Everyone enjoys reading a Best of/Worst of list every now and again. We occasionally publish a Top 10 Whatever here on the website and the damn things are hit magnets. Their easily digestible format and promise of no heavy intellectual lifting for the reader make for fun, breezy reads. Plus, we all love to bitch, and if there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that whatever particular list you come across, it sure blows compared to your list. And your list sucks compared to my list. And my list stinks compared to some other dude’s list (humph, so says him).
Limiting lists to 10, 50, or even 100 is what kicks, punches, and shakes the wasps’ nest. Keeping the overall count small forces more editorial decisions, which is what leads to debate. Sorry, that film, that scene, that character is damn good, but not good enough. Cut it out, and wait for the first response from some reader screaming at his computer screen, “YOU’RE A GODDAMN LUNATIC FOR LEAVING SO AND SO AND WHATEVER OFF YOUR LIST!”
This takes me to the gargantuan “Greatest 500 Movies of All Time” list published recently by “Empire.” Advertised as the “most ambitious movie poll ever attempted” and compiled by 10,000 readers, 150 of “Hollywood’s finest” (does that include Harry Dean Stanton?) and 50 “key film critics” (which definitely doesn’t include me), Empire’s list of 500 reads like the Special Olympics of greatest films lists. Hey, you aren’t a champ, but you still get a medal.
At first I assumed populist sentiment-the same type that launches a film like The Dark Knight to the number 1 spot overnight on IMDB.com’s top 250-would dominate the majority of “Empire’s” Honor Roll 500. Yet, not exactly (The Dark Knight topped out at number 15; trolls start your barrage of hate). Apparently whatever formula “Empire” concocted gave more heft to the 50 “key critics.” To my surprise the list holds about an even number of slots for both mainstream fare and those Frenchy sounding, artsy-fartsy flicks permanently residing on the lower half of your Netflix queue. (Yet, Transformers sits at spot 309; get drunk on that love tonight Michael Bay and Transfans and chronic masturbators of Megan Fox films.)
Flipping through the list, I can’t say I disliked many of the films (although I’m sure plenty of fanboys broke out in bitch-hives over the inclusion of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Phantom Menace, both films I unapologetically enjoy). My only thought was where in the hell is The Right Stuff, one of my oddball suggestions as perhaps the greatest film ever made. And maybe Phillip Kaufman’s masterpiece did make it on the list, and I just missed it somewhere between Lords of Dogtown and As Good as It Gets.
If the list was printed in alphabetical or chronological order, then maybe I’d be fine and not consider it so utterly ridiculous (as opposed to the plain ol’ silly attitude I generally have towards lists). Perhaps I’d judge it more as a guide to films such as a book like “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.” But nope, that damn thing is numbered out as if the film in spot 403 (Do the Right Thing) is only slightly better than pick 405 (Dirty Dancing).
That means I should be getting my debate on. Really, Edward Scissorhands is 66? Yet, I can’t. It’s too big, too all-inclusive, to work up any passion over the choices between 11-500. And the top 10 is too safe to really make anyone go WTF?. Oh, The Godfather perches above the rest as the greatest film of all time. Yawn. Never seen that before. As much as we all hate limiting a Top 10 Whatever to just 10 choices, “Empire’s” Greatest 500 Movies of All” Time proves why such smaller-count restrictions are needed to create anything of interest. Otherwise, you’re just stuck with a tub full of boring oatmeal.
You can read the list right here if you so wish, but I can pretty much guarantee the movie you are thinking of is on there.