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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 12:32 GMT
Which is the greatest film of all time?
Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back have been voted the greatest films of all time by a Channel 4 poll.
The poll was based on tens of thousands of votes cast by Channel 4 viewers.
Nick Jones, head of film programming for Channel 4, said: "This list represents what the public really like and is not the usual film buffs list of titles most people have never heard."
Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw said of the result: "It depresses me.
"When people are asked for their favourite film, they tend to go for something they view as a classic, and it's disturbing that people now think Star Wars is a classic."
Do you agree with the results of the poll? What makes a classic movie? And do you think the choice of the public is more important than the choice of the film critic?
This Talking Point was suggested by Scott, UK:
Of the Channel 4 top 100 films of all time, Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw said of the result: "It depresses me. "When people are asked for their favourite film, they tend to go for something they view as a classic, and it's disturbing that people now think Star Wars is a classic." This leads me to ask, which is the better measure of cinematic success, popular or "critical" acclaim?
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This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
To Kill a Mockingbird was better. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, too. Movies that make you THINK. Movies that OPEN YOUR EYES. Not the escapist trash that is just a temporary diversion from reality.
Peter Bradshaw, along with most film reviewers of his ilk, would probably be even more depressed if the general public agreed with him.
Neil Fawcett, UK
"Gone With The Wind" was grossly
overrated owing to the false belief that any man would be swooned by a wench of the likes of Scarlet "19-inch waist" O'Hara. I'm glad someone brought up Altman. "McCabe and Mrs Miller" is brilliant and in my top 10, as is
Terrence Mallick's "Days of Heaven". I also really liked his "Thin Red Line" although critics were mixed.
David Thalenberg, UK
The poll clearly does not count because Channel 4 dictated what films we could choose from. I cannot believe that Great Expectations, The Deer Hunter, Papillion and Twelve Angry Men to name but a few were not there.
The thing that makes film great is that it is more than just entertainment. It can be life affirming or despairingly bleak. It can educate, it can inspire. it has almost endless possibilities. We should not get to upset about the views of individual critics, In today┐s society we are all educated critics (more so than we realise) whose opinions are equally important. If the list is good for anything at all it is that it sparks healthy debate, exposing the nature of the word great, and the list itself, as without meaning.
Jan Mozelewski, England
I hope that Peter Bradshaw is not the crusty old "high art" snob he appears to be. What he fails to realise is that most people do not go to the cinema to exercise their critical faculties, they go to be entertained, rightly or wrongly.
While I wouldn't put Star Wars top of my list it was a very entertaining movie that probably helped rescue cinema in Britain at a time when audiences were very low. It is also very entertaining, a factor that critics should at least take into account when assessing a film's worthiness. Top of my list would be Casablanca, 2001, Koyaanisqatsi or Citizen Kane but overall I don't have much of a problem with the results of the poll. They're all very good movies and it just proves that a top 100 isn't enough to show off the wealth of entertainment that cinema has to offer.
Since when does two films count as one? 'Empire Strikes Back' and 'Godfather II' are far superior to the first in their respective series, and they should stand alone as great films.
What I want to know is why most comedies were overlooked. e.g. Trading places, Back to the future, Raising Arizona, Groundhog Day etc, Are they too low brow for the critics who cant have a sense of humour?
It is not as though English-speaking cinema is the only cinema in the world. By asking people to choose from a handful of Hollywood films, the English-speaking public only betray their arrogance and their ignorance. I do like some of the Hollywood classics, but I won't go as far as to say that they are the best films ever made. Ever heard of French or Italian or Scandinavian film? Or Kurosawa, or Satyajit Ray? It is meaningless to say that one single film is the best ever made, but certainly you will find some of the greatest works of art in the film world in non-English-speaking cinema. If you make the effort, of course.
For the benefit of Reidun Maal°y:
Seven Samurai and The Seventh Seal (Edgar Burger? Ingrid Bergman? someone Danish anyway) are present and also
Jean de Florette, La Dolce Vita,Three Colours Trilogy, Battleship Potemkin there and more. Rubbish though. All of them.
Looking back at Star Wars it seems childish, poorly scripted, badly acted and quite dull, but 24 years ago it completely obsessed me and most of my generation. It set standards that most Sci-Fi films couldn't match for years (just look at Battlestar Galactica). Great though the Godfather is, it can't match Star Wars for impact.
The Graduate, Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet, The Sound of Music. Hmm, all sixties movies.. back in the days when movies were made about people rather than about cars and buildings being blown up.
