The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2020) 120-101


120. The Gold Rush (1925) Dir. Charles Chaplin, 96 mins.

The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) travels to Alaska to take part in the Gold Rush, but bad weather strands him in a remote cabin with a prospector who has found a large gold deposit.

119. Throne of Blood (1957) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 109 mins.

The film transposes the plot of William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth from Medieval Scotland to feudal Japan, with stylistic elements drawn from Noh drama. As with the play, the film tells the story of a warrior who assassinates his sovereign at the urging of his ambitious wife.

118. Fight Club (1999) Dir. David Fincher, 139 mins.

Edward Norton plays the unnamed protagonist, referred to as the narrator, who is discontented with his white-collar job. He forms a “fight club” with soap maker Tyler Durden, (Brad Pitt), and they are joined by men who also want to fight. The narrator becomes embroiled in a relationship with Durden and a dissolute woman, Marla Singer, (Helena Bonham Carter).

117. The Apartment (1960) Dir. Billy Wilder, 125 mins.

The film follows C. C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon), an insurance company clerk who permits his bosses to use his Upper West Side apartment to conduct extramarital affairs in hope of gaining a promotion. Simultaneously Bud pursues a relationship with elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), unaware she is having an affair with one of the apartment’s users (Fred MacMurray).

116. Aparajito (1956) Dir. Satyajit Ray, 110 mins.

It starts off where the previous film Pather Panchali ended, with Apu’s family moving to Varanasi, and chronicles Apu’s life from childhood to adolescence in college, right up to his mother’s death, when he is left all alone.

115. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) Dir. Robert Bresson, 95 mins.

Believed to be inspired by a passage from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot, the film follows a donkey as he is given to various owners, most of whom treat him callously.

114. The General (1926) Dir. Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton, 103 mins.

Buster Keaton plays Johnnie Gray, a locomotive engineer. He returns to his hometown in Confederate Georgia to visit his fiance Annabelle Lee when the American Civil War breaks out.

113. The Battle of Algiers (1966) Dir. Gillo Pontecorvo, 121 mins.

The bulk of the film is shot in flashback, presented as the memories of Ali (Brahim Haggiag), a leading member of the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), when finally captured by the French in 1957.

112. The World of Apu (1959) Dir. Satyajit Ray, 105 mins.

It is the third part of The Apu Trilogy, about the childhood and early adulthood of a young Bengali named Apu in the early twentieth century Indian subcontinent.

111. Ordet (1955) Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 126 mins.

Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer examines the conflict between internalised personal faith and organised religion. Dreyer sets the drama in a conservative, super-pious Danish town, where widower Morten Borgen (Henrik Malberg), the father of three boys, cuts against the grain of the community with his constant heretical doubt.

110. Chungking Express (1994) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 98 mins.

The film consists of two stories told in sequence, each about a lovesick Hong Kong policeman mulling over his relationship with a woman. The first story stars Takeshi Kaneshiro as a cop obsessed with his breakup with a woman named May, and his encounter with a mysterious drug smuggler (Brigitte Lin). The second stars Tony Leung as a police officer roused from his gloom over the loss of his flight attendant girlfriend (Valerie Chow) by the attentions of a quirky snack bar worker (Faye Wong). It’s the relationship between Leung and Wong that really makes the film.

109. Grave of the Fireflies (1988) Dir. Isao Takahata, 89 mins.

Set in the city of Kobe, Japan, the film tells the story of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, and their desperate struggle to survive during the final months of the Second World War. Harrowing animated drama from Studio Ghibli. Buy

108. The Red Shoes (1948) Dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 133 mins.

The film is about a ballerina who joins an established ballet company and becomes the lead dancer in a new ballet called The Red Shoes, itself based on the fairy tale “The Red Shoes” by Hans Christian Andersen.

107. Grand Illusion (1937) Dir. Jean Renoir, 114 mins.

The story concerns class relationships among a small group of French officers who are prisoners of war during World War I and are plotting an escape.

106. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) Dir. Chantal Akerman, 201 mins.

In this experimental film about a middle-aged widow driven to desperation by the crushing boredom of making beds, cleaning bathtubs, cooking, dusting, and even just eating, the real-life time needed to make that bed or to cook is exactly the time used in the film, an effect which makes some viewers just as bored and restless as the widow, and which brings home the point of the film quite well.

