“Best films (not in order)” — Susan Sontag

Best films (not in order)

  1. Bresson, Pickpocket
  2. Kubrick, 2001
  3. Vidor, The Big Parade
  4. Visconti, Ossessione
  5. Kurosawa, High and Low
  6. Syberberg, Hitler
  7. Godard, 2 ou 3 Choses . . .
  8. Rossellini, Louis XIV
  9. Renoir, La Regle du Jeu
  10. Ozu, Tokyo Story
  11. Dreyer, Gertrud
  12. Eisenstein, Potemkin
  13. Von Sternberg, The Blue Angel
  14. Lang, Dr. Mabuse
  15. Anonioni, L’Eclisse
  16. Bresson, Un Condamne a Mort . . . 
  17. Grance, Napoleon
  18. Vertov, The Man with the Movie Camera
  19. Feuillade, Judex
  20. Anger, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
  21. Godard, Vivre Sa Vie
  22. Bellocchio, Pugni in Tasca
  23. Carne, Les Enfants du Pradis
  24. Kurosawa, The Seven Samurai
  25. Tati, Playtime
  26. Truffaut, L’Enfant Savage
  27. Rivette, L’Amour Fou
  28. Eisenstein, Strike
  29. Von Stroheim, Greed
  30. Straub, . . . Anna Magadalena Bach
  31. Taviani bros, Padre Padrone
  32. Renais, Muriel
  33. Becker, Le Trou
  34. Cocteau, La Belle et la Bete
  35. Bergman, Persona
  36. Fassbinder, . . . Petra von Kant
  37. Griffith, Intolerance
  38. Godard, Contempt
  39. Marker, La Jete
  40. Conner, Crossroads
  41. Fassbinder, Chinese Rouleette
  42. Renoir, La Grande Illusion
  43. Opuls, The Earrings of Madame de . . .
  44. Kheifits, The Lady with the Little Dog
  45. Godard, Les Carabiners
  46. Bresson, Lancelot du Lac
  47. Ford, The Searchers
  48. Bertolucci, Prima della Rivoluzione
  49. Pasolini, Teorema
  50. Sagan, Madchen in Uniform

[The list continues up to number 228, where SS abandons it].

—From a 1977 entry in one of Susan Sontag’s notebooks. The list is published as part of As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals & Notebooks, 1964-1980.

8 thoughts on ““Best films (not in order)” — Susan Sontag”

  1. Terrific variety of works! There are many here I still need to see (The Lady with the Little Dog. Still have yet to see anything from Straub-Huillet.) Some of these movies are abstruse, cognitive obstacle courses, remarkable for their complications of intelligibility: 1,2,7,10, 11, 15, 25, 35 and 36 for instance. Others are just bravura cinema pure and simple: 47, 43, 25, 17, 10, 2, and 1 among pretty much all the rest.


  2. Remarkable list. I could not sit down and recall the titles of 50 films I have ever seen. Well, maybe I could if a gun were pointed at my head. Her list contains a lot of my choices for ‘top tier’ directors, but her choice of movie is not the one I would make. It would be impossible for me to decide between Ossessione of The Leopard. L’Eclise? Perhaps. It could be Antonioni’s purest minimalist statement. Perhaps the complete list has more than one movie by the same director. I still don’t get why 2001 is considered by so many to be a great movie. Kubrick made some good movies, but Eyes Wide Shut is the second worst ‘serious’ movie I ever saw, Meet Joe Black is the worst. Susan Sontag is one of the wittiest people I have ever heard. Is there a list, somewhere, of the funniest comedies?


  3. I. Uncle Boonmee who can Recall his Past Lives (2010)
    II. The Tree of Life (2011)
    III. The Social Network (2010)
    IV. Holy Motors (2012)
    V. Like Someone in Love (2012)
    VI. This is Not a Film (2012)
    VII. Certified Copy (2011)
    VIII. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
    IX. Before Midnight (2013)
    X. Melancholia (2011)

    I. Mulholland Drive (2001)
    II. Inland Empire (2006)
    III. Cache (2005)
    IV. Punch Drunk Love (2002)
    V. Birth (2004)
    VI. In the Mood for Love (2000)
    VII. A Serious Man (2009)
    VIII. Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
    IX. Waking Life (2001)
    X. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

