Distrurbing reading? (Empire Magazine's top 50 movies of all time readers poll)

Dan Brecher

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I stopped reading this magazine ("The UKs best selling film magazine" apparently), a British publication, some six years ago now for various reasons. Anyone who followed it from its early days through to the mid-90s will probbaly know why, as if the following is not reason enough to stop now.
Recently, I was sent a newspaper article highlighting a latest issue's "poll" of the top 50 movies of all time as voted for by their readers, a list that screams "farce" as much as one of Channel 4's frequently televised top 100 listings. This is a list I find both funny and disturbing at the same time, and I thought I'd share it...
Yes friends, welcome to the world where The Matrix is better than Citizen Kane, Titanic is better than Lawrence of Arabia, Return of the Jedi is better than Raging Bull, Jurassic Park is better than Dr. Strangelove and Braveheart is better than 2001.
Read on if you dare:
01) Star Wars: A New Hope
02) The Empire Strikes Back
03) The Shawshank Redemption
04) The Godfather
05) The Matrix
06) Fight Club
07) Gladiator
08) Goodfellas
09) Breakfast at Tiffany's
10) Pulp Fiction
11) Raiders of the Lost Ark
12) The Usual Suspects
13) Jaws
14) American Beauty
15) Casablanca
16) Blade Runner
17) The Godfather: Part II
18) Se7en
19) Aliens
20) Saving Private Ryan
21) The Silence of the Lambs
22) Schindler's List
23) Alien
24) Some Like it Hot
25) LA Confidential
26) Apocalypse Now
27) Magnolia
28) Citizen Kane
29) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
30) It's a Wonderful Life
31) Braveheart
32) Leon
33) 2001: A Space Odyessy
34) Titanic
35) The Big Lebowski
36) Lawrence of Arabia
37) Taxi Driver
38) Gone with the Wind
39) Fargo
40) Return of the Jedi
41) Singin' in the Rain
42) Raging Bull
43) Jurassic Park
44) The Searchers
45) Forrest Gump
46) Grosse Pointe Blank
47) Rear Window
48) Dr Strangelove
49) One Flew over the Cukoo's Nest
50) Vertigo
Says a fair bit about the ever decreasing taste we Brits have in movies. Kinda shocking Lock Stock and or Snatch didn't even make that list huh?

Dan (UK)
 

Brian Harnish

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What really pisses me off is that 2001 is at #33!!!!! 33!!!! That film easily tops Star Wars and all those that are above it. I find it hard to believe that serious film enthusiasts would place Breakfast At Tiffany's as being better than 2001. What an obvious farce!

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paul o'donnell

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I won't get started because it'll get out of hand. But the elitist bastard inside says continue.
So all I will say is meh, guh and muh + *sigh*
Thank you, man of few words.
 

Jesse Leonard

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quote: Says a fair bit about the ever decreasing taste we Brits have in movies.[/quote]
Well, it is a Reader's poll. I am actually suprised that as many "classics" made it on the list as did.
All in all, I would say that it is a pretty good list that contains some highly entertaining films and would make a fine film library for most any household.
[Edited last by Jesse Leonard on October 14, 2001 at 05:36 AM]
 

Seth Paxton

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And yet it strangely lingers sort of close to at least good taste, with a definate weight on the last 10 years. I mean many people are not fond of Magnolia, but it has quite a respectable following too, primarily for it's artistic efforts rather than pop appeal.
And while I would not put the Star Wars films at the top, at least those 2 are considered to be strong cinema, even if they are focused on fun entertainment.
I mean, we DO see quality films all over that list, just rather well out of order with the modern stuff mostly near the top. But then Breakfast sneaks into the top 10, go figure.
I think it would be better if the list was full of Dirty Harry's and American Pies because then we could dismiss the whole thing to wretched taste. Instead it's that timeless truth that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, people that know pretty good films when they see them, yet have no perspective on how films from previous generations affected the world of film art and audiances in years past.
Why does everything current have to be "the best" or "the greatest"? Just like music lists made up of songs from the last 2 years near the top, songs that somehow leave the top 5 of all-time by the polls 2 years down the road.
 