Where is Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece, "The Wild Bunch" ? Without that film, many of those in the list would never have been made !
Ann Monica, UK
Hollywood executives today seem
to think that if you put enough
specials effects in a film, you
don't need good directors, good
acting, and a good script. Star
Wars was the first of the movies of
this type. Unfortunately, since it
was so popular in spite of the fact
that it was an extremely poor
quality film, I guess these
executives were vindicated.
I think Citizen Kane had to be
technically the greatest movie of
all time. In terms of great science
fiction movies, 2001:A Space
Odyssey was vastly superior to
Speaking of the greatest film, Lucino Visconti's "Death In Venice" is an all-time masterpiece that, I think, deserves to be mentioned. Pure prefection!
Let's not forget that we are dealing with the votes of the public, the same public who put Robbie Williams in the top ten greatest songwriters of all time. Of course the results are going to be skewed. We cannot trust these so called polls to give us an accurate result.
Barry, Northern Ireland
If there are more people that like Star Wars than critics, then the people are right. The question was meant for everyone, not just a select few snobs.
Star Wars?? You cannot be serious. Here are MY picks:
Movie critics have a job to do that realistically anyone that likes movies and can write could do. In order to justify this they brand popular films as "bubblegum" and little seen films as "classic". It keeps them in a job. If a critic says a film is bad I always go and see it. I am usually entertained by what I see.
Star Wars is the largest selling film of all time. Therefore by default it must be a classic. The imagination that that film came from is simply astonishing, roll on the next instalment.
For me the definition of classic is something one doesn't tire of. Examples: Blues Brothers, Some Like It Hot, Blazing Saddles, Braveheart.
While Star Wars is certainly a marvellous film in many ways I agree that it is rather depressing that it has been voted 'The Greatest Film Of All Time'. This is rather like saying 'Lord Of The Rings' is the greatest work of literature of the twentieth century. All it shows is a profound ignorance and lack of genuine passion about the medium. To criticise 'Pulp Fiction' for being in the top five films is not snobbish, it's merely recognising that while an entertaining film it is rather contrived and I suspect will age extremely badly. Likewise 'The Shawshank Redemption' at number three, a good film certainly but for it to be at number three just makes me think the voters have been exposed to very few and a very limited range of film.
What the hell happened to "Howard the Duck", that's what I want to know?!?
Why was Star Wars / Empire Strikes Back made number 1? By the simple fact of the way C4 conducted the poll. Each vote had equal weight. Whereas a lot of voters may not have considered the series to be their ultimate favourite, it was almost certain that nearly all forms would have it marked somewhere within the 10. That's why it ended up on top. Not that I am arguing. I'm just disappointed C4 had to shoehorn them both together, instead of having them as 2 separate films (ditto with the Godfather parts).
Gifford Maxim, Chicago USA
I was surprised that certain films were not much higher up the list, such as Life of Brian (no holy grail?), and certainly The Italian Job. I had thought that the soundbites alone would push British Humour to the forefront of the people's favourites. It seems that the Hollywood Blockbusters will always make a bigger mark on the public. The exception was the Matrix - good to see it there, for the imagination factor if not the visual effects.
I am just wondering what Mr Bradshaw's definition of a classic movie is. It seems to me that film critics have an inflated opinion of themselves. Are they not there to give their own views and not try to second guess those of the rest of the populace?
I remember when I first saw the Star Wars films and the arguments we had when someone mentioned that Darth Vader was Luke's father, then we get the proof in the second film (or is that the fifth?). The revelation that Leia was Luke's Sister after seeing him and Han admiring her was another of those moments that stick in the mind. The current making of the first three films and the success of "The Phantom Menace" I think proves the point that the films are highly regarded by almost everyone, including those who do not necessarily like Sci-Fi.
Does a classic have to be black and white? How old does a film need to be before it is "allowed" to have that kind of tag associated with it? The film was released in 1977 (I think) and that is a quarter of a century ago. Is that not old enough? As for the impact the film had, just look at the films that followed and I do not mean just Lucas's. The Star Wars films were used as inspiration by a lot of people and still hold special places in the minds of countless more. One final question... does Mr Bradshaw use a computer in his work or a manual typewriter because it is an "old classic"?
