Cahiers du cinéma’s 100 Greatest Films

French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma have compiled a list of the 100 greatest films of all time.

It is published this month in an illustrated book and was put together by 76 French film directors, critics and industry executives.

Here are the 100 films:

  1. Citizen Kane – Orson Welles
  2. The Night of the Hunter – Charles Laughton
  3. The Rules of the Game (La Règle du jeu) – Jean Renoir
  4. Sunrise – Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
  5. L’Atalante – Jean Vigo
  6. M – Fritz Lang
  7. Singin’ in the Rain – Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
  8. Vertigo – Alfred Hitchcock
  9. Children of Paradise (Les Enfants du Paradis) – Marcel Carné
  10. The Searchers – John Ford
  11. Greed – Erich von Stroheim
  12. Rio Bravo – Howard Hawkes
  13. To Be or Not to Be – Ernst Lubitsch
  14. Tokyo Story – Yasujiro Ozu
  15. Contempt (Le Mépris) – Jean-Luc Godard
  16. Tales of Ugetsu (Ugetsu monogatari) – Kenji Mizoguchi
  17. City Lights – Charlie Chaplin
  18. The General – Buster Keaton
  19. Nosferatu the Vampire – Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
  20. The Music Room – Satyajit Ray
  21. Freaks – Tod Browning
  22. Johnny Guitar – Nicholas Ray
  23. The Mother and the Whore (La Maman et la Putain) – Jean Eustache
  24. The Great Dictator – Charlie Chaplin
  25. The Leopard (Le Guépard) – Luchino Visconti
  26. Hiroshima, My Love – Alain Resnais
  27. The Box of Pandora (Loulou) – Georg Wilhelm Pabst
  28. North by Northwest – Alfred Hitchcock
  29. Pickpocket – Robert Bresson
  30. Golden Helmet (Casque d’or) – Jacques Becker
  31. The Barefoot Contessa – Joseph Mankiewitz
  32. Moonfleet – Fritz Lang
  33. Diamond Earrings (Madame de…) – Max Ophüls
  34. Pleasure – Max Ophüls
  35. The Deer Hunter – Michael Cimino
  36. The Adventure – Michelangelo Antonioni
  37. Battleship Potemkin – Sergei M. Eisenstein
  38. Notorious – Alfred Hitchcock
  39. Ivan the Terrible – Sergei M. Eisenstein
  40. The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola
  41. Touch of Evil – Orson Welles
  42. The Wind – Victor Sjöström
  43. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Stanley Kubrick
  44. Fanny and Alexander – Ingmar Bergman
  45. The Crowd – King Vidor
  46. 8 1/2 – Federico Fellini
  47. La Jetée – Chris Marker
  48. Pierrot le Fou – Jean-Luc Godard
  49. Confessions of a Cheat (Le Roman d’un tricheur) – Sacha Guitry
  50. Amarcord – Federico Fellini
  51. Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) – Jean Cocteau
  52. Some Like It Hot – Billy Wilder
  53. Some Came Running – Vincente Minnelli
  54. Gertrud – Carl Theodor Dreyer
  55. King Kong – Ernst Shoedsack & Merian J. Cooper
  56. Laura – Otto Preminger
  57. The Seven Samurai – Akira Kurosawa
  58. The 400 Blows – François Truffaut
  59. La Dolce Vita – Federico Fellini
  60. The Dead – John Huston
  61. Trouble in Paradise – Ernst Lubitsch
  62. It’s a Wonderful Life – Frank Capra
  63. Monsieur Verdoux – Charlie Chaplin
  64. The Passion of Joan of Arc – Carl Theodor Dreyer
  65. À bout de souffle – Jean-Luc Godard
  66. Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola
  67. Barry Lyndon – Stanley Kubrick
  68. La Grande Illusion – Jean Renoir
  69. Intolerance – David Wark Griffith
  70. A Day in the Country (Partie de campagne) – Jean Renoir
  71. Playtime – Jacques Tati
  72. Rome, Open City – Roberto Rossellini
  73. Livia (Senso) – Luchino Visconti
  74. Modern Times – Charlie Chaplin
  75. Van Gogh – Maurice Pialat
  76. An Affair to Remember – Leo McCarey
  77. Andrei Rublev – Andrei Tarkovsky
  78. The Scarlet Empress – Joseph von Sternberg
  79. Sansho the Bailiff – Kenji Mizoguchi
  80. Talk to Her – Pedro Almodóvar
  81. The Party – Blake Edwards
  82. Tabu – Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
  83. The Bandwagon – Vincente Minnelli
  84. A Star Is Born – George Cukor
  85. Mr. Hulot’s Holiday – Jacques Tati
  86. America, America – Elia Kazan
  87. El – Luis Buñuel
  88. Kiss Me Deadly – Robert Aldrich
  89. Once Upon a Time in America – Sergio Leone
  90. Daybreak (Le Jour se lève) – Marcel Carné
  91. Letter from an Unknown Woman – Max Ophüls
  92. Lola – Jacques Demy
  93. Manhattan – Woody Allen
  94. Mulholland Dr. – David Lynch
  95. My Night at Maud’s (Ma nuit chez Maud) – Eric Rohmer
  96. Night and Fog (Nuit et Brouillard) – Alain Resnais
  97. The Gold Rush – Charlie Chaplin
  98. Scarface – Howard Hawks
  99. Bicycle Thieves – Vittorio de Sica
  100. Napoléon – Abel Gance

