The top 50
Philip French's pick of the top 50 films from the past five decades
Sunday April 13, 2008
Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
The Master pushes the envelope.
La Dolce vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
Fantastic satire succeeds neo-realism.
L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni. 1960)
Can the cinema achieve the subtlety of a novel by James or Fitzgerald?
Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman, 1962)
The central film of a trilogy on 20th-century faith and doubt.
Jules et Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)
The French New Wave becomes a tidal movement.
Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
The epic reaches epic heights.
The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963)
The American exile Losey, the emerging playwright Pinter and the ambivalent actor Bogarde interrogate the new Britain.
Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967)
The Zeitgeist as gangster film.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
A quantum leap for science fiction by the most revolutionary figure to settle here since Karl Marx.
The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
A great western, an allegory about Vietnam, it raised the ante on screen violence like no other film.
Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970)
Jack Nicholson in a great road movie.
Performance (Nicolas Roeg, Donald Cammell, 1970)
Morally ambiguous film about changing Britain.
Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)
Complex response to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
O Lucky Man! (Lindsay Anderson, 1973)
The begetter of the British New Wave indicts a decadent Britain.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975)
Australian cinema establishes itself on the world scene.
Alice in the Cities (Wim Wenders, 1974)
Raw harbinger of new German cinema.
Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
A shark, a shock and a new way of launching films changed the filmgoing experience forever.
Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
The disciple of Bob Hope and Ingmar Bergman invents the relationship movie.
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
The most overwhelming film to emerge from Vietnam.
The Tin Drum (Volker Schlöndorff, 1979)
Adept adaptation of magic-realist novel.
Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
The peak of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro's partnership.
Angel (Neil Jordan, 1982)
Astonishing debut thriller, its background the Northern Ireland troubles.
Gandhi (Richard Attenborough, 1982)
Ben Kingsley is indelible in a film that realised a dream of one of British cinema's greatest figures.
Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)
Lear in Japan, an old master's last masterpiece.
My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears, 1985)
One of the best Thatcher's Britain movies.
Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
After The Elephant Man, and the overblown science fiction film Dune, Lynch amazed us with this surreal masterpiece.
The Mission (Roland Joffé, 1986)
Thoughtful British epic and Palme d'Or winner with an unforgettable Ennio Morricone score.
Hope and Glory (John Boorman, 1987)
One of the greatest British directors revisits his World War Two childhood.
Au revoir les enfants (Louis Malle, 1987)
Malle finally confronts his childhood experiences in Nazi-occupied France.
Where is My Friend's House? (Abbas Kiarostami, 1987)
The Iranian cinema arrives in challenging and uncompromising form.
The Player (Robert Altman, 1992)
One of the best Hollywood-on-Hollywood movies.
The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies, 1992)
A delicate memoir of working-class life by one of our subtlest film-makers.
Farewell My Concubine (Chen Kaige, 1993)
The new Chinese cinema at its most exquisite.
The Remains of the Day (James Ivory, 1993)
The Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala team at their most searching.
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
A landmark in popular, personal post-modernist cinema.
The Bandit Queen (Shekhar Kapoor, 1994)
Peckinpah meets Satyajit Ray in the best Indian film of the decade.
Land and Freedom (Ken Loach, 1995)
The Spanish Civil War finds its perfect director.
Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh, 1996)
One of the finest portraits of family life.
Heat (Michael Mann, 1995)
A great stylist comes into his own.
All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)
The last masterpiece of the century.
Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
The first major talent to emerge this century.
Hidden (Michael Haneke, 2005)
A film that jangled nerves and provoked discussion everywhere.
Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
A crucial contribution to the renewal of the western that began with Dances With Wolves.
The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
The most important German film since reunification.
Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
A stunning diptych about World War Two from the Hollywood veteran.
Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2006)
The cleverest and most sophisticated film yet to come out of Africa.
No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
The poised fraternal ironists excel themselves.
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Tragic epic with a towering performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.
Ratatouille (Brad Bird/Jan Pinkava, 2007)
A 20-year sierra of fine feature-length cartoons reaches its Mont Blanc.