The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2020) 340-321


340. Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany (1984) Dir. Edgar Reitz, 924 mins.

Shot in 35 mm, the sixteen hour epic TV series depicts over sixty years, beginning in 1919 and ending in 1982, of German political history through its impact on family life in the fictitious rural village of Schabbach in the Rhineland. A revisionist film, Reitz pursues history in terms of personal stories, seeking to restore a sense of continuity to the discontinuous and fragmented history of Germany. He integrates the Hitler regime into the lived experiences of the simple, unpolitical German villagers who consequently appear more as victims than anywhere near participants in the Third Reich. Becoming the most widely known and critically acclaimed history film of New German Cinema, it features remarkable attention to detail in its reconstructions of the various historical periods. It was screened as a film in two parts in European film festivals and all major German cities in the summer of 1984 before its release on TV.

339. La Haine (1995) Dir. Mathieu Kassovitz, 96 mins.

It is about three young friends and their struggle to live in the banlieues of Paris.

338. Ivan the Terrible, Part Two (1958) Dir. Sergei M. Eisenstein, 88 mins.

Made as being the second part of a projected trilogy, the film was banned by Russia’s Central Committee for portraying Ivan as an indecisive ruler and not the unifying hero of the first film, (he was shown to be too hesitant in killing his enemies). Part Two takes up the story of the complex leader (Nikolai Cherkasov) upon his return to Moscow from Alexandrov. Ivan must deal with a group of unfriendly boyars and becomes even more insulated after his mother is poisoned and an assassination plot is uncovered. With policy makers trying to reassert control of the arts and Eisenstein attacked by a wave of criticism, he was pushed into further poor health and isolation. The film was not shown until after the death of Stalin, by which time Eisenstein was also dead.

337. The Phantom Carriage (1921) Dir. Victor Sjostrom, 93 mins.

David Holm (Victor Sjostrom) is the abusive husband who finds his wife (Hilda Borgstrom) has left him after he is released from prison. He vows vengeance for her abandonment in his hour of need. The couple is reunited in a Salvation Army mission where David convinces his estranged wife to reconcile their differences.

336. The Circus (1928) Dir. Charlie Chaplin, 71 mins.

The ringmaster of an impoverished circus hires Chaplin’s Little Tramp as a clown, but discovers that he can only be funny unintentionally, not on purpose. Given that the troubled production coincided with the death of Chaplin’s mother and divorce proceedings by his second wife Lita Grey, it’s hardly surprising that The Circus has bitter undertones. However, the film does have moments of cinematic brilliance and hilarious slapstick comedy.

335. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) Dir. Fritz Lang, 122 mins.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge returns as Dr. Mabuse who, while imprisoned in an insane asylum, continues on with his plots to destroy the world. Beautiful, powerful and with a great deal of suspense the film is Lang at his most inventive. Watch

334. The Cloud-Capped Star (1960) Dir. Ritwik Ghatak, 126 mins.

The first of an audacious and politically charged trilogy based in Calcutta that controversially addressed the condition of refugees, The Cloud-Capped Star is a devastating tale that centres on a working woman (Supriya Choudhury) who sacrifices her freedom and eventually her life to provide for her uncaring siblings. A basic and at times starkly realist narrative is enhanced by Ritwik Ghatak’s inventive direction and an overlaying mythic reference to a Bengali legend, about the Goddess Durga, that defines the actual means by which women are oppressed.

333 Colossal Youth (2006)

332. Where is the Friend’s Home? (1987) Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 87 mins.

The first part of Kiarostami’s friendship trilogy, the film was made under the auspices of Iran’s Institute for the intellectual development of children and young adults and tells a deceptively simple account of a conscientious 8 year old schoolboy’s quest to the neighbouring village to return his friend’s notebook, that he took in error, as should his friend fail to hand it in the next day, it is likely he will get expelled. An often realistic and touching tale of loyalty and compassion that helped launch Kiarostami onto the world stage.

331. Early Summer (1951) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 124 mins.

Although lacking in international recognition when first released, Ozu’s domestic comedy was much lauded in his native Japan. The plot concerns Noriko, who lives contentedly in an extended family household that includes her parents and her brother’s family, but an uncle’s visit prompts the family to find her a husband. A lyrical evocation of suburban life.

330 The House Is Black (1963)

329. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) Dir. Robert Hamer, 106 mins.

Louis, the son of a woman ostracised by her aristocratic family for eloping with an Italian opera singer, decides to avenge the insult to his mother.

328. Steamboat Bill, Jr (1928) Dir. Charles Reisner, 71 mins.

Willie Canfield (Buster Keaton) is the namby-pamby son of rough-and-tumble steamboat captain “Steamboat Bill” Canfield (Ernest Torrence). When he’s not trying to make a man out of his boy, the captain is carrying on a feud with Tom Carter (Tom McGuire), the wealthy owner of a fancy new ferryboat. Carter has a pretty daughter, Mary King (Marion Byron), with whom Willie falls in love. The two younger folks try to patch up the feud, but this seems impossible once the captain is jailed for punching out Carter.

