Doodad Kind of Town

List-o-Mania: The Top 100 Foreign Films
April 2, 2008, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Top 100 Lists

I love lists – lists of favorite movies, favorite books, favorite vacation spots. I love making those lists and I love reading other people’s lists, comparing them to my lists, marking off what I’ve read or seen.

So I’ve been getting a huge kick out of Nayana’s recent posts on The Center Seat. It’s fun to see which of the IMDB Top 250 or AFI’s Top 100 films I’ve actually seen, or figure out which films I would remove from or add to those lists.

In her AFI post, Nayana bemoans the fact that the AFI list (being American, after all) omits all the fine foreign-language films we know and love. This got me thinking – I recalled a few years back when Landmark Theatres sponsored a poll of its patrons to come up with the 100 Best Foreign Language Films as a counter to the AFI list. I did a little Googling and came up with their list, which follows (the films I’ve seen are in bold):

1. Life is Beautiful
2. Cinema Paradiso
3. Il Postino
4. Like Water for Chocolate
5. Das Boot
6. Babette’s Feast
7. The Gods Must Be Crazy
8. Seven Samurai
9. Shall We Dance?
10. The Bicycle Thief
11. La Femme Nikita
12. La Cage Aux Folles
13. My Life as a Dog
14. Central Station
15. Run Lola Run
16. Au Revoir les Enfants
17. Eat Drink Man Woman
18. La Dolce Vita
19. Jean de Florette
20. Raise the Red Lantern
21. Wings of Desire
22. Les Miserables
23. Farewell My Concubine
24. The Wedding Banquet
25. Beauty and the Beast (1946)
26. Black Orpheus
27. Ran
28. Indochine
29. Antonia’s Line
30. Rashomon
31. Europa Europa
32. The City of Lost Children
33. The Seventh Seal
34. Blue (Three Colors Trilogy)
35. A Man and a Woman
36. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
37. Cyrano de Bergerac
38. Manon of the Spring
39. 8 ½
40. Diva
41. King of Hearts
42. Fanny and Alexander
43. La Strada
44. Red (Three Colors Trilogy)
45. And God Created Woman
46. Delicatessen
47. Diabolique
48. Z
49. The Baker’s Wife
50. Belle de Jour
51. Children of Paradise
52. The King of Masks
53. Tampopo
54. Jules and Jim
55. Akira
56. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
57. Ma Vie en Rose
58. Kolya
59. Grand Illusion
60. Amarcord
61. Two Women
62. The 400 Blows
63. Aguirre, the Wrath of God
64. The Tin Drum
65. Wild Strawberries
66. Never on Sunday
67. Belle Epoque
68. Burnt by the Sun
69. After Life
70. M
71. Nights of Cabiria
72. The Garden of the Finzi Continis
73. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!
74. The Killer
74. Betty Blue
75. Breathless
76. Cousin, Cousine
77. The Blue Angel
79. Chungking Express
80. Ju Dou
81. Carmen
82. The Scent of Green Papaya
83. Camille Claudel
84. Ponette
85. Bread and Chocolate
86. Alexander Nevsky
87. Swept Away
88. The Return of Marin Guerre
89. Divorce Italian Style
90. Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
91. Hiroshima Mon Amour
92. Seven Beauties
93. Tango
94. The Accompanist
95. Black Rain
96. To Live
97. Chinese Ghost Story
98. The Rules of the Game
99. Cries and Whispers
100. Mediterraneo

Some observations:

– If you’re astonished by the absence of “Amelie,” “The Lives of Others,” “Volver,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” or other recent favorites, take note: this list was compiled in 1999 (as part of Landmark’s 25th anniversary celebration) and hasn’t been updated since. So the last nine years of foreign language films are completely unrepresented.

– If this list were updated, I hope to God that “Life is Beautiful” would fall way down the list. I will sheepishly admit to loving “Life is Beautiful” myself, but even I know it doesn’t belong in the top slot, or even in the top 10. This ranking has to be a reflection of its huge popularity (and recent Oscar wins) at the time the list was compiled.

— I dimly recall voting in this poll and being asked to submit 5 film titles on my ballot; as best I can recall, my choices were “8 ½ ,” “Farewell My Concubine,” “The Bicycle Thief,” “Entre Nous” (which didn’t make the cut) and “Seven Beauties.” But it’s very possible that I voted for “Life is Beautiful” myself (blushing sheepishly here) since I was still under its spell at the time.

– Just my opinion, but – how can you take a list seriously that does not contain a single Antonioni film? I mean, c’mon – “L’Avventura” anyone? And where the heck is “Persona”? Or Luis Bunuel’s “Viridiana”? Or the 1985 Argentine film “The Official Story”?

And “8 ½” belongs in the top ten, damnit! Hell, it belongs in the top two!

– Beyond that, I’m just embarrassed at how few of these I’ve actually seen. I’ve got some serious Netflix queue-updating to do.


8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I think I’d do much better if they posted a more updated list. I’ve seen a lot of foreign films recently… but of this list: five. Oh, well. Got my work cut out for me.I’m going to post my own Top 100 very soon… it was ridiculously difficult.

Comment by Nayana Anthony

Hi! Wow this is an amazing list. My girlfriend loves “Life is beautiful” but i haven’t seen it yet – going to watch it this weekend!Thanks for commenting! Please come back, ha.

Comment by The Fraze

Nayana – I loved your Top 100 post. I’m tyring to come up with mine. Naming 100 favorite movies is easy, but ranking them is impossible!Fraze – I hope you’ll post about “Life is Beautiful” once you’ve seen it. I’d be anxious to hear your thoughts. I loved it – paid to see it six times at the theater when it first came out – but haven’t watched it in a long time. I may have to get out my DVD this weekend and watch it again myself to see if it’s really as great as I remember.

Comment by Pat

“If you’re astonished by the absence of “Amelie,” “The Lives of Others,” “Volver,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” or other recent favorites, take note: this list was compiled in 1999 (as part of Landmark’s 25th anniversary celebration) and hasn’t been updated since.”This is why I try to avoid lists in general. Life is ever changing, so if I made a list of my top 100 (or even 50) favorite films today, I bet anything it would be different by the end of the year.And don’t be embarassed: I’ve seen far fewer than you have, Pat.

Comment by Mrs. Thuro

Yup, you can’t take a list like this seriously when Life Is Beautiful is #1 and Rules of the Game is #98. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Top 1000 over at They Shoot Pictures. Half of the top 10 are foreign films, and #3 on the list is Rules of the Game, being beaten out only by Citizen Kane and Vertigo.

Comment by Evan Derrick

Mrs. Thuro – That’s true- personal favorite lists change all the time. I’ve been trying to come up with my personal top 100, and it has a few 2007 films on it. By next year, some others will have dropped off.Evan- I’ve got to check out that top 1000 list. Thanks for the link.

Comment by Pat

Nice post. I can’t believe they left off UMBERTO D. and WAGES OF FEAR. Two of my absolute favorites.Also, I’d like to complement you on your blog.Nice work.


Hi Joseph – Welcome, and also welcome to the LAMB!I’ve never seen “Wages of Fear,” but I totally agree with you about “Umberto D.” Overall, I’d say this is a pretty silly, uninformed list.Like you blog, too, and I’ve added your link to my blog roll.

Comment by Pat

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