105. 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.

104. Man With a Movie Camera (1929) Dir. Dziga Vertov, 68 mins.

Vertov’s filmic manifesto, produced by the studio VUFKU, presents a utopian image of urban life in the Soviet cities of Kiev, Kharkov, Moscow and Odessa. Vertov proclaimed the film an experiment, and it is made without actors, intertitles, a script or sets, showing from dawn to dusk, Soviet citizens at work and at play, and interacting with the machinery of modern life. A tour de force in theoretical cinema, the film is only a documentary by material and more a summary of the themes of the ‘kinoki’ movement, the image of the worker perfect as the machine and that of the filmmaker as socially as useful as the factory worker. The culmination of a decade of audacious and controversial work in non fiction filmmaking for Vertov, The Man With the Movie Camera is one of the of the most unusual works in cinema history and was seen as hopelessly out of date on release thanks to its utopian ideals around city living, but for those with an open mind to different filmmaking techniques it can be a memorable viewing experience. For all the criticism and its avant-garde ambitions, it is one of the few silent films that strongly conveys a sense of everyday life in Soviet Russia. More…

103. The Mother and the Whore (1973) Dir. Jean Eustache, 217 mins.

In this intense character study, irresponsible Parisian Jean-Pierre Leaud decides that he desperately needs a wife and so leaves his lover to propose to his ex-girlfriend. His self-absorbed pseudo-intellectual ramblings turn her off, and she turns him down. He meets a nurse who later involves herself with Leaud and his lover. One of just two feature film’s made by Eustache before his untimely death, The Mother and the Whore has real bite.

102. Sansho the Bailiff (1954) Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi, 124 mins.

Based on a short story of the same name by Mori Ōgai, it follows two aristocratic children who are sold into slavery. Watch

101. Shoah (1985) Dir. Claude Lanzmann, 503 mins.

Shoah is a French documentary about the Holocaust, directed by Claude Lanzmann. Over nine hours long and 11 years in the making, the film presents Lanzmann’s interviews with survivors, witnesses and perpetrators during visits to German Holocaust sites across Poland, including extermination camps.

The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2019) 380-361


380. The Sting (1973) Dir. George Roy Hill, 129 mins.

The Sting is set in September 1936 and involves a complicated plot by two professional grifters (Paul Newman and Robert Redford) to con a mob boss (Robert Shaw).

379. Platoon (1986) Dir. Oliver Stone, 120 mins.

A surprising hit at the box office, Oliver Stone’s autobiographical Vietnam War film stars Charlie Sheen as Chris Taylor, a neophyte soldier who finds himself caught in a battle of wills between two sergeants, one good (Willem Dafoe) and the other evil (Tom Berenger).

378. Lost in Translation (2003) Dir. Sofia Coppola, 102 mins.

It stars Bill Murray as ageing actor Bob Harris, who befriends college graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in a Tokyo hotel.

377. The Insider (1999) Dir. Michael Mann, 157 mins.

A fictionalised account of a true story, it is based on the 60 Minutes segment about Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), a whistle-blower in the tobacco industry, covering the personal struggles of him and CBS producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) as they defend his testimony against efforts to discredit and suppress it by CBS and Wigand’s former employer.

376. The Lady Eve (1941) Dir. Preston Sturges, 94 mins.

The film is based on a story by Monckton Hoffe about a mismatched couple who meet on board an ocean liner.

375. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Dir. Lewis Milestone, 130 mins.

It follows a group of idealistic young men as they join the German Army during World War I and are assigned to the Western Front, where their patriotism is destroyed by the harsh realities of combat.

374. Ivan the Terrible, Part One (1944) Dir. Sergei M. Eisenstein, 103 mins.

After the success of Alexander Nevsky Eisenstein further enhanced his stature with Part One of what was due to be a trilogy. The masterful film deals with Czar Ivan’s beginnings as the ruler of Russia, his coronation and his marriage to Anastasia Romanovna (Lyudmila Tselikovskaya), his sudden grave illness and his mysterious recovery. The film went down well with Stalin who encouraged a progressive reading of certain czars and although Eisenstein portrayed his hero as troubled and complex, he was also shown as a decisive ruler bent on unifying Russia.

