The greatest film ever made began with the meeting of two brilliant minds: Stanley Kubrick and sci-fi seer Arthur C Clarke. ‘I understand he’s a nut who lives in a tree in India somewhere,’ noted Kubrick when Clarke’s name came up – along with those of Isaac Asimov, Robert A Heinlein and Ray Bradbury – as a possible writer for his planned sci-fi epic. Clarke was actually living in Ceylon (not in India, or a tree), but the pair met, hit it off, and forged a story of technological progress and disaster (hello, HAL) that’s steeped in humanity, in all its brilliance, weakness, courage and mad ambition. An audience of stoners, wowed by its eye-candy Star Gate sequence and pioneering visuals, adopted it as a pet movie. Were it not for them, 2001 might have faded into obscurity, but it’s hard to imagine it would have stayed there. Kubrick’s frighteningly clinical vision of the future – AI and all – still feels prophetic, more than 50 years on.—Phil de Semlyen
What you’re about to read may grind your movieloving gears, but we can’t apologise for it. Lists are made to start discussions, after all, and ranking the greatest movies of all-time can be a particularly hot-tempered debate. That’s how strongly people feel about their favourite comedies, horror flicks and Swedish arthouse classics. Other artforms spark passionate debate, of course, but there’s something about cinema that really gets the most hardcore buffs going. It probably has something to do with how cinema shapes us. We may grow out of certain bands and songs, but a favourite movie retains a spot in your heart and memory for a lifetime, to the point that standout scenes and lines of dialogue become part of our personal histories – almost as if we’ve lived those scenes ourselves.
Obviously, coming up with a definitive list of the best films ever made is a daunting task. But we still had to do it, because talking – okay, arguing – over movies is as much a part of film culture as watching them. We’ve included everything from big-budget blockbusters to arthouse classics, romcoms and horror flicks, crime capers to eardrum-bursting action sagas. It spans over a hundred years and multiple countries. And even with all that ground covered, we’re sure someone is going to get mad over something we’ve either included or omitted. That’s alright, though. After all, that’s what lists are meant to do, right? So go ahead and yell at your computer. We can take it.
Written by Abbey Bender, Dave Calhoun, Phil de Semlyen, Bilge Ebiri, Ian Freer, Stephen Garrett, Tomris Laffly, Joshua Rothkopf, Anna Smith and Matthew Singer