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EW’s Top Five All-Time Greatest Films, TV Shows and More — Do We Need More Lists?

EW's Top Five All-Time Greatest Films, TV Shows and More -- Do We Need More Lists?

Entertainment Weekly’s upcoming edition (on newsstands June 28) is being trumpeted as their first All-Time Greatest issue. This means lists galore. The sneak peek they’ve sent along, which includes their Top 5 films, TV shows, albums, novels and plays, is solid enough but adds nothing new to the firmament. We all love “Citizen Kane” and “The Wire” — do we need another list saying so?

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” which was crowned last year by Sight and Sound as the all-time greatest film, doesn’t make EW’s top five, though “Psycho” does.

Here’s the 25 selections over five categories:

All-Time Greatest Movies:

1.     Citizen Kane —
Directed by Orson Welles, 1941, PG. Telling the story of a newspaper tycoon
based on William Randolph Hearst, the 25-year-old genius Orson Welles poured
his own swaggering, larger-than-life soul into a tragic and exuberant American
saga of journalism, power, celebrity, idealism, betrayal, and lost love.

2.     The Godfather
— Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, 1972, R. Coppola’s tale of crime and
family is the most mythic cinematic landmark of the past half century. It
heightens Mafia violence into a metaphor for American corporate ruthlessness,
presenting Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone as the grandest of movie criminals—a
monster we revere for his courtly loyalty.

3.     Casablanca —
Directed by Michael Curtiz, 1942, PG. WWII movie perfection. Hollywood’s most
celebrated love story was made as just an average studio pic but now
exemplifies old-movie magic. Story, lighting, music, craftsmanship, and every
glance between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman resonate with a magnificence
that even the brashest studio mogul couldn’t have predicted.

4.     Bonnie and
Clyde — Directed by Arthur Penn, 1967, R. A touchstone of screen violence, the
exhilarating account of ’30s bank robbers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker kicked
open the door to the cinematic freedom of the post-studio-system era.

5.     Psycho —
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1960, R. The granddaddy of all slasher films (as
well as the most profound horror movie ever made), Hitchcock’s famous thriller
takes the revolutionary step of killing off its heroine (Janet Leigh) halfway
through, all as a way of placing the audience in the mind of a madman (Anthony
Perkins).

 

All-Time Greatest TV Shows:

 

1.     The Wire,
2002–08, HBO. The most sustained narrative in television history, The Wire used
the drug trade in Baltimore, heavily researched by creator David Simon, to tell
tales of race and class with unprecedented complexity. Politics, the war on
drugs, labor unions, public education, the media—these were among the big
themes, all examined through exquisitely drawn characters, such as the
brilliant yet broken detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) and the great
avenging thug Omar Little (Michael K. Williams), who will live on in legend.

2.     The Simpsons,
1989–present, FOX. It became the gold standard of the subversive dysfunctional-family
comedy—animated or live-action—when the focus was shifted early on from punky
son Bart to dad Homer, an id-driven but bighearted man-child whose IQ is
inversely proportional to his cholesterol levels.

3.     Seinfeld,
1990–98, NBC. Less the famous “show about nothing” than a show about the
amusing, stressful, neurotic intricacies of friendship, Seinfeld converted
Jerry Seinfeld’s observational stand-up routines into hilarious universal
truths about the banality of life, value-added with catchphrases (not that
there’s anything wrong with that). The most endlessly rewatchable sitcom since
The Honeymooners.

4.     The Mary Tyler
Moore Show, 1970–77, CBS. Only the greatest, most detailed portrayal of a
single career woman in TV history. With laughs and guts, MTM established the
paradigm of “the workplace family.” Moore proved to be one of the medium’s
finest straight-women as well as one of its most beautiful comedians.

5.     The Sopranos,
1999–2007, HBO. David Chase’s landmark mobster drama introduced us to what has
become a ubiquitous presence on TV: the antihero. Whether you rooted for Mob
boss Tony Soprano (the fearsomely intense James Gandolfini) or against him, you
couldn’t help but be riveted by him, no matter which family he was battling.

All-Time Greatest Albums:

1.     Revolver, The
Beatles, 1966.  Not only did Revolver
establish the enduring rules for long-players, it also conveyed the full
narrative of the Beatles over 14 songs, from the hands-up garage jam “Taxman”
to the sunny beach romp “Good Day Sunshine” to the churning psychedelic space
walk that is “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

2.     Purple Rain,
Prince, 1984. Sexiest album ever? The PMRC thought so. The watchdog group was
literally formed in response to this paisley-funk heavy breather, which builds
to one awesome climax after another. How fitting that the movie the album was
made for charts the Kid’s rise to fame: The moment Prince sang “Baby I’m a
Star,” he was one.

3.     Exile on Main
Street, The Rolling Stones, 1972. Given the legendarily louche circumstances in
which Exile on Main Street was made (heroin! French villa! More heroin!), it’s
a miracle this double set of blues-, country-, and gospel-infused rock contains
any great songs. In fact, they’re all great songs—even the one called “Turd on
the Run.”

4.     Thriller,
Michael Jackson, 1982. If you grew up in the ’80s, this isn’t just an album;
it’s the soundtrack to the first half of your life. Your first dance, your
first summer romance, your first (and, rest assured, not your last) heartbreak.
Thank you, Michael. Signed, everyone.

5.     London Calling,
The Clash, 1979. A lot of punks sneered about rebellion back then, but these
boyos gave ’em a real revolution—musical and political—with the eternally
urgent, genre-defying document that earned them the sobriquet the Only Band
That Matters.