Dan Brecher

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I'm not saying a number of the films listed are bad movies, a lot of them are good movies, great ones even, thats fine, but being a Brit as I am and living in the UK as I do I am aware of a distinct lack of diversity in what many citizens here are prone to liking. This list is proof of that, and to the extent, this is what bugs me most.
You want to put out a movie here with flashy camera work, techno music and violence it's gonna do well here (Matrix, Fight Club, Lock Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels, Snatch....etc). There's a general magnetic attraction many people have in this country to certain types of movie, movies which may very well be good, but I see people ending up liking movies like Fight Club for the wrong reasons (a "wicked lookin" film with a "well good" soundtrack)...
It's very hard for me to put into words how I feel, I'm going to sound like some elitist snob whatever the case. It's just become incresingly easy to hear about such a list based around British peoples fave flicks and immediately know that pop culture movies, anything over stylish and anything deemed somewhat "hip" will feature. I am honestly shocked Trainspotting didn't list for these reasons.
Dan (UK)
[Edited last by Dan Brecher on October 14, 2001 at 06:16 AM]
 

paul o'donnell

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Most of the Empire readers I've had experience with (and Im trying not to making generalisations here) have the outlook that cinema starts and stops with the 90s, and any films before that are either oscar winners or highly respected ones that get votes because every other list has them.
Again no offence intended, Im sure there's plenty of readers who don't fit that criteria.
I think the reason I find this list distressing, and probably Dan too is that this is the film enthusiast list, no joe six pack's.
If it were full of American Pie's and so on then yeah, we could just ignore it and look down on the voters. But this is representative of the film followers in the UK.
It doesn't bother me as much as it used to because people can like whatever they want, and like I said before, if I replied it would get out of hand and i look up at 5 paragraphs and realise...it has.
*shuts up*
 

Dan Brecher

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Would my argument make any more sense if I said, should you pluck one of these voters and ask them to reveal why they voted for say, The Matrix (and remember, this is a poll of what are allegedly the top 50 films of ALL TIME), getting a response other than "it looks well good and its got some wicked fighting in it" is going to be a miracle?
It's a general sense of falseness that frustrates me about the whole thing, again this feeling of people liking these movies but not really knowing why, and theres TV stations here that I truly feel play to this majority (Channel 4 and it's FilmFour spin off). Obviously such a statement does not speak for everyone, far from it (thankfully) but Paul I am sure would back me up in saying that this is a very general feeling of many film goers in this country. I was surrounded by them in college!
"thats great you love Gladiator so much, just give me a good reason as to why...other than 'it looked really nice with some wicked fights!'"
Dan (UK)
PS: Interstingly, Channel 4 are due to screen their own top 100 movies televised poll this winter, as voted for by the general public. I'm expecting much the same results without good discussion as to why such and such a movie deserves to be at such and such a position.
[Edited last by Dan Brecher on October 14, 2001 at 06:48 AM]
 

Jesse Leonard

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I guess I am a little confused by your argument. You claim that British film enthusiasts don’t understand good cinema and the films that they do love they can’t explain why. You choose Gladiator as a movie that has not much going for it, other than looking nice and having great fighting, to illustrate the British’s film lover’s lack of taste. Yet Gladiator won Best Picture at the America Academy Awards.
So if the British should be “disturbed” then us Americans should be ENRAGED! I saw a biography on James Garner (who is a voting member of the Academy) and he discussed the films of today. He claimed that he couldn’t even finish most of the films sent to him to screen before he votes! He doesn’t even watch them before he votes!! And I am sure that he isn’t the only member that does this.
What should be more disturbing: A list put together by a magazine or a list (Academy Awards) put together by people for the purpose of recognizing and awarding an entire industry?
I may be missing your point, Dan, but that list you posted looks pretty good to me. Like Seth said, a few seem a little out order and some could be argued as having no place on the list. But overall I feel far greater mistakes have been made by members of a certain Academy than subscribers to that magazine.
 

Glenn Overholt

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Dan, that was a great list! Much better than the AFI one. Ok, I'm nuts, but not. It's a list of what they liked. It is just as biased as any other list, and just depends on who is voting.
As for the Academy Awards, their results do not influence my purchases at all. It just depends on the competition. If Star Wars: A New Hope came out the same year as Gladiator, which one do you think would get more awards?
What if Gone With the Wind came out this year? If they did a Die Hard 4 about terrorists blowing up the WTC, would it even get mentioned? (Boo, boo, hiss, hiss)!
Glenn
 

Greg Ambrose

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The one that really shocks me is 46 - I thought I was the only person who loved Grosse Pointe Blank!
But really, I think if you take a step back and look at the list, it's a lot better than it could have (and maybe should have) been. I am suprised Citizen Kane rated as high as it did, seeing as how so few people that I know have actually seen it. I have friends that can't be bothered to watch a black and white movie, which depresses me to no end.
 

