Beyond The Canon


As we near the end of not only 2009, but also the decade of “The Naughts”, we movie buffs turn our attention to lists. Glorious lists. Top 10s, Top 50s, Best ofs, Worst ofs and all the rest. Along with the lists though, come the anti-list brigades. The onslaught of comments about how useless lists are, how they always represent the same small crop of movies and how they don’t represent the complainer’s personal tastes (which leads one to wonder if the list did match their tastes, would they still complain?). Some people just really hate lists.

This was never more apparent than when the Online Film Community Top 100 films of all time was published a few years ago. The thought was an interesting one – gather numerous bloggers and online film buffs and have them put together their “canon” of top films to see how it compares to the same old same old lists that always have “Citizen Kane”, “Casablanca” and “Vertigo”. Nothing wrong with those films of course, but there was the idea that the online community might come up with something different…What hidden gems might the community rally around? How might this newer generation of film critics (mostly non-professional of course) expand the canon of great films? As it turned out, neither of those questions had hugely satisfactory answers – the resulting list was different in many ways than existing canon lists (pulling in more action/sci-fi/genre titles as well as recent features), but it didn’t really unearth any surprises since many of the individual “different” films selected were sifted out when the data was rolled up. Which is fair enough and should be expected since any list that pulls together more than, say, 10 people’s individual lists will weed out the stuff that is “different”. That’s just the nature of the task (and to be fair to the fine gentlemen who initiated the project, wasn’t really their intent anyway). The list, however, generated discussion – and movie geeks love discussion…


So Iain Stott thought he would try to generate some more discussion with a new list and to do it in a novel way. His idea was to come up with a secondary “canon” of films – something Beyond The Canon. He thought that some of the most interesting parts of these consolidated lists were the dark corners of the individual taste which contained those movies that the listmakers loved and thought deserved wider recognition, but never made the final cut because they wouldn’t receive enough votes. He wondered what would happen if we lopped off that top heavy section of “standard” favourites and found what lurked just below. Were there any commonalities in these bubbling under films? Was there a list that could serve to extend the canon? Iain’s approach was slightly different: he started by blacklisting any typical “canon fodder” from anyone’s list of 100 choices (by combining several sources of top films, he devised a list of films that contributors could not pick). The idea was that it would force the submitters to go deeper into their reserves of favourites and pick out some titles they thought might not get the recognition they so richly deserved. The final list would rank the films that were selected the most often (from unranked submissions).

So, how did it turn out? Pretty good if you ask me…The list is not an amalgam of rare and surprising choices – in fact, there’s some very popular and straightforward titles on it. But what other list will have a Top 25 consisting of Polanski’s The Tenant, Preminger’s Laura and Welles’ F For Fake? Or Eric Rohmer’s The Green Ray at number 33 (aka “Summer”), Wim Wenders’ Alice In The Cities at 47 and Jacques Rivette’s La Belle Noiseuse at 87 (3 films I have not seen, but am now eager to search out). In addition to the 100 most popular, Iain has also created a weighted list of films called Further Beyond The Canon – a list of some of those films that really aren’t that well known, but still received more than just a smattering of votes.

So have at it. Explore the site and the individual contributors lists and the list of films that got 4 or more votes and even this guy’s negative feedback about the whole idea (I agree with his thought that people should extend their comfort zones when watching film, but I love lists far too much to agree with him beyond that). I’ll admit my bias here – I was one of the contributors to the list. And I’d do it again.

Note: Top and bottom images (“Eyes Wide Shut” and “Mulholland Drive”) finished 1-2 on the list. Middle two images from “The Tenant” and “La Belle Noiseuse”.

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Shannon the Movie Mo

Wow, it would be a fascinating idea to do this backwards – have people submit faves and then don't include anything that got more than 'x' votes. Hmmm….

And yay to more lists 🙂 Me like lists!

David Brook

I've seen this done with albums a few times before and it's a great idea. I've still heard of most of the films on there of course, but some entries are very interesting. I'm surprised by some of the Hitchcock placings (Marnie higher than 39 Steps!?) but in a good way. Good to see Spinal Tap nice and high since it's one of my favourites, but I'd argue that it's already in plenty of Top 100 lists.

And I'm siding with Shannon, I love lists too, keep 'em coming!

Jandy Hardesty

Dang it, Bob, I don't have any more room in my Netflix queue to be finding new lists of films! Though I've seen most of the ones on the Beyond the Canon list. I'm a bit embarrassed to say that Further Beyond the Canon seems to be mostly films beyond my knowledge! (Which is awesome, actually.)

It's a really good idea – Beyond the Canon is basically full of films that every film buff knows are good but end up getting shunted out of the consensus top 100 lists in favor of the Citizen Kanes and Godfathers of the world. It's probably a good list to give to people who are more than a little interested in film (and thus know the standard canon to a fair degree) but haven't explored beyond that yet.

David Brook

Wow, yeah, I just checked out Further Beyond the Canon and I've only heard of a handful of them and (whisper it) I've not seen any of them!

