Purple Camera editors Ash and Jordan recently discussed both their love and hate of the IMDb Top 250. Below is their debate which explores the ever-shifting, often baffling bible to the greatest films ever made, voted for exclusively by the public.
Jordan: I remember in 2008 when The Dark Knight was briefly the number 1 film on IMDb. To get it there a large number of 1 votes were given to The Godfather the same week and because of that The Godfather has since sat at number 2 under The Shawshank Redemption.
Ash: Well all of Nolan’s films apart from Following and Insomnia are in the Top 250 – The Prestige and The Dark Knight Rises are not better than the Three Colors Trilogy. I would say that Memento, The Dark Knight, Inception and possibly Interstellar are the only ones that should definitely be in there.
Jordan: Yeah, but The Prestige is cool. I’m fine with The Prestige being in there.
Ash: The Prestige is like the Empire of the Sun/Lolita of Nolan films, it’s fucking great, just not going to be the one that will instantly come to mind in 30 years time.
Jordan: That’s fair enough, but I quite like the populist ‘new movies’ lean angle of the site. AFI and lists like that don’t even consider movies made post-95 worth their time.
Ash: I mean yeah, I agree. I’d rather watch something made within my lifetime, and that refining of the past has made it so that the films made before the 1980s on the Top 250 are essential pop cinema. Having said that the cumulative ranking system is really odd because its comparing and competing inarguable cinematic classics like Casablanca, Citizen Kane and Gone With The Wind with films that are just alright but have an ingrained 18-30 male fan-base.
Jordan: There is plenty of sources out there about historically important films that the 250 misses out on and real film geeks should definitely expand their knowledge beyond the 250 list. BUT what the list is excellent at is providing a brutal, populist view-point which states ‘this doesn’t hold up.’
Ash: Yeah totally, there is always going to be a lean towards whats new, big and interesting. But because these new films are getting stupid numbers of initial votes it’s harder to displace them. A few dozen 1/10 votes on a classic film and it’ll disappear from the 250 just because it didn’t have that many votes to begin with. Any film released before 1996 never received any kind of initial in-cinema hype vote influx and is easier to dislodge. Plus there’s the genre bias: horror and comedy especially are more subjective and therefore rarely get the 8.1 rating with 25000 votes to be 250-worthy. Meanwhile high budget sci-fi, fantasy and superhero films more than likely have higher comparative ratings overall.
Jordan: I don’t disagree with any of these points, but I just think that the list produced is better than any other list of greatest films of all time. Despite all its problems it’s always going to be more objective and encompassing to everyone’s tastes than any list put together by critics. Also this might sound snobby, but I’m glad it’s a collection of film fans voting on it. If everyone voted in the world, the list would be a fucking joke. 5. Finding Dory 4. Zootopia 3.Captain America: Civil War 2. Deadpool 1. Frozen
Ash: I think that parody list overlooks the Top 250’s essential and best attribute – it’s an ever evolving list, any new film competes with not just the internet’s most recent opinions on film, but the internet’s opinions on films from the last two decades. Fun fact: Transformers (2007) was in the Top 250 for 3 whole days.
Jordan: Now I’m thinking about it I would love to read that list. It’s almost like a spectrum. On one side you have our fictional everyone in the world votes list and on the other you have the super snotty AFI list. The Top 250 is in the middle of those two extremes.
Ash: There are sites like top250.info which show an active view of the Top 250 chart. This goes to show how much the list changes, even daily.
Jordan: I love the ever evolving thing and what I find interesting is thinking about it like, those were the greatest films available on that date. Take the list as fact – Transformers WAS one of the 250 greatest movies available in 2007.
Ash: Yeah, every day is a different snapshot of the cinematic zeitgeist.
Jordan: That is a much better way of putting it yes, I struggled to put that into words for ages.
Ash: Yeah but the way you put it is a lot less hyperbolic.
Like, I remember in 2010, maybe a bit later Bollywood films like 3 Idiots and Like Stars on Earth started appearing and there was something of a minor uproar at this. For the first time in the list’s history films were making their way into the Top 250 not based on the usual white 18-30 core fan-base of IMDb and solely because there is such a rabid and large audience for these films in their native India.
Jordan: 3 Idiots still remains incredibly misplaced. It’s at number 106 above Raging Bull. Unlike me you’ve actually seen 3 Idiots, so do you think it deserves to be where it is?
Ash: Some may complain about these films intruding on their list, but most of them are quality, hugely entertaining if tonally abrupt films – 3 Idiots included. I know Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India was briefly popping in at the 240ish mark. A film nearly four hours in length but without a doubt one of the greatest sports-based films of all time. So little slack. The thing is all these films I’ve mentioned have the golden touch of Aamir Khan, who is this God of Bollywood films, bigger than any contemporary Hollywood star and that may go some way to explain their inclusion.