    I. Close Up (1990)
    II. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
    III. Dead Man (1995)
    IV. The Thin Red Line (1998)
    V. Barton Fink (1991)
    VI. Naked Lunch (1991)
    VII. The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
    VIII. Short Cuts (1992)
    IX. Satantango (1994)
    X. Flowers of Shanghai (1998)

    I. The Dead (1987)
    II. Videodrome (1983)
    III. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
    IV. After Hours (1986)
    V. The King of Comedy (1983)
    VI. Another Woman (1988)
    VII. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
    VIII. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
    IX. Blow Out (1981)
    X. The Shining (1980)

    I. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
    II. Images (1972)
    III. Nashville (1975)
    IV. Taxi Driver (1976)
    V. The Tenant (1976)
    VI. Days of Heaven (1978)
    VII. Jaws (1975)
    VIII. The Conversation (1974)
    IX. Claire’s Knee (1970)
    X. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)

    I. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
    II. An Autumn Afternoon (1962)
    III. Persona (1966)
    IV. Pierot le Fou (1965)
    V. Psycho (1960) or Peeping Tom (1960)
    VI. 8 1/2 (1963)
    VII. Medium Cool (1969)
    VIII. Repulsion (1965)
    IX. Mouchette (1967)
    X. The House is Black (1962)

    I. Vertigo (1958) or Rear Window (1954)
    II. Floating Weeds (1959)
    III. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
    IV. Ordet (1955)
    V. Night of the Hunter (1955)
    VI. Ugetsu (1953)
    VII. The Quiet Man (1952)
    VIII. Rio Bravo (1959)
    IX. The Seventh Seal (1957)
    X. Gate of Hell (1953)

    I. Citizen Kane (1941)
    II. Late Spring (1949)
    III. Day of Wrath (1943)
    IV. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
    V. The Woman in the Window (1944)
    VI. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
    VII. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
    VIII. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
    IX. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)
    X. The Black Narcissus (1947)

    I. Vampyr (1932)
    II. M (1931)
    III. The Rules of the Game (1939)
    IV. Stagecoach (1939)
    V. L’Atalante (1934)
    VI. The 39 Steps (1935)
    VII. Grand Illusion (1937)
    VIII. City Lights (1931)
    IX. Zero for Conduct (1933)
    X. The Scarlet Empress (1934)

    I. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
    II. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
    III. Our Hospitality (1923)
    IV. Broken Blossoms (1919)
    V. Mother (1926)

    I. Uncle Boonmee who can Recall his Past Lives (2010)
    II. Vertigo (1958)
    III. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
    IV. Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire (2001, 2006)
    V. Close Up (1990)
    VI. Vampyr (1932)
    VII. Citzen Kane (1941)
    VIII. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
    IX. The Dead (1987)
    X. An Autumn Afternoon (1962)


  4. The list makers who added onto S Sontag’s ‘Best’ list left out Harry and the Andersons, and Moonstruck. Barry Lyndon used to be the worst movie I ever saw until MJB came along. If I watched BL again after all these years since its premiere, I might even like it, but probably not, Kubrick’s epic type movies are too Otto Preminger for me. A bit too drama quean with the camera and the acting styles. Eyes Wide Shut is Tom Cruise at his goody goody best, all bourgy socially inbred albino. Is ‘The Ice Storm’ on any list? BTW, we have witchcraft geriatric orgies out here in the swamps. Somebody gets bit by a moccasin now and then, but that’s okay because they get to be the ritual sacrifice.


  5. The King of Hearts, The Ruling Class, Morgan, (Don’t) Shoot the Piano Player), Mon Oncle, The Woman In The Dunes, Harlots for Hitler, Chinatown, Diner, I’m Not There, Jarhead, Hurt Locker, Lars and The Real Girl, La Vie en Rose, Les Miserables, The Lion In Winter, Lost in Translation, Moon. My Voyage to Italy, movie, and Scorcese doc., The Outsiders, The Passenger, The Pearl, The Pianist, The Ref, The Sea Wolves, The Stoning of Soraya, The Yearling, most of Woody Allen and for the bass note, nearly all of Bergman.


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