I agree with some of the opinions here, that Saturday night's top 100 programme was farcical. Goodfella's, the Godfather, Schindler's list, all deserved to be in the top 10, but where was Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Once Upon a Time in America, Jaws? There are many criteria as to what makes a great film, such as socio-historical significance, endurance (how watchable a film is 50 years later), period detail, originality etc, but the one criteria which more than any other defines a great movie is how much has it been imitated. When a film spawns countless copies, or even re-makes, then you know you have a great film. You only have to look at how many imitations there are (Lake Placid being one of the more recent) of the Spielberg classic 'Jaws' to know that this is the greatest film ever. Star Wars was just a kiddies film, which basically stole its ideas from the original Star Trek series.
While I agree that Star Wars is a great movie, I have to disagree that it is the best of all time. There are so many more movies from so many different years that have to be included in the top ten. "Platoon," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" should be in that list. The list does appear biased towards the movies that are current or are watched year after year. While that makes them popular, it doesn't make them the best movie ever.
Where were 'American Beauty' and 'As Good as it Gets', two modern classics, both got 5 Oscars each (not a great measurement I admit), I came out of the cinema for American Beauty saying it was the best movie I'd ever seen, 18 months later my opinion hasn't changed once.
These two films were both hugely popular (especially in American Beauty's case) and both critically acclaimed.
Casablanca, Humphrey et al at their very best
A film directed by the late Lindsay Anderson in 1968 remains the most timeless expression of the art of the cinema - "if", which starred Malcolm McDowell.
This is not a conclusive poll by any meaning of the word, not when the votes are based on a pre-determined list of films thought up by somebody else. A true reflection of what makes a great film depends on more than just someone putting a suggestion in someone's head. The fact that such recent films as Gladiator and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon figure so highly on the list just prove that this poll cannot be taken seriously. To become a great film, surely it has to lodge in your memory for than a few months?
Dave Allen, UK
Nowadays special effects and stupid sense of humour are the things people prefer in the movies. The times when the movies had a meaning have long since gone. Too bad, I think. I cannot say what's the greatest movie ever, but somehow I like Platoon.
Maybe Channel 4 should have titled the program "The Top 100 Popular Films of All Time". The greatness of a film is a matter of opinion. 'Citizen Kane' and 'Casablanca' are hailed as great films by the critics but, unfortunately I found them boring and uninteresting, whereas 'Rebel Without a Cause' I thought was brilliant but it only rated 57 in the top 100. Peter Bradshaw should remember that these films were voted for by the general public, without whom there would be no film industry.
Greatest Films by Channel 4 is clearly another way of promoting their new film channel! Who can define Greatness anyway? There are many excellent movies that have Great Cinematic Moments (True Romance - Dennis Hopper's speech) but miss the mark somehow. Bearing in mind that ninety percent of anything is going to be rubbish, I'm just pleased that the ten percent of brilliance is there to be enjoyed.
For sheer sustained atmosphere, brilliant directing and stunning acting I'd go for "In The Heat of The Night" (Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger), and - believe it or not - "For a Few Dollars More" (Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef). In my view, these two stand head and shoulders above any of the top five nominations. "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back" probably stand out in most people's memory because they pushed back the technical bounds of the Sci-Fi genre, and so were new and exciting. But I don't think they were particularly outstanding in any other respect.
Mark Schofield, France
While I certainly don't agree with many of the films included, I think that C4 made a decent job of this poll, by choosing the 100 films and then asking the public to vote. That is a reasonable compromise. If the public had had the entire say, we would have got a similar result to those embarrassing 'Greatest Music Of The Millennium' polls, which had Robbie Williams and Madonna placed above Beethoven and Stravinsky.
This time we had a reasonable smattering of older and foreign films (some bizarre choices made by C4 there, though: some entries should clearly not have even been in the top 100, particularly as that list must have been compiled from a consensus of film critics' choices). At least this way we are spared 'Dude, Where's My Car' fighting it out with 'Pearl Harbour' for the top spot....
As the voters where only choosing from a list of 100 films its not surprising that many of the good and/or fun films were missing from the list: Jurassic Park, Mary Poppins, Forrest Gump, Braveheart, Breakfast At Tiffany's
It goes without saying that It's A Wonderful Life is an absolutely fantastic film - when it was first released, the critics hated it! What more proof do you need?
Chris Lee, UK
Film is a work of art, a movie is made for profit and entertainment. As a list of the greatest movies of all time I'd say it was not far from hitting the spot. As for it being a list of the greatest films of all time it's way of the mark.
Everyone has an opinion on their favourite films, and the opinions of one person/critic matters little. My own favourite film - Battle Royale - wasn't listed. Does it bother me? No - why should it? As with Star Wars, some people like it, some don't; if a critic doesn't like your favourite film, it matters not.
