Response to Empire Magazine’s ‘300 Greatest Movies of All Time’

I love a good list, but I really love taking a good list and tearing it apart. So seeing as Empire Magazine recently published the results of their readers poll, it’s time for me to tell you why it’s wrong.

The readers voted for their 300 favourite films of all time (I’ve seen 225 of them) and you can see the full list here (though strangely it’s slightly different to the printed version). But in the meantime …

Where Was …?

First, let’s look at the omissions. Personal favourites Ringu, Coraline, Serenity and Men In Black were all missing in action, but perhaps those were long-shots anyway. More shocking, was the absence of The Sixth Sense and This is Spinal Tap.

“I see dead people … because I’m going to kill every one of you that didn’t vote for my movie”

Sure, we all got sick of M. Night Shymalan over a decade ago, but it’s sad to see that people have forgotten just how fantastic his breakthrough was. Perhaps many of us only remember the twist ending, but if you re-watch it you’ll find that the twist is just a small part in the brilliance of the overall film. And then there’s Spinal Tap – the quintessential mock-umentary and the funniest film about music ever made.

It’s also the ONLY movie to be rated out of 11 on … It should go straight to the top 100 just for that.

This But No That?

Some personal favourites rated poorly or didn’t make it, yet lesser films by the same director were high achievers. Tim Burton scored highly but there was no Ed Wood or Nightmare Before Christmas, George Romero got a look-in but for the somewhat-silly Dawn of the Dead rather than his original masterpiece (Night of the Living Dead), Darren Aronofsky’s pompous mess was there (The Fountain) but no sight of the poignant simplicity of The Wrestler, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master was one of his highest rated films (no doubt helped by Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death) yet Punch Drunk Love was nowhere to be found.

No doubt hindered by Adam Sandler’s tragic later movies.

But most upsetting for me was the absence of Adaptation in the list – the amazing Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman effort about love, life, loss, creativity, depression and Nicholas Cage’s receding hairline. Instead, the only Kaufman films to make it were Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind at #78 (hooray!) and Synecdoche, New York at #197 (what?!). I mean, I like Synecdoche, but honestly it’s not even half the film that Adaptation is. Sadly, I think this might be another case of the recently-dead-actor effect, as Synecdoche was another showcase of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s talents.

What’s This Doing Here?

Now for the flicks that just had no place being in the list. Most of them can be explained away by their new-ness. Avengers 2The Hobbit Part 1, and Captain America 2 will surely lose their place when this poll is rerun in a few years time. But I’d argue that older films, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies, are in there only because people have mistaken nostalgia-value for quality. I rewatched both quite recently and I can confirm they aren’t nearly as good as we remember.

And yes this does include taking Chunk’s Truffle Shuffle into consideration

Some Sacred Cows Need to Be Slaughtered

This is the section that’s most likely to upset people so let’s get it over with quickly. It’s like a band-aid that has to be ripped off fast for your own sake.

Long-story-short; Jaws, Watchmen, Skyfall, The Social Network and Drive, aren’t as brilliant as people think. They’re all very good films but either; they have pacing issues that everyone overlooks (Jaws at #8), they aren’t nearly as good as the source material (Watchmen at #153), they’re outclassed by other instalments in their series (Skyfall at #45 while Casino Royale only made #160), or I’ve just never been able to understand why people went quite so insane for them (Social Network at #148, Drive at #49).

And while we’re at it, does The Dark Knight really deserve to be called the 3rd Greatest Film of All Time? Again, it’s a movie that I liked a lot but despite seeing it twice I feel like I must have missed something. It’s so intensely loved by so many people that every second person must have been thinking “OMG THAT WAS THE BEST THING EVER” as the credits rolled, yet my thoughts were more like “Well, that was quite good. What time’s lunch?”.

