June 28, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

A couple of years ago, I was at home one night, trying to decide what movie to stream. I started Googling, searching for the greatest films of all time, but couldn’t find a list that I trusted completely. Some critics’ lists were just too esoteric; lists by fans weren’t esoteric enough. And so an idea was born: the ultimate EW lists encompassing the greatest films, TV series, albums, novels, and plays.

Except for the usual Must List and review sections, which have been moved to the front this week, we’ve pretty much devoted the entire issue to the lists, and we hope you return to them over and over. It was a lot of work — a lot of listening to EW’s critics, a lot of weighing in by equally passionate writers and editors from each section, a lot of debating, and, in the end, a lot of (though hardly unanimous) consensus — all of it overseen by EW editors Jeff Giles and Jason Adams. Jeff decreed early on that we would not react to other lists. We would decide what was best, without worrying whether it adhered to or violated conventional wisdom. (”Anna Karenina doesn’t get less good just because people have said it’s brilliant for 100 years,” Jeff points out.) We’ve also tried to honor contemporary work that will endure for centuries to come alongside the classics. We’ve tried to take into account each work’s cultural impact and influence. We’ve tried not to have the lists entirely dominated by artists like the Beatles and Dickens and Hitchcock, so in those cases, and a few others, we had to pick the best of the best. Jason and his department focused our music list on the modern album era, specifically pop, rock, and hip-hop, because that’s the kind of music that fills our audience’s iPods. I’m sure you will disagree with some of our choices, and that’s how it should be. Personally, I will never be able to look at these lists without wanting to move stuff around. But of course, that’s the fun of it. And I promise you, no list in the history of lists has been constructed with more care, more smarts, and more enthusiasm for pop culture. All of our debate and disagreement served to remind us of the amazing artistry now available in so many ways and on so many platforms, just waiting there to entertain us, enlighten us, inspire us, and change our lives. We are grateful for it, and I’m grateful to work with these critics and journalists who appreciate it so deeply.

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