The reaction from some outlets in this country is surprise that there are no British films on the list.

The Telegraph say:

The list in the publication Les Cahiers du Cinema features films from the USA, Germany, Russia, Italy and Sweden but there is no place for some of the biggest British directors including David Lean, Ken Loach and Peter Greenaway.

British-born Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin are both mentioned but only for the movies that they made in Hollywood.

The nearest the British cinema industry comes to a mention is the 17th (equal) place given to 2001: A Space Odyssey, made in 1968, by the American director, Stanley Kubrick, partly with British money and with British technicians.

The 1962 classic Lawrence of Arabia came seventh in a recent list of the best 100 movies drawn up by the American Film Institute in Hollywood but is perhaps the highest profile omission.

Jean-Michel Frodon, the editor of Les Cahiers du Cinema, has pointed out that the lack of British-made films was “striking” but not part of any Gallic conspiracy:

“It does not reflect an anti-British bias. It is simply the result of the individual choices of 76 people in the French industry. Each was asked to name their 100 best films and this was the result.

Yes, it is surprising, maybe, that there is no Lawrence of Arabia, or no film by Ken Loach or Stephen Frears (The Queen).

But there are many other national film industries which are also missing. There are no Brazilian films, for instance.”

Some British films that should have made the list would surely include:

That said, if you were to ask me what are the truly great British films of the last 20 years, then I would struggle to come up with one.

In May 1957 a former editor of Cahiers (and later director) Francois Truffaut once remarked:

“The British cinema is made of dullness and reflects a submissive lifestyle, where enthusiasm, warmth, and zest are nipped in the bud. A film is a born loser just because it is English.

Maybe nothing has changed in 50 years.

> The Telegraph on the list
> Official site for Cahiers du Cinema
> Geoffrey MacNab of The Guardian in 2001 on Cahiers du Cinema

86 Replies to “Cahiers du cinéma’s 100 Greatest Films”

  1. Speaking of the Brits, “Marat Sade” certainly a ground breaking mesmerizing display of thespian excellence! And speaking of dramatic cutting edge films the original “Wicker Man” as well as Ken Russel’s “The Devils” come to mind. Other than the above mentioned exceptions, the list is an inspiration to overcome inertia and bear the price of admission.

  2. Well, if they aren’t counting 2001 as a British film — and I really can’t see why it isn’t — then Blowup can’t be counted as one either.

  3. 2001 was produced by a Hollywood studio (MGM) so I think that makes it a US production, even though it was shot in the UK.

    This line of argument can get tricky when films are co-financed, but I think the nationality of the studio or production company is often key.

    Blowup is a bit trickier, as it was produced by the UK arm of MGM, but I think also had some Italian involvement too (Antonioni’s production company?).

    However, it did get nominated for ‘Best British Film’ at the BAFTA’s in 1968, so where that leaves it is open to debate.

  4. Forget British movies; it’s a French list and where is Varda’s Vagabond?

  5. Night of the Hunter as the second second greatest film of all time? Sure it’s ok, maybe even decently good… I suppose these lists are geared only to get people forwarding them rather than taking the actual list itself seriously.

    An Affair to Remember better than Andrei Rublev? Is there any scene in AATR as memorable of those in Rublev? Perhaps my memory works differently but Affair for me worked as a passable afternoon entertainment, Rublev is an experience easily recalled. Affair wouldn’t even make my top ten favorite Grant films, let alone top 100 films of all time.

