The AFI has their list, Filmsite has a bunch as well, there's also the IMDb Top 250, TotalFilm's top 100 and Roger Ebert's Great Movies. Rank and format differences aside, all offer -- in some fashion -- a list of the greatest movies ever made.
Of course, as soon as you start making lists like this, everyone immediately comes out of the woodwork to either question those casting actual judgment (nobody knows the identities of the AFI voters) or their methodology (TotalFilm only considered movies with 5-star reviews) or what the IMDb voters are smoking (The Matrix is 14 places higher than Dr. Strangelove?).
And just what makes a film "great," anyway? Is it as simple as a memorable screenplay? Some powerful performances? A director with singular vision and control? How about a moving soundtrack? Or a compelling story? Rewatchability? Cultural impact? A superintelligent dog? All of the above?
Mankind has waited for the truth long enough. Not only am I going to tell you, once and for all, what the greatest movie of all time is, I'm going to dispense with some of the more well-known pretenders to the throne. This should settle all these arguments once and for all.
And seriously, The Matrix?
But first, to dispense with the also-rans.
Citizen Kane (1941) What It's About: The rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), newspaper magnate and winter sports enthusiast. Why It's Great: Shot in black-and-white, which is always a good choice if you want your movie regarded as a classic. The film was also groundbreaking in areas such as cinematography and special effects, and Welles would later appear in The Muppet Movie, which is more awesome than any of that other stuff. Why It Isn't "The Greatest:" A *sled*? Weak. Citizen Kane needed a lot more car chases and "Rosebud" should have been the name of CFK's pet black panther that posthumously hunts down and kills Jim W. Gettys.
Casablanca (1943) What It's About: Lots of people were trying to get out of Europe during World War II, for some reason. Why It's Great: No shit, Claude Rains's Capt. Renault is one of the greatest characters in any movie ever. And nobody smokes like Bogart. Why It Isn't "The Greatest:" Inexplicable use of excessive soft focus on Ingrid Bergman. And in addition to more car chases, that ending needs work. Victor Laszlo should've had to dogfight his way out of German airspace, but then he'd get shot and Ilsa would have to take over, steering the damaged plane back over Europe where she'd crash-land and start her new career as, you guessed it, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS.
Star Wars (1977) What It's About: "A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away..." Oh, sorry, I'm told George Lucas has changed the opening title to "Last NOOOOsday at Greedo's Shooting Range." Why It's Great: Ingenious merchandising strategy guaranteed America's long-suffering children would no longer be forced to use their imaginations to visualize aliens and space battles. Why It Isn't "The Greatest:" Duh. If it was all that great, why does George Lucas feel the need to keep changing it?
The Godfather (1972) What It's About: That pizza guy who ran for President, yeah? No? Why It's Great: Brando, Pacino, Duvall, Cazale, Keaton...uh, Vigoda. Why It Isn't "The Greatest:" This movie (unfairly) seems to suggest an inordinate number of Italian-Americans were involved in organized crime. And then there's that poor horse.
Raging Bull (1980) What It's About: Who'd have thought a man whose job it was to pummel other men senseless might have anger issues? Why It's Great: De Niro gained 60 pounds to play the older LaMotta, which is much more impressive than Welles putting on old-man makeup. Why It Isn't "The Greatest:" The boxing match scenes were the first to be shot inside the ring, though director Martin Scorsese ultimately refused to install the "Perspiro!" technology that would douse random audience members with water after particularly hard punches.
Okay, enough screwing around. So what is the greatest movie ever?
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Why, it's none other than...
Up the Creek What It's About: In a genius feat of moviemaking, members of the casts of Animal House, Porky's and Spaceballs are thrown into a live-action version of Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. Hilarity (and nudity) ensues. Why It's Great: Bob, Max, Irwin and Gonzer all attend Lepetomane University. "Lepetomane" means "fart master" in French, which is pretty awesome. Aside from that, what part of "members of the casts of Animal House, Porky's and Spaceballs" do you not understand? Why It's The Greatest: Let's go back to our earlier criteria: - Memorable screenplay? "He knew that the friendship that they had had since childhood had been destroyed. All for the love of a woman." That's some deep shit right there. - Some powerful performances? Tim Matheson plays a man who, entering his 12th year of college, is at the end of his rope. Plus, John "Higgins" Hillerman! Who wouldn't want Higgy Baby as their dean? - A director with singular vision and control? Robert Butler poured so much of his heart and soul into this movie he's only directed one other movie since. That's dedication, homes. - How about a moving soundtrack? How about Cheap Trick at the top of their game? Plus Heart and the Beach Boys? - Or a compelling story? What could be more compelling than underdogs rising up to the challenge of their rivals? That's right, I just quoted a Survivor song. - Rewatchability? I've seen this movie over 100 times and I learn a new life lesson from every screening. Next question? - Cultural impact? The film has since been honored by the likes of Futurama and remade by Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon as The River Wild, only without the college angle and naked boobs. - A superintelligent dog? How about Chuck the Wonder Dog?
You can't argue with science, and science declares Up the Creek is officially the Greatest Movie of All Time. Come back next week when we discuss the cultural significance of Donna Pescow's filmography.