Eureka Masters of Cinema and have released a few that I recognise on there so I'd better get shopping 🙂

Kurt Halfyard

That further Beyond The Canon list is very intriguing, I've not heard of most of them either. The few I've seen (Peter Watkin's Edvard Munch, Tsai-Ming Liang's Good-Bye Dragon Inn, Guy Maddin's Cowards Bend the Knee, and Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep and Fantômas are all masterpieces though. So this is a very compelling list to follow.

Further Beyond the Canon

1. La Femme Qui Pleure (1979) .. Jacques Doillon

2. Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004) .. Lav Diaz

3. Du Côté d'Orouët (1973) .. Jacques Rozier

4. The Messiah (1975) .. Roberto Rossellini

5. Wife! Be Like a Rose! (1935) .. Naruse Mikio

6. The Masseurs and a Woman (1938) .. Shimizu Hiroshi

7. Le Tempestaire (1947) .. Jean Epstein

8. Sink or Swim (1990) .. Su Friedrich

9. Anatahan (1953) .. Josef von Sternberg

10. The Mouth Agape (1974) .. Maurice Pialat

11. Histoire(s) du Cinema (1989-1998) .. Jean-Luc Godard

12. Out 1 (1971) .. Jacques Rivette

13. M/Other (1999) .. Suwa Nobuhiro

14. Duelle (1976) .. Jacques Rivette

15. Colossal Youth (2006) .. Pedro Costa

16. Boy (1969) .. Oshima Nagisa

17. The Cloud-Capped Star (1960) .. Ritwik Ghatak

18. India Song (1975) .. Marguerite Duras

19. Humanity and Paper Balloons (1937) .. Yamanaka Sadao

20. Touki Bouki (1973) .. Djibril Diop Mambéty

21. The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968) .. Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub

22. La Prise de Pouvoir par Louis XIV (1966) .. Roberto Rossellini

23. Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) .. Leo McCarey

24. Lonesome (1928) .. Fejôs Pál

25. The Intruder (2004) .. Claire Denis

26. Ménilmontant (1926) .. Dimitri Kirsanoff

27. The Cheat (1936) .. Sacha Guitry

28. Liebelei (1933) .. Max Ophüls

29. Edvard Munch (1974) .. Peter Watkins

30. Begone Dull Care (1949) .. Evelyn Lambart & Norman McLaren

31. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) .. Naruse Mikio

32. Street of Shame (1956) .. Mizoguchi Kenji

33. Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960) .. Aram Avakian & Bert Stern

34. Fantômas (1913/14) .. Louis Feuillade

35. The Rocking Horse Winner (1949) .. Anthony Pelissier

36. Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life (1925) .. Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack

