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Great Movies Project: The Counter-Programming

written by rick April 5, 2015
Great Movies Project: The Counter-Programming

When I first decided to embark on a quest to watch each of the films in Roger Ebert’s Great Movies series, I couldn’t help noticing that the list of familiar names and titles excluded vast parts of the filmmaking and -watching world.

This isn’t to Ebert’s discredit – the movies that have received the most attention and acclaim are the ones he sought to highlight, and those have mostly issued from traditions and movements that historically showcase white, male, straight filmmakers from the U.S., England, and Europe (with a healthy dollop of Kurosawa in the mix).

So when I considered tackling the already fairly unreasonable 370 films in his list, I also thought I’d counter-program The Plan with an equal number of movies that diverged from expectation. The Counter-Programming The Great Movies list I’ve finally arrived at is below. I’m going to watch all of these too.

A few words on methodology are needed. It immediately became clear how different this Great Movies project was from the first – in the case of Ebert’s list, there’s a ready-made canon to explore (or re-explore, in the case of films I’ve already seen). But making up a new one out of whole cloth would be impossible – fundamentally, it’s just impossible to make a list of “great movies you mostly haven’t seen.” It would become a random enterprise.

So, I solicited suggestions from knowledgeable friends, and looked around for guidance. I went through the entirety of the 1,000 greatest films of all time composed by the folks at They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?, and segmented out films from non-white, non-Western, non-male, and/or non-straight filmmakers. I also relied heavily on the Great Movie lists posted on MUBI, the House Next Door, this Flavorwire compilation, and a bunch of Letterboxd offerings, especially Death To The Western Canon. I also dropped the titles that do appear on Ebert’s list.

In an ironic but unsurprising way, it’s hard to compose a list of movies you haven’t seen or heard of, in order to familiarize yourself with things you haven’t seen or heard of. Many of these titles and directors (though not all) are completely unknown to me, so their inclusion below started to seem random: it’s completely and totally based on the advice of others.

I briefly toyed with the idea of weighting them in different ways – how many lists they appear on, how many awards they’ve won, just how removed from the mainstream they are, limiting number of movies for a given year, etc. – but quickly decided that was a terrible idea and not in keeping with the project. The last thing anyone needs is for a white, straight guy from the U.S. to assign relative values to these films in order to assess their importance. There’s also the very real danger of Great Movies tokenism – like getting one film from each demographic I can think of – which is something I hope to avoid.

That said, a number are on here simply because I want to see them, or plug specific gaps in my knowledge (examples: independent Black U.S. cinema, early cinema from outside the U.S., Korean and Indian films in general, and especially films from across the African continent). So this should not be thought of as a one-to-one corollary to Ebert’s Great Films – I haven’t even seen most of these to call them great. That’s the point. But they have at least been recognized as important by someone I trust (even if just a friend), which is good enough for me.

In a final twist, I’ve left 30 spots blank at the end. I know beyond all doubt that I’ve missed obvious things, and I hope you can tell me what those great movies are. (Bonus points for early cinema – just kidding, there are no points, but that would be helpful.) Since this is yet another enormous list, there’s no rush, but I’d appreciate some suggestions to round things out.

I’m looking forward to this, and hope you are, too! Like the Great Movies page, I will update this one as I progress.

Let’s do this thing.