“There will be no lunch. Now that you’ve dissed Dark Knight, an army of fans will be at your location within minutes to stab you to death with pencils”

But On The Other Hand …

Despite all this, I’m generally very happy with the list. Personal favourites that I thought were seen as cult films without much mass appeal fared incredibly well, particularly The Big Lebowski at #24 and Donnie Darko at #84. Despite being such an oddity, Lebowski seems to pick up more and more fans as time goes on, and I’m happy to see that Darko’s reputation hasn’t been tainted by the fact that director, Richard Kelly, hasn’t made anything of much worth since.

“Wait a second, I also made … umm… and then there was … Damn, you’re right.”

A number of movies that I’ve rewatched many times finished in the top 100, namely There Will Be Blood, Gravity, Clockwork Orange, Memento and Back to the Future. I was also pleased to see Back to the Future Part 2 make it at #294, which I count as one of the best sequels ever made.

And speaking of incredible sequels – what about that number 1 (Empire Strikes Back)? This is the first time I’ve seen it top a poll like this (more commonly it’s The Godfather or Shawshank Redemption) but I think it deserves a turn in the premier position. It’s possibly the film that has impacted pop culture more than any (you can hardly go a day without seeing some kind of reference to it) and though Star Wars may have given us the modern day blockbuster, Empire gave us the modern day blockbuster with a sad ending – showing that movies could be true popcorn-fodder while still having depth and not always following a predictable formula. Of course, as a big Return of the Jedi fan I’m always a bit baffled by the fact that Jedi isn’t nearly as well loved but at least that made it into the list as well  at#120.

I know what you’re thinking, but come on, the Ewoks weren’t THAT bad.

So, I suppose you did a pretty good job, Empire readers. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll even forgive you for leaving out Spinal Tap.


Agree? Disagree? What are your own favourite films? If you need something more to get you angry enough to comment, how’s this? – Dark Knight is really terrible and Heath Ledger was an awful Joker.

Want more like this? Try My Fave Films of 2014 or My Faves of Other Years.

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9 Responses to Response to Empire Magazine’s ‘300 Greatest Movies of All Time’

  1. Anna says:

    Great post. Completely agree with you on most points (Terminator 2 will always be my favourite sequel) but especially about Dark Knight.

    • Thanks 🙂 Yeah I’m not suggesting that BTTF2 is the greatest sequel but I reckon it’s up there near the top. There could also be some nostalgia-bias though, as I watched that one A LOT as a kid. I think I’d count ‘Empire’ as my fave sequel, even though some would say it doesn’t count (being part of a trilogy, and all).

      And yeah with Dark Knight I just don’t quite get the fuss. Good to know I’m not the only one. I actually had a stronger reaction to 1st and 3rd installments.

  2. stephen1001 says:

    Nice call on Back To The Future 2!

  3. I forgot to also taunt the Top Gun fans. That movie is way more rubbish than it’s reputation suggests.

  4. I’m disappointed Dumb & Dumber was only #244. Talk about the most brilliant sophomoric hilarity of a script ever (“…and don’t forget about the Monkees. They were a big influence on the Beatles.”)

    Also no Meet the Parents on the list? I thought that DeNiro and Stiller flick had a pretty damn funny script.

    Agree with you on Goonies. Although I find I adore the soundtrack, admit it, when you hear Lauper start playing you bob your head. 😀

    • I bob my head whenever Cyndi Lauper comes on, whether it’s from the Goonies or not 🙂 .. And yeah Dumb and Dumber and Parents are both great. Maybe Stiller’s film has been tainted by the less than stellar, Little Fockers?`

      • Fair point. Yeah both of those movies had not-so-great sequels. I wonder how much that factored into the rankings? Do you think a sequel’s ranking should affect that of the first movie?

        You could complete an entire new ranking for best trilogies too. The original Star Wars would be near the top, obviously, but I’ll through a curveball out: I thought the Bourne Trilogy was pretty damn good too.

        • Yeah I didn’t even get through 5 minutes of Dumb and Dumber To, sorry to say. The sequel shouldn’t effect it but I think it’s a bit unavoidable – it’s going to have some effect on how we remember the first if the sequel is really bad (or good).

          And with trilogies, I’ll see your Bourne and raise you a Toy Story!

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