37. The Reckless Moment (1949) .. Max Ophüls

38. Je t'aime, je t'aime (1968) .. Alain Resnais

39. Chelsea Girls (1966) .. Andy Warhol & Paul Morrissey

40. Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) .. Terence Davies

41. Les Bonnes Femmes (1960) .. Claude Chabrol

42. Le Plaisir (1952) .. Max Ophüls

43. El Sur (1983) .. Victor Erice

44. Stars in My Crown (1950) .. Jacques Tourneur

45. Angel (1937) .. Ernst Lubitsch

46. Xala (1975) .. Ousmane Sembene

47. There Was a Father (1942) .. Ozu Yasujiro

48. The Time to Live and the Time to Die (1985) .. Hou Hsiao-hsien

49. A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958) .. Douglas Sirk

50. Floating Clouds (1955) .. Naruse Mikio

51. The Devil, Probably (1977) .. Robert Bresson

52. The House is Black (1963) .. Forugh Farrokhzad

53. La Femme du Boulanger (1938) .. Marcel Pagnol

54. The Quince Tree Sun (1992) .. Víctor Erice

55. Louisiana Story (1948) .. Robert J. Flaherty

56. The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955) .. Luis Buñuel

57. Bitter Victory (1957) .. Nicholas Ray

58. Van Gogh (1991) .. Maurice Pialat

59. Barren Lives (1963) .. Nelson Pereira dos Santos

60. And Life Goes On… (1991) .. Abbas Kiarostami

61. Wanda (1970) .. Barbara Loden

62. The Green Ray (1986) .. Eric Rohmer

63. 7th Heaven (1927) .. Frank Borzage

64. City Girl (1930) .. F.W. Murnau

65. To Our Loves (1983) .. Maurice Pialat

66. Man of Aran (1934) .. Robert Flaherty

67. The Fall of the House of Usher (1928) .. Jean Epstein

68. Lancelot of the Lake (1974) .. Robert Bresson

69. Daisy Kenyon (1947) .. Otto Preminger

70. Run of the Arrow (1957) .. Samuel Fuller

71. The L-Shaped Room (1962) .. Bryan Forbes

72. An Autumn Afternoon (1962) .. Ozu Yasujiro

73. The Red and the White (1967) .. Jancsó Miklós

74. The Docks of New York (1928) .. Josef von Sternberg

75. Michael (1924) .. Carl Theodor Dreyer

76. Ride Lonesome (1959) .. Budd Boetticher

77. Land of Silence and Darkness (1971) .. Werner Herzog

78. Pyaasa (1957) .. Guru Dutt

79. Day of the Outlaw (1959) .. André De Toth

80. Mothlight (1963) .. Stan Brakhage

81. The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936) .. Jean Renoir

82. Alice in the Cities (1974) .. Wim Wenders

83. The Pumpkin Eater (1964) .. Jack Clayton

84. Cowards Bend the Knee (2003) .. Guy Maddin

85. Husbands (1970) .. John Cassavetes

86. Deep End (1971) .. Jerzy Skolimowski

87. A City of Sadness (1989) .. Hou Hsiao-hsien

88. Vive l'Amour (1994) .. Tsai Ming-liang

89. Casque d'Or (1952) .. Jacques Becker

90. Le Bonheur (1965) .. Agnès Varda

91. Killer of Sheep (1977) .. Charles Burnett

92. The Marquise of O (1976) .. Eric Rohmer

93. Chikamatsu Monogatari (1954) .. Mizoguchi Kenji

94. La Chienne (1931) .. Jean Renoir

95. Il Posto (1961) .. Ermanno Olmi

96. Effi Briest (1974) .. Rainer Werner Fassbinder

97. Un Chant d'Amour (1950) .. Jean Genet

98. Platform (2000) .. Jia Zhangke

99. Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003) .. Tsai Ming-liang

100. The Face of Another (1966) .. Teshigahara Hiroshi


Il Posto is brilliant, highly recommend it, gets to the heart of the modern workplace malaise + coming of age comedy.

The beyond the Canon Herzog ought to have been Stroszek

Beyond the Canon Bergman ought to be Autumn Sonata.

There appears to be a pretty substantial bias against films of this decade in the list.

Andrew James

Weird. We just watched "Eyes Wide Shut" last night.

Andrew James

I'd like to try and redo the OFC top 100 with more clear cut "Rules" this time. I think everyone had a different set of criteria when putting together their lists.

Maybe redo it and ask for top 100 FAVORITE films. e.g. It is Friday night and you want to watch an old favorite. Are you going to pop in Citizen Kane or Hard Candy? M or Interview with the Vampire? I think that the list with those criteria would alter itself significantly and would be much more interesting. The OFC as it stands is nice, but I am disappointed with the top 5.


Go for it, Andrew


How is Autumn Sonata beyond the canon? It's one of his best and most high-profile films.


In the end Andrew will just make a list with the stipulation that if you do not put Star Wars at no. 1 you're lying and your list will not be counted.


Well, actually no, since Autumn Sonata is not on the list, and rot suggested it should be, for reasons still unknown!

Nevermind though, not a big deal.

David Brook

Bob here are links to two of the album lists I mentioned:

The Wire's '100 (130) Records That Set The World On Fire (while no one was listening)' – this one is pretty obscure, it's a mix of singles and albums I think:

This is the Guardian's 'Alternative Top 100', which to be honest isn't that obscure (kinda like the beyond the Canon one), but at least it's different from the usual bunch:

The website I found them on is great though, it's literally just a bunch of music lists. Enjoy!


I wasn't aware Autumn Sonata was a film people point to when asked what Bergman they know of… I would say at the very least it would be 6th or 7th on such a list, seemingly beyond the canon, but then again I am not a total Bergman geek so I could easily be wrong in this regard.


That's fair enough, you are probably right. I think that the 7th or 8th Bergman movie should still be a worldwide wellknown celebrated masterpiece, but maybe it isn't.

At one point somebody asked me to shout off a quick top 5 movies of all time. Another guy next to me said as a joke "It would just be 5 Bergman films". I thought about that, and I said I could not make that list, because it could contain 5 Bergman films, and there would still be Bergman films that I felt should be on there.

David Brook

I think that's what's good about the Beyond The Canon list. For more casual wannabe film buffs it's a good place to find out about other titles worth watching in a director like Bergman's oeuvre. Someone only just getting into world and art-house cinema may have only heard of The Seventh Seal. For more seasoned filmgoers it's not that much of a revelation, but it's still interesting and reminds you of some titles that might have passed you by for whatever reason.


In case it isn't clear from my comments, Autumn Sonata is an emotionally devastating masterpiece that everybody should see.


I was never disappointed in the OFC's list. It was an experiment. I had no hypothesis as to what the outcome would be when I came up with the idea, no sense of how it was going to turn out, I was just curious and thought it'd be a fun way to bring sites in the blogosphere together. I can't be disappointed in the results just because they didn't agree with my own list. The more obscure titles had trouble making it, because they just didn't recur on enough lists. So, while I was passionate about The Great Silence and Le Samourai making the list, if only two or three others had watched it, it would never make the list when compared to something like The Godfather which probably every single voter had watched. It was just the nature of the progressive voting system we had set up and I'm sure there is another way we could do it.

As for doing it again, Andrew and I spent waaaaay too many hours tallying and contacting people and collecting submitions. I'm not sure if I am that ambitious any longer or even care enough to do it or anything like it again.