Within Our Gates1920Oscar Micheaux
Body and Soul1925Oscar Micheaux
The Adventures of Prince Achmed1926Lotte Reiniger
Crossroads1928Teinosuke Kinugasa
Limite1931Mario Peixoto
The Blood of a Poet1932Jean Cocteau
The Dancing Girl of Izu1933Heinosuke Gosho
The Goddess1934Yonggang Wu
Our Neighbor, Miss Yae1934Yasujirô Shimazu
Let’s Go With Pancho Villa!1936Fernando de Fuentes
Street Angel1937Muzhi Yuan
God’s Step Children1938Oscar Micheaux
The Blood of Jesus1941Spencer Williams
Meshes of the Afternoon1943Maya Deren
The Ball at the Anjo House1947Kôzaburô Yoshimura
Fireworks1947Kenneth Anger
Spring In a Small Town1948Mu Fei
Children of the Beehive1948Hiroshi Shimizu
A Hometown in Heart1949Yong-Kyu Yoon
Un Chant d’Amour1950Jean Genet
Awaara1951Raj Kapoor
Where Chimneys Are Seen1953Heinosuke Gosho
Wild Geese1953Shiro Toyoda
An Inn at Osaka1954Heinosuke Gosho
A Bloody Spear on Mt. Fuji1955Tomu Uchida
You Were Like A Wild Chrysantheum1955Keisuke Kinoshita
Pyaasa1957Guru Dutt
Snow Country1957Shirô Toyoda
The Flower in Hell1958Sang-ok Shin
The Pathetic Fallacy1958Ritwik Ghatak
Cairo Station1958Youssef Chahine
Blessings of the Land1959Manuel Silos
Daughters, Wives, and a Mother1960Mikio Naruse
The Cloud-Capped Star1960Ritwik Ghatak
Immortal Love1961Keisuke Kinoshita
My Mother and her Guest1961Sang-ok Shin
The Given Word1962Anselmo Duarte
Kanchenjungha1962Satyajit Ray
The Twelve Chairs1962Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
Barren Lives1963Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Dry Summer1963Metin Erksan
Flamin Creatures1963Jack Smith
The Servant1963Joseph Losey
Flaming Creatures1963Jack Smith
The House Is Black1963Forugh Farrokhzad
En Un Barrio Viejo1963Nicholas Guillen Landrian
Eros1964Walter Hugo Khouri
The Guns1964Ruy Guerra
Scorpio Rising1964Kenneth Anger
Black God, White Devil1964Glauber Rocha
I Am Cuba1964Mikhail Kalatozov
Nothing But A Man1964Michael Roemer
Chronica de un Nino Solo1965Leonardo Favio
A Fugitive From The Past1965Tomu Uchida
The Brick and the Mirror1965Ebrahim Golestan
My Hustler1965Andy Warhol and Chuck Wein
Le Bonheur1965Agnes Varda
The Round-Up1965Miklos Jancso
Come Drink With Me1966Sammo Hung, King Hu
And So It Is1966Jorge Sanjinés
Black Girl1966Ousmane Sembene
Daisies1966Vera Chytilova
The Night It Rained1967Kamran Shirdel
Memories of Underdevelopment1968Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
Terra Em Transe1967Glauber Rocha
The Jungle1967Charlie “Brown” Davis, Jimmy “Country” Robinson, and David “Bat” Williams
Oh, Sun1967Med Hondo
Camp De Thiaroye1967Ousmane Sembene
The Hour of the Furnaces1968Octavio Getino, Fernando E. Solanas
Lucia1968Humberto Solás
Teorema1968Pier Paolo Passolii
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm1968William Greaves
The Story of a Three-Day Pass1968Melvin Van Peebles
The Land1969Youssef Chahine
Invasion1969Hugo Santiago
Our Daily Bread1970Mani Kaul
Antonio Das Mortes1969Glauber Rocha
The Learning Tree1969Gordon Parks
Hope1970Serif Gören, Yilmaz Güney
Trash1970Paul Morrissey
Watermelon Man1970Melvin Van Peebles
The Courage of the People1971Jorge Sanjinés
A Touch of Zen1971King Hu
Death in Venice1971Luchino Visconti
Sunday Bloody Sunday1971JohnSchlesiner
Shaft1971Gordon Parks
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song1971Melvin Van Peebles
The Brickmakers1972Marta Rodríguez, Jorge Silva
The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant1972Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Pakeezah1972Kamal Amrohi
Pink Flamingos1972John Waters
Black Girl1972Ossie Davis
Super Fly1972Gordon Parks Jr.
Castle of Purity1973Arturo Ripstein
Sambizanga1973Sarah Maldoror
The Dupes1973Tewfik Saleh
Touki Bouki1973Djibril Diop Mambéty
27 Down1973Awtar Krishna Kaul
The Holy Mountain1973Alejandro Jodorowsky
Daily Life in a Syrian Village1974Omar Amiralay
Weighed But Found Wanting1974Lino Brocka
Still Life1974Sohrab Shaheed Salles
Ankur1974Shyam Benegal
Female Trouble1974John Waters
The Battle of Chile – Part I1975Patricio Guzman
In Two Minds1975Mani Kaul
Promise of the Flesh1975Kim Ki-young
Xala1975Ousmane Sembene
Fox and His Friends1975Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai Du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles1975Chantal Ackerman
