Jim Emerson

Jim Emerson

Critic, RogerEbert.com, Scanners, Chicago Sun-Times
Voted in the critics poll

Voted for:

Barry Lyndon 1975 Stanley Kubrick
Chinatown 1974 Roman Polanski
Citizen Kane 1941 Orson Welles
Late Spring 1949 Ozu Yasujirô
Nashville 1975 Robert Altman
Only Angels Have Wings 1939 Howard Hawks
Our Hospitality 1923 Buster Keaton/John G. Blystone
Sansho Dayu 1954 Mizoguchi Kenji
Trouble in Paradise 1932 Ernst Lubitsch
Vertigo 1958 Alfred Hitchcock


These are movies that made me who I am and shaped my love of cinema. I would also defend each and every one of them as an awe-inspiring work of art. I looked at my 2002 list and some of the titles are different, but the overall contours are much the same: Our Hospitality instead of Sherlock Jr. for Buster Keaton, film’s greatest (and funniest) visual philosopher; the inevitable Citizen Kane, because no great movie has ever been more dynamic, ingenious and sheer fun – we shouldn’t take it for granted (last time I also had The Magnificent Ambersons on my list, a film I love as much as Kane, but I wanted to make room for other auteurs); Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon instead of 2001: A Space Odyssey because it is equally visionary and gorgeous, and perhaps slightly more poignant. Then there’s Only Angels Have Wings, which shows Hawks’ mastery of all genres in one picture: Western, adventure, romance, comedy, even musical. Trouble in Paradise is shimmering perfection – romantic comedy as rhythm and dance, dialogue as music and lyrics. Mizoguchi’s Sansho Dayu is here because, as I’ve often said, if there is a god, they are probably manifested in this movie; and Late Spring is possibly my favorite Ozu, a family tragicomedy (is there another kind?) about the sacrifices a father and daughter make for each other. There’s a theme about men’s distrust of women that runs through Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Chinatown, and a noirish, Watergate-era cynicism that links the political/familial corruption of Chinatown with politics-as-entertainment in Nashville. I’m not even going to begin discussing the painful omissions. Others will have to champion films such as Sunrise (F.W. Murnau, 1927), Kings of the Road (Wim Wenders, 1976), The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955), Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967), The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg, 1934), Holiday (George Cukor, 1938), Miller’s Crossing & No Country for Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1990 & 2007), Letter From an Unknown Woman & The Earrings of Madame de… (Max Ophüls, 1948 & 1953), Deep End (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1970) and Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (Errol Morris, 1997).