    Well, in the end this list has served it’s intended purpose, I’ve already forwarded it and here I am commenting on it, mission accomplished!

    Still, for next time – Cahiers offer a little more effort please!

    ~

  6. I guess the French hate Gone with the Wind and Casablanca, not to mention the aforementioned Lawrence of Arabia. Not including these three film is inexcusable. What should we expect from a nation whose favorite comedian is Jerry Lewis?

  7. FYI, there is a cinema in Paris — le Reflet Medicis in the 5th arrondissement — which has programmed a series of screenings of these films over the next several months. Not necessarily all new prints but a chance to see these flicks on the big screen.

  8. Had to add a second comment. Would anyone on earth, besides Cahier and Chaplin (perhaps their inspiration for placing it so high??) actually rate Monsieur Verdoux above Modern Times in Chaplin’s oeuvre? C’mon. Was it the French-name title that sealed the deal there?

    Sure Verdoux is an excellent movie, but we’re talking Modern Times here, one of the most iconic and equally brilliant of all films.

    ~

  9. Scarface… really? my only real criticism is that I would have put Pulp Fiction on the list instead of Scarface and maybe even a little higher. Other wise I consider myself too much of an amateur to really comment on a list compiled by writers of a film magazine.

  10. Kes, Black Narcissus, Peeping Tom, Brief encounter, Becket, Long good Friday: Truffaut overrated French film un petit peu. Battle of algiers, Grapes of wrath, Dr. Strangelove, Woman under the influence, Z, Sunset Boulevard, Asphalt jungle, Rashomon, Good bad and ugly: do away with the Cahiers. Anti-establishment becomes establishment, when succesful. Also notable: many silents, but no Ingmar Bergman. This is BS indeed.

  11. “The reaction from some outlets in this country is surprise that there are no British films on the list.”

    The reaction from this particular outlet is: where the frick is ‘Chinatown’?

  12. Ladri di biciclette
    the bicycle thief!
    not thieves…
    PLEEEZE….

    even though i am american living in australia, i think brits are shortchanged … .. DR NO or goldeneye , or anything by douglas gordon ( especially the elephant, or the Zidane movie) …. to be better than many films on this list… …
    especially these stinkers– Some Like It Hot, Barry Lyndon ( one of the most boring movies ever), Manhattan ( depressed and more boring– annie hall was better)

  13. Only oldies in this list. No credibility. Seems like good cinema must be at least 30 years old.

  14. It is pretty striking that modern German cinema is not represented: no Schloendorff, Wenders, Reitz.

  15. what about The Dark Knight or the Shawshank Redemption? they both rank so high on the imdb. is that site just full of fanboys and college sophomores who eat that crap up?

  16. It might come as a surprise, friend, but 2001: ASO is certainly a British film. Brit director, filmed in the country.

  17. Ladri di biciclette is literally thieves of bicycles, or idiomatically bicycle thieves. The film was released for English speaking audiences as The Bicycle Thief, though.

  18. As far as critical list go, this one is quite good. I mean yeah, there are tons of omissions: the great British films many others have mentioned, Sunset Blvd., Chinatown, the general lack of Asian cinema (only a single Kurosawa?). But I’m guessing that can be attributed to the diffrences in French and English/American taste, and most of the films on the list are excellent.

    I am surprised that there aren’t more French films present though. The other big shocker is Rio Bravo ranking so high. I usually think its underrated by American critics, but top twenty is a big high…

  19. I can’t see a couple of the selections (Johnny Guitar?? Night of the Hunter?) BUT: where is Casablanca? And speaking of British films, how about Lawrence of Arabia?

  20. pretty messed up list (Godfather is #40?) it’s hard to describe everything they left off/put on when they shouldn’t have (like Mulholland Drive, i mean, i like the movie too, but nowhere near that much).
    cheers
    KZ

  21. One of the better of these lists I’ve seen. Nevertheless, there are a few peculiarities.

    Night of the Hunter at #2 I find particularly unfathomable. Is there something the French know about it that we don’t? Am I missing something? The film has always been viewed as something of a curiosity — the only film directed by actor Charles Laughton as well as the curious vehicle of a rather baroque strain of German expressionism. Yet somehow the Cahier critics feel it is superior to every film save another patently expressionistic — yet considerably more universally regarded — picture, Citizen Kane.

    A few other thoughts:

    No Modern Times on a list that places The Great Dictator at 24? Even the dreaded AFI list got that one.

    This appears to be a fiction-only list, but then Night and Fog appears at number 96. Where are the other documentaries?