327. Ace in the Hole (1951) Dir. Billy Wilder, 111 mins.

Ace in the Hole is a film noir starring Kirk Douglas as a cynical, disgraced reporter who stops at nothing to try to regain a job on a major newspaper. Watch

326 An Elephant Sitting Still (2018)

325. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Dir. William Wyler, 172 mins.

Wyler’s first postwar film was something of an epic statement. Running nearly three hours long, the film considers the transition from war to peacetime. It focuses on three United States servicemen from different branches of service and different social classes as they readjust to civilian life, particularly the relationships with their families, after returning to the same hometown after World War II. While Wyler might be trying too hard at cinematic realism, it has moments of touching honesty and Gregg Toland’s photography remains notable for the long takes, moving camera, and remarkable deep focus with a c!ever use of depth within the frame. The film also overshadowed It’s a  Wonderful Life at the Oscars, winning nine, but has ultimately failed to retain the sort of stature that Capra’s film went on to find.

324. The Graduate (1967) Dir. Mike Nichols, 105 mins.

The film tells the story of 21 year old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a recent university graduate with no well-defined aim in life, who is seduced by a bored older woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), but then falls in love with her daughter. Nichols’s satirical comedy drama doesn’t feel as cutting edge now as it did on release but it’s still notable for its stylish visuals and a memorable soundtrack, that with the inclusion of songs such as ‘Sound of Silence’ and ‘Mrs. Robinson,’ even made Simon & Garfunkel seem edgy and cool.

323. Underground (1995) Dir. Emir Kusturica, 170 mins.

The film uses the epic story of two friends to portray a Yugoslav history from the beginning of World War II until the beginning of the Yugoslav Wars.

322. Winter Light (1963) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 81 mins.

Winter Light follows Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Björnstrand), pastor of a small rural Swedish church, as he deals with an existential crisis and his Christianity. A bleak desolate film in which the characters torment themselves and each other, seeking guidance and comfort in a world from which God is absent.

321. An Autumn Afternoon (1962) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 112 mins.

It stars Ozu regular Chishū Ryū as the patriarch of the Hirayama family who eventually realises that he has a duty to arrange a marriage for his daughter Michiko (Shima Iwashita).

The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2019) 260-241


260. Day of Wrath (1943) Dir. Carl Theodor Drayer, 97 mins.

After his  previous film, Vampyr was badly received, Dreyer spent a decade on failed projects and had even returned to his former career as a journalist before he was able to direct Day of Wrath. The film tells the story of a young woman who is forced into a marriage with an elderly pastor after her late mother was accused of witchcraft. She falls in love with the pastor’s son and also comes under suspicion of the dark arts. Stark and restrained, its style pushing towards abstraction and enhanced by high contrast photography, Day of Wrath is a powerful statement on faith, superstition and religious intolerance.

259. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) Dir. John Cassavetes, 155 mins.

After an uncomfortable and generally unsuccessful period of directing Hollywood films in the early 70s, Cassavattes returned to his unorthodox mode of independent production and self distribution with the challenging, A Woman Under the Influence. It focuses on a housewife (Cassavetes’s wife Gena Rowlands) who is misunderstood, finds life difficult and is heading for a nervous breakdown. Her seemingly unusual and unpredictable behaviour leads her husband (Peter Falk) to commit her for psychiatric treatment putting much strain on him and their three children. Cassavetes’s keeps things ambiguous and it’s often oddly moving but it’s still Rowland who makes the biggest impression, improvising much of her characters descent into madness and earning herself an Oscar nomination.

258. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Dir. William Wyler, 172 mins.

Wyler’s first postwar film was something of an epic statement. Running nearly three hours long, the film considers the transition from war to peacetime. It focuses on three United States servicemen from different branches of service and different social classes as they readjust to civilian life, particularly the relationships with their families, after returning to the same hometown after World War II. While Wyler might be trying too hard at cinematic realism, it has moments of touching honesty and Gregg Toland’s photography remains notable for the long takes, moving camera, and remarkable deep focus with a c!ever use of depth within the frame. The film also overshadowed It’s a  Wonderful Life at the Oscars, winning nine, but has ultimately failed to retain the stature that Capra’s film went on to find.

257. 12 Years a Slave (2013) Dir. Steve McQueen, 133 mins.

An adaptation of the 1853 slave memoir Twelve Years a Slave, the film follows the book’s author Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man, who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. by two conmen in 1841 and sold into slavery where he is put to work on plantations in the state of Louisiana for 12 years before being released.

256. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Dir. David Lean, 161 mins.

