Over at Image Journal, Steven Greydanus has officially announced the release of the 2011 edition of Arts & Faith’s Top 100 films and explains why this year’s list might be the best yet:

There are a number of reasons why the 2011 list may be the best Top 100 A&F has yet produced. For one thing, this year saw far and away the highest voter turnout, making for a more representative list. Last year’s turnout, 44 voters, was a new high, but this year’s turnout climbed to 65 — an increase of nearly 50 percent. A&F voters include professional film writers and lecturers, lifelong cinephiles and ordinary movie fans, seminary-trained students of religion, believers of various stripes, and individuals of no particular faith.

For another, ongoing discussion at A&F and revised ranking procedures have contributed to a list that is more diverse and interesting. Consider the top five titles—and then take one more step, and you’ll see what I mean.

Here are the top ten films in the list:

  1. The Passion of Joan of Arc
  2. Andrei Rublev
  3. Ordet
  4. The Decalogue
  5. Au Hasard Balthazar
  6. Make Way For Tomorrow
  7. The Gospel According to Matthew
  8. Le Fils
  9. Ikiru
  10. Babette’s Feast


  1. So what’re the criteria for this list? Is it just What is an awesome film? Or What is an awesome film that treats matters of faith? Or What is an awesome film that treats matters of art and faith? Or something else.

    Because if it’s about films that speak to faith, I’m curious why something like Spring Summer Winter Fall and Spring is not included. If the criteria is something else, then I’d like to know what, because I’m not altogether sure what kind of list I’m looking at.

  2. IMHO, one of the great strengths of the list is that it undergoes revisions every year, revisions that are the product of weeks and months of debate, discussion, voting, etc. So I hope nobody thinks that it’s some sort of monumental standard carved in stone, even though I’m very fond of the list in general.

  3. I do like that the list changes as conversation grows and matures. I try to do that with my own lists—it’s a valuable way to chart my own growth and personal values.

    It’s an interesting list and there are some great films on there. There are, of course, some that leave me scratching my head over their inclusion, but that’s pretty much to be expected in any list made by committee. I do find the number of Japanese (and animated Japanese) films to be interesting (I have to admit I would have never expected something like Paprika, as enjoyable as it is, to find itself sharing any kind of list with Decalog!).

  4. Yeah, the inclusion of Paprika struck me as a little odd, even though I like the film quite a bit and do find it very thought-provoking. (On a purely fanboy level, however, I do think it’s pretty cool to see Satoshi Kon right there next to Tarkovsky and Bresson.)

  5. Yeah, I’m there with you in terms of fanboy glee (even though I’d prefer a different offering from Kon). And this, of course, makes me mourn our loss of him all over again.
    Would you care to talk about any of the films in particular? Reason you support their inclusion, reasons you question their inclusion? And worthwhile anecdotes related to your experience of particular films on the list? Thoughts on directors?

    Personally, as much as Paprika perplexes me, It’s a Wonderful Life may do so more. It’s a good film and hits all the notes that have since become formula (if they weren’t already at the time) and so feels pretty satisfying, but I’ve never imagined the film sparking any kind of thoughtfulness that, say, Jaws couldn’t also muster.

    (Jaws, by the way, is another notable absence on the horror list.)

  6. Oh man… that could be a whole series of blog posts in and of itself. I’ll be honest, though: I’ve only seen about a third of the films on the list, and some of those I haven’t seen in awhile. But here are a few comments/thoughts:

    – When I think of the top 100, the film that always seems to come immediately to mind is Ikiru. Few films have ever captured the notion that “all is vanity” so well and so poignantly — it should really be accompanied by a reading of Ecclesiastes. It’s a film that resolutely states that simple acts of goodness and honor will always confuse and confound those in power. (My review, FWIW).

    – I haven’t seen all of his films, but Andrei Tarkovsky is one of those directors whose vision of art and spirituality has been so influential on me, that I can really imagine life without it. His films are difficult and demanding, constructed of long, glacial takes and dialog that often feels more like a philosophical dissertation than anything else. However, the imagery in his films is so exquisite and affecting, almost numinous, and while the pace of his films can be demanding, I also find them fascinating and even intoxicating. That being said, I do wish that The Sacrifice — his final film, and perhaps his most accessible — had made the cut.

    – A few films that I wish had made the cut: Blade Runner (because, well, it’s freakin’ Blade Runner), Still Walking (a lovely, graceful examination of families in all of their flaws and glories), and The Matrix.

    – I can understand the confusion surrounding It’s A Wonderful Life, but personally, I don’t have a problem. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic film that doesn’t need any holiday schmaltz or kitsch to stand on on its own merits as a testament to “self-sacrifice, disappointment, and the fragility of happiness and the American dream”. I’ll confess, I think I really do love the film, both as a feel-good holiday picture, and as sort of American myth that’s ingrained into our cultural psyche, albeit for some of the wrong reasons.

  7. Yeah, I love Ikiru. It’s among my favourite Kurosawas.
    I love Trois Couleurs as well (esp. Bleu and Rouge) and I may have met my wife (sort of) because of it. So that’s always fun. Hm, I wasn’t going to tell the story because, well, what has that got to do with movies. But it’s kind of cute or something and Kieslowski plays a role, so why not?

    So in December 2004, I was experiencing massive head trauma that left me unable to wrok for a couple months. I had just moved into a new place and my on-again/off-again girlfriend of a while had broken it off for good. In order to cheer me up and distract me from the pain I was experiencing, a friend took me to a local cafe where a few friends’ folk/blues band was playing a gig. Long story short, I met my wife by accident there, but didn’t get her number or anything (since I wasn’t really looking for anyone to replace the girl I’d just been ditched by). We talked, had an engaging conversation, and went our seperate ways.

    A month later, some acquaintances had stopped by to drop off a meal for me (since I was having meals delievered at that time). As we talked, they noticed the Colors trilogy on my shelf and asked if it was any good. I responded that of course it was. They were relieved because they had just gotten for they’re friend for Christmas. They then asked if I was interested in joining them all for a showing of the trilogy in a week or so. Having nothing better going on, I said sure.

    Longer (and much funnier) story shorter, my wife happened to be their friend’s roommate. So we met again, and now I knew where to find her. After the Kieslowski incident, there was one more blind coincidence forcing us together (that one involving Jean-Pierre Jeunet). And a year and a half later, we were married.

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