373. Interstellar (2014) Dir. Christopher Nolan, 169 mins.

Set in a dystopian future where humanity is struggling to survive, the film follows a group of astronauts who travel through a wormhole in search of a new home for humanity.

372. Gandhi (1982) Dir. Richard Attenborough, 188 mins.

Gandhi is a British-Indian epic historical drama based on the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Ben Kingsley), the leader of India’s non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement against the United Kingdom’s rule of the country during the 20th century. Should be seen at least for the remarkable funeral scene.

371. The Killing (1956) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 85 mins.

Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) is a veteran criminal planning one last heist before settling down and marrying Fay (Coleen Gray). He plans to rob two million dollars from the money-counting room of a racetrack during a featured race.

370. Before Sunset (2004) Dir. Richard Linklater, 77 mins.

A sequel to ‘Before Sunrise’ where a couple (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy) meet up after 9 years and spend one afternoon in Paris.

369. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) Dir. James Foley, 100 mins.

It depicts two days in the lives of four real estate salesmen and how they become desperate when the corporate office sends a trainer to “motivate” them by announcing that, in one week, all except the top two salesmen will be fired.

368. Autumn Sonata (1978) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 99 mins.

The movie tells the story of a celebrated classical pianist who is confronted by her neglected daughter.

367. His Girl Friday (1940) Dir. Howard Hawks, 92 mins.

Rosalind Russell plays Hildy, who is about to forsake journalism for marriage to cloddish Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). Cary Grant plays Walter Burns, Hildy’s editor and ex-husband, who feigns happiness about her impending marriage as a ploy to win her back.

366. The Color of Pomegranates (1968) Dir. Sergei Parajanov, 79 mins.

Parajanov’s Armenian masterpiece is based in part on the life of the 18th-century poet, Sayat Nova (‘The King of Song’). Renowned for his writings and his religious lifestyle, he became a martyr when he grew too influential for the authorities to control. Displaying a baroque aestheticism that has influenced several generations of directors throughout the USSR (Tarkovsky was an admirer), The Color of Pomegranates is revolutionary in its style and arguably the masterwork of one of world cinema’s most underappreciated filmmakers.

365. Army of Shadows (1969) Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, 145 mins.

Army of Shadows follows a small group of Resistance fighters as they move between safe houses, work with the Allied forces, kill informers and attempt to evade the capture and execution that they know is their most likely fate.

364. Shoot the Piano Player (1960) Dir. Francois Truffaut, 92 mins.

Strikingly inventive, Truffaut’s second feature follows a one-time concert pianist (Charles Aznavour) who gained fame but then changed his name and plays honky-tonk in an out-of-the-way saloon. His self-imposed exile ends when two of his brothers get into trouble with gangsters they double crossed and the pianist helps them escape, putting his life and that of another brother into jeopardy. With inspiration from his favourite American directors and employing the hallmarks of the French New Wave, Truffaut blends suspense, humour and a variety of technical styles to create a film noir masterpiece.

363. Memories of Underdevelopment (1968) Dir. Tomas Gutierrez Alea, 97 mins.

With international revolutionary fervour at its height, Alea made this subtle and complex political drama that looks at the alienation of a bourgeois intellectual within the revolution. It follows the indecisive Sergio (Sergio Correri) who even though he refuses to flee Cuba in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion, is seemingly happy to see his wife, parents and friends leave for Miami. He is sceptical of the ability of the Revolution to make a real change to Cuban life, observing that it is only the latest passion for an ever-changing society. Teeming with originality, Memories of Underdevelopment intelligently portrays the end of an old Cuba and the struggle to bring in a new one.

362. It Happened One Night (1934) Dir. Frank Capra, 105 mins.

A pampered socialite (Claudette Colbert) tries to get out from under her father’s thumb and falls in love with a roguish reporter (Clark Gable).

361. Throne of Blood (1957) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 109 mins.

The film transposes the plot of William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth from Medieval Scotland to feudal Japan, with stylistic elements drawn from Noh drama. As with the play, the film tells the story of a warrior who assassinates his sovereign at the urging of his ambitious wife.