Globe reader Ian Myers in Hamilton, Ont. asks, “What’s the Globe’s pick for the greatest movie of all time?”
A loaded question, if ever there was one – and the cause of many ensuing heated debates among Globe editors and writers across various sections. It’s not a definitive selection by any means, but here are five very passionate arguments – for five very different films:
The Rules of the Game, defended by Liam Lacey, The Globe’s film critic:
The greatest film ever is Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, a tragi-comedy about a roundelay of romantic encounters among guests and servants at a French estate, culminating in a murder.
Released and banned in 1939 on the verge of the war, this technically audacious and deeply humane masterpiece is the only film listed in the top 10 of every decennial Sight and Sound critics’ polls since 1952, and set the gold standard for the medium of film.
Robert Altman spoke for following generations of filmmakers when he said: “The Rules of the Game taught me the rules of the game.”
Blade Runner defended by Elizabeth Renzetti, columnist:
Because it transcends time. Because Ridley Scott melded bits of the past and the future to make a glorious, decaying Faberge egg. Because even the star and the director can’t agree what it’s about.
Because Harrison Ford has never been more beautiful, which is saying something.
Because of Darryl Hannah’s hair.
Because everyone, on their death bed, should recite some version of Roy Batty’s speech. Because it dares ponder the central question of human misery: If you’re dead inside, is it because you failed to nurture your soul, or because the world engineered you that way?
The Godfather defended by Marsha Lederman, Western Arts correspondent:
From that opening shot – Bonasera begging Don Corleone for justice for his beaten daughter – Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather is a master class in filmmaking, each scene – each shot! – the work of a skilled craftsman.
Vito Corleone stroking the cat (improvised!) The horse’s head. Enzo’s shaking hands as he lights the cigarette outside the hospital. “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli” with the Statue of Liberty visible in the distance through the reeds. Michael retrieving the gun behind the toilet so he can gun down Solozzo and Captain McCluskey. Sonny’s toll booth death trap. The magnificent baptism/bloodbath scene. That good-for-nothing Carlo’s feet kicking through the windshield as he finally meets his end.
It’s perfectly bracketed: the film opens in Vito Corleone’s dark study (opening line: “I believe in America”) with a wedding outside – Connie blissful and in white; and closes in the same study, Michael now Don, in that same chair, Connie widowed and frantic, now relegated to wearing black for the rest of her days.
With the bumbling Fredo and hothead Sonny, it’s clear it will have to be Michael, the war hero, who takes over for Vito. But his trajectory – from his declaration to his future wife in their first scene at Connie’s wedding (“That’s my family, Kay, it’s not me”) to that final shot when he closes the door on her – is so authentic and captivating and magnificently acted by Al Pacino.
And the soundtrack? Forget about it.
The Big Lebowski defended by Darren Yourk, Globe Sports online editor:
Joel and Ethan Cohen have made a number of great films, but this tale of how a urinated-upon rug and a case of mistaken identity turn the relaxed life of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski upside down stands alone. A hilarious script, stacked cast, pitch-perfect soundtrack (special nod to the use of the Gipsy Kings’ Spanish cover of Hotel California when we’re introduced to Jesus Quintana), drug-fuelled dream sequences, marmot-wielding nihilists and a whole lot of bowling combine to create 117 minutes of comedic perfection.
You disagree? Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion man.
Die Hard defended by Christina Vardanis, Assistant editor, Focus:
Before the detached, stoic stare of Jason Bourne became the common mask worn by big-screen action heroes, there was John McClane.
There is a lot about Die Hard that plays by the book: one man fights a foreign terrorist group in the name of love with the help of a desk-bound Twinkie-eating cop in a setting that supports a roof-top gunfight, epic catch phrases, a fiery helicopter crash and so much broken glass Annie Lennox made a song with the leftovers.
What makes it the greatest, though, is John McClane. He’s not part bat, or spider, or made of iron. He’s not some amnesia-addled psychologically-programmed killing machine. He tears through Nakatomi Plaza beaten, bloodied, terrified, filthy and full of regret for mistakes he made long before the opening scene – in his marriage and as a father. When he fires his weapon, he’s driven by fear, not arrogance. He fights dirty – with a chain, with packing tape, whatever he can find – and is desperate for help. He doesn’t think he can win this thing – but he knows he has to die trying. I’d give you more reasons why Die Hard is the best movie of all time, but I’m starting to tear up a bit. Hans, Bubby. John McClane is my white knight.
Follow Globe Arts on Twitter, and read more Globe film coverage here. Think we got it wrong? Have a better movie? Share your picks on Twitter and Instagram with #GlobeFilm (We’ll add our favourite arguments to this list.)