Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Completed the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They List

I actually completed it a week ago, late Thursday evening, by watching the 1962 film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.  It was the lowest ranked entry I had left, and the title referenced a marathon-like endeavor so it seemed vaguely fitting to end with it.

Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while know that I am a lists kind of person.  Back in the late 1990s I printed off the year end IMDB Top 250 list to have for suggestions on movies to watch in the coming year.  That led to trying to see every movie, including ones that appeared on subsequent year end lists.  Completing that has led to completing others, some larger and some smaller; some with more popular films and some with films that tend to be liked primarily by professional critics.

For the record, I have completed: all movies to ever be on the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, all the AFI lists, both the 2012 Sight and Sound Critics’ Top 250 and Directors’ Top 100 lists, the Top 100 Movies of all time lists from Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, all Oscar Best Picture winners, and every single film that has been on the IMDB Top 250 at every year end since 1998.  To this I can now add the current TSPDT list.

I say “current” because it is re-issued every year, usually in February.  It has a lot of turnover on it, with the 2015 list having 77 films different from the 2014 one.  In addition, it is a ranked list from 1 to 1,000, so it is intended to name the most critically acclaimed movies of all time, whereas the 1,001 Movies list is unranked and simply has films representing all facets of movie history.  Most everyone working their way through the 1,001 Movies list includes all the ones that have ever been on it.  There is far less volatility with it, too.  Since 2002 it has had only 164 entries added to it, and 49 of those came in the 10th anniversary edition.  In contrast, since 2006 the TSPDT list has had a net change of 435 films.

For those folks who would like more information on the TSPDT list and working your way through it, you should check out this post.  About eight months ago I did an analysis on the kinds of films to be found on it, how easy/difficult it is to find them, comparisons to working on the 1,001 Movies list, the quality of the films, and what my feelings were on working on it.  I still had more than 100 entries left to see then, but by and large my opinions and observations on the TSPDT list have not changed.

Do I regret having done the entire list?  Not at all.  I’m a lists kind of guy anyway, as evidenced by my having done others.  While I did see a bunch of movies that I wouldn’t ever recommend to anyone – a few not even to someone I hated – I also saw some very good ones that I never would have watched were it not for this endeavor (see below).

Top Six Best Discoveries from Doing the Entire List – This is a list of six and not five because one of them is actually a TV miniseries, which I feel doesn’t really belong on a list of the 1,000 best films of all time.  I had heard of two of the six, but the other four were completely new to me.  Please bear in mind that I had already seen most films generally considered the “greatest” from doing the movies on other lists prior to this one.  These six are listed in the order I would rank them.

Heimat (1984) – This is a nearly 16 hour long West German television mini-series.  I’ve seen it on other lists of top movies, so TSPDT is not alone in including it despite not being a movie.  Regardless of why I saw it, I am very glad I did.  It is well worth your time to track down and watch.  It shows the life of a German village from just after WWI to 1980.  Some have called it the best mini-series ever, but I’d put Roots solidly ahead of it.   4.5 stars

The Fountainhead (1949) – Gary Cooper is outstanding in his role as a man who won't compromise his principles and his genius for anything or anybody - not even to put food on his table, not even for the love of his life. He had great chemistry with Patricia Neal.  The only negative is that Cooper, at 48, is too old to be playing the character, especially in the earlier parts of the movie.  4.5 stars

Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) – great final film from Guru Dutt (Pyaasa).  It’s about a once great director who is looking back on his life before his downfall into alcoholism and pariah status.  And it tragically became a case of life imitating art when this film failed at the box office and the studio basically cast Dutt out.  He never directed again and committed suicide five years after completing this film.   4 stars

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) – This is the last of Charles Laughton's three 1935 movies that I've seen and he's done an outstanding job in all of them. And all three are such different roles - Captain Bly in Mutiny on the Bounty, Inspector Javert in Les Miserables, and Ruggles in this film.  Laughton really gets to show his physical comedy skills in this one, from quietly freaking out when his Earl tells him he lost him to an American in a "drawing poker" match, to the "wahooooo!" when he's drunk, to the "I'm a naughty widdle boy" face when he's being berated while still drunk.  Then there is the Gettysburg Address scene, though, that reminds people of just how good a serious actor he is.  This is an all-around enjoyable film and it's worth your time tracking it down to see it.   4 stars

Placido (1961) was my first surprise from the TSPDT list.  It’s a screwball comedy from Spain.  It may have the fastest dialogue I have ever encountered in a foreign film.  I had never heard of director Luis Garcia Berlanga, but he also did another dark comedy in the list that I liked – The Executioner (1963).   4 stars

Kwaidan (1964) – This contains a very good set of four unconnected ghost stories.  Three of the four are effectively creepy, and all four are very interesting visually.   4 stars

What’s Next?

When I wrote about completing the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list (which you can read here), I included a “What’s Next” section where I speculated on the various other lists I had available to me, some I was in progress on, and others I had not done anything with.  My biggest takeaway from re-reading this almost two years later is that when it comes to predicting the future, I’m no Nostradamus, not even when it comes to my own actions.  Here is what I specifically wrote about the TSPDT list:

Perhaps you were expecting me to mention the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list.  That is probably the other really well known large movie list.  After completing the 1,001 Movies I find that I’m not that thrilled to tackle another list that is even more heavily weighted to movies only critics can love, and from relatively few directors.  As it stands right now I have seen 688 of the 1,000 in the 2013 list.  I’ve seen 850 of the 1,395 that have ever been on a TSPDT list.  It would be larger endeavors to knock those off, so I don’t see myself working on them anytime soon.  I might knock off the highest ranked ones I have remaining, though.  I’m only missing one film from the Top 100 (1949’s Late Spring) and eleven from the Top 250.

