negative for no reason. (Actually, to hear Peter Bogdanovich tell it, Welles put it in there to wake up any audience members who may have nodded off to let them know the end was coming soon.)
Matt Singer: Fine, fine.
Jordan Hoffman: I’d be laughed out the profession if I didn’t love this movie, so I’m down with it and down with everything on your list.
Matt Singer: Do you have any runner ups before we close this thing out?
Jordan Hoffman: You made me second guess myself a bit with ‘Amadeus’, but I am what I am. I’d love to represent the French in here somewhere, particularly the French New Wave, which means so much to me, but I love those movies as a group, and to pick, say, ‘Band of Outsiders’ over ‘Masculine-Feminine’ or ‘Breathless’ doesn’t feel right. And, obviously, I love sci-fi so much and feel like ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ and ’2001′ don’t get at what’s to be loved in, say, ‘Starship Troopers’ or ‘Star Trek IV’. But, yeah, I can get to bed at night with this list. What’s eating at you?
Matt Singer: ‘Casablanca’ is definitely one I considered. I wish I could have gotten a documentary in there somewhere, maybe ‘Gimme Shelter.’ Also: ‘The Shining,’ ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ ’8 1/2,’ ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ and ‘Blow-Out.’
Jordan Hoffman: The one that irks me is Bergman’s ‘Persona.’ I feel like a clod for not repping that. But, hey, that’s life. And we’ve got some really good movies here.
10. ‘GoodFellas,’ Martin Scorsese, 1990
9. ‘The Right Stuff,’ Philip Kaufman, 1983
8. ‘Amadeus,’ Milos Forman, 1984
7. ‘Breathless,’ Jean-Luc Godard, 1960
6. ‘Duck Soup,’ Leo McCarey, 1933
5. ‘Koyaanisqatsi,’ Godfrey Reggio, 1982
4. ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ Steven Spielberg, 1981
3. ’2001: A Space Odyssey,’ Stanley Kubrick, 1968
2. ‘Annie Hall,’ Woody Allen, 1977
1. ‘Casablanca,’ Michael Curtiz, 1942
10. ‘Videodrome,’ David Cronenberg, 1983
9. ‘The Searchers,’ John Ford, 1956
8. ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ Frank Capra, 1946
7. ‘Rashomon,’ Akira Kurosawa, 1950
6. ‘Apocalypse Now,’ Francis Ford Coppola, 1979
5. ‘Taxi Driver,’ Martin Scorsese, 1976
4. ‘Metropolis,’ Fritz Lang, 1927
3. ‘Psycho,’ Alfred Hitchcock, 1960
2. ‘Playtime,’ Jacques Tati, 1967
1. ‘Citizen Kane,’ Orson Welles, 1941