How Many of These Movies Have You Seen?

By  · Published on August 3rd, 2015

When the most recent Sight & Sound Top 100 list came out in 2012, there weren’t many surprises beyond the headline-ready replacement of Citizen Kane by Vertigo at the #1 spot. There was a brief, furious flash of articles contemplating what it really meant to be the best movie ever made and whether Hitchcock’s story of obsession masquerading as love really qualified. Being called the greatest makes you an easy target.

Landon and I worked our way through the first fifty films on the list, exploring the Holden Caulfield of Paris, the secret gay agenda of Some Like it Hot, the unfathomable history of Shoah, a silent superhero movie, the bleakest movies about childhood and many, many more. It took us two years, and that was at least partially aided by the fact that I’d seen almost all of them already (Landon may have already seen all fifty). Finding something “new” was a rare treat, a reminder that there would always be great movies to discover no matter how seasoned a traveler you are.

Which is why I’m both happy and embarrassed after reading Little White Lies’ 100 Great Films By Female Filmmakers. I’ve only seen 24 of them.

A few things struck me immediately about the list.

It’s thorough in regards to history, attempting to provide a handful of entries for ever decade starting in the 1910s before allowing the explosion of the 1970s and modern cinema to wash over the other 75% of the list.

It’s also dense with a healthy amount of pop culture palette chasers (Clueless, Billy Madison, Pet Sematary, American Psycho, and more), which may embolden the long-held belief that, when women make movies, they want to make important emotional work that only occasionally resonates into the larger world beyond festivals.

It also has almost nothing in common with the Sight & Sound list – a compilation that’s regarded widely as the best of the best of lists. Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is the only cross-over from the top 50. It’s also one of the movies I’ve seen…because of our audit of the Sight & Sound list. If not for that exploration, my Little White Lies count would only go up to 23. Embarrassing by one more notch.

(Meshes of the Afternoon and Beau Travail are on both lists within the top 100.)

In that sense, it’s fascinating to see how stark the lack of female filmmakers is from what’s considered to be a definitive list. It is, for lack of a better alternative, the critical canon of films that will be remembered and continue to be studied and championed. From the top of that hill, the contributions from women seem microscopic.

But from Little White Lies’ list, there’s a sense that great work has been crafted all along, some of it hiding in the shadows, some of it gaining immense popularity before ending up on “Movies You Didn’t Know Were Directed by Women” lists.

To ward off the too-simple argument of why we’d even need a list like this – one that has a qualifier – my ignorance of these movies is one of the best proofs that the Little White Lies is needed. “But why can’t we just let talent be the arbiter?!” some people cry. Because we do, and we get lists like S & S that display a view of the cinematic world that is closed off to many groups of filmmakers even as lists like this new one prove that there’s vital work being done, that is has been done, even if it doesn’t fit into a box labeled “100.” This new list makes a case for considering why these movies haven’t made it to the “definitive” list.

Now, it’s time to watch some movies.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.