1997's Top Films: A Critical Consensus

As in the previous two years, I have collected a number of Top 10 lists from various film critics with the help of many generous people, and have attempted to consolidate the data provided into a 'consensus' ordered list of the top films of the year. I used a largely weighted scale where the critic's Top 10 list was ordered, and where no particular order was used, each of the selections were equally weighted. Each critic's selection was weighted equally, irregardless of my personal opinion of the quality of their work or their tastes. (This year I was particularly careful, going down to two decimal places -- which turned out to be fortuitous: the difference between As Good As It Gets and Amistad was 0.06 points.)

Clearly, this is not a perfect system -- several weaknesses in this system come to mind almost immediately -- but it is the best that I can do with this data, and I don't have any major qualms about the usage of this method; I think it's nearly irrefutable that the films on the top of the above list received a great deal of critical acclaim, the films in the middle of the list slightly less critical acclaim, and so forth; there's a good correlation here. I suspect that anyone who develops an alternate methodology to assess the same data will come up with a list which will strongly resemble the one below.


#1L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, directed by Curtis Hanson
#2 THE SWEET HEREAFTER, directed by Atom Egoyan
#3TITANIC, directed by James Cameron
#4BOOGIE NIGHTS, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
#5 THE ICE STORM, directed by Ang Lee

#6 THE WINGS OF THE DOVE, directed by Iain Softley
#7ULEE'S GOLD, directed by Victor Nunez
#8THE FULL MONTY, directed Peter Cattaneo
#9 IN THE COMPANY OF MEN, directed by Neil LaBute
#10FACE/OFF, directed by John Woo

#11 CHASING AMY, directed by Kevin Smith
#12AS GOOD AS IT GETS, directed by James L. Brooks
#13 AMISTAD, directed by Steven Spielberg
#14DONNIE BRASCO, directed by Mike Newell
#15THE APOSTLE, directed by Robert Duvall

#16PONETTE, directed by Jacques Doillon
#17EVE'S BAYOU, directed by Kasi Lemmons
#18 FAST, CHEAP AND OUT OF CONTROL, directed by Errol Morris
#19 WAG THE DOG, directed by Barry Levinson
#20SHALL WE DANCE?, directed by Masayuki Suo

#21LA PROMESSE, directed by Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne
#22MEN IN BLACK, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
#23 WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, directed by Christopher Guest
#24GOOD WILL HUNTING, directed by Gus Van Sant
#25DECONSTRUCTING HARRY, directed by Woody Allen

#26 WHEN WE WERE KINGS, directed by Leon Gast
#27HAPPY TOGETHER, directed by Wong Kar-wai
#28 JACKIE BROWN, directed by Quentin Tarantino
#29CONTACT, directed by Robert Zemeckis
#30MRS BROWN, directed by John Madden

#31GROSSE POINTE BLANK, directed by George Armitage
#32IRMA VEP, directed by Olivier Assayas
#33 KUNDUN, directed by Martin Scorsese
#34CRASH, directed by David Cronenberg
#35MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING, directed by P.J. Hogan

#36FAIRYTALE: A TRUE STORY, directed by Charles Sturridge
#37LOST HIGHWAY, directed by David Lynch
#38 WELCOME TO SARAJEVO, directed by Michael Winterbottom
#39HARD EIGHT, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
#40THE DAYTRIPPERS, directed by Greg Mottola

#41UN HEROS TRES DISCRET (A SELF-MADE HERO), directed by Jacques Audiard
#42 CAREER GIRLS, directed by Mike Leigh
#43SLING BLADE, directed by Billy Bob Thornton
#44 DRIFTING CLOUDS, directed by Aki Kaurismaki
#45COP LAND, directed by James Mangold

#46 4 LITTLE GIRLS, directed by Spike Lee
#47GABBEH, directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf
#48STARSHIP TROOPERS, directed by Paul Verhoeven
#49WASHINGTON SQUARE, directed by Agnieszka Holland
#50AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY, directed by Jay Roach

List generated with data as of 98/02/02


As indicated in the various 1997 critics awards, L.A. Confidential and The Sweet Hereafter are the clear critical favourites -- no other film comes remotely close. It's also a bit of a runaway for L.A. Confidential -- even if The Sweet Hereafter managed to place first on a hypothetical additional twenty Top 10 lists where L.A. Confidential didn't rate, it still wouldn't be enough to make up the difference.

The third place spot is hotly contested between Titanic and Boogie Nights, while The Ice Storm easily settles into the fifth-place spot. Positions #6-8 are rather tight, as are positions #10-13.

Paul Thomas Anderson is the only director to have two films in this year's list: Boogie Nights at #4, and Hard Eight at #39.

Due to the wonders of platform releases, two films on this year's list also made last year's list: When We Were Kings and Crash (well, it was the Turner factor for the latter). Curiously, Sling Blade failed to make the list last year; it's #43 this year.


Alex Fung (aw220@freenet.carleton.ca).

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