Jordan: But it’s a little jarring seeing three guys with their pants around their ankles on a poster next to such classics, especially considering what you said earlier about comedies not making it on the list. I mean is it fair that Bollywood comedies can make it and great Western comedic films like Wet Hot American Summer and Bad Santa are never getting anywhere near this list.
Ash: I mean, 3 Idiots isn’t just a comedy, it may look like a teen sex romp, but its so much more. I think the comedy in 3 Idiots is probably broad yet funny enough to appeal and be highly rated by a large proportion of those that are rating it. Is it comparable to Raging Bull? Not really because its like comparing apples to oranges. 3 Idiots does have catchier songs, but DeNiro committed more to his role.
Jordan: Don’t get me wrong, I love the diversity in there. I’m really happy that A Separation is represented so highly. But with some of these Bollywood films, they’re being judged by an entirely different set of parameters and they’re not being down voted like a lot of the blockbusters are because it’s only fans watching them. Is there a danger the 250 could be flooded with foreign films that are just sub par?
Ash: I mean some people could be complaining about the Top 250 being overrun with blockbuster toss, and your statement assumes that the Bollywood audience has no taste, or at least not compared to the Westernised standards of cinema, which is a bit unfair. All the Bollywood films that have sneaked into the list in the last half decade that I have seen are equal if not better than any generic superhero film that gains its position based on its bloated fan-base.
Jordan: I am playing Devil’s advocate here
Ash: Bare in mind that there are still not as many Indian films in list as there are Japanese, French or Italian films. World cinema is a rich tapestry.
Jordan: I mean, I think we both agree there is too much Hollywood Tosh in there which brings me to my next point. The Top 250 rejects anything divisive or weird. If the film has any kind of strange edge to it then it’s often met with as much hate as love and that means films like Crash (1996) or Brazil don’t get represented even though they really deserve to be among those greats. Meanwhile schmaltz does very well. Forest Gump and Intouchables are in the top 50.
Ash: I would agree to that to an extent – true cult films are a rarity in the list because its hard to pull together the required number of 8-9 ratings without a clutch of people who don’t quite understand giving the film low ratings – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Run Lola Run, Boogie Nights, Battle Royale – all fitting of a place in the list but either too odd, non-linear, long or nhilistically violent for a mainstream audience.
Jordan: I can’t believe Run Lola Run isn’t in there!
Ash: Intouchables is such an oddity, as its the highest rated French film on IMDb, higher than Amelie, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, or anything Goddard or Truffaut made, and yet if it was in English it would get ripped apart from being manipulative pap. Have you heard about the casting for the Hollywood remake?
Ashley: Probably need to fact check this but Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart
Jordan: [laughs] I’m imagining it like the trailer for Get Hard.
The final thing we wanted to talk about was films that don’t have enough votes to get into the top 250 but definitely deserve to. You mentioned Safety Last, Come and See and The Passion of Joan of Arc.
Safety Last shouldn’t be in there by the way. That film is 15 minutes long with 40 minutes of crap before hand. The 15 minutes is excellent though.
Ash: But it has a 8.2 rating, just half the number of votes it needs to be even considered for the the list
The Passion of Joan of Arc and Come and See have 8.4 and 8.3 ratings respectively and are only just below the prerequisite 25,000 votes they need. Harakiri, one of many quality Japanese samurai films not made by Kurosawa, is currently the highest rated film that used to be in the Top 250 before its 25,000 votes rule. It has an 8.7.
Jordan: So you think the barrier for entry is too high? I mean the rule seems to just hurt smaller films. I don’t see why they instated it really
Ash: Well its a catch-22 situation, with a lower threshold we’ll get these classic films considered, but then lesser known films will appear higher, sooner with less of that populist sway that you love so much. With the current threshold it also means that films won’t enter the top 250 until they are actually released into cinema.
Jordan: I think we both agree it’s far from perfect, but we are still both obsessed by it. It was certainly part of my guide to films growing up and I just hope that it remains an important tool to navigate film nerdom. It makes me think: Do you think we could put together a list of 250 films not on the list but completely deserve to be?
Ash: I have a list of 100 films that used to be on it that really should be still. Plus once you’ve gotten over the Top 250 there’s always the Top 1000 to pour over
Jordan: Really?! What? I’ve never seen that.
Ash: It’s a lot harder to get to I seem to remember but it does exist.
Jordan: Shall we end it there then? Favourite film not on the list?
Ash: Let The Right One In, because I convinced myself it was still there but it hasn’t been since 2012.
Ash: Top film you’ve seen just because the Top 250 told you to see it?
Jordan: I think I first heard about Memento through the list, way back. Yours?
Ash: Probably everything by Chaplin, which was a such a revelation on first viewing and proof that the list does in fact have some quality laugh-out-loud comedy included
Jordan: Least favourite?
Ash: Though I think Come and See is a masterpiece, Soviet cinema and me generally do not get on – so the glacial pace and impenetrability of Stalker left me cold.
Jordan: American History X for me. That film is so fucking stupid.