This whole "controversy" is a rather transparent gimmick that C4 pulled by putting art and entertainment on the same list. Art has no duty to entertain, and entertainment is only rarely art. Of course fun stuff is going to be more popular! Star Wars is great craft, but it isn't art by any standards. C4 has simply once again tickled the old elitist/populist "dispute". I'm rather surprised Mr Bradshaw fell for it.
Lies, damn lies and statistics. This survey proves that more people think Star Wars is the greatest film ever, not that it IS the greatest film ever. And how did the Blues Brothers miss out on a top 100??!!
Any list that excludes Lawrence of Arabia, Ben Hur, Once upon a time in the West, Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven and The Deer Hunter could never be taken seriously.
What makes a film a classic is not how old it is or if it was the first to approach a particular genre, but if it touched its audience or made any kind of a social impact. Top 10 lists are, at the end of the day, entirely subjective. What's important is that there is a top 10 list at all.
Does this mean that film critics have been getting it wrong for all these years? Or are they like politicians, refusing to consider the opinions of the general public?
Star Wars isn't even the best sci-fi film ever made. That accolade goes either to Blade Runner (the original, not the inferior director's cut) or Kubrick's 2001. And the 100 best films without Ran or The Time of the Gypsies is unthinkable.
Each film is unique in its own way. Every one of us has a favourite film because that film stood out in the way it was made, or by an actor's performance. I like Star Wars because I grew up in that time and no other movie stood out as much then. But I still think that The Shawshank Redemption, Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction are on the same level as Star Wars because it is that sort of film culture that I have grown up with.
What I want to know is why Spinal Tap was not in the top 100? I suggest Channel Four make the top ten go to 11 and squeeze the Tap in. Otherwise this nation should hang its head in shame.
I think everyone has missed the point on this one. Most of the films mentioned here are broadcast on Film Four. It's an easy and cheap way for them to get free advertising. Am I being too cynical? Then where is Where Eagles Dare or Kelly's Heroes in this list?
In response to Graeme, there are no non-subjective or quantifiable elements in art that can be used to compare two pieces of work, which goes to show how pointless this sort of list is. At the end of the day what difference does it make that Star Wars is number one or 100? Should I dismiss all films that aren't in the top 100? Or am I still allowed to enjoy films for the effect they have on me personally?
Star Wars was the ONLY film I ever fell asleep watching. Other than the special effects, it was so boring and idiotic. Ben Hur was my favourite.
Presumably Paula from the USA fell asleep when she heard childhood stories. A young hero, an old wizard, strange magic, a beautiful princess and evil defeated. Star Wars is merely a fairy tale with magic tech. It's SUPPOSED to be idiotic! (I agree with her as far as Charlton
Heston on a chariot goes, though)
What Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw said of this just goes to show how utterly out of touch film critics tend to be. Most really don't seem to have the slightest clue about what actually does make a great film (hint to critics: a film that entertains, not one that allegedly has some deep philosophical meaning that only 2 people in the country could give 2 hoots about)
How could anyone forget "Lawrence of Arabia" with Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, A. Quinn, et al? Those voting must be under 45!
I cannot believe that Taxi Driver or Raging Bull were not in the top ten - good to see Goodfellas sneaking in though - Star Wars doesn't deserve this accolade, Raging Bull is far superior in every aspect
On one hand, Star Wars is a classic in the eyes of the public, whether critics like or not. On the other hand I feel that it is not superior to, say, the Godfather by anyone's standards (aw come on now!). But Star Wars is not the real issue here - the marketing-lead money-making outfit that is Gladiator in the top 10 however depressed me...
I watched the top 100 hundred films on channel 4 up to film number 2 then turned the TV off. I couldn't face watching people trying to tell me that this jumped-up remake of flash Gordon is the greatest film ever made. When I repeat the line ' Stars Wars is the greatest film ever made' over in my head, I go into a fit of giggles. Saying Star Wars is the greatest film ever made is as ridiculous as trying to compile a list of the 100 greatest films in the first place!
Hardly a 'poll' by Channel 4. They just listed their 100 best films and all we had to do was put them in order!
Westerns were the best of the best and the best western was "Shane" with Alan Ladd.
It's a pity the poll was taken before "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings"
In agreement with Griffin Mill, my favourite film is "The Player" by Robert Altman with Tim Robbins.
Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw obviously has too big an ego. If lots of people disagree with him (and say Star Wars is the greatest film of all time) he gets depressed. What depresses me is the number of really sick films that were in the 100 films. e.g. Raging Bull and Apocalypse Now.
26 Nov 01 | Film
Top 100 films poll
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