Digital Culture

Film Literacy

Following up Jason Kottke, I’ve listed film critic Jim Emerson’s list of 102 movies that you should see before you can consider yourself movie literate. I’ve bolded all the ones I’ve seen.

2001: A Space Odyssey
The 400 Blows
8 1/2
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
All About Eve
Annie Hall
Apocalypse Now
The Battleship Potemkin
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Big Red One
The Bicycle Thief
The Big Sleep
Blade Runner
Blue Velvet
Bonnie and Clyde
Bringing Up Baby
Un Chien Andalou
Children of Paradise / Les Enfants du Paradis
Citizen Kane
A Clockwork Orange
The Crying Game
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Days of Heaven
Dirty Harry
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Do the Right Thing
La Dolce Vita
Double Indemnity
Dr. Strangelove
Duck Soup
E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial
Easy Rider
The Empire Strikes Back
The Exorcist
Fight Club
The General
The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II
Gone With the Wind
The Graduate
A Hard Day’s Night
It’s a Gift
It’s a Wonderful Life
The Lady Eve
Lawrence of Arabia
Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior
The Maltese Falcon
The Manchurian Candidate
Modern Times
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The Night of the Hunter
Night of the Living Dead
North by Northwest
On the Waterfront
Once Upon a Time in the West
Out of the Past
Pink Flamingos
Pulp Fiction
Rear Window
Rebel Without a Cause
Red River
The Rules of the Game
The Scarlet Empress
Schindler’s List
The Searchers
The Seven Samurai
Singin’ in the Rain
Some Like It Hot
A Star Is Born
A Streetcar Named Desire
Sunset Boulevard
Taxi Driver
The Third Man
Tokyo Story
Touch of Evil
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Trouble in Paradise
West Side Story
The Wild Bunch
The Wizard of Oz

Now for the part that everyone loves about lists: what’s not on here? That is, what do I think is necessary for a degree in film literacy? Well, he did hit at least one film from my favorite directors (Fincher, Kubrick, Kurosawa) except Gilliam (and no, Holy Grail doesn’t count as a Gilliam film). This list was done in 1999, so there are no films from the last 6 years on there. Are there any truly great films from the last 6 years? Or just things he missed?

I’d be tempted to include a handful in my list: Rushmore, The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, The Ice Storm, Brazil, Memento, El Mariachi, Crouching Tiger. And then there are the specifics to generational literacy: Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Dead Poets Society, Heathers, Pump up the Volume.

So that’s 55 of them I’ve seen…over half. I’m going to add all of the ones I haven’t seen to my Netflix queue, and work my way through. For you librarians out there, how many of these are in your library?

By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

3 replies on “Film Literacy”

You know, I’m sort of reeling from the fact that Pink Flamingos is on there. While I fully appreciate John Waters (having lived in the Baltimore area, you learn to either love or hate him), that is the one movie in my lifetime in which I’ve ever gotten up and walked out.
One other note, we own a whole lot of those movies on DVD, much to my surprise. That’s Kevin for you though, not me.

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