The Dislocation of Amber1975Hussein Shariffe
Let’s Do It Again1975Sidney Poitier
Cornbread, Earl and Me1975Joseph Manduke
Friday Foster1975Arthur Marks
Sao Bernardo1976Leon Hirszman
Harvest: 3,000 Years1976Hailie Gerima
Manthan1976Shyam Benegal
Three Godless Years1976Mario O’Hara
Insiang1976Lino Brocka
Je, Tu, Il, Elle1976Chantal Ackerman
The Ascent1976Larisa Shepitko
Harlan County USA1976Barbara Kopple
News From Home1976Chantal Ackerman
The Long Night1976William King, Jr.
The Ritual1977Girish Kasaravalli
Perfumed Nightmare1977Kidlat Tahimik
The Rites of May1977Mike De Leon
The Battle of Chile – Part II1977Patricio Guzmán
Ceddo1977Ousmane Sembène
Io Island1977Kim Ki-young
Bhumika: The Role1977Shyam Benegal
Donkey in a Brahmin Village1978John Abraham
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin1978Lau Kar-leung
In a Year of 13 Moons1978Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Killer of Sheep1978Charles Burnett
A Dream Is What You Wake From1978Larry Bullard and Carolyn Johnson
And Quiet Rolls The Dawn1979Mrinal Sen
Jaguar1979Lino Brocka
From The Clouds To The Resistance1979Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet
Penitentiary1979Jamaa Fanaka
The Age of the Earth1980Glauber Rocha
Too Early, Too Late1981Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet
Will1981Jessie Maple
Querelle1982Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Yol1982Serif Goren & Yilmaz Guney
God’s Gift1982Gaston Karore
Ashes and Embers1982Haile Gerima
Illusions1982Julie Dash
Sugar Cane Alley1982Euzhan Palcy
The Wind1982Souleymane Cisse
Losing Ground1982Kathleen Collins
Suzanne, Suzanne1982Camille Billops
El Sur1983Victor Erice
The Times of Harvey Milk1984Rob Epstein
Black Devil Doll From Hell1984Chester Novell Turner
My Beautiful Laundrette1985Stephen Frears
Taipei Story1985Edward Yang
The Time To Live and the Time To Die1985Hou Hsiao-hsien
Vagabond1985Agnes Varda
Sarraounia1986Med Hondo
Handsworth Songs1986John Akomfrah
Ethnic Notions1986Marlon Riggs
She’s Gotta Have It1986Spike Lee
Red Sorghum1987Zhang Yimou
Yeelen1987Souleymane Cisse
Brightness1987Souleymane Cisse
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story1988Todd Haynes
Landscape In The Mist1988Theo Angelopoulos
Looking For Langston1988Isaac Julien
Tongues Untied1989Marlon Riggs
Time Of The Gypsies1989Emir Kusturica
Yaaba1989Idrissa Ouedraogo
Chamelon Street1989Wendell B. Harris Jr.
Tongues Untied1989Marlon Riggs
I Am Somebody1989Madeline Anderson
The Garden1990Derek Jarman
Paris is Burning1990Jennie Livinston
An Angel At My Table1990Jane Campion
The Law1990Idrissa Ouedraogo
To Sleep With Anger1990Charles Burnett
Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy1990Tracey Moffatt
A Dance For Heroes1990Cheick Oumar Sissoko
Tilai1990Idrissa Ouedraogo
Def By Temptation1990James Bond III
My Own Private Idaho1991Gus Van Sant
Tinpis Run1991Pengau Nengo
Boyz N The Hood1991John Singleton
Daughters of the Dust1991Julie Dash
New Jack City1991Mario Van Peebles
The Living End1992Gregg Araki
The Lon Day Closes1992Terence Davies
And Life Goes On1992Abbas Kiarostami
Hyenes1992Djibril Diop Mambety
Quince Tree of the Sun1992Victor Erice
Malcolm X1992Spike Lee
One False Move1992Carl Franklin
Deep Cover1992Bill Duke
Finding Christa1992Camille Billops and James Hatch
Just Another Girl On The I.R.T.1992Leslie Harris
Totally F***ed Up1993Gregg Araki
Blue1993Derek Jarman
D’Est1993Chantal Ackerman
The Piano1993Jane Campion
The Puppetmaster1993Hou Hsiao-hsien
The Man By The Shore1993Raoul Peck
Africa, I Will Fleece You1993Jean-Marie Teno
Sankofa1993Haile Gerima
Guelwaar1993Ousmane Sembene
Satantago1994Bela Tarr
Through The Olive Trees1994Abbas Kiarostami
Little Women1994Gillian Armstrong
Silences of the Palace1994Moufida Tlatli
Ulysses’ Gaze1995Theo Angelopoulos
Underground1995Emir Kusturica
Friday1995F. Gary Gray
When It Rains1995Charles Burnett
Devil In A Blue Dress1995Carl Franklin
The Watermelon Woman1995Cheryl Dunye
Beautiful Thing1996Hettie Macdonald
The Delta1996Ira Sachs
A Moment of Innocence1996Mohsen Makhmalbag
John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Might Walk1996St. Clair Bourne
Pickpocket1997Jia Zhangke
The River1997Tsai Ming-liang
Eve’s Bayou1997Kasi Lemmons
Skirt Power1997Adama Drabo
Buud Yam1997Gaston Jabore