Simon Massey

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As an Empire reader myself, I don't see what is particularly wrong with this list. I don't necessarily agree with it (I agree that it predominantly 90s based, which is a shame), but it is only a poll, and the majority of films in there are great films (though not necessarily of all time).
I understand this poll was also run with the News of the World as well, and that speaks volumes to me!!!
 

Darren Davis

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon better than One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest...how does that happen?
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Nate Anderson

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Yeah, there are a lot of recent blockbusters on the list, but there are also a good number of classics that routinely show up on these lists, that says maybe, just maybe peoples tastes aren't as bad as we think...
I still don't think Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made.
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Simon Massey

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Dan
I see what your saying and I do agree with you for the most part. I tried having an conversation about the Matrix with a friend of mine, and he rated it as the best film he had ever seen.
When I asked him why, he just commented on the fights and special effects and the "slow motion bullets".
But the poll is just that, and many people who did vote probably voted for the right reasons as well.

As I said, though, if the News of the World were polling as well for this, I am amazed that the list is as good as it is.
(Sorry, but I cant stand News of the World)
BTW, I actually voted on this as well, but I voted for "movies" (e.g Star Wars) rather than "films" (e.g. The Godfather, Memento) It is difficult to explain, but I categorise things I go an see into "movies" and "films" and rate them accordingly. Sorry if this is a bit off topic, but does anyone else do this ? It did affect the way I voted on the poll as it was a "movie poll"
 

Brian_J

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Braveheart is better than 2001
If we are talking about entertainment factor then I'll agree with that one. For me, 2001 is about as much fun as watching paint dry. It is beautifully shot though.
Sorry, just my opinion.
Brian
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Brian_J

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My upset (and it's not even truly an upset, this thread is getting more serious then I had hoped) is more with the voters because there is now a majority here who will praise a big movie but never give truly valid reasons as to why when asked why they love it so much. Now yes its fine they can say whatever movie they damn well please should be up there as one of the best movies of all time, but is it good enough reason that Matrix sit at 5 because "it looks well good, has wicked fights and a pumping soundtrack"?
I guess I have a good amount of Joe 6 Pack in me as I find that I really, really rate movies the highest by how they affect me emotionally (as opposed to a film student or critic who will very methodically disect a movie to no end).
I do watch movies to be to be disturbed, to be enraged, to be enlightened, etc. None of these things can happen for me though if I am not entertained. It is for this reason that I do not rate some of the more respected movies around here higher. To me, if a movie does not entertain it does not do its primary function.
Interestingly, I also rate The Matrix in my top 10 list. Why? I have no real good grasp other than how if affected me the first time I saw it. I cannot put that feeling into words by the way.
My all time #1? Shawshank Redemption. Also in my top 5: Fight Club and Jaws. This list sits well with me. I also have a bias towards more recent films (after 1960) as I often find the acting in older movies to be too "unreal."
Brian
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Marc Colella

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This list is pretty terrible (ie. Star Wars at #1).
This list seems to be the opposite of AFI's list.
AFI has much too many older films on it's list, and this list has way too many modern films.
I also have a bias towards more recent films (after 1960) as I often find the acting in older movies to be too "unreal."
I wouldn't say that's a bias. I also find many critically acclaimed classics to have some terrible over-the-top acting. I watched A Streetcar Named Desire the other night for the first time, and Vivien Leigh's performance was just embarrasing (and she won an Oscar for this role).
[Edited last by Marc Colella on October 14, 2001 at 07:31 PM]
 

Dome Vongvises

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To me, if a movie does not entertain it does not do its primary function.
This quote sums up the first steps towards my enjoyment of movies. If a movie or film can't even appeal to me at face value, then I'm sorry, but that film/movie is a piece of trash. I strive for a balance between being entertained and having a good time to seeing films/movies in a critical light. This is why I can enjoy movies like Citizen Kane and Lawrence of Arabia. You can talk about camera angles, lighting, and great direction all you want, but its the amazing character of Charles Foster Kane or Lawrence's charge towards the Turkish column that really make movie watching fun. After the movie's appeal at face value, only then will I be willing to delve deeper into all those great cinematic things that film critics always talk about. It's after watching those same said movies can I then feel they're great due to say Orson Welles' or David Lean's great artistic direction. I'm making this point because again, it seems that whenever a movie has a "fun factor" in it, it seems the movie is just dismissed or that elitist's feel that it greatly weakens the film.
I really beg for people to reconsider what they say. Quite frankly, I'm tired of defending and explaining the validity of artistic film criticism to J6P, and I'm also tired of having to defend people's liking of movies for fun from the film elitists. Like I've said before, let's strive for some balance here.
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