1. Nashville Directed by Robert Altman Written by Joan Tewkesbury
Some of my friends dismiss this one as a smug left-coaster giving a raspberry to flyover country. To them I point out that the least sympathetic characters in the whole vast cast are the rocker from LA and the reporter from the UK. Altman's withering satire is nothing if not universal.
2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Directed by Milos Forman Written by Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben, from a novel by Ken Kesey
Perhaps it wasn't obvious at the time, but this scathing attack on the nanny state suggests an invisible fissure in the counterculture. I imagine some young hipster watching All in the Family one night in 1975 and then heading out for a late screening of this movie, never dreaming that his hero Rob Reiner would turn out to have more in common with Nurse Ratched than with McMurphy.
3. Love and Death Written and directed by Woody Allen
His funniest film, and his most pointedly political picture too.
4. Dog Day Afternoon Directed by Sidney Lumet Written by Frank Pierson
Best bank-robbery movie ever. "Sal, Wyoming's not a country."
5. Picnic at Hanging Rock Directed by Peter Weir Written by Cliff Green, from a novel by Joan Lindsay
If you want to understand the mass media's fixation on disappearing white girls, start here.
6. Swept Away...by an unusual destiny in the blue sea of August Written and directed by Lina Wertmuller
A comedy about the complexities of love, lust, and power, and the difficulties in discerning who wields the latter when the first two forces are in play. I'm reminded of a line from the Firesign Theatre: "It's a new world now, honey! Nobody's gwine have to be a slave all de time no mo'. We's gwine take turns."
7. Fox and His Friends Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder Written by Fassbinder and Christian Hohoff
Fassbinder was a trailblazing gay director, a man who somehow managed to fuse the aesthetics of Douglas Sirk and John Cassavetes, and, like Wertmuller, a radical with no patience for political correctness. I'll steal a passage from Roger Ebert: "Years before Hollywood made its first faltering steps in the direction of a new frankness about homosexuality, Fassbinder was miles out in front. He was so comfortable with gay characters that he felt no hesitation in portraying some of them as selfish, brutal and grasping -- as evil, indeed, as heterosexuals in other movies. Here is a movie about characters who define themselves by their sexuality, but the movie doesn't. It takes the sexuality as a given, and defines them by their values and morals."
8. Jaws Directed by Steven Spielberg Written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, from Benchley's novel
There's a small handful of Spielberg movies that I like, but if all his pictures were to disappear from the earth tomorrow this is the only one I'd miss.
9. Grey Gardens Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer
The best documentaries are about people, not events. This one captures two aging eccentrics whose relationship can never be entirely explained, just observed.
10. The Man Who Would Be King Directed by John Huston Written by Huston and Gladys Hill, from a story by Rudyard Kipling
1. Ran Directed by Akira Kurosawa Written by Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, and Masato Ide
The story of King Lear predates the Bard, so it shouldn't seem odd that the best movie it inspired doesn't include a single line of Shakespeare.
2. Brazil Directed by Terry Gilliam Written by Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown
They could have called it Monty Python's 1984.
3. Louie Bluie Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Zwigoff's first film is a charming documentary about the bluesman, artist, and porn aficionado Howard Armstrong. It's also utterly fake: The living room it's filmed in is an artificial set, some of the people reminiscing with Armstrong barely know him, and the director had to persuade his subjects to play the early string-band songs he loved rather than the more complex music they preferred. You can decide for yourself whether all that artifice is a flaw or an enhancement.
4. Vagabond Written and directed by Agnes Varda
Not a simple celebration of a free spirit, and not a disdainful condemnation of a marginal life either. Like a hobo Citizen Kane, it circles its title character but never touches her directly; instead it views her through other people's eyes, and never claims to have solved all the riddles she poses.
5. After Hours Directed by Martin Scorsese Written by Joseph Minion
Better critics can weigh this picture's place in Scorsese's filmography. I'll just point out that it's the best movie Cheech and Chong were ever involved with.
6. Static Directed by Mark Romanek Written by Romanek and Keith Gordon
Before he was shooting videos for Bowie, Beck, and Johnny Cash, Romanek made this terrific indie flick about a man who believes he's built a machine that'll let you peek into heaven. Why doesn't this have a bigger cult following?
7. Prizzi's Honor Directed by John Huston Written by Richard Condon and Janet Roach, from Condon's novel
The godfather of mafia comedies.
8. Fluke Directed by Emily Breer
An animated collage.
9. Chain Letters Written and directed by Mark Rappaport
In most conspiracy movies, the plot -- funny word, that -- reveals a hidden order lurking behind our seemingly chaotic world. This one's about the order we invent to make sense of the world's genuine chaos.
10. The Purple Rose of Cairo Written and directed by Woody Allen
A different sort of cinephilia: Mia Farrow's character falls in love with a movie character, and vice versa. Those of you who prefer Allen's onscreen persona to his offscreen life will appreciate the ending.
Also, a few articles previously published in the print edition of Reason are now online as well: my review of America's Right Turn and The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, an extended version of my Web column on Katrina, and a brief bit about creationist roadside attractions.
Finally: This past weekend CounterPunch posted an annotated list of some of my favorite live recordings.