All-Time Greatest Novels:

1.     Anna Karenina
— By Leo Tolstoy, 1878. A staggering novel about an unhappily married Russian
aristocrat who chases what she thinks is love at the expense of everything and
everyone else. Novelists generally embrace tragic lovers, but Tolstoy was too
hardcore for that. Anna Karenina is both a cautionary tale and an exhortation
to live our best lives. Anna Karenina is an immersive contemplation of the
heart and the conscience. Long before Oprah praised the novel, Dostoevsky,
Faulkner, and Nabokov knelt before it in awe. We do too.

2.     The Great
Gatsby — By F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925. You were probably forced to read it
back when you were 16—but that’s not Fitzgerald’s fault. Give the novel another
try. It’s an extraordinary feat of writing—sparse, cool, and elegant—as well as
a riveting dissertation on the hollowness of the American dream as it played
out during the champagne-fueled decadence of the Jazz Age.

3.     Pride and
Prejudice — By Jane Austen, 1813. The courtship of the spirited, tart-tongued
Elizabeth Bennet and the haughty Mr. Darcy is an enormously satisfying love
story that still crackles. But what makes the novel truly sing is the deceptive
grace of Austen’s prose as she limns the customs of her day with a sharp eye
and a satirical wit. England comes alive through her wickedly smart
drawing-room banter.

4.     Great
Expectations — By Charles Dickens, 1861. London is depicted in every shade of
the industrial spectrum, from gray to soot-black, through the eyes of a young
ragamuffin yearning for a better life. It’s the greatest morality tale ever
written—and the greatest soap opera, too.

5.     One Hundred
Years of Solitude — By Gabriel García Márquez, 1967. A family saga entwined
with the history of a village, García Márquez’s first masterpiece embraces all
the big themes (love, war, death), deeply feeling the tragedy—and wisely seeing
the comedy—of existence.

All-Time Greatest Plays:

1.     Death of A
Salesman — By Arthur Miller, 1949. Over the past six decades, Miller’s drama
about aging middleclass Everyman Willy Loman has become a classic evocation of
the dark side of the American dream. Willy struggles to compete in an economy
that prizes youth and innovation over old-fashioned relationships. Weighed down
by disappointment and false pride, he sees little hope of redemption in his two
underachieving sons, whom he’s taught to value superficial popularity over
genuine accomplishment.

2.     A Streetcar
Named Desire — By Tennessee Williams, 1947. Blanche DuBois, a fading Southern
beauty with delusions of grandeur, may depend on the kindness of strangers—but
she falls under the sway of her brutish, brooding brother-in-law Stanley
Kowalski in Williams’ searing tragedy. Marlon Brando, mumble-mouthed and
T-shirted, made an indelible impression as the first Stanley on stage and on
film, but the role still packs a punch today.

3.     Who’s Afraid of
Virginia Woolf? — By Edward Albee, 1962. The worst house party ever. In
Albee’s explosive play, which returned to Broadway last fall in a Tony-winning
revival, an embittered, long-married academic couple host a much younger prof
and his wife for an evening of brandy and verbal abuse. The older pair are
named George and Martha—making them the first couple of American dysfunction.

4.     Long Day’s
Journey Into Night — By Eugene O’Neill, 1956. O’Neill recounts a fateful
summer evening at the Tyrone family’s seaside home, where members of the clan
battle their addictions (to alcohol and morphine) as well as one another.

5.     Fences — By
August Wilson,1985. Wilson’s 1950s-set drama is a memorable portrait of Negro
League ballplayer–turned–trash collector Troy Maxson. He’s a bundle of
contradictions, demanding that his sons live practical, responsible lives even
though he himself is a philanderer given to flights of fancy.

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Comments

tyler4all

"Long before Oprah praised the novel, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, and Nabokov knelt before it in awe. We do too." this has to be the worst writing I've come across in a long time. really? they have to mention in their little summary that Tolstoy's work was in Oprah's Book Club? i had no idea she was a premier literary critic. who is writing this drivel!?

john obrien

oh right! all american films.bonnie and clyde?!good choice …way ahead of anything bergman.tarkovsky,kurosawa,rossellini,polanski,etc. etc.etc. could ever hope to make.

DChute

No Shakespeare? No Dickens? No Renoir or Kurosawa? No "Twin Peaks" or "24"?

There must have been some constraints placed on the selection process that you've neglected to mention.

jg

I got some lists for ya: Best Political, Sci Fi, War, WTF and Comedy lists.

http://wp.me/pwAWe-1QF

pol

Mostly blah. If a film doesn't affect you, it's hard to stomach calling it the "greatest" anything.

It's all subjective anyway, and some of this resembles the dying shrieks of dinosaurs. (Or those dressed up in dino costumes and howling along).

Anne Thompson

we all know lists, races, numbers of things learned etc. drive online traffic, but this seems a desperate measure on a print magazine cover. Wonder how it will do on the newsstand.

Brian

In what universe do any of these lists make sense? Oh, right, the EW universe. Which is why, after 20-odd years as a subscriber, I refused to renew my subscription when it expired this year. Yet they keep sending me issues.

tyler4all

this idea, that its ok to rank art, is ridiculous. does anyone really buy into this? these are just opinions…why dont they just publish the same lists without rankings? can anyone really prove that Tolstoy was a better writer than Fitzgerald? no, you can't. this is laughably bad.

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