    Visconti’s White Nights is a far better and more personal film than The Leopard. I’m surprised the latter is regarded so highly on a list that otherwise eschews epics.

    I dare say the list is a little lean on lean. Not that I care for his super epics, but Brief Encounter deserves a spot.

    Does anyone who made this list really believe Singin’ in the Rain is the superior film to Vertigo???

    (PS: Bill, care to elaborate what makes Some Like It Hot a stinker? Can you even name the director of Dr. No?)

  22. Another list with ‘Citizen Kane’ at the top. Ho-hum. Yet I continued to read the titles, encouraged as I went along by the presence of so many pre-1970s titles, an indication that, at least, it wasn’t put together by a lot of 22-year-olds. And then I hit Blake Edwards’s ‘The Party’ like a giant hole in the road. Credibility flew out the porthole.

  23. Ladri di biciclette
    the bicycle thieves
    The singular is “ladro”. Ladri is plural
    PLEEEZE….

    🙂

  24. This list make cry. Is a copy/paste list. Not Star Wars, not Lord of the Rings, Not Schindler List, and many many other films like chinatown (ian james). This list was made for peoplo who did not watch a film since many many years. Its a joke.

  25. Top 100 without following?

    – Seven Samurai
    – Pather Panchali
    – Jean de Florette
    – Pulp fiction
    – Fargo
    – Annie Hall
    – Billy Elloit

  26. Schindler’s List? Of course not; that crass commercialist Speilberg directed it, so it can’t be any good.
    Whenever Citizen Kane tops a “best 100” list I am automatically suspicious that the list is full of recycled opinions. I wish someone could explain to me what the experts see in that movie. I don’t see much of anything before it puts me to sleep.

  27. One glaring problem– Seven Samurai is 56 slots too low. Apocalypse Now should be in the top 10 also. Instead, we get Singin’ in the Rain at 7? WTF?

    I can understand a French poll having lots of French films, but a single Kurosawa entry is just ridiculous.

  28. This list is eccentric for the sake of being eccentric. I applaud for finally a non-American biased compilation of great films but still, no ‘ Casablanca’ and ‘ An Affair To Remember ‘ . Something’s wrong.

  29. No ‘Casablanca’? Come on now.

    BTW, it does translate as ‘Bicycle Thieves’ in Italian, even though it was changed to ‘The Bicycle Thief’ in America

  30. I can’t really believe that no one would nominate an out-and-out British film as worthy enough to put on the list. Ones like A Matter of Life and Death (or other Powell & Pressburger films like Life & Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I’m Going, Black Narcissus), Third Man, Ealing films like Kind Hearts & Coronets, Ladykillers, or Passport to Pimplico, Lean films like Lawrence of Arabia, Hobson’s Choice, Great Expectations, or others such as Green for Danger, Odd Man Out, or Fallen Idol can’t make a list such as this is a piece of tripe. Very few Hollywood studio films like Casablanca (I mean why isn’t this on the list, there is no reason), Duck Soup, or White Heat made it.

    Ones I can’t see at all being on this list. I mean Freaks is a good film, but not that great. Johnny Guitar is more cult classic than actual one. Intolerance gets on the list because they seem to want to be PC and avoid calling Birth of a Nation great, The Wind is good, but Seastrom did better.

    All I have to say, send the emails saying what a bum you think I am

  31. Many good choices and a good number of nice surprises (The Dead from John Huston is a good choice, and To Be and Not To Be from Lubitch is a very good choice as is Pandora’s Box from Pabst), but did Jean-Luc Godard and his cronies get final say on this list? I like to knock the Brits down a notch here and there when I can, but of course it’s absurd that there aren’t any British films on the list. Not only are the obvious ones from Hitchcock, Lean, Powell and Loach deserving to make such a list, but so are films like The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner from Tony Richardson or The Horse’s Mouth from Ronald Neame (just as examples) or recent films from Mike Leigh, etc. The British probably do excel more on teleivision than at the cinema, but that hasn’t always been the case nor is it always the case today. Not including a British film (or rather, several of them) feels like a symptom of French bias and cultural ignorance, despite French denials.