No, when it comes to larger lists that I might tackle I’ve got the New York Times Top 1,000 Movies list.  This seems to have slightly more mainstream films on it.  I’ve seen exactly 666 from this list.  [Feel free to make your best Number of the Beast jokes.]  Right now I feel I’d be more likely to spend time on that than the TSPDT list.

The fact that I’m writing this post shows I did work on the TSPDT list after all.  And other than checking off entries I saw because they were on the TSPDT list, I’ve done absolutely nothing with the New York Times Top 1,000 list.

Back then I also wrote that I was “very intrigued” with the films chosen to be preserved by the United States’ Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.  Other than trying to track down ones not available via Netflix, and watching some very old short films on YouTube, I have done little with this list, either.  I’ve only updated it with the newest entries the last two years.

I did correctly predict that I would do some “low hanging fruit” – lists where I had relatively few entries left to see.  This is why I have completed the Time Magazine Top 100, the Sight and Sound Critics’ Top 250, and the Sight and Sound Directors’ Top 100 lists.  It was doing the latter two, which overlapped with the TSPDT list, that likely caused me to start actively working on the larger list.

I expect I will do the same thing now in regards to low hanging fruit.  I have only two films left (1964’s Zulu and 2004’s Dead Man’s Shoes) to complete Empire’s 2014 Top 301 Movies list.  I have five left for Empire’s 2010 Top 100 World Movies list.  (In case you are wondering about Empire’s 2008 list of the Top 500 Films of all time, I have 26 left to see.) 

Among lists with a slightly larger number of entries left, Roger Ebert’s Great Films – a total of 374 movies, of which I have 31 left to see – seems to interest me the most right now.

I realize I may be repeating the mistakes of the past, but I will say that right now I do not see myself working on other TSPDT lists anytime soon.  I mentioned earlier that there were 435 films that used to be in the TPSDT Top 1,000 at one time.  I’ve seen 198 of those.  The one possibility I see myself doing is since I started with the 2013 list, changed to the 2014 list, then completed it with the 2015 list, I have a small feeling of leaving those other two lists undone.  I have 23 entries left to complete the 2014 list, and 28 left to complete the 2013 list.  Obviously, some of them would be the same movies so the total would be less than 51.  I might finish those two off, especially where I intend to now keep up with new TSPDT Top 1,000 lists as they come out each year.  This is the same thing I do with the 1,001 Movies and IMDB lists each year as they get new entries.

This year the person who does the TSPDT list greatly expanded the Best 21st Century Films list from 250 to 1,000, and he issued a list of the films from 1,001 to 2,000, although not in ranked order.  I’ve seen 472 of the ones in the 21st Century list, and 418 of the “next 1,000” films.  Other than checking off ones I happen to see while doing other lists, I don’t expect to be working on these at all.

I do have some lists I had been actively working on at one time that I set aside.  Of the 520 films ever nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture, I have seen 466.  I should watch as many of the remaining 54 as are available since Steve at 1001plus is reviewing all Oscar nominees across seven major categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, and Animated Film) and then doing a post each week where he analyzes and ranks the nominees for a specific year and category.  If you have even a passing interest in the Oscars and what “should have won” then I highly recommend his site.  And like me, he has also completed the entire 1,001 Movies list, but with the added bonus that he has reviewed every single one of them at his site.

I do know of another person who completed the main TSPDT list a few years ago.  His name is Kevyn Knox and his site was The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World (it has since gone dark.) You can read his post on completing the list here

Other lists I have worked on include the six 101 [Genre] Movies You Must See Before You Die lists.  I have 142 of those left to see.  And I have a consolidated list (from BFI, Empire, and Time Out) of the 180 Best British Films of all time, of which I have 63 left to watch.

For the immediate future, though, I will be going on vacation and doing some hiking.  Depending on my internet connectivity I may or may not be posting for a little while.  And if I do, it will likely be on hikes I have done.

Further references and reading:

Here is the website where the TSPDT lists are published by Bill Georgaris.  Among other things it has an explanation of how they are derived.

For those folks on Letterboxd who are wondering how they are doing on the TSPDT list, Matt Conti has been building and maintaining complete lists since 2012.  Here is a link to the current (2015) list.  His header for it contains links to the lists for the other three years.

If you want a downloadable tracking sheet for yourself sorted by ranking, by title, by chronological order, by runtime, and by Director’s name, then I have that, plus all of the other lists mentioned in this post, at my Lists from Chip site.  


  1. Another significant achievement, sir. Congrats, and here's to your next list completion!

  2. Well done on completing the TSPDT list! I don't think I have the discipline to ever get through that in its entirety. I too really liked Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) and Kwaidan (1964)

    On letterboxd, I’ve seen 54% of They Shoot Pictures Don’t They? Top 1000 Films 2015 Edition.
    Not bad I guess, considering I wasn’t even working on the list.

    1. There's a lot of overlap with the 1,001 Movies list, and pretty much every film on the 2012 Sight and Sound poll lists are on it, so it you are working on either of those then by default you are checking off ones on the TSPDT list, too. I had seen almost 700 of the TSPDT 1,000 at the time I had completed the 1,001 Movies list.

  3. Congratulations! Isn't it nice that we never seem to run out of films to watch despite our completism?

  4. Congrats. Maybe it is time now for something really obscure, like Bollywood horror movies or Italian silents. Completing allthose lists means you have seen everything really worth watching.

    1. Thanks. Bollywood horror movies - now there's a thought. I do have the Filmfare and National Film Awards lists for India that go back to the 1950s. I wonder if a horror movie ever won one of those?

  5. I think that in trying to see all the films from the list, you can simply lose a lot of time, better study the list and choose what you really will be interested.