100. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
In this blistering story of sucking-up and self-loathing in show business, Tony Curtis plays an oily press agent and Burt Lancaster is a gossip columnist modeled on the infamous Walter Winchell. The script, appropriately enough, is as black as poison ink.
99. There Will Be Blood (2007)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Anderson’s towering American epic about ambition, commerce, self-invention, and self-destruction — all embodied in an especially fierce performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, whose insatiable hunger for money and power consumes absolutely everything before him. For a huge picture, it’s also keenly intimate, and Jonny Greenwood’s musical score is revolutionary.
98. All About My Mother (1999)
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
The great Spanish director Almodóvar is in full flower in this elaborate and sincere melodrama. It’s a riot of color and design that deepens — in a profound leap from his earlier, chaotic films — into a moving meditation on motherhood, womanhood, AIDS, and the high calling of actresses acting.
97. Diner (1982)
Directed by Barry Levinson
Levinson’s directorial debut brims with warmth, humor, hometown love for Baltimore, and a perceptive affection for the eternal struggles of young men who, while figuring out how to be adults, do a lot of sitting around diner tables, talking about nothing. There’d be no Seinfeld without Diner. There’d also be no stardom for Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser, or Ellen Barkin.
96. Sullivan's Travels (1941)
Directed by Preston Sturges
The finest comedy from Hollywood’s finest madcap writer-director, this is the tale of a famous filmmaker who goes AWOL by pretending to be an ordinary schmo. It’s a grand salute to the glory of movies (and, of course, to Veronica Lake’s platinum-hooded sultriness).
95. Rushmore (1998)
Directed by Wes Anderson
Anderson’s second feature is the quintessence of his precise personal aesthetic and his infectious delight in creating biospheres that are populated by singularly eccentric characters. There’s no mistaking the Andersonian universe for any other place on earth. The unexpected pleasure here is that the one and only Bill Murray feels so at home in Mr. Anderson’s neighborhood.
94. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Directed by Ang Lee
In Lee’s beautifully delicate romance, a couple of seasonal cowboys fall in love in Wyoming in 1963, then suffer in secret over what they can’t express in public. More than just moving, it’s a memorable look at how having to hide passion shifts your identity. Heath Ledger’s moving turn serves as the film’s emblem of gruff eloquence.
93. A Face in the Crowd (1957)
92. The Piano (1993)
Directed by Jane Campion
Campion’s affecting drama is a haunting vision of 19th-century New Zealand as a place of external wildness that reflects the internal wildness of female will. Holly Hunter’s mesmerizing depiction of a mute pianist is matched by the astonishing work of a 10-year-old Anna Paquin.
91. Do the Right Thing (1989)
Directed by Spike Lee
Lee’s ferocious and supremely tasty slice of neighborhood life is set on the hottest day of the summer in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, in the late ’80s. In its feel for how racial tensions can simmer just beneath the surface of encounters, turning a melting pot into a pressure cooker, it remains a timelessly complex portrait of race in America.
90. The French Connection (1971)
Directed by William Friedkin
A nail-biter about international heroin smuggling, with a remarkable performance by Gene Hackman as sleazo-heroic New York cop Popeye Doyle and one of the most exciting car chases ever put on film. No other ’70s movie so brilliantly used New York as a natural-born film set.
89. Woodstock (1970)
Directed by Michael Wadleigh
The single greatest film ever made about the 1960s, Wadleigh’s account of the legendary three-day rock festival uses long, wandering takes and split screen to capture the idealism, naïveté, and musical soul of the peace-mud-and-flower-power generation.
88. The Dark Knight (2008)
87. La Dolce Vita (1960)
Directed by Federico Fellini
It’s here, in the fragmented story of a playboy gossip journalist (played to the marrow by Marcello Mastroianni) ambling around Rome, that Fellini broke away from neorealism and perfected the ”Felliniesque.” Watching Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg frolic in the Trevi Fountain makes for a sweet life indeed.
86. All About Eve (1950)
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Fasten your seat belts. You will never find a wittier, more sophisticated, more biting studio comedy than this wry look at how to make it in show business. The theater-world satire about a scheming ingenue casts its shadow over the age of corporate climbers.
85. Dirty Harry (1971)
84. Olympia (1938)
Directed by Leni Riefenstahl
Riefenstahl’s two-part chronicle of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin is a visually transporting documentary: a poetic pageant of flying, writhing, diving, and twisting bodies that connects us to the primal seed of athletic passion. The smash cuts, tracking shots, silhouettes, and slow motion make this an encyclopedia of all the modern film techniques that Riefenstahl helped invent.
83. The Wild Bunch (1969)
82. Scenes From a Marriage (1973)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
One of Bergman’s finest achievements hinged on just two superb actors, Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, enacting the drama of a bourgeois marriage in all its complexities.
81. Blade Runner (1982)
80. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Directed by Richard Linklater
No other movie not made in the ’70s has captured the loose, stoned, wistful slow-ride groove of that decade better than Linklater’s snapshot of the last day of high school in 1976. The film is fun enough to qualify as a classic teen flick, yet its artful, this-is-how-it-was flow evokes the storytelling poetry of Robert Altman.
79. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
78. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
The era’s defining blockbuster confectioners, Spielberg and George Lucas, teamed up for a throwback to the action-adventure serials they grew up on. Harrison Ford’s whip-cracking archaeologist dodges Rube Goldberg booby traps and squares off against Nazis while hunting for biblical booty. Celluloid escapism doesn’t come more rollicking than this.
77. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Lumet, that prince of New York City-steeped moviemaking, turns this stranger-than-fiction story of a bank robbery gone crazy wrong into a marvel of urban tension and zigzaggy action. He has immeasurable help from the combustible combination of Al Pacino as a desperate man with big demands and the late, great John Cazale as his gentler sidekick. Superb work from two acting titans.