Based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai by Pierre Boulle, the film is a work of fiction, but borrows the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–1943 for its historical setting.

255. Last Tango in Paris (1972) Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, 127 mins.

Last Tango in Paris is a controversial Franco-Italian erotic drama directed by Bernardo Bertolucci which portrays a recently widowed American who begins an anonymous sexual relationship with a young Parisian woman.

254. Cries and Whispers (1972) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 91 mins.

The film, set in a mansion at the end of the 19th century, is about three sisters and a servant who struggle with the terminal cancer of one of the sisters (Harriet Andersson). The servant (Kari Sylwan) is close to her, while the other two sisters (Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Thulin) confront their emotional distance from each other.

253. Deliverance (1972) Dir. John Boorman, 109 mins.

Four Atlanta businessmen decide to canoe down the fictional Cahulawassee River in the remote Georgia wilderness, expecting to have fun and see the glory of nature before the river valley is flooded over by the upcoming construction of a dam and lake.

252. Back to the Future (1985) Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 116 mins.

It stars Michael J. Fox as teenager Marty McFly, who is sent back in time to 1955, where he meets his future parents in high school and accidentally becomes his mother’s romantic interest. Christopher Lloyd portrays the eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, Marty’s friend who helps him repair the damage to history by helping Marty cause his parents to fall in love. Marty and Doc must also find a way to return Marty to 1985.

251. The Wrestler (2008) Dir. Darren Aronofsky, 111 mins.

Mickey Rourke plays an ageing professional wrestler who, despite his failing health and waning fame, continues to wrestle in an attempt to cling to the success of his 1980s heyday. Rourke delivers a career defining performance.

250. Drive (2011) Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn, 95 mins.

The film stars Ryan Gosling as an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver moonlighting as a getaway driver. He quickly grows fond of his neighbour, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son, Benicio. Her debt-ridden husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is released from prison, and hires him to take part in what turns out to be a botched million-dollar heist that endangers their lives.

249. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Dir. Wes Anderson, 99 mins.

Featuring an ensemble cast, Anderson’s marvellously entertaining comedy stars Ralph Fiennes as a concierge who teams up with one of his employees, the lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori), to prove his innocence after he is framed for murder. Fiennes, with his perfect delivery of the witty rapid fire dialogue, is a revelation.

248. Journey to Italy (1954) Dir. Roberto Rossellini, 97 mins.

Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders play Katherine and Alex Joyce, an English married couple whose trip to Italy unexpectedly undermines their marriage.

247. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Dir. David Hand, 83 mins.

One of independent cinema’s great prestige pictures of the 1930s, Walt Disney began work on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature length animation, in 1934 and employed hundreds of background artists and animators. Based on the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, the film tells the story of Snow White, a princess living with her stepmother, a vain and wicked witch known only as the Queen. While in production the Hollywood movie industry referred to the film derisively as “Disney’s Folly”, but the production was a huge critical and commercial success. It was praised by notable filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein and Orson Welles and is considered by many as among American cinema’s few genuine artistic achievements.

246. Un Chien Andalou (1929) Dir. Luis Bunuel, 16 mins.

Un Chien Andalou has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing very much.  Bunuel and Salvador Dali combine to use dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes.

245. A Man Escaped (1956) Dir. Robert Bresson, 99 mins.

It is based on the memoirs of André Devigny, a member of the French Resistance held in Montluc prison by the occupying Germans during World War II.

244. Mean Streets (1973) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 112 mins.

Returning to the autobiographical milieu of his 1968 debut Who’s That Knocking at My Door? for his third feature Martin Scorsese examined the daily struggles of a wannabe hood to keep his morals straight on the streets of Little Italy. Driven equally by his wish to become a respectable gangster like his uncle (Cesare Danova) and his desire to live his life like St. Francis, Charlie (Harvey Keitel) takes on his energetically unhinged friend Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) as his own personal penance, intervening to get Johnny Boy to pay off a debt to the local loan shark Michael (Richard Romanus).

243. Rushmore (1998) Dir. Wes Anderson, 93 mins.

Rushmore is a comedy-drama directed by Wes Anderson about an eccentric teenager named Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman in his film debut), his friendship with rich industrialist Herman Blume (Bill Murray), and their mutual love for elementary school teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams).

242. Being John Malkovich (1999) Dir. Spike Jonze, 112 mins.

The film follows a puppeteer who finds a portal that leads into Malkovich’s mind.

241. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Dir. Robert Mulligan, 129 mins.

Set a small Alabama town in the 1930s, the story focuses on scrupulously honest, highly respected lawyer Atticus Finch, magnificently embodied by Gregory Peck. Finch puts his career on the line when he agrees to represent Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man accused of rape. The trial and the events surrounding it are seen through the eyes of Finch’s six-year-old daughter Scout (Mary Badham).