Last month the British Film Institute released its list of the “Greatest Films of All Time.” This is a list released every ten years that polls prominent critics, directors, and other industry types in hopes of rewarding and honoring some of the more spectacular achievements in film. The big news this year was that Citizen Kane, the ever reigning “Greatest Film” according to critics (it had been #1 since the introduction of the list), had been bumped down to 2nd place by Vertigo. Now does this mean that Vertigo is a better film than Citizen Kane and it just took us fifty plus years to realize it?
No. What it means is that critics thought Vertigo deserved a spot at the top after informing and influencing decades of great thrillers. You can see tinges of Hitchcock in the thrillers of Brian DePalma, Danny Boyle, and a hundred other celebrated directors. Vertigo is an important film because it influences other important films and in doing so cements itself within film history. But again, does that mean Vertigo is better than Citizen Kane or any of the other films on the list? Some critics think so. But then again other critics nominated films like Behind the Green Door, Back to the Future, and Will Ferrell’s mustache-centric comedy Anchorman. But a title like “Greatest Film of All Time” is subjective at best, so what are we to do with such a list
This is the first time in my life that I’ve been cognizant of the BFI’s list and it almost seems like a dream come true. Although it does produce some inconsequential arguments like “is Vertigo better than Citizen Kane?” it produces far more film lovers championing for the movies they care about. It’s like getting 500 suggestions of what to watch at once, and not just what to watch but why you should.
One great film I found while going through the list was Robert Aldrich’s 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane was a film that I’ve known the title of all my life but had never actually known about until last week. The film stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as sisters and faded stars living out their golden years in a decaying Hollywood estate hating each other. Bette Davis plays the vicious drunk sister who’ll do things like feed her wheelchair bound sister her pet parakeet. Meanwhile Joan Crawford plays the helpless parakeet eating sister who throughout the length of the film keeps trying desperately to have her sister put away. It’s a film filled with dramatic tension that forces its viewer to simultaneously be horrified by and take pity on its characters. And while this film may not be the “Greatest Film of All Time” it is a film that I haven’t been able to stop telling people about, especially the part where Bette Davis, dressed as a little girl, sings I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy.
So what do you think? What film would you nominate as the “Greatest Film of All Time?” Do you even believe that something so subjective could ever be decided upon? What is a great film that you love telling people about? Please leave some comments below so that we can continue our discussion on influential thrillers, mustache-centric comedies, how frightening Bette Davis is when she sings I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy.
– Jet Fuel Blogger, Lucas Sifuentes