    Also, Japanese and Asian cinema is ridiculously under-represented. Max Ophus and Jean-Luc Godard get three nods on the list (three mediocre ones from Godard if you ask me), but Ozu only gets one film while Kurosawa and Mizoguchi only get two each? And nothing from Imamura, Ichikawa, Kobayahsi, Masumara, Suzuki, Kore’eda, etc? Nothing from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Korea and only one film from India? Hollywood gets plenty of representation, but too often the wrong films are represented. I’m sorry, but The Barefoot Contessa, The Party and Manhanttan, though all have great qualities, are not among the best films ever made (well, The Party is kind of a bold choice). Nothing from Scorsese? Nothing from Preston Sturges or, gulp, John Cassavettes? Yes, I can understand Cahiers du Cinema ignoring Spielberg, William Wyler and Casablanca. To ignore these guys is a requirement of joinging the French critical establishment. But Coppolla certainly was not the only guy going in the late 60s and early 70s in the U.S. And a pet peeve — enough of the cult of The Searchers. And pick a deserving John Ford film instead of always going with the film school darling The Searchers. Go with My Darling Clementine or Stagecoach. I’m also surprised there is so little in the way of film noir on this list.

    Wait, nothing from Roman Polanski? Only one from Bunuel? (El, and not Viridiana or L’Age d’Or?) Nothing from The Czech Republic or Poland? Only three films from Russia? Only one from Spain? No Italian comedies? I understand and pretty much agree that France, Italy, the Germans and Hollywood dominate in the number of great films ever made since their industries have had incredibly intense periods of creativity and set the standards early on. But this is rather silly. The British, the great Asian directors and Eastern Europeans have clearly made some of the best films of all time.

    Yet, despite my protests, this is still a pretty interesting list, sometimes bold but also rather too typical for Cahiers du Cinema…

  32. Not a great list, and a bit biased towards French cinema. How can you make a list of the greatest films of all time and not include Lawrence of Arabia, The Third Man, and Rashomon? John Ford and Akira Kurosawa (two of the cinema’s great masters) are only represented once– and Kurosawa doesn’t appear until number 57. I’m just a little bit baffled.

  33. Lawrence of Arabia? What the heck? I must admit I’m proud Citizen Kane made the top spot but no LoA? I also would have moved Potemkin further up. It was groundbreaking. Still in all, having Freaks in the #21 spot does make up for quite a bit.

  34. *sigh*
    Bill, you make me sad. Some Like It Hot is not a stinker.
    But more importantly, WTF? I understand that it isn’t an American list, but no Gone With the Wind? Seriously? I can get over the lack of staples like The Wizard of Oz, never much liked that film anyhow. But Gone With the Wind…or something classic like Ben Hur? You picked Freaks instead? That horror movie about pinheads and midgets? Seriously??

  35. @BC

    Stanley Kubrick was not a British director. He may have lived and worked in the UK, but he was most definitely an American.

    As for 2001, I still maintain it is a US film shot in the UK.

    What does everyone else think?

  36. Nice list… however, it’d be better with Raging Bull in the top ten and Taxi Driver in the top twently… and replace Barry Lyndon with A Clockwork Orange.

  37. ‘Maarten’ – Fanny and Alexander is by Bergman! I’d agree it’s his best film but Persona comes a close second. Why it’s not higher up the list, and Persona and The Seventh Seal are not on the list at all when films such as Night of the Hunter, Freaks, Johnny Guitar, and Singing in the Rain are there amazes me. It’s worth remembering that the French have unusual tastes – repeats of Benny Hill still turn up on French TV and he is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest comedians! It says it all!! Other omissions -The Sacrifice, Tarkovsky, Annie Hall (certainly before Manhattan) and a toss up between Laurence of Arabia, Brief Encounter or The Third Man (it’s absence also astounds me as it turns up in Parisian cinemas on a regular basis and is highly thought of by the French.

  38. While I do appreciate this list in some of it’s omissions (Gone With The Wind is not a Top 100 film) I always find it disappointing that more recent cinema is almost always excluded from ‘Best Of’ lists except when done by pubescent fan-boys who would have The Dark Knight as the best film ever. I’m not saying that I think highly commercial Hollywood cinema should place on a Top 100 list but rather that recent cinema should not be excluded simply by the act of being recent. This list is heavily skewed towards older films and while some of them are indeed deserving, so too are more recent cinematic accomplishments, and again, I’m not meaning fan-boy fodder.

    I suppose the central problem to any list like this is what criteria we can truly use to come up with a list that defines the best films of all time. It’s virtually impossible.

  39. It doesn’t really matter where films come from, but really there should be some Powell & Pressburger on this list. It’s a howling omission. The lack of Herzog is also ludicrous.

    Moonfleet!? That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that on a list of this kind.

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