Since the 2012 Sight & Sound poll was released a few weeks ago, the conversation has focused mostly on Vertigo trumping Citizen Kane as the best film of all time. Nearly 850 film critics participated in that poll, but the far more interesting aspect of Sight & Sound’s once-in-a-decade list is the fact that two polls took place: one for critics and one for directors.
A few Top 10 lists from heavy hitters like Scorsese, Coppola, Mann and Tarantino have already been released, but now, finally, the British Film Institute has published the Top 10 lists of all 358 directors who participate in the directors poll.
I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time going through them, and honestly, most is what you’d expect. Critical darlings, foreign wonders and Oscar-friendly powerhouses reign supreme. But, occasionally, I came across a movie that I found amusing for any number of reasons. Maybe it’s a spirited choice, maybe it’s batshit out of place, maybe it reaffirms the choosing director’s overall vision. Either way, here are my favorite single movie picks from a handful of directors’ Top 10 lists.
Picked Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams
I had the pleasure of meeting Les Blank at the Museum of Modern Art in New York last year, and I can tell you, based on the brief time I spoke with him, I am not at all surprised that he would pick one of his own films as one of the best of all time. He’s… out there.
Joon-ho Bong (director of Memories of a Murder, The Host)
Picked David Fincher’s Zodiac
A slightly off-skew example of how a director’s favorite films influence the ones they make. For instance, there are clear traces of Fincher’s best films in Memoires of a Murder.
Atom Egoyan (director of The Sweet Hereafter, Chloe)
Picked Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction
Here’s a good example of a contemporary picking a contemporary, which I find wholly refreshing. Now, Pulp Fiction is widely praised as an influential modern masterpiece, but regardless, it’s nice to see Egoyan picking something slighty more recent.
Peter Farrelly (director of Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary)
Picked Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List
Most of Farrelly’s list consists of films you’d expect, including Airplane!, Borat, and Sideways. Then there’s Schindler’s List…
Abel Ferrara (director of Bad Lieutenant, 4:44 Last Day on Earth)
Picked Ingmar Bergman’s Prison
I LOVE that Ferrara loves Bergman, but I am (pleasantly) surprised that he chose one of Bergman’s earliest films as one of his favorites. Either way, solid pick.
Miranda July (director of Me and You and Everyone We Know, The Future)
Picked Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank
Nothing too surprising about this – one talented female director choosing the film of another talented female director. But if someone is praising Fish Tank, I try to make people aware of it. Please see this movie.
Mike Leigh (director of Naked, Secrets & Lies)
Picked Woody Allen’s Radio Days
Leigh’s Radio Days pick just feels… comforting, doesn’t it?
Michael Mann (director of Heat, Ali)
Picked James Cameron’s Avatar
Most of us have heard about this one already. But, yeah. Wow.
Steve McQueen (director of Hunger, Shame)
Picked Andy Warhol’s Couch
If there was a director to pick a 40-minute silent film about many different people engaging in unsimulated sexual acts on a couch in Andy Warhol’s factory, then it would be Steve McQueen.
Fernando Meirelles (director of City of God, The Constant Gardner)
Picked Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void
Given the frenetic, unapologetic energy of City of God, this pick isn’t particularly surprising. I just love that Enter the Void has something to do with the Sight & Sound poll.
Sam Mendes (director of American Beauty, Revolutionary Road)
Picked Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood
One of the best examples I could find of contemporaries highlighting their peers. Mendes and PTA came up around the same time, and it is very cool to see how much Mendes enjoys PTA’s work.
David Michôd (director of Animal Kingdom)
Picked Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line
The silences in Michôd’s Animal Kingdom are my favorite parts of the film. The way the audio sneakily fades out right before an action occurs. I was wondering where he got the inspiration for that. This pick helps explain.
Gaspar Noé (director of Irréversible, Enter the Void)
Picked Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom
Because, why wouldn’t Gaspar Noé choose Salò as one of his favorite films of all time?
Béla Tarr (director of Werckmeister Harmonies, The Turin Horse)
Picked Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie
I never would’ve pegged Béla Tarr, and his slow, purposeful pace, to be so fond of Godard’s revelatory style. Happily proved wrong here.
Matthew Vaughn (director of Layer Cake, Kick-Ass)
Picked Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky III
I don’t have much to say here. This pick speaks for itself.
To gloriously lose the next several hours of your life by looking over all of the directors' Top 10 Lists, click here.