William Brown

William Brown is a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of St Andrews, a cinephile, a trying-to-be-filmmaker, a trying-to-be-writer, and someone trying to lead a life that is worthy of the name.

I think this list will do but it's not definitive (of course).

I worry that I've been too contemporary in outlook overall (as if 100 years ago were ancient history!). And I've deliberately neglected Hollywood in all but a few exceptions (The Philadelphia Story perhaps being the omission I feel most sad about).

This neglect of Hollywood is, naturally, a "political" ploy: there are literally hundreds of thousands of films out there and we should in our viewing of films endeavour to watch as widely and as keenly as possible, thereby exposing ourselves to the many diverse and wonderful cultures of the world.

In some respects, the list I have made is a lie. Having - like many people - grown up on Hollywood, I could easily have fabricated a Top 50 American films - all of which I am deeply fond - and have tried to pass it off as a Top 50 films (if you permit the distinction). But the familiarity and comfort that those films offer is not enough, I think, for a Top 50, which, were it to consist solely of the run-of-the-mill "classics" would run the risk simply of spurring DVD sales of the same old films.

So I have also tried to choose films that are somewhat outside of the canon. In this attempt, I have no doubt failed since a brief re-consideration of my list makes me see how many of my choices remain archetypal "classics"... What a failure am I in trying to establish my own criteria of taste!

So many omissions: no Turkish films! So little from Latin America, Africa, Asia! No Swedish films! No Danish films! Where's the Italian cinema? And documentary? What about short films? Animation? Art films? Only one Indian film?! And China?! Austral(as)ia?! And television? Online movies?

With such things in mind, I realise that the list is not so much me showing off about how "broad" my tastes are and about how "cultured" I am (though naturally I aim to give that impression), but it is also an exposée of my ignorance and prejudices regarding cinema, ignorance that I am not proud of, prejudices that on one level I would wish to shed but on another that I must admit and tend to as my own for they help to define me (if I am ripe for definition).

If anyone bothers to look at the favourite films of this foolish cinephile, then perhaps the most important "inclusion" in the "list" would be the following: if you love cinema, then love it for all that it is, its "faults" included. Get to know it. Listen to it. Take pleasure in its idiosyncrasies, its moments of bad taste, its weirdness. But get to know it. Watch as much as possible. And having done that, think about it. Cinema - and audiovisual media – have probably taught us more than we realise and the choices made by other people regarding what we can see and when we can see it will ineradicably have skewed any Top 50 list that anyone produces. But by watching as much as possible, one can unlearn, one can try to unskew. One can love cinema - totally, tenderly, tragically.

Perhaps it is also for this reason that I sincerely hope that my top 50 films are films that I have yet to see.

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