Top Ten Criterions

I love this symbol and everything it stands for.

If you’re a Criterion Collection fan enthusiast obsessive like myself, you’re probably aware that, every month, the folks at Criterion get cool artists of various sorts to make lists of their favourite titles in the collection. These lists are yet another great supplement on a website that’s practically a movie-lover’s travel guide: it’s wonderful to hear from folks who make movies as films fans themselves, and there’s something really satisfying about seeing an artist’s favorite film and then seeing its echoes and influence in their own work. Some of their selections just make sense in a way that I find very exciting. Of course Guillermo del Toro considers Terry Gilliam “a living treasure”, of course the Rodarte sisters have a deep respect for Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The Criterion Collection is extremely important to me – when I stumbled upon its existence by a happy accident several years ago, when I was first realizing just how strong my interest in cinema was, it literally ensured that I’d never be at a loss for what to watch again. Criterion provides us with beautiful, impeccable transfers of the best films both new and old, the most aesthetically pleasing packaging design in the world, amazing and informative essays, and special features that give you an intimate look at the production. I especially love that they release not only the essential, influential movies that made a strong cultural impact, but also smaller, stranger gems that are stylistically innovative or artistically bold. They’ve released Jules et Jim and Wings of Desire… but also Hausu and Tiny FurnitureThey include films from all over the world, and many from the still-too-small ranks of female directors. It takes a lot of self-control for me to refrain from spending ALL MY MONEY on Criterion DVDs, but despite how relatively expensive they are, they are purchases that I never regret.

The Criterion C that appears on their DVDs, posters, and other merchandise isn’t just a brand logo for me. It’s a symbol – of creativity, of artistic excellence, of cinema that is important to preserve, cherish, marvel at, and share.

As you’ve doubtless deduced, this isn’t just a love-letter to Criterion. In a series of upcoming posts, I’m going to present my own personal top ten list. These are the films in the collection that had a strong impact on me and are closest to my heart.

But first, because picking only ten is impossibly difficult, here’s a few (well, perhaps “a few” isn’t accurate!) of my favourite Criterions that didn’t quite make the cut: Repulsion, Harold & Maude, My Life As A Dog, Fanny and Alexander, Ratcatcher, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, The Gold Rush, Stolen Kisses, Time Bandits, The Red Balloon, Bicycle Thieves.

And now, feel free to improvise a drumroll…