Those Who Love Me Take The Train1998Patrice Chereau
Kisangani Diary1998Hubert Sauper
Beau Travail1999Claire Denis
Sicilia!1999Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet
Boys Don’t Cry1999Kimberly Pierce
The Little Girl Who Sold The Sun1999Djibril Diop Mambety
Genesis1999Cheick Oumar Sissoko
The Gleaners & I2000Agnes Varda
Platform2000Jia Zhangke
Set Me Free2000Lea Pool
Adanggaman2000Roger Gnoan M’Bala
Lumumba2000Raoul Peck
The Blackboard2000Samira Makhmalbaf
Love and Basketball2000Gina Prince-Bythewood
Punks2000Patrik-Ian Polk
La Cienaga2001Lucrecia Martel
Shrek2001Vicky Jenson
The Taste of Others2001Agnes Jaoui
Fat Girl2001Catherine Breillat
Kandahar2001Mohsen Makhmalbag
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner2001Zacharias Kunuk
Blissfully Yours2002Apichatpong Weerasetakul
Talk To Her2002Pedro Almodovar
Ten2002Abbas Kiarostami
How I Killed My Father2002Anne Fontaine
Morvern Callar2002Lynne Ramsey
Italian for Beginners2002Lone Scherfig
Monsoon Wedding2002Mira Nair
Our Father2002Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
My Voice2002Flora Gomes
Baadasssss Cinema2002Isaac Julien
Waiting for Happiness2002Abderrahmane Sissako
The Rosa Parks Story2002Julie Dash
25th Hour2002Spike Lee
Son Frere2003Patrice Chereau
American Splendor2003Shari Springer Berman
Lost In Translation2003Sofia Coppola
Chaos2003Coline Serreau
City of God2003Katie Lund
Whale Rider2003Niki Caro
Open Hearts2003Susanne Bier
Sisters In Cinema2003Yvonne Welbon
Bad Education2004Pedro Almodovar
Tropical Malady2004Apichatpong Weerasetakul
The Raspberry Reich2004Bruce La Bruce
Mysterious Skin2004Gregg Araki
Brother To Brother2004Rodney Evans
The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros2005Auraeus Solito
Two Drifters2005Joao Pedro Rodrigues
The Intruder2005Claire Denis
Look At Me2005Agnes Jaoui
Innocence2005Lucile Hadzihailiovic
Dry Season2005Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Cave of the Yellow Dog2005Byambasuren Davaa
The Bubble2006Eytan Fox
Syndromes and a Century2006Apichatpong Weerasetakul
Old Joy2006Kelly Reichardt
Water2006Deepa Mehta
The Amazing Grace2006Jeta Amata
When The Levees Broke2006Spike Lee
Bamako2006Abderrahmane Sissako
Inside Man2006Spike Lee
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days2007Christian Mungiu
Silent Light2007Carlos Reygadas
Persepolis2007Marjane Satrapi
Away From Her2007Sarah Polley
The Savages2007Tamara Jenkins
The Namesake2007Mira Nair
After The Wedding2007Susanne Bier
Stephanie Daley2007Hilary Brougher
Wendy and Lucy2008Kelly Reichardt
The Last Mistress2008Catherine Breillat
Hunger2008Steve McQueen
Medicine for Melancholy2008Barry Jenkins
A Good Day To Be Black And Sexy2008Dennis Dortch
The Hurt Locker2009Katherine Bigelow
35 Shots of Rum2009Claire Denis
An Education2009Lone Scherfig
Bright Star2009Jane Campion
The Headless Woman2009Lucrecia Martel
Barking Water2009Sterlin Harjo
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives2010Apichatpong Weerasetakul
Sita Sings The Blues2010Nina Paley
Winter’s Bone2010Debra Granik
The Kids Are Alright2010Lisa Cholodenko
Fish Tank2010Andrea Arnold
The Secret of Kells2010Nora Twomey
Please Give2010Nicole Holofcener
The Nine Muses2010John Akomfrah
A Screaming Man2010Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Submarine2010Richard Ayoade
I Will Follow2010Ava Duvernay
Night Catches Us2010Tanya Hamilton
Freedom Riders2010Stanley Nelson
In The Family2011Patrick Wang
Tomboy2011Celine Sciamma
A Separation2011Asghar Farhadi
The Turin Horse2011Bela Tarr
Restless City2011Andrew Dosunmu
Brooklyn Boheme2011Nelson George
Pariah2011Dee Rees
Yelling To The Sky2011Victoria Mahoney
Laurence Anyways2012Xavier Dolan
Middle of Nowhere2012Ava Duvernay
An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty2012Terence Nance
12 Years A Slave2013Steve McQueen
Abuse of Weakness2013Catherine Breillat
Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of People2013Thomas Allen Harris
Il Futuro2013Alicia Scherson
Fruitvale Station2013Ryan Coogler
Selma2014Ava Duvernay
Beyond The Lights2014Gina Prince-Bythewood
The Smiling Madame Beudet / The Seashell and the Clergyman 1922 / 1928 Germaine Du Lac
The Hitch-Hiker / The Bigamist 1953 Ida Lupino


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