Are these really the 100 best films?

To celebrate the 100th birthday of cinema, the BBC is dusting off its a rchives to bring us the best movies of all time ... or so it says. ryan gilbey br owses through Auntie's choices in an attempt to find something to please everyo ne

As cinema approaches its 100th birthday (on 13 February), you can hear a fierce scratching sound, like mice nibbling at the skirting-board. Actually, it's all the critics scribbling into their notebooks, raiding their libraries and coming over ana lly-retentive. In short, they're making lists. Bless 'em.

As usual, each of these lists will be arbitary and subjective, and ultimately as useless as any list which attempts to gather together the finest achievements of an art form. For how do you define "best"? The film you'd most like to grow old with? The one which inspired your career, or your life? The most technically proficient? Emotionally honest? The one which cheers you up? Brings you down? You may as well throw a stone at a shelf of videos and cherish the one you strike.

In their upcoming celebrations to mark the Centenary of Cinema, the BBC have got it easier than most. The 100 films which they have chosen to screen throughout 1995 don't make any claims to be the best films ever made. They are simply what Steve Jenkins,BBC2's Editor, Programme Acquisition, has selected as the finest features in the BBC's stock. That lets him off any disastrous omissions, of course (no Eisenstein?), although the list is, for the most part, as conservative as you'd expect.

Whether it makes you seethe or whoop, there's bound to be a few things here to delight everyone, which is surely the point of such a season. It also puts some of the more overblown "masterpieces" of recent times firmly in their place. So in a year which saw Kenneth Branagh defecating on Mary Shelley's text in the name of art, it's worth revisiting James Whale's 1935 classic The Bride of Frankenstein, if only to remember that a bravura piece of film-making can come from material which is both adaptation and sequel. Elsa Lanchester, silver-streaked hair piled on the back of her skull, is what most people remember about the film; the moments of dark, mischievous humour are worth cherishing too. The list is low on horror, with onl y Jacques Tourneur's I Walked with a Zombie and Michael Reeves' disturbingWitchfinder General fitting that category.

By the bottom end of the century, the genre distinctions had made it harder to sort horror from thriller from psychological drama. David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986) and David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (1988) straddled all three and ended up being two of the most unsettling probes into the subconscious that cinema had ever produced. Lynch's film, which bettered even his own Eraserhead, concerned the nightmarish journey of a young American innocent into a world where sex and violence are interchangeable, and boasted moments derived from, and worthy of a place beside, Cocteau and Bunuel.

Cronenberg, meanwhile, was as biologically obsessed as ever ("They should have beauty contests for the inside of the body," says one character). He penned the screenplay, about twin brothers who become gynaecologists, while Jeremy Irons (as both twins) gave a performance of terrifying schizophrenia. Nearly a decade on, neither director has matched these triumphs.

If the list trades in some predictable areas - lashings of Bergman, a slab of Lean but rather less Huston than one might have hoped for - then at least many of those areas will provide a convergence of opinion. Nobody who sees Yasujiro's most accomplished and emotional work, Tokyo Story (1953), can fail to be affected by its raw, painful honesty. It's the tale of an elderly couple who discover that the world is moving on without them when they visit their children, all of whom consider them a nuisance. It's a long and leisurely piece, but immaculately constructed and sure to crack the hardest heart.

There are certain directors whose inclusion in any overview of cinema is assured but who have produced so much work of outstanding quality that no single selection can ever satisfy all admirers. Bunuel, Godard and our own Powell/Pressburger team all havetheir names carved in stone. Although you might argue with the choice of Bunuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie over his L'Age d'Or, Un Chien Andalou or Belle de Jour, Weekend (1967) is probably the epitome of Godard's best, though - more quibbles - there must have been room to squeeze Pierrot le Fou or A Bout de Souffle in over Susan Siedelman's pleasant but unremarkable Desperately Seeking Susan.

Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) and Ford's The Searchers (1956) are also seasoned dwellers of most critics' "best of" lists, both of them apparently traditional, linear stories which gradually reveal sinister subtexts. Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980), too, has

been voted Film of the Eighties on several occasions, and it's the director (not to mention De Niro, who seems on the point of combusting) at the peak of his powers, a height only recently returned to with The Age of Innocence.

One of the newest entries in the season, Takeshi Kitano's masterly Sonatine (1993), indicates where the kinetic cinema which was once exclusively Scorsese's domain might now be heading. We should hope Kitano can keep this standard up - his work so far has exhibited a discipline and visual excellence which Tarantino-wannabees, such as Danny Boyle, should look to. Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989) is, like Dead Ringers and Blue Velvet, a powerhouse piece of film-making which its director may never top. It's also a perfect indication of where black cinema was in the late Eighties. Throughout its study of one sweltering day in a predominantly black neighbourhood fraught with tension, it remains unsparing in its passion and invention. One of the surprises of the season, it should, like the list in general, anger, infuriate and inspire. Let the complaining begin...

Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz