The movies are now more than 100 years old. That still makes them a young medium, at least in art-form years (how old is the novel? the theater? the painting?). But they’re just old enough to make compiling Variety’s first-ever list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time a more daunting task than it once might have been. Think about it: You get an average of one film per year. A great deal of ardent discussion and debate went into the creation of this list. Our choices were winnowed from hundreds of titles submitted by more than 30 Variety critics, writers and editors. As we learned, coming up with which movies to include was the easy part. The hard part was deciding which movies to leave out.
Variety, which recently celebrated its 117th anniversary, is a publication as old as cinema. (We invented box office reporting, in addition to the words “showbiz” and “horse opera.”) And in making this list, we wanted to reflect the beautiful, head-spinning variety of the moviegoing experience. We don’t just mean different genres; we don’t just mean highbrow and lowbrow (and everything in between). The very spirit of cinema is that it has long been a landscape of spine-tingling eclecticism, and we wanted our list to reflect that — to honor the movies we love most, whatever categories they happen to fall into.
Do we want you to argue with this list? Of course we do. That’s the nature of the beast — the nature of the kind of protective passion that people feel about their favorite movies. We invited prominent filmmakers and actors to contribute essays about the movies that are significant to them, and that passion comes across in all that they wrote. No doubt you’ll say: How could that movie have been left off the list? Or this one? Or that one? Trust us: We often asked that very same question ourselves. But our hope is that in looking at the films we did choose, you’ll see a roster that reflects the impossibly wide-ranging, ever-shifting glory of what movies are.
We invite you to find out how many films from the list you’ve seen on this poll.
These film writers and critics contributed suggestions for movies: Manuel Betancourt, Clayton Davis, Peter Debruge, Matt Donnelly, William Earl, Patrick Frater, Steven Gaydos, Owen Gleiberman, Dennis Harvey, Courtney Howard, Angelique Jackson, Elsa Keslassy, Lisa Kennedy, Jessica Kiang, Richard Kuipers, Tomris Laffly, Brent Lang, Joe Leydon, Guy Lodge, Amy Nicholson, Michael Nordine, Naman Ramachandran, Manori Ravindran, Jenelle Riley, Pat Saperstein, Alissa Simon, Jazz Tangcay, Sylvia Tan, Zack Sharf, Adam B. Vary, Nick Vivarelli, Meredith Woerner.